A/N: Background is canon through OotP. At the opening of this story, we veer into AU starting when Dumbledore removes Harry from the Dursleys' residence at the beginning of HBP.
Warnings: This is a long warning, but please take the time to read it, because judging from the response to the first half dozen chapters, there are a lot of different things in this fic that bother people, not just a few. At some point you're likely to be disturbed by a scene, get angry at a character's actions, or possibly get angry with me. Take a moment to think about this before you decide to read the story. I don't want to give away the plot, so I need to be somewhat vague. Try to read between the lines.
Implied violence, violence, descriptions of the effects of torture, mild gore, abuse, abuse enablement, implied non-consensual sex, sex, and (as implied by the preceding) unabashed melodrama. Some chapters are heavy on dialogue: Yeah, just talking. People that you like will do or say things that you think they shouldn't, although I do my best to keep everyone in character. If you're a fan of Remus Lupin, you may to wish to skip this as his character takes a bashing. If you want a story where Harry develops super magical powers or behaves like someone twice his age, look elsewhere; shouldn't be difficult to find one. If you are not an adult, don't read this. Tonks is a confused person who may give Harry a hard time; if you think Harry deserves a better girlfriend, don't read this. Otherwise, give it a try, and if you don't like it, don't say I didn't warn you. ;)
Although this fic is labeled Drama and Romance, it also contains Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Action/Adventure, and even some occasional mild Humor.
A "Saving People" Thing
Chapter 1. A Departure, an Arrival, a Departure
"... sure you'll find that Remus and Nymphadora are only too happy to put you up until school starts in September, Harry."
"Er. Right, sir. But I still don't understand--" Harry broke off as Dumbledore increased their pace, the Headmaster's long strides leading them rapidly down Privet Drive and away from the detested Dursleys.
Typically, Dumbledore had offered next to no explanation for where he was taking Harry when he had shown up unannounced at the Dursley's doorstep ten minutes ago. He'd simply informed Harry, and the Dursleys, that it was time for Harry to depart, and that he would no doubt see them again next summer. His trunk and owl would be taken care of.
After their hasty departure from Number Four, Privet Drive, his Headmaster had offered up two short sentences that indicated that Harry was being placed with Tonks and Lupin for the rest of the summer. The Weasleys, for some unstated reason, being unavailable.
This raised all sorts of questions in Harry's mind: Why the two of them? Why not Shacklebolt? Or Hestia? And, again, why not the Weasleys? Were Ron and the rest of them alright? And the way Dumbledore had said 'Remus and Nymphadora' was strange. Were they together? As in, living somewhere together? Or was it simply that Lupin had nowhere to go now that the Order were blocked from Grimmauld Place?
If the two of them were a couple, it was certainly an odd one. It was hard for Harry to picture the lively, colorful Tonks dating--or living with--someone like Lupin: poor, grey-haired, perpetually serious. There must be another explanation, he thought. Which Dumbledore will get to, as he always says, when there's more time.
They walked for another minute along the hot pavement, until they came to the alley where Harry had fought off the Dementors last summer. Dumbledore contemplated the dark entrance and then said, "Well, Harry. This will have to do."
He gestured for Harry to precede him into the alleyway. Ignoring the brief flare of apprehension that he always felt near this place, Harry obeyed, and Dumbledore followed. Harry looked around in the gloom for a moment, trying not to picture Dementors swooping down on him and Dudley.
The old man broke into his thoughts by saying kindly, "You undoubtedly have many questions, Harry, but there's no time. I'll explain everything later. For now, let's concentrate on getting you safely away. As you are not yet of age to Apparate, I'll take you by Side-Along. Hold tight, now."
Dumbledore grasped Harry's arms firmly and twirled the two of them in place. After a brief period of unpleasant dizziness, at least for Harry, they materialized in another alleyway, distinguishable from the first only because it was darker and even more smelly than the one off Privet Drive.
He shook his head to clear it and then followed the Headmaster, who was already walking briskly out of the alley and into what he recognized as a busy street somewhere in the heart of London. Buses, cars, and crowds of people streamed past. Most of the pedestrians looked overheated and distinctly irritable on this sweltering July day.
Dumbledore let the way to a large block of flats, speaking as they walked. "Circumstances with the Weasleys, which we shall discuss another time, make it impossible for them to play host to you this summer, Harry. Nymphadora is a skilled Auror and thus will offer you excellent protection, as will your former professor, Remus Lupin, I feel sure. In addition, her residence is convenient to Diagon Alley, an advantage that you will no doubt appreciate."
Nodding to the porter at the entrance to the flats, who seemed to recognize him, Dumbledore led Harry up several flights of stairs, still talking. "The decision was, of necessity, reached quickly. I had time to discuss it only with Nymphadora. Remus was occupied with Order business elsewhere at the time. However, as she owns the flat and was more than willing to-- Ah!" He broke off. "Here we are."
They stood in front of an brown door, one of four on this landing and anonymous except for a blindingly bright orange number 11 at eye level. Dumbledore lifted his hand to knock, but paused as raised voices filtered through the door.
"... without asking. I like--"
"I told you, he's got no--"
"--my privacy. Need it, in fact, and you--"
"Stop, Remus. Please." Tonks's voice sounded distressed, almost as if she were in pain. "What was I supposed to--"
"--didn't even bother to consult--"
"--do? Say no? The poor kid needs someone who--"
Harry felt his face grow hot. Obviously, whatever Professor Dumbledore thought to the contrary, he was far from welcome at Tonks's flat. Dumbledore, his mouth tightening into a thin line, rapped smartly on the door.
The voices inside broke off. There was the sound of light footsteps pattering towards the door before it was flung open wide. Tonks's slim form, topped by turquoise hair pulled back in a ponytail, stood framed in the doorway. With that hairstyle, she looked younger than Harry remembered and somehow more delicate. Her face was tense and white, but as soon as she recognized the two visitors, she broke into a genuine smile.
Despite her welcoming expression, Harry noticed that her eyes still had a strained look and appeared to be slightly puffy. He wondered uneasily if she'd been crying.
Before her visitors could say anything, Tonks said gaily, "Wotcher, Professor! And blimey, Harry, I've been waiting for you all day. Tidied the flat and everything, and believe me when I say that took some doing." She stood back from the door and gestured, "Don't just stand about. Come in, come in!"
Behind her, Remus Lupin stood with his hands pushed deep into his trouser pockets, glowering down at the carpet. When the two of them entered the flat, Lupin appeared to struggle with his feelings for a moment, and then hitched his mouth into a smile of greeting.
He walked forward, and nodded curtly to Dumbledore. Taking a hand from his pocket, he held it out to Harry, saying in a somewhat forced voice, "Good to see you again Harry." As they shook hands, he asked with more sincerity, "How are you coping?"
"Erm. Good." What was there to say, after all? Sirius was dead. He'd lost his godfather through his own stupidity. And he missed his two best friends and was now looking at the prospect of a summer without them. Top it off with the fact that he was being dumped on two people he barely knew, at least one of whom seemed to strongly resent his presence. What was there to say, except, "Yeah... doing good. You?"
"Glad to hear it," Lupin replied, ignoring Harry's question. The civilities, such as they were, dispensed with, he dropped Harry's hand and walked to the bookshelf in the corner, as far away from Harry as he could get. He pulled out a book, seemingly at random, and sat down on the bright red sofa to read.
Dumbledore looked with some concern at Lupin, who ignored him, before turning to Nymphadora. "Thank you for your generous offer, Nymphadora. I'm sure you'll find Harry no trouble at all. His trunk and owl will be arriving later today."
Harry felt a spurt of irritation at being spoken of as if he were five years old. No trouble at all. He scowled.
"Oh, my pleasure, Professor," Tonks said cheerfully. She gave Harry another bright smile that somehow reassured him that she didn't think of him as a child. Her eyes darted briefly to Lupin reading in his corner. "It'll take a bit of adjustment all around, but I'm sure we'll manage beautifully. Harry, you seem to grow so much in between times I see you, and I--"
Here she stopped and then darted forward to give Harry a tight, impulsive hug. It took him off guard, but as she continued to hold him, her cheek resting against his shoulder, he put his arms gingerly around her. The bones of her shoulder blades and spine felt sharp and fragile under his palms; it reminded him that she had been hurt quite badly at the battle at the Ministry.
He squeezed her back lightly, the hair from her ponytail tickling his chin, and was about to let go when she whispered in his ear, "You must miss him terribly. I'm so sorry."
Suddenly overcome with emotion, his eyes stung. He blinked rapidly and swallowed the lump that had risen in his throat. He nodded, unable to speak. Tonks pulled back then, and Harry saw that her own eyes were bright with unshed tears as well. Some lonely part of him--one he'd scarcely been aware of until now--missed the warmth of her body against his, and he had to resist the urge to draw her back for another hug.
Tonks grinned at him a little tremulously but said with determined optimism, "But he wouldn't have wanted us to mope. We'll have to have a drink some night in his memory, eh, Harry? That's what he would have wanted."
Harry nodded, but privately thought that what Sirius would have wanted most was to be alive. It wouldn't have been kind to say so, however; Tonks had only been trying to make him feel better. And strangely, he did feel a bit better. She was the first person since it happened to just hug him and say how sorry she was.
Tonks looked again at Remus, but she spoke to Harry. "His loss was a blow to all of us. It takes time." She rubbed her hand unconsciously along her forearm, and Harry noticed a series of deep bruises standing out against the pallor of her flesh. Still unhealed from the Ministry?
Before he could ask about them, Dumbledore interrupted by saying, "And now, I must leave you." He turned to Tonks and bowed slightly. "Again, I thank you for your generosity, Nymphadora. And you as well, Remus." Here Dumbledore paused until Lupin looked up from his book and gave a slight nod in acknowledgement. Dumbledore then turned to shake Harry's hand in farewell.
"I'm sure I could not be leaving Harry in more competent and caring hands." He patted Harry's shoulder paternally. "Harry. Until September."
And then, with a cordial wave, the old man Disapparated in a swish of emerald robes and white beard.
There was an awkward silence left in Dumbledore's wake. Harry looked again at the bruises on Tonks's arm and opened his mouth to ask how she was recovering from her battle injuries. Tonks noticed him looking and abruptly moved her arm behind her back. She gave him a look that very clearly said, Please don't ask.
She said with forced cheer, "Well, Harry, how about a cuppa while we're waiting for your trunk? Or something cool? Maybe that would go down better. An iced Butterbeer? Pumpkin juice"
Lupin stood and walked over to where the two of them were standing. He moved quite deliberately to interpose his own body between Harry and Tonks, with Tonks behind him and Harry in front of him. At close range Harry noticed that Remus looked more gaunt and tired than he remembered, and just as serious as ever.
Taken by surprise by Lupin's actions, Harry took a step back. For the first time, Lupin smiled a quite genuine smile of satisfaction. He took another step forward to crowd even closer to Harry, forcing Harry to step back again.
And again, Lupin smiled. He said to Tonks without turning around, "No, Dora. I think that Harry will probably want to go to his room now. Possibly a little nap before tea."
Harry opened his mouth to say, What? but instead, he looked at Tonks. Tonks gave him what was unmistakeably a pleading look over Lupin's shoulder. She said, "Yes, I'll show you your room, Harry. It's small, but I cleared out most of my rubbish, and I think--"
"No, Dora," Lupin repeated calmly. He gestured to his left and said, "Your room is through that door, next to our room Harry. We'll see you at tea time."
Harry looked from the door that Lupin was pointing at, to Lupin, whose face was inscrutable, to Tonks. Tonks gave him the tiniest of nods.
He recognized this dismissal for what it was now: a veiled threat. His experience coping with Uncle Vernon's bullying all these years counted for something, and Harry managed to say quite calmly, "Right, then. I'll just... have a lie down for a bit."
He walked to the indicated room, entered, and shut the door with care. When he heard the latch slip and lock behind him, magically, he sat heavily on the bed and wondered what the hell he'd got himself into now.