The morning of the next day passed uneventfully. At breakfast, Mr. Dursley read the paper, muttering darkly to himself while eating. Looking at his watch he drank the last of his morning tea, wiped his mouth, stood and kissed Petunia goodbye. He glowered at Harry, which was fairly normal, and said "Stay out of trouble" which was also fairly normal. Dudley disappeared with his mother after breakfast, having been promised a day of shopping. Harry imagined that he'd bring back a clutch of new videogame cartridges as a reward for what passed for good behavior on his part. Having mowed the lawn and weeded the garden already this week, today's list of chores was fairly short: doing Vernon and Dudley's laundry (Aunt Petunia did her own laundry, mustn't let freaks gape at her scrawny undies) along with cleaning all the bathrooms. This was a common enough combination of tasks that Harry settled into his routine: sort the laundry, start the first load, scrub the first bathroom, empty the waste bins, move the laundry from the washer to the dryer, repeat. By the time he'd folded the last of the towels (which were the last items to be washed, as they took so long to dry) and stacked all the clothes at the foot of his bed, Dudley's bed and Uncle Vernon's respectively, he figured he had time for a quick shower and lunch.
Dudley's weight had stabilized, somewhat, now that he was the darling of the Smeltings boxing team, so it was now a bit easier to assemble a decent lunch from what was available in the fridge. Although Harry missed the fresh, warm, brown bread from the Hogwarts kitchens, Italian white bread, cold ham, cheese, pickle and crisps were not too shabby for a peaceful lunch. If he were at Hogwarts he'd pour some pumpkin juice, but at Privet Drive he had to content himself with the remains of a coke bottle that was a bit on the flat side. While eating lunch, he read the Daily Prophet, cover to cover. He'd made the mistake last year of paying attention only to the headlines. Today's headlines were bland enough. The Chudley Cannons were going down in the league standings, while the Ballycastle Bats were near the top of the league. Harry thought briefly about his deranged former captain, Oliver Wood, now keeper for the Bats. Angelina Johnson, his only slightly less-deranged former captain from last year's brief (for Harry) Quidditch season was chasing after a reserve Chaser position with either Puddlemere United or the Tutshill Tornadoes now that she'd left Hogwarts.
Harry finished the paper, making sure that it went into the rubbish rather than the recycling ("The recycle man doesn't need to see evidence of your abnormality, boy!"), cleared the table, loaded the dishwasher, and watched the clock. He hated waiting. Harry pondered whether he should make up a shopping list for Hermione, who had agreed to help Harry acquire some decent Muggle clothing, or try to figure out the probable lineup for next year's Quidditch team. Normally Quidditch would beat mundane matters like Muggle wardrobes, but Harry's Muggle clothes were both smallish and ratty, and he would rather be hanged than wear any of Dudley's hand-me-downs this summer. Before he left Hogwarts, he'd made arrangements to convert some Galleons into Muggle money, and with Hermione's help, he'd place an order, using a catalog she'd slipped him at the train station. As Harry debated the merits of knit shirts versus plain old t-shirts, there was a timid knock at the kitchen door.
Harry pulled back the curtain on the kitchen door – peering back at him was his dotty neighbor, Mrs. Figg. Instead of her usual string bag, today she was carrying a large carpetbag that matched her tattered tartan slippers. As Harry opened the door, he noticed that a wisp of hair behind her ear was fluorescent green in colour.
"Hey, Tonks. Good to see you." Harry said.
"How'd yah knows it's me?" Tonks asked.
Harry deftly reached behind her ear and pulled the green strands free. "Mrs. Figg doesn't have green highlights in her hair."
"Oh." Tonks said, and with a brief pained expression, she returned to what Harry assumed was her normal appearance.
Tonks pulled her wand from the sleeve of her blouse. Harry wondered briefly if she used a holster similar to the one he'd seen on Sirius when he'd been living at Grimm auld Place. With a loose oval swish and a light blue flash from her wand, the room was now noticeably quieter – the light coming in from the window had an odd hue. Tonks turned away from the window and faced Harry, running her wand sideways over Harry's head and down his front. She motioned to him with her free hand to turn around, allowing her to track her wand along his back as well.
"Right, now, Harry, you can turn around."
Harry turned around, and before he could sit down, Tonks leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the cheek.
"Hermione says ‘hello' and wanted me to let you know she wanted to join us today, but it couldn't work out."
"Uh, thanks, I guess."
Tonks looked down at her clothes, pulled a quick face and swished her wand again. Instead of Mrs. Fig's usual mismatched clothes, she was now dressed in a snug black miniskirt with a filmy black spaghetti strap tank top that looked like it had been sprayed on. Harry goggled at her briefly, and then began to look intently at the front of the refrigerator. Tonks began to pull packages out of the carpetbag.
"Holy smokes," Harry thought to himself. "She's not wearing any underwear. What is she trying to do to me? Mustn't stare, girls don't like that."
"If you expect me to pay attention to what you're saying, I think you need to put some more clothes on." Harry continued to stare intently at the front of the refrigerator.
Tonks looked down at her clothes, starting with the painted toenails peeking out of her sandals, working her way up. Comprehension began to dawn on her face.
With another flick of her wand, Tonk's skirt became fringed Capri pants and a loose blue floral print blouse covered her tank top.
"Righto Harry, now, pay attention."
Tonks winked at Harry, breaking some of the tension. Unwrapping two of the packages, she placed two identical tan boxes on the table. The boxes were about a foot square and half a foot high. On each face of the box was a white, flat knob.
"This, Harry, is a Passbox. The Goblins at Gringotts use them for passing letters and small parcels between offices. This one here has some very clever modifications thought up by your lady friend. She's right sharp that one is."
"Yeah, everyone says that Hermione is the cleverest witch in our year."
Tonks looked blankly at Harry, straining her eyes. Her hair grew longer, turning from green to chestnut brown and began to frizz out.
"Not that lady friend, Harry."
Squeezing her eyes slightly, Tonk's hair grew a bit longer, straightened out and changed from chestnut brown to tomato red. "This lady friend." Tonks said, winking again at Harry.
"What did Ginny do?"
"She figured out how to make the Passbox secure. Here, let me show you how her Passbox works."
Tonks stood up and walked to the fruit bowl, snatching an apple. She opened a door on the box closest to Harry, put the apple in the box and motioned that he should shut the door. Harry did so.
"Open it up."
Harry opened the box, but there was no apple inside.
"Where did it go?"
"It's a Passbox, Harry, it went to the other box."
Pulling a door open on the box closest to her, Tonks grabbed the apple, tossing it to Harry.
"Normally, we don't allow a Passbox inside a secure facility like Hogwarts or a shielded safe house like the Dursley's, because it's a hole in the security zone."
Harry looked at Tonks blankly.
"Harry, you could stuff a dragon through an ordinary Passbox if you can make the dragon small enough or the Passbox big enough. Gringotts found out about this the hard way when some enterprising criminal stuffed a crazed Lethifold through a Passbox and cleaned out the Krakow branch after the Lethifold incapacitated the internal security guards. But your lady friend made a very clever modification that gets around that problem. Harry, give me your hands – I'm going to use a drop of your blood to make it so you are the only person who can send or receive using this Passbox. I need to poke your finger."
Harry extended his hands to Tonks, who waved her wand over them while invoking the Aseptico charm. Harry felt a brief warming and tingling on his skin. Tonks pulled a small plastic wrapped device out of her bag, unwrapped it and placed it against the pad on the ring finger of Harry's left hand.
"Little poke, Harry."
Harry felt a brief pinch, and when Tonks lifted the device from his finger, he saw a bright spot of blood. With one hand, Tonks held Harry's now bleeding hand and with the other she cast a quiet spell on the box nearest Harry. The white knobs on the box changed from white to a dull throbbing red colour. Tonks moved Harry's hand to the nearest knob and squeezed a drop onto the knob. The knob flared in colour briefly and became white again. Tonks then spun the box slightly to touch the second, third and fourth knobs in turn. Finally, Tonks held Harry's hand over his head while fishing a bandage out of her bag, wrapping it with some effort on Harry's pricked finger.
"I may not be worth a sneeze at the householdy charms, but I did really well on the basic first aid in Auror training. This Passbox is now sealed to you – you are the only one who can use this to send or receive. Watch this."
Tonks moved the apple to the other box on the table. She then moved round the table and opened the door on Harry's box. The door opened, but there was nothing inside. Tonks closed the door.
"You try it now, Harry."
Harry opened the door that Tonks had just closed. Inside was the apple that she'd placed in the other box on the table.
"This is brilliant, Tonks." Harry beamed.
"This box is linked to four other boxes."
As she spoke, Tonks pulled a marker from her bag and wrote next to each knob.
"This door is linked to a box at Hogwarts; McGonagall and Dumbledore can open that box. This door is matched to a box at the Grangers'; Hermione and her mum are the keepers there. This door is matched to the other box on the table, that's going back to Grimmauld place; Remus and I are the keepers. This last door is matched to a box at the Burrow; Molly and Ginny are the keepers there. Make sure that Ron stays on his sister's good side, or you won't get much mail from him this summer."
Tonks winked at Harry again with the last comment.
"Thanks, Tonks. It'll mean a lot to be able to keep in touch with people this summer rather than being kept in a box."
"Oh, you'll still be in a box, Harry, it'll just be a bit nicer this time."
"Whatcha mean?" asked Harry. If he were a dog, his ruff would be raised now, as he remembered with vivid horror the shunning isolation of the prior summer.
"Things have changed at the Ministry, but not that much. Kingsley and I are still on the Auror payroll, but we're on detail to work with the Order full time, which means that we have lives again rather than working two full-time jobs. The Order is still doing security for you, which means that whenever you are out of the house this summer, someone will be minding you. We're trying to spring you to the Burrow by the end of the summer, but I haven't heard yet when that's happening. Security is pretty good at the Burrow. George would like me to visit so that I can check the security, but between you and me, I think he's trying to convince me that he's worth my attention. He's a nice enough bloke, but he's not my type. Oh, before I go, I've got a package from Hermione, a letter from Lupin, and I wanted to show you something."
Tonks put the Grimmauld Place Passbox back into the carpetbag and pulled out another package and an envelope.
"Hermione sent some clothes and new trainers – said she didn't want to wait for you to decide, like you were going to go all summer dressed like a refugee. Let me go to the next room, then I'll come back and show you something."
While Harry opened the package from Hermione, Tonks slipped into the living room. When she returned, Harry dropped everything. Tonks had transfigured herself into his exact image, from his messy hair to his ratty trainers. The likeness was so exact he was startled when he went to push his hair back and the Harry-morphed Tonks did not act like a mirror and do the same.
"So, Harry, whatcha think? his image asked.
"Really weird, Tonks." Harry replied.
"Yeah, transgender metamorphing is really, really hard. I've been working on this one for about a month now and just got it right. Once I get your voice down, I reckon that I could fool most people for a short amount of time."
"Has Hermione seen this?"
"I was working on this last night with Hermione and Ginny – they gave me lots of pointers on how you walk and stand. Let me show you something fun."
Tonks turned her back to Harry, waving her wand. When she turned around again, she was dressed in the black miniskirt and tank top again, but this time she had Harry's face (sans scar), long black messy hair, and if possible, even more skin showing than before.
"You'd make a great girl, Harry. After I got your basic morph down, I tried you out as a girl. Believe you me, I've gotten a lot of attention when I hit the pubs as Harriet Potter."
Harry pondered the notion briefly and began to laugh, a choked, suppressed laugh that became percussive hisses. "This is too twisted," he thought to himself, "I'm getting hot and bothered, seeing myself, as a girl, with no underwear. I'm never going to be able to tell anyone about this, ever."
"Tonks, stop, this is just too weird."
"That's what Remus said too, but then he'd just spent half an hour looking at me in the pub before he figured out who this lassie was who was making eyes at him from across the room.."
Harry goggled at her again.
"You were flirting with Professor Lupin, morphed up like me? Tonks, that's terrible!"
Harry started laughing again, at first the choked up laugh and then into a throaty full-fledged laugh, gasping and slapping the table.
"I wish I could have seen it," He gasped.
"That's what Hermione and Ginny said too," Tonks replied. Her eyes were smiling, but her mouth was pursed, in the fashion favored by Professor McGonnagall, trying to maintain her composure so as to not join Harry in his laughing jag.
Harry wiped his eyes on his shirtsleeve, picked up his clothes from the floor and stacked them on top of his new Passbox. Tonks transfigured her clothes back into Mrs. Figg's, and with another twisting of her face, became his dotty neighbor again. She turned around for Harry's inspection.
"Have I got the hair right this time?"
"All one colour, Tonks."
"Thanks, Harry. Oh, I almost forgot."
Going once more to the bag, Tonks dug underneath the Grimmauld Place Passbox and retrieved an ivory coloured envelope.
"This is from Remus, it's a letter and a notice for Black's funeral."
"Tonks, there's no body, how can they have a funeral?" Harry asked, not really caring about the answer, dreading any recognition that there was a reason to have a funeral.
"Harry, funerals are for the living, not for the dead. I've been an Auror for two years and I've already been to two Auror funerals with no bodies. We change a few lines in the service, but it's otherwise the same. Let me know if you're going – I'll arrange the details. Maybe we'll use the Floo connection at Figg's house."
"Thanks again, Tonks."
Tonks stared at Harry for a while and then sat down again.
"Harry, I need to tell you that I've been testing you today. I don't normally dress like a Muggle tart. I was seeing if you were as peaky as Hermione said you were."
"So, did I pass the test?" Harry asked. He had no idea what she was talking about, but decided to play along.
"You're not dead yet." Tonks replied with a deadpan look spread across Mrs. Figg's face.
"I was pretty down when Hermione called, but the call cheered me up some."
"Harry, let your big sister Tonks give you some unsolicited advice. Your parents went to great lengths to keep you alive – not so you could finish off Voldemort, but so you could grow up and live life. Don't forget to do that, OK?"
Tonks stood up, and while picking up her bag, planted a kiss on Harry's cheek.
"This one's from me, Harry."
"You betcha, Harry – see you soon, eh?"
Tonks slipped out the door, then opened the door again, sticking her wand into the kitchen. There was another brief blue flash and the hush charm she'd placed on the room collapsed. Without saying another word, she closed the door again.
Author's note: In America when we care for children while their parents are away, it's called "babysitting." On the other side of the pond, the same task is called "child minding." In police circles, a personal protection assignment is called "babysitting" and it should come as no surprise that on the other side of the pond such assignments are "minding jobs" with the police acting as "minders." The term is mildly pejorative.