Chapter 1: McGonagall's Observations
July 13 – Little Whinging, Surrey
A young man with shaggy black hair sat on a swing in a small park of a residential neighborhood in Little Whinging, Surrey. He came to the park almost daily and would sit for hours on the swing or under a tree. He never spoke and no one approached him. His clothes hung on his thin frame and his face was almost ghostly white.
Minerva McGonagall watched him from her perch on a short fence that separated the park from a nearby house. Normally, she was a no nonsense transfiguration professor and head of Gryffindor House at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but today she was serving guard duty in Little Whinging, Surrey, keeping watch over one of her lions. In her animagus form of a cat, she was often able to get close enough to Harry to give the Order a real update on how he was fairing during the summer with his aunt and uncle, although she rarely had time to serve as a guard. She had determined that the young man was decidedly too thin and withdrawn. She fought the urge to change into her human form and talk to him. She agreed with both Tonks and Bill Weasley's estimation that Harry needed someone to talk to about the death of his godfather, and he needed food. She leaped down from the fence and moved slowly along the fence until she disappeared behind several large bushes.
On the swing Harry sighed loudly. He rubbed his eyes and did his best to stay awake. He tried to keep the thoughts of his godfather's death and the fiasco at the Department of Mysteries that had nearly cost him his best friends at bay. Reviewing spells he knew, reciting potions ingredients, anything to keep him from slipping back into his nightmares of that night. He'd gotten a couple of letters from Ron and Hermione. Luna, Neville, and Ginny had also written to him. He didn't know what to say to any of them. He'd nearly gotten them all killed. He felt bad about not writing them, but every letter he started ended up in the trash. Their letters revealed very little other than their concern for him, telling him not to blame himself, and letting him know about their summers.
He pushed himself back and forth slightly in the swing. His eyes burned with unshed tears as he struggled not to give in to the despair that often gripped him when he thought of his godfather. He also struggled against anger at himself for falling for Voldemort's trap, at Snape for being his usual greasy self, and at Dumbledore for keeping so much from him. If only he had known he shouldn't go to the Department of Mysteries. He pushed away that train of thought. It never helped.
His scar hadn't burned or throbbed since that night. He practiced Occlumency every day desperately trying to clear his mind. He found the exercises nearly impossible, and worried that Snape had deliberately not told him the right way to do them. He wished he could do more. He wondered why Dumbledore had not started training him to fulfill the prophecy. He'd dropped that little bombshell on Harry when he was feeling his lowest, and Harry had heard nothing from his headmaster since. After what he had witnessed in the atrium of the Ministry, he knew he was hopelessly outmatched by Voldemort. Even if he trained around the clock, he seriously doubted he could hold his own against Voldemort let alone defeat him.
Harry wasn't sure how long he sat on the swing, but as the shadows started to grow longer he stood slowly and made his way back to number 4 Privet Drive. His aunt and uncle complained if he stayed out past dark, and he'd be punished with no dinner and extra chores. He entered through the front door and his aunt immediately called out to him.
"Come and get your sandwich before going to your room." Harry went into the immaculately clean kitchen where his aunt had set a peanut butter sandwich on the counter for him. "Take an apple and either a glass of milk or juice. Your uncle has invited some colleagues to dinner tonight, so you are not to leave your room or make any noise." Harry nodded in understanding and put an apple on his plate with the sandwich. He poured himself a glass of milk and took his food to his bedroom.
Surprisingly enough his aunt and uncle had taken the threat from Moody and the others seriously and had provided him with reasonably decent food this summer. Choking down any food had proven difficult for the last several weeks. He managed to eat part of his sandwich and drink his milk. He pushed the rest aside for now and dug out his transfiguration book. He sat at his desk and started reviewing the spells from the previous year. Once again he found himself wishing that he could practice the spell rather than just memorizing the incantation and wand movements.
Hedwig flew through his window interrupting his studying. She had a mouse in her beak and took it to her cage. Harry gave her a smile before going back to his book. His eyes began to droop and within moments he was asleep his head resting on his open transfiguration text. Hedwig finished her own meal and seemed to stare at the young man as if she were watching over him.
July 13 – Number 4 Privet Drive
Minerva McGonagall resumed her human form and greeted Bill Weasley quietly as he came to relieve her from her guard duty. She was fond of the former head boy turned curse breaker, and appreciated his instincts in regards to Harry.
"He has retreated into the house. His aunt gave him a sandwich and an apple to take to his room. Unfortunately, I cannot see him through the window to see if he's eaten it," she reported her usually stern expression softened slightly.
"I'll take a peek once it gets dark. They have been giving him food, but he's not eating so well. What did Dumbledore say about communicating with him?"
"He hasn't given us the go ahead yet, but I agree with both you and Tonks after observing him this afternoon. He's barely eating, hardly sleeping, and I've yet to hear him speak," Minerva replied the concern evident in her voice.
"And he absolutely has to stay here?" Bill asked again even though he'd asked this question several times already. Personally he felt that Harry would do much better at the Burrow with his friends, then here.
"Albus says there's an ancient blood protection that requires that Harry stay here for at least a limited period each year," Minerva said before sighing deeply. "Knowing the reason doesn't make it any easier to watch him suffer, though. I keep wondering if it was even worse than this in the past." Bill looked at the older woman in surprise.
"Worse than this?" He looked at her in incredulity. His hazel eyes widened at the thought.
"I suspect it was. I checked and apparently Harry's Hogwarts letters were originally addressed to 'Harry Potter, the cupboard under the stairs,'" Minerva revealed. "And he's always come back so thin after each summer. I think perhaps we didn't want to see it."
"Is the blood protection worth it?" Bill wanted to know.
"Albus insists that it is, though I have a feeling that we never guessed the full extent of what Harry goes through here each summer. I feel as if we have let him done gravely," Minerva said looking and feeling even older than she was. "I will speak to Albus this evening. He has to see reason on this."
"If anyone can convince him, I'm sure it's you. Good luck," Bill replied looking up at the window to Harry's bedroom. A dim light shone from the room, but he didn't see either Harry or Hedwig.
"Thanks," Minerva said before disappearing into the shadows of the night walking towards the outer limits of the anti-apparition ward that protected Number 4 Privet Drive.
July 13 – Hogwarts
"Canary Cremes," Minerva McGonagall said and the statute that protected the entrance to the Headmaster's office at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry moved to reveal the revolving staircase. Minerva made her way up them and then knocked on the door to Albus Dumbledore's office.
"Come in, Minerva," Albus Dumbledore called immediately after she knocked. She entered the office prepared to argue her point. She respected the headmaster, but she would not tolerate one of her students suffering the way Harry was with no one to talk to or care for him.
"Albus, I have come to speak to you about a very important matter."
"Lemon drop?" Dumbledore offered picking up a candy dish and removing the lid before tilting it towards her.
"No, thank you."
"Some tea perhaps," Dumbledore then suggested before she could say any more.
"No, Albus, I will not be sidetracked," Minerva replied moving to stand in front of the headmaster's desk.
"Minerva, he needs to stay there to renew the blood protection. It's only for a little while longer," Dumbledore replied trying to cut off her argument. He sympathized with Harry as well, but the blood protection was not something to scoff at with Voldemort gaining in strength and numbers.
"I understand that, but it does not mean that he should have to suffer alone," Minerva stated vehemently. "I spent most of today watching him. He never spoke or ate. He's much thinner already and much too pale." The usual twinkle in the headmaster's eyes faded as he considered what she had revealed.
"His aunt and uncle are feeding him, aren't they?" He asked in genuine concern.
"They are giving him food, but he's obviously not eating properly, and they don't seem to care as long as he keeps quiet, does his chores, and stays out of their way. They are so cold," Minerva replied sitting down in the chair across from the headmaster's desk. "They really are the worst sort of muggles."
"What do you suggest we do, short of taking him away from there?" Dumbledore questioned wanting her input.
"He needs someone to talk to, to show that they care," Minerva replied simply.
"It may be difficult to spare two people at a time to have one watching him and another talking to him. I also don't want to reveal too much about his whereabouts." Minerva considered the headmaster's words. She had always looked up to and respected the headmaster, but she would fight him on this. One of her lions needed her, and she wasn't about to let him suffer alone any longer.
"Perhaps if we adjusted the shift changes, those watching him could spend an hour or so talking with him while the second person starts their watch," Minerva suggested thinking of the few moments that she and Bill had spent talking. "If we contacted Nymphadora tonight we could ask her to arrive an hour early for her shift and then either she or Bill could spend some time talking to Harry while the other guard was still there."
"Alright, Minerva, we can try this," he picked up a quill and wrote a short note to the young Auror. "Fawkes, please deliver this to Nymphadora Tonks, and make sure she is alone." The phoenix took the note in his beak and disappeared a moment later.
"Thank you, Albus, I am deeply concerned for him," Minerva said grateful that she had made the headmaster see how necessary it was for Harry to know that others cared for him.
"Thank you, Minerva, you stand up well for your students and I feel you are right. If last summer is any precursor, Harry will benefit from having visitors." Minerva nodded at his remark and wondered why he had held out this long on allowing them to talk to Harry during guard duty. She left the office please with her accomplishment and headed to her office to get some more work done before bed.
Disclaimer and Note: Of course, the characters don't belong to me, and no money is being made here. This is purely for my own amusement, and hopefully yours as well. This story is almost entirely completed, so updates should be somewhat regular. It is a Harry/Tonks fic, a pairing I have become particularly fond of, though it's a slow arc of them noticing each other. I may do a sequel depending on interest and time, so please let me know what you think. Thanks!
Some basic edits were made on 11-16-2012 to help with detail and story flow. Hope you enjoy!