Disclaimer: Harry Potter & everything that goes with it belongs to J.K. Rowling, not me.

Author's Note: Everything through chapter 7 of Half-Blood Prince is canon unless otherwise mentioned in this chapter. Rating is mostly for language, as Tonks has a filthy mouth, & some violence later on. Many, many thanks to my wonderful beta, Sav.


Trust

April 1992

Harry hurried down the corridor. He'd been helping Hagrid with Norbert the dragon, and he had no desire to lose more points from Gryffindor for being out after curfew. But Harry had a slight problem: he was lost. He took what he swore was a shortcut he and Ron found after Charms last week, but nothing around him looked familiar. Panting heavily under his invisibility cloak, Harry jogged along, keeping a keen eye out for a prefect, teacher, or Filch the caretaker as he desperately sought a painting or statue he recognized.

"Right, I should go. Mum'll live up to her maiden name if I get another detention."

A female voice, followed by muted peals of laughter, startled Harry, and he froze when light spilled out from a nearby classroom. A girl, presumably the owner of the voice, stepped out, peering around cautiously. She wore a Hogwarts uniform, though it wasn't entirely within regulations. The skirt was far shorter than he was accustomed to seeing, revealing a mile of bare legs, and her shoes dangled from one hand instead of being on her feet. Her untucked shirt was open at the top, and a tie that Harry thought to be in Hufflepuff colors hung loosely around her neck. Easily the oddest thing about her appearance was her hair, a vivid pink.

Apparently satisfied with the seemingly deserted corridor, the girl began to saunter down it, not at all concerned with stealth. Spotting his chance, Harry followed. Hufflepuff or not, surely she would lead him to a place he knew. He shadowed the girl for a few minutes without detection, hardly daring to believe his luck. However, halfway up a staircase Harry stubbed his toe and was unable to completely muffle his sharp intake of breath.

The girl stiffened, glancing around warily. "Peeves?" she called in a hoarse whisper. "Peeves, if that's you, you can bugger off."

Sighing, Harry pulled off the cloak, revealing himself. "It – it's just me," he mumbled.

She jumped. "Bloody hell, I've picked up a stalker!" She frowned at him in the dark. "You're nothing more than an titchy firstie, are you? What are you doing out of bed?"

"It doesn't matter," Harry said quickly. "But I'm ... well, I'm lost. Do you know the way to Gryffindor Tower?"

Her mouth twisted in a grin, then dropped as a distinct meow echoed from an unseen location. Filch's cat, Mrs. Norris, was on the prowl, and Filch was never far behind. "Shite. Hurry!" The girl quickly turned, but when Harry didn't move, she looked back. "Don't you trust me?"

"Um –" I don't even know you.

"Great. Run!" She grabbed Harry's hand and dragged him with her, dashing this way and that until he was quite disoriented. Finally she pelted straight through a tapestry, not into a wall as Harry expected but inside a thoroughly hidden passageway. "Duro!" Interestingly, the tapestry turned into solid stone. "Lumos." She held a hand to her lips, listening carefully. The light from her wand revealed dark, dancing eyes set in a heart-shaped face. She was significantly taller than Harry, who was rather small for his age anyway, and clearly older, a sixth or seventh year. After a minute or two of silence, she relaxed.

"Thanks," Harry panted.

She waved a hand in dismissal. "Not much I like more than giving that damn cat the slip." Her brow furrowed as she looked at him. "You're Harry Potter."

It wasn't a question, so Harry wasn't sure how to respond. "Er ... how did you know this was here?"

She grinned impishly. "Seven years of midnight excursions gives you a pretty thorough knowledge of hiding places. Oh, the times I've dodged Filch ..."

A seventh year, then. "So do you know how to get to Gryffindor Tower?"

"Sure. If you go back out the tapestry and take a left, you run straight into the statue of Lachlan the Lanky, and –"

"Oh, I know where that is," said Harry with great relief.

"Wicked. Well, I'm this way, so this is where we split, I reckon." She waved her wand, and the tapestry reappeared.

"Okay. Um, thanks."

She reached out and ruffled his hair, winking. "Anytime. And Harry? Try to explore a bit more in the daylight before you go wandering in the dark, or you'll pass my record for detentions."

oOo

August 1993

"GET OUT OF THE WAY!"

Harry jumped as he heard the bellow, authoritative yet young and decidedly female. People quickly moved to either side of Diagon Alley, and a second later he understood why. A grubby man with desperation in his face came into view, running full tilt with a young woman hot on his heels, her flaming red hair streaming behind her. She cast spell after spell toward the man, who weaved and dodged.

As he drew even with Harry, the man suddenly veered into the alleyway next to Florean Fortescue's. Acting without thinking, Harry stuck out his foot and tripped the man. The impact made Harry drop his ice cream, but the man collapsed on the ground. Before he could rise again, the young woman fell with her knee in his back, making him let out a grunt.

"Thanks, mate," she said to Harry, not taking her eyes off her captive as she waved her wand, winding handcuffs around the man's wrists. She stood and tugged him to his feet. "C'mon, fatso, you've got a date with the DMLE."

She turned to Harry while keeping a firm grip on her prisoner. Recognition grew on her face as her eyes flicked upward to his scar. "S'pose I owe you an ice cream now." She smiled, and as she turned on the spot and disappeared with a CRACK, taking the man with her, Harry could have sworn she winked at him. As he made his way back to the Leaky Cauldron, he wondered what had just happened.

A few days later Harry was wandering down Diagon Alley with the intention of ogling the Firebolt again when he felt a hand clap his shoulder. "Wotcher, Harry. How about that ice cream?"

Startled, he turned around to see the young woman who had arrested the thief smiling down at him. At least, he thought it was the same person. The face was the same, but the hair was purple and the eyes were dark when he remembered light. She wore an expression of delight, which only furthered Harry's confusion.

"Don't you remember?" she asked. "The other day, you tripped Fatty McThief and spilled your ice cream ..."

"Yeah, I do," he said. "I just – you were different, your hair and your eyes."

She laughed. "I'm a Metamorphmagus." Noticing his blank expression, she laughed again. "It means I can change my appearance at will. Look!" She screwed up her face like she was in pain, and her hair inexplicably changed to a bright blue.

"Wow!" Harry exclaimed, awed. Flying, Apparition, and Animagi were shoved aside – this was undoubtedly the coolest bit of magic he'd ever seen. "Can I learn to do that?"

"No, sorry," she said with a sympathetic tone. "Metamorphmagi are born, not made. It's an innate ability that can't be taught. Bet you'd like to hide that scar, though." Her eyes flicked to his forehead again.

"Yeah." Harry glanced away, frowning. He hated when people looked at his scar, and he hated being so easily recognizable.

"Anyway," she-who-remained-nameless continued, throwing a companionable arm around his shoulders and steering a dumbfounded Harry down the street. "I said I owed you an ice cream, so here I am. What flavor?"

And that was how Harry found himself outside Florean Fortescue's slurping a large mint chocolate chip ice cream and sitting with a girl he just met without a clue how it happened. She told him to call her Tonks (there was a first name but she claimed a manticore couldn't drag it out of her), she completed Hogwarts at the end of Harry's first year, and she was beginning her second year of training to be something called an Auror.

"Basically, we hunt down and catch Dark Wizards," she explained. "Normally a regular DMLE squad would handle something like a petty thief, but they've pulled everyone at the Ministry off their normal jobs to search for Sirius Black, so us trainees get stuck with boring things like this." A strange shadow crossed her face, and she stared away, all traces of a smile gone, but just as quickly she brightened and her eyes gleamed with anticipation. "When I qualify year after next, I get to go after the real thing. No more small peanuts."

"That's really cool," Harry said, impressed.

"It is," she agreed fervently. "So what are you doing here, Harry?"

"I'm staying at the Leaky Cauldron until school starts," he said evasively, not wishing to tell this cool girl that he'd inflated his aunt and run away.

"Odd place for summer holiday, but whatever flies your broom." As she licked her cone, she tilted her head, eyes dancing as if she knew a secret. "You don't remember me, do you?"

He frowned. "We've met?" Surely I would remember someone with blue hair.

"Sure. Back at Hogwarts, year or two ago. You were lost in the castle in the middle of the night, and I helped you out ..." She shrugged. "One tends to remember meeting Harry Potter."

Harry mentally examined his first year. Now that he thought about it, he did remember the time he ran from Mrs. Norris with that Hufflepuff girl. "Pink hair, Hufflepuff tie?"

She grinned. "The one and only. Guess you found your way back to Gryffindor Tower, then?"

"I did," Harry confirmed with a smile. Her cheerful nature was infectious.

Surprisingly, they talked for another half hour or so before she finished her cone and stood. "I should get going. It's my only day off, and I promised Mum and Dad I'd have dinner with them. She'll do her nut if I don't show my pretty face."

Harry stood up when she did. "Dessert before dinner?"

She winked. "I won't tell if you won't."

"Okay, well, thanks for the ice cream, uh, Tonks."

"Hey, thanks for helping me out." Unexpectedly, she hugged him, and though Harry was highly uncomfortable, it seemed the thing to do was to hug her back, so he awkwardly did just that.

"Well, parting is such sweet sorrow, but I'll see you around, Harry. Take care."

oOo

August 1994

"Harry?"

Harry turned around at the sound of a woman's voice that seemed vaguely familiar. "Erm … Tonks?"

She grinned, and it was definitely her, sporting bright green hair and grey eyes that matched the hat on her head. Tonks obviously supported Ireland. "Wotcher! I knew that was you. What are you doing here?"

"The Quidditch World Cup, what else?" he said as she hugged him. Always hugging, this one.

"Me, too. My parents got me a ticket for my birthday," she said. "How are you, mate?"

"I'm good," he replied. "You?"

"Never better."

"Tonks?" Bill and Charlie emerged from the tent behind Ron.

"As I live and breathe, it's the Weasley boys!" She gave hugs all around, even to Ron, who looked both confused and embarrassed.

"You know Harry?" Bill asked, looking from one to the other in surprise.

"Oh, we're old friends," she said with a careless wave of her hand like they'd grown up together, slinging one arm over Harry's shoulder. Ron stared at him, and he shrugged helplessly.

Tonks stood outside their tent chatting until it was nearly time for the match. She was introduced to Ginny, Hermione, Ron, and the twins but seemed to be at least casual acquaintances with the older Weasleys, though Harry suspected there was more with Bill, judging by the coy glances they exchanged.

"I think I should go meet my friends now. They're probably already pissed, and someone has to make sure they don't burn down our tent," she said after a while. "I'd hate to kip on the ground." Again she gave hugs to all, saving Harry for last.

"Harry, can I talk to you for a second?" she asked, slipping her arm through his and pulling him to the side without waiting for an answer. "I hear I have you to thank for Sirius."

Harry was stunned. How did she know, and why wasn't she upset? Weren't the Aurors looking for him? "You know Sirius?"

She smiled, eyes shining brightly. "We're related. First cousins once removed or something like that. My mum's cousin. I knew him when I was really small, but I grew up hearing he was a traitor like everyone else." With much more clarity, Harry remembered the odd look she wore when she spoke of Sirius the previous summer. "Of course he's gone now, but he slipped by Mum and Dad's before he left. I was lucky enough to be there when he did, and he was lucky enough to blurt out the story before I arrested him. You were fantastic, Harry."

"I, well, I had to do something," said Harry awkwardly. "Is he okay? Do you know?"

"I haven't heard from him since he left, but then I told him not to contact me too often. It'd mean both our arses if the Ministry found out. Anyway, it's almost time for the match, so I bid you adieu. Told you I'd see you around. Until next time, then?"

"When's that?" he asked boldly. Like Bill, Tonks was the definition of cool, and Harry enjoyed her apparent friendship, even if she did have a propensity for hugging.

"You never know. We have this knack for running into each other at the oddest times," she said with a cheeky wink and another swift hug. "Keep one of those green eyes out."

oOo

August 1995

"And this is Nymphadora –"

"Don't call me Nymphadora, Remus," the witch protested with a shudder, and in a snap Harry finally realized who the woman partially hidden in the shadows and grinning from ear to ear was.

"Tonks?" he blurted. Of all the people to show up in the Dursleys' kitchen ...

"You two know each other?" Professor Lupin asked quizzically, looking back and forth.

"We go way back," Tonks said, stepping forward to engulf Harry in a hug. By this time, he'd come to expect it from her. "And by the way, Remus, I managed to go over three years without Harry knowing my first name. Thanks for blowing it, you prat."

Harry grinned. "You don't look like a Nym-"

"Don't say it, Harry," Tonks warned, gesturing with her wand. "You'd go by your surname, too, if your fool of a mother named you something that foul."

"What are you doing here?" Harry asked, his grin fading as he looked past Tonks to the other seven or eight people to whom he'd just been introduced. "This is all very strange."

"We're here to rescue you," Tonks said offhandedly, as if such things took place every day.

"Sorry we were so long, Harry," said Lupin. "It took a while to get organized and set up headquarters somewhere safe."

"Get your things, Potter," growled Mad-Eye Moody before Harry could ask another of his many questions. "We're running out of time."

"C'mon, Harry, don't you want to get out of here?" Tonks grabbed the still-confused Harry by the arm and dragged him up the stairs. "I'll help you."

His mind still trying to process everything, Harry obediently followed. "So ... how are you?"

"Fantastic. Been incredibly busy, what with qualifying and all," she said casually.

"Qualif– what! You're an Auror now? That's brilliant!" Harry exclaimed.

She beamed, pulling out a small badge. "Tonks, Junior Auror extraordinaire, at your service."

Harry came to an abrupt stop, suddenly horrified. "Is that why you're here? Did the Ministry send you?"

"No, of course not, they have no idea I'm here," she said quickly. "We'll explain everything later, but we're all part of a group dedicated to defeating You-Know-Who. Dumbledore's group. It's fine, trust me." Tonks frowned, placing a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Harry, how are you?"

Something about her question and the genuine concern in her eyes struck Harry, and he remembered that in the few frustrating letters he had received that summer, no one had ever wanted to know how he was doing. "It's just ... it's a lot, you know? The dementors and Voldemort and – and Cedric."

Her expression softened, and Harry realized that as a Hufflepuff, she probably knew Cedric, too. "You'll be okay, Harry. The Ministry deal will blow over, they can all bugger off anyway, and we're getting you out of this hellhole. You'll be with the Weasleys and Hermione and Sirius."

"Sirius is there?" Harry's heart soared.

She nodded, grinning. "And me. I'm here to save the day once again."

Feeling ten times lighter, Harry laughed. "What would I do without you?"

"Still be wandering around Hogwarts castle, I bet, or maybe –"

"Get a move on, Tonks! This is not social hour!" Moody bellowed up the staircase.

She grimaced, rolling her eyes. "He's a right old dictator."

"I saw that."

She rolled her eyes again.

oOo

September 1996

"Wotcher, Harry."

Harry blinked as a smiling pink-haired woman came into view, her dark brown eyes a mix of amusement and slight anxiety, flicking her wand at him. He scrambled to his feet as he unfroze, holding his hand to his nose to staunch the bleeding. "Thanks," he muttered, embarrassed.

"No problem," Tonks said cheerfully, returning his invisibility cloak to him. "The train's leaving. We should go."

Harry followed the Metamorphmagus as she maneuvered down the corridor and onto the back of the train car. It was already nearing the edge of the platform, picking up speed. She leaped off the train, stumbling as she landed, and Harry followed a bit more smoothly.

She turned to him with her wand. "Like me to fix that nose for you?" Harry nodded. "Hold still."

Harry cautiously touched his nose as a tingling sensation shot through it, burning hot followed by icy cold. Surprisingly, it felt perfectly normal. "Thanks, Tonks!"

"You're welcome," she said. "Let me get some of the blood off your face, looks like you turned cannibal. I'd clean your shirt, too, but, well ... you should probably just leave that to the Hogwarts house-elves."

"Still no good at those householdy type spells?" he asked, grinning.

She returned his grin. "Nah, but I think I make up for it with healing spells."

"Auror training?"

She shrugged. "Well, half that and half bare necessity." Harry laughed, and she joined in. "C'mon, we need to get to Hogwarts before they deploy half the Ministry looking for you." Tonks sent a small white creature into the darkness.

"Was that a Patronus?" Harry asked interestedly. He had seen Dumbledore send messages like that.

"Yes. I'm letting the teachers know I have you."

"Could you show me how to do that?" Harry asked, feeling like it would be an immensely useful spell to know. He would have felt odd asking anyone else except Lupin, but Tonks had always been friendly with him.

"Certainly, but we don't have the time now," she answered. "It requires a lot of concentration."

"I can already conjure a regular Patronus," he said defensively.

"I know you can," she said, sounding surprised. "None of that now, Harry, this has nothing to do with your abilities. You need to get to school is all. Christmas, perhaps?"

"Yeah." Harry felt a bit ashamed; Tonks had never treated him like a child before, so he shouldn't have expected her to start now.

"So, have you ever done Side-Along Apparition?"

"Yes, but –" Harry's response was cut off as Tonks seized both his hands and twisted. For the second time in his life, Harry was treated to the highly uncomfortable sensation akin to being squeezed through a very small tube.

When they reappeared, still in the darkness, he fell over, feeling rather sick to his stomach. Since he still clenched her hands, Tonks toppled over as well. "Not often that happens as the fault of someone else," she remarked, disentangling herself and yanking Harry to his feet with a mighty heave. Lighting her wand, she peered at his face, frowning. "Alright, mate? Look a bit peaky."

"Fine," he grumbled, wondering why magical travel had to be so uncomfortable. Looking around, Harry saw that they stood outside the gates of Hogwarts. Striding to them confidently, he pulled, only to be rebuffed as they remained solidly closed.

"Wasting your time," Tonks, who was leaning against a nearby tree, called. "Magically sealed, not even Alohomora will work."

"So how am I supposed to get in?" he asked with some annoyance. His sixth year at Hogwarts was off to his worst start since the time he and Ron flew the car to school. "Why didn't you Apparate us all the way there?"

"You can't Apparate in the grounds of Hogwarts, don't you know that?"

Harry smiled wryly, remembering the exasperation of a certain brunette. "Hermione might have mentioned it once or twice." Or ten times. "So how do I get in?"

"I sent the Patronus to Hagrid. He'll come." Tonks smiled at him reassuringly before glancing around, humming slightly to herself.

Belatedly, it occurred to Harry that Tonks wasn't part of the Hogwarts staff, nor did she have any reason to be in Hogsmeade. An irritating thought presented itself. "Is the Order having me tailed again? I mean, aren't the summers enough? Now I need a year-round babysitter, too?"

Tonks turned to him with wide eyes. "Blimey, Harry, calm down. I'm here because they beefed up security at Hogwarts tenfold and stationed a squad of Aurors in Hogsmeade. I was watching the train, and when I didn't see you get off, I jumped aboard on a hunch."

Harry felt like a prat again. He remembered how Tonks told Ginny how to tell if a door was Imperturbed last year; out of the entire Order, only Sirius had treated them more like adults than Tonks. Sirius. Harry wondered if thoughts of his godfather would ever stop being painful. Glancing again at Tonks, who didn't seem the least bit put out by his outburst, Harry wondered if he was the only one who missed Sirius.

"Tonks," he started hesitantly, hoping it wasn't a sore subject. "Listen, I'm ... I'm sorry about Sirius."

Tonks straightened and walked to him, a trace of sadness visible in her eyes. "Yeah, me too."

"No, I mean ... I'm sorry that he was there, that all of you had to come. It was my fault. I'm sorry you got hurt. Are you okay now?"

"I'm fine, Harry. Just need to learn to move quicker." He waited for her to continue, figuring he knew what was coming, but she just appeared confused. "Something else on your mind?"

He brushed at his fringe. "Aren't you going to tell me not to blame myself, like everyone else?"

"No," she said simply. He looked at her in disbelief, and she faced him, putting both her hands on his shoulders and holding his gaze. "I've been there, mate. It doesn't matter what I say. Eventually you'll work through it in your head. For what it's worth, I do think you're very brave."

"Thanks," he mumbled, touched.

"Are you okay?"

Harry opened his mouth for the obligatory "fine", but it never came. "I miss him," he said instead, unplanned. He thought of the prophecy, of the deaths over the summer, of Dumbledore's secrets. "And I have a lot to think about. Decisions to make."

"Well, let me know if I can help," she replied with a warm smile. Keeping her hands on his shoulders, Tonks looked at Harry like she'd never seen him before. She glanced up and down appraisingly, and he fought back a flush, feeling exposed. When her eyes met his again, he saw she had to look up slightly. "Bloody hell, Harry, when did you grow up on me? I've been thinking of you as that short, scrawny eleven-year-old lost in the castle."

Harry ducked his head, grinning self-consciously. "I think that happens to the best of us, Tonks."

"I suppose you're right. We can't all be Peter Pan, no matter how much we try." She resumed her position against a tree.

"Who's that?"

"Bloke in a Muggle kids' book, never wanted to grow up."

"What are you doing reading a Muggle kids' book?"

She shrugged. "For one, I have Muggle relatives, and unlike you, I actually like mine. Understandable, since they never purposefully locked me in a cupboard. And B, despite the lack of magic, I enjoy Muggle pursuits from time to time. Don't knock it."

"I wasn't," Harry protested. "Only surprised."

"I'm full of surprises," she remarked with a wink.

Harry smiled, then took to pacing in front of the gates as Tonks fell silent. He hoped Malfoy would keep quiet about the incident on the train, but knowing the blond Slytherin, the entire school was being treated to exaggerated pantomimes at this very moment. Trying to get his mind off Malfoy, he turned to Tonks again. "So, how was your summer? I only saw you the once at the Burrow, and you looked ..." He trailed off, realizing she probably didn't want a reminder.

"Like crap?" she finished dryly. "I did, you can say it. My appearance tends to reflect my mood, so when I'm unhappy, I look like, well, exactly like you saw me. And at that time, I was still broken up about Sirius." She quieted, blowing out her breath before continuing. "Then Mum and Dad convinced me to go on holiday for a bit, and when I returned, I was tremendously busy with work, dealing with all the attacks and setting up the new security measures here. Hogwarts is now tighter than a nun's ... ah, just really tight. Anyway, how was your summer?"

"Good, I guess. Escaped the Dursleys early, got my OWL results, made Quidditch captain."

"Brilliant!" she exclaimed. "I always wanted one of those badges. Maybe I can make it to a match while I'm here."

"So you think you'll be around the castle much, or just in Hogsmeade?"

"Just Hogsmeade, as far as I know. Look me up on your weekends?"

"Of course," he promised, grinning at his pink-haired friend. Tonks was always good fun. "Wouldn't dare otherwise."

"You better, or I'll hunt you down," she teased, pointing her wand at him. "So, you want to tell me what happened on the train? I'm bursting to know."

Harry could hear the amusement in her voice, and he appreciated her restraint from laughing. "Malfoy," he growled. The incident still rankled.

Tonks frowned. "Lucius's son?"

Harry nodded. She merely waited for him to continue, her expression curious, and he hesitated before deciding to go for it. Tonks was cool, and he knew her well enough to know she wouldn't take the mickey out of him too badly. So he told her everything he overheard in Malfoy's carriage, finishing with Malfoy breaking Harry's nose and sweeping the invisibility cloak over his body. As he talked, it occurred to him that Tonks was an Auror; who better to inform about a possible Death Eater than a friend in law enforcement?

"Interesting. But Harry, why did you go into his compartment in the first place?"

Simultaneously excited that she was listening and worried that she would blow him off like everyone else, Harry recounted his trip to Diagon Alley with Ron and Hermione. Occasionally glancing toward the castle, where a light could be seen growing nearer, Tonks continued to ask Harry questions, skillfully drawing out every last detail of both his encounters. As she wound down, he realized with some amusement that he'd just been interrogated by a professional.

"Hmm."

"That's it?"

Tonks was clearly in deep thought. "Have you told anyone else?"

"No one about tonight, obviously, but I told Mr. Weasley about Diagon Alley. He didn't seem concerned."

"Well, he wouldn't be." With that cryptic comment, Tonks lifted her eyes to his. "Harry, do you trust me?"

He was taken aback. "Yes."

"Would you mind if I looked into this further, talked to some coworkers?"

"Are you kidding?" he replied excitedly. "That's exactly – wait, you mean the Ministry?"

"I know you don't like the Ministry, and with good reason. They were awful to you last year. But things have changed. After the Department of Mysteries, I should have lost my job. It was clear I was in league with Dumbledore, something that was expressly forbidden. But instead they actually gave Kingsley and I commendations for recognizing that You-Know-Who was back before anyone else."

"I don't know ..." Harry sighed, frustrated. He wanted to stop Malfoy, but he wasn't at all sure he wanted the Ministry involved.

"You said you trust me, and I trust the people I work with," said Tonks earnestly. "I certainly don't intend to broadcast my investigation, and I'll keep your name out of it as much as possible. I heard about what Scrimgeour asked you over the summer. He's a git for doing so, but it's the politician in him. He was a damn good Auror, and he's the kind of person we need in charge right now. It's going to get worse before it gets better."

"Yeah, alright," Harry reluctantly conceded. Better than nothing. "Thank you, you know, for listening."

"Anytime. Were you planning on telling anyone else?"

"I thought I would tell Dumbledore." Harry wasn't at all sure he had completely forgiven Dumbledore for withholding the prophecy, but at least Dumbledore planned to talk to him this year. Harry eagerly looked forward to his private lessons.

Tonks hesitated, and for a moment Harry thought she would disagree. "Yeah, of course you should."

"I – " Harry was interrupted by the creaking of the gates behind them. When he turned, his heart sank. Instead of the half-giant he expected, the Hogwarts Potions master awaited him, the one person at the castle Harry disliked as much as Draco Malfoy.

"You're not Hagrid." Tonks's voice was accusing and annoyed; clearly she and Harry shared a mutual dislike.

"Undoubtedly. Your remarkable knack for spotting the obvious must be of enormous value to the Aurors." Severus Snape was as acerbic as ever. "Hagrid is late as well."

With the air of one determined to get the worst over, Harry gave Tonks a rueful smile. "Thanks, Tonks."

"Goodbye, Harry. I'll be in touch." Tonks hugged him, and when she pulled away, she glanced warningly over his shoulder before lowering her voice. "Watch out you don't slip in the grease from Sevvie."

"Bye," replied Harry, stifling his laughter.

As he walked away, Harry glanced back. Tonks gave him a jaunty salute before twisting on the spot and Disapparating silently. Trudging next to Snape, who droned on about House points and Muggle clothing, as gleeful as he'd ever been, Harry wondered if Tonks would actually be able to do something, pleased that someone was finally taking him seriously. Though he was sure she had the best of intentions, he didn't trust the Ministry further than he could throw it, and so Harry strengthened his resolve to talk to Dumbledore as soon as possible. And then he would confront Malfoy himself.

Harry Potter was done depending entirely on others.