Disclaimer: The world of Harry Potter is a marvellous sandbox that J.K. Rowling has graciously allowed us to play in. Nevertheless, it is her name along with those of Warner Bros and Scholastic Press that is engraved on the fence surrounding it, clearly marking the territory as theirs. Regardless of the fun I have shaping sandcastles using my imagination, I do not own Harry Potter.
Chapter 21 – Especially familiar faces
With a loud crack Tonks and Harry appeared out of thin air in a back alley amidst rubbish bins filled with plastic bags. Tonks stumbled and balanced precariously over the punguent bins for a bit before she grabbed hold of Harry's shoulder to steady herself.
"Mum has obviously not been by in a while," she commented, scrunching up her nose. "I swear the woman can't help but show off her stupid talent with household spells."
Shaking his head with a faint smile, Harry flicked his wand into his hand and cast an Air Freshening Charm. From one moment to the next the obnoxious odour was gone, replaced by a faint hint of lavender.
Tonks took a careful whiff and shot him a sour look. "Now you're just showing off. You even mimicked the lavender scent she always uses."
He shrugged. "She insisted I learn."
Rolling her eyes she set off towards her parents' house, only two blocks away. Harry shoved his hands deeper into the pockets of his muggle trousers and slowly ambled after her.
Being here felt surreal.
After the war, he had apparated into this very same alley, feeling the need to care for his godson but having no idea how, except to just show up and make the best of it. The baby boy was not much of a conversationalist yet, so he ended up spending time with Andromeda Tonks. Together they grieved for her husband and daughter and son-in-law while they watched Teddy gurgle, wave his little arms and legs and struggle to roll over.
With Sirius' dogged loyalty to his godson in mind, Harry decided that this son of a Marauder deserved nothing else from his godfather. So a few days later he returned. Again and again he showed up, until somehow along the way Teddy's attempts to roll over, get up and crawl became a metaphor for their lives.
Andi was the first to point it out. "A madman declared war and killed people that we loved. He hurt us, but you dealt with him and now we're picking up the pieces. And this precious little bundle of soiled nappies is worth our best effort."
This place, this neighbourhood had become a symbol for the aftermath of the war. And here he was, once more ambling along the familiar path, except only days ago he had watched the very much broiling war hurt one of Hogwarts' students. A Dark Lord was still out there, killing people.
"So, there's an Order meeting next Tuesday," Tonks said hesitantly. "You said you wanted to come..."
"I did say that, didn't I," he agreed vaguely.
Even more worrying: Voldemort still couldn't be stopped. The bastard had horcruxes left and Harry had no idea how to recover them. The ring, the cup, the snake... All of them were very well protected.
"I think Iris is looking forward to it," Tonks prodded, "though I think she expects those meetings to be far cooler than they really are."
Harry sighed. Of course the girl was looking forward to it. She was determined to do whatever she could in this war, just like he had been.
Knowing about horcruxes but unable to find them herself, she had tried to pressure him into retrieving the rest. Knowing their side needed fighters, she had sought duelling practice so that if the time came she'd be ready. And if she ever learned about the horcrux in her forehead that kept the Dark Lord alive and killing people, she would choose the most expedient solution and walk straight up to him.
She reminded him so much of himself that he had no doubt she'd do exactly that and he had actually woken up in a cold sweat a few nights ago when that very scene played out in his nightmares.
"Are you going to tell my parents that my son was a leprechaun?" Tonks asked curiously.
Harry hummed absenty. He'd even turned to his trusty crystal ball, which had proven useful in so many recent hairy situations, only this time it stayed frustratingly blank. It was of no help whatsoever, as if the prophecy had pulled rank and ordered all other fields of divination to remain tight-lipped on the subject.
Maddening, that's what it was.
A yank on his elbow jarred him out of his thoughts.
"Would you relax?" Tonks said, exasperatedly. "Are you that nervous about meeting my mother?"
"What?" he said, staring confusedly. "I'm not nervous."
She narrowed her eyes. "Then why are you ignoring me?"
He blanched. Ignoring Tonks was a recipe for disaster.
"I might be a little nervous?" he said weakly, jumping on the excuse she'd so conveniently provided him. Only as he did, he realised it was true. "Andi and I became good friends," he said slowly. "I've not had a good track-record with people like that in this world."
She poked him in the chest. "Well, not telling her that her grandson would have been a leprechaun is probably a good start."
He looked at her in confusion. "Why would I do something like that?"
Tonks threw her hands in the air and growled before grabbing his arm and bodily dragging him over to the nearby house that he recognised with a start.
"Oh! Are we there already?" he said sheepishly. "I didn't realise."
Tonks just rolled her eyes and led him inside.
"We're here!" she bellowed into the house, loud enough that if her parents were visiting the neighbours they would still have heard the message.
"In the living room!" an older male voice bellowed back, only barely more restrained.
Following the noise, Harry entered the living room to come face to face with Andi and Ted Tonks sitting on the couch.
Ted had a bit of a potbelly and his hair was graying, but the many laughing lines on his face spoke volumes that this was a man that enjoyed life. Harry spared him only a quick glance, though and focussed on Andi, who looked… more content and years younger than he remembered her. Her robes were more colourful than any he had seen her wear before, though they still exuded the kind of royal elegance he had gotten accustomed to. Unlike Ted, who sat in a kind of casual slump, her back was straight, her strict pureblood upbringing showing in her posture.
"So this is the kid that saw my little Nymmy pregnant and then raised her baby son," Ted Tonks commented darkly.
Harry blinked and instinctively took a step backwards before noticing that there was laughter in the man's eyes.
Ted looked Harry up and down before turning to his wife. "Are you sure I'm not allowed to shoot him?"
"Daad," Tonks whined from the doorway. "Be nice!" She covered her mouth with her hand and added in a conspiratorial tone, "He is very nervous about meeting mum. Maybe you should be more worried about her."
Harry whirled around to shoot her an utterly betrayed look.
"Well, I can't fault his taste," Ted said, grinning widely. "The Tonks' women are fine catches."
"Ignore them, dear," Andi said, rising and reaching for Harry's hand. "I'm afraid one of the consequences of marrying a child is that the real one never quite grew to maturity."
As if trying to prove her point, father and daughter were currently sticking out their tongues at each other behind her back.
Harry watched the goings on with wide eyes. There was so much more life in this house than he remembered, barring the antics of a toddler, of course. Teddy could literally brighten a room by mimicking a rainbow.
Andi shook his hand and gently kissed his cheek. "It is very nice to meet you. We have heard a great deal."
"It is very nice to meet you too, ma'am." Harry smiled awkwardly. "Again, that is."
"Call me Andi, dear. You already know me, after all." She gestured for him to take a seat on the couch. "How did we meet originally? Did my daughter introduce us?"
"Er, no, not exactly," Harry said with a wince, sitting down next to a still-glaring Ted with a wary glance. "I kind of crash-landed a flying motorcycle in your back yard and pointed my wand at you, thinking you were Bellatrix."
Ted snorted and shook his head with a small smile, finally losing his mock-threatening look.
"Hey! You never told me that story!" Tonks plopped down in a seat and eagerly leaned forward. "Fess up."
"I sincerely doubt that you had nothing to do with it," Andi said with a sigh and a roll of her eyes. "Crashing a flying motorcycle sounds right up your street."
"Actually, your daughter was nowhere near here," Harry corrected. "She was flying either a broom or a thestral to the other side of England at the time, I forget which."
Andi raised her hand to the ceiling in a there-you-have-it gesture and shot her daughter a meaningful look.
"You can't blame me for that!" she objected, defensively raising her hands. "That wasn't me, that was some freakish other version." Muttering under her breath, she added, "A much cooler one. I've never ridden a thestral. Didn't even know you could."
Her mother opened her mouth as if to say something but seemed to think better of it and turned back to Harry. Suddenly her eyes narrowed to slits and her glare seemed to pin him in place.
"My grandson, whom we will be talking about at great length – I take it you did not introduce him to any such contraption?" she stated frostily.
"No, ma'am," Harry said immediately, suppressing a shiver.
"Good," she said with a firm nod, her eyes warming back up and smiling gently like nothing out of the ordinary had just happened. "Would you like some tea?"
Harry swallowed nervously. "Yes, please."
Andi turned away from him to pour a cup and he let out a quiet sigh of relief. A good old friend, definitely. Unfortunately she could also be frightening like nothing else.
Beside him Ted noticed and he snickered. It drew Andi's attention who frowned. She carefully handed the cup of tea to Harry and then daintily plopped onto the couch between the two men, hip-checking her husband to make ample room.
"Now, you're going to tell me everything about this child," she said with a bright smile. "I think his name was Teddy?"
"Good name," Ted commented softly. "I'm honoured."
"He was named after you," Harry said with a fond smile, before turning to Tonks, the younger. "Speaking of names, what should I call you? There's too many Tonkses in the room now."
"How about boss?" she offered innocently. "Ma'am? Your eminence?"
"Dumpling," Ted countered. Tonks's face reddened and literally swelled in indignation as she opened her mouth-
"Nymphadora," Andi warned in a frosty tone of voice that brooked no argument.
Tonks deflated like a balloon and her shoulders slumped in defeat. "Fine," she said without much enthusiasm, "we're all informal here: he's Ted, she's Andi and I am Nymphadora. Just like the other two; rolls right off the tongue."
"Anyway," Harry said, trying to fill the awkward silence, "yeah, his full name was Edward Remus 'Teddy' Lupin."
"Lupin!" Ted and Andi both exclaimed.
Ted frowned slightly. "Remus was the father?"
He shot his daughter a questioning look and she slumped in her seat, her vibrant pink hair wilting to a mousy brown. "Don't worry, that's not going to happen this time."
"I see," he said, tactfully dropping that subject and turning back to Harry. "Was he a good father?"
"Honestly, he didn't get enough time to be one," Harry answered sadly, running his fingers through his hair. "They only had a month together. I do know the idea scared him silly at first and he did some remarkably stupid things then, but I've never seen him as happy as when he burst through the door proclaiming that his wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy."
"All soon-to-be fathers are scared witless," Andi said, throwing an exasperated look at her husband. "Fortunately that usually resolves itself the first time they actually hold the child. Most of the time."
Nymphadora giggled and Ted grinned unabashedly, confiding, "I didn't know she was a metamorphmagus so when she started turning blue the first time I held her I may have freaked out slightly."
"I am so glad I knew about that beforehand," Harry breathed, imagining himself in that situation. Seeing the two elders look at him uncomprehending he rushed to explain, "Teddy is one too. A metamorphmagus, I mean. Delights in mimicking his surroundings. I'd walk into the room and he would be coloured like a baby bed or a baby couch or a baby bookcase."
"So cool," Tonks whispered with a blinding smile, immediately turning herself the same colour as her seat. "Does he speak yet? At what age do babies learn to speak anyway?"
"Yeah, he started a few months ago," Harry said enthusiastically. "Not much, maybe two dozen words, but he, er… He actually called me dada..." He trailed off, suddenly feeling like he'd been punched in the gut.
Next to him Andi sucked in a sharp breath.
"You sound like you loved him a lot," Ted said softly in the silence. "It's both both beautiful and heartbreaking, to be honest."
"Love," Harry corrected him with a sharp look, "present tense. He isn't dead; he's just… not here."
Ted blinked in surprise before gently smiling. "Of course."
"I like to think that he's happy," Harry mused, lost in thought now. "He's still got his grandmother, so that's good."
He nodded to Andi, who was busy glaring at her daughter. Seeing that made his heart swell because that was exactly what the other Andi would have looked like if someone had dared to threaten her grandson.
"It's not really my place, but I am very sorry my daughter caused you two to be parted like that," she said, still scowling.
"Thank you," he said with a wince, remembering those chaotic last moments in his old world and his desperate attempt to keep Teddy out of harm's way.
It didn't escape her notice and her eyes narrowed. "What else?"
Nymphadora moaned and slumped over, hiding her head in her hands. "We didn't know," she whispered. "I swear to Merlin and Morgana that we didn't know."
There was a beat of silence before Ted remarked off-handedly, "That's probably not a good sign."
Harry sighed. "When I was… called, a vortex appeared and almost sucked in Teddy, but I managed to save him.
Andi let out a harsh breath and closed her eyes, clenching and unclenching her fists. Finally, after thirty seconds of uncomfortable silence she pinned her daughter in place with a glare that could have flash-frozen boiling water. "What's done is done, but you and I are going to have a long talk about not repeating such mistakes in the future, understand?"
If possible, Tonks wilted even further, but she gave a small nod of assent.
"Okay, mum," she said in a small voice.
Shaking her head, Andi turned back to Harry and made a clear effort to relax the tension that had come over her. "Will you tell us about him?"
"I would love to, actually," he confessed. "I've not really gotten the chance to before. Well there was that one time after I found out that 'Amanda' was really your daughter when she begged me to tell stories and I did, but..."
"-it wasn't exactly a friendly audience or relaxing atmosphere at the time," she finished for him.
He nodded and she clapped her hands. "Well, fortunately for you, I am very eager to hear stories about my counterpart's grandson. And you and my daughter have made up, or at least enough to be in a room together without hexing each other, so by all means, tell us… Was he cute?"
"Adorable," Harry answered with an involuntary smile, before coughing. "In a manly fashion, of course."
"Of course," Ted agreed with a straight face.
Harry shook his head, losing himself in a happy memory. "I remember this one time when he'd been having fun crawling as fast as he could until he hit something and then turned himself that colour like some kind of chameleon bumper car. He did that for a while and as you ran after him, spelling every surface with Cushioning Charms, you called him 'such a boy'. Teddy got this cute look of determination on his little face and with all the speed he could muster, rushed for a pink pillow in the corner, one of his mother's old ones. He hit it and promptly turned himself bright pink from head to toe. He was so happy, loudly cooing and gurgling as if proud to prove you wrong."
"He was a natural metamorph, then?" Nymphadora asked eagerly, enthralled. "Could do anything he wanted?"
Harry snorted. "Like I said, he liked colouring himself like a baby bookcase, but he didn't understand everything yet. I often found him asleep on the lower shelf, looking like a very strangely shaped version of the book next to him. That was pretty common."
"Well, at least he's not a conventional bookworm," she said proudly.
Time flew by as everyone prompted Harry for stories that he greatly enjoyed remembering and sharing. In a way, it felt like he was bonding with the Tonks family for a second time. Only where before he and Andi bonded over raising her grandson and grieving for her daughter, now the Tonks' daughter invited him into their midst and the whole family allowed him to celebrate the life of a child that would never join them.
"I needed this," he murmered, surprised, before the others' silence made him realise that he had said that out loud. He promptly felt his cheeks heat up and ducked his head in embarrassment.
"I feel comfortable here," he confessed softly. "It's like talking with old friends and I haven't been able to do that in a very long time, at least not without some kind of baggage mucking things up." He sighed and lifted his head, meeting Andi's eyes and watched them soften. "I know you're not 'my' Andi, but you're honestly very close to her. I really am very, very grateful that you invited me."
She smiled softly. "I think I speak for all of us when I say that we're very glad you came." A host of complicated emotions flashed through her eyes before she lowered them. "It's terrible what happened to you and I'm glad to be able to help out, even if it's just a little."
"A lot," he corrected, relaxing back in the couch. "I've not felt this unburdened in months."
"Well, there is anything else that we might help, be sure to mention it," Andi said kindly, before getting to her feet and steeling her voice. "Dora, join me in the kitchen for a moment."
Nymphadora's eyes widened and she reluctantly got to her feet. "All right."
The pair left the men alone in the living room and Ted sipped from his mug as he eyed Harry.
"You did right by not-my-grandson, you know," he remarked. "You're a good man, Harry White."
Harry blinked. "Thank you, but-"
"Of course," Ted continued as if he hadn't spoken, "a father cannot help but ask any man, good or not, what his intentions are towards his daughter."
Harry blinked and stared incredulously at the man from under one raised eyebrow. "Seriously?"
Ted nodded solemnly and shrugged. "She likes you and brought you here. That's kind of how this works."
"I..." Harry started, before shaking his head and giving it up as a bad job. "I have no idea. First I hated her, but liked Amanda, who was her without the baggage. Since finding out about that I've been angry and distant, but she's been really nice and we're… kind of friends now, I guess? I just don't know if we can move beyond what happened, or if I want to."
"Makes you think what kind of man you want to be, doesn't it?" Ted mused, nodding along. "Do you want to be the kind of person that will let a big mistake stand between him and happiness? Or do you want to be the kind of person who can forgive someone for making such a mistake if they've tried everything they can to both make up for it and not do it again?"
Harry shot the man a sour look. "That's a rather biased way to ask that question."
"Not any less valid, though," Ted shot back, grinning toothily. He slapped his thigh and got to his feet. "You think on that, while I go interrupt my wife yelling at my daughter."
The man opened the door to the kitchen and stuck his head around the corner. "Do I need to buy all new cups and plates again?"
Instead of angry yelling, however, his answer was a squeal of happiness from his daughter.
"Mum's agreed to help!" she called out happily.
"She has convinced me," Andi said with a sigh, before correcting herself. "Actually, he has convinced me."
Feeling like he was missing something, Harry called out, "Did I do something?"
There was an awkward moment of silence before all three of them filed back in to the room. Nymphadora made her way towards him, grabbed his hand in hers and gently tugged on his arm, prompting him to rise
Harry shot her a questioning look, but was silenced by the strangely solemn expression on her face before she met his eyes.
"Do you trust me?" she asked seriously.
Harry blinked before smiling wryly. "A month ago I would have said no instantly." She didn't return the smile and he frowned. "Is everything all right? Does it matter?"
She tilted her head and thought briefly before smiling wryly. "Surprisingly not," she confessed, "but please answer the question anyway."
"You're not making a lot of sense," he complained but she didn't say anything and he sighed.
Did he trust her? Honestly, he would never have dared come here if he didn't. True, she'd done some bloody stupid stuff, but her actions since then had been commendable. She'd even helped him, opposing the Order and her friends in the process.
He opened his mouth to put her mind at ease because, yes, he did trust her, when a sudden realisation made him snap it back shut with an audible clacking of teeth.
It was perhaps ironic that the identity of Harry White was beginning to fit him so well that he was forgetting that he had another identity buried beneath it. Harry White may trust her, but what about Harry Potter? Judging by his suddenly sweaty palms he wasn't at all ready to share that little gem with her, despite how comfortable he felt here in familiar surroundings.
"The only person in this world I trust more than you is Iris," he said slowly but honestly. "I trust you a great deal."
"That girl is fiercely loyal to you," she said, before frowning. "Do you trust her more because she had no part in summoning you?"
"Among other things," he said vaguely, before smiling a wicked smile. "She's far more innocent than you are."
Andi sighed in the background, but Harry's attention was on Tonks, who moved in closer until their faces were only a few inches apart.
"That's good enough for me," she said softly, her eyes sparkling. "Thank you for trusting me. Please keep that in mind."
She smiled then, a warm smile full of joy and happiness and a hint of desire. It drew Harry's attention to her full lips which were inching closer and closer...
"Stupefy," she whispered gently.
Everything went black.
Harry woke up as a jolt of adrenaline rushed through his veins. The stone floor felt very cold to the bare skin of his back, butt and legs and with a start he realised that he was naked but for a bed sheet covering him. He tried to get up, but thick ropes tied his arms above his head. A second set kept his legs from moving, effectively immobilising him. For a moment he struggled before giving it up as a bad job and defeatedly letting his head slump back onto the floor.
"Please relax," Tonks' voice came from not far away, frightening the life out of him and setting his heart racing.
"Tonks?" he asked. "What the hell?"
The sound of bare feet on cold stone followed before Tonks walked into view, her bare legs disappearing into a bright pink bathrobe tied with a matching sash. Above it she was wearing Amanda's face, complete with long blonde curls styled like they had been when he had first met her.
"I asked Iris to find out something," she said nervously. "You said that you would help someone even if they didn't want you to, as long as it was important enough."
He eyed her warily and roughly swallowed, trying to still his rapidly beating heart. "This is not helping."
"Not yet," she said with a nervous smile. "But I am going to do you a favour. I'm going to take away as much of your scarring as I can."
"You what?" He tried to reach for her, forgetting about the ropes only to be forcefully reminded as they drew taut, almost pulling his arm out of his socket. "This isn't funny Tonks. They're Dark magic scars; nothing can be done about them."
"I'm sorry about the theatrics, but I'm much better at asking forgiveness than permission." She frowned down at him. "And you know enough about magic to know that there are almost always loopholes."
Something about the way she said that made unease coil in his gut. "Where are we, Tonks?"
She swallowed. "We're in the Black family ritual room. I asked Iris for permission to use that too."
"Ritual room?" Harry's voice climbed an octave and his eyes darted to and fro along the chamber.
Softly lit by candles as it was, Harry could nevertheless make out the finely carved circles and runes in the floor, walls and ceiling as the light glinted off silver and gold accents.
"I really don't like this, Tonks. Untie me."
She shook her head. "I'm sorry, Harry, I can't. I'm going to help you, even if you don't want me to."
With deft movements she untied the sash at her waist and rolled her shoulders, causing her bathrobe drop to the floor. Underneath it she was naked except for the wand in her hand.
For a moment Harry stared at her, captivated, before he realised what he was doing and yanked his head to the side, his cheeks burning hotly. Then he realised she had sodding kidnapped him and turning away from someone like that out of embarrassment was a really bad idea.
He turned his head back, working hard to keep his eyes on her face and to his great surprise her cheeks were coloured just as much as his must be.
"This will be a ritual fuelled by regret, my regret," she spoke, faster now. "Unfortunately it is Dark and needs a fraction of the pain the wounds originally inflicted. It will be shared between us so I promise it won't be as bad as the first time. Just in case, my mother is in the other room so there's a trained healer nearby should anything go wrong, okay?"
Harry swallowed again. "Andi knows? She is helping you?"
"You only have yourself to blame for that one." A hint of the familiar teasing glint reappeared in her eyes. "She wasn't sure at first and insisted on meeting you, but you convinced her quite nicely. She said that I had to do everything I could to help a man as nice as you."
She smiled softly. "Remember that you trust me."
Without any further warning she suddenly yanked the bed sheet off his naked body.
The air in the room was cold on his bare skin, which instantly broke out into goosebumps and Harry yelped.
"Shush now," she said, laying down next to him. "This part is kind of important and I think we'd both rather you didn't mess it up.
"Tonks," he whispered warningly, but she closed her eyes and her face took on a look of intense concentration that he didn't dare break. Rule one of any ritual: do not deviate from the script.
"Mea culpa," she breathed out, doing something with her wand out of sight and suddenly a wall of magic smashed into him from all directions like a tsunami, taking his breath away.
Hairs stood up everywhere on his body, like an army of ants was trying to pull them out of his skin. Slowly the feeling intensified, turning from pulling into tickling and tingling and then pinching everywhere as the sensation seeped into his skin. It converged on one of his scars, a small one on his thigh, where it burned fiercely, like a white-hot flame. Suddenly it flashed brightly and Harry groaned as the scar pulled loose from his skin with the sound of strip of tape ripping, leaving only slightly blemished pink flesh behind.
One second the scar was burning on his skin, the next a white light shot like a comet from his thigh to Tonks' and she whimpered in pain as an exact mirror duplicate of the scar carved itself into her flesh.
Harry's eyes grew wide, but he never got a chance to say anything as that was the moment that all his scars started burning one by one. Even worse, the agony penetrated his very bones as they seemed to crawl inside his skin along the break lines that Madam Pomfrey mended all those months ago.
He yelled and thrashed against the ropes holding him in place as his skin came alight like a furnace, shooting angry sparks from him to Tonks, the many sounds of scars ripping off his skin swelling like a thunderstorm. She, on the other hand, had nothing to hold her in place and flailed around on the floor as little motes of fire hit her one after the other. At one point her hand touched his and they clung to each other like anchors in the ritual-induced storm.
It took five minutes before the magic surrounding them disappeared, leaving them both breathless and panting, her body half-covering his, her head on his shoulder.
"Ow," Tonks said pitifully after a few minutes.
Harry groaned and tried to lift his head, but the muscles in his neck protested and he let it slump back onto the floor. Trying to ignore the developing full-body ache, he stared at the ceiling.
"You regretted using a dark ritual to kidnap me, so you kidnapped me to use me in a dark ritual," he said hoarsely.
Tonks grunted, but didn't move.
"I was right," he concluded. "I didn't like that plan. Untie me."
"Don't wanna move," she protested weakly.
"Well, I do," he said grumpily.
She didn't move and he swallowed, a little worried. "Tonks?"
"Yeah?" she whispered in his ear.
"You didn't just remove my scars, did you? You took them."
She was silent for a moment. "You said it. Can't cure Dark magic scarring. I could move it, though. Just another sacrifice."
He could feel her smile into his shoulder and he didn't understand why until it dawned.
"You're a metamorph," he breathed.
"I'm awesome," she corrected.
"You can morph away the scars like they were never there."
"They were never there," she said, still smiling. "This is Amanda's form, after all, not mine. I just can't ever take this form again without showing up scarred."
"That's… that's..." Harry struggled for words.
"Worthy of giving Tonks what she wants and not making her move?" she asked hopefully.
Despite himself, he snorted. "Not a chance."
She moaned reluctantly, but nevertheless rolled away from his side and over to her wand which had been flung against the wall during the ritual. To his surprise she didn't point it at his bonds, but instead cast an unlocking charm at the door before slumping back onto the ground.
"We're done, mum," she called out.
Andi didn't wait a second before storming into the room, her wand in her hand and a worried look on her face. Harry squeaked and instinctively tried to cover his nakedness only to be forcefully reminded that he was still tied down.
"None of that, now," Andi said brusquely. She shot a quick Diagnostic Charm his way, but almost immediately moved to stand over her daughter.
"You know I'm not a metamorph," she scolded, pausing to mutter several incantations. "That means that when you do stupid things like this the grey hairs you give me are here to stay."
"Didn't mean to worry you," Tonks said weakly.
"But you did!" Andi snapped, punctuating with a sharp jab of her wand. Stripes all across Tonks' body glowed a harsh yellow. "Screaming, silence and then I find my daughter covered in angry red scars."
"Which will be gone as soon as you lift that sodding hex," she whined. "Besides, you agreed that this was the right thing to do."
Andi paused mid-cast and glared at her daughter. "Because you had to make up for doing something even worse. Something that, I will have you know, also gave me grey hairs when I found out."
She narrowed her eyes and cast her spell again, peering at a spot several inches above her daughter's navel before her shoulders slumped in relief. With a tired motion she slashed her wand through the air.
A thin transparent film seemed to detach itself from Tonks' skin before dissipating. Immediately her body flowed like melted wax and within seconds Amanda's scarred features were absorbed, making place for Tonks' natural form and heart-shaped face, showing not a single inch of blemished skin.
In a flash Andi was on her knees and wrapped her arms around her daughter in a fierce hug.
"You're going to be fine," she whispered.
"I know, mum" Tonks gently patted her on the back. "Everything worked out. How's Harry?"
"Still tied up," Harry grunted, trying for annoyed, but he couldn't help but feel a little moved by the family drama feet away.
"Indeed," Andi said, letting go of her daughter and instantly regaining her brusque demeanour. "It wouldn't do to exacerbate any injuries before I have time to check you out."
Harry blinked. "I thought you did that already."
"I checked if you were in danger of dying immediately," she said dryly. "You'll be happy to know you're not."
"Can you at least cover me with the sheet again, then?" he asked almost pleading, before adding in a furious whisper, "I'm naked here!"
"I'm sorry, but no," she said apologetically. "I have to be thorough, but I'll try to be quick." She frowned. "That doesn't mean that Nymphadora has an excuse, however. Put some clothes on, young lady."
Tonks grumbled, but reached for her discarded pink bathrobe while Andi started firing spells at him, starting at his feet and slowly moving upwards along his body. Harry let his head rest on the floor and closed his eyes, trying to ignore his mortification and pretend he was anywhere but here.
After what felt like an hour of extreme embarrassment he felt the soft touch of thin cloth cover his lower body and with a sigh of relief he realised she had covered him with the sheet again.
"Thank you," he murmured, opening his eyes.
Andi hummed distractedly as she cast spells at his torso and head. "I think everything worked out the way it was supposed to..."
Her voice trailed off as her eyes widened before she shook her head and cast another silent spell at his body, though nothing happened. She blinked and raised an eyebrow before quickly schooling her expression.
"What?" he asked, with narrowed eyes. "So help me, if she messed me up even worse-"
"No, no, nothing like that," she said quickly. "I… The ritual healed a lot of damage."
"Oh, thank Merlin," he said, sighing in relief. A quick spell vanished the ropes around his wrists and ankles and finally he was free to move once again.
Ignoring how every muscle ached and throbbed he sat up straight and clutched the sheet to his waist. "Where are my clothes?"
"In the corner," she said, pointing to a neatly folded stack of clothing, shooting a glance between him and her daughter. "I think I'll leave you two alone to talk, then."
Harry ignored her as she left and focussed instead on dressing himself without dropping the sheet and baring himself to the room again. When he was finally clothed, he turned around and noticed that he was alone with Tonks, who sat on the floor in the opposite corner, clad in her pink bathrobe with her knees drawn up to her chest. She was absently rolling her wand between her palms and eyeing him with blatant curiosity.
"Your scars are much less obvious," she murmured.
Involuntarily Harry looked at his hand and stared as he slowly turned it around. Where before thick ropes of grey scar tissue had criss-crossed along his skin, interrupted by complete patches where it had been regrown, every blemish had now faded into a pinkish white as if they were years old. The lines were also much thinner, as if the wounds that had caused them had been thin cuts instead of deep life-threatening gouges.
Slowly, Harry lowered himself to the ground, his back against the wall and his eyes not leaving his healed skin. Hesitantly he rolled up his sleeve.
It was the same along his wrist and arm. All the scars were faded, some of the scars were even missing entirely. Even the patches of regrown skin showed more vitality and looked more natural as if it was a blend of original and new flesh.
"I'm sorry I couldn't take everything," Tonks gently interrupted his thoughts, "but as only one of the group responsible for bringing you here, this is the absolute best I could do."
"How did you even know how to do this?" he asked, frowning.
"I got the idea off You-Know-Who, actually."
Harry's head shot up, aghast and she laughed breathlessly.
"Madam Bones was annoyed because when You-Know-Who attacked her this summer she drove him off and hit him with a Dark Piercer, only later he was seen without a scratch on him. Apparently there does exist a cure for Dark magic wounds, as long as you have the morals of a Dark Lord." She gestured vaguely at the door and the Black Manor beyond. "I wanted to help you, so I read up on Darker healing methods. Turns out that a popular one is to transfer wounds onto a human sacrifice, killing them in the process. I wasn't willing to do that, but the idea of transferring wounds was sound."
She spread her hands. "Some more research and here we are. Now I can honestly say that I did everything I could to help you."
"You have a rather high-handed way of helping," he said with a sigh. "Was it really necessary to stun me and tie me down?"
"I know you well enough to predict what you would have said, had I given you a choice," she said with a raised eyebrow. "You deserved to be helped but you were never going to give permission." Her smile turned impish. "Besides, like I said, I'm more of a forgiveness than permission kind of gal."
Forgiveness… There was that word again.
Involuntarily he was reminded of Ted's words. Did he want to be the kind of person who could forgive someone if they did everything they could to make up for their mistake? Even if they did so in the most irritatingly deceitful way that involved a lot of pain on his part?
"Huh, I never realised that your hair used to be black," Tonks commented. "Makes you look a lot younger."
Harry reached for his head in surprise. "You even cured my hair?"
"Yup," she said happily, sounding very satisfied. "In fact, you really look quite different now. The scars drew a lot of attention away from your features. Features which are kind of familiar, for some reason."
An icy chill ran down his spine and his head jerked around to stare at her with wide eyes.
"Did you know you look a lot like James Potter?" she mused.
"Funny, that," he said with a strangled voice.
She snorted. "It really is. I never noticed before but one of the scars on your forehead even looks… like..."
Her wand dropped from her hand as her mouth dropped open.
Harry closed his eyes in weary resignation and let his head slump backwards against the wall.
"You're a Potter!" she breathed.
A/N: First of all, thank you everyone who very politely did not call me an idiot while pointing out I made two mistakes in quoting the prophecy last time. I know that every chapter has a few blemishes, but really, that many errors while copying from the book? I'm blushing up a storm, but it's been fixed now and without evidence to the contrary I'm going to pretend that never happened. To make sure you do the same, let me try a bait and switch: look, a cliffhanger! Isn't that nice?
Yeah, Tonks found out. Kind of awkward after the whole 'do you trust me'-thing, right?
Meanwhile, I've come to realise that Tonks and Harry have a lot of things in common. Just like Harry, she's amazingly stubborn ("don't call me Nymphadora") and if she wants something she can pursue that with a dogged determination that is... kind of frightening (Remus Lupin). Helping someone no matter what they say about it is definitely Harry's cup of tea. The reverse, however, having help forced on him, is very much unexpected.
Seeing as how it's the holiday season and I am quite proud of having produced 150k+ words already, I decided to celebrate and get myself a gift: brainthief now has a account. If you like this stuff and want to support me as an author, now you have the option. Any support whatsoever will help in justifying why I'm neglecting other things in favour of writing fanfiction. If it takes off, it may even motivate me to neglect more than I do currently: I will spend more time writing. Since FFNet is jealous of other websites to the point of spurning links I feel the need to add a description: I'm called brainthief at the website. (.com/brainthief)
Recommendation: Time to Put Your Galleons Where Your Mouth Is by Tsume Yuki. Master-of-Death Harry is reborn as Turais Black, brother to Sirius and Regulus. Knowing what will happen to the two brothers, he decides to... meddle.
Thank you for your thoughts.