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Disclaimer: J K Rowling owns the rights and likenesses of all the characters in the Harry Potter series. This story is meant to add to the world she created. Any conflicts are accidental and they yield to her reality (canon).

This is a post-OOTP story during the summer before Harry’s Sixth Year. Very few items of HBP will be used.

Harry Potter And The Summer Of Change

8. Teamwork

                      Harry awoke to Tonks nudging his side with her elbow. The room was illuminated from what sunlight that could squeeze in-between the heavy rain clouds that threatened to hold for the entire day.

"Harry," Tonks spoke softly with a flutter to her voice. "We need to get up. This week will mostly be team-based training and you can’t be late."

"Great. So Horace will have more things to yell at me about. Brilliant."

"Now, now he means well and you will learn but remember that he knows what he is doing. There is a reason for everything he does and all of it revolves around you and me staying alive in the field. Nothing you will be taught this week will be a waste of time. All of it is critically important to our survival. You aren’t at Hogwarts here; this isn’t for the general masses. This is real situational training at its most intense."

"Are you supposed to be making me feel better? If so, you are doing a really dreadful job of it, Nymph."

"Harry, I had teamwork training in the academy before I joined the Unspeakables. I knew how it worked and it was easy to apply that knowledge. You are coming into this pretty lacking in these skills. You aren’t going to like some of the things you are going to be told, but you must do as you are taught. There is a good reason for it. We will follow our training when bad things happen and if you don’t, then everything could fall apart and all of us could be killed."

Harry closed his eyes and sighed. "On that happy note, I guess I should get up and get ready shouldn’t I?"

"Yes, you should. I will be waiting here for you. Now get going."

"Fine," Harry said as he slid out of bed.

They got ready and left the house before running into Vernon. Apparently, he was running late that morning and was dreadfully behind schedule. Harry heard his uncle stomping around on the second floor as they closed the door behind them. Harry portkeyed them into the team room where they met Cal.

"Morning, friends," Cal welcomed Harry and Tonks. "Ready for a wonderful day full of torment and magic?"

"Smashing," Harry drolled out.

"Hey, Ceps, you keep your spirits high or Horace will be worse," Cal warned good-naturedly.

"I’ll keep that in mind, Cal," Harry relented.

The day started with Harry, Tonks, and Cal meeting with Horace and Marcus in the training room. The room was empty except for the team and the leaders. The walls of the room felt more alive than Harry had remembered them feeling the week before. He swore a few times he saw them move.

"Normally," Horace announced firmly with a scowl on his face. "We start off team training with a big lecture and a lot of boring shite. That isn’t going to happen this time. I think Ceps will learn this faster by fucking up and getting his team killed in the process. You are going to be the next leader of this team, but that doesn’t mean you know how to lead."

Harry’s small ray of hope that the day was going to be positive died a hasty death at Horace’s words.

"I believe you can keep yourself alive when you shouldn’t, but I know that you can’t keep others alive while doing so," Horace stared right into Harry’s eyes under the hood. "This is caused by you doing what is needed to survive. Others aren’t used to that mindset, but it is how you have lived your life. Those around you, right now, have lived that kind of life. They know how to keep themselves alive. In the teams and on missions, you come first, then your team, then the mission, and lastly your target.

"For example, if your mission is to retrieve information from someone you must stay alive to have any hope of success. You must keep your team alive to accomplish your task. The mission goals are to keep your objective alive and retrieve information, but if that person threatens you or your team, then you eliminate the threat."

"You mean kill them?" Harry asked.

"In short, yes," Horace said unflinchingly. "If the bugger fires the Killing Curse at you, you drop him instantly. No mission is worth the risk of an Operative’s life. This doesn’t change, ever. No mission supersedes the lives of your team. I will never tell you otherwise and neither will Marcus. This is where a team leader is essential. If the mission is for shite, pull out. Never force a bad situation to work for you. It will only get worse and people will die.

"Every member of this team, except for you, knows the rules. They put themselves first, and then comes the team. Know this and plan for it. If Chamel or Cal mess up, it is their own fault. It works the same for you, too. Worry about yourself first. If you die, you are no help to anybody. Do not risk letting that happen."

Harry swallowed hard. He knew that he had put himself in danger for others in the past without regard for his own safety. ‘This is going to be a tough lesson to learn and I know that.’

"How can I not worry about the members of my team first? I am responsible for them aren’t I?" Harry asked of Horace.

"You are responsible for yourself. They are responsible for themselves. Trust that they will stay alive. You just keep them moving towards the goal or why are you there in the first place. We do not sacrifice members so don’t worry about that. This isn’t the military where it is a numbers game. We work in small teams where every member is crucial. If you lose a member, you abort.

"Enough of the boring stuff," Horace said with a smirk. "This week you will learn how to stay alive within a team dynamic. All of you must learn trust in the others at least as far as the missions go. Your personal life has no place here. Emotions have no place here. This is life and death at its most basic. On top of that, I will teach you to depend on your team to work together to stay alive. If you are confused now, just wait."

Horace handed Harry two sets of portkeys. "Standard mission procedures, we use two portkeys to get somewhere and two to get back. It is hard to trace your movements if you do it that way. Now, the goal is to get the satchel from the shed. That is all I know." Horace looked at every member and turned to leave. He walked twenty feet or so before turning around and addressing the group again. "You will use appropriate spells on this mission. Go!"

"What does that mean?" Harry asked looking at Tonks and Cal.

Cal offered an answer. "It means that you will use the same level of spells as anyone we come across. They stun, you stun. They kill, you kill. Pretty easy to figure out really."

Tonks held up a portkey with a number ‘1’ on it. Once all three members touched the portkey, they were taken to a drafty warehouse. The air was pungent with fish and it smelled of the sea. A watery-sounding bell could be heard in the distance. Memories of a run-down shack, a storm, and a half-giant came to Harry’s mind as Tonks held up the second portkey. With another tug, Harry landed in a dark and damp forest. He shivered as memories came to him of the last time he was in a similar place.

"Well, what now?" Harry asked.

"This is where you do the leader thing, Ceps." Cal muttered lightheartedly.

Harry scowled under his hood. Cal couldn’t see it, but Tonks could.

"Well, we know the objective is in a shed," Tonks spoke in hushed tones. "Might want to try the Point Me spell to find it."

Harry inclined his head in understanding and drew his wand. He said the spell and he was pointed to the north. "Now what? I am new at this so help me out."

"Ceps," Tonks said. "Do what you would normally do. We are here to complete this mission but more so to learn how to work together."

"Alright, Chamel, I will do that." Harry calmed his mind and made his decision. "Cal, you take the rear. I will take the front. Let’s make our way north."

Both team members nodded and followed Harry as he started walking north through the trees and underbrush. Harry used his wand to banish the brambles that kept catching on his cloak. Ten minutes into the journey, Harry heard noise ahead of them and started seeing what looked like campfire light glowing on the underside on the leaves of the tall trees.

The undergrowth became heavy and thick blocking all ways of movement except for a worn path Harry found running in the direction he needed to go. He paused and crouched behind an old moss-covered tree. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

"Why are you nervous?" Tonks asked. "This is no different than your testing or any of the other messes you have gotten into. Just do what you always do."

"I was never responsible for others before," Harry complained. "This is all different."

"No it’s not. Just make a plan and we will make sure it gets done."

Harry thought about the situation and decided he didn’t really know what was going on beyond the thick bushes. He turned to Cal and asked him to find out if there were people near the fire and if so, how many. Cal nodded in understanding and faded into the shadows as he moved away in search of a better location to monitor who or what was in their way.

Harry turned to Tonks and searched for her eyes in the reflected fire light from the overhanging trees above. "I am not sure what you want to do now?"

"I should stay with you," Tonks answered. "Cal is used to working on his own in the shadows or hidden somewhere. I am more like you, in the middle of it all getting dirty."

"Okay, well, if we have to go in, I will take the left and you can go right, I guess."

"You have to be more forceful about your orders when you give them," Tonks instructed softly as the fire kicked up for some reason. "You have to believe in yourself otherwise how would anyone else? This is your team and this is your mission. Think of it this way, Albus doesn’t want you anywhere near this kind of thing. Are you going to let him win this? Oh, and Snape thinks you are going to fail," Tonks added as an afterthought.

"You are just trying to get me mad so I will forget everything else, aren’t you?"

"If it works, then I have no problems using it to motivate you, Ceps."

Harry listened for noises coming from the area in front of him, but there was only the occasional unknown sound that he could hear. Very light footsteps advanced on their position causing Harry to turn and draw down on the intruder. A familiar grey cloak emerged from the trees with a wand pointing at the ground showing they weren’t a threat. Cal lowered himself level with Harry and Tonks before giving his report quietly.

"There are three people in black cloaks in the opening ahead. There are two structures on the far side of the clearing. One is small, like a shack, and the other looks more like a cheap shelter. The three moving about seem to be on guard duty since they are retracing their steps over and over. The noise is coming from the shelter I think. I have no idea who or what is making the noise."

"Are there more ways into the camp than the entrance over there?" Harry asked pointing to the gap in the wall of vegetation.

"I didn’t see one," Cal admitted. "I had to climb a tree to see what I did. It is a pretty defensible location they have. One entrance and they have some felled trees in the clearing they could use as cover should they be attacked."

"Any ideas?" Harry asked feeling overwhelmed.

"What would you normally do, Ceps?" Cal asked in return.

"Normally, I would have appeared in the middle of the camp and had to fight my way out," Harry said with an edge to his voice.

"Well, then do it that way," Cal commented as if it was the easiest thing in the world. When he saw Harry not moving he figured that his point hadn’t been made. "Apparate into the camp and mix it up."

"Wouldn’t that be jumping into things? I am supposed to figure this thing out aren’t I?"

"Play your strengths or you will never win," Cal finished.

"Don’t be a tactician when you are a grunt," Tonks added. "I agree, play your strengths."

"Fine," Harry decided. "I want Chamel to wait a few seconds before coming through the entrance. Cal, can you help out from your tree perch?"

"Give me five minutes and I will be ready, Chief."

"Chief?" Harry asked.

"Nah, doesn’t fit yet. You will get there, Ceps." Cal drifted into the darkness again.

"I really don’t want to know what that was all about," Harry said under his breath.

The five minutes ticked by slowly as Harry became more nervous. ‘My first real mission and I could stuff it all up.’ Harry focused on Apparating into the center of the camp and willed himself to move quietly. A few seconds later, a grey robed figure silently appeared in the center of the campsite. Harry turned and saw two guards near the entrance. He couldn’t locate the third before one of the others saw him.

A spell flew past Harry’s head. The twisting green spell struck a tree instantly setting it alight and splintering it at the point of contact. Harry dropped to the ground and threw up an Absolvo and an Imprimis Shield. With his wand, Harry threw back a Reductor Curse missing his target who had ducked behind one of the tree barriers Cal had mentioned. The two foot thick tree split in half and splinters were thrown into the air.

Harry moved behind one of the few standing trees in the clearing as two more Killing Curses missed their target, him. Harry reacted by firing off two more Reductos at his attackers. One hit another barrier breaking it into a few pieces; the other hit one of the robed figures in the head.

Harry nearly dropped his wand when he saw the explosion resulting from his spell. Cloth ripped as the man’s skull burst underneath its hood. Red liquid sprayed and splattered the immediate area lightly coating the ground. Parts of his head landed with a plopping-sound around his collapsing body. Harry was stunned by what he had done.

Tonks chose this moment to enter the clearing and she did so firing curse after curse at the only guard in sight. She was holding her own as the duel grew more vicious. The guard didn’t have the time to concentrate enough to cast the Killing Curse at her, so he went with Cutting Curses. Tonks blocked most of them, but a few got through her shields fortunately hitting her cloak harmlessly.

Harry had watched the body of his opponent fall into a heap amongst the leaves and pine needles on the ground. He couldn’t look away if he had tried. An errant spell hit his Imprimis Shield causing his attention to shift to the more important matter of Tonks and the mission. Harry rushed forward to help Tonks defeat her attacker. He joined her, side-by-side, as they fought the last guard who had retreated to another felled tree.

It was a Cruciatus Curse barely missing him that drew Harry’s attention to the entrance behind them. Two more black cloaked figures had entered and they were using only Unforgivables in their assault. Harry dove away from a Killing Curse landing roughly on a bare spot of dirt. He heard something pop in his left shoulder on impact, but he ignored the pain. He regained his footing throwing a Severing Charm at the nearest attacker.

In the confusion, Tonks had taken cover behind a tree stump. She shot spell after spell trying to keep her opponents back. Harry chose to push forward and started firing curses as fast as he could. More than half were accurate enough to drive the newest people back. At the peak of the may lay, Harry caught site of Tonks getting hit by a green jet of light in the back.

Harry stopped shooting spells completely as he watched Tonks fall to the ground limply. Harry lost track of time as he processed what had happened right in front of him. The spell was the Killing Curse. Tonks was dead and it happened on Harry’s first mission.

"Fuckers!" Harry snapped. His anger at the cloaked men was nearly surpassed by his own self-loathing. He sidestepped a Cruciatus Curse and fired his own Avada Kedavra at the man who had killed Tonks. The spell struck the man in the chest dropping him instantly.

Harry turned his wand to bear on the other two and kept firing the lethal curse. The camp was ablaze as Harry struck down the other two in a few minutes. His mind, lost in sorrow and hate, dulled his senses enough that he didn’t see or hear the missing person sneak up behind him.

Harry turned at the last second to see another blinding, sickly green light hit him in the head. Everything went black as the green faded away.

"Up you get, rookie!" Shouted Horace as he kicked Harry in the side.

Harry’s eyes flickered open as he realized that he was laying on the ground where he had fallen from the Killing Curse. The camp surrounding him was no longer burning, but smoke still rose from the remains. Harry looked to where Tonks had fallen and found it empty. His view shifted to movement on his other side where he saw Tonks and Cal standing behind Horace waiting patiently.

"That was pathetic, Ceps," Horace yelled. "Buggered this one up good, you did. Got everyone killed on your first mission. Congratulations. Maybe our enemies could use you. I know you aren’t any good right now considering you are fecking dead. Where should I start, hmm?"

The relief that Harry had felt at seeing Tonks alive was quickly wiped away as the insults and criticism bored into his mind. "How about from the beginning?"

"Watch your cheek, Ceps," Horace snapped. "Good start, until Cal got killed trying to get back to his previous position. Two on one has that affect. You Apparating into the camp was good too, but you forgot to use your cloak’s invisibility properties. You forgot to silence your footsteps, not that that would have helped much since the noise from your spells would have let the two outside of the camp know what was going on inside.

"Chamel can hold her own, but you just had to charge to her defense. That meant that no one was watching the entrance or for the one guy you knew was around but couldn’t see. You left too much to chance and you failed. You got everyone killed here. I am out an entire team because your head was up your arse. In short, your first team mission really is a failure. Now, if you are done lying about get up and run it again."

Horace stormed away from them and past the entrance to the camp. The camp rebuilt itself with a shimmer. Harry realized at that moment that he was in the training room. He turned to Cal and Tonks and lowered his head.

"I am sorry guys. I didn’t mean to get all of us killed." Harry shuddered as he replayed the Killing Curses that struck him and Tonks down.

"Your first time is bound to be a disaster. Don’t worry about it," Cal said happily.

"We are here to learn first off. Anything else is a bonus," Tonks added softly. "Learn from your mistakes and figure out a better way to reach our goals. Let’s try again. As you can tell, the curses aren’t exactly what they appear to be. Your shoulder will need treatment at the end, but keep it moving or it will lock up on you."

They walked out of the camp and returned to their starting point from the last time. Harry breathed out as he prepared to try again. ‘This really sucks. I do better not knowing what is going to happen.’

Tonks laid a hand on his unhurt, right shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "It will only get harder each time. Be prepared for that." Harry directed his team forward and they took up the same spot as before.

"Chamel, levitate me up so I can see the camp. I am going to try and Apparate in behind the shed and get the bag that way. You two will stay here and keep a look out for anyone who comes by." Tonks sighed, but did as he asked.

The camp had changed somewhat, but the shed was still near the outside of the clearing. Harry got a clear picture of the camp and the four guards roving the compound. He signaled that he was ready and Tonks brought him back to earth. He nodded to her before activating his cloak’s invisibility and silencing his boots.

A focused, mental thrust and Harry appeared behind the shed. He peaked through a crack in the boards and saw a leather satchel sitting on a worktable. He looked around the corner of the shed and saw two guards walking away from him while the other two were checking the perimeter on the far side. Harry snuck around the side and reached the door pulling it open after silencing the hinges wandlessly. He grabbed the bag and hurried out of the shed and around the corner. He focused on his starting point and Disapparated.

He reappeared next to the bodies of his fallen teammates and four cloaked people holding their wands on him. Before he could react, green light flooded his vision for the second time that day.

Being awoken with another kick to the ribs did not make Harry very happy. He was fighting the urge to curse Horace for every second that passed as he was berated again.

"Not bad, but you left your team to be ambushed," Horace critiqued. "Might want to include them next time. It is just a thought, but since I am the trainer here I figured I am entitled to offer advice. Try again."

Harry tried a frontal assault on the camp, but the number of guards doubled to eight strong with six appearing from the woods. It ended in a flash of green light as well.

The fourth time, Harry tried to have everyone Apparate in and make a stand from inside the camp. Harry literally had to cut down a few of the increased guard members. Things were going well, until two men appeared behind their line of defense and Cal was struck down. Harry and Tonks were soon to follow.

On the eighth attempt, Harry had his team move around the perimeter of the camp and search out the guards in the woods. Harry had Tonks put up large, area-affecting Silencing spells since he didn’t know them yet. Slowly, Harry moved his team around the camp finding a dozen guards patrolling the area in two or four person teams.

With a few scrapes, bumps, bruises, and cuts, Harry led his team to the back of the camp. The last time when they went in the front of the camp where everyone was waiting for them, it was ugly and over quick. This time, Harry intended to breech the barrier around the camp. On the fifth try, Harry learned that the wall was just that, a wall, covered by plant life. He had a knot on his head to prove that you couldn’t just dive through the barrier even if you were avoiding curses.

He looked to his ragged team members and gave the signal to be ready. Harry forced out a destructive Reductor Curse and leveled a section of the wall. Cal followed that up with a strong Flame spell to burn away the undergrowth that survived the breech attempt. Harry wandlessly cast the Flame Freezing spell on himself before jumping into the flames and moving to the right of the breech. Tonks did the same, wanded, and moved to the left. Cal took cover amongst the rubble near the center of the new entrance.

Spells flew as Harry focused on his half of the camp. He had slowly come to terms with the fact that he had to count on Tonks to do her part. Helping another with their task only led you to fail on yours. Cal helped both when he could with his slow but accurate shots.

The camp had many guards firing at Harry and his team. He concentrated on what he had to at the time, systematically eliminating the defending force. He moved about the camp running from cover to cover keeping to his assigned part and fighting off the cloaked men. Now and then, a spell from Cal would drop another lessening the force Harry was faced with.

A female scream broke Harry’s concentration causing him to miss his shot and earning him a broken arm. Hissing in pain, Harry finished off the last two opponents he had left. He slashed one open across the stomach and the other was launched backwards into the far wall with a loud crunch.

Harry turned to find Tonks fighting from the ground and losing the battle. Harry dropped two more as the third was taken down by Tonks. He moved to her side and saw the wound in her leg bleeding freely. "Tonks, are you alright?"

"Get the bag so we can leave," Tonks hissed through gritted teeth. "I will be fine. Now get it quick. I think I am losing a lot of blood here."

"Cal," Harry shouted. "Help her, now." Harry saw Cal rushing to the aid of his fallen teammate. His wand was already glowing as he started with quick healing spells. Harry moved to the shed and felt that something was wrong. He trained his wand and fired a Reductor Curse at the shed obliterating it and impaling a final enemy hidden inside.

Harry scanned the debris looking for any other threats before Summoning the satchel to him. He caught it with a passing thought and returned to Tonks’ side. She was pale but alive and smiling.

"Good one with the shed," she spoke weakly. "It is never over until it is over, remember that." Tonks pulled out the portkeys and presented them to the team to touch.

Two tugs and they were back in a normal looking training room. Harry dropped the portkey and put his arm around Tonks cradling her to him. Cal stepped back and waited for the next step. Horace walked forward and held out his hand for the satchel. Harry pushed it to him with his foot.

"Finally," Horace began. "You beat this mission. You only died how many times? Seven wasn’t it? Hopefully you learned something today, Ceps. You aren’t alone and you can’t do it alone. It takes a team to accomplish our goals and I think you figured that out finally. Tomorrow will be more of the same but worse. Watch the name slip up too. The wounded will still be wounded when you get done with the mission. Get Chamel to medical and you should try to learn something while you are there. Cal, help him out so he can get at least one yellow by the end of the week."

"I will, Horace," Cal responded while offering a hand to Tonks to help her up.

Harry stood and lifted Tonks up while she pulled on Cal. Once she was upright, Harry scooped her into his arms and made for the door at a fast pace leaving Cal to jog to keep up. "Good show, Ceps. I am pleasantly surprised by how well you learned on that one. Most people give up after five tries. You were still giving it your all on number eight."

"We died seven times before we got to number eight," Harry said without much thought on the matter since his attention was elsewhere. "We don’t get that many tries in real life so what good was it?"

"That is why we train," Cal said. "Best to fail in training and succeed in real life. That is why we do it. It is only the first day so don’t worry too much."

Harry didn’t respond as he hurried down the hall to the medical wing. The door opened as Harry neared it. Tonks had drifted off in his arms and was huddled against his chest. He started to worry when she didn’t stir as he gently laid her on the nearest bed.

"I need a healer out here, now!" Harry tried to keep his voice steady but he failed miserably. A healer hurried out, brushing past Harry, and began scanning Tonks with his wand. He mumbled a few unheard words and Summoned a bottle of Blood-Replenisher from the cabinet across the room. He handed the bottle to Harry and told him to make her drink the whole thing. The healer began casting a few spells on Tonks trying to bring her around and testing her reflexes.

Harry focused on Tonks pale face as he uncorked the bottle. He tipped her head up and put the bottle to her lips trying to get her to take a drink. Her eyes fluttered open for a second as they focused on Harry. Tonks moved her hand to his face and lightly brushed his lips and cheek before drifting off again.

Harry moved behind her and held her to his chest adjusting her head to a better position. He started whispering to her trying to get her to wake up. When her eyes fluttered open again, Harry told her to drink. She smiled weakly but drank a little of the potion. She stopped drinking once the taste really hit her so Harry had to urge her to drink more forcefully.

He managed to overcome her resistance by almost forcing the potion down her throat. After she gagged a little the healer told Harry she had ingested enough. Her cloak had been moved up to expose the wound in her leg revealing a deep gash in the thigh. The healer and Cal worked together to heal the open wound and more potions were Summoned to apply to the injury.

Once he was done, the healer healed Harry’s shoulder and arm then started on his minor cuts, but Cal waved him off saying that Harry needed to learn basic medicine.

An hour later, Cal gave up for the day. Harry could barely keep from causing the wounds from opening up again. Cal congratulated Harry on a successful day and left the room. Harry held Tonks until she regained consciousness and was released by the healers.

Harry helped hold Tonks up as they walked back to the team room where they portkeyed to the back yard of Number Four. Harry assisted Tonks in the back door and through the empty kitchen. It was in the hallway that they ran into a Dursley.

"What happened?" Petunia asked trying not to appear too interested in the answer.

"Training accident," Harry replied dismissively. He nearly carried an exhausted Tonks up the stairs while ignoring the cross look Petunia wore. He lightly laid the metamorph on his bed drawing the sheets back. He pulled off her cloak and began undressing her carefully. He didn’t remove all of her clothes but enough so she would be comfortable as she slept.

Harry left the room and retrieved some food from the kitchen. On the return to his room, Vernon stopped him as he passed the living room.

"Boy," Vernon yelled. "What is this I hear your trollup got hurt?"

Harry stopped instantly feeling the frustration from the day return. He set the food on the floor before turning towards his uncle. "Didn’t learn from yesterday, did you?" Harry said menacingly. His wand slid into his hand and he advanced into the living room. "I warned you last time and you didn’t believe me. Do you want me to hurt you? You will treat Tonks with respect. That is all there is to it."

Vernon seemed to rethink his words when the telly flickered a few times and turned off. "Harry, please don’t," Petunia said pleading for her husband.

Harry didn’t look away from Vernon as he fired four Stinging Hexes in a row at his uncle. The shock of the attack did more damage to the man than the actual spell itself. "The next time, I won’t use such a weak spell. I promise you I know much worse ones."

Harry returned to the food, picked it up and left his uncle rubbing his chest where the spells had hit him. Petunia let out a breath as she settled into her seat on the couch.

Harry opened the door and saw Tonks sitting up in bed staring at him. "Not much of a guard I am today," she said lightheartedly. "I couldn’t fight off a firsty right now let alone a Death Eater."

"That is why I am here, Nymph. I brought you some food since we never really ate much during lunch." Tonks started getting up but Harry stopped her. "I will feed you where you are. Just settle back and we will see if I know how to do this."

Over the next half hour, Harry fed Tonks some food as he ate along with her. All too soon, Tonks started drifting off again. Harry put the plate on his desk and joined her in bed. Once he was settled, Tonks rolled over and placed herself on top of him falling asleep instantly. Harry smiled as he brushed the hair out of her face. He kissed her lightly and held her tight as he too fell asleep.


The next day was more of the same punishment at Horace’s whim. Harry failed to accomplish his task that day. It had more to do with leadership skills and less to do with teamwork. Harry started getting discouraged after lunch, but he never gave up. The mission was lost a dozen times over the course of the day.

Tonks and Cal spent another hour with Harry trying to improve his healing skills, but it yielded the same results. Harry was not destined to be a healer in any way, shape, or form. Their teamwork had improved more though. They were beginning to know what roles each member tended to lean towards and how they carried out that role.

They came home later in the night and didn’t run into any of the Dursleys. The house was quiet when they came in and it stayed that way all night.


Wednesday dawned brightly and was a welcomed change from the past few rainy days. Harry stirred and hugged Tonks gratefully to his chest ignoring the aches in his body as he moved.

"Miss me or something?" Tonks asked in a teasing fashion while looking into Harry’s eyes.

"I guess so, Nymph. I just wanted to hug you this morning. So, what is the plan for today then?"

"More leadership training I would imagine. You haven’t wowed Horace in that area yet."

"Understatement if there ever was one. I haven’t wowed him in any area yet."

"That isn’t true, Harry, and you know it. You are doing really well. Horace just wants you to do your best that is all. He has high hopes for you as do I, but mine are more for fun than work."

"Naughty girl," Harry said tickling the cheeky auror. They rolled around the bed a little until a tapping at the window caught Harry’s attention. He looked to the window to find an owl standing on the sill waiting to be let in. Tonks let Harry go to the window but only after getting in a quick grab in as he slipped out of the bed.

Harry opened the window and the owl fluttered to the back of the desk chair. Harry noticed the note on the owl’s leg and removed it quickly as the owl watched him closely. Once freed of its burden, the owl took flight out of the still open window and pulled up and out of sight.

Harry studied the outside of the letter and broke the Gringotts seal. He read the words and smiled slightly earning an eyebrow raise from Tonks. "Ragnok has the information I asked about concerning Fudge. He thinks I should stop by and hear what it is. Do you think we can stop by the bank today after training?"

"If you manage to beat yesterday’s task, I think Horace might let us leave early," Tonks said.

"What am I doing wrong on that? I just can’t seem to make the right decision. How can we get the guy out without his friends killing us when we leave?"

"Harry, think about how it plays out each time. We can get to the guy, but he resists us when we try to leave. That is when everyone tries to kill us. How can we prevent that?"

"Stunning him doesn’t work, though. We tried that and the alarms went off when we did. Fighting our way out didn’t work since there are too many of them. What else is there?"

"Well, Harry, have you thought about portkeying him out? Do you think that would work? The key to this part is to keep your mind open to as many options as possible. Horace knows you can pretty much fight your way in and out of situations. He is trying to get you to be sneaky. He wants an able leader not a hired wand."

"I just want to get through the mission and keep everyone alive."

"That is the first step, Harry. You know the first goal. Now you just have to find a way to get there from here. You have a list of things you are working on, right? Well, how many of those things play into these kinds of situations? I would say most of them in most ways. Winning takes information, control, will power, and intent to get there. Maybe you have been over thinking the scenario. In every situation there is a balance to thought, planning, and action. I have said it before and I will say it again, play your strengths."

"My strengths seem to be action and none of the rest. That didn’t work before so why would it now?"

"Because, Harry, you are getting used to trusting us and relying on us to get the job done. Every step is designed to build on the previous one to achieve a functioning team. Cal and I can help you lead, but you must make the decisions or we will fail. That is how these tests are designed. The minute we take charge, we can’t win."

Tonks watched Harry go from puzzled and confused to angry and determined. "See how sadistic Horace can be, Harry? But don’t get me wrong, it is necessary or things won’t work when it is for real. They are forcing you to become the leader you have to be. Cal and I do not have the skills to be leaders. We can accomplish a mission for sure, but a real challenge would break us. You are made of stronger stuff. They know that and see in you what we need."

"And what do they see in me?"

"Someone who can survive when they shouldn’t. Someone who can fight against the odds and win. Someone who won’t break when everyone else will. Anyone else would have given up yesterday after the sixth try. You kept at it on number twelve."

"Maybe I am just too stupid not to know when to give up?"

"No, Harry, you are smart enough to know that giving up isn’t an option. You have had one obstacle after another in your life. This is just more of the same."

"Lucky me." Harry looked at the letter again in his hands. "Fudge is another obstacle and I want to overcome him. He worked against us all year and I think he will do it again. I want him out of office, but should I want that?"

"Honestly, you can want what ever you want. The trick is getting what you want. The sooner we get to work the sooner we can get to Gringotts. Let’s go."

Tonks got out of bed and kissed Harry deeply before moving off to her clothes bag.


Harry spent the day getting beaten up time and time again. He won the mission from the day before on his first try by following Tonks’ advice, but the next two missions brought him back to constant defeat. During the lunch break, Tonks sat Harry down and told him to forget everything that was going on around him and just wing it.

The suggestion enabled Harry to win the mission he had been stuck on. He was slowly learning how to balance his innate ability and instinct with what he was being taught. By the end of the day, Harry thought he had figured out the right way to manage the tasks being set.

"I think you are getting it, Ceps," Tonks said.

"I think I am learning the balance of drive, focus, and patience, Chamel. It has been hard to do, but I think I am getting there, albeit slowly."

"Slowly is fine, Ceps. In the end, you will get there. If you haven’t noticed, the number of people we have been up against has been increasing every time. As badly as you think we have been doing, we are at a level far above a normal mission. Your only reference point is what you have done before. Feel confident in what you are doing."

"So, since we are free, can we meet Ragnok then?"

"I see no reason why not. We can change and Apparate to Diagon Alley from here."

Harry removed his cloak and stored it in his shrunken trunk. He waited until Tonks had done the same, nearly falling over in the process, before they Apparated into Diagon Alley. They had started on their way to the bank when a small group of kids no older than eight, at the most, caught sight of Harry.

Tonks saw the group fall in behind them and follow them down the street causing more people to pay attention to Harry. Soon, the whole of Diagon Alley was watching Harry Potter walk down the street. Tonks waited for something to happen, but nothing did aside from a few people smiling or waving. Harry kept his head down as he walked so he didn’t see them.

When they neared the bank, the group had increased in size to a point that forced Harry to take notice of them. He paused and turned to look at the crowd as one. The younger ones waved happily as did many of the women in the group. The elders and a few of the middle aged people eyed him carefully. Harry waved uneasily at the younger kids and nodded at the older spectators.

"Heard you are a fan of the Minister?" Asked a wary looking wizard in a mud colored cloak.

Harry hesitated before answering slowly. "The Minister says a lot of things. So far, I haven’t really heard much truth come out of his mouth."

"That mean you aren’t with the Ministry?" Asked another member of the crowd.

"Let’s just say that I am not with Fudge’s Ministry and leave it at that." Harry nodded with emphasis as he spoke. He made eye contact with many of the nearly twenty people in the alley. Harry turned and continued on to the bank with Tonks trailing behind watching for an attack.

They entered the bank and Harry walked straight to the head teller station. The goblin at the desk signaled another goblin near the rear of the bank and he disappeared through a gilded door. Harry was noticed by patrons in the bank and a couple of them watched Harry very closely.

The goblin at the station smiled and bowed his head slightly to Harry as he approached. "Mr. Potter, Director Ragnok will be with you shortly."

"Thank you, Garlsnin," Harry read from the placard in front of the goblin earning him an even bigger smile. Harry forced himself not to shiver as the pointed, nasty teeth were exposed even more than before.

When Ragnok arrived, those who had been watching Harry were shocked to see the head goblin shake Harry’s hand and call him by name. Moreover, they were surprised when Harry did the same in return and followed the goblin into the office area of the bank.

When Harry, Tonks, and Ragnok arrived in Ragnok’s office, Harry voiced his reason for being there. "As I said in my letter, I want Fudge out of office. Can you help me?"

"Harry," began the elder goblin, "are you sure you wish to challenge the sitting minister? He could make things quite difficult for you before he is removed."

"He couldn’t make it any harder than it is right now, Ragnok. We need a different person in there now. Can you help me?"

"I can, and I will, Harry," Ragnok stated firmly. "I have a detailed list of the transgressions by Fudge against us. Now, the majority of the Wizarding world won’t be concerned about that, so we need to give them reasons that would directly affect them."

"What would that be?"

"Simple, Harry, money." Ragnok leaned back in his chair and waited for the right moment to continue. "Fudge has been trying to arrest control of the Wizarding world’s money since before he came into power. He doesn’t like the idea that non-humans are in control of the money."

"Why not? If you haven’t cheated anyone nor stolen the money, why not leave you in control?"

"Simplistic view, Harry, I like that. If only more people were to look at it like that. We do not cheat anyone. We play strictly by the rules in our business dealings. Some may think they were cheated, but they were not. Any illegal activity by goblins is handled swiftly by us. I know how the world works and if we give the Ministry any opportunity to sanction us, they will do it. Our history is checkered at best and only in the last hundred years or so have we been given the ability to manage ourselves and additionally the Wizard monetary system."

"Director Ragnok," Tonks queried, "What has Fudge done recently?"

"In answer Ms. Tonks, the Minister has been working to regulate our movements and actions in reference to the bank. He wants the Ministry notified of every business dealing and transaction. If you weren’t aware, our charter allows us autonomy from the Ministry in almost everything. The Minister has been trying to change that since he came into office."

"No offense meant, Director, but why hasn’t he been successful? Fudge is pretty good at getting what he wants politically."

"None taken as that is a fair and accurate question, Ms. Tonks. The answer is certain well placed groups have worked against him. They want their dealings private and unmonitored. The truly odd thing about that is the same groups wish non-humans removed from the magical community. I find it amazing that people would fight against us and at the same time try to keep us around. If the Ministry were successful in assuming control of the money, their activities would be exposed as would their supporters."

"Are we talking about Voldemort?" Harry asked.

"I can not confirm nor deny who we are talking about, Harry. I ‘will’ say that your instincts seem quite sharp today. Now on to the business at hand. The Minister has been putting provisions in place over the years that appear to me as precursors to a larger legal position. He has made it difficult for werewolves to find employment. He has sponsored the segregation and isolation of giants. Some inhabitants of the Dark Forest are there because there is nowhere else for them to go."

"I am not sure I am following." Harry wore a puzzled look as Ragnok continued.

"If one were to make small steps in the direction they wish to reach, it would seem as a normal. If one were to make a giant leap in that direction, people might fight it as being to aggressive or oppressive from them to swallow."

"So, he slowly made laws limiting the rights of people he doesn’t like?" Harry asked trying to figure it out.

"Werewolves were feared only during the full moon cycle once a month," Ragnok explained. "Now, werewolves are feared much of the time. Giants are looked down upon as barely sentient. We are viewed as evil creatures that hide in the dark and horde money. All leaders of government prey on people’s fears to achieve their goals. Some use it to better society; others use it to better their own situation. Voldemort used fear to gain power and control. He started off preying on creatures, then moved to muggles, and then on to half-bloods and even a few purebloods."

"My father and the Longbottoms."

"When you are one of the protected groups, you are more likely to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. Purebloods have always been the protected group. Only at the end of his first bid for power did Voldemort attack Purebloods. Some of them took notice of the changing winds and began to distance themselves from his cause."

Harry looked to Tonks who had been quiet for most of the session. "The problem with hate, Harry, is that it can be shifted to others so easily. You can hate one person or a group of people and then find others that could fall into that category and start hating them too. It can grow."

"It seems hard to understand how that could work though," Harry said.

"You are seeing it from the end and not the beginning," Tonks answered. "Things are much less defined at the beginning than in the middle or the end. Things that seemed right can become very wrong."

"My trip to the Ministry last month. It seemed right at the time, but it didn’t turn out that way."

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions, Harry," Ragnok stated earning a look of surprise from Harry. "We goblins do read more than the markets young man. A good man learns from his mistakes to avoid them in the future. A failure and fool repeats them over and over again expecting a different outcome. I believe you are here to discuss a certain person and their actions concerning the magical world so we should get back on topic."

Ragnok slid a thick folder in Harry’s direction. "I have documented every suggestion, request, demand, and threat made by Cornelius Fudge to us. His latest ones have been quite forceful and specific in direction. If we refuse to comply with the Minister, he says he will enact a goblin registration order not unlike the one he and his administration plans to enact on the werewolves in the coming months. War has a funny affect on normal people. They seem to forget common sense at crucial times."

"What would happen if this was made public?" Harry asked.

"As it is, nothing much," Ragnok stated simply. "In proper context or with the right people behind it, something may happen. The key is to show the common person how this could affect them. I know you have your own evidence of wrongdoings concerning the Minister so I just wanted to share with you what we have."

"Again, with all do respect, Director," Tonks prefaced, "what do you expect to get out of this? People in your position do not reveal your cards unless there is an agenda in place."

Ragnok looked from Tonks to Harry and hesitated before answering. "I ask for nothing specific in return for this information. Over the years I believe I have learned how to read people and I am willing to take a calculated risk in this situation. At worst, the current timeline will continue unchanged and the Ministry will attempt to take over Gringotts within a decade as we have estimated considering historical precedent. As I said at the will reading, I see the future of the Wizarding world before me. If I am wrong, then we will do what we have done in the past. We will fight for what we have to."

"You are gambling quite a lot on this," Tonks said plainly earning a raised eyebrow from Ragnok. "I never knew goblins were much into gambling."

"Gambling to you, but a worthy business risk to us considering the alternative. We have little to lose if you think about it enough. I know what will happen if things remain unchanged."

"You are starting to sound like a centaur, Ragnok," Harry said with a smirk not completely following what was being said.

"If the center casts enough to the fringes of society, the fringe becomes the new center," Ragnok said cryptically. "I speak with many groups in my capacity as Director of Gringotts."

"You would do well in the Ministry if you wished to," Tonks said.

"My place is here, Ms. Tonks."

"Now that I am lost, I was wondering, since I am here, if I can visit my family chamber?" Harry asked while nervously lining up the papers in the folder he had been given moments before.

"It would be my pleasure, Harry," Ragnok seemed to lose a good many years as he responded. The old goblin seemed much younger as he slid out of his chair and waved Harry and Tonks to the door. "It is a rare event the changing over of a family chamber. Normally, it is done by the family, but in your case that never occurred. Please, let us make our way to the proper cart system."

Harry followed Ragnok down the hall and back towards the front of the building but they turned out of the main hallway early. They came to a set of granite doors reinforced with wrought iron. Ragnok spoke a series of words and the doors opened revealing another smaller room with four very large goblins standing at attention. They wore weapons that Harry was sure had come right out of one of Binns’ lectures.

The guards eyed the intruders warily as they entered the room. "Harry, which goblin would you like to assign to your chamber?" Seeing Harry about to speak, Ragnok interjected first. "I am not available as a personal assistant."

"Well, then, Griphook would be my choice," Harry replied.

"Excellent." Ragnok turned to one of the guards and spoke quickly in Gobbledegook. The guard scrutinized Ragnok for a few seconds before lumbering out of the room and towards the main hallway. "It will only be a few moments and we can go to your family chamber."

Harry fought off the images of a basilisk, Ginny, and the diary as they waited. Griphook appeared looking worried until Ragnok addressed him.

"Griphook, are you willing to assume the position of guardian entrust to the Potter Family Chamber and all associated assets within the purview of Gringotts Bank?"

"Yes, Director, I am," Griphook stood straighter than Harry had ever seen a goblin stand before. "I am honoured, Director."

"It was not me, Griphook," Ragnok said. "It was Mr. Potter who requested you."

"I thank you for choosing me, Mr. Potter," Griphook bowed low.

"It is Harry and you are welcome, but no more bowing if you would please."

"As you request, Harry," Griphook stood to the side of the door way beyond three of the guards.

"To access your chamber, Harry," Ragnok began, "you must enter the tunnel system through these doors. You must have Griphook or me with you at all times from this point to your chamber door. If you are found alone, well let’s just say that bad things have been known to happen. Now, I must lead you this time, but from here on Griphook will assist you."

Ragnok approached the door and the guards moved to the sides. The door opened upon command and Harry followed the goblin into another even smaller room where a row of carts waited to be used. The carts were of a sturdier build and more luxurious in furnishings. Leather and felt comprised the seating and flooring of the polished redwood cart.

Ragnok and Griphook entered the cart taking the seats on the far side while Harry helped Tonks into the remaining rear seat taking the front seat for himself. Once they were situated, the cart launched into motion at nearly Firebolt speeds. The first course change was a ninety degree drop that had Tonks howling with excitement. The drop continued for nearly a minute before a series of level turns started the confusion of a normal cart ride.

"I have always loved that part," Ragnok said looking to Harry. "I understand that you are used to wild rides since you are quite the Quidditch player. Any plans for going professional?"

"Me?" Harry blurted out. "I do alright, but I don’t think I am good enough."

"I dare say it is a good thing that you are not the scout then," Ragnok commented as a wicked turn put the cart on two wheels. "If you were, there would be far less teams and only a handful of players. I have it on good authority that you would do well in the Quidditch league. Keep an open mind and a determined spirit about the sport, Harry."

Harry smiled and agreed not giving it much thought. The cart sped into a large room in the depths of Gringotts. Harry thought it was just for show until he saw the dragons. Fabled and rumored, dragons did indeed guard vaults in Gringotts. ‘Bloody hell, they use dragons.’ Harry looked into the eyes, three sets, of Common Welsh Greens.

As Harry looked, so did the dragons. Their stare never wavered from the cart as it slowed passing the dragons. "Um, we aren’t stopping here are we?" Harry asked nervously.

"No, Harry, we are just slowing so the dragons have a chance to see us and kill us if we don’t belong. We belong, so we will be fine." Ragnok remained in his seat as the dragons moved about but never took their eyes away from the cart.

"Good to know," Harry said but he kept his hand on his wand. He didn’t know what spell he would use, but he could try a few before he was burnt to a crisp. The cart made it through the room and sped up again descending further.

Harry looked back to see Tonks smiling quite a large smile. She reached up and rubbed Harry’s shoulders as the cart took another wicked turn and started down a long corridor of unique vault doors. Some were black granite, some white marble, others steel or iron. Harry caught a few numbers as the doors flashed by; 98, 67, 52, 41, 28, 14.

The track left that room with vault number 11 being the last listed. The cart dropped again and entered another dimly lit chamber. The cart slowed to nearly a crawl compared to before. The vault doors looked even more stately and refined. Harry saw 10, 9, and 8 drift past. Each vault had its own recess in the stone wall carving a niche for it. There were only doors on one side of the track and the next vault came into view.

Harry caught sight of the blackest door he could imagine. It had red accents and stone edges. The door looked to be impenetrable, but what nearly knocked Harry out of the cart was the creature sitting before the door. A large, proud griffin sat in front of the door. It watched the newcomers intently as the cart stopped.

Harry could only think that while a dragon stare may have been more threatening, the griffin’s was much more intense and penetrating. Harry had a firm grip on his wand and was waiting for the first sign of attack. Ragnok and Griphook exited the cart and Tonks followed leaving Harry in the rear of the group. The walk to the chamber door and ultimately the griffin was too short for Harry. Ragnok turned and spoke to Harry.

"Harry, this is the Potter Family Chamber, number 7. This is Vincent, as I am told, the griffin who guards your Family Chamber per our long standing arrangement with the Potters. Upkeep costs are barely noticeable with your current holdings. So I advise that you maintain Vincent as your living security measure."

"Um, sure, why not," Harry was getting more unnerved as Vincent never looked away from him.

"I must make this official and all," Ragnok spoke clearing his throat. "Mister Harry James Potter, son of James Potter, I do hereby confer official ownership of the Potter Family Chamber, number 7, to you henceforth with all powers, rights, and privileges. Please advance to the vault door and place your left hand and wand on the door."

Harry looked to Ragnok then back to Vincent. Harry took a deep breath and walked forward. Vincent stepped to the side, but his claws were fully extended and poised to attack. Harry watched the animal closely as he reached the door. Doing as instructed, Harry placed his left hand flat on the door. He drew his wand and placed it, too, on the door.

A few seconds later, the door glowed with a silvery shimmer. Harry looked at the door and saw it fade from sight to reveal the contents of the vault inside. A shriek drew Harry back to reality causing him to turn and see the griffin right next to him. Expecting a quick death, Harry looked right into the eyes of the griffin as it stopped its advance.

Vincent looked Harry up and down slowly before closing its eyes and rubbing its head against Harry’s chest. Harry did what he usually did when an animal rubbed against him; he rubbed its head and scratched behind its ears. The griffin sniffed Harry and continued letting Harry pet him. Thoughts of Hagrid cooing about such a good griffin and wonderful animal floated through his mind.

Harry looked to Tonks and Ragnok to find Ragnok in deep thought and Tonks lowering her wand to her side. "I believe it was your mother who selected Vincent when your last griffin was retired. With how fast you were accepted, I believe this is not the first time you have met this griffin."

"Hello, Vincent," Harry spoke softly to the griffin as he continued petting the creature. "I am glad you didn’t kill me today. That would have made it difficult for Tonks to explain where I am next time there is an Order meeting."

"Harry," Ragnok continued, "you must key in the proper people to the chamber before they access it. Security in this area is the highest of the bank and even the world. You and I are the only people keyed to the door. I am merely by title, so you are the only one who can permit or prohibit access. If you would like Griphook to carry out business in your stead, you might want to add him to the vault access list. The chamber is made up of different rooms and access can be limited by room. Your hand and stating the persons name and access level along with their hand print will key them in."

"How many rooms are there in the chamber?" Harry asked still petting Vincent.

"Yours has four rooms within the chamber," Ragnok explained. "Access is incremental since all the rooms are connected one by one. To get to the third room you must go through the first two rooms."

Harry keyed Griphook into the first room and Tonks into the third. For some reason, Harry wanted to keep the fourth room to himself until he knew what was in every room. Vincent took up a position right outside of the chamber and kept a watch out for others as Harry and Tonks entered the chamber together hand in hand.

The first room contained more gold than Harry could believe existed. The room was quite large and the gold was neatly stacked in rows and set into trays which were stacked from floor to ceiling. The stacks filled the room to where only a narrow path was open for a person to walk to the next room. The defined barrier in the wall shimmered and vanished as Harry approached it.

The second room had more gold in it, but only a few stacks reached the ceiling and the remaining few stacks were only a few feet high. Harry found much of the remaining room filled with books. Shelves and shelves of books lined the walls and again a small walkway was left open.

Tonks looked at a few titles and made odd noises. "What is it, Nymph?"

"This book doesn’t exist," Tonks said pointing to an old looking book with barely legible writing. "It was lost when the Library of Alexandria was destroyed. We learn about some of the lost works in auror training. One of the instructors is obsessed with the Library so that is how I know. How in the world did your family get this book? You can tell it is not a normal book because the binding looks like it was done by hand hundreds of years ago."

Harry just nodded and thought of losing Hermione in the vault for a few years or more. "So, it would be smart to keep Hermione away from here or she and Vincent would have to be good friends for it to work out?"

Ignoring his question, Tonks continued searching the shelves. "There is only two other copies of this book and our Ministry and the Russians have them. This book over here is illegal in every country that is part of the International Confederation."

"Who ever knew you were the bookworm type?"

"I am not a bookworm. I just know what books are and how they can be used." Tonks gave him a cheeky smile.

"Maybe so, but as Horace said I don’t learn well from books. This is Hermione’s thing not mine."

The next room was filled with paintings, armor, furniture, jewels, and other heirloom type of things. Tonks was looking at clothes that seemed a few hundred years out of date. "If you want clothes, Madam Malkins is nearby."

"These are clothes from the 1600’s, Harry. This is the real thing. Some of these have to be wedding dresses, too."

"I will leave you here so I can check out the fourth room then." Harry walked between the rows of clothes and found the last door. It shimmered again and faded from view. Harry entered what appeared to be an office. A bookshelf was against the near wall and cabinets lined the remainder of the small room except for an open space where a small tapestry hung. It was old looking and the words weren’t legible from Harry’s position. On the desk were a quill set, ink bottle, two envelopes, and a muggle pen set.

Harry looked at the pen set and saw engraving etched into it.

Congratulations, Lily.

Happy Graduation.

Love, Mum and Dad

Harry fought the tears that started welling up in his eyes. He lost the battle as he thought of his mum and the grandparents he never knew. ‘My mum’s pen set from graduating Hogwarts. I will never get this from my parents. I will never hear those words. I know who made that happen and I will never forget.’

The quill set was his father’s, also given upon graduation from Hogwarts by parents. The tears continued as Harry picked up the quill and petted the feather gently. He sighed deeply as he realized the truth yet again that all the hoping in the world, all the magic in the universe, wouldn’t bring them back. ‘Move forward, Potter. Stop living in the past.’

Harry intended to do just that, until he looked more closely at the two envelopes sitting on the corner of the desk. Both read, "Harry", but one was written in feminine script and the other was in profoundly male writing not unlike his own.

"Fuck me," Harry couldn’t stop himself from saying as he froze in place. The gravity of the situation nearly pulled him to the floor as the world seemed to fall down around him. ‘They left me letters. They each left me a letter. How could you write a letter to your kid when he is a baby and you think you might be killed? How could you do that?’

With a shaking hand, nearly a blur from nerves, Harry reached out and picked up his mother’s letter. Pulling it to his chest, Harry hugged it tightly hearing the paper crinkle under the desire for a real hug from his mother. The tears flowed freely as Harry tried to remember just one of his mother’s hugs, a kiss on the cheek, or a pat on the head. Anything at all would have caused Harry more happiness than his entire life added up.

He remembered nothing.

With a fevered shake, Harry opened the letter and looked upon the words before him. He read every word, every sentence, and every paragraph. He read it twice, even three times. At the end, Harry could think only one thought, ‘She loved me. She really loved me. She didn’t hesitate to sacrifice herself for me because she loved me more than her own life. What greater example of love is there? I miss you, mum.’

Harry broke down as he held the letter to his chest again. He did not remember the love his mother had for him, but Harry felt that love coursing through his veins. It was just like his magic when Horace worked him up into a frenzy. It was alive and it had a purpose for its existence.

‘The next time I meet those fuckers, I will hurt them. I will hurt them like they hurt me.’

As he composed himself again, Harry carefully returned the letter to its envelope. He flattened it gently and set it on the desk. Shifting his gaze, Harry picked up his father’s letter. Once removed and laid out, Harry started reading the words his father had written him. Much of the letter gave Harry advice on how to cause trouble and get away with it, girls and the best ways to become friendly with them, and above all hiding those things from his mum.

Harry couldn’t help but laugh against his tears as his father rambled on about giving Sirius hell for him. The letter ended with James admitting his love for Harry and a request to take care of Lily.

‘I am sorry that I couldn’t do it, dad. I think I am done feeling guilty for all the things I couldn’t stop and even some of the things I let happen. I love you, dad.’

An additional sheet had a few things written on it that Harry had to think about. In short, it looked like Harry’s life was about to get a bit easier and less stressful if what was written was true. Following the same procedure he did with his mum’s letter, Harry returned his father’s to its envelope. He picked up both letters and put them in his trunk storing them in a safe place.

Harry looked around the room once and decided that he needed to finish his business for the day. He left the room and saw Tonks sitting on a crate of stuff near the door. She looked up and smiled widely but soon grew concerned as she noticed the tear stains.

"Harry, are you alright?" Tonks asked as she moved to hug Harry tightly.

Harry stopped himself from giving his normal answer to questions like that. He hugged her back and let his heart open up to the action. His eyes were closed tightly so he didn’t notice the faint light he gave off as he hugged Tonks.

She felt a change in his mood and his actions. He wasn’t the same Harry that had gone into the room an hour ago. He was different but the same. She wasn’t sure what it was, but she felt something different in herself at that moment.

"Harry, are you alright?" Tonks pulled back and looked into his eyes. She barely managed to stop her gasp as she saw no trace of the boy left in those eyes. She saw only Harry Potter the man looking back.

"I am doing better, Nymphadora," Harry almost purred. "And every day I will be doing better. I think I have it figured out, Nymph. I think I have it all figured out."

"What figured out?"

"My life. I have my life figured out. I have always had an idea, but now I think I just accepted it."

"I don’t think I am following you completely, Harry."

"Have you ever been confused or lost or felt not right? Then suddenly everything makes sense, you find your way, or you feel perfect. I am at that point right now. It makes sense, I know my way, and I doubt I could feel more right."

"You are the same Harry that went in there an hour ago, right?"

"Probably not, but this is who that person is now. I hope you don’t mind."

Tonks looked into Harry’s eyes again and found a level of peace that hadn’t been there before. The unfocused energy, frustration, anger, and angst that Harry had come to embody had been replaced by peace, focus, and determination that she had only seen when he was fighting for his life. "As long as you don’t snap, I think I can get used to you this way."

"Good to hear, Nymph." Harry kept eye contact as he leaned forward and kissed Tonks passionately on the lips. His hands moved to the back of her head and the small of her back as he continued kissing her. She returned the favour by rubbing the back of his head and grabbing his bum firmly. Harry broke the kiss breathing deeply and looking determined about something.

"Knut for your thoughts, Harry?"

"You have a knut on you?"

"I think there are a few hundred a few rooms back so I can get you one if you need it."

"I like you, Tonks. I like you a lot and I want to keep going with us."

"I am glad to hear that, Harry. I like you a lot as well, but what is going to be different about us?"

"I understand my life and what I need to do. In addition, I know what I want and I am willing to reach for it."

"Alright, I can live with that. You must have found something pretty good in there."

"I found something I never realized I had. Moreover, I learned about myself and my parents. Some important questions have been answered that I never knew I worried about. As I said before, I will be better with every day."

"I am excited for you." Tonks nibbled on her lip as she waited for Harry to respond.

Harry kissed her again causing her knees to buckle and give out. Harry held her up and continued until the lack of oxygen forced a break.

"I don’t think we will need to worry about the Dursleys much longer."

"Really and why is that, Harry?"

"You will find out later, Nymph."

Tonks pouted. "I don’t like surprises, Harry."

"I thought you did?"

"I do when I am the one doing them or I already know what they are or at least I have a good idea."

"Well, you can hate me then cause I am not going to tell. Now, I have one more stop to make and if you have any then we have those too."

"I think I am good, Harry. Let’s do your stop and then get home. We are going to be really late as it is."

"Don’t worry about it. Blame me for all of it and the rest will take care of itself."

"The new and confident Harry Potter, I like it."

"I am not through yet. Let’s go. I hope Vincent hasn’t eaten Griphook while we were in here. I kind of like that goblin."

They left the chamber to find Griphook and Ragnok playing a goblin game involving tiles and quite a bit of money. Vincent was merely watching the two. Harry walked up to Vincent and patted his head. The griffin sniffed him again before allowing Harry to proceed. The two goblins gathered up their game and winnings and piled into the cart with Harry and Tonks following.

"Did you find everything you needed, Harry?" Ragnok asked.

"More than I could have hoped for, Ragnok." Harry was much more up beat and his forcefulness was more assured. "I guess you do gamble."

"I was feeling particularly lucky today." Ragnok looked Harry up and down. "I think my luck is going to be better than average for the foreseeable future as well."

"Maybe, Ragnok, maybe." Harry smiled coyly. "It might be a little bumpy at the beginning, but I think everything will work out in the end."

"I completely believe you, Harry. I am glad that you found what you were looking for."

"I found something I didn’t know I was looking for." Harry remained silent for the remainder of the trip focusing on his next task.

Tonks watched Harry as well as she could and found his attitude to be remarkably better than the depressed and agitated mood he seemed to carry with him everywhere he went. She rubbed the back of his neck as they ascended. Harry held her hand in his as they reached the surface.

"If you need anything, Harry," Ragnok said. "Notify me at once. I will always be available for you."

"Thank you, Ragnok," Harry replied. "I appreciate it."

"Harry," Griphook said haltingly. "I am here for anything you need as well. My primary duty is to you and your estate."

"Thank you as well, Griphook." Harry nodded and shook the goblin’s hand before leading Tonks to the lobby.

When they arrived in the lobby, the guards watched them intently as they walked to the door. There were only a few customers in the bank at the late hour, but they followed every one of Harry’s movements. One of the customers had been a classmate of James Potter and he had to do a double take to be sure that he hadn’t seen a ghost. The eyes and scar proved that it was Harry and not James that walked passed the man but the way he moved was an exact match for his father.

Harry walked out of the bank and down the alley. Tonks was surprised by how un-phased Harry was by all the attention he was getting. The way he was walking, the very air about him, demanded attention be given. When he passed Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Fred and George had been closing up for the night. They were about to call out but stopped for some reason. They too watched Harry walk down the alley.

Turning into a doorway that was mostly hidden from view, Harry opened the door and started up the stairs to the second floor offices of The Quibbler. Tonks followed Harry as closely as she could up the stairs and into the waiting area of the paper which also happened to be the writing area, editing area, and printing area. The offices were a collection of pictures, clippings, and quills.

There were only four people in the office that Harry could see. One was an older man in the corner working on one of the printing presses of which was in pieces. Another was a woman in the near desk working on an article with large distorted pictures. It was the two people in the back of the office area talking to each other that Harry wanted to speak to.

"Excuse me," Harry interrupted the woman. "I would like to speak with the owner about an article I need printed."

"Adverts are usually mailed in, sir," the woman said before looking up. Once her eyes focused on Harry, she dropped her work on the desk and stood up quickly. "Mr. Potter, what a pleasant surprise." She spoke loud enough that the man in the back stopped his work as well to listen in on the conversation.

"Yes, well, I would like to speak to Mr. Lovegood if I could. It is an important matter."

"Yes, Mr. Potter, I will let him know you are here." The woman hurried off to the back room where Mr. Lovegood was speaking with a witch who could only have been Luna. After the woman relayed the message, it was Luna who came to get Harry.

"Harry," Luna spoke airily. "How nice of you to stop by. You wouldn’t happen to have pictures of a Crumple-Horned Snorkack would you?"

"Sorry, Luna, I don’t. I do have a matter that I need to speak with your father about though. May I see him?"

"Oh, too bad." Luna wondered back to her father seemingly forgetting about Harry. Once she rejoined her father, she turned and saw that Harry wasn’t there. She craned her neck and waved Harry back to them.

Harry walked to meet the pair. The woman who they met first stared at Harry the whole time. Tonks followed closely behind Harry and when she came even with the woman she snapped her fingers in front of her face causing the woman to jump. Tonks smiled and joined Harry, Luna, and Mr. Lovegood.

"Harry Potter, what a pleasure to meet you," Mr. Lovegood shook Harry’s hand wildly. "Oddment Lovegood, just call me Odd. Now, you have something to discuss?"

"Odd, I have a problem and I think you can help me out." Harry spoke with confidence and determination that he never really showed outside of a fight for his life.

"And what problem could you have aside from the obvious?"

"In short, I need to remove Fudge from the Ministry and get someone better in his place. I have evidence and witnesses to repeated errors in judgment and even illegal activities. Can you help me out?"

Odd seemed to think it over before answering. "Not one to mess about with minor problems are you?"

"They find me, not the other way around, sir. Will you help?"

"I have no love for Fudge," Odd said simply. "You helped me out before so it is only fair that I do the same for you. What have you got and when do you want it done?"

"Excellent," Harry said and began to detail his plan and the information.

Half an hour later, Harry and Tonks left The Quibbler offices and went to the Apparition point. The streets were completely clear when Harry Apparated to the back garden of Number Four. Harry entered the house as did Tonks. They grabbed some food from the fridge and started up the stairs.

"Where have you been, Boy?" Called his uncle in his normal Harry-tone.

"Just don’t get it do you, Vernon," Harry said shaking his head ignoring the question. "You are nothing to me and I am nothing to you. Goodnight."

Harry continued up the stairs not showing any recognition to the sputtering coming from the living room. He closed the door after Tonks and settled on the bed. He pulled the plate of food into his lap and started eating. Tonks did the same but kept an eye on Harry.

The food disappeared quickly and soon the plates were put on the desk. Hedwig had been watered, fed, and her cage had been cleaned. Harry looked into Tonks eyes and saw puzzlement.

"What is it, Nymph?"

"You aren’t the same. Something changed in the vault and I am concerned it isn’t real. I am afraid that you are going to come back down to earth and things will be worse than they were before."

"It is for real." Harry contemplated showing Tonks the letters or even telling her about them. "My parents left me letters. They wrote them shortly before we went into hiding. They answered some basic questions that I had always wondered about. I never knew how much affect those questions had on me until today. The answers I got are why I am different now. Those answers aren’t going to change, ever."

"What were the questions or answers," Tonks asked, "if you will tell me?"

Harry thought about it some more. "Was I loved? If I was loved, why did they leave me alone? What am I supposed to do with my life?"

"Of course you are loved, Harry. Do you know how many people love you?"

"Not really, but I do know that two people loved me. The two people who I don’t remember and have always wondered if they loved me. Now, I know that they did. Those seem like stupid questions to you, but they are all I have had my entire life. I had never heard the words, I love you, spoken to me by a parent."

Tonks dropped her head and understood the basic need to know the answer to that question. It was so simple yet so vital. "I understand now. This whole change is from that?"

"Not completely, but I think my mum’s letter is okay to read." Harry enlarged the trunk and withdrew the letter his mum had written. With a quivering hand, Harry turned it over to Tonks and waited.

Tonks held the letter with care as she knew that this was one of the most valuable things in the world right now as far as Harry was concerned. She pulled the letter out and unfolded it. She began reading and the tears immediately blurred her vision. She tried to read it from Harry’s point of view, but the words were so simple and basically loving that she never really changed her point of view.

As the it closed out, Tonks put the letter on the desk and grabbed Harry into a hug as she cried on his chest. She didn’t care if she was an auror or an Unspeakable or a member of the Order. She understood Harry better in that one moment than she had ever hoped to. A warm tear landing on her forehead told her that Harry had recited every word of the letter as she had read it.

She hugged him as tight as she could while trying to get control of her emotions. One look into Harry’s saddened but hopeful face made everything seem better. She did the only thing she could think of, she kissed him with all her heart. She ignored the saltiness of the beginning and drove right on to the sweetness of his mouth.

She kept kissing him for what seemed like hours and then began removing her shirt. She repeated the action with her pants. Harry cottoned on and mirrored her actions. Her neck was getting special treatment from him as she moaned in pleasure. Her hands had worked off all of his clothing except for the last bit remaining.

While she was distracted by his kisses, Harry had removed her bra and she was down to the last of her own clothing. An adjustment to their kisses led to Tonks pushing Harry down and her stripping off her underwear. She took the top position as Harry latched on to a breast and continued his previous efforts.

Tonks began grinding against him slowly earning her a moan from Harry. They continued until Tonks was almost foaming at the mouth and Harry was panting with restraint.

"Ready yet, Harry?"

"I want to, but I don’t think this is the right place. I really don’t want to remember my first time and have it be here."

"Bloody hell. Well, whenever you find another place, let me know and I will drag you there myself. Wait, we can go to my place," Tonks suggested hopefully.

In answer, Harry flipped Tonks over and started kissing her from top to bottom and returning to the middle for some time. The Silencing Charm was tested time and time again as Harry proved he was more than just a handsome face and skilled in magic. Tonks was exhausted after his skilled attention. Her breasts were heaving forcefully for a few minutes before she moved into action.

Tonks rolled Harry over and proceeded to return the favour ripping his underwear off. She was caught off guard as Harry proved he had more than enough stamina for only one time. Tonks stayed the course with only one thought in her mind and it wasn’t a clean thought. The time disappeared and soon Tonks was sprawled out on the bed next to an exhausted Harry.

"You are a special person, Harry, and I enjoy being with you. I hope you plan to stick around."

"I have no plans to go anywhere you can’t go, Nymph. Do we have to be there at the same time again tomorrow?"

"Yes, we should be there at the same time again. I have a feeling that you will do better moving forward. So much of the missions are simply to get you in the right frame of mind. Never giving up is a hard lesson for most people to learn, but you had that one down from the beginning. Leading comes with experience and confidence. If you can act like you did today from now on, you will have the confidence thing down pat. Something tells me that Horace is in for a surprise in the morning. I hope he is ready for it."

"I think I need some sleep right now. Good night, Nymph. Thank you for everything you have done for me this summer. I can’t believe it has only been a week and a half."

"You were this person the whole time, Harry. You just didn’t know it yet."

Harry wrapped his arms around Tonks smooth body and pulled hers close to his. He kissed her neck sending shivers down her spine and forcing her eyes open slightly. Harry looked into them and shared his all consuming feeling of contentment. Tonks reacted by kissing him and cuddling into him even more. Contentedly, they fell into a dreamless sleep.


Moody stood across the street from Number Four watching for any movement signaling the departure of Tonks. He had chosen Wednesday to check up on Tonks and Harry. He knew Dung wouldn’t speak out against anyone unless he was cornered like he was at the meeting. He saw Dung arrive almost at six, ending up only a few minutes late, and enough drinks short of being completely pissed.

He was there at half past eight when Tonks and Harry arrived in the back garden. Moody wasn’t sure how they got there. He couldn’t tell the difference between portkey travel and Apparition just by looking, but he didn’t see a portkey. He didn’t think Harry knew how to Apparate. No one had mentioned teaching him that during the meetings. Also, their arrival was silent from his distance. A novice at Apparition would have made enough noise to have been heard.

Moody watched Harry and Tonks enter the house in a way that proved that they had done so many times before this time. They pulled food out the fridge and went up to Harry’s room. Moody was confused and angered by the Obscuring Charm that blocked his vision. He had noticed it the second he looked at the house when he had arrived. It was a great big blur of color blocking out all of the room and a little bit of the surrounding area.

He waited for a few hours as the house grew quiet except for the baby whale who managed to occupy himself for a few minutes before zoning out in front of the telly again. Moody figured the meal wouldn’t take that long to eat and then a little time to talk afterwards. As the hour grew later and later, Moody started wondering exactly what was going on behind that Obscuring Charm.

The block was completely dark aside from the street lamps as Moody checked his watch. ‘Midnight? Girl what are you doing up there, and I hope you have a good answer tomorrow when I ask. Oh, this just gets worse the deeper we get into it. I hope you know what you are doing, Albus. You better hope Harry doesn’t think you are a painting the next time you tell him what to do. I know that Hogwarts has fireplaces big enough for the ending though.’

Moody made himself comfortable with a Warming Charm and a Cushioning Charm. He settled in for a long night of watching a dark block and a bothersome blur.

<I know someone started the name for Lovegood as Odd, but I do not know who did it first. To whoever you are, it works and thank you.>

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