This story is three years in the making, but here it is, finally finished. This is a sneak peak, but after this, you can expect new installments once a week on Tuesdays. There are more than fifty chapters, and they're long, but I hope you'll look forward to reading it every week. Now, nothing this size comes to life without a lot of help. So many people have been generous to me over the course of this journey and I'd like to take the time to recognize them:
First, my wonderful beta, BurgundyHope, for taking on this behemoth. Not only did she edit Order of Mercy, she also provided important feedback that has helped shape the story. I have been extremely lucky to find such a wonderful beta and friend.
Second, both keeptheotherone and PJHope have acted as consultants and pre-readers. They've been generous with their time and advice, and I'm a grateful.
Third, JK Rowling herself. Thank you for crafting a world and characters that spoke to me at a time when I was feeling pretty badly about my lot in life. Your creation spoke to my own sense of spirituality, loss, and empathy. And, maybe most importantly, Harry Potter reawakened my long dormant creativity. Thank you.
Lastly, I'd like to dedicate Order of Mercy to my best friend, Lori. You are my soul mate, my confidant, and my bad influence. You understand me, and you encourage me. Not only did you (not completely willingly) provide me with my first romance novel, you also encouraged me to read Harry Potter. Thanks for nearly three decades of bestie-hood.
Disclaimer: The world and characters belong to JK Rowling.
Mudbloods Stole Magic!
The Ministry of Magic is undertaking a survey of so-called "Muggle-borns," the better to understand how they came to possess magical secrets. Recent research undertaken by the Department of Mysteries reveals that magic can only be passed from person to person when wizards reproduce. Where no proven wizarding ancestry exists, therefore, the so-called Muggle-born is likely to have obtained magical power by theft or force. The Ministry is determined to root out such usurpers of magical power, and to this end has issued an invitation to every so-called Muggle-born to present themselves for interview by the newly appointed Muggle-born Registration Commission.*
Bill Weasley wadded up his copy of The Daily Profit and tossed it into the bin with more force than strictly necessary. Two weeks had passed since the Ministry of Magic had fallen and a sense of unease was slowly permeating the wizarding community. Yet, Voldemort remained hidden in the background, leaving the majority of society without a concrete idea of why they felt nervous. But this?
There weren't words to describe the ridiculousness of this propaganda. It defied logic. How was a Muggle meant to steal magic from a wizard? Even if that were possible—and it wasn't, waving a wand about would get a Muggle blasted across the room—wouldn't it prove that Muggles were mightier than wizards, therefore disproving the supposed superiority of Magical blood?
Bill could go round and round with this line of thinking, but it wouldn't get him anywhere.
He raked one hand down his face, catching the half-healed wounds with his fingers. Pain had him gritting his teeth and cursing. At least he hadn't ripped any of the scars open. Since returning to work after the attack, his co-workers had been prone to giving him some strange looks, Bill didn't suppose that bleeding at his desk would be a welcome development. Besides, Fleur would have his bollocks.
Death Eaters in the Ministry was not the only thing that had changed in the last fortnight, or indeed the last several months. Much of it was for the worse, save for one shining exception: his wedding to Fleur Delacour, now Fleur Weasley. It was thoughts of Fleur—of a future free of tyranny to be shared with Fleur—that kept him from going mad.
Bill glanced up to see Cynthia from reception standing in the doorway of his office he shared with a fellow Curse Breaker at Gringotts Wizarding Bank.
"There is a man to see you about a curse," she said.
"Send him in."
From the top drawer of his desk, Bill took out a stack of parchment and quill. He could hear the annoyance in his voice, which only annoyed him more. He didn't like that he had spoken to a colleague like that—he would have to apologize to Cynthia later. It didn't matter what the paper said, or how much pain he was in, there was no excuse for it. Bill was still taking himself to task when a middle-aged man walked stiffly into his office.
"Good afternoon," Bill muttered, still not looking up.
"Bill," the wizard said with familiarity. "Your leg heal up after that break when you were a boy?"
"That wasn't me," Bill replied, arranging the parchment on his desk and inking his quill. "That was—"
Head snapping up, he regarded the wizard in front of him more closely. It wasn't Bill who had broken his leg as a boy—it was Percy. He'd been five at the time. It was after lunch, Bill thought, and Percy had been begging to play with Bill and Charlie in the garden. Figuring that Percy would be too scared to fly on a full-sized broomstick, Charlie had told him to climb on. Only Percy had more guts than his older brothers gave him credit for. Percy got on the back of Charlie's broomstick, and the three of them had fun for about ten minutes before Percy off the back, his fall cushioned by Mum's pumpkin patch. She healed Percy, whilst giving Bill and Charlie the worst tongue lashing of their lives. The only people who knew that Percy broke his leg were family.
The man standing awkwardly in front of Bill's desk was paunchy with a balding pate and chapped lips. Everything about him was ill-at-ease, as if the skin didn't fit the man, but Bill knew those eyes. Not the shape or shade, he knew the soul behind them. Bill would recognize that serious, earnest expression anywhere.
"What can I do for you?" Bill asked with forced lightness.
Polyjuiced Percy handed Bill a square of parchment and said stiffly, "I have inherited a treasure box from a distant relative, but it is cursed. I was told that you are the wizard to speak to on such matters."
Bill's heart was in his throat. For all the times that he had sought out Percy since his younger brother's estrangement from the family, Percy had never come to Bill, and certainly not with such extraordinary precautions. Whatever had propelled Percy to seek him out could only be of the highest importance.
Unfolding the parchment with unsteady fingers, Bill read the simple words:
"I have information that will be of the utmost importance to you. We must find a safe place to speak."
"Tell me more about this box," Bill said distractedly as he Vanished the words on the parchment with his wand.
Percy was going into a rather detailed description of the fictitious treasure box. Under normal circumstances, Bill would have found this amusing. Only Percy would have come up with such an elaborate lie for the occasion, but circumstances were far from normal.
Bill scrawled a note on the parchment and handed it back.
"I think you need to bring this object into the bank," Bill said, staring at his little brother steadily. "I'll need a better look at it."
Percy looked at the note and nodded. "I can arrange that."
"Watch where you're going!"
Percy dodged around a small, dark-haired girl, hardly seeing her. He walked quickly through the taproom of the Leaky Cauldron into the men's room. Approximately seventeen minutes, by his calculations, until the Polyjuice Potion wore off. He closed himself into one of the stalls and stared at his shaking hand, willing the freckles to reappear.
Every day for the past two weeks he'd walked into a viper's pit without blinking an eye, so why was visiting his brother so much harder? It was not as if Bill were the twins. Percy had hardly seen the twins since the day he walked out on his family. Bill, on the other hand, had not allowed Percy the luxury of licking his wounds out of sight. No, not Bill. He, of course, sought Percy out the first chance he got.
However, Percy had never sought out Bill or any other member of his family in two years' time. He didn't even make eye contact with his father when they passed in the corridors at the Ministry, not even if they had the misfortune of being stuck on the lift together. Percy was too afraid of what he would see in his father's eyes: shame, hate, sadness. Or worse yet, what Dad would see in Percy's eyes. That is why Percy routinely took the stairs throughout the Ministry.
He watched as his hand lengthened and grew paler, coppery spots appearing on it. Ideally, Percy would prefer to craft a carefully thought out plan that would lead him back to the bosom of his family, but his fate was not in his hands. After everything he'd done, said, allowed to happen…He could only try to make himself worthy and hope that they would accept him back.
Maybe today was the first step.
The small, dark-haired girl that Percy Weasley bumped into was actually the recently sacked Audrey Sprayberry. She had just come from her office, where her boss gave her the bad news. Now, she rushed out of the Leaky Cauldron into the alley with tears burning at the back of her eyes. They were stupid tears, for a stupid job that never paid much anyway. Tapping the bricks in the wall absently, Audrey passed into Diagon Alley and stumbled to a halt.
She sniffed inelegantly, wiping her eyes with her fingers. Diagon Alley was no place to be distracted. Most of the shops were shuttered, their owners having been run off or scared off, like the Squib Placement Agency where she'd worked since graduating from Hogwarts two years ago. Well, one good thing would come of her lack of employment: she would have to give up her Diagon Alley flat. That would please Mother immensely. She never liked the room Audrey rented above a takeaway shop anyway, she thought it unseemly. However, even Mother couldn't ignore the dangers of Diagon Alley these days. Audrey wondered if one of her brothers would take pity and let her move in. The last thing she wanted to do was move back to Sprayberry House.
At the sound of her name, she looked up to see a familiar blonde skipping down the steps of Gringotts. The sour thoughts plaguing Audrey lifted for a moment. Two weeks had passed since she'd last seen her friend, at her wedding actually—the one that Audrey was lucky to escape from with her life. Freshly returned to work and wearing a blue frock, Fleur Weasley nee Delacour was stunning as usual. She was also a welcome sight on an otherwise dreadful day.
"I zought we were meeting for lunch at zee Leaky Cauldron," Fleur said, taking Audrey by the shoulders and kissing each of her cheeks.
"Oh!" Audrey closed her eyes for a moment.
"Did you forget?" Fleur accused.
"No…It might have slipped my mind. I just got sacked."
"'Sacked?' I do not understand zis term?"
"The Agency shut down," Audrey elaborated.
Audrey looked around. It seemed imprudent to stand in the middle of Diagon Alley, let alone try to have a conversation. She tugged on Fleur's sleeve. "Let's go to my place and I'll tell you all about it."
They picked up containers of Lo Mein from the shop below then climbed the wooden stairs to Audrey's flat. Of course, calling it a "flat" was glamorizing it a bit. Audrey lived in a bed-sit. She'd charmed the walls pink and hung filmy curtains, but that didn't change the fact that her bed was pushed into the corner and still took up too much room. There was a chair in the other corner, next to a stack of books. Clothes were bursting from a cupboard. She'd asked the landlord to place an expansion charm on the place, but he'd demanded extra money. The small wood stove that both heated the place and toasted her cheese was the only upgrade Audrey paid for. She was going to miss her flat.
Pushing aside a pile of clothes, Fleur sat primly on the edge of the bed. Audrey would like to claim that she was not normally this messy, it was simply that she did not have enough space for everything that she owned. Besides, the occasional visitor was either Fleur or some bloke who could care less what her flat looked like. However, Audrey was keenly aware that she'd grown up with a house-elf who tidied up after her, and that maybe she was a disaster when left to her own devices.
"What happened to zee Agency?" Fleur asked, twirling her noodles around her chopsticks.
"The Ministry cut our funding."
Fleur scowled at the mention of the Ministry, but said simply, "I zought zat your funding came from a wealthy Squib?"
"It did, but he's running scared, and so is our director." Audrey dug in a drawer for a fork. "Anything to do with Muggles seems dangerously subversive these days."
The Squib Placement Agency was supposed to be a temporary job, a stepping-stone to a bigger, better non-profit organization. It was a difficult industry to break into—most of the witches who headed the non-profits were from elite or well-to-do families. Just to get her lowly position, Audrey had to cajole her mother into using her connections—in return Audrey had to agree to a blind date with a "suitable young man" of her mother's choosing. Still, Audrey rather liked her job. She took it seriously, learning all she could about the Muggle world.
"What will you do now?" Fleur asked.
It was a good question, and one that she did not have an answer for.
Audrey shrugged, and changed the subject. "How's married life?"
For a moment, Fleur's eyes were trained on her noodles as she wound them around and around, then a soft smile graced her face. "Bill is wonderful," she said quietly.
"Ugh." Audrey pulled a face. "Isn't that wretchedly sentimental?"
Fleur burst out laughing. "He is wonderful! He also cannot find zee laundry basket, but I have decided to forgive him."
Fleur nodded, then picked up a pair of Audrey's knickers. "He is not zee only one wiz zis unfortunate flaw."
"Oi! Those are clean." Audrey snagged her knickers and stuffed them in the drawer her fork came from. "I have a system, don't I? If it's on the bed, it's clean. If it's on the floor, it's probably been tossed there for good reason."
The girls giggled.
There were too many people sitting around the Burrow's kitchen table, as usual. Fleur was crammed between Bill and one of the twins who had his elbows on the table. The only thing anybody could talk about was the new Muggle-born Registration Committee. Except for Fleur-she stayed quiet and watched. This was her first official meeting as a member of the Order of the Phoenix. Before, when she took part in the Battle of the Seven Potters, Fleur was merely a volunteer—old Mad-Eye Moody had called her cannon fodder. She had not understood the term, but Bill assured her that it was a Muggle reference and most British wizards would not have understood it either.
Her father-in-law sat at the head of the table. It was still novel to think of Arthur as her father-in-law, and Fleur quite liked repeating it in her head. However, her father-in-law was not the leader of the Order, despite his place at the table. The other members all demurred to Kingsley Shacklebolt. He was a quiet, watchful presence at Arthur's right. It seemed that Arthur was second lieutenant, an odd fit for such a humble man. Fleur supposed that it was his paternal air that made people listen to him. He had a way of acting very sure and very reassuring that made people want to depend on him.
At the other end of the table, Tonks sat near Molly's usual spot. She was watching Molly bustling around the kitchen like a mouse would watch a cat. It was no wonder what had Tonks so wary of Molly. Remus Lupin was rather conspicuously missing from the meeting. Fleur was just sure that her mother-in-law had much to say on that topic.
When the meal was consumed, Molly cleared away the dishes, but all the witches and wizards remained in their chairs as the meeting commenced. It was strange to see this council of war being conducted at the table Fleur had seen her in-laws gather around for Christmas and birthdays. And unsettling, as if this small thing was what was wrong with all the world. Arthur remained at the head, but Shacklebolt stood and waited for the room to fall silent.
"We've much to discuss tonight," Shacklebolt said. "We've all read the Daily Prophet, and have their account of this new Muggle-born Registration Commission. Arthur, what do you know about it?"
"Just that an entire propaganda machine has been built at the Ministry. They are distributing all sorts of foul lies about Muggles and Muggleborns," Arthur reported. "Oh, and the Commission is being headed by Dolores Umbridge, whom some of you are already aware of."
Molly scowled. "A more odious woman…if I ever get my hands on her."
"Yaxley has been bringing in some unsavory characters," Kingsley added matter-of-factly, referring to the Death Eater now in charge of the Auror Department. "They are charged with enforcing the 'invitation' the Ministry has extended to the Muggle-borns."
Tonks made a strangled noise. "My dad has already gone into hiding," she announced, then snorted. "More like gone on the run."
"How's Andromeda holding up, dear?" Molly asked, reaching over to pat the younger woman's hands.
"You know Mum," Tonks replied, leaning her chin into her hand and looking exhausted. "Steel backbone and stiff upper lip. She has taken many precautions to protect Gran Tonks and my dad's sisters though."
Fleur looked away, a spike of jealousy in her abdomen. She did not like feeling such a small and petty emotion, but she wished that Molly would extend more of that maternal concern in her direction. It was true that Fleur's relationship with her mother-in-law had improved since Bill was mauled, but Fleur still found herself longing for the same affection and protectiveness Molly extended to Tonks and Harry, even to Hermione. Well, perhaps not the protectiveness.
Under the table, Bill took her hand and Fleur looked at him with gratitude and wonder. All through her years at Beauxbatons, Fleur thought she had done a good job of masking her emotions, but that was before she met Bill. He read her doubts and hurts so easily, even if he did not always understand them.
The meeting went on for quite some time. Arthur suggested that the Order place protective wards on Muggle homes and businesses, as many as they could. Fleur felt that this seemed like trying to catch the wind in a jar, but had no better suggestion. To do nothing at all was to lose hope. Shacklebolt must have agreed for he charged Arthur with organizing the effort.
The sun was dipping low in the summer sky before all the information was finally dissected and analyzed to everyone's satisfaction. Molly wrangled the twins into helping clean the kitchen as the other members of the Order spread out through the house and garden. Fleur left Bill speaking with Professor McGonagall and slipped out the backdoor. Darkness had not yet taken hold, only a few fireflies blinked amongst the flowers and weeds. Standing at the far end of the garden was Tonks. She leaned on the gate, staring into the black orchard in the distance.
"Do you mind if I join you?" Fleur asked. The two women had always been amiable, but Fleur would not say that they were friends.
Tonks looked at her and nodded. "There's enough gate for both of us to hold up."
"I am sorry about your papa," Fleur said without pretext.
Tonks gripped the gate tighter. "Dad refused to register with the Commission—can't say I blame him. They'll use their bloody lists to murder good wizards. He figured Mum and me would be safer if he wasn't around."
"I wish I would have known," Fleur said, although she felt stupid saying the words. How could she have known that Ted Tonks would be forced to leave his family? "He could have gone to my family in France until zis is all over wiz. At least zen you would know he was safe."
In the growing darkness, Tonks stared hard at Fleur. She did not fidget, she did not do such things, but Fleur could not control the shallow breaths and racing heart. The older, pink-haired witch was one of the few women that Fleur had ever felt comfortable around and she did not want that to change.
"Thank you, Fleur," Tonks said quietly, but there was a lot of emotion behind the words.
Fleur chanced a glance at the other woman and added quietly, "If you are able to contact him, tell him to come to Shell Cottage. I will take him to safety."
"I don't know where he is."
"Is Remus wiz him?" Fleur asked. "Is zat why he is not here tonight? Because he is on zee run?"
Tonks snorted. "No. Well, yes, but he isn't with Dad."
"What do you mean?"
"Remus left me."
"Pardonne-moi?" Fleur gasped in disbelief. "But you are—"
Fleur could not imagine a circumstance that would cause Bill to leave her, especially if she were pregnant with their child. And Remus, he was so noble and good. He had been a blessing to her and Bill after the attack. She could not understand his actions.
"Some rubbish about werewolves not breeding," Tonks spat out bitterly. "He thinks the baby will be a werewolf or, at the very least, tainted in some way."
"Bah, men are stupide," Fleur sneered, and Tonks snorted with laughter for a moment. "Everybody knows zat Lycanthropy is transmitt ed through the bite of a transformed werewolf. Your little baby will be no werewolf."
Tonks said nothing to this and the two young women lapsed into silence. The summer darkness had settled in around the Burrow finally. They could hear the calls of owls in the orchard beyond, the music of the crickets in the garden. A cool breeze provided relief from the lingering heat.
"You zink he is out zere, do you not?" Fleur asked after a while.
"Hm?" Tonks responded with forced distraction.
"Remus. You zink he is watching from zee orchard, oui?"
"I know he is," Tonks responded. "He's waiting for me to leave, then he will come around to hear the news and get a bit of Molly's cooking."
"Does Molly know?"
"Maybe she will hit him wiz her frying pan," Fleur said, eyes narrowing as if she could see anything in the night.
Tonks laughed outright at that. "Perhaps it would knock some sense into him!"
"Oui. And if it does not, he will have a great headache."
A lit wand and soft footsteps announced Bill's arrival. "What are you ladies laughing about?"
"Hmph, you know there is only one lady here," Tonks retorted, cocking her hip and propping one hand on it. "And we were just discussing how you had better do right by this one or you'll be on the receiving end of one bloodthirsty Veela."
"Yeah?" Bill responded with a laugh, looking at Fleur. "Should I be worried?"
"Not if you toe the line," Tonks responded.
"Do not listen to her, mon Bill," Fleur said, tucking herself into his side.
"We should be going," Bill said, wrapping his arm around her waist. "I have that meeting tomorrow."
He was referring to his brother, Percy. They were to have him for dinner at Shell Cottage the next day. Bill would not admit it, but he had high hopes for this dinner, and for Percy. To that end, Fleur would do everything in her power to make tomorrow perfect, but she had her own secret. She desperately wanted to make a good impression on this brother. Charlie liked her well enough, but it would be nice to have more allies in the family. Even if this one was estranged.
"Thank you," Tonks said sincerely. "For everything."
Impulsively, Fleur reached out and hugged the shorter woman.
"Bonsoir, Tonks. I know everyzing will…I do not know zee expression. Be good? In zee end."
*Quoted from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 11 "The Bribe", page 209
Thank you for reading, please leave a review. The next installment will come on Tuesday, and we'll be on a weekly schedule after that.