The One With Dark Dreams and Darker Offers

August 24, 1996

The crash of shattering glass invaded his ears. "Who's there?" A voice called out shakily. Even in the dark, Harry recognized the sound by its gruff quality to be Vernon Dursley. "I've got a gun, you know!" More sounds of disarray could be heard before all noises ceased. A few moments of silence followed by the shuffle of footsteps were punctuated by a scream. "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!"

A second scream, feminine in nature this time, immediately followed the command. Whimpering could be heard. Now the noises of an incessantly barking dog were added to the chaos. "Vernon!" The thud of a body collapsing impacted like a clap of thunder through the stillness of the air.

Harry tried to make sense of it all, but was having a difficult time managing; it was pitch black, so he couldn't see anything; his body wasn't reacting to his brain's command, and, thus he couldn't make a move to get closer to the sounds; lastly, and this was the most disturbing of all, Harry was positive that what he was hearing was quite impossible – they were dead. He saw their caskets just yesterday. Where was he? What was going on?

"Idiot muggle. Did you really think your little toy would work against us," a man's silky voice filled the air. His question was punctuated by the sound of exertion in his voice, as if he were in the midst of engaging in an unseen activity.

"Enough, Antonin," another male commanded, though with a hint of amusement underscoring his tone. "You'll bleed him dry before we get the chance to leave our mark. Save some of his filthy, muggle blood for the message."

"I thought we were saving the other fat one for that."

"What does it matter," a woman's voice replied impatiently, "let's just get on with it!"

"Fine, Simone, we'll do it your way," Antonin said, "But you always take the fun out of these missions."

"You can have your fun later," she snapped, "the Dark Lord wants this completed, no excuses, and I, for one, do not want to incur the wrath that He saves for those who fail him."

"Oh, very well, then," he conceded.

"Shut UP, you mangy beast!" Ripper's barks, the only other sounds now, ceased midstream, ending with a piercing yelp.

Darkness swirled around Harry, and, suddenly, he was face-to-face with the masked man who had just spoken. They were occupying the master bedroom in Privet Drive, an area of the house that Harry seldom visited. His immediate reaction to was take the defensive, but he quickly realized that no one seemed to be aware of his presence, nor could they be blamed for it. It was as if he was given an up-close and personal view of the proceeding through a television screen, with no control over what he was being shown, as he was not physically present.

But what he saw was horrifying, to say the least. The mangled body of his uncle was on the ground near the foot of the bed, barely recognizable through his blood-soaked clothing. His shotgun lay useless beside him. Petunia, Dudley, and Marge were all bound and gagged, also on the floor, mere meters away, staring with equal horror, fear, and revulsion in their eyes. Ripper's body looked haphazardly thrown against the far wall, entrails exposed for all to see. Marge stared on at the body of her beloved pet with wide-eyed grief, tears streaming. Dudley, shaking uncontrollably at this point, began whimpering again in earnest, though the boy seemed unaware of the noises emitting from this throat.

"Take that pathetic boy downstairs before he wets himself, Xavier," Simone said. "Paint the walls with him, just as the Dark Lord instructed." The man levitated Harry's cousin out of the room with a wave of his wand, Petunia struggling violently against her bindings at this action. The movement earned her a swift kick to the gut from the female death eater.

Petunia, somehow, managed to free her mouth from the gag, and let out a cry of pain. "Please," she wheezed, "Please, I'll give you anything you want, please. Just don't hurt Dudley."

"Tell us where Potter is," Dolohov spat.

She paled even further. "I, I don't know wh-where he is, I swear," Petunia stuttered, "they took him away."

"Then you are of no use to us, you foul wretch," Simone retorted, staring at the woman as if she were gazing upon a lowly creature, unworthy of her attention. Harry heard no more of the conversation, as the images before him began swirling in a haze, seconds away from disappearing altogether, but not before he was left with the sickening vision of his aunt being slashed into pieces.

A brief interlude of the darkness that Harry had just cursed was, now, wholeheartedly welcome by him. He was more than content with being wrapped up in its emptiness forever, if it meant he never had to see another image of his relatives' death again. However, fate was much too unkind for such happenings. The darkness was still there, except, now, he was standing within it, rather than viewing it from a distance. Harry looked down and saw that he was back in his own body once more, though he didn't know if he was supposed to be relieved at the fact or not. Either way, he didn't have the luxury of pondering such thoughts, as he was distracted by the air in front of him as it began undulating, the misty outline of a figure appearing slowly out of the void.

As the wispy silhouette began to materialize, Harry tensed. He knew whom it resembled, and he was equally aware of how impossible it was for Him to materialize. But, then again, it seemed as though impossibilities were fast becoming the theme of the events playing out before him, as of late. Seconds later, the fully formed figure of Tom Riddle as Harry remembered him from the Chamber of Secrets appeared before the teenager. Instinctively, he reached for his wand.

"Good evening, Harry Potter." The face didn't match the voice. Tom Riddle, in all his youthfulness, had a pleasantly baritone voice; Harry could never forget the way that deceiving tone lulled him into a false sense of security, all the while, attempting to murder his best friend's sister a short distance away. But this Tom Riddle, the one with the same charming appearance, possessed frighteningly blood-red eyes along with a tone of voice that had a high-pitched, manic quality to it. It was the voice of Voldemort after his resurrection, the Voldemort of the Department of Mysteries. The Voldemort from his most terrifying nightmares.

Harry willed his throat to make a noise, but he found that it wouldn't. Riddle spoke again, unperturbed by the other boy's silence. "Did you enjoy the memory my followers provided for me? I thought you would be pleased to see the work that went into my gift to you."

"Your gift to me?" he was able to choke out. "Killing my relatives? That's your idea of a gift?"

"Of course it was," he replied smoothly. "Did you forget that our minds are linked, Harry Potter? That I have access to every single one of your thoughts and memories? I have seen every beating you have endured, felt every night you starved alone, heard every taunt your useless cousin has ever thrown at you. I thought you would appreciate what I have done. We are not so different, you know. We have both overcome many a great obstacle to become what we are today."

"I am nothing like you," Harry said vehemently.

"No?" Riddle asked, amused. "You sound quite sure of yourself, Harry. Tell me, how saddened were you when you learned of their deaths? Do you dare claim that you have shed tears at the loss?" Harry felt sick. He didn't cry for them, no, but neither did he revel in their deaths. But could he really be blamed for not being more emotional? Did his apathy make him like Voldemort?

"That doesn't mean anything," Harry asserted. "I didn't want them dead. You killed them, remorselessly, for your own sadistic pleasure."

Tom Riddle laughed. It came across as a cackle. "Oh, no, Harry. Not for my own pleasure. Believe me, it was simply a means to an end. I wanted you to have a glimpse at how the other half lives. I can offer things to you that are beyond your wildest imagination, things you cannot even begin to dream of. Anything you want, you need only command it, and it will be yours. There is no shame in retribution. But perhaps I misjudged you. Perhaps this was not the best way to show you an example of my kindness."

Harry stared at the young image of Voldemort in front of him, sheer loathing in his eyes. "No, I'd say murdering people I know isn't the best way to win me over, Tom."

Voldemort's stance, previously exuding ease, immediately went rigid. "You will not call me by my filthy given name. I am Lord Voldemort, now and forever."

The pieces of the puzzle, jumbled until this point, finally fell into place for Harry. "This is a dream, isn't it? You're here, looking like you did in your prime, like an actual human being, because that's how you want me to see you right now. This isn't real."

"Very good, Harry Potter. We are indeed in your dream. However, do not be so quick to write this encounter off; this is, indeed, very real, with very real world consequences, if I so choose. Once I realized you were clumsily entering my mind without even an understanding of the art, I rectified the situation. We are here, again, by my choosing. I was curious to see how you reacted to my good will, especially since my followers failed to bring you in before me. This was the next best option, I suppose."

"Maybe you should invest in more competent followers, then, seeing as how half of them are locked up and the ones you sent couldn't even hold up against a sixteen year old and his companions." He was goading the man. Now that he realized it was only a dream, his courage returned to him.

"Do not flatter yourself, boy," Voldemort replied sharply. "I sent my lowest level initiates on that mission; you were not to be harmed. Clearly they failed. As I do not reward failure, you should inform your friends in the ministry to take care of them, because if they return to me, I will kill them myself."

"Amycus Carrow is hardly a simple initiate. He's in your inner circle, Riddle."

The Dark Lord glowered. "Amycus is the exception. He allowed himself to get distracted and will pay dearly for his misstep. But we are straying from the topic at hand, Harry Potter."

"And what would that topic be, exactly? I still don't know why you've called me here."

"We are discussing my generosity, Harry. And you have been rude, my boy, not even stopping to thank me for my troubles." Harry opened his mouth to interrupt, ready with a snarky comment, but Voldemort cut off his rebuttal, "however, as I have discovered, that fool, Dumbledore, has done more damage to you than I originally thought; he has made you soft. Made it so that you cannot even enact justice on those who have wronged you. We will have to work on that. However, I anticipated this issue, and planned accordingly; I will grant you one more act of kindness. I am in a good mood tonight, after all. Perhaps this will make you understand." The darkness around them swirled once more and Harry was suddenly immersed in a new surrounding. The entire experience was not unlike that of a pensieve memory.

The room was made entirely of stone, with high ceilings, a large rug covering the ground, and a hearth at one end of the room, its fire the only source of light for its occupants. Standing near the two unseen observers were five figures facing the distinctly recognizable form of Voldemort, as he was supposed to be – inhumanely snakelike, and coldly imposing. All traces of the boy he once was were gone. Harry looked between the Tom Riddle of the past and the one of his present day with morbid fascination, in disbelief that they were one in the same.

"It is done, my lord," a man amongst the group spoke.

"Excellent, Yaxley," Voldemort surveyed the group. "Where is Gibbon?"

Another figure hesitantly answered, "Captured, my lord. Amelia Bones incapacitated him."

"Then he was a weak fool. A waste of time. Robinson." The man he addressed stepped forward, bowing low. "Were you successful in your task?"

He replied straightaway, "Yes, my lord. The girls will transform with the coming of the next moon."

"You have done well, Robinson," he said approvingly. "Now, it is time to test your allegiance to me."

"My lord?" His tone was laced with fear. Whenever Voldemort tested the loyalty of a follower, it never boded well for the party in question. The others around him took a step away from the man, leaving him standing in the center of an impromptu semi-circle.

"Remove your cloak, Robinson." The man hesitated, hands shaking, but, nonetheless, removed the offending article of clothing. Voldemort didn't even wait for the cloak to hit the ground completely before made a sharp motion with his wand, uttering the phrase, "dicerpo cruorem vita." Robinson's body immediately slumped over as he fell to his knees, a red circle steadily increasing in diameter on his chest, animalistic howl of pain erupting from his throat. "Smith. Nott. Help him stand. Yaxley, collect the blood." The three did as they were told, knowing better than to ask questions. The man was dead within the next few seconds.

Meanwhile, Harry was observing the scene with abject revulsion; Riddle observing Harry. "Do you take offense to the way I treat my followers, Harry?"

"You killed him," he said in disbelief. "That's how you reward them?" He turned to face the young Riddle. "You tell him a job well done and then you slaughter him?!"

The anger didn't faze Voldemort in the least. "Many consider it the highest honor, to be personally taken down by my wand. It is their sacrifice to the cause. Surely you know enough about that idea, do you not? Dumbledore asks of his followers their livelihoods, their freedoms, their very happiness. I merely demand loyalty. It is a small sacrifice, in comparison."

"Small sacrifice, my arse," Harry growled, watching the followers carry the body of the deceased Robinson out of the room.

"I am surprised at you, Harry. You have not even asked, yet, why he had to die," Riddle said casually.

Harry looked at him with incredulity. "Why would I ask? I already know the reason; you're just sadistic. It was a pointless death."

Voldemort offered a knowing smile, one that oozed smugness and danger. In his hand appeared the phial that Yaxley was using in the memory. He shook it around in the palm of his hand. "Robinson's death was anything but pointless. Do you know, Potter, what the lifeblood of a werewolf can do for those he has bitten?" Harry didn't know the answer to that question, but he wasn't about to admit that fact. He simply stared at the liquid within the glass cylinder. Just as well, because Voldemort didn't wait for a reply. "If the victim of those he has afflicted can get a hold of the werewolf's lifeblood, they can produce a potion that will cure their lycanthropy. As long as they take the potion before their first transformation, they will remain disease-free. The next full moon is on August twenty-eighth, Harry Potter. A mere four days away."

Harry's mind went back to Kingsley's report, the night of the mass attacks. Three bitten at Madam Bones'. All apparent victims of this Robinson fellow that Harry just watched get drained dry. Was Voldemort offering what Harry thought he was offering? He kept a healthy air of skepticism surrounding his next words. "Why should I believe you? I've never even heard of that potion before; if curing lycanthropy was as easy as making a potion and a few drops of blood, why bother with Wolfsbane? Don't you think more people would know about it?"

"Oh, no, Harry. You see this is where the naivety of the other side never ceases to amaze me. Lifeblood is drawn straight from the heart; it is composed of the very matter that allows a person to remain alive. Removing it from them has one very obvious consequence, and because of that, any potion that requires lifeblood is deemed a dark technique. Even with the ministry's clear vendetta against the werewolf population, they would never legalize such an abomination in their minds. As it is, it must be lifeblood, it must be before the first transformation, and it must come from the werewolf that inflicted the wound. So, you see, many stigmas and stipulations surround this practice; that is why it remains little known."

He tried to comprehend the influx of information; the idea of Voldemort doing something for him was wholly disturbing to Harry. "I still don't trust you. How do I know you're not lying; that you're not just trying to hurt my friends to get to me?"

Riddle smirked once more. "Believe me, if I wanted to harm you, I would have done so already. My reach far surpasses that which you believe. As I have told you before, Harry, I am granting you an act of kindness. Has Dumbledore ever done anything for you in this way? I am simply showing you how much more beneficial it would be for you to be my ally, rather than under the thumb of that half-senile old fool."

"You killed my parents," Harry snarled, "even if I could look past the rest of your misdeeds, I will never forget that you're nothing but a murderer, Tom Riddle."

Voldemort's eyes flashed, unbridled rage swam beneath his pupils. "I warned you once already to not use that name, boy. Now, you are trying my patience. But, because I am fair, I will give you a little more time to think over what it would mean to be my ally. In the mean time, perhaps I should remind you of what it costs to be my enemy. Keep this in mind, Harry Potter, for the next time we meet, I will not be so lenient towards your insolence." The form of young Tom Riddle faded into the darkness of the background, not waiting for a reply. Before Harry could do anything else, his surroundings began swirling around him once more.

He reappeared at the end of a driveway, in front of a large stone house he didn't recognize. Not sure of where he was supposed to go, Harry simply made his way to the front door, paused, took a deep breathe, and walked through the entranceway. Inside, the room was brightly lit and tastefully decorated, with an air of warmth and cheerfulness. Harry heard voices happily chattering away in the direction of the living room, so he followed the sounds. He was pleasantly surprised to see that the room revealed a large number of female classmates his year, as well as some that were the year above and below. Though there were a great many of faces that he couldn't quite place names to, Harry immediately recognized Hannah Abbot, Cho Chang, Megan Jones, Luna Lovegood, along with many others, even though the group was heavily composed of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff girls.

However, a sickening realization dawned upon him as his eyes fell upon Susan Bones, her face seemingly triggering Harry's comprehension of the scene before him. This had to be Amelia Bones' residence… and that meant he needed to leave. Harry had absolutely no desire to witness the attacks that he was all but certain were imminent. The lights flickered, as if in utter disregard to what he was currently thinking. As the windows shattered around him, he found himself rooted to the spot. Harry knew he wasn't going to be able to help anyone; it was a memory, after all. This had already occurred.

All the same, though, he also couldn't will himself to leave. He watched as six death eaters (that he already knew were coming) stormed into the house, saw the scene of mass chaos ensue as a couple dozen schoolgirls tried to defend themselves against vicious attacks, witnessed Amelia Bones appear from the other room to repel the intruders. His stomach twisted in knots as he saw a few of the cloaked figures leering at the teenaged girls, lecherous intentions made obvious by their expressions. He tried to intervene, in spite of himself, but obviously to no avail. Finally, when Harry saw a masked man, who he now knew to be Robinson, forego his wand and physically maul Susan, taking Luna and Marietta with her, he couldn't watch anymore. Harry rushed the man, wildly swinging his arms at Robinson's face, hoping for some sort of impact, but it never came. Instead, his fists sailed straight through the wispy vision of the man. Unfazed by the external force, Robinson continued his attack, sheering the skin across Marietta's face into a bloody mess. Harry screamed in horror and frustration at the scene before him when it suddenly, inexplicably, began to hazily flicker around him before it disappeared entirely.

"Harry!" Even in the dim light originating from the wand on the bedside table, the image of a lavender eyed, strawberry blond, anxious-looking Tonks kneeling on the bed next to him engulfed his vision. He shot up, forcefully grabbed her hands by the wrists, which were previously shaking him at the shoulders in an attempt to wake the young man, panicked look in his eyes. "Harry," she said again, this time with a hint of trepidation in her voice, "Harry, you're hurting me." He looked down at the death grip he had on her wrists, and immediately let go, as if burned, allowing for her fingers to recover circulation. Slowly, Harry's mind caught up with him, letting him regain his senses after his disturbing, to say the least, nightmare.

His heart was pounding out of his chest, but Tonks' presence had a noticeably calming effect on him. "Sorry," he finally croaked out, staring at her. "What're you doing here, Tonks," he asked, still out of it. It wasn't meant to be rude, he was genuinely still trying to piece together what the hell was going on at the moment.

If Tonks was affronted, she didn't show it. "I came by after dinner. Been here since then because Fleur had to leave; she's got work in the morning; it's about one in the morning. I guess I fell asleep for a bit," she replied, worried look still marring her features. "Must've woken up when you started thrashing about. Harry, your scar's bleeding," she said, concerned, as she touched his forehead. His hand followed hers and upon feeling his scar, Harry found that it indeed had remnants of blood trickling around the edges; it felt hotter to the touch and was raised more than usual. It didn't cause Harry to worry too much over it, as he'd experienced it before, but he saw that Tonks was exceedingly concerned over the occurrence, so he quickly tried to change the subject.

His hand moved from the scar to his glasses – he must have fallen asleep with them on. Harry took them off to find that the thin wire frames were twisted horribly out of shape. "I should really remember to take these off before I fall asleep," he said casually, in a poor attempt to divert the conversation.

"We'll get you a new pair." All the same, she observed him intently, relieved to see the color slowly returning to his cheeks and his eyes relinquish their manic glint. When he first snapped them open, Tonks instantly knew he was not his usual self; though his irises were still a devastating green, the shade was more ominous in quality and his pupils were dilated, it all screamed of disorientation. "Did you have a vision?" Her query was cautious, as she knew he hadn't had one since the end of his fifth year.

Harry used the hand of his uninjured arm to wipe the cold sweat away from his forehead. "I think so," he stated, unwilling to allow it to shake him up, "'cept, I've never had one like this before." He gripped her hands again, this time, gently. "I think Voldemort's been getting into my head without me knowing it." Tonks inhaled audibly at the assessment.

"Wha…how?" She was at a complete loss for words.

He shook his head, swallowing the lump in his throat. "I dunno. He spoke to me tonight, in my dream. Said he's seen all my memories." Harry recounted the experience in painstaking detail, unable to forget anything that he had just witnessed, but unwilling to believe the occurrences were real.

"He wants you to join him, then." It was a statement rather than a question. She wasn't afraid that Harry would actually take him up on the offer. It would be foolish to entertain such a notion. Instead, she was fearful because Voldemort was someone who always got what he wanted, regardless of what it took to obtain it; if he wanted Harry by his side, there was no telling what lengths the Dark Lord would go to. Tonks shuddered. Harry shrugged.

"I have no idea what he's playing at. He said he was showing me how generous he could be, by killing the Dursley's," he tried to quell the guilt that was threatening to bubble over at this point, "and by killing that werewolf… but I can't make any sense of it. I doubt he wants me on his side. But, what if he really can see everything in my mind… what if he's seen the full prophecy?" She was about to offer a response when the light on her wand went out. Reaching over to the table where it rested, the auror felt around for the birch and, upon finding it, recast a lumos. Directly beside where the wand previously lay, rested a tall and narrow glass decanter that Tonks was positive wasn't there before. Plucking the foreign object and the piece of paper attached around the bottle's neck, off the table, she brought it closer to her face to examine its murky colored contents.

Harry's eyes took a few seconds to adjust to the reintroduction of bright light in the room, but when they finally did, his anxiety returned to him. Harry looked beyond her shoulder and saw that in Tonks' hands was the very same phial that he'd seen in his, seemingly, illusory mind. "Where did you get that?" He tried to keep the frantic tone out of his voice.

"It was on the table," she turned her head to face him. He slid from his position on the bed to hover right behind her, reading directly above her right shoulder as she unfurled the attached parchment. This draught is enough for one. Choose wisely. Now, do you still question the reality of our meeting?

The look of shock on both of their faces would have been priceless had the situation not been so severe. "How did He…" Harry let the question trail, talking more to himself than to anyone else. This made no sense. Grimmauld Place was under the fidelius and unplottable. Those reasons alone should have made this impossible… and yet, here he was, staring at the very real glass phial in Tonks hand as it taunted him with its mere presence.

The only possible justification Harry could surmise was that there was a breach in the Order. Nothing else could explain it. Someone had to have placed it there. But who? Everyone with access to the house was trustworthy, weren't they? Sure, Dung would do anything for a shiny galleon or two, but even he wasn't unscrupulous enough to work for the other side. Snape was a git and arguably a terribly human being, but he was Dumbledore's man. Maybe it was a member in the periphery, someone who wasn't around that often: Jones? Diggle? No, it had to be someone familiar enough to come into the building at an odd hour and remain unnoticed. As he was asking himself these distressing questions, a sickening realization suddenly dawned upon him. Someone familiar with Grimmauld Place and someone who could come and go without notice… "Tonks," he began shakily, "what happened to Kreacher after… after Sirius died?" He felt so stupid, never even giving the little treacherous elf a second thought.

She looked at him in alarm, following his train of thought. "We don't know, he just disappeared. I thought maybe he finally just keeled over and died, or that Dumbledore sent him to Hogwarts… except now that I know you're the owner of this place and not him, the second option obviously couldn't have happened." Tonks furrowed her eyebrows in deep thought. "Call him." Harry gave her a confused look. "Call him," she said again, "if he's alive, he has to come when the master of the house commands him to."

He nodded in understanding. "Kreacher," he enunciated clearly into the void, half hoping to get no reply, as it would mean the vile thing was indeed deceased. However, Harry found that he had no such luck, because after a brief stint of silence, a tiny crack sounded through the room and an aged, haggard looking droopy elf appeared on the ground before him.

"Master called Kreacher," the elf ground out between gritted teeth. His gravelly voice only enhanced his clear distaste for the words he'd just spat out. "Half-blood could not just leave things be, he could not just let Kreacher serve the noble bloodline, oh no," Kreacher mumbled under his breath, though it was clearly heard by everyone in the room. Harry stared at the elf, anger threatening to bubble over. He forcibly suppressed the urge to punt the thing across the room.

Harry took a breath to calm himself before replying, "Yes I did. Where have you been for the past two months, Kreacher?"

The cadaverous elf shook slightly, as if trying with all of his might to stop himself from answering the question. "Kreacher has been with his true mistress, faithfully serving the Black name like a proper house-elf."

"Which Black have you been serving?" Tonks asked quizzically.

Kreacher turned his head to face her with a disgusted look adorning his gnarled face, "Kreacher does not have to answer questions from filthy shape-shifter; only questions from half-blood master."

Tonks put a hand on Harry's arm to stop him from reacting violently towards the elf's contempt. "You will not call her that, and you will answer whatever questions she asks of you, Kreacher," Harry sneered the last word, "I order you to do so. She is a Black – you remember that; for some reason, it seems to be important to you. Now answer the question." She looked at Harry appreciatively, patting his arm in silent gratitude.

The elf widened his eyes in shock, not realizing that Andromeda's line has indeed been reestablished into the noble house. "I's been serving Mistress Bellatrix." Harry's eyes narrowed. It was all the response that he needed to hear. He stopped thinking clearly the moment he heard the name, but, luckily for him, Tonks stuck to the issue at hand.

"Did she tell you to bring this here?" Tonks held up the glass bottle. His eyes immediately grew shifty while he shuffled his feet and mumbled a response under his breath.

"Speak up," Harry barked, quickly losing the sliver of patience he had.

"Yes, Mistress asks, so Kreacher brings potion with dirty, impure werewolf's-" he was in the beginnings of a rant, so Harry cut him off, uninterested in hearing anymore.

"What else have you done," he asked, slightly worried that the elf had been sabotaging their headquarters for the entire summer.

"Kreacher cooks for mistress, and cleans for mistress, I's doing everything mistress wants. Sometimes Kreacher sweeps-" he continued.

Harry growled in frustration, conscious of the fact that the elf was eluding the question. "I meant," he interrupted loudly, "what else have you brought in or taken out of Grimmauld Place in the last two months?" Kreacher's ears drooped slightly, knowing he couldn't evade such a specific question.

"Potion in Miss Black's hand is the only thing Kreacher has brought into the noble house of Black," he paused shaking again as a result of his unwillingness to fully answer the question. Of course, his will lost, succumbing to his role as his master's elf. "Kreacher has taken jewelry from the Black house to return it to its rightful mistress," he said in one breath.

Tonks looked curiously at the elf. "What kind of jewelry?"

"Kreacher could not let the Black family signet ring fall into unworthy hands," he said earnestly. "Thieving Fletcher must not steal late mistress' precious things. Heirlooms within the Black family must remain with the family, lockets and rings and pe-"

"That's enough, Kreacher," Harry said, "you are to bring back everything you took from the house and return them to me." He looked down at the elf, who, for his part, looked murderous at his inability to disobey such orders. "After you've done that, you're to come straight back to Grimmauld Place, by yourself, and stay here. You will not serve anyone else anymore unless I order you to as your master." He knew Hermione would disapprove of the way he was treating Kreacher right now if she'd heard him, but Harry also knew that he couldn't risk betrayal by this elf, who most certainly would do so if given the chance. The only way to avoid that problem was to make his commands straightforward, with no room for interpretation.

Kreacher's shoulders slumped as he grumbled under his breath. "Is that all half-blood master asks of Kreacher?" Harry nodded curtly. The elf bowed, grumbling still, and disappeared with a crack.

"Well, that solves that mystery," Tonks said, relieved.

Harry agreed, relief allowing him to move onto different matters. "I think I need to get to St. Mungo's."

Tonks looked a bit skeptical as she said, "are you sure this isn't a trick?" She shook the bottle slightly, watching the cloudy contents swirl around in its container.

"You heard Kreacher; that's got werewolf's lifeblood in it, he can't lie to me," Harry said as he stood, mind already made up, "and for whatever reason, Voldemort's trying to win my favor. I don't even care why at this point; all I know is, right now, we're holding a potion that can stop someone from monthly painful transformations for the rest of their life – what else matters?"

She looked at him, surveying him critically. "You know what the implication of using this is, right? Of accepting his 'generosity'," she used hand quotes at this word, "he'll think you've agreed to his terms." Harry shrugged his uninjured shoulder.

"I'll worry about that when I have to I guess. All I can know for sure is that this can help someone. And in all honesty, it can't possibly get worse than the way it is now. He already wants me dead… Let him get mad; what's he going to do, kill me twice," he joked. He was trying to lighten the mood; being around Tonks always caused him to be more playful for some reason.

Tonks just stared at him before laughing in disbelief. "Harry. It's, like, two in the morning on a Saturday; you can't go to St. Mungo's right now." He was about to protest before Tonks finished her statement, "visiting hours are over. Those healers don't make exceptions for anyone; why don't you wait until later, and I'll go with you? The next full moon is a few days away, they'll still have time."

He just sighed and acquiesced, realizing that she was being more rational than he was at the moment. "Oh, alright," he said as he sat back down. "I don't think I'm very tired anymore though. I've been sleeping all day."

"No worries, we have plenty of things to talk about anyhow." Harry raised an eyebrow at her. "Namely your ridiculous hero complex and your shoddy sense of humor," she said amicably, "only you would find being wanted dead, by You-Know-Who, to be funny, and only you would trade your own personal safety for the possibility of a cure for someone you don't even know."

Harry grinned. "I guess you just have to get used to my jokes. Call it an acquired taste," he ignored the hero comment; it was a topic that almost always made him uncomfortable. Tonks just rolled her eyes.

"In my book, the phrase 'acquired taste' is just code for 'disgustingly awful' – like caviar; you're comparing your jokes to fish eggs, Potter."

"S'not my fault you have such pedestrian standards, then, is it, Tonksie," his grin broadened.

She hit him with a pillow. "Oh, har-bloody-har. And don't call me Tonksie."

"So, you prefer Nymphie, then?" The question earned him a light smack on the back, below his shoulder, by the witch in question. "Oi, injured person over here," he said pointing to himself, feigning pain.

"Oh, quit being a baby, you know that didn't hurt," though she was smiling at his antics.

"Did so," he retorted in jest, "I think you just don't realize your own strength, Nymphadora."

She wrinkled her nose in disdain, "well, I was going to offer to kiss it all better, but now that you've gone and used that horrid name, you can forget about it, mister."

Now it was his turn to roll his eyes, playfulness gone. "Your name's not horrible, you know," he said seriously, "and I get tired of calling you Tonks. Calling a close friend by their surname all the time just gets plain weird."

Tonks looked embarrassed as she lay back down. "I just don't like my first name, ok? Figure something else out, if you must, but seriously, Nymphadora has got to go."

"What's your middle name, then?"

She made a disgruntled noise before mumbling, "Lysandra." Harry tried to hold back a laugh, but earned a dirty look at his failed attempt.

He quickly coughed to disguise the noise, "ahem, right. Well, middle name's not going to work either, then, huh?"

"Well, what do you expect from a woman named Andromeda? The whole family's barmy! Obsessed with names that were in vogue during the fifth century BC and what not," she huffed.

Harry lay down next to her, patting her shoulder, "we're just going to stick with Tonks or 'dora for now," he said lightly. The two made idle chatter for a while, but Tonks, who worked, rather than slept, through the previous day, eventually nodded off, leaving the teen to his own thoughts. At some point, though, Harry dozed off as well, waking up to the sensation of warm breath tickling his face. He cracked open his eyes to see a gorgeous, but eerily familiar, face resting mere millimeters away from his own. He pulled away slightly in order to see the person more clearly.

"AHHH!" Harry practically flew away from the other body occupying the bed. Tonks shot out of bed, startled, looking around the room wildly. "What the hell, Tonks?!" He clutched his chest from beside the bed.

"Wuzzit?" She continued to look confused at the situation.

Her reply only earned her a bewildered stare from Harry. "Jesus Christ, and you say my sense of humor is shoddy? Are you trying to give me a heart attack or something?"

Tonks looked back at him blankly; she was still confused, but, moreover, she wasn't a morning person by any stretch of the definition, and, thus, was having a particularly hard time comprehending the situation. "What the hell are you on about," she asked, genuinely puzzled.

"I fell asleep next to you, and you morphed into Narcissa Malfoy on me," Harry said plainly, taking a deep breath now that the initial shock value had worn off. Tonks was still for a moment before she burst into a hysterical fit of laughter. If anything, Harry only became even more bemused.

"It's really not that funny, you know," he said.

She was clutching her sides at this point, unable to stop her giggling. Finally getting control of herself, Tonks wiped a tear away from her eye before saying, "You idiot, this is my natural form," she chuckled a little bit more, "sometimes, if I'm really exhausted, I'll accidentally shift back in my sleep." She closed her eyes and donned a momentary look of concentration. Suddenly, her long, dark blond hair shortened in length to her shoulder, becoming curly ringlets once more, and readapted its random areas of pinkish tinge. Her cheekbones softened, rounding out the angular Black features, but when she opened her eyes again, the violet hue remained. This was her usual impish, almost cherubic, look. "Better?"

Harry furrowed his eyebrows, "so… you weren't just trying to take the mickey, then?"

She shook her head, "good lord, no, that'd be an awful prank, wouldn't you say?" Her amusement was replaced by a sudden look of seriousness, "it doesn't bother you, does it," she asked hesitantly, "my natural form, I mean." She wasn't sure why his answer was causing her so much anxiety. All the same, she waited with bated breath.

He shook his head adamantly. "No, no, not at all," he offered fervently. "It just took me by surprise for a moment. The resemblance really is uncanny. I just wasn't expecting to wake up next to a face that I had no recollection of laying down next to – especially when I'm so used to it sneering at me," he joked.

Tonks' relief was palpable. "My mum always told me I was a spitting image of her sister when I was growing up – except my eyes, that is. It's probably part of the reason why I like to use my abilities so much. Well, that, and it's just fun, really, to change everyday on a whim, and be as pretty as I'd like."

Unthinkingly, he said, "I wouldn't worry about that if I were you, you're plenty attractive as is." Immediately, Harry wanted to rescind the comment, especially upon seeing the wicked grin adorning Tonks' face.

"I see. Got the hots for ole Draco's mum, do you?"

Harry, though slightly embarrassed, just laughed. "Well, if we're going strictly by looks, I wouldn't say no if you know what I mean. But let's be honest, her demeanor, and the fact that she's Malfoy's mum, means that I'd rather gouge my own eye out than hold a conversation with her, much less do anything else beyond that. I'd say you lucked out, though, Tonks – best looking Black in the gene pool, by far. And an infinitely better conversationalist," he finished impishly.

Tonks beamed. "Flatterer." Neither brought up the fact that Harry had just all but admitted his physical attraction towards her.

Instead, he shrugged, damnable roguish grin still on his face, "s'not flattery if it's true, 'dora," he said simply. Not wanting to pursue the topic much more, as it was treading dangerously close to uncharted waters, he stretched his back, causing his spine to emit a satisfying pop, before bringing up the trip to St. Mungo's once more.


Author's Note: This chapter is a lot less action packed, and slightly more focused on character development – it's also a bit shorter than normal, but, as I said before, real life is busier at the moment than it has been in the past, and it's been hindering this story's progress pretty substantially (but I rationalized that readers would rather have a slightly short chapter to read than have nothing at all). For the same reason, I apologize for any glaring typos or mistakes; I hope there aren't any, but I only edited this very briefly. Those points aside, I hope it's still enjoyable! Per usual, read, review, comment, and/or critique; I appreciate it all!