"You look absolutely stunning in that dress," Harry remarked hoarsely as he and his companion walked through the empty corridors towards the room Slughorn arranged for his holiday celebration. She was wearing a short, close-fitted dress which hugged every curve and revealed far more skin than the magical world deemed acceptable. She had picked her attire to see him flustered and that plan was working flawlessly.

"Tell me, why am I doing this again?"

"Because you are the only one I trust with this. I have no one else," Harry replied and flinched at how desperate that had sounded. He needed an adult to confide in and with Sirius dead, Hermione throwing a fit over the Prince's book and Katie in St. Mungo's, the list of alternatives was bleak.

"What about Remus?"

"Besides the fact that I won't turn up with a guy twice my age as my plus one? Lupin completely ignores me. The supposed best friend of my parents did never contact me. I have not spoken to him more than ten words after he resigned as Defence teacher. When I was forced into the tournament Sirius helped me despite being a wanted man. Sure, it wasn't much but he did as much as he could short of sneaking into Hogwarts. But Remus did nothing. Same story last year. For a supposed honorary uncle he sure treats me nearly as bad as my real uncle," he spat, slightly surprised at the bitterness in his voice.

"And to think I wasted half a year pining over him - Sorry I couldn't do more about your relatives. I tried, but by the time the Department of Inheritances acknowledged your emancipation you were already at the Burrow."

"Don't be, you tried at least. It's not your fault Dumbledore left me there and stalled the Ministry."

"I know. Still, I feel like I should have done more. I mean, the Order spent two summers watching you waste away there and nobody did anything to help you. And when you get the shit end of the stick, no one even told you that the Malfoys were trying to steal Sirius' estate."

"The Order doesn't give a fuck about me, but you did. You did more than anyone else, more than my friends - although to be fair to Hermione, she at least remembered that phones exist. But you, you talked to me when everyone else was ignoring me again when my friends left me to rot at that hellhole. You thought me Occlumency. You decided to waste an evening by coming to this party. And did I mention that you look lovely tonight?" Harry said as he once more tried not to stare at the woman next to him. They had helped each other dealing with the Battle of the Ministry during the summer and became friends through that, but that didn't mean that he was blind.

"Only three times so far," came the smug reply.

"You know Nym - "

"Don't call me Nymphadora," Tonks threw in, her hair switching from electric blue to a fiery red before both started laughing. At some point during the last summer, they reached an agreement that Harry was allowed to call her Nym in private and her usual reaction became a silly inside joke that made no sense whatsoever, yet made both of them smile like loons.

"You are far less intimidating in a dress that switches its colour to match your hair."

"I could be naked and you'd be trembling with fear. Alright, maybe not fear - But that's not the point, I can't even stay mad in this dress. It ruins my terrifying reputation."

"Definitely not out of fear," Harry mumbled under his breath before dropping down in a theatrical bow. "You know, she-who-must-not-be-named, that I never imagined you wearing a dress and matching heels?"

"I like that name. And the heels are not the only matching thing I'm wearing," she whispered and laughed when he became even redder in response. "So what exactly are we doing here?"

"It's rather complicated, but I really need someone to talk to," Harry admitted. He had stopped in front of a shortcut but made no move to open it.

"To talk?"

"Look, I - there is a lot going on and I need to get some of it off my chest. And I could use some womanly insight."

"So, besides the usual stuff, what got your knickers in a twist?" Tonks wanted to know. Catching the hidden meaning in his words, she quickly erected a privacy ward around them.

"Well, I'm feeling odd whenever I'm around Hermione or Ginny - "

"Is that oddity located in your pants?"

"Not like that - at least not when it comes to Hermione."


"She - I - It's just - " Harry trailed off and ran his hand through his hair, trying to find some words for his thoughts. "Ever since the Battle in the Ministry, I feel weird around her. A part of me just wants to wrap her in plates of armour and send her to Australia, even though she would flay me for even suggesting that."

"That almost sounds like you're describing a family member - "

"But she can be so frustrating - "

"Correction, that sounds exactly like family."

"You know, that kinda makes sense. She used to mother me a lot - " Harry trailed off and thought back to his first few years in Hogwarts. "The funny thing is that she had pretty much always been right and it would have been better if we had simply listened to her. But where's the fun in doing homework as soon as it was assigned, or preparing months in advance for some stupid test?"

"Please don't remind me of the NEWTs, living through those once was more than enough!"

"You got top marks - "

"Yes, but unlike you I actually put some work into getting good grades. You know being a Badger and all that."

"Look at Miss Model Student over here - "

"Oi, I said that I put some work in, but that didn't stop me from smuggling in booze, or seducing some young and innocent soul."

"You were young and inno- you were young as well."

"You're the one to talk. I bet you could talk at least half of the girls out of their knickers if you tried. Being the Chosen One comes with its perks, you know?"

"If only. Last year with Cho - She just wanted to talk about Cedric and cried a lot. I mean, I understand where she was coming from - "

"But crying ruins the mood?"

"Pretty much," Harry replied and ran a hand through his hair. "With the others gone, Katie and I got along nicely, but then Malfoy got her into St Mungos and - well - "

"So what's that about Ginny?"

"Well, she is - pretty I guess. Nice hair, cute eyes, pert arse - But it feels different than my other crushes," Harry admitted and his face became even redder.

"More serious?"

"Yes - No - I don't know. With Ginny, I feel like I should scare off her boyfriend, or look at her, but - well I don't want to ravish her or anything."

"That's a love potion alright, or maybe a jealousy one - "

"Love potion? I know Mrs Weasley used them, but Ginny? That doesn't sound like her at all," the Gryffindor pointed out. Ginny had grown into a good friend over the years, and while she used to have a crush on him, she also had been as subtle as a tank crashing through Privet Drive.

"It doesn't have to be her. Someone could try to frame her, or it could be a Death Eater plot - "

"A love potion is a Death Eater plot?"

"They could make you fall for Ginny only to kill her in the most gruesome fashion, together with her family, only to fuck with your head."

"They'd do that?"

"The Death Eaters - they are really vile. Not just maim and kill bad, but really the worst humanity has to offer. Moody told me about the atrocities censored out of the official reports, and let's just say that making a father rape his daughter after they took turns was some of the tamer shite they did. There was a reason why Mad-Eye killed every single one he could get his hand on," Tonks spat, her hair now pitch-black with blood-red streaks.

"I thought he had a reputation for bringing them back alive."

"Yeah, the inner circle since those actually knew stuff and could be interrogated. But the idiots who were just in for their sick, sadistic wish-fulfilment? He buried a hundred of those fucks."

"Good riddance to bad rubbish."

"I'd drink to that, but we haven't found the bar yet."

"Patience is a virtue - "

"Yes Mum. Anything else on your mind or can we work on getting hammered?"

"Well - Dumbledore wants to keep this secret, but I know when I need help - Do you know what a Horcrux is?"

"Eh, should I?"

"Not really. The question was rhetorical," Harry explained lamely. "Uhm, anyway, a Horcrux is something that anchors part of your soul in this world. As long as you have one you turn into a fancy ghost when you die and can be brought back. That's what Voldemort did. Apparently, Slughorn told him something about them and now Dumbledore wants me to get that memory."

"And how should you do that? I swear that curse is turning him senile."

"Apparently Slughorn liked my Mum. So now I have to suck up to him to get him talking," Harry said, unable to keep the bitterness out of his voice. He didn't like using his parents for anything and yet, Dumbledore had left no room for debate.

"Yeah, that's not going to happen. If one of the most powerful wizards since Merlin and second-best Legilimens in Britain can't get that memory, you don't even have to try. And especially not by sucking up. Better not waste your time on that."

"But -"

"No buts Harry. Well, maybe I'll let you touch mine later but that's not the point now. You need to take a break. If you need to talk about serious stuff, I'll still be around tomorrow and we can deal with your problems then. Tonight, 's just me and you. Slughorn paid for food and booze so let's have some fun," Tonks suggested to a red-faced Harry. Apparently thinking of her butt had that kind of effect on him. Frankly speaking, he didn't catch much of what she said after touching her backside.

"Somehow I doubt Slughorn will allow me to have fun," Harry mumbled darkly as they entered the room. Sure, the ceiling was covered in magical ice that somehow had snowflakes falling out of it and the large Christmas tree in the corner was delightfully decorated, but he still felt like he had just walked into a trap.

"Harry my boy, splendid to see you. And who is your lovely companion?" the Potions professor asked from right next to them before they could even attempt to disappear into the crowd.

"Good evening Professor Slughorn, meet Dora Tonks," Harry said and awaited his friend to complain about her name. She looked rather pensive for a moment but snapped back to reality before he could ask what she had been thinking about.

"Good evening Professor."

"My, my, I certainly don't remember you from any class. In which year are you dear?"

"Hufflepuff class of '92. I would be surprised if you knew me."

"Well Harry, I never knew you were hunting for older women. Quite a catch you have there. She looks like a keeper. Enjoy the evening," the old teacher stage whispered and winked, unaware how close he just avoided being cursed. Had Tonks been a Veela, the teacher would be dodging fireballs by now.

"Nym, forget that idiot," Harry attempted to calm his friend. Since she was not at all relaxing he figured that more words were needed. "You are a precious friend who helped me when I was in a bad spot. You are anything but a trophy to me, no matter what the others say. And you are not old."

"I know Harry, I hoped that I could go an evening without that shit but it was not meant to be. I really should be used to it by now," she huffed.

"You shouldn't have to get used to this."

"Yeah, tell that to the idiots. I - I just didn't expect that from a teacher. Well, other than Snape of course. He's just an arsehole."

"Come on, let's get something to drink instead of thinking about Snape. After all, Slughorn is paying the bill," Harry suggested, repeating her previous sentiment.

"Hmm, get insulted to get free drinks. Doesn't sound that bad, to be honest. Let's get Caipis?"

"What's that?"

"A cocktail. It's basically limes, sugar and Brazilian rum on ice. One of the few Muggle drinks you'll get in the magical world. Trust me, you will like it."

"Should I be drinking that?"

"Merlin kiddo I never thought a teenager would care about that. Are you telling me that you never had a drink?" Tonks asked in disbelief, even stopping on her way to the drink table. "Surely the Twin menace smuggled some Firewhiskey in once or twice."

"Nothing besides butterbeer."

She stared at Harry for ten seconds before rapidly blinking several times and mumbling a curse at the Dursleys.

"Helga's saggy tits. Harry you are supposed to have some fun in your life. Between the Dark Lord and what you have been through I sometimes forget that you are just sixteen. Slughorn didn't put all that booze here just to decorate the table over there. At least half of the students are underage and no one cares - Next thing you tell me that you have never been inside a broom closet with a pretty girl."

"Ehm, about that - "

"Fuck me sideways," Tonks groaned before pressing herself to Harry's side and leaning in so that her mouth was less than an inch from his ear. "Are you playing for the other team?"

"What? No! But - it's complicated. Well, not the boy thing, I like girls. But no one wants to date me. Everyone wants the bloody boy-who-lived. They want the bragging rights of being with THE Harry Potter. Two years ago they hated me before loving me. Last year it was hate again. And now I am drowning in candy laced with love potions and apparently, someone managed to slip me some. I only ever had one date and that ended disastrously. At least last year most people hated me," Harry defended himself, distracted by the rather sudden contact which left his arm between her breasts. Somehow during their time spent together the topic of relationships had never been mentioned outside of a few jokes.

"I've met a few of those. Not everyone, mind you, but you'd be surprised what some people blurt out when their blood is elsewhere. This has been one of the better dates so far, even though you're allowed to look if she's hanging on you like this," Tonks whispered in a husky voice and Harry shivered when he felt her breath on his left ear. She pressed herself a little further against his left and the Gryffindor couldn't stop himself from looking down the low cut dress, seeing black lace between the red fabric and her pale skin.

Harry was about to point out that this was not a date when he realised the implications of her teasing tone. Tonks had been a good friend and they spent a lot of time together during the last summer. She had been a ray of hope in his holiday prison. At some point, the platonic affection developed into something different, into a rather long-lived crush. And now she gave him an opening. Therefore it was time to do what he was best at, improvisation.

"Nym, you are one of the most amazing women I know. You are kind, funny and loyal to a fault. You tried to get me away from the Dursleys. You really care. Anyone who doesn't see that but only a pretty face is a fool. Besides, your usual looks are far more interesting than the twentieth girl trying to copy the Witch Weekly cover model."

"You sure know how to make a girl feel special," Tonks remarked only half sarcastically as she grabbed two orange glasses filled with a clear liquid and lots of ice.


The beverage tasted strange but good, was sweet for a moment before the alcohol kicked in. Then sweet again, when he got to the sugar at the bottom of the glass. But overall it was pleasant and not painful.

"That's some good stuff," Harry admitted, having neither experience nor knowledge when it came to drinking. But his cocktail was tasty after all.

"Not bad, but I make a better one."

"You can fix cocktails?"

"At least the basic ones. I've been told that my Sex on the Beach is to die for," Tonks purred and he was quite sure that it was impossible to get any redder. "'S certainly easier than Snape's NEWT class."

"I'm still surprised that you managed that without blowing up the classroom."

"Just because I'm a clutz does not mean that I can't brew a potion."

"You nearly burned down your kitchen while making noodles!"

"That only happened three times - And I really shouldn't have told you about that," Tonks pouted, adorably pushing out her lower lip. Harry retaliated by poking her side. This resulted in a tickling war certainly neither befitting their age nor their location.

"Let's dance," Tonks suggested breathlessly after dodging Harry's finger for the twentieth time. Using his forward momentum and the alcohol's slight buzz she manoeuvred him into the base position for a waltz.

"I can't dance!"

"Neither can I. But it will be fun, you'll see."

Harry's groan of protest was ignored as Tonks dragged him to the dancefloor. Placing one of his hands back on her hip she started leading him across the floor.

It was nothing like the Yule Ball. Dancing there had been stiff and formal while here he was just randomly swaying with the music and simply avoiding stepping on her feet. Less than a dozen couples were dancing, everyone else just sat back, busy stuffing their faces. There were quite a few guests old enough to have children or even grandchildren, who, save one pair, preferred to mingle. A lot of people were staring at them, some even shamelessly pointing their fingers. For Harry, that was just an average day in Hogwarts.

"Thanks for coming with me here. Without you Slughorn would probably parade me around like a trophy and insist on introducing me to everyone," he said quietly as the song ended. It had been far better than he expected, relaxing and not at all awkward or embarrassing. Apparently dancing was more enjoyable if you focused on your partner instead of staring at the girlfriend of the guy next to you. Also, the booze helped to take away some of the inevitable tension.

"Just so you know, I'm taking you to the next stupid Ministry function I have to attend."

"As long as we actually get to dance and I don't have to deal with three hundred fans who want to have an autograph. I would never have thought that dancing could be fun," Harry admitted. He was sure that they were missing the tact and were not even aware of the proper steps but that was half the fun. Not caring about anything else, forgetting the war and the expectations for a moment.

"Yes, especially when your partner is not groping you. Although that can be quite enjoyable in a more private setting," Tonks huskily whispered into his ear and Harry could feel his face heating up. He needed a comeback, quickly.

"I might take you up on that."

"Promises, promises," she replied and Harry was not sure who won that exchange but he had a feeling that it was not him.

The next song was a slower number and Tonks pulled him closer, resting her head on his shoulder.

"Nym, when I called you Dora earlier you kinda froze. Is there a story behind that?" Harry asked softly.

"You - You used to call me that."

"I can't remember that," he admitted. They talked a lot during the last summer, trying to cope with the debacle at the Ministry but not once did he use that nickname.

"Of course not, you were bloody one. Actually, it was more Doaaa than Dora but still. That brought back a couple memories."

"You knew me before?"

"It never came up? Guess I was too busy poking around in your head then. Mum used to babysit you once or twice. I don't remember a lot, but I think we are the only ones who have a nude picture of the chosen one."

"Nude picture?" Harry stuttered.

"It was after your first birthday, dad bought an inflatable pool and since no one of us had any swimwear nearby we simply went naked. Of course, there were only three inches of water inside since neither of us could swim back then."

"So you have baby pictures of me?" he groaned.

"Mum has three albums full. She always liked you. Even tried to gain custody of you a couple of times."

"We could have grown up together?"

"Maybe. Dumbledore could have placed you with my mum since we are actually your closest living relatives. Well, we and the Malfoys."

"Another thing to add to the long list of Dumbledore's failings," Harry bitterly spat, missing the fact that most, if not all magical courts would have decided in Malfoy's favour.

"But if we would have grown up as siblings we couldn't be dancing like this. And at least he's giving you private lessons," Dora pointed out when the next song began, trying to calm him down and pressing even more into Harry, long past the limits of decency.

"Where I don't learn a single thing. He just shows me a couple of memories of Voldemort's past."

"That's all? Dumbledore's fabled lessons are the reason for dozens of rumours down in Hogsmeade. Everyone thinks you are being trained in advanced battle magic or that you are his apprentice. But the old fucker only shows you a Dark Lord home movie? Doesn't he care about the prophecy at all? You need a way to kill him, not a sob story."

"He still thinks that the power is love. Because I'm sure that snogging Voldemort is the way to defeat him," Harry replied, immensely glad for the privacy charms still surrounding them. "Not like I know the first thing about it."

"I'm sure that there's more than one witch who could help you learn."

"A quick shag between Defence and Charms is not love. That's pretty much all I know," Harry replied, missing the obvious invitation.

"What about Hermione? Surely she could be persuaded for some learning experiences."

"I'm not sure. I mean, from what we've established before I basically see her as mother substitute - "

"That just makes it kinky."

"I mean, she is pretty, but I've never felt like shoving her against the nearest wall and snogging her senseless."

"Ah, a true romantic," Tonks sniggered but Harry didn't feel like joking.

"You know, I would have loved to just do that. But no, a normal girlfriend is too much to ask for. Last year my only date ever was cut short because I had to give that interview to the Quibbler and Cho only wanted to talk about the boyfriend Voldemort murdered right in front of me. Then Malfoy nearly kills the girl I wanted to ask out and now the Ginny thing is just someone fucking with my head."

"And I thought my dating experiences were a nightmare. Seriously, how aren't you insane already?"

"I ask the same question every day."

"Then let's deal with that tomorrow," Tonks threw in with an unexpected, upbeat tone. "You need a break from the war and others fucking you over or you'll end like Frank Jenkins. Poor bloke tried to win the war on his own and pulled more overtime than the rest of the department. He snapped after three months and ended up in St. Mungos. We want to keep you out of there, right?"

"But how can I take a break when people are dying?" Harry asked hesitantly. A day off sure sounded nice but everyone waited for him to kill Voldemort, who would not wait to consider the Gryffindor's feelings.

"Ask yourself, what would you achieve if you were not here tonight."

"Harry my boy, are you enjoying yourself," an unwelcome voice interrupted them once more.

"Yes Professor, we are having a great time," Harry replied truthfully. He invited Tonks because he needed someone to confide in but her idea of a carefree evening has been great so far. And holding her close while slowly swaying across the dancefloor made him feel strangely invincible.

"You never mentioned that you had connections with the Aurors."

"Well, Tonks is an old friend. We are actually fourth cousins through House Black," Harry explained.

"Ah, so you are trying to strengthen the house. Well, if you need any potion to help with that feel free to ask me," Slughorn said happily before he wandered off towards Neville Longbottom and his date. When he was out of earshot Tonks burst out laughing.

"What?" Harry wanted to know, obviously missing the joke.

"Well, your teacher basically congratulated you for getting some with your cousin and offered you potions that improve your endurance and virility."

"Dora, I don't want to shag you because you are my cousin," Harry immediately replied before he realised how wrong that sounded. "And I don't need that kind of potions."

"But you want to shag me?" Tonks teased, barely suppressing her laughter.

"Well, yes - no," he stuttered while turning redder than the Hogwarts Express.

"So I am not shaggable?"

"No, I mean yes, ehm - Look, any bloke would be lucky to go out with you. Hell, I'm still surprised to be on a date with you. A bunch of Veela courtesans could walk in and you'd still be the most attractive person here," the Gryffindor said and felt like he was digging his hole deeper and deeper.

"More attractive than a troop of Veela whores? I think that you finally lost it," Dora laughed. Harry surely had a way with words. The thought was nice but he certainly had to work on the delivery. And yet it was strangely endearing, reminding her of her Hogwarts days, of easier times. It was a paradox really, whatever happened between Harry, his mother and Voldemort, gave the magical society peace for more than a decade and at the same time, he was a symbol of the fight against the pureblood fanatics under Voldemort's banner and yet to her he was the exact opposite.

"Well, to me at last. I mean sure, twenty half nude blondes are certainly attractive, I'm not denying that. But I don't know any of them and I know you. Like I said earlier, you are the quintessential Hufflepuff. You are kind, loyal and hardworking. You are funny and honest. If a pepper-up potion had a sound it would be your laughter. And your hair can lighten up even the darkest clouds," Harry stated passionately although he wondered where exactly that came from. Sure, he had always liked Tonks but usually, his thoughts were far from that level of sappiness.

The metamorph looked at him strangely for a moment, like he was an especially difficult riddle. They locked eyes and Harry could see that she was furiously thinking before shrugging.

"Fuck it."

In one fluid motion, she grabbed him by the neck, took one step forward and slammed her lips onto his. Harry was stunned for a moment before his instincts took over. The same instincts that preserved mankind for thousands of years. As far as kisses went, this was new to him. Cho had been insecure and hesitant, not to mention crying. The Gryffindor chasers had always been friendly and chaste, a playful peck on the lips after winning a game. Tonks, on the other hand, was aggressive, if not outright domineering. A bright fire was burning in her purple eyes and held him captive as they slowly became brighter and the pleasant warmth which spread through his body was entirely unrelated to the drink he has had.

Just as Harry got over his initial shock, closed his eyes and started to kiss back, Tonks broke the kiss and pushed him away. Initially, he felt hurt because his dazed mind took a second to realise that she was not playing some kind of wicked game. Tonks had spun around, drawn her wand and, for some reason, levelled it on a group of people in the far end of the room.

Suddenly a wave of previously ignored sounds washed over him and he became aware of the commotion in the corner. Within fifteen seconds every eye in the room was focused on the three people.

A shocked and yet angry Hermione Granger was standing next to a fuming blonde whom Harry believed to be Penelope Clearwater. She was wearing a black cocktail dress and had her hair in a pixie cut, which was a huge contrast to the proper, studious head girl he remembered. Despite her petite form, the witch towered over Cormac McLaggen, Gryffindor reserve keeper and all around arse. The young man with the impressive physique of a bodybuilder was lying on the floor, clutching his face while blood dripped out of his cupped hand and onto his midnight blue dress robes.

"You will pay for that. I have friends within the ministry. When the Aurors are done with you, you won't be able to show your face in a Knockturn Alley whorehouses," McLaggan snarled, spattering blood across the floor.

"Why don't we let the Aurors decide that?" Tonks asked, calmly walking over to the trio. With her hair and dress turned into a fierce red she looked like she was about to grievously injure someone.

"And who the fuck are you? Having nice tits doesn't give you a voice here," the man on the floor sneered while he focused on Tonks or her breasts at least. The continuous attention on her curves made Harry feel uncomfortable and he had to suppress the urge to hit him as the former Ravenclaw had done. Then again, his date was not exactly a damsel in distress but rather someone who would wipe the floor with him.

"That's Auror First Class Tonks to you boy. Now, why doesn't somebody tell me what happened here?" she asked while glaring at Cormac.

"You an Auror First Class? Sweetie, you have to be much older for that. Twenty years of service at least. You might be a secretary or a clerk but not an Auror First Class. No way I'm falling for that trick."

"She got that promotion for killing Travers, duelling Bellatrix Lestrange to a standstill and I don't even want to know what her curse did to Malfoy's balls - "

"Bone exploding curse. I guess he has scrambled eggs now."

"...so I'd be careful what you say next blondie. Ask Antonin Dolohov what happened to the last guy who had a go at a girl I like. Oh wait, you can't," Harry threw in causing a murmur pass through the crowd around them. Most of them were aware how little had been left of the Russian wizard.

As the adrenaline slowly lost its effect, the reserve keeper realised the predicament he found himself in.

"So, what happened here?" Tonks asked once more.

"We were talking about the Clearwater factor which is the result of Miss Clearwater's research on rune conductivity of various materials when he walked over and groped us both," Hermione began explaining.

"I decked him for that," Penelope added, unable to suppress the mirth in her tone.

"I see. You could file a complaint about Mr McLaggan here but I doubt that it would stick. And I think he already learned his lesson. That was a nice punch by the way, where did you learn that?"

"I have been taking boxing classes during the summer holidays since my fourth year, Penelope Clearwater, pleased to meet you."

"Hello Miss Clearwater, hi Hermione."

"Please, it's Penny."

"Well, I'm still Tonks. If you were named Nymphadora you would prefer your last name, too."

"And I thought Penelope was bad," she laughed while McLaggan used the shifted attention to sneak away. The crowd snickered as they returned to their previous conversations.

"I've heard some stories about you," Penny said carefully.

"Rule of thumb about rumours and me. The ones about girls are accurate. The ones about boys are made up."

"So you and Professor Babbling?"

"Yeah, although it's not nearly as scandalous as you might think. We already had a thing in her seventh year and then we just continued from thereon. It's not my bloody fault that my then-girlfriend graduated and became a teacher at my school. Although her detentions were very interesting - "

"Tonks, what are you doing here? I didn't know you were invited," Hermione interrupted, clearly not interested in tales about the sexual escapades of her Runes teacher.

"Well, Harry here was in dire need of a date and I graciously agreed to help him out."

"I didn't hear you complain when you kissed me," Harry threw in before he realising what he just blurted out.

"I didn't know you two were going out. Harry, why didn't you tell me?" Hermione hissed.

"That happened literally a minute ago. And you were a little preoccupied with decking McLaggan."

"I didn't deck him, that was Penny."

"And you were having a front-row seat. Hey Penny, would you mind getting close and personal with Malfoy or Snape? That was one hell of a punch."

"Is Malfoy still the same whiny idiot he was three years ago?"

"He's worse now. Has been acting strangely ever since he became a Death Eater," Harry replied darkly.

"Please not this again. You have no proof that he actually is one. He's far too young."

"Wait, wait, what? You think Malfoy is not a Death Eater? The same Malfoy who wanted to kill all Mudbloods in his first year if I remember his rants correctly?" Tonks challenged.

"Those were just empty words. He's too young. He didn't even finish his education."

"So? Hermione, fifty years ago people in your age were defending the Isles against the Third Reich. And what use are NEWTs for murder and torture?"

"But Voldemort wouldn't - "

"Don't presume you know what Voldemort would or would not do," the still red-haired witch hissed. While Harry usually was not happy when someone, Ron in most cases, took that tone with his best friend, this topic was an exception. He had tried again and again to reason with Hermione but she, like everyone else, would not see the obvious. Maybe the not so gentle approach would yield better results but the middle of a crowded Christmas party might not be the best place to discuss the war. Especially when both sides knew far more than the public. This problem, however, was resolved immediately and Harry noticed a faint shimmer in the air around them. Somebody had just cast wards around them. Judging by her wink and the drawn wand, that somebody was Penelope.

"But Dumbledore wouldn't let him into Hogwarts if he was a Death Eater," Hermione replied weakly.

"Like he kept Snape out of Hogwarts? The same Snape who confessed to twelve counts of murder and seventeen rapes as well as accessory to countless more? The same guy who tried to get an innocent man executed due to a childhood rivalry. The one who decided to abuse your best friend for five years because he didn't get the girl twenty years ago? The Snape who got Harry's parents killed?" Tonks snarled, her hair pulsating in deep shades of red, giving it a blood-like appearance. If she would have been mad at him Harry would be sweating bullets. As a mere bystander, however, he simply appreciated how incredibly hot Tonks looked like this.

"Is that true?" Penelope quietly asked Harry as they stood next to the argument.

"Straight from his trial records."

"I always thought that he was a bad teacher and a horrible person but still, a Death Eater - "

"He only avoided Azkaban because Dumbledore got him off as Chief Warlock."

"Well, I'm glad I'm gone from here but that man still ruins the mood. Three minutes ago we were talking about sexual fantasies. Now my date and your date are about to draw their wands," Penny said nonchalantly and Harry felt his mind come to a total halt. It was becoming a regular occurrence this evening.


"Well, she didn't use the term per se, but I noticed how often she looked at my tits. Do you think there will be a catfight? Maybe we should grab some popcorn."

"Sexual fantasies?" Harry asked, still stuck on her previous statement.

"Yes, for example, did you know how many knickers you got wet after displaying that bit of Parselmagic back in your second year? Granted, you were a bit younger than I was comfortable with but many didn't care. After all, you are Harry Potter, the hero extraordinaire."


"Or did you know that Hermione always wanted to have all her holes filled at once? Imagining how much fun she could have with a Devil's Snare?" Penny's delivery was completely deadpan but she couldn't stop the corner of her mouth from jerking upwards.

"Damn, you had me there for a moment," Harry groaned while she burst out laughing. "Are you done having fun at my expense?"

"Well, I don't know about Hermione's secret fetishes, but what I said about your special gift wasn't made up. Parselmouths are popular in France exactly for that reason. The Veela clans of Burgundy would pay good money for your services."

"So you suggest that I should become a prostitute?" Harry replied while simultaneously thinking about the uses of parseltongue. Maybe Voldemort left him a useful gift after all. And judging by Tonks stories how her job has been under Fudge, maybe Veela exclusive prostitute was the better occupation as well.

"Well, I'd use the term 'call boy' myself but sure, whatever suits you. Being the boytoy for a bunch of gorgeous French certainly beats working for the Ministry. Bunch of bigoted dicks, the whole lot of them," the blonde spat and Harry guessed that she too has had some bad experiences with the Ministry.

"Shouldn't we try to - well, I don't know, stop them?" Harry asked, gesturing at the two witches in front of them.

"I think Hermione is mad that I've beaten her to the punch. She went for her wand but at that point, that moron was already down. Now she has some pent up aggression and no one but your date to take it out on," Penny observed casually.

"So we just sit back and let them rip into each other?"

"Yup," the blonde replied and summoned herself a cosy looking chair.

"So, uhm, what happened to Percy?"

"That arse had the great idea to marry straight after graduation. I never understood why wizards rush marriage but that's not the point. In his ideal marriage, I would be staying at home and we'd have two kids by now. Oh, and we would raise them the proper way without any corrupting influences. That was his code word for anything muggle, like electricity. Needless to say, I dumped him," Penny answered before starting to grin like a Cheshire cat. "He said that I would never get anywhere without him. Three years later and I am giving lectures at the Royal University of Bohemia while he is licking the boots of some Ministry clerk."

"I never liked the prat, and that was before - "

"Looking back I don't understand it either."

Meanwhile, Tonks appeared to have run out of patience. "Listen, you think that everybody should follow the law, right?"

"That's what I've been trying to tell you for the last five minutes," Hermione replied in her usual lecturing tone.

"So you agree that we should hang all Death Eaters? Great."

"Yes. Wait, what?"

"Well, the Death Eaters want to rule a muggle free Britain by killing them all. That means they are levying war against the Crown. That is High treason. According to the laws of the land, there are gallows waiting for anyone guilty of that crime. Now if you excuse me, I'll go back to snogging my date senseless."

With that Tonks spun around, grabbed Harry's wrist and pulled him back towards the dancefloor. Seeing that she was still seething with anger, the Gryffindor decided to use a trick he discovered during his disastrous time with Cho Chang. As Harry drew small circles on the back of Tonks' hand he felt her grip loosen while the blood-red hair slowly grew and faded to a rich purple.

"What got you so worked up?" he asked carefully while taking the stance he had been taught for the Yule Ball. However, Tonks was not in the mood for formal dancing but simply pulled Harry into a tight embrace and began swaying left and right.

"It's just, Hermione is driving me mad. How can a girl get petrified by a giant snake and fight her way through the Department of Mysteries but still be so naive? Does she not realise that there are people in your age who already killed others? People, who kill for petty reasons? She's not taking the war seriously and that's what gets people killed. That's what got the Longbottoms tortured into insanity. "

"I killed Quirrel when I was eleven," Harry argued, playing devil's advocate while enjoying holding Tonks close more than he probably should. She was six years older and had a lot more experience, there was a war hanging over them and the Prophet would probably have a field day once they got some pictures. And yet all that he could think of was their short kiss and that she smelled of exotic fruits and cinnamon.

"That was self-defence and not murder. Mum told me some stories about her childhood and those were no pretty tales. House Black had marriage contracts with both the Lestranges and the Malfoys. Since she was the eldest she was given the choice between the three of them. Both families tried to woo her by proving that they are upstanding members of our society -through murdering muggles. The Lestranges were thirteen at that time, Malfoy fourteen. That was murder, not burning some fool hosting Voldemort's ghost," she whispered in return and once again rested her head on his shoulder.

"What about the underage magic restriction?" Harry asked weakly.

"The Ministry can't track cursed daggers or poison. And even if they used magic, a small donation would fix that. 'S a sad state of affairs in London and it's not getting better. To be honest, I am tired of their shit. The bureaucracy, the corruption, the discriminations - 'S just too much for me. I joined the Aurors because I wanted to help making Britain a better place. Instead, I spend more time with paperwork that ends up useless because people just bribe my superiors and the charges get dropped. As long as you don't kill another pureblood the Wizengamot doesn't care. And I am working for them. Each morning I struggle to get up and do my job because I feel like it's just not worth it. I help a system that is wrong. You heard that wanker, some friends in high positions and a generous donation and your case gets dropped," Tonks mumbled into his shoulder but the Gryffindor heard every word. He traced shapes onto her shoulder and she snuggled further into his side.

"So you want to quit?"

"I - I probably already have. When I kissed you earlier at least one of the people here left in a hurry and sold the story to the papers. That story will end up in the Prophet before Christmas titled "Amoral Auror seduces our Hero" or some other crap. The Minister always thought that I was no Auror material and use will gladly use that as an excuse to fire me," Tonks explained nonchalantly.

"Why did you kiss me then? You will lose your job because of me. You will - " was all that Harry could say before the metamorph decided to silence him with a peck on the lips followed by several longer and more forceful kisses.

"I kissed you because I wanted to. I can honestly say that I no longer care about being an Auror or working for the Ministry. I have more than enough gold until I find something new."

"Why? What's that between us?" Harry wanted to know. Tonks was confusing him. A year ago she was happy being an Auror, taking pride from her work despite Fudge's idiocy, and now she wanted to toss away five years at the ministry because of him.

"Well, we are friends who are obviously attracted to each other. Don't deny it, I saw you checking me out all evening and I think you don't look bad either. We get along splendidly. We trust each other. That's a good place to start. I don't know where we will end up. We could be best friends, acquaintances, married, fuckbuddies or even mortal enemies ten years down the road. Only time will tell. But for now, let's have some fun before I show you the many wonderful things you can do in a broom closet," she smirked before introducing Harry to French kissing.

For him, it was simply wonderful. For the first time in years, Harry felt pure joy. It was not a tainted moment like his first Quidditch win because there was no assassination attempt this time, no dementor swarm trying to kill him, no forced participation in a bloodsport and no Umbridge. It was just him and the witch in his arms. Tonks was back to her domineering self and Harry just gave in. For once he didn't have to be the one in charge. He did not have to wear a mask but could simply savour the moment, get lost in the feeling of utter bliss as her tongue brushed over his, the taste of strawberries still on her lips. Applying slightly more pressure the former Hufflepuff pushed Harry further into her arms and nibbled on his lower lip. A strand of bubblegum pink hair fell over his eyebrow when they broke the kiss, foreheads resting against each others'. Opening his eyes Harry gazed into Tonks violet ones. He was still trying to process the last minute while unknowingly sporting a goofy grin.

"Bloody hell"

"Not bad for a first time. But they say practice makes perfect," Nym said softly before kissing him again. This time it was less needy and a lot gentler. She allowed Harry to take charge, amused by his inexperienced and yet highly enthusiastic response. It was like being a teenager all over again. Well, not that she was that old.

"Why are we doing this?" he asked breathlessly after they broke apart once more, her fruity scent predominant in his senses.

"Because it's fun," replied Tonks before turning towards the buffet. "Come on, let's get some food. You will need it later on."

While her response did not answer his question Harry found himself not caring why the metamorph decided to kiss him. Even if he couldn't understand it, the Gryffindor was not about to complain. And with Voldemort lingering like a dark shadow across magical Britain Harry was not sure when he would get another chance to enjoy a good time without worrying about the genocidal madman gunning for him. And at the moment he did not want to think about bald psychopaths when he could think about a certain witch that made him very happy and his boxers much tighter.