I wrote this story many, many years ago. As of recently, I've started to re-work, re-edit and re-write the story to flush it out further. Some details may be inconsistent, but I'm going to put an indicator at the top of the chapters, so you'll know they're "completed for new edit".
*Revised - November 2022
The warm summer's sun was slowly sinking down against the horizon and streetlamps were illuminating the sidewalks along a quiet suburban neighborhood of London. City sounds from the center of town could be heard in distance as cars flew through the streets and buses made their stops. It was an unsuspecting calm evening with no one taking notice to the strange gathering taking place in a building no one could see, between to homes that were numbered incorrectly.
Passers-by would glace at the houses, making an insignificant mental note why the houses were numbered 10, 11 and then 13. Where was 12 Grimmauld Place?
The kitchen of 12 Grimmauld Place was tense. At least that's what Ron whispered to his older brother as he entered the crowded room late, like usual. Looking about the kitchen, he noticed all the seats were taken around the long oblong wooden table and would be forced to stand against the wall with his brothers. He huffed under his breath as he bounced a little on his heels, awkward he was tardy, but selfish to wonder when they were going to eat.
Molly stood as still as a statue in front of the old stove, slowly charming a spoon to stir a pot on its own with one finger, while her eyes were transfixed to the head of the table listening intently. Ron pouted his face and slowly took a few steps closer to his mother to better see what she was brewing for dinner. Steam was rising from a second cauldron on the back burner, giving off an alluring aroma and he couldn't help but cautiously reach a finger into the pot so that he might... just... dip...
"Ouch! That hurt!" Ron howled in a stage whisper, nursing his finger from the heavy whack he'd just received.
Molly stood there with her eyes wide and stern, the wooden spoon still poised in mid air ready to strike it again. Gravy still dripped off the end as she raised her chin and scolded him, "Ronald Weasley, if you try that again, you'll be nicknamed "Nine Digits" back at the Ministry! I will not have you taint the dinner for all of us." She shooed him away from the stove, glancing over her shoulder at Kingsley, hoping not to distract him too much, but eager to hear what he was saying.
Ron fell back in line between his two brothers that towered around him like bookends. He shrugged his shoulders and pushed his hands in his pockets in a silent pout, stomach growling and a little annoyed he had to stand. As he took a silent inventory of those in attendance, he noticed he wasn't the only one tardy to the meeting.
Six years ago, the war came to an end. Lives had been lost, loved ones had fallen and memories of the strong turrets of Hogwarts crumbling around mere 17-year-olds still carried its mental toll. However, just because Voldemort was defeated by Harry Potter, it did not destroy HIS following. Since the war, there had been a strong uprising of Followers slowly gaining numbers, believing the Dark Lord still lingered among them, weak and frail, even if only in Spirit. Though it was nearly no way for the Dark Lord to still be among the living, the Followers, the Cult of Voldemort, had an agenda to continue his life's work eradicating traitors and strengthening their ranks and support. Pure-bloods began to take the helm of the Ministry, much like they used to, swaying opinions and votes with enough galleons for new laws to pass through quietly and with minimal exposure. The current climate and state of both the wizarding world and the muggle world were becoming darker once again, with grand manipulation with even the muggle Prime Minister. Between both worlds, a civil war had developed among the believers and the non-believers creating a slow burning battle that predicted a questioning future.
The Order meeting had started at least fifteen minutes earlier, most of the company was present and accounted for, save for one, who had already announced she was running late. On the wooden table in the center of the room, a large, enchanted map that covered the entire top of the table displayed most of central London and extended areas that pertained to the information being discussed.
Kingsley Shacklebolt stood at the head of the table. His purple and gold dress robes were neatly pressed and hung against his tall form as if they were thick tapestry. With his arm extended, you could see the layers around his sleeve as he pointed his wand over the table illuminating small balls of smoke with a faint red hue slowly pulsing with strength.
"These marks show where the last known transactions have taken place. The Ministry does not want this getting out, I ask that you please take care when approaching these hot spots outside Diagon Alley," Kingsley said with a low and cautious voice. His tone indicated it was incredibly secret, even to his own people, let alone the secret society of Witches and Wizards he currently lead.
"What are transactions, again?" Ron whispered as he leaned closer to George, staring at the map, but still clueless to what they meant.
Fred leaned against his little, shorter, brother, "If you had arrived on time, you would have heard." Ron made a fake gesture of scratching the side of his nose with a particular finger. Fred was unbothered.
George tilted his head as his eyes remained transfixed on the map before them as they stood, trying to study the proximity to his shop. "Transactions are residue of Dark Magic exchanges, dark artifacts sold, hexes delivered… the nasty stuff. This is just a way for us to see it from above."
Ron nodded, letting the information sink in. Though concerned he may need to alter his path to work at the Ministry, his eyes and mind still strayed back to the stove where his stomach was conflicting his focus. He tried to preoccupy his hunger by allowing his eyes to wander around the kitchen to the cupboards where the aged plates and matching goblets sat high on display, proudly showing off the Black family crest (the few that were left that Mundungus hadn't stolen two years earlier). Where dark tapestries depicting serpents and snakes during Sirius Black's childhood once hung, phoenix crests with vibrant colors filled the once dark and dismal, dungeon-like kitchen.
As Kingston took a moment to pause, going over a document he shared with Remus seated next to his right, the members murmured small talk with their seat neighbor. A few chairs own from Remus sat Severus Snape, his face a permanent sneer and his own robes elegantly pressed and proud. Though he'd rather not be in the same room with some of the company he kept, his seething distaste was mostly for the arrogant, man-child across from him leaning back and balancing on only two legs of his chair.
Feeling the hatred emanating from across the table like rays off the sun, Sirius carefully wavered his balance away from the table, no magic needed to keep the two legs from falling over, meeting his glare, but with a slight half smirk. Leaning over to his godson, he glanced to the James look-a-like and nodded towards Snape.
"Do you think he'd notice if I used a spell under the table to tie his shoelaces together?" Sirius mused, his eyes lingering back to the Potions Master.
Harry gave a slight shake of the head, his eyes down on the map before him, occupied with the transactions' activity, but still humoring his godfather. "No, he wears loafers now. You can thank Fred and George for that modification."
Sirius gave an internal chuckle, glancing at the ceiling for a moment in thought. Though he was a grown man, he made it his life's work to constantly be an irritant to his old foe. Pretending to lose his balance, he caught the table quickly with his hand, meeting Snape's eyes. He gave a slight tilt of his head, let the table go and proceeded to display his amazing sense of balance upon Snape's false hope.
As Snape quietly conspired how to remove the legs of the chair beneath Sirius, his own seat neighbor, Tonks, leaned over her boyfriend's shoulder, glancing down at the document he was going over with Kingsley. Upon reading the first few lines, her breath caught in her throat, and she looked up at the two men who were in deep conversation. She looked across the table at Arthur Weasley who was aware of the subject matter, and she quietly shared with him a stunned look of worry. Arthur, clasping and reclasping his hands in front of him on the table, looked back down at the map with a guilty glance then back to her. He gave her a subtle nod sharing her concern.
Remus and Kingsley concluded their conversation and Tonks leaned back fully into her own seat. Taking a steady breath to calm herself, she reached up and placed a tender hand atop Remus's. Giving a light squeeze, they reminded that the other was there for them.
Kingsley cleared his throat to take back the room from the quiet private conversations, allowing it to turn to only the tinkering sounds of the charmed spoons stirring the dinner and the crackling sounds of the fire. The silence was nearly deafening and to Kingsley, the energy was about to take a dark turn.
"Moving on to new business, this next issue is about to get very, very complicated," he paused, looking down the table at each member, quietly taking a quick mental inventory of their own personal relationships. As he spoke, he reminded himself of their linage for what he was about to say was going to drastically alter their futures. "The Cult of Voldemort has also intervened in a very delicate and sensitive matter that I'm sure will affect all of you in some individual way."
If the room could still even more, it would have. All eyes were on Kingsley, waiting for him to continue. Harry leaned in over his elbows, stretching to listen to every detail carefully. Snape raised his chin, curious to what could be said that would generate such dramatics. Tonks rested her head on Remus's shoulder, quietly thanking her blessings. Arthur continued to fidget by folding and unfolding his hands nervously in front of him. Sirius continued to display talent on the two chair legs, but with less distracting motions as he watched Kingsley. The twins folded their arms over their chests in unison and as Ron felt the two shifting around him, he mimicked their stance to not be odd man out. Several other Order members continued to hang on Kingsley's word.
"Many years ago, there was a vote put towards the Wizengamot that never made it to the final count, for it was too outlandish. It was inhumane and very, very political in its position. It was deemed incredibly old fashioned, but their defense presented a strong case." Kingsley looked down at the document he held in his hands. Across the top it was stamped For Wizengamot Eyes Only: not for public release. His hands gave a slight tremor as he looked up to the group before him, silently pleading with them to compose themselves before discussing this thoroughly. "They wish to present, vote and execute a Marriage Law."
The room gave a gradual intake of breath, unsure of what that entailed, but the shift of energy in the room was telling that fear and worry was deep on their minds and about to erupt from the tip of their tongues. As the house settled around them, Kreacher entered the kitchen going about his chores, ignorant to the subjects within the house, impartial to the similar slavery about to be discussed in the room he passed through as he brought Molly table linens for dinner.
"What would that mean, exactly?" Luna Lovegood asked from the far end of the table, quietly encouraging Kingsley to go on, but the only one brave enough to ask him to get on with it.
"It means the Pure-bloods are dying out, producing too many squibs due to the amount of interbreeding within their own blood. Marriages between Pure-bloods and Half-bloods increase the chances of producing a strong witch/wizard, but the allure of Pure-bloods marrying Muggle-borns, particularly females' child-bearing ages, was what they believed would be the most manipulating to achieve their goal."
"It's a power move," Harry announced, emotionally frustrated and visibly distraught. His eyes were transfixed on the map in front of him and its pulsing red hue indicators.
"Correct," Kingsley agreed. "The Muggle-born have less say in our world, their new world, and are considered the minority. They also hold the ability to nearly ensure a magical off-spring, without the risk of a squib, when paired with a Pure-blood. Statistics confirm the results when you bring new magical blood into the fray, positive results are nearly almost guaranteed. It is but of the Pure-blood's pride to lay with a Muggle-born."
"Not mine," Sirius chuckled quietly to himself, his chair still perfectly balanced and calm. Harry gave him a slightly annoyed look that he could joke at this time and then went back on Kingsley.
"When do they play on announcing this new law?" Molly asked, completely ignoring the pots on the stove behind her, as they were practically preparing themselves. She only stood there for lack of something else to do, while listening to the meeting. She felt most useful when she could be the resident den mother, real mother to most in the room, believing things will be better with full bellies, even in the most dismal times. Molly passed her time waiting on word from her extended family during the war, while concocting the most enticing recipes she barely put effort in.
Remus stood in his seat, all eyes shifting on him as he picked up another document. His eyes glanced at the moving map before him to give him poise for what he was about to announce. He inhaled deeply and added for Kingsley, "The Ministry of Magic declares this new law will be announced on July 28-"
"That's barely two weeks from now," Molly quietly said, her mind racing of all that needed to be done to protect anyone she could.
"I know, Molly," he nodded, sharing her solemn concern. His eyes went back to the document. "They stand behind this claim in order to repopulate the strength of the bloodlines," he raised his head to address the group once more while reading directly from the document. "Any unwed Muggle-born witch under the age of 35 shall be deemed child-bearing age and be solicited for petition of marriage by an unwed Pure-blood wizard. Failure to present, will result in fines and charges of treason to the Ministry and up to seven years in Azkaban."
The room erupted into a disgruntled volume of anxious voices, pleading among themselves that this couldn't stand. Things couldn't play out like this. The current political climate was completely off balance and power of the currency was at fault for staking these ridiculous claims to entrap young witches without a mate. When the room seemed to be getting ahead of themselves, Kingsley silenced the room with his wand to his throat, asking for everyone's quiet and patience as they discussed these conditions as level headed wizards.
"What are the terms?" Tonks asked, her head held high and her voice loud in the room. She was not affected, being Half-blood, she was safe.
Kingsley nodded, appreciating the calm efforts to forward the conversation rationally, he raised the document to better read it aloud, already knowing what the conditions were, "All unions generated under the Marriage Law Act will be wedded in a public ceremony by an official Ministry officiant. The marriage must be consummated within three months' time and an offspring of magical qualities must be produced within two years of consummation. The Muggle-born will be subjected to further testing and fertility treatments issued, if no children are produced with in the given time frame. If after treatments have been exhausted and no children are produced, each Muggle-born will be handled on a case-by-case basis."
"That's barbaric," Fred bellowed, slamming his fist hard against the counter top. "What if those Pure-blood pricks are sterile? What if those Dark Lord-loving pansies are unable to knock their witch up?"
"Fred!" Molly huffed.
"But they're going to force her to be probed and pumped of Merlin knows what, just because they can't get their rocks off?" the second twin added.
"George!" Molly huffed harder.
"Boys!" Arthur interjected, standing from his seat giving his adult sons a stern look that still puts them in their place.
"So, who else in the Order needs to be betrothed?" Snape sighed, as if this was the least of all the cares in his world.
"Don't worry Snivellus, no one is going to be knocking on your door," Sirius snarked, rolling his eyes at the entire situation.
"Sirius-" Remus cut off, scolding his friend like he would one of his former students, but was met with a proper eye roll from the fellow Animagus.
"It's clear, isn't it?" Harry spoke up, looking around the room as if everyone there had completely forgotten who they helped him win the war.
"Kingsley, what is she going to do? What can we do for, Hermione?" Ron asked, his his voice barely audible, but his eyes spoke for him as he pleaded on her behalf.
A small sniff from Molly was heard over the deafening silence as the question hung in the air. Her shoulders sagged and her wooden spoon still in her hand, but down by her side defeated. Molly thought of Hermione like another daughter and to hear the news that she would have to be sent off unwillingly to a Pure-blood whose best intentions would not be to take care of her, but rather harm her based on the guidelines
Raising her head to look at her husband, she met his eyes with a pleading question that finally sounded like a whisper over her lips. "Yes, what can we do for my – our girl? Her parents won't understand."
"Well, what could happen if she presents herself, what is the process?" Harry asked, trying to logically think it through, in the event of a loophole.
"The process, Harry, isn't what is complicated," Remus said, taking point on the issue. "It's Hermione's life we fear for. With the right amount of galleons, she could be petitioned by a wealthy Pure-blood with ill intentions for her, putting her in danger."
"So, someone like, Antonin Dolohov could come in, lay down a bunch of money and conceivably walk out with her as his wife and ultimately kill her for his own revenge?" Harry asked, removing his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose.
Kingsley glanced to Remus and then back at Harry, "We would hope it wouldn't come to that. Hermione's life is our top priority both professionally, but mostly personally." The room nodded all around, save for Snape who still appeared to not be too overly concerned for the cause.
"I can cancel my engagement to Lavender, she will understand-" Ron said without a second thought.
"Ron, the wedding is in three weeks," Ginny reminded, shaking her head knowing that Lavender would not be easy about canceling her wedding for the sake of Ron's ex-girlfriend. "Lavender would not be that understanding."
"We can ask Charlie," Molly suggested, holding up her wooden spoon. "I'm sure he would love to come to Hermione's assistance, he was always very fond of her!"
"We would never get to him in time," Remus casually remarked, glancing to Kingsley in a way to suggest that though Charlie was a decent idea, they'd already discussed it. "We know that while it's a stretch to convince, we have already gone over a solution and we feel with the right grooming, it could work."
The room fell silent again, all eyes on Remus whose eyes were now slowly moving up the long wooden table, over the transaction indicators and settling on the one wizard that ticked off all the requirements as a proper petitioning suitor for Hermione. Heads turned from Remus towards the direction of his eye line. Sirius had held his balance for nearly ten minutes on two legs of his chair unassisted, until the severity of the situation dawned on him.
With a slight smirk to the left of his mouth, Snape whispered under his breath, "Justice."
There on the floor, Sirius sat among broken wood from the chair he had just destroyed in his backwards fall. He looked upwards, after taking inventory the only thing hurt was his own pride, with slight struck panic on his face as if he had just been told the Dementors were coming to give him "The Kiss".
Before he could actually say anything, the kitchen door swung open and Hermione came flying into the room carrying a stack of books up to her chin. Bustling and apologizing for her tardiness, she squeezed in next to Remus and Shaklebolt and slammed the rather heavy stack hard on the table. She bounced back up, a friendly smile on her face and eager to get down to business, she pushed the loose strands of hair from her face and looked to everyone.
"So sorry I'm late, everyone. What have I missed?" she rushed out, settling her hands on her hips.