Warning: Wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling melodrama. So, um. Yeah. Just so you know. I needed to set up for future chapters. Eventually I hope to get to all that sex and violence I promised in this story's summary.

A "Saving People" Thing

Chapter 10. Truth and a Lie

"... and then she sort of sneered said, 'Well, you ought to have anticipated the transport problem if you were arresting someone accused of illegal Engorgement charms.' You know how bureaucrats are. They'll niggle over anything. So my partner told her that if she felt that way about it..."

From the moment she'd opened her eyes that morning--and calling it "morning" was in the nature of a courtesy, as the sun hadn't risen yet--Tonks had kept up a ceaseless flow of chatter as she went about what Harry assumed was her usual 5am routine. She'd jerked awake to some internal alarm clock, untangled herself from him with a somewhat abashed grin, and then bounded off the sofa, immediately launching into some tale about a Kneazle she'd had as a child that used to shed all over her duvet.

In between then and now he'd been treated to information about her dad's prize roses, her first detention at Hogwarts, and the best way to get doxies out of drapes. She was only trying to smooth over any awkwardness after last night, Harry supposed, and he probably should have been grateful that she wasn't showing off her pig nose or something, but it was beginning to set his teeth on edge.

He'd tried once or twice to break in on her wittering, because they had a few important things to discuss before she left for work. Awkward as it might be to do so, he wanted to talk over the situation with Lupin and to ask about the results of her meeting yesterday with Moody. Had Moody managed to make her see any sense? Did she even know about Lupin's arrest? And Harry still hadn't had a chance to mention his upcoming meeting with Scrimgeour or even the fact that he was moving out of the flat today.

But Harry wasn't a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, and he was no match at this ungodly hour for a determinedly chipper Tonks. So instead, he'd half tuned her out and let his mind turn rather dozily to his upcoming meeting with Scrimgeour.

Moody had said that either he or Dumbledore would be accompanying Harry to the Ministry this morning. Harry's initial enthusiasm for a meeting with the Minister of Magic had faded a bit during the night. He still wanted to get some questions answered and possibly even wring some concessions out of the man, but he felt more than a little nervous about it now.

Harry found himself hoping it would be Moody who came with him; that was a strange feeling after so many years of craving more time and attention from Dumbledore. But aside from anything else, Harry wanted to know more about that opportunity which he thought Harry "might like". Harry appreciated how Moody's words had made it clear that his "proposal" was an actual choice being offered. That wasn't something Harry would have expected from the order-barking ex-Auror he thought he'd known.

It was odd how only a few short weeks should have altered his opinions about so many people. There was Lupin, whose aloof, polite manner masked anger and hatred. Tonks, whose cheerful optimism hid motivations so unlikely they were almost unfathomable. And Moody. Harry had always held the man in a sort of wary esteem; but until yesterday, it had been strongly overlaid with a belief that he was also a bit of a joke: a shell-shocked former Auror who took his paranoia to an unhealthy extreme.

And then Dumbledore. Would the headmaster ever bring himself to be completely candid with--

"... called me every name in the book and then some," Tonks was saying brightly as she passed him heading towards the kitchen.

Harry tuned back in again.

"Uh, who did?" he asked.

She stopped, seemingly surprised to get any response after at least fifteen minutes of monologue. "Hm? Mad-Eye. You know how he is about wand safety. It was only my first day of training. How could I have known that tucking my wand behind my ear would be like a red flag to a bull?"

"So he was upset with you?" Harry asked, rising from the sofa and stepping closer to Tonks. He casually placed himself between her and the kitchen.

"Yeah, 'course he was," she said impatiently, repeating, "You know how he is."

She made to step around him, but he detained her with a hand on her arm. "How about yesterday? When you two met. What happened then?"

She shook off his touch and moved past him, muttering, "He chewed me up and spit me out is what happened. Which I'm sure you'll be very happy to hear. Isn't that what you intended when you ran off to him in the first place?"

He ignored the last question as well as its resentful tone, responding mildly, "I didn't get the idea that he was angry with you when I talked with him earlier."

"You wouldn't have." She lifted the teakettle from the cooktop and began filling it with water. "It isn't his way to criticize one member of his team to another. It's when he gets you alone that you have to watch out."

"Oh?" Harry thought about this. "Not that I'm part of his 'team', but I can see his point in--"

"That's where you're wrong, Harry." Tonks gave him a quick, assessing look. "You are. Don't know how you managed to get him on side so fast, but you did." She smirked, adding, "And once you're in, there's no escaping."

She set the teakettle back down on the hob and lit a flame beneath it with a quick double-tap of her wand before continuing briskly, "But you're in good company, even if I say it myself. There's me, Kingsley, Robards, at least a dozen others, even old Scrimmie. The ones Mad-Eye took a special interest in when he was teaching. And he still treats the lot of us like wet-behind-the-ears trainees."

She shook her head affectionately. "Should have heard him laying into Robards at the Ministry yesterday."

She stepped away from the stove. "So, yeah. He wouldn't criticize me to you, or vice versa, I might add. S'pose he fed you some rubbish about it taking all kinds to make a team, or everyone makes mistakes, or another of his bro--" Tonks broke off with a small gasp as she opened the icebox. "Oh, for Merlin's--"

"What is it?" Concerned, Harry crossed around the worktop and came into the kitchen. Tonks was staring into the icebox in consternation.

"Huh?" She glanced up at him before returning her dismayed gaze to the food. "Oh. Just Mad-Eye. Barmy old-- You let him drag you into Tesco's yesterday, didn't you? He loves that place. Any excuse to buy Muggle food, though he claims it's only because no Dark wizard has ever set foot in one..."

She pulled out a jar of Marmite and tossed it to Harry. "Bin it, will you?"

Harry did as requested. Tonks reached in again and came out with a large courgette which she handed behind her without comment. He added it to the reject pile.

"What the--? And just what do you call this?" She emerged holding up a sealed cellophane bag between a disdainful thumb and forefinger.

Harry looked at the chopped green leaves inside it. "Er. Salad?" Harry suggested.

"In a bag?" Tonks shuddered dramatically. "What will Muggles think of next?" She pitched it towards the bin, where it joined the Marmite and courgette.

"Right," she said, turning back to the icebox. "I think that's the lot. You couldn't have made a bit more effort and talked him into a few sausage rolls or something? But at least we've got bread--" Out came the loaf. "And eggs," The eggs were handed over. "And butter. Reckon that should do us."

Tonks toasted bread with a flame from her wand tip while Harry cracked eggs into the frying pan. She'd managed to deflect the conversation yet again, but Harry was awake enough now to push back. As they cooked, Harry prodded her for more information about Moody and her meeting yesterday.

Tonks gave him sidelong look, frowned, and then said stiffly. "I wish... I wish you'd warned me you were going to tell him, Harry. About Remus. I'd much rather have done it myself, because he got rather the wrong impression of what happened that night."

Privately, Harry doubted that, but he only said, "I felt I had to, Tonks."

"Well, all the same, I'm quite--" She huffed and turned slightly way from him. She turned the bread slice over and watched it brown for a moment. Then she said with forced cheerfulness, "He approves of you. Mad-Eye, I mean. Did you know that, Harry?"

"That wasn't the impression I got yesterday when we talked about Lupin. The opposite, to be honest."

"Ah. So he did he give you that 'even you might make a mistake someday, so get over it' malarkey?

"Uh huh. Something like that," Harry admitted.

"Don't let that mislead you. He isn't nearly as easygoing about people buggering things up as all that. Yesterday I met him during both of my meal breaks at the Leaky Cauldron. Tom let us use his back room-- that one they sometimes use for Gobstones tournaments. Mad-Eye stumped around the carpet--you know how he does?--fumed, shouted, made highly disparaging remarks about Hufflepuffs, called my judgment into question, and all but accused me of harboring a traitor. That'd be Remus, in case you were wondering. Did everything but froth at the mouth, in short."

She buttered the toast with a few slapdash swipes of her knife, and went on, "You know that saying about someone whose bark is worse than his bite?"

He nodded.

"They weren't talking about Mad-Eye."

She tossed the toast onto Harry's plate with more force than was strictly necessary.

Reaching for another slice, she went on, "No, he's not one for letting go of mistakes, so don't let his little speeches fool you. All it means is that you're not to go around blaming anyone else on the team. Only he's allowed to do that. The rest of us stay focused on task, you know? No recriminations. No second guessing."

She was quiet for along while and made a show of concentrating on the bread, and then said, "Oh, and Harry?"

"Yeah?" He looked up to see her giving him a lopsided smile that dimpled her cheek.

"One small piece of advice for handling Mad-Eye? Anytime he says, 'Let me tell you a little story about my mam and dad...' You turn and head the other way as quick as you can, right?"

Harry couldn't hold back a slight grin at that.

"Laugh now," Tonks said airily. "You'll thank me later." She picked up the teakettle as it began whistling and set about making tea.

It was hard to keep Tonks on topic, intent as she was on maintaining a light tone and avoiding anything that might be called an issue.

He slid the eggs onto plates and prompted again, "And? When you met with him, Mad-Eye said what about Lupin, exactly...?"

But instead of replying, Tonks set their tea on a tray and carried it to the dining table. Harry followed with the plates.

When they'd begun to eat, she remarked with careful casualness, "Remus was caught and arrested yesterday morning at Emmeline's. Did you hear that?"

Harry grunted noncommittally as he shoveled a forkful of egg into his mouth.

When he didn't say anything more, Tonks went on pointedly, "A bad case of being in a very wrong place at a very wrong time, wouldn't you say, Harry? The Ministry doesn't make things easy for werewolves. Ever. Guilty until proven innocent, that kind of thing. So no one in MLE is going to be overly fussed about sorting it out. Makes 'em look good to have someone in custody so quickly. And you know what I can't help thinking?"

Again she paused, and again Harry didn't answer, so she continued, "I keep thinking that Remus wouldn't be in that situation if I hadn't been forced to send him away that night because of what you-- what he-- Because you're both completely--"

She stopped herself with what looked like an effort. She took a slow breath and started again, "If things had gone differently, Harry, as they would have done if you'd left me to handle it that night, Remus wouldn't be in a Ministry cage right now."

Harry busied himself pouring tea from the pot and didn't answer. He was determined not to lose his temper no matter what idiotic thing she said. It was an odd feeling to like someone so much and to be utterly exasperated at the same time.

Tonks stabbed at her eggs with her fork and went on, "I heard one of the investigators roughed him up before they brought him in, too. They don't normally do that, but I suppose it was when they found out he was a werewolf."

Harry didn't think now was the time to tell Tonks exactly what had happened with that. If there was ever going to be a time.

"Oh," he said without pretending sympathy, "What's going to happen to him, then?"

"You mean, what's going to happen to him instead of starting a new job and a new life? Instead of being self-sufficient and maybe even happy? Instead of having everything that Sirius would have wanted for him?"

"Tonks." He was gritting his teeth this time. He deliberately relaxed, reminding himself of the complete futility of debating with her.

She glared at him, as if daring him to disagree. When he didn't, she looked away, sighed, and took a gulp of tea. Setting the cup down with a decided clink against the saucer, she said, "Well. Since you ask... Mad-Eye's calling in a few favors. Dropping a few names. The end result of which is that for the foreseeable future, Remus's home is that cage they put him in for the full moon. That is, unless he's gets even luckier, and they move him to the regular Ministry lock-up. I'm sure the other detainees would love having a werewolf for a cellmate."

"But they can't keep him forever," Harry pointed out. Hesitating, he added, "Unless he's guilty."

Tonks gaped at Harry as if he'd suddenly grown a second head. "Guilty? Of Emmeline's murder, d'you mean? You must be-- Why would he-- That's ridiculous! They haven't established time of death yet, but it was probably late that evening, when Remus was-- when I... Well, when I could alibi him."

She picked up her teacup again and turned it nervously in her hands. "Not that I'll be allowed to. Mad-Eye says that Dumbledore's going to arrange something. He doesn't want my name associated with either Emmeline or Remus. It puts the secrecy of the Order at too much risk. Some people already know that Mad-Eye's been friends with Emmeline since their Hogwarts days, and that he used to work with me in the Auror Office. And now that Remus has been found at Emmeline's... we don't want any more connections drawn between the lot of us."

Harry wasn't particularly concerned about how Lupin's alibi would be handled or not handled, except that it implied his impending release.

"If it turns out he isn't guilty, then they won't be able to keep holding him, will they?" he asked. A sudden thought occurred to him. "Tonks, you'd never let him come back here, would you?"

She ran a finger over the rim of her cup and didn't meet his eye. "Not with you here, Harry. But I expect Dumbledore will have you out of the flat as quick as may be with what's happened. I'd start packing if I were you."

"Er. Yeah," Harry mumbled, picturing his already fully packed trunk before returning to his original point. "But I mean, they could let Lupin go at any time. Couldn't they? It's not like Mad-Eye's actually calling the shots at the Ministry and can keep him locked up indefinitely."

Tonks snorted. "You'd be surprised. Never fear, Harry. Given his contacts, my guess is that Mad-Eye will have no trouble keeping Remus right where he is until Dumbledore comes up with a new Order assignment for him. An assignment that Mad-Eye approves of, I should have said, which means something that's far, far away from you."

"Me? Don't you mean far away from you?"

"You think this is about me?" Tonks raised her eyebrows. "That Mad-Eye or Dumbledore gives a toss about my screwed up relationship with Remus, or why I'm trying to help him, or anything that might honor Sirius's memory?"

She shook her head and huffed out a breath in disbelief. "This is about you, Harry, the one we're all supposed to be protecting. And thanks to that incredibly skewed tale you told Mad-Eye--"

"I told the truth--"

"Harry, Remus was never a danger to you!" Tonks cut in vehemently. "And now Mad-Eye, and I've no doubt Dumbledore as well, are convinced that he's the next thing to a traitor or even a murderer because of that story you told."

"It was not a story!" Harry dropped his fork onto his plate and pushed his chair back.

"He would never have touched you if you hadn't hit him first," Tonks countered hotly. "You could have killed him! And even after that he only Stupified you--"

"It wasn't only Stu--"

"And after I warned you--"

"I had to do it, Tonks," Harry protested, raising his voice. "He would've--"

"You have no idea what he would have done," Tonks interrupted. She seemed to realize that she'd been shouting, because she went on in a tightly controlled voice, "It didn't occur to you, Harry, that maybe, just possibly, I might know Remus a bit better than you do? That I might have known what I was doing? He would never have touched you if you hadn't attacked him first."

"But he would've hurt you!"

"You're the one we're protecting, Harry," Tonks returned, spacing out her words with deliberate emphasis. "And I didn't ask for your help. Quite the opposite. Try to get that through your--"

"Don't talk to me like that. I'm not just some kid who--"

"I'm not talking to you like you're a kid. I'm talking to you like you're a fucking idiot. Which you were! You just made things worse, can't you see that? I know how to deal with him. If you'd only let me handle it for one more day--"

"But you weren't handling it. Tonks, I care about you, I didn't want--"

There was the sudden sound of tapping at the window pane, and Harry turned to see a large tawny owl bearing a Daily Prophet. Tonks rose abruptly from her chair and unwarded the window, opening it to let in the owl. She took the newspaper, fished in her pocket for coins, and then watched the bird fly away.

Before she could close the window, another, smaller owl appeared. This one had a scroll of parchment attached to its leg. Tonks took it, absently handed the bird a crust of toast, and then secured the window as the second owl departed. She unrolled the paper and read, her brow furrowing.

When she was finished, she vanished the letter and offered Harry a tight smile. "Dumbledore. He'll be here soon. It's you he wants, but he asks if I'll 'be so kind as to stay' until he arrives."

She frowned and sat down again. Harry watched as she pushed her eggs around the plate moodily and then asked, "You don't want to see him?"

She gave a short laugh. "I'd have liked to avoid it for a while, yeah. Because he'll certainly want to read me any part of the riot act that Mad-Eye might have missed yesterday. Although I expect he won't do it in front of you, and at least he doesn't raise his voice."

She ate some eggs, took a bite of toast, and then mused, "You know... My mum and dad used to have a little spotted owl like that one. Did I ever tell you about the time Mum sent me a Howler--"

"Tonks. Please." This time he didn't keep the note exasperation out of his voice.

She grimaced apologetically. "Sorry. I- I just don't want to-- I hate arguments, Harry, especially with you. Can we... Can't we forget about this?"

"No, we can't. At least, I don't think I can. There are things I need to get straight in my head about this. And if Professor Dumbledore will be here soon, wouldn't it be best to get some of it settled before he gets here?"

She gave him a look that emphatically answered, No.

He tried again. "How about... Listen, no arguments, alright? How about if you just tell me one thing that you want me to understand, and I tell you one thing. And... And we promise not to actually yell at each other this time?"

Tonks bit at her thumbnail and regarded him from under her lime-green fringe. Then she said, "Me, first?"

Harry nodded.

She looked down, dabbing thoughtfully at an egg stain on her t-shirt, another Weird Sisters--she seemed to have an inexhaustible stock of them.

With her head still bent, she said, "The mess everything is in now, it's because you wouldn't leave me to handle it, even though I asked. And also that you don't understand how much Sirius would've wanted someone to get Remus on some kind of- of even footing again..."

He began impatiently, "You've said that before, but Sirius would never have wanted--"

Tonks cut him off. "You haven't the slightest clue what Sirius would have wanted. Don't pretend you knew him."

She stopped when she saw Harry's expression. Reaching across the table, she lay her hand on top of his. "I'm sorry to say that, Harry, but it's-- you know it's true. You may have loved him, but I was the one who saw him almost every day for that year at Grimmauld Place. I was the one who spent all those evenings with Sirius and Remus. Because Remus was always there as well, you know. Or did you?"

She squeezed his hand and drew back. Harry didn't know what to say. It was probably true that Tonks had known Sirius better, but... Tonks poured more tea in his cup and pushed it into his hands. She waited until he'd sipped some before going on.

"Theirs was... a very complex friendship, Harry. They went way back, you know? Through a lot of shared history. Hogwarts. Remus's lycanthropy. Sirius's break with his family. Some problem the two of them had with Snape, I don't know the details. The first war. Lost friends and comrades. And then Azkaban, of course. Dependence and obligations on both sides. Guilt, too, I think, because both of them suspected the other of being a traitor at some point."

Harry shifted restlessly. "Is this... I don't mean to be rude, but is this getting us somewhere? Because even if I accept that you knew Sirius or Lupin better than I do--"

"What I'm trying to get across is this: It wasn't just Remus sponging off of Sirius. Not remotely. He helped Sirius through a hundred bad nights, spent hour upon hour sitting with him in that bloody kitchen listening to him talk about you, or James, or Lily--which must have been torture for Remus, I see now, considering his feelings about you--and trying his best to keep Sirius from drinking himself into an early grave. Don't assume you know what Sirius would have wanted for Remus."

With an effort, Harry pulled himself away from the image of his godfather and a large bottle of firewhisky. "But... Alright. But why does the person helping Lupin have to be you, Tonks?"

"Who else is going to? Do you think Remus has a lot of friends? Even in the Order, he's-- Well, most people are nervous around werewolves, even if they're not outright hostile. And anyway..." Tonks deliberated. "I don't know if I can make you see this, Harry, but I'll try."

She bit at her lips for a moment, and then asked, "Did you know that Remus saved Sirius's life once, in the first war?"

Harry shook his head, since Tonks seemed to expect it.

"Well, he did. And, of course, you managed to saved Sirius's life a few years ago yourself, didn't you? With the Dementors?"

Harry nodded this time. And waited. And wondered what she was getting at.

Finally, Tonks said, "But not me. You see, that's the point. I had the opportunity, but I... I didn't take it." In a hard voice, she added, "My aunt, Bellatrix. If I'd taken down that bitch at the Ministry when I had the chance--and I did have the chance--everything would've been different, because then..."

Then Sirius wouldn't be dead, Harry finished.

There it was, all laid out in a way that couldn't have been plainer: She had failed to save Sirius at the Department of Mysteries, so she planned to atone for it by saving Lupin instead. Because, as she'd said once before, the only thing Sirius had ever asked of her was to keep an eye on Remus for him.

In a way, it was completely mental. Or maybe not completely. The idea rested on its own shaky branch of logic. Possibly, Harry thought wryly, a branch of logic that only another person with a "saving people thing" would even recognize.

"Right," Harry heard himself say. "Um. Yeah. I see that." The word "but" was on the tip of his tongue, but he managed to keep it there.

Tonks shrugged briefly and stood, reaching to gather the breakfast dishes from the table. As she took them into the kitchen, she said without enthusiasm, "I suppose it's your turn now, Harry."

She dumped the plates with a careless clatter into the sink and put her hand on the tap, waiting. "You want to tell me something I need to understand?"

"I-- yeah, I do." Harry got up from the table and joined her in the kitchen. She had the water running and was shooting a spray of soapy bubbles onto the plates with her wand.

"Mine's more of a question." He picked up a tea towel for drying the plates and unfolded it. "I want to know what happened after Lupin knocked me out that night."

Tonks kept her attention on the dishes. After a moment, she said, "That wasn't part of the agreement, Harry."

"Well, I could be more specific, if that would help." Harry felt the anger he'd been suppressing since that night come slipping back. He made an effort to keep his voice calm as he continued. "What I'd really like to figure out is why I ended up unconscious on my floor while you and Lupin apparently enjoyed a comfortable night in bed. I mean, after all this lip service you've been paying to protecting me and all."

He hadn't meant to come out with quite so much hostility, but it seemed to get the meaning across.

Tonks narrowed her eyes in puzzlement. "You-- Harry, I'm sorry I couldn't check on you right away, if that's what you're getting at. It was-- well, a question of my not being able to deal with everything at once. You can see that, I'm sure. Remus was-- after what you did, how could you expect... But as soon as--" She blew out her breath in frustration. "I mean, it wasn't as if it was all night, not even remotely. But you must know that already."

Now it was Harry's turn to be confused. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Were you still unconscious?" she asked. "Is that it? I had the impression you were awake."

"What? Awake when?"

"When Remus got you into bed that night. I didn't-- Neither of us wanted anything to happen to you, Harry. He saw how worried I was." She gave an uncomfortable laugh. "Going spare, more like. I was-- We were both concerned. He wasn't angry anymore--he never stays angry for long, you know that--and when I wanted to go to you, he told me he'd do it. And I..."

She seemed at a loss for words for a moment. "Um. It seemed better to let him go ahead, as he wanted to. He offered, and I thought, 'Well, why risk antagonizing him again,' so..."

She trailed off as Harry was shaking his head.

"That isn't what happened, Tonks."

"You're angry that it was him and not me? Is that it? And he didn't stay all night. I told you already, I sent him away. Because even though he said you only had a bit of a bump, it was obvious that the arrangement with all three of us here wasn't going to--"

"Tonks. Stop." Harry thought about how to put this so that it would get through to her. "He didn't do that. He didn't put me in bed. He didn't do anything."

"You wouldn't remember if you were still unconscious. Obviously. But as you ended up in your bed, how else--"

"No. That isn't what I'm saying. I was on the floor all night. I woke up in the morning on the floor."

She stared at him, the plate in her hand forgotten as it dripped into the sink. She bit her lip nervously. "Did you-- You must've... fallen out of bed or... something?" she suggested in a barely audible voice.


Tonks suddenly flushed red to the roots of her hair. She looked down at the plate she was holding and finished rinsing it with deliberate thoroughness. Rinsed it several times over, in fact. And then, without warning, she lifted it and smashed it back into the sink, where it shattered with a earsplitting crash. She pivoted sharply so that her back was to Harry and took a few steps away. Her damp hands clenched spasmodically at her sides.

With a quick glance at the thousand shards in the sink, he took a step towards her. "Um. Tonks?"

She spun around to face him, and the expression on her face was hard to interpret. She might have been angry, or shocked, or embarrassed, or confused, or some combination. She wiped her hands unconsciously on her jeans.

"Harry, I--" She swallowed once. And then again. "I never... I'll--"

She looked away from his face, as if unable to meet his eyes any longer, her chest rising and falling under rapid, shallow breaths. Her gaze shifted to his neck, his shoulders, his chest, and then she focused on the hand holding the tea towel.

"What...?" Tonks moved forward as if automatically and reached out to take hold of his hand. Lifting it between them, she traced a finger over the still-raw scrape across his knuckles. Her eyebrows contracted.

"When did you--?" She closed her mouth abruptly and comprehension dawned on her face. Dropping his hand as if she'd been burnt by it, she took a pace backwards and put her hand to her mouth. Her face had gone white except for two spots of color on her cheekbones.

What she would have said or done, Harry didn't find out. At that moment, a sharp rap sounded from the door.

Tonks cursed under her breath and raked her fingers through her hair so that the short green spikes stuck out in all directions. With a quick look at Harry, she walked to the door and stood aside from it.

Drawing her wand, she called out, "Who is it?"

"It is I, Albus Dumbledore, who once gave you detention for imitating Professor Trelawney rather too accurately at the Yule Ball."

There was a pause. Tonks asked, "And do you want to set me a security question as well, sir?"

"I shall risk the danger, Nymphadora."

Tonks waved her wand in a comprehensive motion to remove the wards. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and stood back to allow Dumbledore to enter. He stepped in with a sweep of purple robes and offered a courteous smile to both Tonks and Harry.

"Wotcher, Professor," Tonks said with slightly forced good cheer.

"Good morning, Nymphadora," Dumbledore replied, bowing. If he noticed anything amiss in her greeting, his usual courtly manners didn't betray it. "Thank you for permitting me to call on you at this early hour."

"And Harry," added Dumbledore, turning to him. "I am pleased to see that you are already up and about."

"Hello, sir," he said.

"I require a brief conference with Nymphadora, but after that I was hoping to prevail upon you to accompany me for a few hours before your appointment at the Ministry."

At the mention of the Ministry, Tonks shot Harry a questioning glance, but remained silent.

Dumbledore regarded Harry benevolently. "I understand you have had an eventful few days, Harry. But now, if you would be so kind, I desire to speak with Nymphadora privately."

The headmaster couldn't have anticipated the effect his words would have, but the idea of Harry being banished from the room resonated strongly with the other two people present. Tonks, in fact, appeared almost horror-stricken.

"Oh! No. No, Professor," Tonks interposed. "That's all right, I--" Her eyes flickered to Harry. "Harry can stay here."

Clearly puzzled, Dumbledore responded, "Of course. If you prefer him to remain--"

"No! I mean, I did want to speak with you privately as well. But... Would you mind coming into my room?" Tonks asked sheepishly. And then repeated, "Harry can stay here."

Dumbledore raised his eyebrows a trifle at this presumably rare invitation accompany a young lady into her bedroom, but merely said, "As you wish, my dear."

He followed her out.

Through the closed door, Harry could just make out Tonks's agitated voice. She left only rare pauses for Dumbledore's responses, which Harry couldn't hear at all. And then, all at once, everything went silent. One of them had cast a Silencing charm, Harry decided. He wondered, smiling a little, whether Dumbledore would be able to get a word in edgewise, if he intended, as Tonks had predicted, to read her the riot act.

Although Harry appreciated Tonks's intentions in leaving him in the living room, he felt somewhat awkward waiting for them. He sat on the sofa and pulled his notes about Scrimgeour from his pocket, trying to read them over. Everything that had sounded so brilliant last night now filled him with doubt.

He wasn't given much time to worry over it, however. Within ten minutes, Dumbledore and Tonks were returning to the room: Dumbledore with his usual imperturbable calm, and Tonks looking anything but, judging from the tense set of her shoulders. Her hair stood up in even more finger-raked disarray than before.

The headmaster was saying, "... I don't think Alastor will object, if only because it would appeal to his sense of humor. You're sure it's what you want to do?"

Tonks glanced at Harry and then looked away again. In the brief moment when their eyes met, Harry again had the impression of a welter of emotions in her without knowing how to interpret them.

"It is," Tonks replied tersely. "Thanks, Professor. I need to be going now. I'm a bit late." She walked to the corner and reached for her boots.

Dumbledore turned and addressed himself to Harry. "I understand that Alastor has spoken at length with the Messrs Weasley at their emporium yesterday. And that it is your intention to live with them until school starts, beginning immediately."

Harry nodded, guiltily wondering if that was actually Tonks's gaze he felt boring into his back or if he were just imagining it. He really ought to have found the time to mention it to her.

"Are you packed and ready to depart?" Dumbledore asked him.

"Yes, sir."

The old man looked over Harry's shoulder to Tonks, saying, "Nymphadora, may I trouble you to arrange the transport of Harry's belongings to Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes today?"

Tonks presumably nodded, because Dumbledore said, "Come along, then, Harry." He turned and led Harry to the door.

As the old man's hand touched the knob, Tonks called out, "Wait, Professor."

Harry turned to see Tonks coming towards them, her wand drawn. She approached Harry almost warily. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes bright. She took his hand in hers, turned it over to reveal his injury. Tapping it lightly with her wand, she healed him. After a brief scrutiny at the new pink skin, she gave his hand a squeeze and let him go.

Lifting her hands on his shoulders, she gave him a focused look that seemed intended to convey everything she hadn't had a chance to say before Dumbledore arrived. Harry didn't need Legilimancy to see that part of it was a heartfelt apology.

She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. "Goodbye, Harry. Take care of yourself."

Coming next: Dumbledore, Slughorn, Scrimgeour, Robards, Moody, and a cast of thousands, many of them red shirts. I think.