ArcWraith: I don't want to get too far into the details of Fenrir's background while it is possible for him to be a fairly major character later on, but for now what I will reveal is that he truly is not a believer in the idea that Purebloods are better than Muggleborns. Mostly because for a good chunk of his life, he thought he was one of the rare Muggle werewolves. His alliance with the Death Eaters was instead due to him and Voldemort arranging an under-the-table deal that the organization as a whole was unaware of. He acted like a Death Eater among the real Death Eaters to keep his true intentions secret.

ro781727: The creature Hazel saw in that "in between"/spirit world/weird place was the spirit of the clearing. She managed to find her way into a different plane of reality, one where the spirits of the physical world mostly reside.

lockmyhart: If it makes you feel any better, this is in some ways the most AU story I've ever written, and that's including my crossovers! More details about the difference between the Brewing and Potions will come up in upcoming chapters because Hazel will have similar questions, but the short version is that while some hag-potions are just recipes wizards don't know, others (like the beautification potion Hedwig used before going to the club in chapter 21) truly cannot be made by human hands. Not even Hazel's.

"Speed of progression": I find it funny that some people are saying "I was enjoying the story, but can we just get to canon already? This is getting boring", and other people are saying the exact opposite, "I'm loving this non-canon stuff. Can it go on for the whole story?" Not saying either opinion is right or wrong, just amused at how true it is that you really can't please everybody.

Chapter 26
The Hunter

Hazel sat with a chair pushed against one of the outside walls, her eyes lazily following the course of all the snowflakes falling from the sky. The storm she had braved the previous day had clearly moved overnight, and she could only imagine that they would be seeing the full brunt of its power later in the day or early tomorrow at the latest. Hopefully the hags' cabin was sturdier than the cottages in which the werewolves lived, otherwise she would have to pit her repair powers against a storm and see which one ran out first.

She really, truly hoped the cabin was sturdy.

"Hazel?" She glanced over her shoulder to find Hedwig standing in the entryway to the bedrooms, currently dressed in thick clothes appropriate for the coming snowfall. Was she planning on going outside and trying to preempt the worst of the storm? "Oh dear, is she that much worse than I thought? I was about to head to Stuttgart for a couple of errands. We need some groceries and ingredients. Do you want to join me? How am I going to convince her if she says no? I really need to get her out of the house and her mind off things."

Tilting her head, Hazel just looked at the hag in confusion for several seconds. Get her mind off what things? 'I do not have any plans. Sure, I will come along.' She turned to Morgan and asked, Want to come along?

Her feathered friend looked at her, looked back at the falling snow, looked at her, and then puffed himself up in a fat ball before nestling deeper into the fabric of the chair.

'I guess it will just be me.'

Hedwig gave her a smile, her mind still focused on something else entirely. "Go ahead and get outdoor clothes on then. We will be popping in and out of shops for most of the morning."

Only after Hazel was wearing her boots and heavy coat did they move to the fireplace. Just as she had seen Hedwig do previously, the hag reached into a shallow pot that sat upon the mantle and withdrew a handful of glittering grey powder before casting it into the fireplace. "The Galloping Griffin," she commanded, and the fire that had been burning low suddenly gushed upwards in a curtain of green flame. "Head on first, and I will be right behind you."

Facing the fireplace with trepidation as she remembered what happened the last time she stepped into colored fire, she took a deep breath and walked forwards. The flame swallowed her up and set her spinning around and around like a demented teacup, and just as she had before she needed to squeeze her eyes shut so she could keep her breakfast where it belonged. A minute later, she blasted out of the fireplace on the other side of this awful portal with the force of a cannon and tumbled over and over before sliding and rolling to a stop. She sighed in relief as everything finally stopped spinning, only to then huff a moment later when Hedwig stepped out calmly without any hint of suffering the same indignity.

'How are you supposed to use that thing?!' she demanded after staggering to her feet. 'It just throws me around.'

"Yes, it does that. Practice. That's the only advice I have, practice," Hedwig replied with a small smile that she did not bother trying to hide. "Unfortunately, that is the only way we have to get here. Short of walking, that is."

'I could have just jumped us here directly.'

Hedwig opened her mouth before shutting it again. "I am still not used to that," she admitted after a moment's pause, "and that alone would be a good reason to be proud of your mixed heritage. Regardless, there is no reason for us to stand around here. We have places to be and things to see."

The last time she was here, she had followed Hedwig out one set of doors into the streets of Stuttgart. This time, however, they went through the doors on the opposite side of the rectangular room where the fireplace had delivered them. These doors opened up to reveal a large room filled with tables and chairs, a bar on one end behind which stood a man and a woman with strikingly similar features wiping down the wooden surface and cleaning glasses. Aside from the bartenders, the room was empty, and Hedwig gave the pair an absentminded wave before she started climbing a staircase built into the wall.

'Why do we need to enter a pub to go shopping?'

"There is only one firewalking access for the shopping center here," explained Hedwig when they reached the landing and turned around it. "I do not know if it was intentionally placed here after the pub was built or if the pub was built later to take advantage of the number of people who might want a pint after a long day of shopping. Either is possible. As for why there is only one way to get in and out, I assume it is due to the need for security. Wand-wavers want as little to do with pig-humans as possible, by and large."

After turning that corner, they continued climbing the short second flight of stairs until they arrived at a large door, perhaps just shy of two meters wide and made of thick planks of a dark wood that in turn were secured with heavy bands of iron. Hedwig placed one hand on the surface of the door and gave it a push to reveal what lay beyond.

Hazel was hard-pressed not to gasp as she took in the bright, sunlit street. Numerous people were walking around, some dressed in robes much like she had seen on people in Paris but fewer in number. Instead, the majority wore form-fitting and brightly colored clothing with billowing sleeves. They were all going about their business, seemingly ignorant of the fact that the street on which they walked was on the second story of a building.

She took a few steps outside – did this count as outside? – and looked from side to side, then turned around to check behind her. The street went left and right, but when they climbed up the stairs, they had completely turned around on the previous landing, which meant the street actually ran outside the building and overlapped the street outside. How was that supposed to be possible?

'How is this possible?' she asked after a few seconds of befuddlement. 'With the street and the building and everything?'

"I do not really know," Hedwig told her with an uncaring shrug. "It is just how the wand-wavers made it."

She had to glance around yet again. Was she the only person who thought this was strange? Or, perhaps, was it just that this was a shock and a surprise to her because everyone else was already used to it?

They set off down one end of the street, Hedwig pulling up the hood of her coat to shield her head from the falling snow, and trudged along for a couple of minutes past multiple windows of the brightly colored storefronts before Hazel tapped Hedwig on the arm to get her attention again. 'What is THAT?'

The 'that' in question was a hulking shape that was following a woman draped and bedazzled in layers of cloth that shimmered as though they were made of gold. Had it held still, she might have been able to mistake it for a statue considering the quality of the carving of its stone head and limbs, although the boxy metal chassis that served as its torso would still have been a hint that something was off. Except it was not holding still but rather walking with stiff albeit still effective motions. What made the scene even odder was that in its hands it held several boxes and bags, as though it were carrying them for the woman!

"Something I wish we had sometimes. Those are Clockservants. Some wealthy wand-wavers keep them around for manual labor. That big box you see in the middle? It holds all the gears and springs that it uses to keep moving around. From everything I have heard about them, they are expensive to maintain, which is why wand-wavers view them as a status symbol. Still, I can think of several occasions where it would have been nice to have one around to do the heavy lifting," she finished with a wistful sigh.

'Still seems strange to have something that big following you around.' Not to mention, and this might be her own lifestyle interfering in her understanding, she could not imagine that such an awkward machine would be great at walking through the wilds she had explored.

That question earned her another one-shouldered shrug. "Most of the time, I think you are right. Still less awkward than what came before, which now that I think about it is one of the things I didn't want to talk to her about."

Hazel shot Hedwig an expression of confusion, which only caused the hag to sigh. "And of course she caught onto that. Back a couple of hundred years ago, about the same time that the scoured clearing came into existence, those same kinds of wand-wavers used to keep other beings as servants. I do not know if they were paid servants or slaves, and it was not us but a kind of dwarvish or elfin creature. Regardless, that practice fell out of favor. The wand-wavers of that time did not want us even to walk around in their shops; who would want to keep something not human close to them in their own homes? So they replaced those creatures with Clockservants.

"But that was a long time ago," she continued on quickly before Hazel even had a chance to process fully what she had just been told. "Things are not always great but still better than they used to be between wand-wavers and everyone else. I told you that I spend a lot of time around humans of various stripes. Most of them are not that bad, some of them even really friendly. I do not want you to get the impression that all wand-wavers are bad. Between Astrid and the scoured clearing, neither I nor Mother want you to feel like you need to hate the human part of yourself in order to embrace your inner hag."

Any negative expression that might have started forming on Hazel's face melted away, and she reached over to give Hedwig's sleeve a light pat of reassurance. 'That much I already know,' she wrote, taking time with every word to make sure Hedwig really had a chance to read them and take them in. 'I have met good people and bad people on my travels. You can not paint every member of a large group, let alone a species, with the same brush. Everyone must be treated as themselves and no one else.'

"I wish everyone was that wise sometimes," Hedwig muttered as her eyes slid over to the nearby brick wall. She shook her head, the movement crawling down her back. "But that is not why we are here today. I want your mind away from the scoured clearing and all that, not dwelling on other things of the same nature. We still have our errands, and if what you were saying about that storm coming from France is true, I would rather be bundled up back at home when that hits us, not walking around out here."

Despite the utter fantastical nature about the location and the stores, it quickly became clear that German wizards were no different from French wizards, and probably no different from British wizards. They ran to the grocers for more vegetables as well as finding a good deal on several squabs. Gertrud needed more ingredients, these being the kind they could not gather from the forest as most of them came from previously living creatures like armadillo bile and rat kidneys. A dry goods store carried the spices Elfriede was running out of. A dozen other errands, all blurring together.

Utterly mundane at the core.

Two hours later, Hedwig and Hazel staggered down the stairs and back into the pub, their hands free only by dint of shoving everything they had purchased into Hazel's satchel. Other than a single man in a ragged cloak now sitting at the bar and the two bartenders Hazel could only assume were siblings, the room was still empty. It meant they had the pick of the seats and chose a table close enough to the bar that it would be convenient for the bartenders but far enough away that they still gave a nice buffer of privacy to the other lone patron.

Judging by the multiple small glasses by his side and the way his voice slurred on a demand for more whiskey, he had been through a day that probably deserved some privacy.

Hedwig leaned back in her chair after asking the sister bartender for a pair of warm apple ciders and sighed. "Why did I put off so many of these errands? Could have done several of them last week or earlier and saved myself the trouble of doing it all at once. I have to try making a bag like yours one of these days. That thing is a lifesaver. By the way, I couldn't tell from the way you were acting, but was this the first time you went shopping around wand-wavers? It looked like some things you were expecting, but others caught you by surprise."

'I went to a couple of shopping places in France, but this is the first time I have been in one here. They have some differences.'

"I suppose that makes sense," she agreed after a moment to think. "Different cultures and all. Similar enough that the differences are all the more obvious, I would guess."

'You guess right.' She winced when the man at the bar slammed his hand down on the bar. The reason for his behavior became clear a few seconds later when the brother tending it pulled out a wand and gave it a wave, the empty glasses the man had been drinking lifting up in the air and flying over to a tub of their own accord. Apparently he agreed that the man was drunk enough already. 'And both different from how normal humans go shopping, but recognizable all the same. Honestly, they are all more similar than not at the end of the day.'

"Doesn't matter where they are from, humans are humans, huh? That part I get. It is part of the reason I enjoy meeting hags from other parts of Europe. We are all just that little bit different from each other."


The sister walked over with the mugs of steaming liquids before departing with a smile. "I always love this on a cold day," confided Hedwig as she held the cup in both hands. "Just warms you up from the inside out—"

The man at the bar had turned around while Hedwig was talking, and a sudden twist of anger was the sole warning Hazel had before he pulled a stick from within a pocket of his robe-like clothing and pointed it at them. She did not even have time to warn Hedwig before the man shouted some nonsense word.

The table between them exploded with horrible force, flinging Hazel backwards until she tumbled into the table and chairs several feet behind her and was quickly pelted with shards of wood. A few of those shards were able to punch through her coat and bite into her skin, but a shriek of fear and pain distracted her from her own discomfort and caused her to roll over as best she could to see what in the world was going on. Why had that man attacked them?!

As if to make things worse, she quickly realized that it was Hedwig who was the source of the scream. The wizard at the bar was on his feet now, his steps staggering but nonetheless bringing him closer to Hedwig. "Monster," he muttered, his words gaining volume and strength but remaining slurred as he continued. "Luring that girl somewhere, weren't you? I know what you are. I won't let your kind kill any more children, not like you killed my Antonio. Killed my son, took away my wife. Monsters like you ruined my life!" He raised his wand, and another incantation made Hedwig start screaming again. "I won't let you ruin anyone else's."

If Hazel could speak, maybe she would have yelled at the man. Told him that she wanted to be with Hedwig, that she was safe with her. Maybe she would have yelled to the brother and sister, both of whom were missing; she could only assume they started running as soon as the explosion and screams started, wanting nothing to do with this crazed wizard. She had no voice to use in such a way, however, so she was left with a different tactic.

Hazel pulled herself to her feet before charging at the wizard, intent on tackling him to the ground. Anything to make him stop. Her charge pushed him back a step, then two as his drunken state made his balance all more precarious. His arm thumped her, but she repositioned her feet as best she could. If she could get another shove in, maybe she could knock him down—

He twisted in her grasp, and she did not see the fist that slammed into the side of her head. It was still enough to send her to the floor instead with a dull ringing in her ears as she landed heavily on the wood. "Stupid girl," she heard, although the man's voice was now muted as though he were many rooms away. "You wanted her as a pet, didn't you? Let's see how you like it, then."

Instinctually Hazel braced herself at that threat, but nothing came for her. A gurgle caught her attention and made her lift her head. Hedwig was not exactly where she had been a moment ago, her position on the ground making it look like she had tried crawling away and putting a table between the man and her in the brief opening she was given, but now she was no longer screaming. Instead she was shaking and thrashing, thin white things like needles pulling themselves out from beneath her skin as fingers of white shot through her hair. She gasped and panted on the ground, the bones of her face appearing almost to melt and only adding to the torture.

No! Her vision swam when she moved her head too quickly towards the wizard. This had to stop! The first thought was to attack him the way he attacked them, but while she could get her hand to close, the shape of her star dart would not come together in her mind. Parts of it seemed almost to fade away when she took her mind off it to aim at the shifting and swaying man.

Not all her magics needed her to aim, however, or even needed a shape. Hazel reached out her hand to the wizard standing above her, and she screamed at him with all the anger she could muster at his cruelty to Hedwig, to one of her friends. No! STOP THAT!

The movement of the wand slowed to a halt. Something felt like it was pushing against her, a pressure against the inside of her skull. It was not a feeling that had been present when she made the boar or the spirits of de Rais's castle or even Morgan to do what she willed, but this was the first time she had ever forced another human to obey her will. It was entirely possible that other humans, maybe other intelligent beings in general, were harder for her to control. She already knew what was necessary, knew it instinctually as though it was something she had always known, and when that pressure grew stronger, she. Pushed. Back. She would not let him get free, not when all he wanted was to hurt her friend.

The hand holding the wand wavered, and after another moment it slackened. The wand itself tilted, tilted more, and finally fell to the floor with a soft clatter.

Hazel had to grit her teeth as the pressure returned, then doubled, then doubled again. She pushed again, but she could feel her mind weakening and starting to give ground. The wizard's own mind was fighting back, and she did not think she could hold it for too much longer…

The pressure hit the tipping point, and if she had not already been laying on the ground she surely would have collapsed. With a gasp, the man sagged slightly as he took a deep breath, the first she could remember since she ordered him to stop torturing Hedwig. He shook his head for a moment, his lips stretched apart in an expression of pain, and then he looked over at where Hedwig was—

No, where she had been. Hedwig was nowhere in sight. He whipped his head to glare and shout at her, "Where is that monster!"

Something shifted above them, and both of them looked up.

Hedwig let go of the boards of the ceiling, the same boards to which she had been clinging like an overgrown spider, and kicked off to drop even faster towards the ground. She landed on top of the wizard with the force of a falling boulder and sent him to the ground. The pair rolled on the ground for several seconds, knocking aside a nearby chair, before Hedwig was able to scramble onto his back with both arms wrapped tight around his head. She twisted and jerked, something in her back popping with a loud snap.

The wizard instantly became eerily still. Hedwig slowly stood up and let go, and he flopped bonelessly onto the ground. He did not move his limbs. His chest did not rise.

She soon could no longer hear a whisper of his thoughts.

"Ugh, stupid hateful wand-waver. What was he doing to me?" She stretched her back and her arms with a grimace before checking herself over. "Thankfully whatever it was is already gone. Now I just need to worry about how Hazel and I— Hazel!" Her head immediately sought her out, and whatever she was about to say withered on her lips like a flower in the winter. "Hazel? Are you okay? Why are you so pale? What did he do to you?"

Hazel blinked once, twice, before the question clicked and made sense. Her hand rose, shaking just a bit, and it took her a few attempts before she was able to manifest her sparkler. 'Just hurt.'

And still the wizard was not moving.

"Oh, no. How am I supposed to deal with this? Hazel?" Hedwig said in a voice she assumed was supposed to be calming. "I can not read English. Can you write that again?"

She blinked again and looked away from the motionless wizard to take in what she had written. It… was in English, wasn't it?

"Oh, dear God. Why did this have to happen here of all places?!" The new voice distracted her from wiping the words out of existence, and she turned to look at the sister bartender. The brother stood just behind and to her side, his hands holding her shoulders in a tight grip. "We need to tell the Storm Guard about this," she finally said.

Hedwig grimaced, which immediately put the bartenders on edge. "That… is not a conversation I am looking forwards to. The Guard do not like dealing with hags at the best of times, and throw in a dead wizard…"

"But, this was self-defense?"

"If only it were that simple. Some of them will not consider that to be the most important part of what just happened."

The brother pulled the woman close as tears started welling up in her eyes. "We do not want to deal with this. We just want to run a pub, for crying out loud! But she was just defending them, herself and the girl. Just, just get out of here. Both of you, along with… him. Just go."

"…Go?" asked Hedwig in a doubtful voice.

"Go. Quickly." He glanced over at the stairs and the doors leading in. Nobody jumped out from behind a corner, which seemed to take away the slightest bit of his anxiety. Just a little. "This never happened, and we never saw any of you. If there is no body, there was no crime. We can forget all about seeing any of that."

"I will not argue against that." Hedwig turned back to Hazel and took a careful step towards her. Hazel only looked at her in confusion, which seemed to be enough that the hag came closer and kneeled down so that their heads were closer to the same level. "Hazel, do you hear me?"

She slowly nodded.

"Okay, that is good. Hazel, I need you to help me. We need to get back home as quickly as possible, yeah? Do you think you can do that teleporting thing and take both of us and this man home? Can you do that?"

She nodded again.

"Good. Good girl. Come on, come with me."

Hazel stared for a moment at the hand Hedwig stretched out towards her before reaching out with her own and letting Hedwig pull her to her feet. If Hedwig then dragged her – albeit gently and cautiously – closer to the motionless wizard, she did not protest.

Not letting go of her hand, Hedwig leaned down and grabbed the wizard's arm. Her grip on his looked to be much tighter than how hard she was holding Hazel. "Let's go home, Hazel. Take us home."

Hedwig's hand squeezed her, and she squeezed back. A blink later, she hopped in place and felt the pub crush down on and around her for three heartbeats before letting her go. She staggered away from Hedwig towards the chair she had been sitting in that morning.

Was it really only that morning?

Morgan poked his head out from his little fluff ball and chirped at her. He chirped again when she did nothing, and then he took wing and flapped over to her shoulder and started chittering nonstop. Someone's hand latched onto her own and dragged her over to the couch to sit before that same hand moved to her head.

Her hands were trembling. She blinked once more – was something wrong with her eyes? – and shook her head. Her hands still trembled, and she could not get them to stop.

A white, chipped mug was pushed into her hands, and she gladly wrapped them around it. The cup was warm, steam lifting up to bring to her nose the scent of the herbs steeping in the water it held. A pair of green hands, the color so unlike her own, in turn cupped her hands.

She raised her head to see Elfriede kneeling on the ground in front of her and holding her holding the cup. "I see what Hedwig meant. Hazel, are you with us again?"

Hazel could only give her a small nod.

"Hedwig told us what happened. You were very brave, trying to protect her. I understand why you are upset."

'I am not—' She looked at her writing and realized that once again the words were not in German. Wiping them away with a wave of her hand, she tried again. 'I am not upset.'

All that did was make Elfriede's expression turn even more sad. "No, not yet. It is okay to be upset. That is normal, considering what you had to do… everything."

"Mm-hmm," Gertrud agreed from above and behind her. So those were the hands that had guided her here to the couch, which she now realized were also running nails through her hair. It was odd, that hands she had seen be so strong could also be so gentle.

'I did not do anything. I just wanted him to stop.'

"And that was enough. You stopped him, and you saved my little girl. You made a choice you never should have had to make. You did not deliver the killing blow, but you were forced to choose nonetheless. Human or hag, which side of your heritage you would help and which side you would allow to die. A choice I hoped you would never have to make. I cannot imagine the pain you must be feeling."

Killing blow. Those words resonated deep within her, shaking loose tears she had not known were waiting in the wings. That wizard was dead. Elfriede was right, she was not the person who killed him in the end, but she was the one who held him still while Hedwig was climbing the wall to get above him.

She had still taken part in murdering him.

The tears streamed down harder and faster, and Elfriede's hands moved to her shoulders and pulled her into a tight hug. "It will be okay, Hazel. It will be okay. I almost wish Astrid was here to see this. She is a fool if she believes Hazel would ever betray us to some kind of wand-waver crusade or something."

Hazel sniffed and buried her head into the side of Elfriede's neck. Right now, she did not care what Astrid thought about her.

Perhaps a week after the disastrous trip to Stuttgart, Hazel found herself filled with both excitement and sorrow when a strong warm front moved into the Black Forest and chased away the snow-laden clouds that had been swirling around in the sky for the previous month. Excitement because after the last couple of months, she was able to return to the road and start her journey south. It almost shocked her how much cabin fever she felt until the solution was beaming down on her from the sky.

Sorrow because, for all the less than joyous revelations she received while in the company of the hags and the… the blood on her hands… part of her heart still ached at leaving.

"There is no telling how long this will last," Elfriede warned her as she double-checked that she had replaced everything in her satchel. "Winter storms can be unpredictable. One moment everything will be fine; the next, you are caught in a blizzard with no shelter in sight. It would be better for you to stay here for at least the next month until we are sure that everything is clearing up. Not to mention, I do not like the idea of you being on your own so soon after what happened."

Hazel could only give Elfriede, as well as Gertrud and Hedwig who were deeper in the cabin pretending not to be watching and listening, a small smile. 'I will be fine. If I do get caught in a storm, I can always return here in the time it takes to blink. But it is time I start moving on. I have a long way to go. Not to mention, some friends of mine told me before that I might hear from a magic school sometime this summer, and I really want to make it all the way to Greece before that happens.'

There was no telling what she would find there, in that land of antiquity. It was quite far away from the goal she had when she first started this journey, namely finding out about her origins and where the druids might be in this day and age, but right now she still had no leads when it came to the hidden magicians of her mother country. She actually knew more about France and Germany than she did Britain, sad as that was to think on. With no leads and no way to find those leads, she was more than a little stuck.

But, if she was barred from any progress on her main quest, the least she could do was have a little fun and explore while she waited out the clock. Greek mythology, what little she had picked up in school despite her aunt and uncle's best efforts and more recently through research in various libraries, was just filled to the brim with all sorts of strange and wondrous magics. Of various flavors as well, both human and divine, and that raised its own sort of questions like just what the nature of the Greek gods truly was. Powerful sorcerers? Spirits who felt no need to hide? Something else entirely?

She was probably a few thousand years too late to know for sure, but that was no reason not to poke around.

"If you need to return, you are more than welcome," replied Elfriede, shaking her from her thoughts. "Or if you just want to. No child should be without a coven, and we are happy to provide that to you."

Giving the woman a smile, she stepped forwards to hug Elfriede around the waist. Her sudden show of affection caught the hag off-guard for a moment or two, but before too long had passed a pair of long arms wrapped around her shoulders and gave a squeeze before pulling away. Hazel looked up to discover that Hedwig had approached while she was not watching, and without prompting she doled out another hug to the younger hag.

"Take care of yourself, you understand?" muttered Hedwig.

'I will,' she wrote once she pulled out of the embrace. A glance over at Gertrud found that her attention had already wandered, so with a quick wave she stepped out of the house and into the slightly melting snow.

Upon reaching the edge of the clearing, however, she turned around and stared at the cabin while her hand reached up to rub Morgan's breast feathers. It feels kind of wrong to just walk away, doesn't it? They taught me a lot, and leaving without giving them something in return doesn't sit right. She felt him shift on her shoulder and chitter briefly before continuing, I have done something like this before, remember? With the werewolves before I left, and the deli owner. I wished for them to have safety and good fortune. I don't know whether it actually worked, but I tried at least. I feel like I should do something similar for them, but I can't think of anything.

Her friend had nothing to say in response to that, and she thought it over for several minutes as she stood there silent and still as a statue. They don't need safety, she finally told him. Hedwig made that pretty obvious, even if she did need a spot of help just for a moment. So maybe success would be a better gift?

She raised her staff and stabbed the butt end into the snow and frozen dirt before closing her eyes. With the deli owner, with the werewolves, words had come to her with only a little thought, but right now they were failing her. She could not think of anything to say. Finally she focused on that most simple of thought, the desire for their hands to be blessed with success in the endeavors they undertook, and pushed that thought through her arms and out her hands and down the length of her staff into the quiet earth. That was all she wanted for this family.

Opening eyes that she had not realized were closed, she frowned to herself before turning around. Was it worrying that she did not feel as confident in her actions this time as she had been during her previous blessings? She was used to magic being subtle and nigh-unnoticeable, but something still felt like a failure.

Hopefully that was all it was at the worst, just failing to take. Hopefully it would be nothing that would backfire.

Remember how I said last chapter that I was trying not to throw in darkness for the sake of drama? The end of this first scene is necessary for later on in the story. For a couple of reasons, actually.

Although I was a LITTLE tempted for her to show up at the hags' cabin holding just Hedwig's disembodied arm.

But anyway! That's the last chapter of aimless wandering for a bit. It's high time to take this story back to the shores of Britain and give the wizards a taste of the chaos that has been brewing out of sight.

Silently Watches out.