Disclaimer: J K Rowling owns the rights and likenesses of all the characters in the Harry Potter series. This story is meant to add to the world she created. Any conflicts are accidental and they yield to her reality (canon).
This is a post-OOTP story during the summer before Harry's Sixth Year. Very few items of HBP will be used.
Harry Potter And The Summer Of Change
The sun crept over the horizon as the new day showed itself to the people of Britain. Most muggles were leaving their nice, orderly homes and climbing into their cleanly washed vehicles to battle the other commuters doing the exact same thing. Horns would honk, people would become agitated, words were spoken in anger, and yet the sun still ascended into the sky as light, fluffy clouds slowly drifted to the east.
The magical world was stirring as well. Witches and wizards were leaving their eccentric homes for work or sitting down to breakfast with their children a few last precious times before they returned to Hogwarts for another year. Hesitant laughter could be heard as parents worried about their own. They worried about each other as the mother and father of fortunate families made eye contact. The future was so unknown and fear was running rampant.
As the noise of flying owls and various chirps or screeches were heard in Magical kitchens everywhere, a guilty cheer went up. Letters were written, floo calls were made, and visits were planned as the news spread. One family in particular cracked open the finest bottle of champagne they had on hand and rejoiced as revenge had finally been achieved even if they hadn't meted it.
When Tonks rolled over, the sun pained her eyes enough that she groaned. As she prepared herself for the act of opening her eyes, Nymphadora stretched out her arms and legs feeling for the man next to her. She found the comforting feel of flesh and curled into it eagerly. Finally her eyes fluttered open and she saw the puffy clouds lazily roll by the window. "Beautiful day, today."
Harry heard her words and sighed while pulling her close to him. "That only means something bad will happen, Nymph."
"Bright ray of sunshine you are," Tonks chided. "Care to set my hair on fire too while you are being so cheery? Might make for a nice distraction to your optimistic view of the day."
"I am just saying…" Harry tried to fix the mood but was stifled by Tonks' lips on his.
"Hush you sexy thing," Tonks scolded before attacking him. The events of that night were still on her mind and she owed her life to Harry. The more she thought about it, the more Tonks became attracted to him. "There is no turn-on better than having your life saved by a sexy man."
When Harry's mind caught up, he processed what had been said. "What if I had been ugly?"
Tonks laughed into his neck as she nuzzled him. "Thank Merlin that didn't happen."
"No, really?" Harry pressed.
"I might have given you a kiss and left it at that," Tonks joked. "Not as much fun as shagging your brains out is it?"
Harry answered the only way he could in his hopeful state of mind, "Nope."
The playful banter and kissing continued until Hedwig appeared in the room. She bore a few letters and a copy of the Prophet and a bored and slightly annoyed stare for Harry. He shook his head and tried to coax her down to him. She resisted his efforts by continuing her glare. Harry wasn't really motivated to read what he had been sent since he had noticed the edge of the Daily Prophet but called her down anyway. Relenting, Hedwig puffed out her chest once and finally flew to Harry. He removed the burden and flipped through them. He kept the letter from Hermione and Ginny on his side of the bed before dropping the paper and another letter into Tonks' lap.
As expected, Ginny wanted to know how he was doing and asked him to stop at their house as soon as he could. She mentioned something about Mrs. Weasley worrying about him, but Harry knew that she wasn't the only one in the house thinking about his well-being. Hermione's was very business like and couldn't have been more direct and to the point than if Horace had written the letter for her. Harry was instructed to visit and prove that he wasn't depressed. With a chuckle, he got out of the bed and walked to the loo in search of a toothbrush. It was one muggle habit that he hadn't resorted to using magic in the place of.
"Ginny and Hermione need a visit and soon if I read the letters correctly," Harry stated as he entered the bathroom.
"The Prophet published the fact that Bellatrix is dead, finally," Tonks told him with a smirk. "With cause unknown, Bellatrix Lestrange was reported dead late Sunday evening while attempting to subvert the Magical community. The Ministry has been tight lipped about how she died and where she was found. All we know is that You-Know-Who's most vicious Death Eater is no longer a threat to us."
"I guess Marcus decided that her death should be made public," Tonks pondered. "It might help us fight them if everyone knows they aren't invincible." Harry grunted in response as he exited the bathroom with a toothbrush in his mouth. Tonks smiled and flipped the page. A humungous smile grew on her face as she flipped a few pages in quick succession. "We made the paper, dear."
Harry scowled and sucked back in some of the toothpaste that had managed to escape his mouth. "They are wonderful pictures too. My rear looks quite perky in most of them and we are either holding hands or kissing. I am keeping this copy for my scrapbook."
Harry had retreated back into the cold confines of the bathroom and spit out the used toothpaste. "Scrapbook?"
"Of course a scrapbook," Tonks called out to him. "I may not act like a girl all that often, but I have my moments and us in the paper is one of those moments."
"Bloody women," Harry huffed quietly as the ramifications rolled around in his head.
"I heard that, Mister," Tonks yelled good-naturedly.
Harry expected the comment and let it slide. If he was in trouble, he would find out shortly. As he cleaned his face and had a quick shave, Harry noticed the lack of noise coming from Tonks. "Nymph?" he left the bathroom and found Tonks staring at the other letter he had given her. She ignored him and stared at the letter in her hands with her mouth open and her eyes bugging out noticeably. "Nympie?"
"My parents want to meet you," Tonks told him still in shock. "Today, no exceptions." She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. "You cursed the day, you know that, with all your negative emotions."
"How bad can it be, Nymph," Harry said before he thought it over. "Oh shite."
"Oh shite is right," Tonks added. "You are going to meet the parents of the girl you have been sleeping with. But that is nothing compared to the fact that I am going to be meeting my parents after they found out, from the Prophet no less, that I have been dating you. I am in for it."
"It won't be that bad, Nymph," Harry tried to convince her although if pressed he would admit that it was himself he was trying to convince.
"Now who is singing a different tune?" Tonks asked and then answered her own question with a frown. "Both of us. Damn clouds and sun why can't it be dark and dreary like I feel."
A quiet breakfast was eaten as Tonks laid out the plan for the day. They were going to visit Hermione first, then the Weasleys, and finally the Tonks's. "If we work this just right, we can stop in after dinner and be out of there in less than two hours. My mum might corner us by then, but not if we keep moving. The trick is to use my dad as a shield for my mum. For the most part, you should be safe since you are, you. I am a dead woman though if she gets her way."
"They can't be worse than the Dursleys," Harry contrasted. "I think we will be safe enough." Harry's fear had lessened to the point that his anticipation of meeting Tonks' parents took over. He was going to meet her family, a magical family, that wasn't the Weasleys. Harry had always learned something when meeting magical people. Sometimes the things were good; sometimes they were bad.
With his broom shrunk and tucked into his pocket, Harry and Tonks Apparated to Hermione's or at least the park nearby. They walked around watching the children play and laugh with each other. A few parents followed Tonks' movements closely as her pink hair stood out among the normal colours of everyone else. They crossed the street and with a thought, Harry saw Hermione's house appear before him. As they approached the stoop, Harry steeled himself for the barrage of questions that he was going to be inundated with.
A quick knock on the door and sounds from inside told Harry that at least two people were home. When the door opened, Harry saw Jane and greeted her warmly. They had just entered the house when hurried steps were heard above them.
"Mum!" Hermione yelled. "Don't open the door until I get there. They could be Death Eaters."
Just as a pair of feet rushed down the stairs and the tip of a wand angled towards the door, Harry spoke out. "I doubt many Death Eaters would knock and wait for someone to answer the door, Hermione."
Once the bushy haired girl saw the pair, her anxiousness evaporated and was replaced by a genuine smile. In an efficient way and a sincere tone, she answered, "Constant vigilance, Harry."
Harry nodded to her and couldn't help but agree with the statement. "At least you didn't curse first and then figure out if we were dangerous."
Hermione finished descending the stairs and pulled Harry into a hug. She looked at Tonks and sighed when the other woman smiled and nodded in answer to the unasked question. "I may be a little paranoid, but I haven't become like Moody yet." Releasing Harry, she looked him in the eyes. "How are you doing and don't tell me you are fine. I am not going to let you get away with that one this year. If I have to curse you into a stupor to get an honest answer, I will. I can brew Veritaserum if I must."
Harry held his arms up and retreated back to Tonks' side. "I am fine, Hermione. Only this time, I mean it. Tonks has helped me with my normal way of reacting to these kinds of things, and I am doing much better. I had to make a choice and I made the right one. I'm, I don't know, at peace with it."
Hermione looked at Tonks and saw her confirmation of Harry's statement. "Far too young to comment about such a thing being common," Jane said looking sad and worried. She reached out and ran her hand against the side of Harry's face. "Far too young."
Harry lowered his head before speaking. "It is what it is and I have to live on. I will not let them dictate my life with their form of terror. I will not let them win even that much."
Hermione smiled, "That is the Harry we need. Never give up; never give in."
The visit with the Grangers was short and compressed since Harry knew the Weasleys were going to take much of his day. The sheer number of them led him to expect an all-day affair with the possibility of crying and, with any luck, Quidditch.
With a wave and a smirk, Harry and Tonks drifted across the street in front of Hermione's home and Apparated to the Weasley's. Harry had suggested the back garden for safety and some level of concealment. Prior to Disapparating, Tonks told him that the ward over the Weasley's had been keyed to let the both of them through. "It lets us in whether it is by Apparition or portkey. Easier than blocking each way separately you know."
"Uh, right," Harry responded before projecting himself into the back garden of the oddly shaped house. They appeared, one silently and one with a soft pop, and were met with a few screams and a couple wands pointed in their direction. "Nymph, down!" Harry ordered as he threw his body over hers and drew his wand bringing it to bear on the people aiming at him.
"It's only Harry!" A female voice yelled putting her hand and wand in the air. "Harry, you surprised us," Ginny hurriedly said before spells started volleying about.
From his position on the ground covering Tonks completely and a spell rolling in his mind, Harry lowered his wand from the nearest target to him; Ron. Harry let out the breath he had inhaled and pushed the words of the spell out of his mind carefully.
Ron stared wide-eyed at Harry's wand as the slight glow faded. "Bloody hell," Ron uttered, mind blank. Molly didn't scold her youngest son for the curse as she was completely taken aback by Harry's reaction and speed. "Uh, what spell were you going to use, Harry?" Ron managed to ask as he settled back into the rickety chair he had been sitting in seconds before. A normal, large Weasley lunch sat on the table waiting to be consumed.
Harry put the pieces together and guessed that the family had elected to take an early lunch in their back garden. His guess would explain why Molly, Ginny, and Ron were seated around the table no more than a few feet from where they Apparated in. "You don't want to know, mate."
"Uh, humour me then?" Ron asked lamely.
Harry shook his head but reluctantly answered his friend, "You wouldn't have the same problem as Nearly Headless Nick."
"I wouldn't be dead?"
Harry looked away and pulled himself off of his girlfriend and helped her up. "You wouldn't be 'nearly' headless," Harry said quickly hugging Tonks once before trying to distract them all. "Great day for a picnic isn't it?"
Ginny joined him in attempting to move beyond the near disaster and joined them. She gave Harry a long hug before sharing a shorter one with Tonks. Molly had returned her wand to her apron slowly and stood in preparation to mother Harry to within an inch of his life. Ron used the seconds available to process what Harry had meant. "Oh cock."
"Ronald Weasley!" Molly yelled. "You will not use that kind of language around your sister or me. You know better young man."
"Sorry, mum," Ron said automatically as if it was a common thing to say.
"How did you get here?" Ginny asked when her mother elbowed her out of the way so she could reach Harry.
Completely wrapped up in a Molly hug, Harry thought up a way to explain his appearance. When Molly moved back, she waited for an answer too. Harry looked at all of them nervously before averting his eyes to the ground in front of him. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other trying desperately to give an answer that didn't sound really stupid. A jab from Tonks' elbow spurred him on. "We Apparated," Harry said quietly and tried to start a different conversation.
The matriarch was having none of it. "Excuse me, Harry, but did you say Apparated?"
Caught and stuck, Harry looked to Tonks for help and found…her laughing at him. "Can duel Bellatrix and win, but you get all flummoxed when asked how you get around. Harry, Harry, Harry."
The cute, pink-haired woman was given a playful scowl as Harry nodded in affirmation. "How can you Apparate?" Ginny asked ignoring his hesitation.
"Tonks showed me," Harry responded. "It isn't all that hard to do really. You just mentally project yourself where you want to be. It took me an afternoon to get the basics it I think."
Ron and Ginny eyed him eagerly hoping for lessons on the skill while Molly frowned like only a mother could. "You could have been splinched not to mention that you aren't of age and you could be expelled or even arrested for trying it without a license."
"Molly," Tonks interrupted, "Go on Harry, show them."
Shrugging, Harry Apparated behind Ron and tapped him on the shoulder. Ron spun in his seat causing the chair to creek dangerously before leaping to his feet and jumping backwards with his mouth hanging open. Harry disappeared and reappeared behind Ginny who had turned around at the same time as Ron. He reached out and tickled Ginny's sides before vanishing and reappearing next to Molly. "See, Mrs. Weasley," Harry spoke softly as everyone focused on his new location, "no splinching, no letters, no trouble."
Molly's hand had sprung to her chest in shock. "But, you are silent. How can you be silent? You are only a child and just beginning to Apparate."
Harry looked to Tonks who was wearing a knowing smile. "Molly, never underestimate Harry."
"What's the big deal, mum?" Ginny asked. "Can't Dumbledore Apparate silently?"
"Yes, he can, dear," Molly told Ginny. "And a few others in the world too, but Harry as well?" Molly seemed a little apprehensive and had to fight against the realization she had just been let in on. Tonks placed her hand on the mother's shoulder and patted it gently.
"Harry is still the same person you always tried to feed to the point of bursting, Molly," Tonks knew she needed to distract the woman quickly. "And he is also the man I have been spending the summer with." Tonks broke away from Molly after her last comment and herded the children back towards the table ignoring the sputtering that was occurring behind her. Under her breath, Tonks whispered to Harry, "You owe me one for jumping in front of that train just now. She will hassle me all day long about corrupting you and being too old. As if I won't get enough of that when we see my mum later."
Molly directed Harry into a spare seat at the table next to Ginny and pushed a freshly laden plate in front of him without saying a word. The order was obvious and Harry complied instantly trying to appease the mother and save his girlfriend from touchy questions. The meal was eaten and conversation was limited as Molly spent most of her time just watching Harry. Ginny leaned in and asked about the Prophet article.
Harry waved it off. "It will be old news in a day or two," Harry answered finishing off his dessert. "I'm not worried."
The intelligent redhead read between the lines and Harry's facial expression. "It is nothing you haven't dealt with before, Harry."
"True, but they have pictures of us and so many people will talk about her being older," Harry worried. "In a few years no one would notice or care about our ages, but right now that will be all they see. I am happy and I care about her. Why can't they leave it at that?"
"Harry," Ginny consoled him with a touch of humour to her voice, "you have never cared about what others think. Why start now?"
"Because, I'm not alone in this. She goes where I go," Harry looked across the table at Tonks who was involved in a conversation or argument with Molly. "It is bad enough she is a target because she is with me, but now the rest of the Magical world will notice her. She deserves better than that."
Ginny shook her head and patted Harry's hand. "She has you. Doesn't get much better than that if you ask me." Ginny froze for a second before shrugging to herself and eating the last of her ice cream.
Harry heard her words and, with his new level in understanding of women, took a chance to respond. "I'm sorry I never saw you as a potential girlfriend, Ginny. If it wasn't one thing or another, there was always the risk of losing your family if something bad happened between us. I had never had a family before."
Ginny stopped him before he talked himself into trouble. "Harry, I am okay with it. You are happy and that is what I always wanted for you." Ginny looked at Tonks and her mum arguing over something and had a good idea what it was about. "Besides, you aren't married yet." She quirked her eyebrow at Harry as she moved her chair back and stood. "Care for some Quidditch? Such a great day to fly around."
Harry took the opportunity to avoid dangerous territory and nodded his acceptance of the offer. "Mate, Quidditch," Harry called to Ron while he pulled out his shrunken broom and enlarged it. With a firm kick off, Harry shot away from the ground as fast as his broom could take him. He soared over the tree tops scaring half a dozen birds who had also been enjoying the clear day until Harry happened. The feathered animals scattered in all directions fleeing for their lives from a partially-possessed young man.
Harry felt his heart lurch at the freedom and ease with which he flew. A few casual loops around rogue branches and a couple impromptu dives left Harry completely at peace with himself. A light breeze moved his hair as the sun warmed his exposed skin. A lazy cloud floated off near the horizon as Harry's eyes followed it. 'Much better than being stuck in an office doing paperwork,' Harry figured out as he came to terms with his possible career choices. 'Definitely Quidditch.'
His daydream was cut short when a flittering golden ball zipped passed his head en route to a location away from people. His eyes tracked the snitch until he was shouldered out of the way by another person. Catching his balance in time to prevent a fall, Harry refocused his concentration on the retreating back of a redhead pursuing the object. "Oh no you don't, Weasley!"
As Tonks and Molly watched from the safety of the ground, Harry lowered himself to his broom and took off after Ginny as Ron ascended into the air to join them. "He loves flying so much," Tonks said. "He will be one of the best Seekers the game has ever seen in a few years."
With a sniffle, Molly answered, "If he makes it that long."
Tonks turned and stared the woman down with a burning glare. "How in the hell can you say that," Tonks ground out slowly.
"There is so much against him," Molly wept. "There are so many people out to get him, Tonks. He has an entire side of this war after him. They want him…dead. Harry, our Harry, our sweet, loving, dear, Harry."
Tonks swallowed as her own fears were voiced out loud. She forced the dreadful images in her mind away. "And that is why I refused to let this summer be another in a series of shitty summers. I wouldn't let Dumbledore ruin it. I wouldn't let those pathetic muggles ruin it. I wouldn't let him ruin it. Losing Sirius almost broke him beyond recovery. If that had happened there would be no reason to continue all of this."
Molly brushed away the few tears that had escaped before she regained control of herself. "What do you mean, Tonks?"
A moment's thought left Tonks scrambling for a response. "What do you think Harry's future is in this thing? To sit on the sidelines and watch? Maybe plan a battle or two? Harry is a fighter. His entire life has been one fight after another either for love and respect or his own precious life. The other day should have shown you what Harry is made of."
Molly thought of the events of that night, her first real time thinking about them, and she puzzled for minutes on it. "He was brilliant. He never let his guard down not once. He…"
"Killed that bitch with a little deception and quick thinking," Tonks finished for her. "Harry is as soft and fragile as you know him to be but corner him or threaten a friend and he will strike with a terrible vengeance. I have worked with some of the most frightening and lethal individuals in the business, and I can say for a fact that Harry has no equal when adequately threatened. The fire in his eyes can sear your soul if you are against him."
"But, You-Know-Who is…" Molly stammered as she thought of how Harry could become the person Tonks was describing to her.
"Nothing compared to Harry," Tonks corrected. "Voldemort may have all of the murderers and evil people in Britain on his side, but they can't compete with Harry. He has more heart in him than all the others combined. They fight for money and power; Harry fights for friends and those he loves. He might not have known for sure what love was before this summer, but he knows what it is now. You only have to look into his eyes and you can see it. The, I don't know, 'drive' inside of him is so great that we could never understand what it is like to be Harry Potter."
"What do you mean Tonks?" Molly asked beginning to feel a little scared.
Tonks turned away from watching Harry and looked Molly in the eyes. "Have you ever seen someone who could only be described as intense?" At Molly's nod, Tonks continued. "That is Harry in everything he does, except for school of course. He has too much of his father in him, so I hear, for that to happen not to mention Hermione needs some balancing factor in her life or we would lose her to the library forever. He is intense. He has such purpose when he is motivated. It drives me 'crazy' when he is like that, if you get my meaning."
"Tonks!" Molly scolded. "He is only a boy and you are a woman."
Still feeling playful, Tonks retorted. "He is a man, Molly, and has been for a number of weeks now." Molly reacted as Tonks had hoped and looked ready to attack. The only thing that saved the auror were her next words. "Harry relives his mother's death every time Dementors get near him. He saw Cedric killed in front of him. He saw Sirius die. He has faced Voldemort in person." Tonks sniffed once, "He killed Bellatrix to save my life. You didn't see his eyes, Molly. They said so much to me in just a few seconds. He would have given himself to her in exchange for me. Me! I am nobody special. I am just a foolish little girl who got older and fell in love with Harry Potter. I, I, I'm so completely at a lost when it comes to him. He is not a boy at heart."
Molly heard the young woman's words and couldn't help but try to soothe her. "But you are someone special. Harry thinks the world of you. I may not agree with the age difference, but Harry has made his choice and I will support him as if he is my own child. How could I not? He saved my husband's life. He saved Ginny's life, bless him forever. He helped Ron grow up, and the twins to never grow up. I still need to yell at him for that one. He is a member of this family whether by name or not. He is loved by us all."
"I have seen the amount of love he has in him, Molly," Tonks said. "I have felt it in my heart and my head. Harry can not lose as long as he has that driving him. That night in the alley was the first time in his life that he told someone he loved them. He figured it all out right then. I saw him as he did it. The Imperius had nothing on him then; I can assure you of that."
Molly listened and heard the intent behind Tonks' words. "I watched him today when you arrived. He put himself between you and us without thinking. He did the same thing in the alley. He ran ahead and put himself between them and us. He is so selfless; I am worried about him doing it again and losing. He might have made it this long, but it can't last forever. I am afraid of him doing it one too many times."
"Harry will always do it, Molly," Tonks informed the worried mother. "He can not be stopped when someone he cares about is threatened. I said it before, and I will say it again. Harry can do anything if properly motivated. I love him more than my own life. I owe him my life, and I will gladly offer it to save him. Trouble is, Harry won't hear of it. He would tear through a legion of Death Eaters to save me, you, or any of your children really. He knows what love is now and won't let it get away. He doesn't see what is safe or practical or in his best interests. Harry only sees what is right and not right."
"Oh that silly boy is going to worry me to death isn't he?" Molly fretted.
"With all the love he can manage," Tonks prefaced, "yes. He knows no other way. And that is why I know he is going to survive this. He won't let it be any other way and neither will anyone else around him. Do you know that he is the only guy, other than my father, to have seen the real me since I was eight? I learned early on to hide who I was behind my gift. Then one day, Harry asked to see what I really look like. It was such a direct and honest request that I showed him. For the first time since I learned about being a metamorph, I have spent more time these last few weeks in my normal form than with any adjustments. And I can't help it."
"He is such a dear, isn't he?" Molly asked with a knowing smile. The pair went silent as they watched the children flying above them.
Harry flew after Ginny on her third frantic chase for the snitch. Dodging a tree branch that appeared as Ginny cut a tight corner, Harry saw that she was chasing nothing. "Good try, Ginny!" Harry shouted before spinning in place like a top and shooting off in the opposite direction.
"I had you for a minute, Harry!" Ginny called after him before he was out of earshot.
The two had to avoid Ron on several occasions as he did his best to chase after the elusive object. Ron's large body fit best in the Keeper position he hoped to maintain for the upcoming season. Harry's increase in mass over the summer slowed him down a little, but it also made him harder to knock around while in flight. It was a fact that Ginny tested and discovered quickly when it was her spiraling out of control and not Harry after a shoulder block during a particularly contact-heavy chase.
For the fifth time, Ginny found her course altered as Harry drifted in front of her. "I used to be able to hold my own against you, but now I can't. What happened?"
As Harry slowed slightly and let Ginny come up along side of him, he thought up an answer. "This summer has been very productive, Ginny. It has been wonderful all things considered."
"Besides learning to Apparate and…other things," Ginny corrected before mentioning something best left unspoken. "What else have you been up to?"
"This and that," Harry answered searching for the snitch again since he had lost sight of it.
"And how many of those things made it into the paper?"
"Far too many," Harry replied seeing a glint of gold on the other side of the clearing. "Sorry, Ginny." Harry took off closing the distance with the object and snatched it out of the air before his only real competition had made it half way after him.
"Bugger," Ginny said turning to Ron. "Time to switch positions and give Ron something to do for a change."
Ron had heard his sister's words and gave her a dirty look. "Oi, I heard that. You just try and get one past me." Ron changed his direction and flew over to the hoops they had fashioned. In a quick succession of moves, Ginny scooped up the Quaffle, gave Ron a few false moves, and scored a shot in the lower left hoop.
"You were saying, brother?" Ginny challenged wearing a smirk and pulling her hair back into a twist since her old one had fallen out from her aggressive flying with Harry.
Ron bristled and accepted the challenge without hesitation. Harry saw the look the brother and sister had shared and knew he was only going to be a distraction for them, so he flew down to Molly and Tonks and accepted the glass of pumpkin juice that was put into his hand before his feet had even touched the ground. "Thanks, Mrs. Weasley."
Harry was going to sit in another chair but Tonks pulled him into hers and settled in his lap after he was comfortable. She placed a few soft kisses on his lips before hugging him tightly. "Love you."
Harry felt his heart soar at the words. "Love you too." He held the beautiful woman in his arms and closed his eyes. He breathed in her scent and let it out slowly enjoying the feel of her in his arms. He was having a great day.
"I am happy for you, Harry, dear," Molly said from her seat next to them. "I still think you are too young for her, but if I learned anything from my own sons it was that they rarely listen to me when I tell them things they should hear. So I will only say that you should take your time here. Do not be in a rush to grow up even more than you already have."
Harry thought about her comments and formulated an answer. "Mrs. Weasley, I am not looking to grow up, I am hoping to live. I am having a great summer and I'm not with the Dursleys. Anything more than that and I'm a very lucky man."
Molly huffed before her face slowly shifted to a smile. "If you are happy, I am happy for you Harry, dear. You deserve some good in your life."
With a true smile on his face, Harry slid out from under Tonks, kissed her, and returned to the quickening war raging above them. Ron's taunts had become more personal and referenced embarrassing childhood occurrences pushing Ginny to aim for his head instead of the hoops.
"I have never seen him this happy?" Molly said.
"He said as much to me," Tonks revealed as she watched Harry attempt to referee the two-person match overhead. "Uh, Molly, Ron and Ginny seem to be less-than playful."
Molly followed Tonks pointing finger to her youngest children. "Oh, well, don't repeat this but Ginny can take care of herself when it comes to her brothers. She has always kept them in line when it was needed. Bill stood up for her until he left for Egypt, but by then Ginny had learned how to handle the others. I too came from a family of brothers where you have to learn how to fight with the best of them. There is a reason the twins respect her and rarely make her a target of their musings."
"Why is that?" Tonks asked with a conspiratorial air to her question.
"I only know that she was nine and the twins did anything she asked that summer," Molly offered. "It would seem she has sworn the pair to secrecy over the matter though. Trust me; I have tried to find out the details and failed. Not very Weasley of me, I know, but I my excuse is that I only married into the family."
The sun rolled further towards the horizon as the Quidditch game slowed down. Ron learned that Ginny was more than capable of scoring goals when she wanted and was going to be a shoe-in for Chaser in the upcoming season. Harry showed that he could manage playing Chaser in a pinch, but his new size moved him more in-line with professional Seeker standards. A couple hours before dinner was going to be ready, Harry pulled them out-of-sight so he could show them something.
"Harry," Ginny asked coyly, "what are we doing out here?"
Harry smiled a mischievous smirk before Apparating behind them instantly. "How about a quick lesson? Not that you will get it right away, but you have a chance to think about how to do it before you are taught properly. I only needed to know what to do, what it felt like, and the proper motivation to get it."
"Cool," Ron said eager to try it out.
"And what was your motivation, Harry?" Ginny asked smirking worse than if she had beaten Malfoy in a fist fight herself.
Harry stuttered for a second as he thought up an answer. "That is a private moment between Tonks and myself thank you very much."
Harry Apparated each of them a few times so they could get used to the sensation and he instructed them on the correct mental exercises to use for the spell. After an hour of tutoring, Harry was satisfied there had been no real accidents and of the progress both students had made.
Ginny had jumped into the lesson without looking back and found herself being held back by Harry a few times from actually attempting to Apparate. Harry's reasoning was the fact that he had no idea on how to reverse any mistakes that could be made. Ron, on the other hand, had grown hesitant in his efforts after getting mad at Ginny for a comment she had made. During his rant, his focus was divided and the pinky finger on his left hand disappeared for a few seconds before slowly reappearing. Harry chose not to press the subject since he was glad that they had all retained their own body parts at the end.
They wondered back to the house and found that the twins and Bill were home. Harry greeted all three with a hand shake and a smile. Bill regarded Harry carefully looking for any signs of trauma or other emotional issues that he knew could occur after the events of the weekend. Surprisingly, he found Harry engaging and happy. During dinner Harry would go quiet every so often, but the moment would pass and he would back to normal.
Arthur arrived right about the same time Molly was setting the food on the table and was welcomed by a chorus of, "Hi Dad," or "About time, dear." He watched Harry and Tonks sit at one end of the table and converse with his family. He couldn't help but feel proud of how Harry had dealt with the last few months of his life. So many things had went wrong and there was little Harry could do to control them.
In a private moment with his wife after the meal, Arthur found a free minute to speak with her. "He's doing well, dear."
"He is, isn't he?" Molly said looking out the kitchen window spying her children still sitting around the table laughing about something the twins had caused no doubt. "I hate to admit it, but Tonks has a lot to do with how well he has weathered the summer. You know I can't think about those muggles without risking being locked away. The things they did to him…"
"Molly," Arthur soothed his worried spouse, "you know that if Harry wanted them punished, he could do it. A few well placed comments around the right people and the Dursleys would be flooded by Ministry personnel looking into everything that had to do with Harry. I have a feeling that a couple of our sons have even been told to leave them alone. Dumbledore keeps the Order in line on this, but Harry has the rest of them holding back or in the dark."
"It shouldn't all be on his shoulders though," Molly fretted. "He should be sixteen and worrying about girls and Quidditch." Her eyes followed the raven haired boy as he walked with Ron over to the garden where a few adventurous gnomes scurried about. She could see Harry constantly keeping tabs on Tonks who was involved in a rather expressive conversation with the twins and Ginny.
"Seems to me that he has the girl part down," Arthur said with a chuckle.
"But she is..."
"Just what he needs as far as I can tell," Arthur interrupted. "She is fun and outgoing. Both things Harry has lacked for very specific reasons. Who else could get Harry to kiss her in public and in front of the cameras? They knew those reporters were there. She got him to live a little and not worry about the rest of it."
The parents watched the couple in question gravitate towards each other and share an embrace. Once the remainder of the meal had been dealt with, both joined the younger crowd outside to enjoy the fading light as gnomes were acrobatically removed from the garden.
After Harry finished pitching the last of the gnomes in his area over the hedge, he drew his wand and cleaned his hands without a thought. Ron and Ginny watched his movements with anxious stares waiting for the time when they could do the same. As the conversation slowed, Tonks grew more quiet and pensive. "What is it?" Harry asked.
"About time to make our last visit," Tonks said quietly but was overheard by George.
"And who is the lucky person you are visiting tonight?" George asked loudly and was rewarded with a similar pair of fearful looks.
"My parents," Tonks spoke firmly in a resolute manner. "The Prophet kind of let the cat out of the bag on this one. I was ordered home to be yelled at."
"Oh," George replied in an eager way.
"Got your wand on you Harry?" Fred asked enjoying the situation unfolding before him.
"Yes he does," Ron answered for him. "Scary when he points that thing at you."
"It won't be that bad," Ginny tried to sympathize.
"My mum was still a Black," Tonks clarified. "Don't forget that. She can be as mean as she wants to be. It runs in the family as sure as red hair does for you."
Goodbyes were exchanged, as were hugs, and a funeral match hummed by the twins along with a few fake tears. Harry and Tonks stood together in the back garden as the Weasleys watched. "Harry, will yourself to follow me, okay? Do everything you do to Apparate but don't have a location in your mind. Just follow me. Understand?"
"Sure," Harry said automatically hoping he would do it right.
With a soft pop, Tonks disappeared quickly followed by a silently disappearing Harry. "He was silent," Arthur said as the Weasleys drifted back inside.
Harry and Tonks appeared on a quickly darkening street that would look at home in any nice, outer London suburb. The lawns were well maintained as were the hit-and-miss fences scattered about the neighborhood. All of the homes were single family dwellings with at least a few feet between their neighbors. Hermione's home could fit in well, but it would easily be the most expensive house on the block. Tonks pulled Harry along the street and towards the south end of the cul-de-sac.
Harry watched for anyone moving about, but he found it to be relatively quiet with most open windows curtained. A grey house on the east side of the circle seemed to be Tonks target for them as they got closer with each step. Harry felt Tonks tense and saw her stand a little taller and thrust her chest out. It looked as if she was readying for a fight.
Once they reached the stoop, Harry pulled back on her hand stopping them completely. He turned her until she met his eyes. "I love you. No matter what is said or done, that won't change here."
Tonks searched his face for something Harry couldn't figure out. "I know, Harry, but I am glad you said it. Thank you, and I love you too." Tonks turned back to the house and breathed out deeply. "Here goes nothing." She climbed the set of steps and knocked on the door. Her hand was firmly in Harry's and she refused to let go until they were both in the house. Thoughts of 'Stand united' came to Harry's mind as he waited for someone to greet them.
The door opened to reveal an average looking man with a slight paunch and a fading hairline wearing an aged t-shirt and worn blue jeans. "Nymphadora, sweetie, come in." Tonks wasted no time in returning the welcoming smile and entering the home.
"Thanks, dad," Tonks quipped quickly as she pulled Harry inside not trusting her luck any longer than she already had. "This is Harry, but you knew that already."
"Honey," Ted Tonks said softly, "your mother has been going spare since she found out. At least an owl would have taken away one of her yelling points, but you never were one to write home much."
"I have been busy," Tonks offered as her only excuse.
"Theodore Tonks," Ted introduced himself to Harry offering his hand. "But call me Ted or the Mrs. will take the mickey out of me all night."
Harry shook hands while his left remained firmly in the grasp of his girlfriend. "Harry Potter, but please call me Harry."
"Have a seat before she figures out that you are here," Ted ushered them into the living room and to the couch. Harry and Tonks sat together and as close as they could while Ted sat down in a very comfortable looking chair just inside the doorway. A noise from above them signaled that there was at least one other person in the house. "She might have figured out that we have guests. It should be any moment now."
With a crack, a woman about as tall as Tonks Apparated into the living room facing her husband. She wore a light blue cloak with silver trim and her long brown hair came to the middle of her back. "Are they here yet?" She asked her husband.
"I don't know, dear," Ted said airily. He leaned to the side and asked, "Are you guys here yet or do you want me to tell her five more minutes?"
Andromeda spun around instantly and Harry saw that at least some of Tonks' beauty was inherited from her mother. "Nymphadora, why didn't you tell me the second you got here?" Harry was trying to read the woman but found that even though her voice was level and at a normal volume, she was holding back a lot of emotion.
"Mum, you know that dad and I like a few minutes to hang out before you show up and do your thing."
"My thing, young lady, is what mothers do," Andromeda responded.
"Pry and take charge of things?" Tonks bantered back.
"If it suits me, yes," was the mother's answer.
"Fine," Tonks stood dragging Harry with, "Mother, this is Harry; Harry this is my mother. Now get on with the yelling so we can make this visit quick and less trying."
"First off, Nymphadora," Andromeda started in much the same way Molly would begin a tirade, "I find out you are seeing someone from the bloody paper no less. Second, it seems to be something more than a passing fling judging by the pictures. And third, no offense to you, Mr. Potter, but it is Harry Potter. Did you forget how to work an owl? Did you run out of floo powder? Is there an Anti-Apparition ward on the neighborhood?"
Tonks smiled at Ted and counted off her fingers. "I am seeing someone, it isn't a passing thing, it is Harry, no, no, and no. There, all caught up. So glad we could do this. Until next month then?" Tonks stood only to be pushed back into her seat by her mother.
"We aren't through," she spoke as if Tonks had just set fire to the house. "We haven't even begun. We…" Andromeda paused as she looked at Tonks more carefully. She turned to Ted with a shocked look on her face. "When were you going to point it out?"
"When you stopped for a second and realized it yourself," Ted answered reaching for a bowl of muggle candies that was sitting on a sturdy table near his chair.
Harry leaned over to Tonks and asked, "Realized what, Nymph?"
Harry's movement caught both parent's attention, but his words crystallized their attention. "That my daughter looks as she is supposed to. As she did when she was home for the summer or relaxing with us without a care in the world. And the fact that she didn't yell at me to stop using her full name. I was so worked up I didn't notice."
"And she sees the light," Ted announced popping a few candies in his mouth and ignoring the scowl his wife gave him.
"Mother, this is Harry," Tonks offered and released his left hand for the first time.
Harry stood and shook hands with Andromeda for the first time. "Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Tonks."
Andromeda held onto his hand after the gesture had finished and looked at him carefully. "How did you get her to stop hiding her natural beauty?"
"Um, I asked," Harry said lamely not sure how else to say it.
Andromeda turned to Tonks and eyed her carefully. "And why did him asking get results where my asking didn't?"
"Because," Tonks said proudly, "He wasn't family and he was sincere when he asked. Besides, mum, how could I not? Look at him! He is too cute for words."
Harry spun and looked at Tonks as if a Dementor had taken her place. She laughed at him and Andromeda joined her. "Steady there, Harry," Ted commented while putting his hand on Harry's shoulder. "Nymphadora lives for things like this. Weather the storm and plan your revenge for later. It is the only way to survive their kind."
Harry was completely confused and dropped into his seat. He watched Tonks and her mother laugh together. He had been set up. He had been set up and it had been good too. "Oh, you are an evil minx."
"You bet your arse I am," Tonks replied. "You really think my mother would be anything like Narcissa or Bellatrix?"
"I would hope not," Harry answered still in a haze of confusion. "One hates me half as much as she should and the other, well, you know."
Tonks wasted no time in joining Harry on the couch and hugging him instantly. She planted a kiss on his lips and looked him in the eyes. "That doesn't matter anymore. It is over."
Andromeda and Ted watched the byplay and waited for the answers they hoped would be forthcoming. Tonks and Harry looked at them and knew what needed to be done. "It is your story, Harry. Tell it if you want or not. They will respect your privacy if you want them too."
Harry thought about his options and knew he had to say something. "I got the bulk of the Black estate and Narcissa contested it. She lost, badly. Bellatrix…she threatened the wrong person. Tonks can tell you the rest of it." Harry went quiet and clung to Tonks hand for comfort. He wanted to be strong in front of the people in the room, but some things were still too fresh in his mind.
"Nymphadora?" Andromeda pressed carefully.
"We were at dinner," Tonks began the story listing off the attendees. "Death Eaters showed up and we fought them off. Bellatrix grabbed me and threatened to kill me. Harry tricked her and, well, you read the paper. They can't publish the facts for obvious reasons. He saved my life. This is not a passing fling if it isn't apparent."
"I would say not," Ted added. He offered his hand to Harry again. "Thank you. Our baby is everything to us."
Harry found himself wrapped in a hug from Andromeda after he stood and shook Ted's hand. "No more playing around," she whispered to him. "Before was all an act because Nymphie asked us to do it."
"No problem," Harry replied letting his negative emotions drift back under his efforts at Occlumency. "I know a certain griffin that needs a play-pal this year while I am away at school." Harry's threat was met by a look of sheer terror on Tonks' face.
"You wouldn't dare," Tonks breathed. "You love me too much to do that to me."
Harry saw he had regained equal footing with her. "Maybe I do, but Jules needs a friend too."
"Let her have the elves," Tonks' voice rose to a high level. "I want nothing to do with that creature. No thank you, Mr. Potter."
Harry shared a smile with Ted as the father appreciated seeing the tables turned on his own daughter for once. With the ruse revealed, the night progressed with humour and embarrassing stories about Tonks growing up. Harry committed every one to memory as Tonks spent much of her time holding her head in shame mumbling in hope about parents torturing their children being illegal in Britain.
When Harry left for the loo, Andromeda asked Tonks a question she couldn't hold back. "Nymphadora, how serious are you two?"
Tonks waited a few seconds before answering. "I love him. I have since the beginning. He calls me by my name and I like it. When others aren't around, I am in my normal form. On top of all that, he saved my life. He was going to trade his life for mine that night, no hesitation at all. In short, I am as serious as he wants to be. I can be patient on this for as long as is needed."
"Congratulations, honey," Andromeda said giving her daughter a motherly hug. "I am so happy for you. You finally found it. I told you, you would."
"A crying sixteen-year-old doesn't always understand things like that, mum."
"I know, but we all figure it out in the end."
When Harry returned from the loo and an impromptu tour of the house by Ted, he leaned in to Tonks and hugged her. "What is it, Harry?"
"Nothing much," he said tapping his scar once and shrugging. "Must be mad about something."
The evening ended with Harry and Tonks being walked down the stairs by the Tonkses. They shared hugs and handshakes and wished each other well.
"My, how heart warming of a scene we have here," called a cold and terrorizing voice. "Too bad I don't have a heart any longer."
Harry turned around in a blink, drawing his wand, and finding the source of the familiar voice. He thought up a series of spells to cast varying in the shields required to stop them. Harry's initial idea of attacking first and often was stopped before the Severing Ribbon left his wand. "Voldemort, what poor timing you have. Kind of a habit for you isn't it?"
Harry saw Voldemort standing about twenty feet away on the far side of street. His black cloak fluttered in the light breeze that brushed the leaves of the trees above them against each other as if an orchestra was tuning their instruments. The evil man's bald head shone in the light of the half moon and the street lights overhead. His piercing red eyes tore through the night and blazed as brightly as any fire. Behind him stood three masked and cloaked Death Eaters. A round dumpy looking one could only be one person.
"Wormtail," Harry called calmly as if a mass murderer wasn't breathing the same air as him. "I see that you are never too far from your master. Afraid of getting stepped on by others when they aren't careful?"
"Harry, Harry, Harry," Voldemort sung in his sweetest voice. "I must admit I am surprised by your open animosity for those who are beneath you. Dumbledore would be very disappointed in you."
Andromeda and Ted had grabbed onto Tonks and attempted to drag her back towards the house but she resisted fiercely. A flash of silver emitted from Tonks' wand before it went as dark as the night that was seeping into their souls. Both parents watched as Harry continued his conversation unflinchingly.
"Dumbledore can think what he wants, Tom," Harry pressed and was rewarded with a twitch from the man before him. "I fight for my own now. I believe you heard about the latest?"
"My goal tonight was to kill the worthless blood trader behind you and her filthy mate as a way of hurting you," Voldemort explained as he paced slowly back and forth on the far sidewalk. "It seems someone has foreseen my plans and put up a few wards around this house. They are nothing of consequence, given time, but low and behold here you are. My ultimate goal in life right now. The only one to have survived me so many times. Your luck has to be at an end by now, Harry. Surely you are running out of human shields, both parents and a godfather. You wouldn't happen to have a godmother lying around waiting to jump out and save you per chance?"
"None that I know of, Tom," Harry answered watching Voldemort's posture carefully. "If I may ask, how are your finances lately?"
Voldemort laughed a shrill tone causing his followers to shy away from him. The only person who didn't move was Harry. "You have been a bother in that area as well, dear boy. You have found a new way to be even more troublesome than in the past." Voldemort was working himself up into a near fury. "You have caused problems you can not even begin to understand. Plans ruined, alliances disintegrated, faithfuls questioning my abilities; all because of you. Your pathetic mother is the cause of it all." Voldemort finished in a fuming storm that everyone could feel rippling on their skin.
"Oh, but there you are wrong, Tom," Harry pushed hoping for a reaction and he got it. Voldemort's control was slipping, comment by comment. "You are the cause of it. You killed them and you made me who I am. You took them from me so what did I have left? This isn't about power or revenge or anything else as cheap as that. I want to survive this and so far I am doing a good job at it. Wouldn't you agree?"
Voldemort inclined his head slightly. "Annoyingly good job of it, but it will come to an end soon, boy."
"Maybe," Harry relented but shot back immediately, "but Bellatrix won't be there to see it. She was your favourite, and now she is gone."
"Yes, and how did that happen, my boy? How did that come to pass?"
"Simple, Tom," Harry set up. "She threatened the wrong person." Harry squared his shoulders and stared the man down as his gaze turned cold and menacing. "Any future threats of the like will be met with the same response. I will kill them and not look back."
Voldemort became pensive as he processed the information. A smile grew on his face as he answered the challenge. "So, how did it feel, Potter? How did the power feel? The raw, unencumbered power of life and death at your fingertips. The touch of God and Merlin himself. Was it everything you expected it to be?"
Harry sighed and shook his head. He used his left hand to push Tonks behind him and back towards her parents. "I felt nothing until later. Then, I felt the anger, the hate, the sickness that you love so much. It was terrible but sadly something that wasn't avoidable at the time. You came here to hurt Tonks and me through her parents. Isn't that a little childish for you?"
"Oh my dear boy, that is exactly what I am." Voldemort said sweetly as he extended his hands out from his body in a pose that was frightening by all accounts. The confidence and sheer power of his presence ensured that all felt his being on the street that night. "I am the terror that all parents fear. I will kill man and woman, son and daughter if it will serve my purpose. Killing the two fools behind you would mean nothing to me as long as you suffer for it."
"And you failed, yet again, Tom." Harry caught one Death Eater move slightly to one side and closer to a bush. "I do not fear you like everyone else, Tom. I have fought you and survived. You can be beaten like any other."
Harry's words were met with an instant response. A red twisting light erupted from the Dark Lord's wand and struck a shimmering shape before him. The light slowed for a second before continuing on to Harry who had thrown up every shield he could manage. With the various levels of magic between him and Voldemort, Harry only felt a tickle from the Cruciatus Curse that had been cast. "Practicing your Tickle Charm, Tom? You must work on that one when you find the time."
Harry was hoping that his efforts wouldn't leave him in a worse way than if they had fled from the start. He saw the Message spell Tonks had sent and knew he needed to stall as long as possible. The fact that Voldemort didn't attack from the beginning showed Harry that it was possible to delay the impending fight for at least some amount of time.
"You will pay for your lack of respect, Potter," Voldemort shouted before he took control of his demeanor again. "I must commend the mage who weaved these wards. They are quite intricate."
"I will pass along your praise to those who erected them. I must say it was worth every Knut too. It's easy to remove a few charms from a long list and give them another address to work on. Only took a few days from what I was told."
The Tonkses heard what Harry said and had just begun to understand what he meant. Nymph smiled when she heard the gasp from her parents behind her as she slowly retreated as Harry had wanted.
"You have been most annoying this summer, Potter," Voldemort said evenly as if in a normal conversation with a passing acquaintance on the street. "What else have you been up to?"
"This and that," Harry answered catching sight of a team of Unspeakables appearing in the distant park via portkey. "How about a deal? You leave Wormtail for me to deal with and you can take Narcissa and whom ever else you brought over back to your hole to plan my death this year. There is no reason to embarrass yourself more than you have, Tom."
"Who do you think you are, Potter, to threaten me? I am the Dark Lord Voldemort and you are just a pathetic Half-Blood teenager."
"Do I remind you of someone? Is that why you chose me that night?" Harry watched the teams converge on the four and level their wands. "I am willing to fight. I will not run away again. Bellatrix learned that the hard way, Tom."
Voldemort raised his wand at the same time Harry raised his. They stood facing each other when Voldemort yelled, "Leave, trap."
The Unspeakables converged on the Death Eaters launching numerous spells at them at one time. The initial volley was all that was needed. A lamp post was destroyed as were a few bushes and a small tree. Narcissa and the other Death Eater Disapparated upon command leaving Voldemort and Wormtail to dodge the assault.
Harry fired a Reductor and a Severing spell at Wormtail missing with the first but landing the second neatly removing three fingers and a thumb from the traitor's silver hand. The Animagus's wand was cleaved in half failing in a shower of coloured sparks. The silver bits fell to ground disappearing in a puff of grayish smoke. "Master!" Wormtail jumped and grabbed onto Voldemort as he slashed his wand at Harry one last time before disappearing with the rat in tow.
Harry erected his shields protecting himself and the family behind him from the dark spell fired at them. It crashed against the shields in a spectacularly bright burst of light nearly blinding the onlookers. "Damn it!" Harry yelled at the empty space before him, once the blinding light had faded, as the Unspeakables descended on the last place the enemy had been. "So close to getting at least one of them."
Harry turned to see Tonks rushing over to him. She ran her hands over his body checking for injuries and finding none. "You stupid, stupid, noble but stupid man. Yet again you put yourself between me and him. You need top stop doing that."
"When he stops showing up, I'll stop doing it, agreed?" Harry was answered with a kiss and a hug. Tonks handed him off to her parents who could only grab onto him and keep him in place. They didn't know what else to do, so they kept Harry where he was while Tonks walked over to the group of people in grey cloaks.
"Yes, that was who you think it was," Tonks spoke clearly doing her best not to slip. She put up her best auror front and continued, "Everyone is fine here. A few neighbors may have seen something, but the Ministry should be able to handle that. Please let one of them know on your way back if you will."
She turned around and ushered Harry and family back into the house. Once the door had been closed, she received a message from Horace requesting a quick meeting the next day.
Harry calmly guided Andromeda and Ted over to the couch he and Tonks had vacated minutes before. When the husband and wife settled into a comforting embrace, Harry turned to Tonks. "Nothing like a visit from Voldemort to liven up the evening. Too bad they got away at the end, I would have liked to see at least one Death Eater captured this summer." Harry did his best to play ignorant of the summer's events that normal people hadn't been told.
Andromeda and Ted looked from Harry who was being very aloof about the uninvited guests to Tonks who was nodding her head in understanding. "How can you be so, so, flippant about this? 'He' was here. I saw him with my own eyes." Andromeda's voice drifted off as she puzzled over the reality.
"Well," Harry started off, "I am sure you are shocked and scared right now, but I am use to him trying to kill me. Actually, this was one of the least terrifying meetings I have had with him. Usually someone dies and everyone else gets hurts." Harry shrugged as he found a seat in a chair near the far wall. He looked around the room a few times before settling into a meditative state and working on his mental shields which were being lightly assaulted by Voldemort from wherever he ended up.
Andromeda turned to Tonks who simply checked them over for injuries. "Nymphadora?"
"Yes, mum," Tonks replied normally as she finished her inspection.
"How can you be calm?"
"Simple," Tonks answered curtly looking her in the eyes. "If Harry can handle this being the main target, I can handle it being an extra. I will not let him down when he needs me, and I know he wouldn't let me down. You just saw who Harry really is, mum. Where were we and where was Voldemort?"
Andromeda replayed the incident in her head, shuddering whenever she saw 'His' face. "We were behind Harry."
"And Harry willingly took the chance of getting hit by the Cruciatus Curse to protect us," Tonks explained. "I am use to him doing things like this. And before you ask, no, you never expect it. Harry always puts himself in danger for others. Right frustrating too."
Ted watched the women in his life fret over the evening and the young man sitting in a chair against the wall. Even though Harry appeared to be sleeping while sitting up, Ted could see the tension in the man's body. He could only compare it to a cat waiting to pounce on its prey. Once his eyes found Harry's wand, they never left. The wand that saved all their lives; the man who kept them safe. "Nymphadora, how were wards put up around this house without us finding out?"
"I didn't know Harry had that done, daddy," Tonks answered looking to her boyfriend. "Harry, could you answer that question for us? You told me you didn't know where my parents lived."
Harry stilled and his body relaxed before he opened his eyes. The bright green intensity flowed over everyone settling on Tonks. A small smile with a hint of a lopsided smirk showed itself. "I didn't know, but other people did. I simply asked Ragnok to put up the best wards available for your family. I believe he gave me a group rate or something after Hermione's."
"Ragnok?" Andromeda said in a puzzled fashion.
"Director Ragnok?" Ted breathed slowly watching Harry's smirk deepen before he closed his eyes again without saying a word.
"You could have told me, honey," Tonks whined showing her disappointment with being kept in the dark. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Harry's smile appeared but his eyes remained closed. "You put one over on me, so we are even now."
"You insufferable sneak," Tonks yelled as she pointed in Harry's direction. "Never let me get one up on you. This isn't fair. I was always the crafty one until I met you. Since then it has been a shoulder check here, sexual innuendo there, and a full set of professional wards secretly erected around my parent's house."
Harry didn't reply but tilted his head as if learning about his actions for the first time. "My baby has finally been bested," Andromeda muttered sneaking in a one-armed hug of her daughter. "Thank Merlin it was for a good purpose at least and not a wasted effort on a practical joke."
By the time Harry and Tonks left, everyone's spirits were higher. Harry was sent away with a motherly hug and a firm handshake and a pair of requests to keep Tonks safe. Tonks complaints about being able to take care of herself were ignored by her parents.
"You can never have enough people looking out for your baby," Andromeda countered her daughter. "Be safe and look out for each other."
Harry and Tonks left the home again taking extra precautions with their exit and trip home. Multiple Apparitions were made to avoid being followed by any Death Eaters who had left and returned to the Tonks's home. When they finally arrived home, Harry led Tonks to bed where they comforted each other until sleep took them.
The early afternoon trip the next day to meet with Horace was uneventful. They Apparated into the team room and walked to Horace's office to find him casually smoking a cigar that emitted a soft blue smoke which seemed to travel in its own air current separate from the room's. After a very long pull and exhale, Horace motioned to the chairs in front of his desk. All seated, Horace spoke. "We need to figure out a way for you to participate in missions, with your team, while you are incarcerated in that castle. Any suggestions that aren't stupid?"
Harry thought of all the ways he could sneak out of the school and presented that as an option. "There are passageways out of the school. I can use them to come and go as needed, or I can fly out of my dorm room window on my broom."
Horace remained watchful and quiet as he looked to Tonks for other ideas. Receiving none, he looked back to Harry. "Both are workable, but require you to change locations, avoid detection, and possibly rely on others for cover. As I see it, those should be options two on down. Why not a portkey?"
Harry had considered it but knew enough about their limitations. "None of us are keyed into the wards so Dumbledore would have to make it or at least aid in the creation of it." Harry watched Horace smile and puff on his cigar once more.
"Glad to see you understand your next mission, Potter," Horace smirked. He removed a heavy gold chain from one of his desk drawers and tossed it to Harry. The chain had a device at the end of it with a moveable dial that produced a soft click when turned. "It is a reusable Portkey vessel. It is a recent design from Research and they hope it works in the field like it is supposed to." Horace leaned forward drawing another deep puff. "Hello, guinea pig."
Under his breath, Harry mumbled, "Bloody brilliant."
Horace overheard him and barked out, "Glad to hear you are all for it. It is similar to a Time Turner which is…"
"I know about them," Harry offered examining the device closely.
"Really?" Horace asked leaning back and thinking. "Oh, of course. The Time Turner Granger had a few years ago. No doubt you caused endless amounts of trouble with it. No matter, you enchant the device with the destinations of the portkey just like any other. You simply need to add an additional incantation after you are finished. 'Acceditus'. Then you need the person who can grant the access, in this case Dumbledore, tap the device and say, 'Licet Licere Licuit'. At that point, the portkey will function as you spelled it to. Any changes made to the destinations will require the permissions to be re-added."
"Will Dumbledore know what is going on if I ask him to do this?" Harry questioned while tightly holding onto the portkey.
"He will know that he is granting you or rather your device permission to do what it is spelled to do," Horace explained. "Most likely, he will make the leap of faith and figure it is a portkey. He will not know when it is activated or used though. The only other option I can think of aside from those discussed would be to have him key you into the wards themselves. I know the old man well enough to know that really isn't an option so this is the best I can come up with."
"Do you know how hard it is going to be to get him to do this portkey thing?" Harry asked openly surprised at it even being suggested in the first place. "He didn't even want me away from my relatives this summer. What makes you think he will let me leave school when I want to?"
Horace's face grew firm and forceful, "If I ever give you easy assignments there are only two reasons. One, I got nothing better, or two, you are too incompetent for anything more. You are a bright and resourceful Operative; you will figure it out or fail miserably. Either way, it isn't me running around and dodging school teachers just to make it here on time. Your problem, you fix it." Horace took his last puff on the cigar and extinguished it in an ashtray on the edge of his desk before waving his hand at it. "The last few days have been good for the department so I took a liberty I reserve for special occasions. Now, take the trinket and get cracking on your assignment. I expect you to have resolved your transportation difficulties in two weeks. We will alter Team Three's training schedule to at least give the impression of accommodating yours."
The pair left the office together and returned to the team room. Harry took a minute to look at the portkey and ponder his situation. "Wouldn't be my life if it wasn't hard. Oh well, on to Gringotts I guess."
They Apparated to Diagon Alley where Harry was noticed and followed by the rabid reporters all the way to the doors of Gringotts snapping off pictures as they went. At one point, a photographer stepped on Tonks' cloak and nearly tripped her up. In an attempt to keep her upright, Harry spun them around and 'accidentally' knocked the man over and into a barrel of dragon dung outside the Apothecary.
The security forces at the entrance of the bank stopped further pursuit of the couple. Harry asked and was granted access to a meeting room as fast as the goblins could manage. Ragnok arrived minutes later and Harry began a discussion with him about the companies he owned and had voting authority with. In a few tactical moves and with a few signatures, Harry granted his voting rights to Tonks for the duration of the school year. She was surprised by how easily he signed the papers that essentially empowered her to direct a handful of companies in what ever way she wanted.
Tonks promised to consult with Harry about how he wanted her to vote on things, but he only gave her a few guidelines that consisted mostly of things she would have done anyway. When they arrived home in the early evening, they were greeted by happy elves with dinner ready and waiting.
The night before Harry was to return to Hogwarts he planned a special evening for Tonks. With the help of Dobby and Tiki, a meal was prepared with all of Tonks' favorite foods. Hedwig had spent a couple nights ferrying letters back and forth between Harry and Andromeda containing the foods she loved when growing up. To get her out of the house so the elves could make the food, Harry took Tonks for a drive in the countryside.
After a few teaching points presented themselves, Tonks complimented Harry on his driving and disaster avoidance. With the sun hanging low in the horizon, Harry returned home parking the auto in the garage. He managed to get ahead of Tonks and slowed her up enough to give the elves time to finish arranging everything. After a little snogging against the Jaguar, Harry walked Tonks into the house and towards the dining room.
She scanned the table and recognized the dishes waiting to be consumed. She turned and kissed Harry more forcefully than she had in the garage. "And should I thank my mother as well?"
"She might have had a hand in this, but I hope you don't kiss her like that as well." Harry couldn't help but smile when he saw how happy Tonks looked. She bounded over to a chair and plopped down as if she was eight years old. She looked around the table and started to reach for a nearby bowl before stopping herself.
"Harry, get over here and join me. I won't wait forever and I want to eat." The happiness would have been unmistakable to anyone.
Harry sat in a seat next to her and she attacked the food instantly. The meal was relatively quiet but Tonks kept her left hand on Harry's right leg for as much of the meal as she could. The looks exchanged between the two told the elves to stay on the ground floor for the evening. Once Harry had finished eating, they left the room and walked up stairs. Tonks pulled on his hand trying to guide him into their room, but he resisted by urging her into the library.
Confused, Tonks followed along hoping that she wasn't going to spend the night watching Harry read some old books. Pleasantly, she was led across the room and up the stairs through the training room, map room, and owlery. "I may need to send my mum a thank you, but I wasn't planning on doing it now, Harry." Tonks made it clear she was confused and not wanting to waste any more time. She leaned against Harry and kissed him firmly while her left hand began tugging at his clothes.
"One flight left," Harry told her between heated kisses. Tonks understood and climbed to the roof to find a soft mat laid out complete with a blanket and pillows. The warmth of the day still hung in the air as the sun faded in the west. Tonks looked up and saw the stars beginning to appear. "Oh, did you think this up all by yourself?"
Harry wrapped his arms around her and began kissing her neck and lips slowly. "If I didn't, does it really matter?"
"Not at all," Tonks breathed as she pulled Harry down with her and onto the blanket. They made quick work of removing their clothes and soon began to enjoy being alone on the top of the tower together. Harry was determined to show how much he cared about Tonks on the last night they had together before things became more complicated with school and everything else. The moments stretched on as Harry continued to kiss and touch Tonks. His hands were redirected as she wanted with words or fevered nudges.
It was a star-filled sky overhead that Harry found when they had finally collapsed after their efforts. He lay on his back and looked up as Tonks curled into him and ran her soft hands over his chest. A shooting star flared above him as Tonks cooed and burrowed her head into his shoulder and neck.
"Thank you for such a wonderful night, Harry," called the muffled voice of Tonks. "I had planned on shagging you, but didn't think you needed the wine-and-dine beforehand."
Harry chuckled and returned the favour by running his finger tips down her back slowly. She reacted as he had hoped with shivers and small bumps in the wake of his touch. "Perhaps that was another part of the evening that I didn't do by myself. I hope you don't mind though. I never claimed to be that romantic or gifted with wooing women."
Wet and puffy lips met his in answer joined shortly after by a warm tongue seeking attention. "You do alright and if you get advice from others, I can live that." Their gentle actions continued as the night drifted on. After a lull in activities, Tonks murmured, "What a beautiful night. Thank you, Harry, for such a wonderful summer. It has been the most pleasant one I have ever had."
"That makes the two of us," Harry admitted. "You made it all happen, you know. You showed me that I could do it, that I could take control of my life. If you hadn't been there, I really have no idea what would have happened in the last couple months. Most likely, I would have cursed my relatives and been kicked out of school or locked away in Grimmauld Place. I can't even begin to say thank you for everything. I, I don't what else to say or where to begin."
Tonks smiled and ran her hand along his face. "How about where we left off, sexy?"
"Love you," Harry breathed out.
"Love you too, Harry."
When Tonks woke up, she found the blanket covering them and shielding them from the chill of the moist early morning. Unable to stifle her laugh, Tonks ended up nudged Harry awake with her laughs. "Time to get up, Harry. We have to get you ready for the train."
Harry scowled without opening his eyes. "Oh, just a few more minutes, Nymph. Please?" Harry pulled her close and hugged her naked form to him reveling in the feel of the woman.
"No need to make a big production of it, Harry, just Apparate us to our room." Tonks held on as Harry sighed and focused his mind on carrying out the task. In a few seconds, Tonks felt the bed under them and the cool air disappear. "Thank you, baby."
"Few more minutes then?" Harry begged as he tried to curl into her.
"Fine, but the elves know when you have to be there," Tonks offered. "Don't blame me when they wake you up."
No more than an hour later, Dobby bounded into the room and shook Harry awake apologizing the entire time for disturbing him. After a quick shower, Harry stumbled his way to the kitchen not feeling any more awake than he did when Dobby pulled on his hand to rouse him. Tonks laughed and helped Harry eat his breakfast. Most of the packing was done by Tiki who felt left out of the whole process since Tonks was going to spend her time between Potter Estate, her parent's, and her own flat during the school year.
With his stuff shrunk and pocketed, Harry and Tonks Apparated to an alley a few blocks away from King's Cross and walked the rest of the way in to the busy hub. The crowds buffeted them as they made their way to Platform 9 and 10. Harry saw a few people he knew, but the sheer volume of people prevented any real conversation from taking place. Harry and Tonks hurried through the barrier when they reached it and were met by an almost equally busy platform filled with witches and wizards running about and the Hogwarts Express which was emitting puff of steam every now and then.
They dodged around families wishing their best to the students leaving them for a few months and the added security who patrolled around the periphery. Teams of aurors were stationed on the platform and most had their wands exposed and ready to strike should something happen. Harry thought he caught sight of Horace amongst the throngs but was never sure as they made their way across the platform.
The Weasleys and Grangers were easy to spot by either their hair or the simple number of them standing in one place. Harry and Tonks joined the group near one end of the platform and greetings were shared by all.
"Harry," Molly observed, "you look tired. Did you sleep at all?"
"Not really," Harry answered accompanied by a long yawn.
"Did you have bad dreams?" The protective mother asked.
"No," Harry said before thinking. He looked up and saw Molly wearing a concerned look on her face, but her children wore completely different expressions. Ginny and Hermione eyed him carefully smiling widely. Ron was unconcerned, but the twins shared their time looking at Harry, Tonks, and their mum equally. "Uh, no bad dreams just had problems sleeping." He knew his cover story was weak, but it was the best he could do in the time frame he had subjected himself to.
"Really?" Fred asked with a smirk.
"My, Tonks, you look like you had problems sleeping as well," George pointed out.
Never one to leave a tentative situation alone, Tonks played along. "Yes, getting to sleep took forever," Tonks drew out. "But once I fell asleep, I stayed asleep. Must have been the exhaustion…"
Harry stopped the conversation by forcing a cough and pointing out the time which had advanced on them. Harry figured it was from the 'goodbye' Tonks insisted on giving him before they left the house. "Well, we should be getting on the train and finding a place to stay."
The twins laughed along with Ginny while Hermione shook her head and hugged her parents goodbye. Before Harry could groan about how much ribbing he was in for from Ginny, Tonks had spun him around and planted a large kiss on his lips. Harry reacted like he had many times before and kissed her back as passionately as he could running his hands along her back. The whoops and giggles from behind him never registered as the only thing on his mind was Tonks and what her tongue was doing. Harry hadn't noticed before, but he could feel through the cloak that Tonks had only changed her face and hair colour for their trip to the train. The rest of her body was its normal size and shape and his mind was replaying the images of what those things looked like.
When the kiss ended, Harry looked deeply into her eyes. "As we planned once I get the portkey set up, we will meet up a few times a week. Until then, I will message you when I can escape. Oh, and I have a standing date for every Hogsmeade weekend right?"
Tonks smirked and ignored the stares she was receiving from parents and the coworkers of hers who had seen her and Harry kiss. "As long as you don't have detention, I will be there." She leaned in and whispered in his ear, "Wearing a cloak and nothing else." She leaned back and smiled her most impish smile, "If that is what you want of course."
Harry mumbled unintelligible words for a few seconds before giving up and nodding to her.
"Oh, and I won that round, Harry," Tonks said quickly before Harry could speak.
Thoughts and images still rolling in his head, Harry turned around to enter the train and was met by Draco Malfoy strolling down the stairs. "What a disgusting show of filth. I knew Potter was desperate, but I never figured he would stoop so low as the disowned whore of our family."
Tonks laughed once and watched Harry react instantly. The Boy-Who-Lived inclined his head and stepped toward Malfoy. His right hand was already moving towards its target, but at the last second Harry pulled his hand in and led with his elbow driven by his entire shoulder. Years of getting hit by Dudley and trying to fight back showed him that punching someone hurt more than elbowing them. The tip of Harry's elbow connected with the side of Draco's jaw and dropped the pompous arse in less than a second.
Draco fell back and crashed onto the stairs with a whimper and a soft crack. The proud and arrogant berk slowly slid down the stairs before coming to rest in a heap on the platform at the foot of the stairs. Harry stepped up and said to a groggy Draco, "Do not insult Tonks again, Malfoy. Next time, I won't hold back."
Harry turned to face Tonks and saw a fuming Narcissa Malfoy making her way through the sparse crowd between them. She drew even and made her threats. "The press might like to here about the Golden Boy striking another child. Labels like unstable and violent would sell a lot of papers and tarnish your sparkling clean name."
Harry took the challenge to heart and knew what to say to shut the woman up before more than a few students noticed the incident. "Maybe so, but all I have to do is yell Death Eater and point and the aurors will have you under arrest before you can draw your wand to escape. Then they will pull up your sleeve." Harry hesitated as his words sunk in. "I wonder what they find? Maybe I should check your son for the Dark Mark as well. That would make the rounds at Hogwarts pretty fast wouldn't it? I am sure the paper would enjoy seeing such an upstanding pureblood family as yours exposed as the murderous lackeys that you are."
Harry waited to see what would happen. Narcissa looked around noticing that many of the aurors were paying extra attention to Harry and his friends. They seemed to be watching and waiting before acting on anything. The proud woman lifted her head and stared Harry in the eyes. "I hear that my sister met an unfortunate end recently. Do you know anything about it?"
Harry shrugged, "I heard that she walked down the wrong alley and ran into someone who owed her for something. Very tragic, wouldn't you agree?" Harry held her gaze unwilling to let go.
"My sister always had a problem of going to far," Narcissa probed. "Maybe she went too far one too many times."
Harry allowed his stare to become a glare and let his emotions show. "Oh, I believe she did go too far. One should be careful who they threaten. Everyone has allies in this war, and you never know if their allies are better than yours." Harry watched for a response and got one when Narcissa looked away and down at her slowly recovering son.
"Do be careful, boy," Narcissa attempted to intimidate Harry and failed. "You always seem to find yourself in trouble every school year. I hear this year is going to be more treacherous than others too."
Harry took the comment in stride. "It is nothing new to me. Do give Voldemort my worst. I hope he has a dreadful year as well."
Narcissa flinched before leaving Harry and his friends. Harry hugged Tonks tightly and kissed her deeply one more time. The four returning students climbed onto the train, stepping over Draco who was trying to shake away the fog, and searched out an empty carriage. When they found one, Harry settled into a seat and looked out to see Tonks staring back at him.
"Harry," Hermione asked, "why did you hit him? He didn't said anything that he hasn't already said to us."
"True," Harry answered looking into Tonks' eyes seeing the longing already building in them. "But he needed to know that this year is going to be different. I will not shy away from a fight. I will take it to him if he thinks that he can threaten my friends and get away with it. I told Voldemort the same basic thing the other night. I am not afraid of the fight. I will protect my friends, and I am not going to play fair when doing so."
As the train pulled away, Harry smiled at Tonks before she disappeared from sight. He turned and looked at his friends who looked surprisingly determined. "This is my life and I am going to do what I can to live it. If a few Death Eaters or Death Eaters in-training get hurt, so be it. Those I love and care about will live on if I have anything to say about it."
Nothing was said for a few minutes as the houses, stations, and buildings flew past the windows in a blur before Ron broke the tension. "That is great and all, mate, but do you want to play chess or not?"