No Light Without Shadows

by Draeconin

CAUTION: Although 22 chapters of this story are written, it is not complete, and probably never will be. Read at your own risk.

Rating: Adult
Pairing: Harry/Draco
Warnings: m/m, slash, language, fantasy, OOC
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. This disclaimer applies to all following chapters.
Pursuant to the Berne Convention, this work is copywrited 2007 with all rights expressly reserved by its author unless explicitly granted. No portion may be reproduced in any fashion without the express written and notarized permission of the author.

Summary: An angry Harry starts taking charge of his life.

Chapter One

Harry Potter was totally pissed, as in being so coldly angry, that . . . well, it seemed as though he'd never seen things more clearly in his life. Unfortunately, every detail just drove in deeper the fact that he'd been blind.

He'd been sunk in total despair after losing his godfather in the Ministry of Magic when Bella Lestrange had hexed her cousin, and Sirius had fallen through the Veil Between the Worlds.1 That mood had continued for almost a week into his summer 'holiday' at the Dursleys: a week of guilt, self-recrimination and depression. But then he'd remembered all the other people who'd contributed to Sirius' death: Bellatrix Lestrange at the top of that list, since it had been her spell that had caused Sirius – Harry's last chance at family – to fall through: and then Voldemort, for obvious reasons. It was he, after all, who had sent Harry the false 'vision' that Siruis had been captured and was being tortured at the Ministry. Then there were Kreacher's lies when he'd tried to find out if Sirius was home. And Snape and Dumbledore were far from being innocent, although their involvement was less direct – a matter of not doing what needed doing, rather than direct involvement.

Him? No, Harry wasn't guiltless, but he'd been duped and used – by both sides. Snape's hateful, acidic tongue, his contrary attitude and obstinate refusal to believe anything that came out of Harry's mouth, and Dumbledore's love of riddles and keeping secrets, even of information which rightfully belonged to others: those were factors that had helped lead to Sirius' death. It had only taken him a few hours after he'd started thinking about it to come to that conclusion, and then he'd started thinking about what he could have done to prevent what had happened.

It all came down to knowledge. And Harry had not only been kept in the dark by others, but had been happy to just coast along and let others make his decisions for him, including his so-called 'best friends': Ron, who wanted a skiving buddy – and although he could be a very good friend, Ron was also a jealous attention-seeker basking in the perceived glory of Harry's unwanted celebrity status, and academically lazy as well. His reaction after Harry's name came out of the Goblet of Fire in fourth year had certainly pointed up Ron's less sterling feelings about Harry.

And then there was Hermione, who wanted to mother the poor, orphaned 'Boy Who Lived' and, perhaps, build up her own ego in the process. Low self-esteem would certainly explain why she was so driven to prove herself scholastically and show off that knowledge at every turn. And although she too could be a good friend and had been willing – insistent, even – to follow him into danger, she had a bad habit of throwing those adventures up in his face, questioning his every move, his every decision – even, at times, his emotions.

And he, fool that he was, had played up to both of them, putting their wants and needs above his own, just to gain acceptance. He was grateful for their putting their lives on the line in support of him at the Ministry of Magic, but look what effacing himself had gained him: the last family he had was now dead. Well it ended now, damn it. He might not be able to force others to keep him informed, but he could bloody well keep himself as best educated as possible, and he could also bloody well stop cooperating with Dumbledore until he was kept informed. The Sorting Hat had said he had a good mind. It was about time he started using it.

Harry would have subscribed to one of the wizarding news publications to keep abreast of events, but the only ones that were the least bit reliable only covered subjects totally unrelated to any real news of the wizarding world. The Daily Prophet was too easily manipulated by whoever had power (usually of the political variety), and had no problem with printing lies and slander. The Quibbler usually only printed celebrity gossip and nonsense, Witch Weekly only really dealt with things of interest to homemakers and teenage girls, and Which Broomstick was only of use to those interested in Quidditch and the newest broomsticks.

With new resolve, Harry snuck down to the cupboard under the stairs – his old room, now serving as storage for his school trunk since the Dursleys wanted no truck with 'freakish things' while he was being forced upon them – and dug his old school books out of it, as well as his wand. He might not be able to actually do the spells and exercises due to the Ministry of Magic's ban on underage magic out of school, but he could practise the wand movements.

Once back in his room, Harry hid all but his first-year DADA book under his bed, opened the book, and started revising. Two hours later he'd finished going through that book, having found – no surprise to him – that there was much more in it than Quirrel had even begun to try to teach. Fortunately he'd picked up most of the missed material from older pupils over the years, so he didn't need to spend a lot of time on that book. He put it with the others and pulled out his first year Charms book, then later, his first year Transfigurations book. He could more or less ignore those things he remembered learning, so he went through the books fairly quickly, pausing only to study those things he either didn't remember well, or hadn't been taught.

He didn't notice at the time, but he received few owls from anyone but the school that summer, the few others coming on his birthday, and the owl from the Ministry Department of Education had arrived only three weeks before start of term, delivering his marks from last year. He felt a dull surprise that he'd done so well on his Ordinary Wizarding Levels. Choices for sixth year courses depended on the OWLs results. Knowing those now, Harry made some preliminary choices for the courses he'd be taking this coming year. He'd have to go over those choices with his Head of House when he actually got back to Hogwarts, though. There might even be some new subjects he could take.

The first thing Harry decided to do was to drop Divination. Besides having received a 'Poor' in it, it was a waste of time; and Trelawney, for the most part, had been a joke. He'd only taken it to please Ron, who as usual was trying to find a way to do as little school work as possible. Dumbledore will find something to fill in the time, he thought bitterly. But then, Trelawney had been sacked, last term. Firenze had taken the position. Harry shook his head. No, even if having a centaur as a lecturer would be interesting, the subject took time he needed for other things, and he could see no useful purpose to it. He hadn't passed Divination anyway, so he didn't have to worry about it: same with History of Magic. After careful consideration he also decided to drop Astronomy, and Herbology. He didn't want to drop Care of Magical Creatures because it would provide a change of pace in relation to his other courses, and he rather liked animals.

Other than Care of Magical Creatures, that would leave him with Charms, Defence against the Dark Arts, Potions, and Transfiguration – courses that he rather thought would provide skills he'd need both in his upcoming battle with Voldemort, and in everyday life . . . provided he lived to enjoy it. Amongst the other classes that were offered to sixth and seventh years were two that Harry thought he truly needed: Government, and Introductory Healing. After a slight hesitation, he also added Ancient Runes. It wouldn't be NEWT level, since he hadn't taken it before, but he could see where the knowledge might come in handy.

He checked off those classes he was interested in, and sent the form off to Hogwarts with Hedwig. It wasn't guaranteed that he'd get all the classes he wanted though, depending on Professor McGonagall as his advisor, and Headmaster Dumbledore's machinations.

Harry had decided early on that if he lived, he'd rather like to be an Auror. He scoffed at that early decision, now. It was just like the dreams of Muggle boys to grow up to be policemen, firemen, or other everyday heroes, although he reluctantly admitted to himself that the constant attacks on his life had rather pressured him in that direction. After all he'd been through, though, Harry could now see the detrimental aspects of that occupation, not the least of which was the Ministry of Magic itself. He didn't know what he did want to do, however.

Harry shrugged. He'd worry about that if he lived through the war.

Fortunately the Dursleys had decided, that summer, to ignore the very fact of his existence. Harry assisted in that by taking his meals late at night.

His birthday came and went with as little notice as it usually got; Molly Weasley owled him a small cake, Ron sent him a copy of that month's 'Which Broomstick' and a chocolate frog, and Hermione sent him a book on wizarding etiquette.

Although Harry would be amongst the first to admit that he didn't know much about wizarding culture, having Hermione send him a book on manners felt like a backhanded insult. The note she sent with it did little to soften the blow. Harry rather thought she needed it at least as much as he did, considering her tendency towards authoritarianism.

The Dursleys had never gone to the trouble of giving him a birthday gift: couldn't be bothered to remember the date, most likely. In fact the only time he'd got anything from them was at Christmas, and those weren't worth thinking about: a wire hanger, a toothpick, a worn-out pair of socks, dryer lint, or other such rubbish. Getting nothing from them was an improvement.

Harry was too busy to notice when the time for the Weasleys to come pick him up for the last two weeks of summer hols came and went without them showing up. Indeed, it was probably best, so. His resentment of Ron would have made it a most difficult stay, and the distractions would have interfered with his revising in any case.

Instead, Shacklebolt and Tonks had shown up to escort him a week later. But knowing that someone would soon be coming to take him to Diagon Alley, he had already stealthily moved everything but the book he was currently reading into his school trunk, making sure to lock it securely each time he left it. His wand, on the other hand, he kept on himself at all times. He couldn't use it due to the underage magic ban, but he didn't want to take any chances of Dudley or Vernon prying open his trunk and breaking it, should he be discovered in his activities.

By the time Kingsley Shacklebolt and Nymphadora Tonks arrived, Harry had finished revising all the books from his previous years, save second year DADA. Lockhart's books were stolen accounts of deeds done by others that the vain, incompetent man had claimed for himself. There was little of use in any of them anyway, being mostly braggadocio. Harry chucked them in the bin, trusting that one of his Order guards would dispose of them properly when the bin was emptied, but he didn't really care one way or another. Harry wondered if Dumbledore was incapable of admitting to making a mistake or of firing incompetents.

He hadn't learned much of anything in fifth year DADA from Umbridge – except to hate the woman – and the textbook was remarkably simplistic and uninformative, as well. It joined the Lockhart books, although Harry did take great pleasure in ripping out and mutilating every page, first, imagining each one was the sadistic, toad-like woman as he did so.

Potions... Well, if Harry had actually read the assigned books instead of skiving off with Ron and trying to depend on lectures and Hermione, he would have had a much easier time of it all these years. He now had a much better understanding of the subject. He hadn't been able to revise all the potions they'd studied in the time he had (only a couple of them before he'd decided he didn't have time to study anything but the theory), but he now knew enough to be able to understand what he was doing instead of merely following directions and hoping for the best, as he had been.

How he had achieved an 'O' in that subject...

Harry didn't believe it: not for a moment. He remembered that testing session. It almost had to be interference from Bumbledoor – the old fool.

The aurors had noticed Harry's mood, of course. Shacklebolt left Harry alone, for which Harry was duly grateful, since he wasn't in the mood to be sociable. Tonks, however, tried several times to 'cheer him up' before finally giving in and respecting Harry's silence. They stopped by Gringotts so Harry could get the money he needed. Tonks and Shacklebolt stood off at a small distance in order to better survey the other patrons for signs of danger.

"Mister Potter," one of the ugly little goblins sneered in business-like tones after Harry had identified himself at the counter, "you have finally decided to appear, I see."

A confused Harry stared blankly at the teller. "I do have to buy school supplies," he replied.

It was the goblin's turn to be nonplussed. "You are not here to receive your inheritance?" he almost growled.

"Inheritance?" Harry echoed blankly. "What inheritance?"

Inspecting the ledgers in front of him, the little being then looked back up and said, "You have just had your sixteenth birthday, have you not?"

"Yes," Harry replied cautiously, wondering what was happening.

"And a Mister . . ." The goblin paused while it again checked the ledger, more for effect than for any need to refresh his memory. ". . .Sirius Black was your godfather?"

"Yes," Harry replied in the same manner he had before.

"Then," the small being said, stepping to one side and opening a cleverly concealed door in the counter, "if you will step into Grabpokits office, we have some papers you need to sign, and some decisions for you to make."

Kingsley came forward quickly as Harry moved towards the door, Tonks following closely behind him.

"Mister Potter?" Kingsley inquired.

"An inheritance?" Harry said in a bewildered fashion, in reply.

"I'm afraid the details are confidential," the goblin inserted officiously.

"Quite," Shacklebolt replied, looking askance at Harry about the whole thing, "but you will allow standard security precautions?" he continued, when it became clear that Harry had no answers to give them.

The goblin bowed its head in a mocking gesture of respect, and gestured for the aurors to precede them. Kingsley made a thorough physical and magical inspection of the office under the watchful eyes of both the denizen of that office and the counter goblin while Tonks stood guard over Harry, then he and Tonks took up guard stations outside it while Harry was ushered in.

A bit over two hours later Harry walked out of Grabpokits' office with a very strange expression on his face: a dazed mixture of sadness, anger, and astonishment. But when asked, Harry only said he'd learnt far more than he'd expected to learn.

Privately he had checked off a huge red checkmark against Dumbledore. Since the old man had been handling his financial affairs, he had to have known about this. And he had kept it to himself – after swearing, last year, to keep no more secrets from him! Harry's Gryffindor side wanted to confront the old man immediately and create all kinds of havoc with the meddling old man. But his Slytherin side won out, deciding that secrets could work two ways, and Harry knowing things Dumbledore didn't know he knew gave Harry an advantage. He would use the knowledge when it was most advantageous to him.

Harry had, of course, removed Albus Dumbledore from having anything whatsoever to do with his finances or managing his vaults, but had asked Grabpokits to not inform the Hogwarts headmaster of the fact until it became absolutely necessary. Harry assuming the mantle of the Head of the families Potter and Black had also automatically moved him from the status of 'minor' to that of 'adult' a year early, so Dumbledore had no authority over him in that regard, either.

Harry wondered when Sirius had performed the adoption ritual that had made him eligible to assume the headship of Family Black – and why it hadn't been necessary for him to be present for it. Of course if he had been present, it would have had to be while he was a baby.

Harry spent another two hours touring and inspecting his vaults. A good part of one hour alone was spent poring over two family tree tapestries in two different vaults. Other contents of those same vaults would warrant further investigation, as they contained much more than money and fine furnishings. The Black vault had more objects in it than money, but Harry was going to have to learn some spell-breaking techniques to be able to handle some of those things. They had a feeling of malevolence about them.

He'd been surprised to find a few things in the Potter vault that felt Dark, but only a couple of those had the feeling of malevolence he'd found in the Black vault. It just went to show, he supposed, that no family was all good or all bad. Harry hadn't expected to find evidence of a dark side in his own family, but he guessed he shouldn't have put them on a pedestal, either.

But then Harry noticed that he was getting hungry. It was getting on in the day, so he took out the small 'bottomless' pouch he'd been given by the bank official, at a small cost (goblins rarely gave anything away), and proceeded to put Galleons in it: much more than he had ever taken out before.

Since Tonks and Shacklebolt were waiting for Harry in the lobby far above, they were unaware of this.

When Harry met up with the two aurors, he told them that he'd just got carried away reading some things in his new vault. He then insisted on treating them to lunch, since it was about that time.

While they were eating, Tonks rather badgered Harry with questions about his unexpected windfall: questions which Harry dodged as well as he was able, admitting only to receiving the Potter Family vault. He'd had enough of people prying into his life, and since the aurors had been out of earshot when the counter goblin had mentioned Sirius...

Unfortunately, by the time lunch was over Harry's patience was spent, his previous smoldering anger had returned, and he was being barely civil.

They picked up all the books and supplies listed for the courses that Harry had decided he wanted to continue with, along with a few other books. At the apothecary, Harry bought two smocks for use in Potions, and extra potions supplies at the apothecary – explaining, when asked, that he was going to catch up on his potions education and study harder for the upcoming fight with Voldemort. True enough, but not all of the truth. He didn't think they'd be happy with the idea of Dumbledore's 'Golden Boy' deciding to cut the apron strings.

"I need new robes," Harry told his escorts curtly, heading across the street to Madam Malkin's. Along with everything else, Harry had realised when the Aurors picked him up that the Weasleys hadn't shown, not having really missed them until then. Not that he really wanted to see Ron anyway, but the realisation that he'd been abandoned tasted bitter in his mouth. It was just one more thing to sour his mood, and without conscious volition, he was letting the world know it.

"Harry!" Tonks exclaimed in annoyance as Harry stepped into the street, intent on his destination across the way.

Harry turned, his brow furrowed, his own annoyance plain. "Yes?"

"Could you please try to be a little more rude?"

Harry blinked. Was he being...? Yes. He was. And these two really didn't deserve it. His cheeks pinked a bit. "Sorry, Tonks – Auror Shacklebolt."

"We all have off days, Mister Potter," Kingsley replied expressionlessly, not giving away his feelings on the matter.

"Are you ready to talk about it, Harry?" Tonks asked, her tone gentle now.

Harry shook his head. "Nothing you can do about it. Sorry about taking it out on the two of you, though. But I do need new robes . . . and maybe some other clothes, as well."

He had meant all along, before they'd ever set foot in Diagon Alley, to get some better clothes to wear than Dudley's cast-offs, but he still didn't think his babysitters (as he'd been thinking of them) needed to know that. But now he knew he could afford more and far better quality clothing than he'd have felt comfortable getting, before. In fact he needn't worry about prices at all. If what the goblins had told him was true, he was quite wealthy, albeit not on the same scale as the Malfoys or a few other families.

Tonks accepted his reply. She'd have liked to pry, but knew that you couldn't force Harry to open up about his emotional issues. He had to do it in his own time, if he did it at all.

"Then let's get you outfitted," she replied, forcing a cheery tone. She hooked an arm through Harry's, ignoring Shacklebolt's look of disapproval, and steered a course to the clothier's.

After being thoroughly measured, Harry ordered three sets of fine linen summer robes, three sets of warm Merino wool winter robes – both with the appropriate under-robes – and two heavy black cloaks: all for school. That out of the way, he ordered two sets of dress robes: one set in a dark forest green and old gold, and one in a dark burgundy and tarnished silver. From there he moved on to trousers: six pairs in black, and six pairs in various tasteful colours, button-down shirts: twenty-four in a wide range of colours in fine linen and silk, six cashmere jumpers, and two heavy, waterproof cloaks, one having ornate embroidery.

Harry depended heavily on Madam Malkin's advice for the styles and colours he bought, but he paid close attention to her explanations of what would look good on him and why. Almost as an afterthought he picked up two dozen pair of underwear in three form-fitting styles (anything loose could wrinkle or bunch up, spoiling the drape of his clothes), a dozen pairs of dress socks, a dozen pairs of black wool socks, and a dozen pairs of white cotton socks.

Spells obviated the need for a hat, but his hair was rather recognisable, so he bought the least ornate one they had. A more worldly person might have recognised it as having a slight resemblance to an Australian oilskin hat of the Rainier variety, although it was made of Norwegian Ridgeback hide, the brim was wider, and it had a wide, gold-coloured headband with large red feathers stuck in it along one side.

Harry bought two shirts and a pair of trousers that fit fairly well off the rack to wear out of the shop, and to have a change. Everything else would be tailored and delivered to Hogwarts at start of term. Madam Malkin, who had insisted on waiting on 'The Boy Who Lived' herself, held up his old clothes between thumb and forefinger, as though afraid of being contaminated by them.

"What should I do with these, Mister Potter?" Her voice clearly conveyed her distaste.

Harry looked at her and nearly burst out laughing at her expression. "Burn them?" he suggested, grinning at her.

Instead, she drew her wand and vanished them. "Will there be anything else, Mister Potter?" Her voice was much warmer, now.

Harry looked around the shop. "I don't see shoes, or boots?"

"May I suggest The Leather Shoppe, just down the street?" she replied.

"What is it called?" he inquired.

"The Leather Shoppe," she repeated.

"That's right," Harry replied, as though she'd asked a question, and eyed Tonks strangely. She seemed to have suddenly developed a bad case of the giggles, and Shacklebolt was smirking from his position at the door of the shop.

"That is its name, Mister Potter," Madam Malkin said patiently, the corners of her lips curling in amusement.

Harry blushed in embarrassment. "Oh." After a moment of awkward silence, he said, "Thank you."

"Quite all right, Mister Potter."

"What does this all come to, please?" Harry asked, to change the subject.

After settling his bill they set off to The Leather Shoppe. On the way it occurred to Harry to ask, "You've both spent all day with me; are you being paid?"

"Glad to do it, Harry," Tonks replied.

Which meant they weren't. They were taking their free time to guard him. But Harry knew better than to offer to pay them; they would refuse, saying it was their 'duty'. Well, there were ways around that.

The Leather Shoppe had many different styles of shoes and boots made of several types of hide, but it also carried leather clothing and accessories, dragon-hide armour, and magic-enhanced rucksacks. Looking about, Harry decided that the three pair of footwear he'd been planning on had just expanded to include quite a few other things. And looking at the rucksacks reminded him that the trunk he'd been using for the last five years was too worn and limited. He'd have to replace it, but that looked to be yet another shop, and he'd already taken up too much of Kingsley's and Tonks' time. All right, then: he had every intention of staying at The Leaky Cauldron instead of returning to the Dursleys anyway, so he'd come back later – perhaps tomorrow. But he needed to hide that fact from his guards for now, so he'd go through with his original plan.

When he left the shop he had a pair of black patent-leather shoes for school, a pair of over-the-calf, leg hugging dragon-hide boots, and a pair of running shoes.

"It's getting late and it's been a long day, so may I treat you both to supper at The Leaky Cauldron?" Harry asked. "I insist, actually; it's the least I can do."

Tonks took him up on the offer, but Kingsley begged off, explaining that his wife was expecting him. That suited Harry just fine: one less person to have to argue with, and Tonks might be easier to convince, anyway.

When they entered the establishment, Harry seated Tonks at a table close enough to the fire to be comfortable, but far enough away from its light that he might not be as noticeable to the other patrons while they ate.

"What would you like?" he asked Tonks. In deference to the atmosphere and time of day, she was changing her hair colour from its former violent pink to a more sedate dark blue.

"Fish and chips, mushy peas, and a pint of dark?" she replied.

"You're easy to please," Harry teased, then he went up to the bar. It sounded more like a lunch order than supper to him, but if it kept her happy...

"Hello, Tom," Harry said, greeting the manager. "What's on the menu tonight?"

"Hello, Harry," the man replied jovially. "How does chops, bubble and squeak, and spotted dick sound to yuh? 'Course, we c'n also whip up just about anything else yuh'd like."2

"Mm, that sounds good for me, but my companion would like fish and chips, mushy peas, and a pint of dark. I'll stick with butterbeer, thank you."

"As you like it, Harry," the man said easily, sending the order back to the kitchen.

"And I'd like a room until term starts, please," Harry added.

Tom raised an eyebrow slightly, but he was a businessman; he wasn't going to turn away custom. "Just fer yerself?" he asked.

"Yes, please."

Tom turned around and took a key off the board at the back. "Number five is at the end of the corridor: nice and quiet," he said, holding the key out to Harry.

Harry took the key and pocketed it. "Thank you, Tom." He slid four ten-Galleon pieces to the man.3 "To settle the tab," he said. "And keep the change. I appreciate the privacy, here." It was well over twice what he would owe, including the price of the meals and drinks, but the money would also ensure that Tom said nothing about Harry staying there to anyone else. Harry was fairly sure the man would have been discrete anyway, but a little extra insurance never hurt.

Tom almost looked offended by the overcompensation, but he took the money anyway. Business hadn't been all that good, lately.

Harry returned to the table with the drinks. "Tom said it wouldn't be long," he told Tonks as he sat down.

"You didn't really think I wouldn't see that, did you, Harry?" she asked, before taking her first drink of the beer.

Harry shrugged. "Not really, no," he replied, following suit. "Besides which, you'd have to know before you left, because I'm not going back to the Dursleys."

"Dumbledore wants you at the Muggles' for—"

"For my own safety," Harry said, interrupting. "Tell me, Tonks, how do blood wards work?"

Tonks looked rather bewildered at the seeming change of subject. "Excuse me?"

"Between family members," he explained, "what do they work on?"

"Familial love and loyalty, most of them," the young auror replied, suspicion in her eyes. What was Harry up to?

Harry sat back, a look of smug triumph on his face. "Then, if they're still in existence at all, those fabled blood wards that are supposed to keep me safe at the Dursleys' would be almost useless. That being so, my presence there will do damn-all to protect anyone."

Tonks was so used to taking Dumbledore on faith that such a thing had never occured to her, and yet from her own observations of the workings of that family, it should have been obvious. On the other hand, surely Dumbledore had seen the problem and dealt with it?

Torn, Tonks leant forward over the table. "Dumbledore isn't going to be best pleased about this," she warned him in a low voice.

Harry leant forward to her again and looked her straight in the eye. "I don't much care," he replied, "but I would appreciate it if you could retrieve Hedwig and my trunk from those Muggles' house. I packed everything but what I absolutely needed before you showed up."

"And if I don't?" she challenged.

Harry looked hard at her. "There's always the Knight Bus," he said in low, tense tones. Then, trying to sway her to his plan, he added, "I could have pretended to return and then taken the Knight Bus here with nobody the wiser. This way, you know where I am."

"We could block the Knight Bus," Tonks said, testing Harry's resolve.

"You'd just force me to take other measures," he replied coldly, his eyes like green ice now, "and I'd have to find somewhere else to stay – somewhere that might not be as safe."

Surprised to the point of being shocked, Tonks sat back and regarded him. As she did, she noted changes about Harry that she had overlooked before due to her familiarity with him. Harry's face had become less child-like. It wasn't yet as lean as she thought it was likely to be as a full adult, but the promise of his adult looks were beginning to shine through. Harry's eyes were harder as well – more worldly-wise. And she remembered how he'd acted in his interactions with others that day.

She had a momentary twinge of jealousy for whoever this boy – no, young man – finally wound up with. Somehow though, she rather thought that someone wouldn't be a female. Harry didn't have a single hint of softness or femininity about his manner, but there was an ineffable quality that said 'gay'. Maybe it was the way he didn't look at her, or any female they'd run across. There was no hint of want or lust towards them – no hint of interest beyond the purely casual.

"You've grown," she commented quietly.

Harry gave a slight shrug. "I'm about five foot seven, now," he replied. At just barely sixteen, Harry still had the potential for growth: perhaps another three or four inches.

Tonks shook her head. "No, that's not what I meant. I noticed you were taller when we called for you. No, what I meant was that you've matured."

"Losing someone you love can do that to you," Harry said, his quiet voice tinged with bitterness.

Tom arrived right then with their meals. After he'd set them down and gone back to his station behind the bar, they started eating, an uncomfortable silence settling between them. Tonks continued to observe Harry as they ate, and Harry pretended not to notice.

"All right," Tonks finally said, breaking the silence between them just as they were nearing the end of their meal, "I'll let you do it."

'As though you could stop me,' Harry thought rebelliously. All the same, he was relieved that he wouldn't have to take more extreme measures.

"But I expect you to continue to check in with the Order every other day," she continued, "just as you were doing at your aunt and uncle's. And I'll be coming by to check on you every so often, too. If I can't make it, I'll send someone else. And if you miss just once..." She left the threat hanging in mid-air.

Harry resented the restrictions and having someone checking up on him, but it was better than having the Order organise a manhunt if he just went missing. He nodded his agreement to the terms.

She patted her lips with the napkin provided, then stood up and came around the table to where Harry was seated, leant over, and planted a kiss on top of his head. "Remember, now – an owl every other day," she admonished.

"Yes, mother," Harry said in a sarcastic tone.

Tonks lightly clipped the back of his head. "Cheeky," she said with a little laugh, then gave Harry a quick hug and walked out. She didn't notice Harry's lack of humour over the situation – she didn't look.

Harry took his shoes and other packages up to his room, locked the door, then slipped off his worn-out trainers and bunged them in the bin before digging this year's DADA book out of his school supplies. He looked at it, then reconsidered and got out the Potions textbook instead, before climbing on the bed and starting to read.

A couple of hours later, Mundungus Fletcher delivered Harry's trunk, and Hedwig in her cage. Harry thanked him, let Hedwig out, and opened a window for her. Then when the man was gone, he thoroughly searched through his trunk. Fortunately everything was there, so he petted and talked to Hedwig for a while before he went back to perusing this year's potions book.

Really – what were they thinking, entrusting a known thief with his belongings?


A/N: A Galleon is worth £5 pounds according to JKR. As of this writing, 3/18/2006, that makes a Galleon worth $8.78 dollars US or €7.20 Euros.
1: Between this world and the "otherworld" – presumably the world of the dead
2: chops (pork, lamb, or mutton), bubble and squeak (usually fried potatoes and cabbage, but can contain any left-over vegetables), spotted dick (suet pudding, usually with currants)
3: Although JKR never mentions such a piece of currency, it doesn't make sense to me to only have single-Galleon pieces for large currency.


A 'thank you' goes out to my betas: Sheree, Ishe Leigh, and Julie. And special thanks to Andrew, for helping me correct my Americanisms.