At the end of the first week of the new school year, Harry Potter, first-year student, was alone in the library going through family trees. Ron had made an offhand comment about how all purebloods were related somehow or another, and off to the library he had gone.
He found the Potters, and they were many, but every single name but his was struck out by the thin black line of death.
When he touched a name, a paragraph of detail showed next to it saying how they'd lived and how they'd died. Most of the modern Potters had died in the war against Voldemort. The others, in more conventional ways. Sighing, he examined his more distant relations and was warmed to see that he was, through the Prewetts, very distantly related to Ron.
He looked for closer relations, and found that the closest ones still living were from the Black family. James Potter, son of Dorea Potter, nee Black. Go up to Cygnus Black, her father, down to Pollus Black, his son, and Pollus had three children who were still alive.
Narcissa Black. Harry nearly shut his book when he saw who her son was.
Narcissa Black had married Lucius Malfoy, spawning Draco Malfoy, a boy who had, in a very short time, become someone he disliked even more than Dudley.
But Narcissa Black was one of three sisters. Surely it would get better. The second, was Bellatrix Lestrange, formerly Bellatrix Black. The little picture looked very pretty. He read eagerly and winced when he saw that she had been one of Voldemort's chief servants and was serving a life sentence in Azkaban, whatever that was.
Clearly his surviving wizarding family was horrible, worse than the Dursleys.
Feeling morbid, he checked the third sister.
Andromeda Black had married Ted Tonks, becoming Andromeda Tonks. Ted Tonks was a muggle-born, and Andromeda Black had been thrown out of the Black family over it, which, based on her sisters, was a good sign.
And Andromeda Tonks had a daughter, Nymphadora Tonks. Weird name, but a bit of math on a corner of his parchment showed that she was about 6 years and 10 months older than him, and should be a seventh-year. She was probably at Hogwarts.
His great-grandfather, Cygnus Black, was her great-great-grandfather. He wasn't sure what sort of cousin that made her. A hasty look at how cousins worked suggested she was his third-cousin once removed. Something like that. And yet, she was, ignoring Malfoy, his closest living wizarding relation.
He thought about looking for Nymphadora Tonks, but for all he knew, she was a big, female Draco Malfoy. And even if she wasn't, they were very distantly related. She'd think he was weird if he came up to her. He resolved not to.
The next day, Saturday, Harry got lost, which was no surprise. He'd gotten lost every day. But this time, he'd been coming back from the loo, and he'd gotten lost without Ron.
He aimed for the Great Hall. It was big, after all, and from there, he knew the way to the Gryffindor dorms.
He was walking through a crowd of older students, wondering if he should ask any for directions and deciding not to, when he heard a word.
He turned. An Indian boy said, "Tonks, you up for a first-weekend party tonight? I've got firewhiskey."
The girl he was talking to was tall and pink-haired, and maybe more of a woman than a girl. She was hardly paying attention to the Indian boy. She was looking at Harry.
The Indian boy turned to see where she was looking and said, "Oh."
Without input from the rest of him, Harry's feet moved her toward him, and his mouth, with the same defiant lack of permission, began to speak.
"Hello. Are you Nymphadora Tonks?"
Tonks was sitting on a stoop outside bachannal hall, a book in hand, catching up with friends, when Harry Potter passed through.
There was no way he remembered her, and he probably had half the student body trying to grab a piece of him, so she'd promised herself she'd ignore him, but still, she couldn't help but stare.
Then he stared at her, moved toward her, and said, "Hello. Are you Nymphadora Tonks?"
Her reply was automatic. "Just Tonks. My first name is stupid."
"Yeah," said Harry. "Er, I just noticed, I was looking at my family tree, we're related, a little. I was wondering if you..." He trailed off, obviously made nervous by the crowd of older students staring at him. "No, I'm sorry, sorry for bothering you, I'll go." He turned away, the first step of hurrying away.
Without any input from the rest of her, Tonks' mouth spoke. "I held you when you were a baby."
"Your mum and dad were nervous about it. Not just because I was only seven, but because I'm clumsy. They let me do it anyway, because I kept asking, but they both had their wands out and your mum cast a Cushioning Charm on you first."
You were very small, with fat round cheeks and your eyes were already that very bright green. The same as your mum's." Her hair changed from pink to that same vibrant green, to illustrate the point. "Your mum and dad told me to support your head, and I did. But before long they took you back."
Harry was getting misty-eyed and blinking.
"I have pictures in my trunk." She hadn't decided to ignore him until after she'd packed. "Would you like to see them?"
Harry nodded mutely.
Harry sat in the Hufflepuff girls' seventh-year dormitory. A prefect had told Tonks she couldn't bring a Gryffindor in, and she'd told him to screw off. The stairs had turned into a slide when he'd followed her up, and she'd told the stairs to screw off, and that had worked too. Tonks had locked the door with a charm so they wouldn't be disturbed, and now they sat in chairs before her bed, pictures scattered across that bed.
Tonks said, "I got you a storybook for your first birthday. You were too young, but it's what I picked out. I couldn't give it to you in person, because that was just after your family went into hiding, but it was sent to you. Later, they sent a picture of Lily reading it to you. I got it just before the Night."
She pointed to a picture. A red-haired woman with green-eyes. Beautiful, and younger than he'd imagined. A green-eyed baby with a mop of black hair sat on her lap, and she held a storybook.
Like all wizarding pictures, it moved, and it kept smiling at him. Harry swallowed.
"You see, after my mum was expelled from the Black family, the Potters took her and my dad in, inviting them to Christmas and all the rest. That was before I was born, so growing up, I called your dad 'Uncle James,' and I called your grandma and grandad my grandma and grandad, even though they weren't. This was your first Christmas." She pointed to another picture.
A Christmas tree. The woman he now recognized as his mother. The man he now recognized as his father had an arm around her. The smiling, gray-haired people he now recognized as his Charlus and Dorea, his grandpa and grandma. Dorea had been a Black, his connection to Tonks. Tonks' great-grandfather's sister.
"Grandpa and Grandma died just after," said Tonks.
"Death Eaters. They took several down with them. It went like that for all the Potters, pretty much. There were quite a few, before, and not a one of them believed in keeping their heads down."
A shrill of anger ran through Harry. If it wasn't for Voldemort, he'd have all those people.
"And who's this?" he said, pointing to a black-haired man about his father's age.
"Sirius Black. He was kicked out of the Black family too. Uncle Sirius, I called him. We all thought he was a good person, but he wasn't. I'll tell you the story when you're older." She nearly threw the picture down. "I keep thinking of banishing him from all the pictures he's in, but I haven't. Here's another picture."
His father and grandpa were sitting in front of the Christmas tree, and they seemed to be arguing, but not the shouting kind of arguing.
Tonks said, "This was probably about Quidditch. Your dad loved it. Grandpa Charlus didn't dislike it, but he liked griping about the decline of wand sports and wishing Quidditch was less popular. I remember that. It's the only thing I saw them argue about. Aunt Lily agreed with Grandpa Charlus too, which must've annoyed Uncle James. Your dad, I mean."
Harry's throat was closing up again, so all he did was nod.
"I could make copies of all these pictures for you. Would you like that?"
"I'd love that," he said, knowing his voice was rough.
She smiled and give him a hug. Harry wasn't used to hugs, so he was stiff, but after a moment he relaxed.
"That's me holding you," said Tonks, pointing to another picture.
"It doesn't look anything like you."
"I was in my Tiger-Lily phase." Her skin, hair, face, body, everything shifted, and she didn't look like herself at all.
"How do you do that?" He'd assumed her changing her hair before was some sort of Transfiguration, but changing her whole body seemed like a lot, and she wasn't using her wand at all.
"I'm a metamorphmagus." She must've understood his blank expression, because she said, "That means I can change my body a lot. No spell needed. It's an innate ability. It runs through the Black family, but it's not very common even in the Blacks."
Harry said, "I think I might have done that once. Just a little bit. I got a very bad haircut and I regrew it over night."
Tonks frowned. "That's probably just accidental magic, but maybe... You might have a minor or latent ability. Grab my hair."
He grabbed a hunk, gently, and it grew longer and turned pink.
"Feel that?" she said.
"I feel your hair getting longer."
Without getting any longer, her hair ran through a rainbow of colors. Pink, orange, red, bue, violet, black, brown, gold, yellow. "Feel that?"
"It's tingly," said Harry.
"Now tingle like that while wanting your hair to be longer."
Harry screwed his face up in a concentration, wishing very hard for his hair to be longer, but nothing happened.
"Right," said Tonks. "Keep at it in the back of your mind while we look at pictures."
Harry was more than ready to give up after twenty minutes, but Tonks was not. They kept looking at pictures, with Tonks telling stories about them and reminding him now and then to think about his hair being longer, and at not much less than an hour, a lock of black hair fell across his glasses.
"You made it longer," she confirmed. "Now make it white."
After half an hour of effort, his hair had streaks of white.
"That seals it," said Tonks. "You're a metamorphmagus."
"Was is it like this for you?" Starting out small and slow and eventually being able to change her whole body in an instant.
She smirked and shook her head. "I was doing full body transformations as an infant. I'm a natural. You've got just a smidge of talent. But if you train it up, it could be very useful. But come on. Tell me all about the other bits of accidental magic you've performed. Muggle-borns always have great stories."
Harry went through the list, earning laughs about the time he'd turned a teacher's hair blue, and an impressed look about the time he'd, apparently, 'accidentally apparated,' but she was shocked when Harry mentioned talking to a snake.
"Wait. Rewind. And the snake talked back?"
Harry said, "It was a Brazillian Boa Constrictor. It nodded or shook its head to my questions, but all I heard it say..." He thought back, trying to get every word right. "Brazil, here I come. Thanks, amigo."
She shook her head, said, "Let's see about this," and moved her wand through the air, (no incantation, Harry noticed) and a small garden snake appeared on the bed.
"Just a conjuration," she said. "But see if you can talk to it."
Harry looked at the snake and said, "Hello." The snake lifted its head and looked at him, and he didn't notice the way Tonks jerked.
Harry said, "How are you doing?"
"Cold," said the snake. "Where's a rat?"
"I don't have a rat, but I'm warm." He extended an arm, and the snake wrapped around it.
"Better," it said.
"Are you poisonous?"
"No. I'm a strangler."
Out of the corner of an eye, Harry saw Tonks' wand moving again, and the snake disappeared.
He looked up. Her skin was white as paper, her hair as white as snow. Her eyes were huge and black.
"Woah," said Harry.
"You could understand it?" she said.
"Sure. Couldn't you?"
"No. Most people can't. You're a parselmouth, Harry. You can talk to snakes. That's really rare, and it's got a bad reputation."
Harry blanched, and Tonks hurriedly added, "Not that it's actually bad, of course. It's fine. But You-Know-Who could do it, and that made its reputation even worse." She'd always thought of parseltongue as a dark ability, but she couldn't tell him that.
Harry said, "Voldemort could do it? I don't want to be like Voldemort."
Voldemort. He'd actually said the name. Well, it would be weird if the Boy-Who-Lived didn't. "You don't want to be a parselmouth because You-Know-Who was a parslemouth? You-Know-Who had a wand. Does that mean you don't want a wand?"
Harry said, "Actually... Mr. Ollivander said that the Phoenix that gave the feather for my wand only gave one other feather, and it's the feather in Voldemort's wand."
That was creepy. Really creepy. "And it's a perfectly nice wand, isn't it? You-Know-Who was smart and powerful. That doesn't mean being smart and powerful are bad. It's what he did with it. Parseltongue isn't evil. Speaking it is just an inherited ability, like being a metamorphmagus. Believe me, I've gotten a lot shi—a lot of trouble about that. You should keep it a secret."
Harry said, "I still don't understand why you couldn't understand it."
"All I heard was hissing. You hissing, and it hissing back."
"It sounded like English to me," said Harry.
Tonks said, "We don't want you hissing just because you're looking at a snake or a picture of one." She conjured a small green snake, and Harry spoke to it, then to Tonks, then to it, then to Tonks, and before long he could feel the difference between Parseltongue and English and hear that the hissing wasn't English. Tonks had him keep it up until he could speak English at the snake and parseltongue at Tonks.
By that time, both of their stomachs were growling. They'd met mid-morning, and they'd been talking so long it was well after lunch.
Tonks led him to a painting just off the Hufflepuff dorms and tickled the pear. She led him into the vast Hogwarts kitchen, which was filled with friendly little creatures called house-elves. Tonks tripped over one. She apologized to it, it apologized to her much more desperately, and it led them to a corner of the kitchen set aside for visiting students.
Tonks asked for two large servings of Indian curry, (Harry had only ever had curry once before, and it hadn't been nearly as good) and they had a leisurely late lunch, interspersing discussion of the school with discussion of what Tonks remembered of his parents and grandparents, though Harry thought by the end she was starting run out of memories. She'd been a child, after all.
"I know some of the Professors have pensieves. I'll ask around, and maybe you can actually watch some memories of your parents."
That led to an explanation of what pensieves were, and Harry got excited about the idea, and Tonks had to tell him she wasn't sure if it would happen.
Then they were leaving the kitchen, and Tonks was giving her parting advice. "Study hard and practice harder. I get very good marks, and I wish I'd worked harder. Everyone wishes they'd worked harder. You will too. So do it. And make sure you've read your introductory books."
"You mean my textbooks?"
"No, your introductory books." Harry stared blankly at her, and she said, "You know. Since you're muggle-raised." He still looked blank. "You didn't get introductory books?"
"Hagrid didn't say anything about that."
Harry explained about his visit to Diagon Alley, and Tonks rubbed her temples.
She led him to the library and picked out four books. "First, Hogwarts: A History." She dropped it in his arms. "I know it's big, but I remember liking it." Two more. An Overview of the Wizarding World and An Overview of Wizarding Britain. "I've never read these, but I know muggle-borns who have. I hear they're dull but informative, and at least they're short." Pocket-sized. "And finally... here. The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Every wizarding kid reads these. I'm sure your dad read it to you when you were small, even if you were too small to understand. It'll help you understand wizarding culture, probably. Read these as soon as you can, while still doing your homework and everything."
Harry smiled awkwardly, and Tonks said, "Is something wrong?"
"Reading gives me a headache after a while," Harry admitted. He turned red and looked at his feet.
Tonks said, "Do you need new glasses?"
Harry blinked at her.
An hour later, they left the hospital wing, Harry wearing new glasses and marveling that he'd never known the world was supposed to be so clear.
Tonks checked the time with a spell. It was just after dinner (which, due to their late lunch, they'd skipped) and she said, "I'm going to the Gobstones club. First meeting of the year. Want to come?"
"It's a game. You'll see. It's easy. It's fun." She took his arm and led him.
Classroom 22b was large and didn't have any desks. Instead, the floor was scattered with concentric circles, like targets, and there were cushions around them to sit or kneel on. The classroom was filling with students, most of them young, but a few were closer to Tonks in age.
Harry saw Seamus and Dean, and Hermione. She looked to be arguing with another girl, and about ready to storm off. She saw him, and brightened slightly. Harry wasn't sure he wanted to approach her, but Tonks gave him a push forward.
Hermione said, "Hello Harry. Do you know very much about gobstones? I only just heard about it, so I haven't read about it at all. Do you think it's very much like Go? I hope so. I play that with my mum or dad sometimes."
"I don't know," said Harry. "Tonks brought me, is all."
Hermione looked at the seventh-year girl, and shot an inquiring look at Harry.
"She's my cousin, sort of," said Harry.
"Oh," said Hermione, sounding very small all of a sudden. "Of course you have family here."
"Very distant family," said Tonks. "His great-grandfather is my great-great grandfather. But unfortunately, we're about the closest family we've got left, other than Those-Who-Must-Not-Be-Abided."
"Who?" said Hermione.
"The Malfoys," Harry whispered, apologetic about the very fact that he was related to them, wondering why Tonks had brought it up.
Hermione giggled, which surprised Harry. He hadn't thought she knew how to giggle. She said, "Those-Who-Must-Not-Be-Abided. Right."
Professor Flitwick stood up on the table at the front, thanked everyone for coming, explained that the purpose of the club was to have fun and meet new people, and, "for those who don't know," explained how to play.
It was a lot like marbles. Hermione whispered, "Not like Go at all."
Harry sat with Hermione, Tonks, and a third-year Hufflepuff named Wynowa Cyrer, and started playing, Tonks giving everyone tips, some of them bad.
Harry hit one of Hermione's marbles out of the circle, and a stream of yellow, smelly liquid squirted out of the marble and hit Hermione in the face. Rather than shrieking, Hermione wrinkled her nose and said, "Disgusting."
Tonks laughed. "It's a ridiculous game. But don't worry. The squirt wears off after a minute."
Even as Tonks spoke, the liquid was disappearing, and the smell was rapidly fading.
Tonks said, "It's a silly game. If you're serious about it, you'll be silly too. But if you're silly right back to the game, it'll be serious. Hermione, it's your term."
Hermione flicked her marble and knocked one of Harry's out of the circle. It squirted Harry with a blue fluid that smelled like drain cleaner, and Hermione hid a smile behind her hand.
Tonks spoke to Harry briefly on Sunday, and chatted with him Monday and Wednesday after dinner, feeling more and more throughout the week that she had a little cousin/nephew/brother thing. Friday, she heard a strange rumor.
Tonks accosted Harry in a hallway and led him to a stone bench, partially sheltered from sight by two sutis of armor.
Tonks said, "I hear you're on the Gryffindor Quidditch team."
"Yeah," said Harry, smiling. "Professor McGonagall said I'll play Seeker."
Did she now? "Did you ask to be on the Quidditch team?"
"No." He told her the whole story about Malfoy and the remembrall and how Professor McGonagall had dragged him to Wood to be Seeker. He realized at the end that Tonks was mad.
"Harry, being on the Quidditch team should be your decision. You should have to decide to go to tryouts, not be dragged onto the team by your Head of House. It's your choice. It's up to you. But I think you shouldn't be on it."
"What? Why? Everyone's excited."
Tonks said, "Three reasons. First, Quidditch is dangerous. As you get older and your magic becomes more powerful, it will become less dangerous. You'll be harder to hurt. But now you're just a first-year. Second, you need to be working hard at school. Being muggle-raised, there's a lot you don't know. Are you reading those books I recommended?"
"I'm a third the way through Hogwarts: A History," said Harry. It was a surprisingly fun read. Hermione had come up to him when she'd seen him reading it in the common room, and they'd had a nice talk about the parts he'd read, though she'd told him a lot more than he'd wanted to know about the parts he hadn't gotten too.
"Good. But the Quidditch team takes a lot of time." Her housemates on the team had complained about that. "You should only join the Quidditch team if you've already proven you can get good marks and have time left over. You haven't done that yet. You'd probably have to quit the gobstones club too."
Harry frowned. He liked the gobstones club and it was only an hour a week.
"Third, do you like how everyone stares at you?"
"I hate it."
"Then what do you think will happen when you're allowed to join the Quidditch team a year early, even though the rules say first-years can't?"
Harry gasped. "Everyone will stare even more, and they'll say I'm getting special treatment." That reason mattered a lot more to Harry than the others. Being on the Quidditch team suddenly struck him as a very bad idea.
Harry said, "But I only didn't get in trouble for the remembrall thing because Professor McGonagall thought I should be on the team. What if they expel me?"
Tonks was past angry. Her hair was bright, fiery red, and it was moving. "First, students only ever get expelled for serious crimes. For riding a school broom when you weren't supposed to, you might at most get a few detentions. And if Professor McGonagall is giving you a choice between punishment and being on the Quidditch team, that's reprehensible."
"But Madam Hooch said that if we touched the brooms, we'd be out of Hogwarts before we could say Quidditch."
"Then she was lying. She was probably angry at herself for forgetting to cast the safety charms. She's the one who got called into the Headmaster's office for a tongue lashing, not you.
Harry's eyes widened at that.
Tonks said, "But it's your decision. Just think about what I said. And don't let anyone else make the decision for you. If Professor McGongall tries to give you a detention over it, tell me, and I'll scream at her for you."
As it turned out, when Harry told Professor McGonagall that he didn't want any rules bent for him and he wanted to focus on classes, she didn't try to punish him at all. But when he told Ron about it at Sunday dinner, Ron choked on a bread roll.
"You quit the Quidditch team!" Ron cried, open-mouthed, once he'd coughed the bread out.
"I didn't quit it. I'd never really been on it. I said I didn't want to be on it." Ron was looking at him like he was crazy, and Harry blurted out all the reasons. "I've never even seen a Quidditch match, and in my first year I want to focus more on school, and besides, I don't want any special treatment for the whole Boy-Who-Lived thing. Nothing that even looks like special treatment."
Ron said, "That's daft, Harry. I'd never quit the Quidditch team, no matter what."
Harry was nervous about disagreeing with Ron, but Ron calling those reasons daft was like calling Tonks daft. "That's because you love Quidditch. But I've never seen it and I've never played it, so I can't love it. Right now, I need to focus on turning matchsticks into needles, not flying brooms and catching balls."
"You're betraying Gryffindor. You can win loads of house points on the Quidditch team."
Hermione, who was sitting across the table and two seats down, said, "He can win points by studying and answering questions. Besides, if the team is so bad it wants a first-year who's never seen a Quidditch match, it's not likely to do very well even if it has the first-year, now is it?"
Ron said, "You stay out of it,"
Harry still wasn't completely sure if he liked Hermione or not, but after seeing her twice at the gobstones club and talking with her about a book, he knew she was alright at least, and she was an ally. "She makes sense, though. I'm here to learn magic, not play Quidditch. Wood said I'd be the youngest Seeker in a century, and I don't need people talking about how the rules don't matter for the Boy-Who-Lived."
Hermione said, "I think it's a very mature decision."
Ron looked between the two of them. "It's a stupid decision. I'd never turn down a spot on the team."
Harry said, "Good thing I didn't take the spot, then. This way, they'll probably hold Seeker tryouts next year, and maybe you'll make the team."
Ron said, "Bloody mental," shook his head, and ate a sausage, still grumbling, but no longer arguing.
Harry let out a deep breath. That was it? That was it. No, that wasn't it. Ron would bring it up again. But it wasn't like with the Dursleys. There wouldn't be any screaming. Ron wouldn't stop being his friend just because they'd disagreed. It had probably helped that Hermione had backed him up. Hermione was pretty decent, even if she did keep shoving her nose into his business.
Harry said, "Hey, Hermione, want to practice spells together after class?"
Ron gave him an incredulous look, but Harry ignored it, and Hermione smiled.
Tonks and Harry established a routine. On Saturdays, at 10:30, they'd meet in the kitchens (Harry had to stand on tip-toe to tickle the pear) and have a large brunch, talking over it. At some point they'd move into an abandoned classroom and do homework, Tonks frequenty helping Harry with his.
She'd have him work on spells, insisting that he not just learn them but 'master' them. Harry liked that part. Reading was better now that he had good glasses, but he wouldn't ever be Hermione when it come to studying. Practicing spells, though, that he could happily do for a long time, and Tonks taught him a few spells that weren't in his books at all, focusing especially on Defence, since Quirrell was a bit rubbish as a teacher.
Then they'd work on metamorphmagery a bit. Harry was getting better at changing his hair, and Tonks said that eventually he'd be able to adjust the the lenses in his eyes and not need glasses anymore.
Just when it was starting to feel way too much like a lesson, they'd go to dinner, and from there to Gobstones and meet up with Hermione.
Harry wasn't sure if Hermione actually liked gobstones, but she always came, and he and Hermione had become friends, which was a bit tricky since Ron and Hermione weren't friends, even though they were getting on better. Mostly, they ignored each other.
Once the three of them had been sitting on a couch in the Gryffindor common room, with Harry in the middle. Ron had made a joke about Seamus clogging the toilet, and Hermione had said, "Harry, tell Ron to stop making such disgusting bathroom jokes." Harry had turned to Ron and said, "Hermione says to stop making such disgusting bathroom jokes," and Ron had said, "Harry, tell Hermione to stop telling me what to do," and it had gone on like that until Harry had refused to keep playing his part.
Over a month into the year, Harry agreed to a midnight duel with Draco Malfoy.
When Malfoy had stalked off with his Crabbe and Goyle, Hermione said, "Harry, that was a horrible idea. It's against the rules. You'll lose points for Gryffindor."
Ron said, "He couldn't just turn it down."
Harry, who'd had a moment to imagine what Tonks would say, said, "I could've turned it down, and I should've, but it's too late. I've already agreed. Now I have to win and not get caught." He was fairly sure that's what Tonks would say. And then she would tell him to kick Malfoy's ass.
Hermione pulled at her hair and shrieked, "Boys!"
She kept trying to convince him not to go, but Harry said he couldn't go back on his word. Though maybe the real reason was that he was eager to try his hexes on Malfoy. The little mock duels he'd had against Tonks so he could practice his Defence spells were always disappointing because of just how much she usually stayed seated and laughed a lot.
When it was time to leave, Hermione said again that it was a horrible idea and so she had to go with them, and Neville Longbottom joined in by complete accident. But Draco wasn't in the trophy room, just Filch, and they ran and reached a locked room. Harry and Hermione cast Alohomora at almost the same moment, and the four of them slipped into a room, and by the light of Lumos, met a three-headed dog.
Harry said, "We should tell Tonks about the three-headed dog."
"She'll tell on us," said Ron.
Hermione said, "Oh please, Ronald. You don't know her at all. I'm far more likely to turn us in than Tonks is."
Harry said, "She won't. Neither will Tonks. But it's probably guarding whatever Hagrid took from Vault 713, so we should tell someone."
Hermione said, "That doesn't make any sense. I'm sure the Professors already know. They must be the ones who put the dog there, after all. But we should ask Tonks about it at least. She knows everything about the school."
Harry gave Hermione a confused look. As far as he knew, she'd only ever met Tonks at gobstones club, and that was a lot of confidence. But he didn't disagree. "Sorry Ron, you're outvoted."
"It's our secret."
"How is it a secret?" said Hermione. "Neville knows too. Lots of people probably know. Dumbledore said right were the door is the very first day of the year, and you only need to know Alohomora to unlock it, and that's a first-year charm. It undoes Colloportus, and according to An Overview of Wizarding Britain, Colloportus isn't a serious Locking Charm at all. It's just a way of politely saying that an area is off-limits."
Ron frowned. "When you put it like that, there's no way Fred and George haven't looked in the room at least."
"So we should ask Tonks," said Harry. "For all we know, there's usually a dangerous monster somewhere in the castle."
"I very much doubt it," said Hermione, sounding nervous.
"Fred and George would've told me," said Ron.
"Let's ask Tonks," said Harry.
They found her in the library, hard at work with other seventh-years amidst a sea of books and parchment. Hermione clasped her hands and looked as if she was struggling to not squeal.
Tonks said, "You sprogs want something?"
Harry said, "We were hoping to ask you a question. Privately."
Tonks raised an eyebrow, made her excuses to her study partners, and led them to a sheltered spot at the back of the library.
Surrounded by fat reference manuals, Harry said, "We noticed there's a big scary dog in a locked roon on the Third-Floor."
"Fluffy?" said Tonks. "He's sweet. Hagrid got him about two, three years ago. I think it was summer before my fifth year. I'm not sure what he's doing in there, but the space is bigger when the door's closed without anyone inside, I think. I've stopped by to give him treats and scratch his belly."
The three of them stared at her. Ron said, "Are we talking about the same dog? Three heads, very large, sounds like a muggle car when it growls."
"That's the one," said Tonks.
"So he's not dangerous?" said Hermione.
"He could be bloody dangerous if he wanted, but he'd never hurt a student. There are spells on him to make sure. Like the giant squid. I don't know why he's in there, but I imagine he's a bit lonely, so he'd probably appreciate you three stopping by when you've got the time. Bring a few raw steaks and he'll love you forever."
Harry felt dazed.
Hermione said, "But he was guarding a trap door. I saw it."
"Sure," said Tonks. "There's an obstacle course under there. Parts of it are still under construction, probably why it's off limits, but I've been through it. Pretty fun. It's a good idea, so I wish they'd started on it earlier. There isn't anything at the end, but there's space for it."
The three of them exchanged yet more shocked looks.
Tonks said, "You three should go through the obstacle course, but probably more toward the end of the year once you've learned more spells. Or maybe even wait until it's officially open. But I don't know when that will be, so I guess any time would do. I asked Professor Flitwick, and he says it's variable. It reads the competency of its contestants and adjusts accordingly. Weak against the weak and strong against the strong. Very advanced magic."
Ron said, "So there isn't anything valuable at the end of it?"
"Not that I saw. Why?"
So Harry lowered glanced through the shelving to be sure no one was near, lowered his voice, and explained about Hagrid emptying Vault 713 just before the break in at Gringotts and how they had thought there was something very valuable hidden in the Third-Floor corridor.
Tonks looked interested and amused, but mostly concerned. She said, "I would think this was nothing if not for the break in at Gringotts. That happened. I read about it. But if I were Albus Dumbledore, and I had something very valuable or very dangerous that a dark wizard was after, I would not have Rubeus Hagrid pick it up. Hagrid is a sweet old chap, but no. Definitely not."
Tonks continued, "As it is, I'd guess Dumbledore is playing a game, but a game for high stakes, and the obstacle course might be part of it. I don't like that he's using the school to play it in, but you three sprogs stay out of it. Keep your noses clean, you hear?"
Harry nodded. He felt silly.
This is very much a sketch, and is going to be, perhaps, more Tonks focused than Harry focused. Plotwise, my ideas for it are very similar to Geek of Magic, (which is bad) but the tone's different.
The timing of the duel is a little delayed. I don't know. Butterfly effect.
I know some people think Ron should've been a lot nuttier about Harry turning down Quidditch. But Ron isn't that bad the first couple books. (I think Harry is somewhat to blame for enabling Ron's worst traits, though considering Harry's background, his doing so is understandable)
I know I've been skipping horribly from project to project. Sorry. But I was in a Tonks mood for a few days, and so this was produced, so why wouldn't I publish it? There's quite a few more words already written, and so far, Andromeda seems awesome.