Chapter1: - The first hints.
Rain, rain, and more rain, with rain trimmings - and a side order of rain.
Summer, thought Harry Potter, bloody British summer!
The thunderstorm had been building most of the morning, but had only really got into its stride about an hour ago and it was now heading eastwards, looking forward to ruining the afternoon of the inhabitants of East Sussex and Kent. Occasional flashes of lightning still lit up the room, although the rumbles of thunder were getting further and further behind.
Lying on his bed, staring up at the ceiling, Harry reflected on the last month or so, and all the turmoil he'd experienced. His mind kept going back to the Ministry of Magic, like a tongue probing a hole in a tooth, trying to leave it alone but fascinated by the prospect of the pain in store.
Harry still couldn't believe how stupid he'd been. Once again he had made a mistake and others had suffered! Hermione had been right all along, as bloody usual, though she hadn't once reminded him of the fact. He almost wished she would; at least he could shout at her, rather than sit and rage at himself.
Idiot, Idiot, Idiot!
Calm, Harry; Calm.
His rage subsided again, slowly. Yes, he'd made mistakes, several mistakes, but the biggest of all mistake was down to Professor Dumbledore! Dumbledore and his great plan! How the blazes was he, Harry, supposed to make a correct decision if he didn't have all the information!
'It's for your own good!'
'We didn't want to scare you!'
'Just stay there and don't move!'
Calm, Harry! Dammit, Calm!
The Road to Hell was paved with good intentions, Harry thought sadly. He'd made a mistake because of other peoples' good intentions; and his godfather had died. The room blurred as his eyes filled with tears.
- o -
The first storm had passed and another was beginning to download its rain by the time Harry had reached some sort of equilibrium again. He pushed the memories to the back of his mind, and searched for something more pleasant to think about. There wasn't much, he had to admit.
OWLS results were due any day now, and it looked as if he would have to have another lonely birthday at Privet Drive. So much for Ron and Hermione's promise to get him out of here quickly! Still, in the three and a half weeks since Harry had returned from Hogwarts, several things had changed at Number 4.
The first two days had seen Uncle Vernon blustering and cursing Harry even worse than the summer before, but a late night knock on the door had revealed a sinister looking Mad Eye Moody who had demanded to see Harry at once. Having been reassured of Harry's continued good health, Moody had once again warned Uncle Vernon, in exceptionally explicit terms, just how painful retribution would be if Harry was harmed, and had then vanished into the darkness.
Uncle Vernon now ignored Harry's presence completely, which actually allowed Harry the run of the house, as Uncle Vernon seemed to be pretending Harry didn't even exist. Aunt Petunia had changed from a houseproud harridan into a nervous wreck. Harry wasn't sure if it was an improvement, but at least it was different, and she fed him better. She didn't shout at him either, which counted as a definite plus.
The biggest change had been Dudley. Sometime in the past year, he'd found a GIRLFRIEND. A short, slightly chubby, bespectacled girl called Rebecca, it was obvious that Dudley was besotted with her. On meeting her for the first time Harry had tried to be polite, but her calling Harry a bit of a wimp had not endeared her to him at all.
For some reason Dudley thought Harry was the fount of all knowledge regarding girls, which had had Harry almost creased up, until he had realised Dudley was being totally serious. It seemed Dudley was finding difficulty getting anywhere with Rebecca, and his pleas for advice had rapidly got past Harry's feelings of hatred. Harry couldn't help feeling that, at least on the subject of girls, he and Dudley had a great deal in common.
That said, Harry's advice was not always in the best interests of Dudley, or Rebecca; the wimp gibe had hurt. Harry adapted several of the ploys he had thought up to impress Cho Chang in the previous two years, which, of course, he had never dared use himself. Some of them were quite outrageous. Harry was, however, most disgruntled to find that Rebecca had been thoroughly impressed with all of them, and that she and Dudley were getting on much, much, better.
Dudley's gratitude had been overwhelming. Well, sort of. He'd donated his third best TV and an ancient video player to Harry, plus his old Playstation 1. Luxury! thought Harry, though it did mean he could watch the news, provided the antenna didn't slip off the top of Hedwig's cage.
The biggest benefit, though, had been Dudley allowing Harry to use his Gym equipment, which was in the garden shed. This equipment had been instrumental in helping Dudley excel at boxing and Harry hoped that using it would make him a bit less of a wimp. The jibe had hurt, but Harry had to accept it was true.
Harry had also taken to running in the evening, despite the opposition of most of the Order of the Phoenix, who were still watching over him. Tonks had volunteered to accompany him, and the inhabitants of Privet drive were regularly treated to the sight of Harry jogging down the road, accompanied by a girl with brilliant orange hair, who tended to trip over kerbs and collide with parked cars.
So, all in all, Life could have been worse, better food and plenty of exercise meant that Harry slept better at Privet Drive than he ever had before, though on the hotter nights he still usually woke from vivid dreams, sweating and sticky. The fact that most of the dreams were about Tonks reassured him that Voldemort wasn't trying to get into his mind whilst he was in Privet Drive, or couldn't. He still felt a bit guilty about the dreams though.
Harry's musing stopped as he returned to the present. However good life might get at Privet Drive, an infinitely better life was going on at the Burrow. Regular messages from Hermione and Ron had been reaching him, describing the fun they were having. Bill and Charlie called in regularly with news, the twins were still living at home and apparating to their joke shop each day, though they wanted to move to London, Percy had been home once to apologise and gone away again and Mr Weasley had been transferred to the Department of Mysteries. Things were definitely hotting up in the wizarding world. There was something missing from the messages though, that Harry couldn't quite identify.
The ringing of the doorbell in the hall jolted him out of his reverie.
'Harry! Harry! It's your orange haired friend.'
Dudley's bellow would have wakened the dead.
'Alright, send her up then' he bellowed in reply. Another benefit of the new regime at number 4 was that he could have visitors during the day, provided they looked vaguely like muggles.
Tonks peered round the door, dressed in jogging gear and carrying a furled umbrella. 'Hells teeth, its wet out there.' she exclaimed. 'Are you decent?'
'Yep' he laughed.
'Pity' she giggled, then 'Don't look so shocked Harry! I'm only joking'
'Oh, - yeah, - OK' he muttered, feeling even more guilty about the dreams.
Tonks entered the room and stood her umbrella in the corner. 'Well, no running tonight, Harry, unless you like running in the shower fully clothed.'
Harry had to admit that the prospect of getting wet didn't appeal.
'Never mind then,' he said 'you can tell me a bit more about what's going on at the Ministry'
'Maybe, depends what you want to know' Tonks replied, sitting down on the bed beside him
'The whole place has been like an anthill since your battle. Fudge is still a pompous twit, though all the obvious actions seem to have been taken; probably Dumbledore's influence. It's difficult to know what to do until Voldemort shows his hand. They seem to be trying to find out who has already gone over, and who might. At present, it's all fairly reactive, we can't attack a hidden enemy.'
This did not reassure Harry a great deal. 'I've got plenty of messages from Hermione and Ron' he said thoughtfully, 'but there's something missing and I'm damned if I know what. Here, you take a look, none of them have anything private in them.'
Tonks pulled a packet of mints out of her jogging top pocket and offered one to Harry, then started on the messages. 'Hmm. Yep, knew that, and that, - and all that' she muttered, leafing through them. 'Didn't know that! Hmm, interesting.' She threw them on the bed.
'There is something missing, you're right, but what?' She stood up and paced backwards and forwards in the confines of the room. 'Yes, of course.' She exclaimed, after a thirty seconds of wearing the carpet out. 'Would you like a clue, Harry?'
'Go on then' he groaned. Tonks had a distressing tendency to show off.
She turned to the mirror and studied herself. 'Shut your eyes Harry' Harry complied and waited patiently as Tonks muttered to herself 'No, not quite, - bit taller, - bigger there, hmm, - colour? A bit more, - not that much! ... Yep! OK, open your eyes Harry.
Ginny stood in front of him, smiling slightly, for about five seconds, before shimmering – and changing back into Tonks.
Harry picked his jaw off the floor. 'Merlins beard! That was unbelievable! – and you're right, that's what's missing! No mention of Ginny at all.' He paused thoughtfully. 'I've just been assuming she was with them, but I suppose there ought to have been at least one reference to her. I wonder what she's up to? Perhaps she is there and they just haven't mentioned her?'
'Nope' Tonks sat down again. 'I've been there several time and she hasn't been there once. I haven't seen her since you all got off the train. I think someone said she'd gone to visit a friend.'
'Why haven't they said where she is, then?' he wondered aloud.
'Perhaps they didn't think you cared where she was, Harry' Tonks replied 'Do you?'
'Well, - er – well – yeah, sort of, - I mean – I don't want her getting hurt or anything...' Harry ground to a halt. Good question, he thought. Do I care? Why am I worried? - Am I worried? Hmmm. Nah, surely not, - but then again...which friend?....
Tonks continued, oblivious to the argument raging in Harry's head. 'I expect they'd tell you if she'd been hurt, Harry; anyway, you can asked them in two days ... OOPS'
Harry promptly forgot about the messages. 'What about two days?! Why? Who? Where? When? What?' he exclaimed.
'I should NOT have told you that' muttered Tonks. 'It's supposed to be a surprise! Damn! Damn! Damn!'
'Come on Tonks, you can't leave me in suspense now!' Harry pleaded.
Tonks suddenly giggled. 'What do we say then? hmm?' she teased.
Tonks just grinned.
Tonks continued to grin.
'Pretty please with nobs on?'
Harry pushed Tonks over on the bed and leapt on top of her with his hands lightly round her throat.
'How about Harry strangles Tonks if she doesn't tell him?'
Tonks smiled broadly 'Wow, Harry! Do you treat your girlfriends this roughly?' she asked, archly - 'and do they like it as much as I do?'
Harry froze for a second then jumped back off the bed. 'Sorry Tonks, Sorry, - I didn't mean ...' he stammered, then turned and looked fixedly out of the window. He heard Tonks sit up again. There was silence, which seemed to drag on and on.
'No, Harry, that was my fault' she finally said, quietly. 'I know you were only messing about. Why did I have to go and spoil it! – I always go and spoil it!'
Harry heard a sniff and turned. Tonks was sitting on the bed, staring at the wall, a tear trickling down her cheek. Harry suddenly realised that Tonks was a lot less confident than she would have everyone believe. Impulsively, he put a hand on her shoulder. 'I keep forgetting how much older than me you are, Tonks. I should know better than to fool around like that. I'm sorry'
Tonks slowly rose and stood beside Harry, looking out of the window. The rain was falling even harder now. Harry could barely make out the houses on the other side of Privet Drive. Harry suddenly realised he was slightly taller than Tonks. She looked at him sadly.
'Now you're afraid of me, aren't you?' she whispered.
'Yeah. I suppose I am, a bit' he admitted.
She shimmered for a second and turned into Ginny again. 'Are you still afraid?'
'Ginny would frighten me if she were your age.' he said.
Tonks was standing beside him again. 'Ginny ought to frighten you now.' she muttered, then she turned and picked up her umbrella. 'I'd better go, Harry' she said briskly, 'A deputation is coming to get you tomorrow evening, same as last year. You might as well be ready'
'It'll be good to see the Burrow again' he enthused, but Tonks shook her head. 'Sorry Harry, it's still too exposed. It's HQ again I'm afraid.'
Harry's face fell. Sirius's house. The memories flooded back. 'Why there!' he exclaimed, almost savagely.
'It's necessary. Professor Dumbledore will be there as well. I can't tell you more, Harry, cos I don't know either. Bye'
'Wait' he said. Tonks stopped and raised her eyebrows. 'I know it's a personal question Tonks, but what do you really look like? What's your natural look? - And can I call you Dora, please? It's so much nicer than using your surname. I hate being called Potter.'
'Yeah. I think it's short for Dorothy, but it's just as good as a shortening of Nymphadora'
Tonks screwed up her face at the sound of her first name, but then she looked thoughtful for a moment. 'Dora – Dora! – Dora?' She seemed to be trying it out. 'Maybe, just – maybe. I'll think about it' she said slowly, 'As to what I look like –' The same face, almost, a slightly less 'full' figure, long blonde curly hair, - she changed back.
'It's not me though, it's just not me.' She laughed quietly 'Well, what did you think?'
Now what could he say! Served him right for asking personal questions! – He had a flash of inspiration.
'It may not be what you want to look like, but I reckon it could be the way others wish you looked.'
Tonks looked surprised. 'Silver tongued Git!' she laughed 'I'll take that as approval then! See you tomorrow night. I'll let myself out!' and with that she was gone.
Harry switched on the television and sat down. Some classic game show was on. Harry groaned and switched off again, then lay back to think.
After a while he smiled ruefully to himself. The game show had been called Opportunity Knocks.
Harry had a funny feeling that opportunity had knocked for him that afternoon, but he hadn't been home.