A/N: Chap 18 review responses in my forums as always. This...this is a talking chapter. These are rarely my favorite types of chapters, but it was necessary. The great "Reveal" Chapters in HP are starting to feel a little trite to me, even my own, but I did my best. Thanks for reading.
Chapter Nineteen: The Order Reformed
Though Justine wanted Harry to give the rings to Hermione and Luna immediately, he told her he wanted to wait until that night so he could give them the rings in private. Justine accepted it with a shrug.
They met up with Hermione and Luna, who between them had a stack of ten books to purchase. Harry filled out another bank draft at the counter, grimacing at the cost. One of the books cost more than all his school supplies for a year. "Harry," Hermione finally said, looking apologetic, "they destroyed everything we had when the Aurors…took care of those hunters. I'm sorry, it's just…I have nothing."
Harry shrugged. "It's okay, Hermione. We're married—I guess whatever I have is yours too."
Finally, they shrank their purchases and walked across the town to the very edge away from Hogwarts.
The Hogs Head Inn looked ugly on the outside. The building seemed built of rotting timbers with a shaky upper floor that looked ready to fall over onto the magical tannery beside it. Like most magical structures, however, the inside was much larger than the outside, and seemed much stouter. Still, while the timbers inside looked whole and solid, the whole place seemed to be covered in a layer of grease and dirt.
Most surprisingly of all was the stout-bodied Ancient behind the counter. His magic was nearly identical in colour as Albus Dumbledore's, other than being not quite as bright. Even the blue eyes looked similar. However, this wizard's hair and beard were not white, but a dirty, iron grey. Rather than a calm smile and a twinkle in his eyes, this wizard viewed the children with a grimace.
"Go on up," he said in a barely legible grunt. "Place is cleared out for you."
"Thank you, sir," Hermione said with a little curtsey. Following her lead, Luna and Justine both did the same.
"Should I bow?" he asked Hermione.
She rolled her eyes and pushed him up the stairs. He reached the large, mostly unfurnished room and stumbled in surprise at the number of students who looked back at him, all of whom he recognized, and most of whom where now living in the married quarters.
Fred and Georgina (who was now a Jordan) leaned against the wall so close they were touching, while their spouses stood on their respective sides, Angelina Weasley by Fred, and Lee Jordan by Georgina. Neville sat on the desk that made up one of the only pieces of furniture in the room, with Hannah sitting on his right and Susan Bones standing to his left, her arms crossed over her chest. Jessica Rivers and Deanna Thomas were there as well. With Harry and the girls accompanying him, that made twelve students.
"What's going on?" Harry asked.
"Don't look at us," Susan said, "this is all Hermione."
"Right," Hermione said in a firm, non-nonsense voice. "First off, we need to get some things straight. Fred and Angelina, Georgina and Lee, you four are the question. I'll be the first to admit that Dame Molly was actually very nice to us after the Sabbat, and I can't thank her enough for that. But she's still a Dame. We have important and private things to talk about, and we need to know if you're with us or not. More importantly, we need to know if you're willing to prove it."
"Does it involve enemas?" Fred asked.
"No!" Hermione said quickly, blushing.
"Then I'm out!" Georgina said, moving to leave before Fred laughed and pulled her back to the wall.
"Look, Granger," Fred continued, "we know what Mum did, and we know it was our sister Ginny that told her. What you've hopefully learned since is that when word got back, Mum had a breakdown. She cried for two straight days about the 'poor dears' she set up. She didn't know what Dame Delia would do, and was really upset about it. We Weasleys are an avowed light coven—we'd never advocate the killing of anyone, for any reason."
"He's right, Hermione," Angelina said. "When I met Dame Molly, right before Fred and I bonded, she told me how sorry she was about you two, and was happy to have me in the family even knowing I'm Muggleborn."
"She was probably just relieved Fred and Georgina just didn't run off together," Lee said. "I mean, face it you two, you are pervs."
"Yes we are!" Georgina said proudly.
"Short answer, Granger, is we're with you," Angelina said.
Hermione nodded with a grateful smile before she reached in to her coat and removed a thick roll of parchment. "This is a secrecy contract," she said. "It will not just protect us as a group, but it will protect you as well. This contract forces your own magic to protect you from Veritaserum and Legilimency probes. You can't lie but all you can give away is that you made a contractual vow of silence."
"What's the penalty for violating the contract?" Susan asked.
"There is no penalty, because your magic will compel you not to violate it," Hermione said. "It's essentially an Unbreakable Vow, only in written form. And it's charmed to hide the signatures from anyone who doesn't know the passphrase. Right now, only I and the person who charmed it know that phrase. And that person is above suspicion."
"Can I see it?" Harry asked.
He read through the language of the contract, but more importantly he studied the magic in the ink and the parchment itself. He recognized the colour of the magic and looked over at Luna, who nodded. "You're right," she said, somehow knowing this parchment was charmed by Headmaster Dumbledore himself.
"Does it require a blood quill?" he finally asked.
Hermione pouted. "As much as I hate to say, yes it does. But you only have to sign once."
She removed the quill that the whole school had come to hate. Without hesitation, Harry took the quill, leaned over the second desk he and the girls stood next to, and signed without expression. He handed the parchment back and said, "I trust you. All of you."
Hermione smiled at him, and then signed herself. Luna and Justine signed after her, and then the rest lined up to sign as well. When all had signed, Hermione said, "Susan, could you talk about the Order for those who don't know?"
"By now, that's mainly our seventh years," Susan said. "Neville and Hannah know a little. What I'm about to tell you came from my Aunt. It all began with a powerful seer who had a vision of the future that was so scary, she felt compelled to try and stop it, and gathered around her a group of friends she hoped could help. That seer was Harry's Mum, Lily Potter, and the group she founded was called the Order of the Phoenix."
Susan spoke about what Order attempted to do the first time. More importantly, though, she talked about what happened to its original members who were identified by the Sabbat. More than half of the original members were either dead or incapacitated, and their families suffered as well.
"Neville's parents," Susan summed up, "and my entire family and Coven save for my aunt were victims. They used Voldemort as a weapon."
"My Mum, and any children I might have borne, but now cannot, were also lost," Luna said.
"My parents," Harry said.
"Why are you telling us this?" Fred finally asked.
"Because we are reforming the Order," Hermione said. "Beginning with those of us here, in this room. If you decide to leave, you can without violating the contract. We wanted to make sure you know what you were getting into."
"And what does the new Order hope to accomplish?" Georgina asked.
"A more democratic Ministry," Harry said. "Laws to prevent wizards from being poached, and to actually punish those witches who do poach them. Laws to protect witches and wizards equally. And finally…a fundamental change in magic, so that bonds no longer weaken wizards."
This was news to Hannah, Susan and Neville, and to the Weasleys as well. "What's that mean?" Georgina asked.
"He can't tell you unless you're with us," Hermione said. "The additional protections on the parchment won't begin unless you place your wand to them and state, 'I, state your name, wish to become a member of the Order of the Phoenix.' Until then, it simply remains a vow of silence."
"What if we decide to back out later?" Lee asked.
"The provision in the agreement says the group as a whole has to let you," Hermione said. "If we do something that is so bad you can't agree, then you can ask to be released from the Order. And from my perspective, I would not want to make any of you do something that you don't want to do, or be a part of something you don't want to be a part of, so I would vote to release you."
"As long as there's a way to get out if you all go bleedin' barmy on us," Georgina said, "we're in." The twin walked over to the parchment she'd signed earlier, put her wand to it, and made the vow. The others quickly followed, and when that was done, Hermione looked at Harry. "Okay, your show."
"You know, some warning would have been nice," Harry said.
Hermione stuck out her tongue in answer. Harry rubbed the back of his head and looked at the others in the room. "Okay, well, it's like this. Mum discovered that wands are killing the magical race."
The silence that followed as profound. "More, Harry," Luna suggested.
"Oh, right. Okay, not just Mum. Voldemort knew too, at least some of it. Why can't we buy a wand off the street? All of you had your wands given to you by your Dame. Muggleborns received their wands from Professor McGonagall. Sometimes wands are a match, sometimes not. But you can't buy them from just anyone, and the secret of wand making is closely guarded. People have been killed for giving away the secret."
"And you know it?" Fred asked.
"That's what we were doing in America," Luna said brightly. "We were learning how to make wands from the Apostate, Garrick Ollivander. He's actually a very kind man living with a Squib family, since his was murdered. He was never a Death Eater, ever."
"The Dark Lord Morgan Murchison was labelled that because he didn't like being raped and force-bonded by his covens, and had his bond-mate murdered," Harry said. "He's gay."
"He's also beautiful," Luna sighed. "Such a handsome man, it might almost be worth giving him Harry if I could watch."
Harry blushed. "Thanks for your loyalty," he said dryly. "Like I had no adequacy issues to begin with. Anyway, my Mum and the Order were the ones who helped Ollivander escape to the Americas. The Western Confederacy does not allow poaching, and you have to be eighteen to get married. You can marry as few partners as you wish, or as many, and there are no restrictions on intermingling. Ollivander's lover is a Squib, but no one cares."
"And yet, somehow, the Western Confederacy has experienced a four per cent increase in male births just in the past fourteen years," Luna said. "Since Ollivander took the secret of male wands with him."
"Male wands?" Neville asked.
Harry talked about wands, and how the four elemental leanings of magic also played into the formation of wands. None of the Hufflepuffs were particularly pleased to discover which of the four humours was associated with Earth, but all of them immediately realized just how much sense it made.
"There are dozens of charms that can detect your elemental leaning," Hermione said. "Not just the sorting hat. The Dames of your covens assign you wands based on those leanings."
"Neville, your wand was made for a Gryffindor, but you have a touch of Hufflepuff in you, so it was a bad match," Harry said. "More importantly, like all the rest, your wand was made for a woman."
"I don't understand what a wand does to make bonds weaken wizards, though," Hannah asked.
"The Arithmantic equations on the subject are quite fascinating," Luna said. "It is an inverse of Ptolemy's Laws of Divergence. The masculine and feminine are intrinsically opposite and unequal. Muggleborn like to pretend that witch-born are the same as Muggles, but we are not. We have always had a different biological drive. Just as the bull dragon is always larger and stronger than the female dragons, the wizard has always been magically stronger than the witch, but there have always been more witches. In ages past, wizards would fight for the right to mate with witches, hence the huge dimorphism in our power levels. Civilization built rules around these conflicts, but in the end wizards still had an urge to fight each other. In every generation there is the Dark lord and the Champion, and the winner usually ends up with the most witches."
"Like how Elezeta Malfoy follows Voldemort," Harry said. "At his rebirth she acted as if his voice alone was making her…well, you know..."
"That's rather an unpleasant thought," Luna said. "Please don't think it again."
"Yes, of course," Luna said. To the others, she said, "What Mrs Potter discovered, or perhaps rediscovered since we know Merlin was aware of and combated the problem, was that the wands that the Covens introduced and gained power with were strictly feminine, and made with feminine humours. Wizards who channelled their magic through these wands were in turn affected by the magical return of the wand itself, becoming weakened at the very core of their magic."
"It is a long term, cumulative effect," Harry picked up. "We learned that Merlin was an actual Muggleborn and thusly, wizards could be born of Muggle women in the past despite all we know today. But fifteen hundred years of wand use have left most wizards so fragile in their early development that few actually survive to birth. Of those who do, without witch's milk they would die as well."
"This weakening of the masculine magic also had an immediate impact on the nature of bonds," Luna said. "When the Saxon witch Rowena gave Vortigern a wand, she was able to capture him with an essentially modern bond the very same night, whereas if she had tried to bond him the night before, it would not have reduced his power one whit."
Harry looked at Fred. "With a masculine wand, any wizard could bond an unlimited number of witches, if he was stupid enough to want to."
"Any wizard could found a coven under the current rules," Neville breathed, wide-eyed.
"Which is why the Covens will kill anyone it suspects of having this knowledge," Luna said. "It's why Ollivander was labelled an Apostate, even though as a young man he bonded two wives and lived happily within his coven here in England. It's why much of the world is essentially at war with the Western Confederacy of America, but not winning. The entire political structure of the International Confederation is built on an artificial structure that male wands would render obsolete."
"American wizards are more powerful, and they're able to have more children," Harry said with a tight smile.
"So what are your plans, Harry?" Angelina asked.
"First, we pass our OWLs," Harry said. "Once we do that, as a bonded, married set we become adults, or at least Hermione and I do. Luna would also need to pass her OWLs, but being fifteen, with OWLs, I could then bond two other girls and declare a coven."
"And who are you going to pick?" Georgina asked. "Katie would jump your pants in a second."
"Only if she wants me to hex her," Justine snapped, her cheeks burning red. "I'm next!"
"I wouldn't mind being number four," Jessica Rivers said, blushing herself.
"Are you powerful enough without a male wand to bond four girls?" Lee asked.
"With me, Harry could bond every witch in the school," Luna said. "We're both actuating Aethers, which means that bonds form through me, and that negates the feminine-dominated draw."
Georgina stared at Luna for a long time. "And that's why Granger bonded with you too. Nice. Have you done her yet?"
Hermione's face burned. "That's none of your business!"
"Just curious ... I've done Angie lots," Georgina said.
Angelina chuckled. "Georgina, you'd fuck anything that moves. You're a pervert, remember?"
"Oh, yeah ... Never mind."
"There's only one problem," Hermione said. "The Ministry is actively trying to keep us from passing a required core subject. If we can't pass DADA, then all OWLs can be denied, and we would have to wait until we're seventeen, regardless of being married or not. Before he was fired, Professor Lupin sent Justine and I several OWL guides for what Fifth Year would be like. I compared them to the new text books we're supposedly learning from, and I can tell you that the new books are intentionally wrong. They provide false instructions of the mechanics of defence spells, and the theory is just wrong."
"That's crazy, why would they want to keep a whole class from passing DADA?" Neville asked. "It just doesn't make sense."
"Control," Luna said, her voice uncharacteristically dark. "The Sabbat wants to control everything. They want to be able to control who bonds with whom; who passes, who fails; who lives, who dies."
"The discussion on forcing all wizards over fifteen to bond was tabled because of Umbridge getting caught," Susan told them, "but not dismissed. As soon as the dark covens regain their power, they're going to start pushing it again."
"And that's the primary reason I wanted to meet here and now," Hermione said. "Earlier this week, Harry snuck out of bed in the morning. I went looking for him, and I saw him practising magical drills by the Quidditch pitch." She turned and looked expectantly at Harry. "You were using spells from sixth and seventh year, and a few only taught to Aurors. Where did you learn those?"
"Oh, that was Sergeant Samuel White of the Western Confederation Magical Army," Luna said brightly. "He is a rather large black man with a loud voice and a propensity for vulgar language. Harry trained with him for six hours a day, even during school days. I did not like him, to be honest."
Harry grinned at Luna and gave her a hug. "Don't worry, Love. You made his head hurt as much as he made your ears burn."
"Luna does that," Susan said, but with a friendly smile. "So you received training from an Auror?"
"He wasn't an Auror," Harry said. "Aurors are trained in policing tactics and defence. He was a soldier—he was trained to kill his enemies. He had a masculine wand, and a war staff. He was powerful to begin with, and could kick my arse with his bare hands. I only had a month of training with him, but it was enough to convince me he knew what he was doing."
"Good, because you're going to be teaching us," Hermione said.
Harry sputtered. "Wait, what?"
"The Ministry wants us to fail, Harry. The only way we are going to pass is if we teach ourselves. Do you remember what Professor Dumbledore said? He and the rest of the staff can't know anything; we have to do this on our own. So you are going to teach us the curriculum in the actual OWL-level textbooks Professor Lupin gave us."
"That's a bloody good idea!" Fred said. "I'd go, and I already have my OWLs!"
"But how would we do it? We can't come to Hogsmeade every weekend," Harry said. "And let's face it, there are monitoring charms all over the castle."
"We know of a place," Susan said, glancing at a blushing Neville and Hannah. "It's where we went when Neville agreed to bond with Hannah. It's a special room in the castle that only appears if you walk in front of the wall three times, thinking about what you need."
"Oh, you mean the Come and Go Room," Luna said. "I've found several of my socks there, oddly enough. Why, that would be quite convenient."
"Next question," Fred said. "Do we just do it for you lot, or can other fifth years join? Ron's going to need all the help he can get."
"Seamus too, more than likely," Neville said.
"That's a little trickier," Hermione said. "We can trust all of you, but I'm not sure about the rest."
"Do up another contract then," Angelina suggested. "One just for the study group. Stick to a vow of silence, and we'll only teach those that agree to sign."
"The problem is I'm not supposed to have my memories," Harry said. "How will I explain to them where I learned this stuff?"
"Tell them Professor Dumbledore taught you," Susan suggested. "Everyone thinks he gives you special treatment anyway. Think about it—the man gave up his political offices to help ensure you got home safely. That says a lot right there."
"He's right, that would explain it," Hermione said. "So, we should vote. Who agrees that Harry should teach us for OWLs?"
The vote was unanimous.
"Second vote," Harry said. "Now that everyone knows everything, does anyone want out?"
"Hell no," Angelina said, almost snarling. "After all the shite I've been through as a Muggleborn? You think I have any job options lined up, Harry? My best bet is Quidditch, and Umbridge and the Ministry shot that down this year as well. No, I think the whole thing is broken, and you're the only ones I've heard who even have an idea of what to do."
"And we're not alone," Susan said. "I can't give you names yet, but there are several people who are still alive and still loyal to the older Order."
"So, we're going to need to be circumspect about this," Hermione said. "We'll discuss ways we can organize meetings without giving ourselves a way. I think, based on what happened to Harry that we need to keep the Slytherins out of it. In fact, for now I think we should concentrate only on Fifth and Fourth years."
"I agree," Susan said.
"And us," Fred said. "We want in."
"Well, I guess we're decided then," Harry said. He looked about the room, feeling his cheeks burn. "Thank you, for believing in me, I mean. We can make this work."
"We trust you, Harry," Angelina said. "You forgave me for the way I treated you during your first year, and that proved to me that you're a decent bloke."
"Thank you," Harry said.
After that, the meeting broke up. Neville, Hannah and Susan left with the two sets of Weasleys following after, with Deanna and Jessica Rivers following after. Harry, Hermione, Luna and Justine went down stairs as well, but lingered to order Butterbeers from the barkeep and talk quietly around the table.
"I wanted to ask you girls something," Harry said after Aberforth Dumbledore handed out their drinks. He blushed and rubbed the back of his neck. "I mean, we've been acting like a coven is a sure thing, but I never…well, I guess I never asked you what you wanted, Justine."
"I remember what it felt like when you touched my chest, back in Orientation," Justine said softly. She no longer blushed, but rather looked at Harry with an intensity he had not seen on her before the events leading to her father's death. "I have even less than Hermione, Harry. I lost both my parents, and a trust fund of a million pounds. Since then, the only hope I've had is you. I need to bond with you. Hermione's my best friend. And you…" She stopped and swallowed. "I do wish to bond with you. Your magic is exhilarating."
"It is," Luna agreed. "His magic feels like every good thing you've ever wanted, wrapped up around and inside you. Snuggling with him is just as good as sex."
"Hey, let's not go too far," Harry said in alarm.
"It is though, Harry," Hermione said softly, staring at him. "Even when I'm so mad at you I want to slap you, you feel wonderful to me. The real question is whether Justine is okay bonding with Luna as well. That was the most difficult thing for me."
The girl in question studied Luna, who blushed and ducked her head. "I think I could handle it," Justine said. "After all, she's beautiful. I just am trying to understand what her magic would feel like."
Luna stood abruptly, walked around Hermione until she stood before Justine, and then leaned over and placed her hand on the older girl's left breast. Justine stiffened before her eyes narrowed in a far-away gaze. "That feels just like Harry," she whispered.
"That's because it is," Luna said. "We're actuating Aethers. You can feel his bond through me, and my bond through him; that's why when the time comes, you'll bond with both of us."
Author's Note: Very special thanks as always to Teufel1987, JR and Miles for beta reading. If there are any major faux-pas, they are entirely of my own doing.