Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter
Harry Potter cringed under the weight of his cousin as the two were limping back to Number 4 Privet Drive, only one of them half-lucid. The smaller boy was clammy, the twin terrors of five minutes ago causing a fearful cold sweat as they limped their way back.
The silver stag in a great charge had banished the shadowy forms before crumpling into the darkening night. Strangely, Harry felt no safer and no warmer than before. There was an unwholesome feeling that night. His eyes darted about and his breath shallowed waiting for some new demon.
What are Dementors doing here? Harry could only wonder as he tried to maneuver Dudley's larger frame towards his summer prison. Oh boy, uncle Vernon's going to give me a mouthful. Dudley won't be stable enough to argue my case…then again I doubt he would do it anyway. So…I'm in deep shit.
"Quit whimpering Dudley," Harry whispered quietly, casting another glance over his shoulder. How many more of those things are out there? "I had to save your ass, back there, didn't I? Guess you owe me one." Harry took another glance at his cousin, reduced to a pale clammy child. "Guess you won't remember anyway. Whatever. Come on cousin."
"Dao Shen!" came the cry from behind.
Harry felt Dudley fly off his feet. Harry went flying with him. The night was dark, very dark in fact. Harry hadn't noticed the dimmed lights or the clouded moon and stars until a moment ago. His back flared in pain and something sticky and unwelcoming covered his arm. He groaned as his cousin's weight held him down. It still hadn't registered in him. He was under attack.
"Dudley, get…off!" Harry heaved the older boy's heavy frame off his own.
And in his horror, even in the great darkness Harry saw, Dudley staring at him with dead eyes – a fist size hole through his abdomen. Harry looked at himself, covered in the blood of his cousin. Dudley?
And then it hit him at last. "Jesus!" he yelled, scrambling as he could, away from the corpse.
His crazed panic would not register with his legs. He toppled over again, some feet from his cousin, sheer terror gripping him like an iron vice in the dark. He went for his wand in his back pocket. He grabbed one end and then his heart stopped.
His wand had snapped on his fall. He was defenseless. Within nothing left to him but his eyes, he scanned the darkness tentatively, expecting a flash of green or worse to come flying at him. For a moment nothing was afoot. He hardly breathed and every inch of him to his eyes trembled in anticipation. Demons were lurking just beyond his sight. He could not see them. But the dread in his gut made him all too sure they could see him. This was not a natural darkness. He had been blinded in the night, commanding no more sight than a few feet beyond him. He desired both to stay with Dudley and to flee from his corpse. He tried to wipe Dudley's blood off his arm. It unnerved him nearly as much as the unknown threat in the shadows. Harry gulped hard, slowly moving backwards. Then there was an unmistakable crack and then flashes of blue and orange some feet away. Someone else had come. Another enemy? Harry didn't bother to check which it was. He scrambled to his feet, and flew faster than he had ever run. He sped by his cousin, now leaking blood in nauseating quantities. Harry spared his fallen cousin one last passing glance. He doubted he would ever see him again, and it was not a pleasant final memory to depart with.
"Shit!" cursed Harry as he found his way in the dark to his summer prison, now perhaps his only sanctuary. He stampeded across the well-maintained lawn, flushed green and undoubtedly the pride of the house. In the morning Harry's uncle might be furious. But Harry wasn't so sure he could afford to think about tomorrow. He flung himself in the door, crashing into a nearby vase. It's loud toppling brought out his uncle Vernon and aunt Petunia.
"What the bloody hell?" roared the large man, already reddening in the face while his wife stood and scowled with disdain and slight fear.
"Dudley!" Harry managed to choke out between his pants, more from the shock than the run. "Dudley's back there!"
"What the hell are you talking about," Vernon growled, pulling up Harry by the arm less than delicately.
"He's…hurt!" roared Harry, finding his breath.
Vernon's eyes were drawn to Harry's left arm, caked red in blood. Harry shuddered to think what his uncle's reaction would have been if he had known it was Dudley's blood. Still a look of utter despair crossed his uncle's face. "Stay there Petunia!" he cried, shoving his way past Harry, out into the darkness, growing paler now.
Harry was left panting and shaking in the foyer. What the fuck? His aunt was trembling near the stairs. He felt a pool of guilt well within him. Her son was dead. Did he have the heart to tell her? The answer was a resounding no. These three had been the torment of his early life – and in their eyes he was the torment of their otherwise normal lives. They hated each other. But even still, Harry couldn't imagine breaking Dudley's death to her. And doing so while covered in her son's blood. That would be in bad taste.
I don't have a wand anymore. Voldemort isn't wasting any time is he? Christ…can he get in here? I gotta get help.
Then Harry realized how futile his situation was. He had no way of contacting the outside world. His nearest allies were miles upon miles away. Hedwig would never make it, not if Voldemort was just a couple blocks away. He had no Floo powder. He had no portkey. I don't have a goddamn wand! Damn it, I can't afford to just wait here for Voldemort!
Harry briefly considered his broom. Then he cursed again. If Voldemort's out there, maybe I'm still safer in the house. And who was the one who just apparated?
Panic sheared through his nerves while he pondered his next moves. Suddenly a letter came flying through the opened door, absent of a carrier owl. Harry snatched the letter, quickly closing the door and locking it firmly.
He held the letter like a lifeline – now his only connection to the magical world. He ripped it open and a tiny thin piece of paper fell out. It looked to be some cheap office note. He read the sparse words. In those split seconds he wondered who had written to him. Was it the Ministry of Magic alerted to his Patronus? Were they sending men for his wand? Joke's on them. They'll get Voldemort and my already broken wand. Was it Dumbledore? Had he somehow known about the attack? Was it the Weasley's? Mrs. Weasley had talked last year about setting up a clock for Harry. But the letter was none of those things. It was not signed.
Harry didn't think twice. He barreled up the stairs, frightening his poor aunt even further. Even after everything, he couldn't bear to look her in the eye. Soon she'd come to the realization that her beloved only son was dead and the delinquent they had took in had fled into the night moments after. These bonds were dead, if ever they had lived. His door nearly rocked off the hinges as he exploded into his room.
"Fly Hedwig!" he shouted. "To…to the Burrow! Wait…no Hogwarts! Fly for Hogwarts! Get Dumbledore!"
The snowy owl hooted in alarm and then in protest. But the will of her master surged with intensity and she took the sky, now lit clearly with stars. Harry heard a large bang and saw more colorful flares of light. It shook him even as he stood and his panic grew with every second. He abandoned the packing of his suitcase. He paused only to grab his Invisibility Cloak, stuffing it into his pocket with all haste. He grabbed his broom. And then he heard his aunt shriek below him.
"The boy! Where is the boy!"
"Where's Dudley?" she screamed. "What have you done with-"
Harry heard a loud bang and felt the tremors as his aunt's body must have collapsed to the floor. Shit, shit, shit! They're in the house! How are they in the house? Almost without thought, Harry chose his only option. He took a few steps back then exploded out of his window, glass shards cutting into his wrists deeply as he gripped his broom tightly. A moment went to free fall and then Harry heaved his weight upwards and took to the sky. He heard shouts within the house but he couldn't heed them any longer. He was speeding high to the moon. The moon had banished the clouds and now the sky was very bright, almost bearing shadows on Harry's flying form. Where once Harry could see nothing, now the whole world could spot him flying, if only they knew what to look for. And Voldemort knows.
He flew. He flew hard and fast. The devil was on his heels and his only salvation was forward, forward with the speed of all the snitches in the world. Wind bit at him. The cold tore at his grip. But he couldn't let go. This was all he had. No suitcase, no money, no owl. No wand! Pure adrenaline was taking over. Harry could hardly realize that his wand was broken. His wand was gone. If they caught him, there wouldn't be even the chance of a fight.
And so faster than he knew he possible, he flew. He gained altitude, climbing higher and higher, looking for the clouds to shield his visible form. But ever they seemed to roll back away from him, as if the sky itself was abetting his demise. He cursed loudly and took to different tactics, dipping as quickly as he could, not bothering to look for interlopers on his tail. He flew closer than he dared to the ground. Car horns and frightened screams and traffic lights past him as he left a mess in his wake for the Oblivator Office to handle. But his concerns were more current and violent. He didn't even know where he was going as long as it was as far away from Privet Drive as he could manage. His thoughts were consumed by only one thought embedded in his brain by the strange message.
Run, run, run.
So he did. Harry swore again. He was making a habit of that. And danger was making a habit of Harry Potter. The wind again tried to halt him as he could hardly feel his fingers or his face. Surrey was fading. He was almost free of the city. Wanting no part of Voldemort and his lackeys, he rose once more, the clouds finally submitting to their natural order. He flew into them and cried as the icy mist enveloped his body. Harry gritted his teeth and finally found the resolve to cast a glance behind him. He could see no one. Maybe he had lost them in the chase within Surrey.
How long had he been flying now? A couple minutes? An hour? Harry lost track of the time. He flew straight and he flew forward – he knew no other direction. The bitter cold was not kind to Harry. He was in only a t-shirt now drenched with a mixture of blood sweat and rain. He shivered dreadfully but refused thus far to waste any thought on things besides his imminent survival.
Harry reckoned a couple hours must have passed. Frost began to gather on his eyelashes and breathing became harder with the cold air. And then, dark shapes passed on the edges of his vision. Two, three, four and then more and more flew with him. Harry instinctively reached for his wand again. The painful realization was slowly seeping into him quicker than the cold was reaching his senses. There was nothing he could do. Harry shuddered and closed his eyes, wondering if anyone even knew he was about to die, hundreds and hundreds of feet in the sky. At least I get to go with style.
"Harry!" came a cry. It was urgent and almost…feral. "Harry! It's okay!"
Harry opened his eyes to find Remus Lupin flying at his side. His old professor gave a grim smile but his eyes revealed the chaos at work. He reached out and grabbed Harry's shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze. But Harry shivered at the touch.
"Professor Lupin?" he spoke, almost drowned out by the wind.
"We're here Harry!" Lupin shouted back. "We've got most of the Order we could get on short notice!"
"We?" Harry breathed, laboriously. "Order? Short-notice? What…Lupin what the hell is going on? My cousin…Jesus! Dudley's dead Lupin! He got cursed right next to me! And then they chased me back to Number 4."
"It's alright Harry!" he cried. "You're safe now. The second that curse fired, we had one of our best protecting you!"
"Lupin!" Harry shouted, now with more intensity and alarm. "They got in the house! They just walked through the door like it was nothing!"
Even amidst the heavy winds and cloudy sky Harry could see his old professor could not hide the disturbed look that crossed his face.
"We'll discuss this at Grimmauld!" he resolved to reply.
"London Harry! We're making for London!"
"Remus!" cried a flier underneath Harry. "Give me Vance and let us double back to check on Moody!"
"No!" roared Remus, his voice fraught with terror. "Harry is the priority! We have to get him to headquarters!"
"Tonks is dying, Remus!" came the roar above Harry. "She's in real bad shape! If Death Eaters managed to get the better of her, who knows what might happen, even with Moody in the mix! Give us a couple fliers and will circle around and-"
His voice was cut short by a flash of light before the flier went tumbling from his broom, eyes beholding the bright white circle in the night sky, dead as dead could be. More flashes and more colors tore rivers into the blackness.
"By Merlin," cried Remus. "Form up! Everyone form up on Harry! We have to protect him! Hestia guard the rear! Dedalus and Podmore underneath! Vance break off and pick them off!"
Everyone was now flying with insanity clawing at their brains. Flashes whizzed by Harry who could do nothing but press his form deeper into his broom and fly. And run. A scream tore through the air. Harry turned to see the wizard named Dedalus fall from his broom, a stream of blood following his descent.
They're all dying…for me.
"Dedalus is gone!" screamed the witch Hestia firing spells over her shoulder with a crooked oak wand. "Remus! We might have even lost Tonks and Moody on the ground!"
"Don't slow down!" bellowed Lupin. "We just got to hold out until Kingsley comes with the Rear Guard!"
Another one of the fliers in Harry's company fell away, screaming all the way down until the wind drowned out the cries. Harry wanted to scream. How was this all happening? Who were all these people? Suddenly there was a flash behind Harry, so intense in its bright white light that even closed eyelids could not shut out the light. It surged like a ripple through the air, and knocked all in its path aside like children. Everyone was falling, everyone screaming. Harry could hear who he thought was Remus, bellowing from afar at him. Harry's own body was contorting in all ways, trying to stabilize himself. He had lost hold of his Firebolt, which was now tumbling away into the darkness without a rider. Somehow he righted himself until his back was to the ground and himself facing the sky.
No sooner than that did he find a black-gloved hand come crashing down on his throat and the face of his strangler inches from his.
"Secured!" cried the man, his fingers tightening around Harry's neck.
He could feel his brain screaming without oxygen. Harry flailed his arms desperately trying to knock the man off, but the grip was too tight and Harry was already slipping away.
Oh god. I'm going to die. This is it. This is how I go out – hundreds of feet in the air, falling into the night. Damn it. I hope Remus makes it out and his order. Where were we going anyway? Grimmauld? Too late now I suppose…
Desperation unlocked the faculties Harry was long unprepared for. He closed his eyes and yelled loudly as he could while being choked. And suddenly, the churning wind and the night sky and falling flyers all vanished at once before his eyes. He was now looking at thick grey clouds on his back beneath good earth. His breathing would not return to normal. For some minutes he laid there, still as death trying to recollect what was going on. He looked to his right, and found his would be killer impaled on a neat row of white-picketed fences. The blood was dripping down and Harry turned away in disgust.
What the hell just happened? Thoughts of that sort and others with less coherence and more profanity plagued Harry's mind. How had he got here? He was just falling outside of Surrey moments ago! He struggled to his feet, not before grabbing the wand of the fallen wizard. The wizard was holding it in a death grip. Huh, I suppose that could have been almost funny.
Harry pulled hard and the whole body fell from the fence. Harry got the first good look at his attacker, now unmasked. Harry didn't recognize him from anything. He made to leave but then stopped suddenly. Slowly, he lifted up the sleeve of his attacker, caked in blood. Harry's heart leapt a beat. There was no Dark Mark. Who are these people?
"Shit!" he cursed again. I gotta get out of sight! I gotta get to Hogwarts…or the Burrow…or this Grimmauld thing."
He found his Invisibility cloak miraculously still in his pocket. He veiled himself in it as quickly as he could, never letting go of this new wand. He was on a street corner, one he had never seen before, all about him neat rows of houses lined in perfection. He looked up at the street sign.
"Grimmauld?" he read in shock. "Now I'm confused."
Now covered from prying eyes, he walked down the street, marking each house carefully. Remus spoke of headquarters. Whatever this Order thing is, they're a better bet for me than the other ones.
Frustration and delirious fear crept into the forefront of his mind. He swore again, taking out the mysterious letter that had appeared to him moments before the home invasion.
The words had changed. Neatly were the words scribbled down.
If you're still alive, run.
"Give me something else!" Harry whispered as quietly as he could.
The letters changed again.
Anywhere you think to go, they know. Do not stop running. Do not stay in Britain. Do not go to France. Do not stop running.
The letters ceased and froze, not heeding the will and orders of Harry. He stuffed the letter back into his pocket. What am I suppose to do? Where am I supposed to go? Where is Dumbledore?
Another crack caused Harry to jump terribly. He looked around wildly but could see no one. And then he just barely spotted the wavering in the air, the slight sign that there was something off. And he gasped as he saw that the waver in the air constituted and formed a human form, moving slowly. The body was taking the texture of its surroundings. But the dripping blood was not. With a white fury that appeared from nowhere, Harry approached, wand drawn and rage in his eyes. With a cry, he bellowed out a stunner spell.
The wavering figure was sent sprawling backwards, a soft feminine cry of pain escaping into the night. The spell whatever it was began to recede before Harry saw only a witch in bloodied robes sprawled on the floor. Her wounds were deep and bleeding furiously but Harry was drawn to her hair, jet black, blacker still than the dark of the night. It began to change rapidly into any and all colors. Harry paused for a moment and then let fall his invisibility cloak, revealing himself to this woman.
He knelt and seized her by the collar, his new wand now at her throat.
"Who the hell are you and what do you want with me?" Harry snarled. "You've already killed a lot of people who were trying to help me. You tell me who you are right now or I paint the fucking pavement with your brains!"
The woman's hair changed again, now a temperamental blue. "Harry Potter? What the hell are you doing here?" she breathed, alarmed and confused
Harry's grip on his wand tightened and he pressed it more forcefully at her throat. "Why are you trying to kill me?"
The woman threw up her hands in surrender. "Harry, it's alright, I was sent to protect you!"
Harry's hand went from her collar to her throat and his wand rested above her eyes. "Is that your best?"
"I'm telling the truth!" the woman snapped weakly, her hair changing now to green. "Dumbledore sent me!"
"Everyone thinks they can just drop Dumbledore's name and I'll just blindly go along," Harry snarled again. "I won't ask you again, woman."
"I'm Nymphadora Tonks!" she spoke, now fearful. "I was in the advanced guard charged with rescuing you! I was the first damn one on the scene! I saved your bloody life, Potter, and at no small expense to my own."
Harry noticed her wounds, though she hardly gave up a wince. He had recalled Lupin mentioning some name that sounded vaguely similar. He eased up, for just a moment. The moment slowed before his eyes. As fast as the blink of an eye, the vulnerable look on the Auror's face snapped into cold determination. She moved her head out of the wand's aim. She bent her left leg and brought her knee smashing upwards. Harry doubled over in excruciating pain, a loud moan escaping his lips. The Auror then brought her right hand up to Harry's nose and sent him off her in a heap. She leapt to her feet, grabbing his wand in the process.
"Look Harry, I'll prove it to you later but now we have far more important matters to attend to," the woman stated, brushing herself off. Harry could only glare. He doubted he could stand at the moment and he touched his nose tenderly. Now that was painful.
She looked around them. "Where are the others?" Her voice was now cracking with panic. "The others that were with you, where are they?"
Harry was beginning to let up. If he didn't, his nerves would probably end up cursing this lady to death. "There are no others," he spat. "They attacked us in the air."
Her face and hair paled at the sight. "Merlin, what the hell." She ran a bloodied hand through her hair but it strangely did not seem to leave any trace on her hair. "This whole operation is fucked."
Harry looked around expectantly. He panted hard, trying to recover from the blow. "Fine, listen, um, Nymphador-"
"Tonks," she responded heatedly. "My name is Tonks."
"Whatever," he snapped. "Who are these people?"
"Hell if I know," muttered Tonks. "They're not Death Eaters, that's for sure. They were using all kinds of…foreign magic. I've never seen spells like that. They nearly killed me. In fact they would definitely have killed me if not for Moody."
"Moody?" Harry demanded. "Alastor Moody? Professor Moody?"
The woman Tonks laughed wryly and held her ribs painfully. "Yeah, I heard he had the gig for a while last year. Damn, I've never seen Moody pushed like that before. He was throwing up spells the Academy never even dared to show us. I don't know if he even made it out. And now you're saying they got us in the air too? Merlin, we've to contact Dumbledore."
"Wait," Harry spoke suddenly. "The Academy? The Auror Academy? These guys managed to fight off people whose only job is to fight Dark Wizards?"
"Yeah I suck at my job, what else you got?" snapped Tonks, despite her injuries. "Last I saw was your little ass running away while I had to deal with two killers on my own before Moody showed up."
Harry made to speak again before Tonks gasped in alarm. Both of them turned and saw the night sky, now lit brightly with a ball of golden hue, not unlike the sun in all its fury and power. It descended upon them, screaming through the sky with complete authority. Harry saw the woman snap her gaze momentarily to the small gap between houses 11 and 13. The tiny sun gave them no more time to ponder.
Tonks spun back to Harry, grabbing his arm forcefully. Harry still couldn't manage to see how she had so much strength after losing blood by the pint. Together they hobbled with all the speed they could manage, away from the row of houses. It was difficult with Harry grasping at the strange woman, who either from deliriousness of pain or failure of coordination, managed to consistently stumble and lose her footing.
He didn't look back – there was nothing of interest back at the row of houses anyway. However Tonks did looked back, several times and each successive time with a greater look of dread across her face. The sun soared over their heads, and in an instant released all its energy across the rows of houses once standing proud. It's sound was deafening, dwarfing even the most ruthless of thunders. The sound howled as from the maws of the earth. Upon release, for but a moment, the sky was painted gold. Shimmering it stood hanging as a ceiling of purity while the shadows of the world screamed and died. And Harry blinked and the gold sky vanished and with it, came the wave of energy that surged all around and lifted him off his feet. For the second time from some unknown attack he was sent flying, this time face first into pavement.
His vision watered and his face was struck with pain. He grasped his face tenderly, blood seeping from his nose at alarming proportions. It's probably broken.
He saw that Nymphadora lady struggling to get to her feet, some yards away. The ringing held his ear's attention for quite some time and it was all he could think about, though in the moments that followed, coherent thoughts were far and few between. He looked at the woman again and saw her return his gaze.
"Headquarters is compromised. We've got to get you somewhere safe… we should-"
There were quick unusual sounds in the wind, sounds that even with the ringing, Harry could identify as brooms. Knowing naught else to do, Harry grabbed the invisibility cloak, pushing Tonks to the grassy lawn and covering the pair of them. Through his cloak he saw a gathering of two fliers, masked and dangerous.
"Where are we?" one asked.
"One of the fliers, the werewolf, said they were headed for some Grimmauld thing in London. This matches the description. Whatever concealment they were using, likely Fidelius, couldn't withstand Dai Ren. Wherever they were headed, its nothing but ash now – whether we can see it or not."
Harry felt Tonks' body go rigid upon hearing this.
"We capture anyone?"
"Deng had the boy. Damn it, we fucking had him. We were never told he knew how to fucking apparate!"
"He's not lost us yet. We've got men at the probable locations. We're tracking the boy's owl. We'll see where it takes us. And another location is likely Hogwarts."
"Well we also lost the surviving fliers. Another wing from the boy's guard came up on us from behind. Lost Lam and Ming to that black one then the crazy stumpy one on the ground took down Liang and gave me a solid thrashing before I put him down."
"Contact the mediator. Tell her to report to Shanghai that we are still in pursuit."
Harry's fist tightened, a wild thought of leaping from the grassy knoll and cursing as many as he could. He felt the hand of Tonks, caked in her own blood, stop him. She shook her head slightly even as her eyes flashed in dangerous ire. He turned back to the conversation, and found all the men were silent. They were looking at something, a particular spot on the pavement.
They're looking at Tonks' blood!
Harry saw one of them slowly turn his gaze towards where they were laying. Before he could utter a word, Tonks had grabbed a firm hold of Harry's shoulder. Then again for the second time in that night, the scene before Harry's eyes vanished. Harry blinked and his world was replaced with an entirely different one. What is going on?
Tonks was lying beside him but she seemed quite preoccupied at the moment. Her wand moved in mesmerizing patterns as she spat out words in great pain. Harry watched as the gashes in her side began to mend and the large bruises and lacerations began to shrink and heal. She grimaced and squirmed in discomfort. With the same motion Harry's nose seemed to right itself and blood trickled out of it at a dying rate. Her hand fished into her pocket, retrieving a red vial which she drank quickly, and gave a satisfying sigh. Harry looked about. They were in a small meadow picketed all about by tall standing trees with low hanging branches. Strange to the season, the leaves were already beginning to yellow. It seemed as good a place as any to rest for a while. Mating calls of crickets filled the air and there was little movement in the small lake before them. Tall grass rose to their shoulders where they sat. Harry looked about, bewildered.
"Did we…did we just apparate?"
"Yup," grimaced Tonks, touching her wounds gingerly. "Though it appears you're not exactly unfamiliar with it."
"I don't know what I did," Harry responded instantly. "I was falling one second and then lying on the ground another."
"That's usually how it works," Tonks sighed. "But usually with more screaming and you don't get up after hitting the ground."
"Oh, you're a fucking riot!" snapped Harry.
There was a silence filled by the crickets. Harry looked at the woman.
"I said my name is Tonks," she interjected heatedly.
"Whatever!" snapped Harry.
"What are we going to do?" he asked her quietly. "They're going to find the Burrow! And we can't go to Hogwarts, and your headquarters place is out of the question."
"They killed Moody," spoke Tonks, hollowly. "And they killed some of the advanced guard. And they nearly killed me. Whoever these people are, they're dangerous…to dangerous to be taken lightly. Well at least that little conversation in front of Grimmauld gave us some information."
"And what's that?" Harry asked.
Tonks looked back at Harry, half playfully, half pensively. "You're on the international stage now, Harry Potter. The Chinese are after you."
"We lost the boy," hissed a voice in a tall upright mirror. "He had a protection detail – the one Shanghai warned us about. But we didn't think they'd be able to respond as quickly as they did. I trust you will relay to Shanghai that we are still in pursuit."
"It will be done," came the curt feminine reply.
"We used Dai Ren to level his allies' base of operations. I suppose Chang will want to give me an earful on that one. We lost three men – all their bodies are accounted for. I assume things went more smoothly on your end?"
"All the right people from Wizengamot got their gold and did their duty," was her reply. "There was no overruling but it was close though. I suppose even in disgrace Dumbledore's opinion still carries some sway in the court."
"Good. I have another assignment for you. We're still piecing together the details over here. We will be in touch soon. Relay all this to Shanghai. And don't forget what happens if you don't."
There was a pregnant pause. "I understand," she replied coldly.
Tonks only made a few feet before Harry chased after her, a bombardment of questions ready on his tongue. She spared him no second glance but her wand was out and she scanned the area with professional thoroughness. Harry looked about as well. He still had no idea where they were.
"Why would the Chinese be after me?" demanded Harry, bridled by mysteries. "I didn't even know the Chinese had…you know…magic."
"Did you ever pay attention in school?" scoffed Tonks as she continued walking. "The Chinese are the first and preeminent civilization to understand and use magic. They're mastery of it surpasses even the brightest minds of the West. Your magical history classes at Hogwarts must have taught you at least that."
"I still don't get why they're after me!" pressed Harry, ignoring the slight. "I've never even met a Chinese wizard before."
"Those weren't just Chinese wizards, Harry," Tonks spoke. "The violent magic they used, all dynamic fundamentals, impeccable English and ancient dueling style…no those were far from ordinary wizards, even by Far East standards. I'm no expert, but I'd say those fellows are from the Triads."
"This is insane," Harry muttered. "Completely insane! We just gotta find our way to the Burrow and then Dumbledore-"
"Weren't you listening?" Tonks snapped. "The Chinese are dogging your footsteps! I don't know what the hell these Triads want but they are well informed. How long do you think it'll take for them to connect you to your dear Weasley pal? Do you want to endanger him as well by leading them to the Burrow?"
Harry opened and closed his mouth stupidly. "But then Dumbledore-"
"Dumbledore is likely doing everything he can to protect you and clean up the mess you left at Privet Drive," Tonks chastised. "Or do you forget the murder scene you left behind there?"
"Your cousin Harry," Tonks said softly. "He got hit with a very old and foreign technique from the dark arts. Of course dear old mom is saying you murdered your cousin and fled the scene. It helps that they have two furious and eager testaments of the boy's parents. And like it or not, even for the most reasonable people, the events were too suspicious to turn a blind eye to you."
"Jesus…" Harry muttered to himself. "This is all falling to pieces."
"It already has," agreed Tonks, "which is why we got to find these Triads."
"Shouldn't we get Dumbledore or-"
Tonks snapped. "Listen to me, we are not going to implicate this nation's best hope into this messy affair. Dumbledore is out of the question. When…or better yet if Dumbledore finds it safe to contact us he will. We'd jeopardize him too much if we went to him with unknown eyes prying at our business."
"So you're saying it's just you and me," Harry stated flatly, though panic boiled beneath his voice.
"Don't sound so glum," Tonks smirked sarcastically. "I'm a professional dark wizard catcher. I'm versed in all manner of combat, counter-espionage, defensive warding…and – and stealth of course. And you…well I suppose you can cast a decent Patronus charm."
"I know more spells than a Patronus!" he retorted heatedly.
The smirk widened on the Auror's face. She grabbed the wand from her pocket and tossed in back to Harry. "Yeah? Okay, show me. Hit me with your best shot." She spread her arms and made herself a wide target in front of Harry.
Harry hesitated but the smirk on the woman's face goaded him on, ignoring the fact the wand wasn't his own and it felt foreign and strange to the touch. There was also the matter of his tender scrotum he had to settle. He lifted the strange wand.
The beam of red light sped towards Tonks. She spun with a great deal of grace. The red beam slowed until it suspended at the tip of her wand. When she had spun round, she snapped the wand at Harry, sending his spell back at him. It struck him in the shoulder, sending him flying backwards into the water.
"We call that a perfect counter," laughed Tonks as Harry furiously got out of the lake, drenched in fouler things than swamp water. "I'm impressed though, that you are even able to cast a spell with a borrowed wand. I suppose Remus must have taught you something after all."
Harry attempted several more curses, exhausting his personal library of spells, which now seemed embarrassingly limited and…rudimentary. Damn this woman. Each an every time, Tonks would dance and pirouette with more grace than she seemed capable of and returned Harry's spells to him, some which he was able to block – others which hit him with reduced force. Finally he collapsed to his knees, seething in frustration.
Harry said nothing but glared at her indignantly.
"Oh, wipe that scowl off your face," Tonks brushed off casually. "If looks could kill I'd sure know about it by now."
"Anyone ever tell you you're full of yourself?" Harry muttered, trying to rid himself of the discomfort of wet clothes.
"Plenty," said Tonks. "Though I still haven't found anyone who is quicker at the draw than me…besides Moody anyway."
She went quiet for a moment, looking at her feet, and her back to Harry. Before his curiosity could even begin to spark, such a moment of reflectiveness ended abruptly. She turned to him, muttering something under her breath. His clothes became instantly dry, much to his relief. He hesitated to thank her, his pride still reeling from her unrelenting blows.
"Confidence and arrogance are two very different things, love," Tonks winked at him. "One is the faculty of the competent, the other the design of the fool."
"Great," Harry snapped. "On top of being a second-rate Auror, you're a second-rate philosopher."
He brushed past her – his face still blushed with indignation. "Where are we anyway?" he grumbled after some time.
"Godric's Hollow," Tonks replied, seemingly not bothered by his comments. "I think we're about, a good mile away. The Order has a last ditch safe-house we are to converge on if headquarters is compromised."
"Then we'll finally get some answers," Harry spoke, not bothering to mask the frustration.
"Don't be so sure," Tonks replied darkly. "To have broken through the Fidelius Charm…even in a very general area…that's no small feat, let me tell you. I've certainly never heard of anyone – not even Voldemort – being able to do it. These guys have some crazy magic and must have resources to boot. If the Order is compromised, and I think it is, no one will show up. Either way, I'm going. It's been too long anyway."
Harry wasn't sure what this Auror lady meant by her last statement. He felt begrudgingly humbled and he stayed quiet, tucking the strange wand into his pocket – his front pocket this time. He resorted to following the bobbing mass of pink hair without complaint.
That damn hair can be spotted miles away! Harry thought to himself. Wait, why didn't I notice her hair before?
But as they approached the town, as buildings emerged from distant dark shapes into structures of life and community, all resentment and fear washed out of Harry. And in its place, at the bottom of his stomach festered an unshakable anxiety. He felt wrong, out of place and more uncomfortable than he had felt in a long time. As they got closer, Harry watched in shock as Tonks somehow grew until she was taller than Harry. Her hair lengthened and fell to her elbows, taking on a golden hew. She turned around and winked playfully. Alarmed, Harry would have spoken if not for the added shock that she was somehow holding his invisibility cloak. How had she gotten that?
Wordlessly now, she tossed it over him, placing her index finger against her lips in warning. Harry mastered his curiosity and nodded solemnly - vanishing from the eyes of all.
The night was receding and a budding morning was in its place. THE sleepy town was silent in the early hour. The small town couldn't have been larger than a few blocks of Privet Drive. As the pair stepped over some threshold into the town, the atmosphere grew quiet – but it was a natural silence as if it had always belonged. It smelled of rich pine. Fallen leaves danced about their feet to the rhythm of the wind and there was something strangely wholesome in the air. It was as if Godric's Hollow was part of the earth, as if it always belonged and had a place with the trees and under the sun. Such a humbling place and Harry doubted he'd ever wander on something quite like it again. All in all, the meek town was altogether right.
So why do I feel so wrong here?
Absent-mindedly, his pace began to quicken as he looked at the quiet town in strange curiosity and foreboding. How could he feel both rejuvenated and crushed in this place? He passed Tonks, to her ignorance however. The Invisibility cloak felt lighter than it ever had been.
Godric's Hollow. Where do I know this place from…
And in an instance, it came to him like a flash of green. His mother's screams, his father's last stand, the bellows of triumph from a Dark Lord, a starless night and all here – all in Godric's Hollow. Harry felt cold – how had he not realized it before? This was his birthplace – where his family had held him close for a year, giving him things he so longed to remember but never could. He understood now the nervousness that was creeping into him like a poison.
This is where it all began. This is where it all went wrong.
Those thoughts echoed in Harry's mind for what seemed to be an eternity. He was rooted in place and shivering in his nostalgia – the lonely remnants of what could have been. The world would never be right for what happened here. Harry felt bile in his throat. He suddenly wished he'd never come here, he wished he'd never heard of this place, in fact he wished Godric's Hollow to vanish from the earth.
It was accursed, miserable and altogether wrong.
Suddenly Tonks ran into his stationary invisible form. She let out a breath of surprise and tripped in front of him. There was a visible sign of annoyance as she got back to her feet. Looking around, making sure no one was close by, she groped around her until she found Harry's arm – and punched it with surprising force.
"Where are you wandering off to?" she scolded. "Just follow me!"
"Nymphadora," Harry spoke slowly. "I…I was born here."
A well thought out insult died on the Auror's lips and she stared at the invisible boy solemnly. "Yeah."
She felt her way down to his hand, and grabbed it, pulling him along – looking utterly ridiculous to any onlookers. Tonks whispered softly now. "Lets get to the safehouse first. We'll right everything when we're there."
They maneuvered their way threw several streets before halting at a house – grand but modest all the same, much like the town. Tonks raised a fist to knock but hesitated and dropped her arm to her side. She attempted it many times but something was holding her back. Confused, Harry muttered something only Tonks could here and he rapped on the door with his invisible knuckles. There were some lonely moments on the doorstep before it swung wide and Harry's eyes widened at the sight.
I know her!
His wand was out and a curse on his lips but before he could finish it, Tonks inadvertently stepped in front of his path.
"Nymphadora?" the woman whispered. "Is that you?"
"Hey mum," Tonks replied with a nervous smile.
What on earth is going on?
The only family reunions Harry had ever witnessed was the controlled chaos of the Weasley house and then at a distance, the embrace of children and parents on Platform nine and three quarters. However he liked to think he had a vague idea of how they usually played out.
This was not it.
Suddenly, he was glad he was under the cloak. He felt his presence would undoubtedly make the situation even more awkward than it already appeared to be. The two women stared at one another, looking awfully dissimilar in appearance and eyeing each other - compassion withheld behind bars of uncertainty. Both made to speak and fell silent upon hearing the abrupt words of the other. Tonks shuffled her feet slightly and the woman in the doorway seemed not to be able to use her low-hanging jaw.
This is a strange mother daughter-relationship for sure.
Tonks gulped hard and regained a determined composure. "It's Burning Day, mum."
Harry watched as those cryptic words seemed to register more aptly than any before. Her face blanched and the hand on the doorknob trembled slightly. Without another thought, she gestured to Tonks.
"In, in, quickly," she whispered urgently. "Come along now."
Tonks smiled tiredly and leapt up the steps, entering the doorway in large slow steps, leaving much room for Harry to sneak by before the door closed shut. He dodged quickly as the new woman grabbed the smaller Auror with concern.
"Oh Nymphadora," she whispered. "Oh dear thing."
"It's alright mum," Tonks laughed gruffly, patting the shoulder of the other woman. "I'm fine as you can tell."
"But Burning Day!" cried the mother. "What on earth could have-"
Tonks cut her mother off with a wave of her hand. "I don't have all the answers mom, not even half of them. But before we continue we've got a rather invisible elephant in the room we should address. Harry?"
Slowly as to not further frighten what appeared to be the Auror's mother, Harry disrobed his Invisibility Cloak from his shoulders. He managed to force a small smile towards the woman who seemed to grow more livid with every passing moment. One hand shot up to her chest and the other to her mouth as she let out a dramatic gasp, earning her an eye roll and sign of her daughter.
"Harry Potter?" she cried. "Here? In Godric's Hollow? Merlin, my lord, of all people to show up at my doorstep…"
"You agreed to this remember," Tonks informed her. "You offered your home if it ever came to Burning Day."
"And I was told it was a contingency not an eventuality! I never thought in a million years headquarters would fail…no, no, no."
She paused a moment before Harry caught her glance again. With a tenderness that materialized out of thin air, she came to him quickly, though Harry did not feel as afraid as he thought he should be when descended upon by strange women.
"I…I'm Andromeda," she spoke breathlessly to him, shaking his hand warmly and firmly. "I see you've already met my daughter. Oh Merlin, how I wished we were meeting under better circumstances. Well you're safe, and you got out of headquarters with your wits with you. That gives me relief about the others."
Her reading glasses were at the tip of her nose, just waiting to fall. She gave him a warm smile, cooling his anxiety for a time. She had long black hair, somewhat wild and untamed but immeasurably rich in its quality. Her cheekbones were quite accented and red lips – all in all, quite an attractive woman. He found himself grinning and returning the shake.
"My, you're more handsome than I thought you'd be," she noted pleasantly. "Certainly those Daily Prophet articles did you no favors, though I imagine the contents would be more disheartening than the photographs."
"I…" Harry trailed wondering how to respond. And then, "Wait…the Daily Prophet? I haven't seen anything about me in the newspaper."
Tonks interjected again. She had uncannily returned to a form similar to the one Harry had first encountered her in – though her hair was again pink. Harry still was having trouble coming to terms with this absurdity. Is she taking polyjuice? He wondered. Now that he looked closer he saw that Tonks had taken on many of the features he had seen with her mother. Her gaze was armed with trepidation and dismay.
"Mom, we've got to talk," she began. "Harry and I…we weren't at headquarters when it was hit. We…we don't know who was still there."
Andromeda gasped again, her eyes threatening to bulge from their sockets. She paled further. "No…Sirius?"
Harry's attention was further reeled in. He could sense Tonk's apprehension at this. "Sirius Black?" he questioned. There was a silence. "What's he got to do with this?"
Andromeda gave him a scrupulous look while Tonks found it fit to ignore her.
Bloody woman. Harry thought bitterly of the Auror.
Tonks began to speak to her mother of the events of the previous night. The sun began to climb higher into the sky and Harry found himself impatiently biding his time waiting for an answer on yet another mystery – this one concerning his godfather.
So many thoughts plagued his mind as he half-listened to the Auror's tale. Why were these Triad people after him? What was this Order Tonks was talking about? Where was headquarters? Where was Dumbledore? And how did Sirius fit into all of this?
Tonks spoke quickly, leaving her mother lacking for words. Her quick-working tongue seemed almost suspiciously fast at times, almost as if she wanted to avoid answering questions by jumping from statement to statement. Her mother couldn't get a word in, though she did try on occasion. At the tale's end, Tonks' mother was standing indignantly.
"Nymphadora, but what about all of the-"
"Harry is not a member of the Order," Tonks interjected yet again. "And in fact, neither are you. You've gotten more information than most for an outsider – but don't forget we have secrets, ones we must be careful not to divulge."
It was Harry's turn now to blush in indignation. He stood up angrily. "Secrets?" he snapped. "I've been cursed at, attacked by crazy Chinamen, flown to god knows where and I don't deserve to know what's going on?"
Tonks rolled her eyes. God I hate when she does that.
"Nymphadora?" came a steady voice from the far stairway.
The three of them strained their necks and saw a handsome man, well past his forties, if Harry could guess. He descended the steps with purpose and there was a shimmer of passion and some strange form of power hidden away in his eyes. He smiled warmly.
"Dad," breathed Tonks.
She genuinely smiled and almost sauntered over to the man where she allowed herself to be captured in a warm embrace. He chuckled playfully. "Oh Nymphadora, my dear. What a surprise. You know you don't visit us as often as you should."
He caught Harry's eye. His brow furled in thought. "And who is this young lad?"
Tonks looked back at Harry sternly. "That's work, dad. That's Harry Potter."
What Harry saw was most bizarre. For he had been introduced many times but none reacted the way this man reacted. His eyes did not widen in excitement or surprise nor did he turn grim with who Harry was – or better yet who he was supposed to be. His gaze narrowed for but a moment then blinked with acceptance as if Harry was just any other guest.
"Welcome Mr. Potter," he grinned, offering his hand. "I'm Ted Tonks. It's a pleasure to have you here."
There was a quiet and suppressed gasp than came from Andromeda's mouth, again covered by her hand and wide eyes looking about. Ted appeared not to notice.
"Well apparently the day's gotten started pretty early," he commented light-heartedly. "Shall we have breakfast? One must have a full stomach to complement a busy mind after all."
Harry grinned despite himself and his situation. There was something about this Ted Tonks that he liked, no, respected even. He glanced back at Tonks, wishing his self appointed guardian had inherited the trait. She continued to look at him inquisitively, deep in thought.
Bloody woman. What is she thinking?
Ted Tonks ushered Harry and his daughter into the kitchen – which appeared to be much wider than the outside of the house seemed to allow for. In fact as Harry looked around, the entire house far exceeded the real estate afforded from the house's outer appearance. How strange. He looked back to see Andromeda carrying still a troubled look on her face, staring out the window. She caught Harry's eye and immediately composed herself wearing a new reassuring smile as she joined them presently.
There was the hot sizzling of eggs and ham on the stove and an irresistible smell of bacon in the air. Harry's stomach growled, reminding him of his famish. They were only four people but they made quite a racket, hurrying through the motions of cooking. Harry momentarily lost himself in the scene, forgetting about all his questions, which Tonks was purposefully keeping unanswered. He forgot about his encounter with the Chinese Wizard and what he heard happened to Moody.
I guess I never really met Moody in the first place – it still sucks though…
He forgot about Lupin screaming his name as they all plummeted into the darkness, chased after by forces still unknown. He forgot about Dudley. God, he had been an unbearable pain in the ass but that didn't prevent the heavy guilt that hung over Harry's head.
Breakfast and merriment was in the air and like a well-timed breeze, it casted away Harry's misgivings. He could hear Ted Tonks talking animatedly while his wife and daughter laughed pleasantly. He tried to put himself to use, but Andromeda had insisted otherwise. He instead wandered the hallway decorated in a variety of pictures and portraits and…a family tree?
Harry had to crane his neck upwards to see the end of the tree. He saw the names of Ted Tonks and Andromeda…no, that wasn't right…Andromeda Black? And from their union, Harry apprehensively followed the trail to Nymphadora Tonks, the highest branch on the tree. And some few inches away, Harry gasped again, seeing the name of one Draco Malfoy occupying another branch. Another stray branch caught Harry's eye and his heart plummeted as he read it. Bellatrix Lestrange…the death eater.
That's where I know that woman from!
Harry backed away instantly, his back hitting the opposing wall hard. He could hear Tonks calling him. As soon as she rounded the corner with her mother, he had his wand in his hand, pointed at the pair of them. Tonks' eyes narrowed, not with anger or rage but…annoyance? She raised her wand to match his, to the alarm of her mother, who quickly batted down her daughter's arm.
"You've not been honest with me," Harry growled. "I know who you all are."
"Don't be thick," Tonks told him off, smugly.
"You're sister is Bellatrix Lestrange," Harry snapped. His wand began to slowly move right away from Tonks towards her mother. That set the Auror off. Her hair flashed into a fiery orange, almost causing Harry to slip in surprise.
"You point that wand away, now," she growled dangerously. "Yes my mother is Andromeda Black and yes, Bellatrix Lestrange is my aunt. But if we were to judge people based on the standing of their relatives, the world would be ripe with villains wouldn't it?"
The world IS ripe with villains.
"Harry, spoke Andromeda softly behind Tonks. "I'm sorry, I thought you knew."
Harry's eyes darted back and forth. "You've been careful to keep things from me – don't think I haven't noticed. An attack on my house…and then things happened fast, so fast I didn't even have time to think. And…and somehow I end up here, in this strange house with strange people that just so happen to be related to those who want my severed head on a platter!"
He tried to keep his voice steady, but a childish panic made his tone edgy. Andromeda looked on him with pity. Tonks looked consumed in annoyance.
"If it helps," sighed Tonks finally, "maybe it would ease your fears to know my mother is effectively disowned from the Black family. We have no better relationship with the Lestranges than you do. Even worse, maybe. At least Bellatrix hates you for her master's sake. She hates us for personal reasons."
"I don't trust you," Harry spoke, faltering a bit.
"Harry," Andromeda came forward. "Yes I'm a Black and so is Bella and Cissy. But so is Sirius. You didn't damn him for the sins of his family. I'd hope you would offer me the same courtesy."
Sirius. The tree says they would be cousins. Sirius.
"Breakfast," called Ted Tonks, causing all three to jump. The intensity slowly evaporated away. "Like I said, breakfast first. It'll make everything better."
The three of them slowly shuffled back to the kitchen, Harry keeping well behind the pair of them, though he had reluctantly shoved his wand shallowly back into his pocket. His eyes did not leave Tonks' wand hand. He knew he couldn't outduel her. But with her back turned, he did have a chance of outdrawing her and setting up a shield charm before making for the door. It was a rough plan at best.
Who am I kidding, I won't get ten feet out the door before I'm face down in the dirt, dead or worse. Shit. If this goes sideways…I'm screwed.
They all sat down, Ted Tonks being a source of ease and comfort to them all. A few minutes of awkward silence and the clattering of cutlery passed. Harry fidgeted uncomfortably. Andromeda finally pushed her plate away and placed her hands on the table.
"Alright Harry. You've been very patient with us and I thank you for that."
Tonks snorted loudly as her mother shot her a disapproving glare. Harry couldn't find the energy to invest further time into disliking her. He turned his attention to Tonks' more pleasant mother.
"So ask away," spoke Andromeda. "And I'll answer whatever questions you have to the best of my abilities. But understand I don't know everything…not even close. As Nymphadora said, I'm not even a member of the Order."
Harry let his thoughts organize for a moment. Ted Tonks was lounging back in his chair, a hand on his satisfied stomach and taking this all quite lightly…almost too lightly.
Maybe I'm being paranoid.
"Okay," Harry spoke slowly. "Well…what is the Order to begin with?"
It was Tonks who spoke at the behest of her mother who was nudging her knowingly. "It's a secret collection of wizards and witches which stood against You-Know-Who during the First War. Apparently when he fell, they disbanded. And then about two months ago Albus Dumbledore decided to reactivate the Order. And where once there were young eager wands there are now old and timid parents conflicted with their surmounting responsibilities and all that garbage. So Dumbledore decided they needed some new blood. Enter me."
She rose and gave a phony bow to Harry. His mouth twitched in irritation. This woman really rubbed in the wrong way. It shouldn't have upset him. But when dealing with this woman, the rational part of Harry's brain seemed to fizzle away. And Tonks seemed to revel in his failings and soar high in his weaknesses.
"So…Remus and Moody are in it," Harry wondered aloud.
Tonks nodded. "Sirius too you know, and your parents, the Weasleys, and many others you don't know."
"Sirius is in the Order?" Harry demanded. "He never told me one bloody thing."
Tonks scoffed and turned away again, barely masking her annoyance. Her mother took over.
"Dear, I myself and my husband are not in the Order per se. Though we were dear friends with the old Headmaster and many in the Order so we do what we can when we can. You must understand Harry…it's not a lack of trust Sirius has in you. But the Order's secrecy is paramount. You are not a member. Sirius by oath could not divulge information to you."
"He's my godfather!" Harry spat angrily. "He's all I got! And this Order he's in is supposed to be fighting the one man who's out to get me, and I don't have the fucking right to know about it?"
Andromeda's face fell, Tonks' grew redder, the corner of her mouth twitching.
"There's something about Sirius you should know," Andromeda spoke now slowly and very quietly. "I don't know if he told you this but…both his parents are dead and his only brother too. They left him the house you see? And well…such a big house and all by his lonesome…he didn't really want it to go to waste."
Harry frowned in confusion. Where is she going with this?
Andromeda took a deep breath. "Sirius offered his house to the Order upon its return…as a base of operations."
Harry nodded dumbly at first. The words had not sunken in and the crisp bacon was momentarily dulling his faculties. Then the pieces began to fall into place – the dots were connecting in front of his very eyes. And his tight lips separated in shock – shock which then turned to horror and then…
He saw Tonks was looking at him hard.
Harry stood up, each breath he took chilling him to the bone. He felt numb and in some stupor he could not shake. His chair fell off its legs but he took no notice. He didn't remember saying anything but apparently he was whispering: No. Again and again and again, each time louder than the one before it until he was bellowing it. Tears spilt from Andromeda's face and Tonks watched him closely and apprehensively. Her father had quickly grown accustomed to the gravity of the situation and he too was eyeing the young man carefully.
He had lost his wits, stumbling out of the kitchen with little grace. He scarcely heard the cries that followed him. He bumped into many walls, knocking over vases, unhinging paintings as he made his crazed path to the doorway and to this accursed Godric's Hollow. He wrenched it open and took to the street. It must have been nine in the morning. Harry didn't bother to shut the door, but took off in a breakneck speed. The crisp morning cooled rivers on his cheeks. He had not realized until then the tears that were streaming down freely and uncontested.
No, no, no, no, NO! Not Sirius…not fucking Sirius too! I was so close…fucking FEET AWAY FROM HIM! He's gone…they're all gone. All of them gone. All of them dead. And I'm still here. Why the fuck am I still here!
What was in his mind and what was in reality began to blur for Harry Potter. For all he knew, he could have been yelling these thoughts at the top of his lungs and he would have been none the wiser. There were only about a dozen or so small roads that connected the town. Great oak trees, not dissimilar from the ones Harry and Tonks had apparated into, surrounded Godric's Hollow on all sides. Standing pillar to pillar in the ordered chaos of nature, they beckoned him to solitude. So there he ran, away from prying eyes and a cruel fate that so desperately wanted to feast on his misery. And away from that fucking Auror.
He had made it to the foot of the forest, already panting. His frail weedy form had already given up on him, though his mind, rife with agony still longed for an external release. He balled up his hand into a fist and drove it as hard as he could against the tall oak trunk closest to him. He felt as the bark dug deep into his hand, drawling blood and if he was correct in the pain assessment, broke a couple fingers. He felt the shock travel up his arm.
So he threw another one. And another and another and another until his arms gave out on him as well. Then he resorted to his screams – barely lucid enough to have the foresight of casting a quick silencing charm on himself. The eaves hung over him brightly and mockingly and the silent oaks were the only witnesses to Harry's mute screams.
Sirius! Sirius! Sirius! WHO'S NEXT?
Harry pressed his back against the trunk of the tree. His throat had now given up on him. He sat – his head hung low towards the ground. There was utter silence for a time, even in his mind. The last vestige of a guardian to Harry, some sort of parental figure with a more personal authority, was gone. There was no one left to take. He was alone. And for the first time in his life, he truly began to understand it. He was the last one standing. And perhaps fate would be especially cruel and throw Harry another bone – a chance at some childhood he never had. Only to tear it from his hands and burn his would be savior at the stake.
Sirius never deserved this. He never deserved any of this. And I…I can't give him what he deserves…what I deserve. I deserved HIM god damn it! After everything I went through…after everything HE went through…there was just supposed to be a god damn respite from it all! A chance to catch our breath, to get off this onward bound train and just SIT for a while.
The thoughts were coming quickly and some made little sense to him. He was confusing himself in the anguish and in fear of tearing his own mind asunder, Harry got up slowly, putting his mind to a different task. It felt like the weight of the world was bearing down on him as he tried to maneuver himself to his knees, before finally righting himself in a staggered upright position.
Done is done. And dead is dead.
He looked up to find Tonks next to him. His face immediately soured and he turned away.
She's the last fucking person I want to see right now. She better know better than to touch me right now or so help me god I'm going to FUCKING LOSE IT.
To Harry's great thanks, she did not speak and did not attempt to move closer. She took out her wand and murmured some things under her breath. There was a warm tingling in Harry's hand as the pain faded. He still had trouble moving his digits but there was no complaining on his part. He took another glance at her. She was still staring at him deeply but the annoyance had left her and she looked almost concerned.
Almost, he thought bitterly.
She reached out now with her left hand. She let her hand pass over his head and upon it fell his Invisibility Cloak. Harry vanished from Tonks' eyes. But she didn't move her eyes and neither did he. She was looking into him, staring at his invisible pupils held within invisible eyes. Her gaze was deep, piercing the unseen and the cloak pulled over Harry's head did nothing to stifle the scrutiny. Somehow, however blind they were, he felt as if they were seeing each other genuinely for the first time.
She finally spoke, her eyes unwavering. "I have to tell you one more thing." Her voice was low and dangerous. "I don't know how else to say it but bluntly. The last time I was at headquarters…the Weasleys and your friend Hermione Granger were staying there."
He stared at the Auror blankly.
"I'm telling you this now so you don't have another fit and destroy more of my home," Tonks continued, in her usual fashion. "Stay here. Do what you need to do. Come back when you're ready."
She turned and left. He wouldn't return for some time. He wouldn't be ready.
I might never be ready. Oh god…
"Rufus please listen to reason."
"The minister has made his decision Dumbledore," spoke Rufus Scrimgeour stern as was his character. "And Wizengamot upheld it despite your appeal. The order is both within the Ministry's authority and within the boundaries of the law."
"The Aurors will do nothing without the consent of the Head of the Auror Office," Dumbledore said knowingly.
Rufus rose from behind his desk, placing his large hands upon his rich mahogany desk. He drew himself to full height while Dumbledore remained stationary but for the blue eyes, which rose to meet Scrimgeour's gaze.
"And you expect me to disobey a direct and very legal order from the Minister?" snarled Scrimgeour. "Don't be a fool Albus, you know better."
"As do you," Dumbledore spoke again. "You know Harry Potter couldn't have been capable of this."
"No, you know it!" snapped Scrimgeour. "I for one have never met the boy and do not know anything of his intentions, abilities or disposition. And even were I to share your lovely opinion of the boy, I couldn't challenge an order from my direct superior."
Albus leaned back, no doubt a million possible scenarios flickering behind his blue eyes. Scrimgeour looked out the window of his office for a moment and then frowned soon after.
"Don't think I'm oblivious to your game, Albus," spoke the head of the Auror division. "I know you went to Amelia Bones first. I understand. After all she's the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and…technically my superior. There are only two reasons you came to me. One, Amelia turned you down. Hell that bloody woman takes the whole law is the law more serious than any of those fools in Wizengamot. And two, you thought I'd be more malleable to your cause if only to spite Fudge."
"Or perhaps I think you are a good man with sound judgment," Dumbledore replied.
Scrimgeour allowed himself a moment of mirthless laughter. He slapped his hands together. "I'll not risk my position by countermanding Fudge. And your time is up Dumbledore."
Dumbledore stood up slowly. "You're content to let Cornerlius blunder about I see until he finally crosses the line at which point you may sweep in."
Scrimgeour said nothing but with a hardened face, opened the exiting door for Dumbledore. As the old man passed by him, he spoke again.
"But I wonder Rufus, how far will you let Britain fall in order to be its king?"
"Don't play the morally righteous card," Scrimgeour growled. "You have nothing to substantiate your position other than your faith in the boy. I'd have been able to understand where you were coming from if it was just the underage magic. But what he did to his cousin? No, there is nothing I will – nothing I can do. As of now, Harry Potter is a wanted man."
Author's Note: So here is an adventure/international thriller story that's been brewing in my mind for quite some time. It would be a big help to me if anyone cared to review and let me know what they liked and didn't like. I'm going to try and make Harry's character journey as realistic as possible, and that starts with him growing up. I hope you're all interested enough to stick with me to the next chapters. Thanks.