The Second Wizarding War ended, not with a grandiose last stand, but as the slow collapse of an overcooked flan. Whilst things had been progressing tickety boo through the first four years of Hermione Granger's schooling - in as much as could be expected given her reluctant friendships - the Tri Wizard Tournament had wrought more changes in the wizarding world than the mere introduction of an accidental fourth competitor. The closer bonds forged between the students of Durmstrang and Beauxbatons with the students of Hogwarts introduced them to the stark reality that, in the larger world, the efforts of standing against the Dark Lord did not endear them overmuch to their neighbors. Rather, it put them distinctly out of step with the advances in larger Wizarding culture.
For her part, Fleur Delacour did much to quietly introduce the concept of creature rights - especially so as it was quietly observed that her sharp intelligence was casually dismissed by Certain Persons. The Delacour line was not the only ones so dismissed, allowing students such as Hermione to see in stark reality how easily their entire existences could be redefined. And for what?
An accident of birth.
Such things rankled in a way that highlighted how lacking the forced viewpoint they were being spoon fed truly was. Hermione was not the only one so affected - many within Hogwarts could not help but to wish to question everything around them, and everything they had been taught. More than once, Hermione had been caught in a conversation about various aspects of creature rights and even the mundanity of Muggle politics in contrast with wizarding politics. The debates betwixt them all had ranged far and wide, and many had expressed appreciation for the input from the Muggleborn and halfblood contingents that were able to provide differing perspectives. Though Durmstrang was notorious for its strict blood based entrance requirements, the students themselves did not treat those they met with overt disdain or otherwise make it clear that they thought themselves better for the accident of their birth.
Accepting the attentions of Viktor Krum had been a pleasant diversion for Hermione but ultimately had left her fairly uninterested. Hermione had felt bad about that - after all, the young man had been quite attentive and kind to her, unfailingly polite and respectful of her boundaries. Unfortunately for him, the broad, flat planes of his body had done nothing to stoke the fires of her interest, despite his intelligence and kindness. Whilst she knew a dalliance with him would have been pleasant, she sought the true fire to waken within her before she would be willing to descend to such madness. So it was that they parted as friends, as so many had, and maintained their connection over distance.
Exchanging letters betwixt the students had maintained tight friendships and casual acquaintances, allowing the varied students of Hogwarts to form a quiet underground of fresh news brought forth by sources other than the Ministry controlled Daily Prophet and Dumbledore's half truths. Some of the students had been bandying about the idea of compiling the news into a digest, though it had been naught more than quiet murmurs before a sixth year had come forward and began distributing The Owl. Hermione had given a short laugh at the title, spying easily the influence of Muggle news sources, before she'd handed over her sickles for a subscription. It was through an article in the Owl that some of the ideas in the back of her head came to the fore front.
It had probably been no small coincidence that the Tri Wizard Tournament occurred during Harry Potter's fifteenth year. It was to be expected that he would naturally be caught at sixes and sevens. It felt as though for every major milestone they hit, there was some form of chicanery afoot. It struck her as a strange happenstance that so much occurred along Harry's schedule. He had either the greatest of luck or someone was manipulating events such that all would focus on Harry.
So it did not shock Hermione one iota that such things would come to pass in the months prior to the time when they would be assumed to present. In yet another display of delicious irony, the changes that magics older than time wrought upon the body were such that integration into the Muggle world was impossible for all but a certain few.
Magic wound its way not just through a witch's wand, but through the entire body. The more powerful a witch or wizard was, the more pronounced the changes upon their body.
These changes presented most drastically at around the fifth year of magical learning. Were a witch to ignore their learning, or be ineffectual at their lessons, they would never present, retaining the seamless integration with the Muggle world denied to others. For those who were capable and powerful, their powers would fully change their entire selves, marking them as Other, making it clear to the world and their peers that they? They were More.
Through the centuries, it was settled into two primary classifications, with sex being secondary. Hermione had snorted in abortive laughter at the reading of it. Male and female did little to matter for the truly magical, for the true determination was that of Alpha or Omega. Whomever was designated either was marked as truly, epically powerful, though no real theories had been able to be floated as to why certain folk presented as Alpha and others as Omega. Some of the mores from Muggle tomfoolery did make its way into wizarding culture, in the form of a period of approximately a hundred years where it was expected for Omegas to behave in much the same ways as women were in the Muggle world at the time. It was a marvel to Hermione that this had caught hold at all - the power of Omegas was not to be underestimated.
Shaking her head, Hermione broke herself free from the chaotic bent of her thoughts. It didn't serve any purpose to dwell upon the facts of life. It would be immutable. Soon, she'd know one way or the other whether or not she was as good as she thought she was. From the reading she'd done, she was certain that it would be painful, and the accidental magic that would accompany her presentation was a significant factor in why she'd immediately accepted the offer from Molly Weasley to summer with them.
She ran a hand through her hair, pushing the mass back over her shoulder as she turned toward the dark window of the Knight's Bus. It seemed a miracle that her parents had agreed so readily to her summering elsewhere, but it stood to reason. It wasn't like they'd been overly involved in her life the past few years. Some letters exchanged comprised the bulk of their interactions. Hermione mused that it was likely the result of her being magical. Her finger rubbed against the plain silver ring that adorned her left thumb. Maybe...
"Diagon Alley!" The pronouncement from the driver came with a shuddering stop of the Bus, nearly knocking Hermione free of her seat. She gathered her bag and rose, departing the Bus quickly and making her way across the quiet evening street. Making her way into the Leaky Cauldron, the door squeaking beneath her touch, Hermione smiled to see Molly waiting for her. It was a source of gratification to see the woman remember her promise to meet Hermione. The matron was worrying at Ginny's hair, fairly clucking over her. Hermione almost laughed at the long suffering expression on her friend's face.
It was an odd friendship, but one she cherished nonetheless. Ginny's acerbic tongue was a great relief from the nattering of her brother, and her strategic mind was a breath of fresh air compared to Ron's incessant Quidditch theorizing. Though from the bags and packages borne in the girl's arms, Hermione was reasonably sure that there would be some impromptu matches being held in the coming weeks, so it wasn't likely she'd truly escape Quidditch strategy.
Thankfully, Molly ceased her smothering efforts and greeted Hermione with a warm smile and an encompassing hug as her chattering took a different route. Hermione returned it with a brief smile, shooting a quick glance over at Ginny, who rolled her eyes. Hermione's lip quirked. Good to know that it was safe to ignore the bulk of Molly's prattle.
A slight smell swirled through the light post-dinner crowd to catch at Hermione's nose. It puzzled her, notable but subtle in a way that prevented her from being able to pinpoint what or where it was. She frowned to herself as she followed Molly and Ginny out of the Cauldron before quickly putting it from her mind. They made their way to Eeylop's Owl Emporium and Molly gave a sharp rap to the door in a staccato succession. The door swung open to admit them quickly. As the door shut, Molly turned to Hermione.
"Make sure you pronounce this very clearly. We're heading to Number 12, Grimmauld Place. Got that? Number 12, Grimmauld Place." Molly's gaze was sharp.
"Yes, I've got it. Number 12, Grimmauld Place." She wasn't concerned yet. If she didn't receive explanations for where she was being spirited off to, she'd demand them with all the perspicacity that so endeared her to her myriad professors.
Molly gave a nod and then turned the Floo. Hermione found herself desperately grateful that she wasn't about to need to display just how bad her broom skills were. Or worse yet, having to deal with the upset that Apparition would cause. Her stomach could never decide if she'd arrived yet when she side-along apparated. Perhaps when she was able to learn how to do it herself, that would change.
As she emerged from the bright green flames and beheld Number 12 Grimmauld Place for the first time, she bit back a gasp. The cavernous, decaying receiving room before her had once been richly appointed and she found herself unaccountably grieved to see rich rich brocade and delicately carved wood left to mouldering. Molly bustled to the door and called over her shoulder for Hermione and Ginny to follow.
What followed was a whirlwind of introductions and explanations - Hermione lay in bed that night absorbing the information, Ginny in the other bed, already asleep. Apparently, she'd had some further information prior so little had been new, unlike Hermione, who was subject to a near overwhelming data dump.
Dumbledore had created an underground resistance to Voldemort and his efforts, naming his organization the Order of the Phoenix. Many of the members of the Order were in attendance tonight to greet them and welcome them into their protective embrace. As best she could ascertain, the goals of the Order were to undermine any attempt by Voldemort to rise to power. Dumbledore insisted that his plans would ruin the wizarding world, and likely the world itself, if allowed to continue unchallenged. It had been explained that she was to begin some light training, alongside Ron and Harry once they arrived. She was, apparently, the first, as Ron was due to arrive in the following days, and Harry soon thereafter.
Holding her tongue had been particularly injurious, though necessary. It would not do to expose the vast amount of information that the students of Hogwarts had learned about the larger world from beneath Dumbledore's nose. Some of his statements were particularly false - the Delacour clan had sent a few essays and texts on the state of creature rights throughout the wizarding world, putting paid to Dumbledore's claim that the status quo within magical Britain was truly appropriate for all its inhabitants. She'd spied a brief twitch of the eye from Remus Lupin, when Dumbledore had stated that creature rights were sustainable, and again when he'd stated that Muggleborns were likely to be heavily and thoroughly targeted.
The latest from Durmstrang had certainly put paid to that idea.
Some of the other members of the Order gave slight reactions to Dumbledore's statements, but none as blatant as Remus. Sirius Black was particularly curious in his reaction, his twitches and jerky movements reminding Hermione of the summer that she'd researched the medical field. It was akin to the behaviour of addicts undergoing withdrawal - involuntary muscular tics, uncontrollable outbursts, oddly disproportionate reactions. She'd idly been curious as to what, precisely, had happened to the man in Azkaban that such a reaction was not even given a second glance by the others.
Daedalus Diggle was an odd man, quietly taking in everyone in the room and glaring at everyone in turn. Mad Eye Moody was decidedly louder and more brash than his imposter had been. Hermione hoped he had received appropriate counseling after his ordeal.
She had particularly enjoyed the grin she'd received from the pink haired Auror Nymphadora Tonks when she'd been introduced. It had been full of a knowing mischief that Fred and George could not hope to touch. Hermione wasn't certain but it was definitely likely that she'd have to be on her toes lest Tonks blindside her with some form of embarrassment that would be impossible to recover from - especially as Tonks seemed the type to tease her forever.
Hermione's thoughts tumbled over each other in a mad whirl as she sought to make sense of what she'd gleaned and learned outright, worrying each concept and new piece of information until her mind could do no more and she fell into a fitful sleep.