Hermione looked around the usually quiet clearing and watched as the men built up the bonfire ready for that nights Imbolc celebrations. She's been with the pack for six months so far and was finally starting to feel at home amongst the rag-tag group of werewolves, she'd even managed to make friends with someone her own age, a girl named Dana that helped guide her round the intricacies of pack life. And of course, she had Fenrir, who was always close to her and ready to answer any questions she had that Dana couldn't answer.
"Where is Fenrir?" Hermione asked a young man as he delivered what looked to be a miniature bed to her and Fenrir's cabin.
"Alpha Fenrir is by the river," he told her before hurrying off to continue his peculiar bed deliveries.
With a shrug at his strange behaviour Hermione made her way over to the outskirts of their little village where the river ran across their land, separating and protecting them from the dangers of the outside world. When she joined the pack all those months ago, the river was one of the first places that Fenrir took her to, explaining that she was never to cross to the other side without either him or their packs' Beta's with her, unless her very life depended on it. So far, she had never been tempted to disobey her Alpha on his instruction, she'd overheard him yelling at some of the teenagers of the pack for their recklessness when they swam across to the other side not long after she'd arrived. After that, she'd never even been tempted to go against his will.
Arriving at the river, Hermione paused and watched as Fenrir fished alongside the other men of the pack, catching an impressive pile of fish for the feast. She was only watching the fishing for minutes before Fenrir noticed her presence and joined her at the tree line, sitting down next to her after grabbing an apple from the bushel left for the men to snack on. "What are you doing down here?" he asked as she bit into the shiny red fruit.
Hermione shrugged and looked down at the bitten fruit in her hands. She didn't want to admit to the Alpha that she didn't understand what everyone was preparing for that night. She'd been left out of all most the celebrations so far while she adapted to her new life as a werewolf and Fenrir thought it would be better for her to not be overwhelmed, her senses still too heightened to be comfortable. She was finally able to join in with the last Full Moon Fire, but she still felt lost and confused as she observed all the preparations taking place around her.
"I can't help if you don't tell me what's wrong Hermione," Fenrir told her sharply, letting her know that he wouldn't take her silence as an answer again. When she mumbled under her breath though, he bit back a growl at how difficult she was being. "Hermione!" he snapped at her, silently demanding that she answer him properly.
"I don't know what's happening," she admitted in a quiet voice, embarrassed to admit such a thing.
"Tonight, is Imbolc, that's what everyone is preparing for, I told you this before the full moon," Fenrir reminded her.
"But what is Imbolc?" she asked quietly looking out over the river so he wouldn't see how embarrassed she was.
"Imbolc is the beginning of the spring and signals the stirring of new life," Fenrir told her softly, realising that she was embarrassed from her lack of knowledge at the packs traditions and celebrations beyond the Full Moon Fires. "We welcome the growth of the retuning light and witness Life's rebirth. Here, grab those reeds and I'll show you how to make a Brigid's cross," Fenrir instructed her, taking her eaten apple core from her hands and throwing in back into the forest to be replant and grow into a new apple tree in the future. When she sat down next to him again with the desired reeds, Fenrir took them from her hands and quietly showed her how to weave the reeds into a Brigid's cross, all the while explaining what it was they were celebrating that night. "Tonight, we are going to celebrate the successful passing of winter and welcome spring into the world and all that she brings. What we're doing now, crafting a Brigid cross, we are honouring the Goddess of healing and smithcraft. Anything we make with our hands is because of her. The shamans and elders will be making candles for everyone to put in their cabins tonight and we'll light them and put Brideóg dolls into the mini beds that should have been put outside each cabin, so that we can welcome the goddess so that she might bless us for the coming year," he explained to her, smiling slightly when she pushed his hands away from her Brigid cross once she got used to the looping and crossing of the reeds.
Looking back over the river Fenrir noticed that the men had finished fishing and were in the process of taking their catch back to the village to be cooked for that nights' feast. Glancing back down at Hermione he saw that she had also finished making her very first Brigid cross and was impressed by just how neat it was for her first attempt, though he knew that he should be surprised in the slightest. Hermione liked to do things perfected, even if she'd never done it before. "Come on little one. Let's get back to the village and carry on helping with the preparations for tonight."
"What else is there to do?" Hermione asked, walking alongside him, one of her hands in his while the other held her new Brigid cross securely.
"The women should be busy cooking up a feast for everyone. We'll have potato and leek soup; lamb stew; grilled fish and vegetables; fruit and nut cake; soda bread and scones with fresh honey and hedgerow jam," he explained as he walked them to where all the mothers and cubs were busy crafting, including Hermione's friend, Dana. "Why don't you stay here with Dana and make your Brideóg," Fenrir suggested, depositing his ward down next to her friend. "Don't leave her side until I come and get you, understand?" he told her, departing only after she nodded in agreement.
"What's a Brideóg?" Hermione asked Dane, not as embarrassed to ask her friend as she was to ask Fenrir.
"A Brideóg is a doll that we make to put in the beds that get delivered to our cabins," Dana explained. "We leave food out and light candles for Brigid in the hope that she visits our homes to bless us for the upcoming year. We put the Brideóg in the bed as a way of saying she's safe to rest with us after she's risen the sun god from sleep. If we're lucky and she does bless us then there might be new clothes outside for us," Dana explained as she pulled some cloth closer to the two of them, the girls quickly getting to work drawing out their patterns for their Brideóg, waiting patiently for one of the older women to cut out their patterns for them before they started to sow. Before she knew it, Hermione had her very own Brideóg in front of her, it's green body covered in a yellow dress similar to her own; it's red wool hair parted into pigtails. Passing it back to one of the elders, Hermione watched over her as she sowed mismatched blue buttons on for eyes, and a curved black line for it's mouth before she took hold of it again and looked at her handiwork. To say that she had never made a Brideóg she was incredibly proud of what she had created and hoped that Fenrir was pleased with her creation and skill at sowing.
"Are you all done Hermione?" Fenrir asked as he finally arrived to pick her up just like he said he would. Turning around she greeted him with a smile and held up he Brideóg for him see. "That's wonderful Hermione, you've done very well with that," he told her, taking hold the doll and inspecting the neat stitching of the body and dress. It was a good indication that she would be highly efficient at crafting clothes for her children in the future. "Come along, you need to get dressed for tonight's bonfire," he told her, taking her hand and leading her over to their shared cabin, taking her Brigid cross that she had crafted that morning and placing it on the nail at the top of the door. Letting Hermione into the cabin, Fenrir busied himself with setting up the miniature bed in the corner of their home placing Hermione's Brideóg atop, ready to welcome Brigid later that night.
When both Hermione and Fenrir had changed into fresh clothes they left their cabin and went over to where the bonfire now blazed, bright and high; the setting sun painting the sky with rich purples and pinks that seemed to beckon the flames into dancing with it, casting flickering shadows all around the gathered pack and dancers and musicians began to entertain everyone. After the final dance had finished and last notes had been played, everyone gathered around the food laden tables and feasted on everything that the had been prepared, everyone happy and laughing as they celebrated Imbolc and rang cheers for the good harvests they hoped to have over the coming year.
Eventually after more dancing and singing and when the bonfire had burnt down enough to be left safely, everyone started to depart for their cabins for the night. Gathering together and small plate of leftovers, Hermione joined Fenrir in their cabin and after putting the plate down next to the Brideóg and her bed, Hermione climbed into her own and snuggled down under the duvet while Fenrir went around and lit the candles that had been scattered around their little home for Imbolc by the elders that had crafted them.
Once all the candles had been lit, bathing the room in a warm and comforting glow, Fenrir made his way back over to Hermione's bed and sat down next to the young girl, making sure she was tucked up and warm during that late winters night before finally asking, "How did you enjoy your first Imbolc festival?"
"It was really nice, I enjoyed making the cross and Brideóg. Do we make new ones every year?" she asked as she snuggled down into her warm bed.
"Yes, you'll make new ones every year," he informed her with a smile, knowing that the reason why would become abundantly clear to her in the morning. "I'm glad that you enjoyed it. Next time you're unsure about any of our celebrations though, don't be scared to ask me about them. I want you to feel at home here Hermione and if asking a hundred and one questions ensures that, then ask away. I promise I will always try to answer them," he told her with a small smile before leaning over and placing a soft kiss on her forehead and wishing her sweet dreams before retiring to his own bed.
The next morning when Hermione woke up, she found that not only was the food left out the night before for Brigid was eaten, but that the Brideóg was also missing and in it's place was a dress for her in the same colour as the Brideógs' body as well as a shirt for Fenrir in a blue matching that of the Brideógs' dress. Looking over at Fenrir she asked if he was the one that had eaten the food and left the clothes for them after she'd fallen asleep, but when he shook his head in the negative and told her that Brigid had left them to show that she had decided to bless them, Fenrir spent the rest of the morning making good on his promise to answer every question Hermione had about Imbolc and the magic surrounding their traditions and celebrations.
And she had an awful lot of questions.