The next several days were a blur for Harry. He woke up, had breakfast and spent mornings doing chores. The afternoons found him invariably walking through the streets of Little Whinging. Most days he ended up at the park sitting on the swings. Hedwig would fly down and spend the day sitting in a tree, watching Harry.
Harry was sitting on a swing twisting idly, watching the circles his trainers made in the sand, when he heard the swing next to his creak. A glance confirmed that the swing was now moving slowly back and forth, but there appeared to be nobody sitting in it. Harry was fairly certain that there was only one person familiar enough with him to try and get this close without announcing their presence, so he took a chance. Quietly he muttered, "'lo Tonks."
"How did you know?" came the reply from the vacant swing.
"I heard you sit down," Harry smiled, "that and I can smell bubble gum."
The weight on the swing lifted and Tonks was suddenly standing beside Harry. "Good job. You are pretty good. Of course, I'm not that much at sneaking. You're observant. That makes it much harder to sneak up on you."
"I couldn't imagine why I would be so observant. It's not like someone has tried to kill me five times," Harry replied peevishly.
"Hey, don't bite my head off. It was a compliment. I understand completely. Anyone in my line of work does." Tonks smiled at Harry and sat back down in the swing. "See anyone around? I've got a new one for you."
Harry scanned the deserted park and shook his head. "Nobody ever comes here but me and that lout I live with, anyway."
Tonks twisted up her face, and it began to change. First her nose began to recede, forming a flat snakelike nose with two large slits for nostrils. Her eyes began to grow and change color; then her chin pointed and elongated. Last, her hair changed color and grew. When she looked dead on at Harry, it was like staring at Voldemort, or rather, Voldemort as a caricature artist might draw him. Her nose had drawn in to the point that it was forming a dimple in her face, her nostrils so large that she could fit a Galleon inside. Her eyes were bulbous and fluorescent pink, with triangular pupils. Her chin jutted well away from her face, and her hair had become long green dreadlocks formed to resemble snakes. Two huge fangs sprouted from her mouth. When she opened her mouth to speak, Harry could see that her tongue was forked...with three tines. "Tho, watff to you fink?" Her fangs shrank back into her mouth. "What do you think? Kinda hard to talk with those teeth."
Harry was chuckling. "Oh, that's good. You might want to fix it before someone comes around, though." Harry had to admit Tonks could usually cheer him up, at least for a bit.
Tonks shrank back to her normal visage. "I thought you might like that one. It's always good to make fun of the dark lord." She shifted slightly in her swing, so that she was closer to Harry. "Thought you could use some good cheer. So, what's been eating at you lately? You haven't seemed as depressed, just...preoccupied."
"I've just been thinking a lot." Harry paused. Maybe he did need to talk to someone. He hesitated. "Er, Tonks?"
Tonks' expression settled as Harry's tone changed. "Yes, Harry?"
"Umm, have you ever been in love?" There, I said it. This was definitely unfamiliar ground for Harry.
"Oh, hundreds of times. Or did you mean real love?" Tonks replied.
Harry sensed that she could feel his uneasiness and was trying to relax him.
"I don't know, is there a difference? You see, there's this girl...." Harry paused.
"There often is," Tonks replied.
"Well, I know she used to say she loved me, and then she said she didn't, and we're good friends and all, but she told me some things, and I don't know how to respond, and I can't just ignore it, and what she said really helped and all, but I just...." Harry finally ran out of breath.
Tonks' smile made it clear to Harry that she knew what girl he was talking about. "Well, how do you feel about her? Are you asking me how to tell if you're in love with her? Because I can't answer that one for you."
Harry looked like a deer caught in the headlights. "No, no, I'm not in love with her. Some of the things that she said made me feel terrible for her. I didn't know how bad she had it. I guess she is sort of special to me. We shared an experience once...."
Tonks sighed, "Well, someone once said ‘love makes you do crazy things,' or something like that. Sometimes it makes you weak in the knees; sometimes you just can't stop thinking of someone. Sometimes it's just the contented smile that you get when you think of them. It doesn't really matter what you feel, you just know. Or so I've been told. I'm really not the best one to talk to about this. I really wouldn't let something like this worry you, though. She's a good friend that thought she could trust you with what she felt. She shared that with you, probably in hopes of making you feel better about what you are going through. She obviously cares about you and wants you to know that. We all do, Harry. Why else would we stand in front of that house in the hot sun and the pouring rain or the middle of the night. If it was just a job, we could find an excuse for leaving you alone. Even Dung. You know, I heard he passed up a ‘business deal' because he still had three more hours to go on shift." Tonks shifted uncomfortably. "Enough preaching. I have to get back out there, and I think you need to be getting home. It's almost dark."
Harry stood up and held out his hand to help Tonks out of her swing. "Thanks, I guess I just needed to talk about this, get it out of my head."
"No problem. That's what I'm here for, to make sure you're safe and sound." Tonks smiled and waved as she pulled her invisibility cloak over her.
Harry started walking back to the Dursleys. That's what it is. She's not in love with me; she just wrote those things to make me feel like I'm not alone.
Harry returned home that evening to find the house blessedly empty. There was a note left on the kitchen table that read:
Gone to dinner and a show. Put away the dishes, and don't make a mess.
Harry sighed. While the chores for tonight weren't difficult, he resented being considered slave labor for the month that he had to spend at the Dursleys‘. Longing for the time when he could leave, he quickly put away the dishes and made himself a sandwich. He carried his plate to his room and was just getting ready to take a bite when he was interrupted by a beeping noise coming from his back pocket.
Harry quickly stood and pulled his mirror out. Checking the face of it, he saw Ron's face, obscured by a white haze. He held the mirror up and spoke, "Hi, Ron." The haze disappeared and Harry could tell that Ron was in his bedroom.
"Harry, sorry, I would have called earlier, but Ginny's been hogging the mirror all day talking to Hermione," Ron scowled. "I don't know what they could babble on about all day, but there it is for you. Girls."
"S'okay. I've been out all afternoon, talking to Tonks. She and a couple of other members of the order have been following me since I got back this summer." Harry took a big bite of his sandwich and chewed slowly. When he had finished, he continued, "Tonks says hello, and she has some new faces to try out on you."
"Really? Great. I guess that's a lot better than not having anyone to talk to all summer. Listen, the reason that I called, umm.... Mum has been planning something, and I thought I had better warn you. She says that you can come stay on the first of August. She was saying the other day how it was a shame that you had to spend your birthday alone every year, so she's planning a surprise party for you. I know that Ginny and Hermione know about it; they were talking about having it in some park near you. Mum made me swear not to tell you, so of course I came right up here and called you. I know how much you like surprises." Ron smiled.
"Most of my surprises seem to be when things jump out and attack me," Harry replied. The thought of some of his most recent surprises reminded him of Sirius, and his face fell.
Ron saw the change on his friend's face. "Ah, damn, maybe I shouldn't have told you."
Harry gave Ron a half smile. "No, it's not that. I'll remember to act surprised. I just...well, you know."
Ron smiled in sympathy, "Yeah. Hey, did you hear about the last Cannons' match? That new seeker they have...."
Harry tuned Ron out. He knew that Ron could go on for hours talking about his favorite team, with very little help from Harry. He had seen it happen, numerous times. After about ten minutes of play-by-play, Harry stopped Ron. "Ron, I need to get to sleep; it's been a long day, and the Muggles will be home any time now." Harry hated to cut his friend off, but he really was tired.
"Er, right. Don't want them knowing there's something magic going on in the house. Hey, I'll call you later. How's tomorrow?" Ron looked on expectantly.
Harry shrugged. "About like any other day around here. I don't have any plans, so I'll be free all day. Have a good night."
"You too, mate," called Ron just before the mirror hazed over again.
When the haze cleared, Harry could see his reflection again. He put the mirror on his bedside table, set out a couple of owl treats for Hedwig and changed into his pajamas. Just as he was turning out the lights, he heard the Dursleys' car in the drive.
As the weeks passed, Harry began to find more reasons to smile. The Dursleys ignored his presence, allowing him to come and go when he pleased. He spent most evenings sitting in the park talking to Tonks, giving her more outrageous ideas. Once they had exhausted the Voldemort permutations, including the Dark Lord in a clown wig and the Voldemort mime, they moved on to others. A run in with Dudley one afternoon inspired the pigboy. He spent the evenings talking to his friends in the mirror and completing whatever inane chores his relatives could come up with.
One evening, four days before he was to leave for the Weasleys', he was downstairs cleaning the dust from the backside of the television and straightening the cords at the request of his uncle. His Aunt Petunia was upstairs; Vernon and Dudley were watching the television and complaining anytime that Harry bumped the set.
"Watch it, boy, you'll smash it and then I'll show you what for," Vernon shouted at Harry. It had obviously been a trying day for Vernon; he had come home complaining about losing a drill contract. "I don't know why you couldn't have done this earlier. Your aunt knew I wanted everything straightened and cleaned," Vernon grunted, and rolled his rotund body around trying to find a more comfortable position in his chair. He suddenly made a face and belched. "Pshew...my compliments to the chef."
Harry knew better than to look disgusted. Very little that the Dursleys did surprised him anymore, anyway. Harry went back to his cleaning.
Harry knew that anything that he said was likely to get him into trouble, and trouble was the last thing he needed. Only four more days of this. I'll have to remember this to add to my Vernon imitation for Ron. He'll love it. He was just finishing binding up all the cords into a neat bundle when he heard a screech that made him look up. A large barn owl had just flown through the open front window, tearing a hole in the screen in the process. It flew across the room and landed on top of the television set. Harry saw a thick, official looking envelope tied to one leg. Just as he reached to untie the letter, Uncle Vernon came out of his chair.
"What is the meaning of this?" he hissed. "I will not have these ruddy birds in my house."
Harry glared at his uncle as he finished untying the letter and sent the bird on its way. Vernon was bright red with anger as he stammered for the next insult to hurl at Harry.
"I will not have those disease ridden things in here. I have half a mind to get rid of that ruddy bird upstairs. Pretty nancy pet if you ask me, not like a...a..." Vernon suddenly went quiet.
Harry looked up again, wondering what sort of pet would silence his uncle so quickly. He watched as the color of his uncle's face went from beet red to purple. Vernon's lips were moving, but no sound was coming out. Great, he's having a conniption. In a second he's going to catch his breath and really let me have it. Time crept slowly forward as Harry waited. He waited and watched as his uncle started turning blue and clutched at his chest. As Vernon fell forward, Harry thought oh, cripes. He's not having a conniption, he's having a heart attack! Harry leapt from behind the television and ran to his uncle. He grabbed Vernon's beefy shoulder and managed to push him onto his back. Harry yanked his uncle's tie off, and felt for a pulse. He had seen a basic lifesaving class years ago on television, but it all seemed fuzzy now. A movement to one side caught his attention.
"Dudley, call an ambulance. He's having a heart attack," Harry shouted at his cousin. Dudley was standing in front of the couch with his mouth hanging open, staring at the scene in front of him.
Harry turned his attention back to his uncle. This is just what I need; they'll all think I had something to do with it. With that thought, he redoubled his efforts and checked to see if his uncle was breathing. He's not breathing, I can't find a pulse, I can't do this alone. A quick check confirmed that Dudley had not moved. "Move you fat pig; call an ambulance or he's going to DIE!" Harry shouted at his cousin. This seemed to get through to Dudley. Dudley took one more look at his father lying unconscious on the floor, turned and sprinted up the stairs. A moment later, Harry heard his cousin's door slam shut. Great. No help there.
"TONKS!!!" Harry shouted out the open window. "If you're out there, I need help, NOW!" Harry turned his attention back to his uncle once again. Let's see, was it pinch his nose and blow in his mouth, or the other way? Harry jumped as the front door slammed open, and a moment later, Tonks stood in the doorway, wand out.
"What's the problem..." she stopped as she saw the scene in front of her. "Have you called...."
"No, no time. That fat pig cousin of mine ran off," Harry explained between breaths.
"Well, keep breathing for him and I will. Where's the phone?" Tonks asked.
"Kitchen wall, cordless," Harry gasped. He was beginning to feel light headed from all the blowing. "Come on, breathe, damn you."
Harry looked up again a couple of minutes later as Tonks came back into the room with the phone.
"...yes, number four Privet Drive," she said to the phone. "No, I won't stay on the line; I have to see if I can help." She put the phone down and knelt down beside Harry. "They say it should only be a couple of minutes."
Harry looked at her. "I'm about out of breath, and I don't think he's got a pulse. I don't really know what I'm doing..." he paused, not sure what to say.
"You're doing what you can," Tonks replied. "I know a few things, all Aurors get some training, let me see what I can do." She reached over and started checking for a pulse.
"What is all this racket!" Harry's Aunt Petunia stood at the top of the stairs looking into the living room. "All this slamming and running, Vernon, I thought you could keep control.... VERNON! VERNON! What's happening? What..." she stood with her mouth open staring at her nephew and her husband.
Harry looked up. "I don't know, he started yelling and then just fell over."
Tonks interrupted Harry. "Harry stand back let me try something." She pulled her wand out as Harry got away from his uncle. She placed the tip of her wand just above the center of his chest and muttered something. Blue light arced from the wand tip to Vernon's chest. A moment later, he coughed, and Harry could hear ragged breathing coming from his uncle. Harry stared wide-eyed at Tonks.
"Whew, I was afraid that wouldn't work. It doesn't every time, and I was never that good at this sort of thing." Tonks looked back at Harry and smiled.
"Wha-wha-what did you just do? Magic! You did something to him! Who are you? What did you do?" Petunia had recovered from her shock and was bearing down on Harry and Tonks.
"Well, it was a form of a constriction spell," Tonks explained. "I just forced all the muscles to contract, and that seemed to do the trick. Lucky thing, too," Tonks smiled pleasantly at Petunia.
"What happened? What did you do, why is he on the floor?" Petunia stammered.
"I think he had a heart attack. One minute he was standing there yelling, the next he grabbed his chest and fell over," Harry explained.
"But, but, I saw her doing...." Petunia was interrupted by the paramedics coming through the front door. The lead man pushed her out his way and knelt beside Vernon.
"Pulse, check. Breathing, check. What happened?" he asked the room in general.
Harry explained, "Well, he was standing there yelling, and his face kept turning redder, then he fell over. When I got to him, I don't think he was breathing. So I, you know, breathed for him." Harry was suddenly very aware that he was a fifteen-year-old boy in a room full of adults.
"Well, you may have saved his life. Good job, I'd say." The paramedic caught Harry's eyes and smiled.
Harry and Tonks retreated to the kitchen to let the men do their job.
"What did you do?" asked Harry. The stress of the day was getting to Harry, and he dropped into a chair.
Tonks sat down beside Harry. "Pretty much what I said out there. It was a form of a constrictor spell that we were taught in Auror training. It can be used to restart a stopped heart sometimes. I was never really good at the spell when we were working on the practice dummies, though."
"I'm just glad it worked tonight. I don't know what I would have done if I had to handle that alone. Just what I would have needed, a dead uncle and everyone blaming me for it," replied Harry.
"You would have done whatever you could. That's the kind of person that you are. I don't know you that well, but I know that much." Tonks craned her neck to see what was happening in the other room. "Looks like they're getting ready to leave. Are you going with them?"
Harry sighed. "I don't think so. Aunt Petunia wouldn't want me there and I would just be in the way." Harry paused and then his face brightened. "Want to spend the night?" Harry thought about what he had just said and turned scarlet. "Uh, I mean we could watch television or something, and you could sleep on the couch," he quickly stammered.
"I knew what you meant. I don't think that would be such a great idea, though. Someone might call it dereliction of duty." Tonks smiled at Harry. "Maybe some other time. I do need to let someone know what has happened, though. I'll wait until your aunt and cousin leave."
A minute later, Petunia stepped into the kitchen. She was bundled up as if it were the middle of winter, not late in July. "Harry," her voice was barely a whisper, "we're going to the hospital." She turned and started out of the kitchen, paused and turned back, "Go to bed, I'll be home sometime in the morning." Petunia left the kitchen, and a moment later Harry could hear her and Dudley leave the house and get into the car. Sirens rang out in the quiet night as the ambulance, followed by the Dursleys, left number four.
"It's time for me to go, as well," Tonks said. She stood up and went back to the living room to retrieve her invisibility cloak.
Harry followed. "If you're sure you won't stay. I think I'm going to bed." Harry pushed his glasses up his nose and rubbed at his eyes.
"I'm going to let someone know what happened and then I'll be back out front. Just yell if you need something," Tonks said. She tucked her cloak under her arm and disapparated.
Harry trudged up the stairs to his room and fell into bed. He was so tired he was asleep by the time his head hit the pillow.
Harry awoke the next morning to the sounds of an out of control owl and a face full of feathers. Errol, the Weasleys' ancient owl, overshot his landing on Harry's desk and caromed into Harry's bed. "Oof, get off, you." Harry got up, picked the comatose owl up, and placed him on the desk beside Hedwig's cage. He then removed the letter tied to Errol's leg and opened it.
I heard what happened last night and I wanted to tell you how sorry I felt. I know you don't care for your uncle, but he is family. I expect that your aunt is going to be absent for the next several days, and Dumbledore was very specific that you had to wait until 1st August to come here. If you see your aunt, ensure her that we will be more than happy for you to come here, and until then we will do what we can to ensure that you are looked after.
The events of the previous night came flooding back. Uncle Vernon yelling. Uncle Vernon falling over. The feeling of helplessness. Harry wondered if his aunt had come home yet. He changed clothes and went downstairs to find out what was happening.
Harry arrived in the kitchen to find it empty. A check of the drive confirmed that the car was still gone. Harry went to the cupboard and got out a box of Dudley's cereal. Chocho-bombs, the box read. Harry shrugged and poured himself a bowl. He got the milk from the refrigerator, along with a glass of juice and sat down at the kitchen table. He spooned some of the brown chunks into his mouth and chewed. Not too bad. Checking the box, he confirmed his suspicions that the box probably had more nutritional content. He chewed happily.
Part way into his second bowl, Petunia returned. There were dark circles under her eyes and her shoulders slumped tiredly. She stepped into the kitchen and cleared her throat. "Harry," she began, and if anything, her voice was quieter than the night before. "The doctors said your uncle is going to be fine. They say," she stopped as a small sob escaped her, "they say he had a heart attack last night. They also said," she paused and Harry could see that she was having real trouble getting her words out, "that what you did last night probably saved his life." She hesitated again before continuing, "Thank you."
Harry looked up. He had never heard this tone from his aunt before. She sounded...sincere. "Aunt Petunia, you know I don't much like Uncle Vernon, but I don't want him to," Harry paused, "to die. After this year, I wish that nobody ever had to die again." Harry still felt the pain of losing Sirius, and he wouldn't wish that on anyone.
"I know. I imagine that losing your godfather was difficult. I remember when my parents were killed. I was so angry. I wanted to smash something. I wanted it to not be true. I wanted everything to be different, and I knew that there was nothing that I could do. Until last night, it was probably the only time in my life I really wanted to be able to do what...what you can do." The shame of admitting this crossed Petunia's face, but she didn't run from the room this time.
"What happened to them? I know you said that Voldemort killed them, but what happened to them? They were Mug-er, non-magic people, right?" Harry couldn't help but sound interested; here was one of the missing pieces of the puzzle.
"I can't tell you. The truth is that I don't know what really happened. They were both found dead of apparent heart attacks one morning by the neighbors. I can't say, other than that. I promised that I wouldn't. I shouldn't have even told you this much." Petunia looked glumly back at Harry. "Suffice to say, I didn't take you in just for your own good. I did it for my family." The look on Petunia's face was now one of triumph, like she had managed to do something she shouldn't, and gotten away with it. "I'm going up to get some rest. Make sure you clean up after yourself. Dudley will be staying with the Polkisses. I dropped him there this morning." A look crossed her face, as if she had just realized something. "Now, what am I going to do with you? You can't leave, not yet. The doctors say that Vernon will be in the hospital for at least a week, and that he is not to have any stress when he returns home."
Harry interrupted his aunt, "I can be gone on the first of August."
"I know, but there are still three days until then. I suppose I could call Mrs. Figg, but she might think it odd if I asked her to stay here," Petunia paused.
"I got a letter from Mrs. Weasley this morning; she said that they--the Order, I mean my friends and their families--would make sure that I was safe," Harry offered. He was fairly sure that Aunt Petunia didn't know about Mrs. Figg, and Harry wasn't going to be the one to tell her. His aunt seemed to know an awful lot of other things that he wouldn't have guessed that she did, though. "And there's been someone watching me all summer," he added, "after the dementor attack last summer."
A thought suddenly sprang into Harry's mind. "Could I invite one of my friends over for a night? I promise we won't do any magic, and we won't make a mess. We'll just watch television and such. He's never seen one."
Petunia sighed tiredly, "I suppose. Mind you, if you do anything out of line, or make a mess here, I will have your head. Now, if you will excuse me, it has been a very long night." Petunia turned and left the kitchen.
Harry sat at the table stunned. This was more than he had ever gotten from his aunt, and yet, it still didn't answer his question. What did she mean that she had taken him in for her family? And just who had she made that promise to?
Harry finished clearing up his breakfast and went outside to sit in the sunshine. This early in the morning the heat hadn't gotten too bad, and Harry wanted to take advantage of it. He pulled out his mirror and sat down on the back stoop. He held the mirror close to his face and said, "Ron Weasley." The mirror clouded over, and a few moments later Ron was staring back at him. "Ron, have you heard yet?" Harry asked.
"Mum told us this morning. She was talking to someone in the fire when I came down for breakfast. Kind of funny isn't it? Maybe now he'll think twice about yelling at you so much," Ron replied.
"It was horrible. You just don't know. I mean, I don't like him, but watching him turn blue like that...it was just scary. Listen, my aunt said that I could have visitors over until I left for the summer. Dudley is staying somewhere else, and Aunt Petunia isn't going to be here. She says she knows why I can't leave early. I'm pretty sure she's been talking to somebody, too. You want to come over and spend the night? Tell your mum that there's always other people around to watch us, and we promise not to get into trouble," Harry replied breathlessly.
Ron said, "Can we watch fellivision? That would be great. Hold on, I'll go ask." Ron ran downstairs with the mirror in hand. Harry recognized the Weasley kitchen as he faintly heard Ron ask for permission to go. A minute later the picture righted itself, but instead of Ron's face, it was Molly Weasley's that was staring back at Harry.
"Harry? Are you alright, dear? I felt so horrible when I heard what you went through last night. I'm not sure about the idea of leaving the two of you alone there," Molly said.
Harry's face fell. "I...I understand, I guess. I was just thinking that...."
Molly cut Harry off, "How about this. If it is alright with your aunt, Ron can come over and stay, and I will see if I can get Bill or Charlie to stay with you. They're both due here any minute."
Harry's smile brightened once more. "That would be great. I asked her if I could have visitors, and she made me promise not to tear up the house or do magic, but she said that I could, since she wouldn't be here. She's upstairs sleeping, but I expect that she will be leaving by noon to go back to the hospital." Harry couldn't believe his luck. Not only was Ron going to come over, but also one of his brothers. Harry would have to come up with some brilliant things for them to do.
"Well, then, I will send them on this afternoon. And Harry, dear, please take care of yourself." Molly handed the mirror back to Ron.
"Harry, this will be great. I'll go and pack some things up, and I'll see you later," Ron said.
"Okay, bye Ron," replied Harry. The mirror fogged over and then cleared. This WILL be great. Maybe we can go into town and watch the Muggles.