Harry walked to the bathroom lost in thought about V's chance to find her brother. The door had barely closed behind him when Capricio growled. Harry's senses went on high alert. He quickly scanned the room, all the while listening for the pitch of unfriendly magic. For all his efforts, he appeared to be alone with Capricio. He had just taken the thought of chastising Capricio when a voice permeated the room.

"Potter!" rasped the disembodied voice. "No jiggery-pokery. Just stand there like a good chap."

Harry froze. The voice had seemed to be in front of him and to his right. Without turning his head, he shifted his eyes as he silently activated the multiple charms on his glasses. There, between two porcelain sinks, was a wispy outline of a person.

Harry did not betray the knowledge. Instead he settled on Slytherin tactics 3 and 7. He prepared mentally for battle.

"You've my advantage," plied Harry in a contrived shaky voice.

"'n that's the way it'll stay too," sneered the voice. "I'm riskin' my neck even bein' in 'ere."

"Why are you here?" probed Harry sensing truth in the speaker's words.

"I'm payin' off an old debt. 'n a dangerous payment it is."

A slight motion in the muted outline resulted in a folded piece of paper dropping to the floor in front of Harry. In the instant he looked down, a sharp crack sounded. As his head jerked up, he saw the disapparition trail of elf magic.

Assuming decoy or subterfuge, Harry didn't move for several minutes. Nothing stirred, sounded, or presented threat. Harry tensed as voices approached in the hallway leading to the bathroom.

Laughing and joking, Theo and Rhys banged into the room. Upon seeing Harry, both shouted good-natured greetings.

Harry's half-hearted return of greeting caused Rhys to stop short. "Is everything all right?" he asked in concern.

"Not feeling on my best right now," responded Harry.

"Well here's something that'll brighten you up...V may have found her brother Derek." As Rhys spoke enthusiastically, he bent and picked up the paper from the floor. "You've dropped something Harry."

Harry moved to stop Rhys as he touched the paper but nothing happened. When Rhys offered the paper, Harry accepted it hesitantly. Still nothing happened.

Harry stuffed the paper into his bag to allow Capricio to vet the threat. Harry forced a smile about Rhys' news and thanked him for picking up the paper. He picked up his bag and bidding goodbye to Rhys and Theo, he left the bathroom to meet up with Dudley. His curiosity about the unread letter raged.

Hesper and Dudley were waiting, and as soon as Harry appeared, Dudley's face filled with concern.

"Are you feeling all right Harry? You look peaky," concluded Dudley in earnest regard.

"I'll make it," responded Harry. "We'd better get Hesper home. I've some important business to attend as soon as we get back to Privet Drive."

Harry followed in Hesper and Dudley's wake, keeping a respectful distance behind. As Dudley said good night on Hesper's porch, Harry slipped the envelope from his bag, he could see the envelope offered one word...Potter.

He was about to tear it open when Dudley returned. He reluctantly stowed the letter back in his bag.

"Let's take a different route home. No need to push the moment with Piers and his mates," said Dudley as he mounted his bicycle.

Harry nodded in acceptance of Dudley's proposal but his mind wasn't really on the trip; it was on the inscrutable letter in his bag.

As they swung on to Privet Drive, Dudley made a second offer. "We've an hour of light left, do you mind if we check on our neighbor?"

Harry shrugged. He knew it meant a further delay in getting at the mystery of the letter, but his brain also resounded with the suits' admonition to be concerned about others.

Dudley put off his bicycle and knocked on number three's door. A minute passed before an eye appeared as the crack between the door and frame. Instantly the chain was removed and the man emerged smiling. "I'm glad to see you. Stay where you are. My wife wants to meet you." The man disappeared only to reappear seconds later pushing an ancient wooden wheelchair.

"Anne, my wife, wanted to meet you," said the man as he introduced Harry and Dudley. Anne held out a pale, emaciated hand and took Harry and then Dudley by the hand.

Harry noted her grip was weak and shaky.

"Thank you lads," she said in a voice that matched her grip. "Cliffe has worried about the state of the gardens ever since I've been ill. Your help means so much to me. Cliffe has devoted all his time to helping me get better. What you did removed a tremendous burden." Tears formed at the corners of her milky blue eyes and then cascaded down the wrinkled contours of her cheeks.

Harry shifted uncomfortably at the show of emotion. In his mind he gauged the small bit of labor he'd done, against Anne's praise, and found himself short in the balance.

"Can we help with anything today?" asked Dudley, and Harry was stung by his own shortsightedness.

"Now that you mention it," replied Cliffe, "I've had the hosepipe on the gardens since you cut them and they have responded well. They could use another cutting. Not right now, mind you. If you're busy, we'll understand."

Dudley volunteered immediate help and Harry agreed. As they went to the shed in the back garden, Harry convinced Dudley to use the power mower. They had just pulled it from the shed when a hand beckoned them from over the fence. Harry would have worried, but he could see his aunt's bony outline between the jalousied fence slats. Harry responded to the summons, leaving Dudley to start the mowing. As he approached, a flat of pansies slid beneath the fence, pushed by Aunt Petunia's toe.

"Plant these in Anne's front garden," she ordered snippily, and she turned and left without explanation.

Harry shrugged his shoulders and walked the tray of flowers to number three's front garden. Anne and Cliffe were still outside the house; Anne sitting in her wheelchair, Cliffe standing protectively at her side. Anne's face broke into a transforming smile at the sight of the flowers.

"Your aunt...I mean...Petunia, came over to check on me this morning. She said she would pick those up for me the next time she went to market. I used to have a very nice flower garden, but I haven't felt up to keeping it. Would you mind turning the loam and planting those?" she asked pointing to the variegated flowers.

Harry attempted to overcome the surprise of his aunt's strange departure from her norm as he retrieved a hoe and shovel from the tool shed. Dudley had finished the back garden and was proceeding to the front when Harry saw it...magic streaming from the ground beneath the power mower and up into the muggle device. He fine-tuned his glasses and was shocked to see the magic negated as it entered the mower held by Dudley.

"The protection of my mother's blood!" said Harry aloud.

"What's that dear?" asked Anne.

"Nothing," said Harry quickly as he searched mentally for references to the protection his mother had provided so long ago at the cost of her life. Finding nothing he could do for or against either magic, he knelt cautiously to turn the earth in the flower bed. As his knee touched the soil, Harry could see magic seep from the ground and attempt to enter his body.

"That's how the power mower was influenced and I couldn't see the magic!" reasoned Harry in a blaze of understanding. "The magic couldn't touch me but it did have an effect on an artifact like the mower. The magic's access point was always under the mower, hidden from my observation."

Anne interrupted his thought as she slowly wheeled to his side. "Thank you for your help. My husband and I have felt so alone." She wiped a tear then leaned sideways to help Harry plant the pansies.

As she bent to help, Harry saw a ribbon of magic leave the ground and enter the wheelchair. Fearing the consequence, he placed his hand on the arm of the chair and prepared a silent counterspell. At his touch, the magic stream stalled and dissipated.

Just then, Dudley ambled up. "I'm finished with the mowing. Can I help with the flowers?"

Harry decided on an experiment. "Dudley, Anne hasn't been outside for some time. Why don't you take her around the garden and see if she has any other chores that need attention. I'll finish up here."

Dudley agreed, and Harry noticed that as soon as Dudley touched the wheelchair, the magic ribbon broke entirely and retreated back into the ground.

Harry pondered the magic's reaction as he feverishly worked to have the flowers planted before Dudley and Anne returned. He had barely finished packing the soil around the final pansy when Dudley and Anne came around the corner of the house.

Harry sprang to his feet with the intent of dragging Dudley back to number four, he faltered when he saw the smile on Anne's face as Cliffe joined her.

She was lovingly pointing out features of the garden. Her smile took twenty years from her countenance. His determined effort flagged under the effect of her smile. He watched transfixed as Dudley interacted with the elderly couple. Harry's throat constricted as he realized his cousin had genuinely changed, and in that change, had begun to touch the lives of those he met.

Harry broke from his reverie and reluctantly interrupted Dudley's conversation. "We need to be going. It's getting dark. Your mum will worry."

"Right," said Dudley as he turned Anne's wheelchair over to Cliffe.

"Come back and have tea and biscuits," shouted Cliffe enthusiastically as Harry and Dudley pushed their bikes the short distance home.

They waved as they rounded the fence, deposited their bikes, and entered through the greenhouse.

Aunt Petunia was waiting, hands on bony hips. She had drawn breath for what Harry was sure would be a berating, but Dudley crossed the room so quickly that she didn't have the chance to get going.

Dudley swooped in and kissed his mother on the cheek. "That was a very nice thing you did with the pansies," he said.

She reddened and sputtered, "Nonsense. It was nothing."

"I think it was smashing," said Dudley smiling at his mother.

"I agree," said Harry. "Anne and Cliffe have had precious little colour in their lives. When they see those pansies they will think of the Petunia who lives next door." He didn't wait for a reaction. He turned and headed for his room, driven by the desire to read the mysterious letter. He was vaguely aware that Dudley didn't follow him up the stairs.

He slipped into his room and locked the door. He stilled his desire and took care of Capricio first. After the dragon was tended, Harry sat down on the edge of his bed and regarded the letter. He called Capricio and urged the wyvern to examine the letter. Capricio played with the parchment, but showed no concern.

Harry looked, listened, and sniffed at the letter...nothing. Finally resigning himself to opening it, he examined the wax seal. A sinuous constellation of seventeen stars impressed in the wax took his breath away. He broke the seal and slid his finger beneath the flap, loosening it. A single sheet of fine parchment slid out of the envelope. He found no magic or device, but was nonetheless careful as he unfolded the parchment. It read...


I've no time to attempt to convince you of the honesty

of what I'm about to tell you. You will have to make that

determination on your own. Voldemort has a conduit for

information about you. Your friends are in grave danger.

Voldemort can't touch you or your relatives although he

continues to try. That protection will end when you turn

seventeen. Voldemort can, however, attack anyone you

seem attached to. Your friends, muggle and wizard alike,

are in death's danger. When you go to the muggle Centre

there is something in play that Voldemort does not

understand. Magic is dampened to ineffectiveness there,

so he has arranged attacks to take place as you leave. He

wants you to see your friends die before your eyes. I'm not

sure what you can do, even with this warning. This almost

makes us even. I'll do what little I can for you. We both

know I let the Death Eaters in the castle,and that I attacked

first in the bathroom. You would have been within your rights

to have left me lay there to die. Now I don't have to live with

the burden of that debt.

The letter was signed with the same arrangement of seventeen stars that had been impressed on the wax seal. Harry had recognized the constellation immediately...Draco.

He sat on his bed and contemplated the letter. Without thought, he got off the bed and began pacing the room, vocalizing his options. Capricio followed him with bottomless black eyes.

"I could ignore this. It may be Malfoy's attempt to get me away from the protection of my mother's blood. He's still in Voldemort's employ. It may not be Malfoy at all. This has to be a trick."

As Harry paced, his eyes caught on the banner proclaiming 'Welcome Home Harry.'

He considered the poster as he resumed his pacing. "Dudley has changed. He has proved it to me. Regulus changed at the end of his life. Lupin changed his mind about what he had believed true about Sirius for years. Kreacher has changed a bit. Dumbledore and DePais started out as enemies and look where they ended up. I doubt that kind of a change is on the horizon for me and Malfoy...still I wonder. On the other hand, Moody says 'constant vigilance.' Barty Crouch Jr. told me 'decent people are so easy to manipulate.' I don't want to be manipulated. Baskin says a trapper baits his traps with what his prey desires. But this letter seems to be the opposite of bait...it wants me to stay away. Malfoy would know I would want to protect my friends. What to do?"

Harry expanded his pacing to the fullest limits of the room. "Malfoy says that magic has been set against me already but has been ineffective. I saw that tonight in Anne and Cliffe's garden. He says there is some kind of dampening effect at the Centre. I've looked for magic and have seen none whatsoever. I've seen the results of the suits' teaching, put to practice, in Hesper's neighborhood. Even the Dementors can't dent the feeling of friendship. Malfoy says Voldemort..."

Harry drew up short. He reread the letter. He called to Capricio as he sat down on his bed. Capricio complied and Harry stroked the dragon as he considered the strangest bit of the puzzle.

After a long time considering, Harry addressed the dragon, "Cap, I'm inclined to believe this letter. Even though I can't use revelor powder, or any other magic, to determine authorship; the writer knows what happened between me and Malfoy in a Hogwarts bathroom. Malfoy did attack first. In all the questioning I faced, not once did anyone ask, nor did I tell, that fact. Additionally, and even more telling, Malfoy writes Voldemort's name...four times! If this were a ruse with Voldemort at the root, his vanity would not allow another to use his name. The use of Voldemort's name is proof of a schism in loyalty! This letter is a true warning!"

Harry stood and began pacing again. "Accepting this as a warning...what do I do? I haven't been here my full week. Albus was particularly clear about that. To protect my muggle friends, I would have to stay away from them. I could stay inside number four. I could go to Diagon Alley and find lodging. I could find transport to the Burrow and stay with Ron and his family...no, associating with Ron or Hermione or Ginny would put them in danger...unless no one knew I was there...unless I could leave here without anyone being the wiser! If there is a spy, it makes it harder for them. It would throw Voldemort off the trail. He would have to divert some of his resources to find me."

Harry sat back down and as he fingered his invisible D.A. ring, a dangerous plan began to form in his mind. He made an irrevocable decision and immediately went to his worn haversack. As he sorted out his resources, he smiled as the pieces fell into place. He shared his plan with Capricio and had just wrapped up when there was a knock at the door.

Dudley's voice sounded from the hall, "Harry, do you want a bite of supper?"

Harry unlocked the door and Dudley carried in a tray holding a steaming bowl of rich brown broth and two quartered sandwiches.

"Thanks," said Harry as his stomach reacted to the aroma of the food. "What about you?"

"I ate with mum," explained Dudley. "We had a pretty thorough heart-to-heart chat. I don't remember the last time we had a meal and just talked."

"What about your dad?" asked Harry.

"He's not home yet," responded Dudley. "He's spent the last couple of nights working late. Something about the materials testing labs at Grunnings."

"I see," said Harry as he finished the broth and sandwich (he slipped one to Capricio in the worn bag.)

Dudley gathered the tray and dishes. As he prepared to leave, he turned to Harry, "You probably should get some rest. Tomorrow might be a long day."

"About that," said Harry, "can we talk in confidence for a minute?"

"Sure Harry," said Dudley as he placed the tray on a table and sat in the chair.

Harry handed him Malfoy's letter. Dudley took it and read it carefully. When he finished he handed it back to Harry.

"What do you intend to do?" asked Dudley seriously.

"I intend to stay here, in the house, tomorrow. I'll make plans from here. I wanted you to know so if I have to leave, you'll know it has nothing to do with either you or your parents."

Dudley took the news with a somber look on his face. "Can I help?"

"Actually you can," said Harry. "You and your parents are safe, as am I; at least until I turn seventeen. All the others at the Centre are at risk. What I need you to do is go to the Centre as usual. Make the excuse that I'm not feeling well. Don't keep it a secret. If I'm not there, I don't think Voldemort will risk the chance of Ministry of Magic intervention. If I can pull my resources together, I may well be gone when you get back from the Centre. If you continue to give excuse for me, Voldemort will be led to assume I'm still at Privet Drive. It will give me a bit of maneuvering room and protect everyone concerned."

Dudley chewed on his lip as he considered Harry's suggestion. "I understand the plan, but I don't want to lie about what's happening to you. Honesty is one of the things the suits stress. I'm trying to follow their advice to the letter."

Harry's face broke into a smile. "You won't have to lie. Hand me the rubbish bin."

Dudley complied, handing Harry a black plastic cylinder. Harry rummaged around in his pack and finally came up with a two-coloured chew. He unwrapped it carefully and bit off the orange end. Immediately he vomited into the rubbish bin. Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, he forced down the purple end of the chew.

"Wish we had decided on this before the sandwich," said Harry with a sly smile. "Now you can honestly tell the others that I ate something that didn't agree with me. You won't have to lie."

Dudley didn't smile. "He's really out to kill you, this Voldemort, isn't he?"

"He's been out to kill me since I was a baby," said Harry flatly.

"I'll do all I can to give you a head start," committed Dudley.

"Thanks," said Harry with relief in his voice. "That's all I could ask of you. Remember, as much as I'd like to say goodbye to V, Hesper, Rhys, and the others at the Centre; only by not doing so, can I keep them safe. Don't let on that I'm gone. I'll come back when I've got this settled."

Dudley nodded, gave Harry a wordless hug, and left the room, closing the door softly behind him.

Harry waited a few minutes and then took the rubbish bin to the bathroom to clean it out. When he returned to the room, he cleared his mind of both plan and worry and settled in his bed for the night.

Harry awoke ready for the day with firm purpose. He took care of Capricio and tended to his morning routine, all the while setting plans in his mind.

"It all seems so clear this morning," he said to Capricio. "I was completely spent last night. I allowed V's training and then Penni's news, and Malfoy's letter to exhaust me physically and mentally. When I was faced with the menace of that letter, my initial thought was to withdraw from society. At the time it seemed the only way to protect those I care for. But in the light of a new day I see that would not be a good path. I won't become a Gervayse Hastings, the recipient of many good blessings in life, but unable to give or receive the warmth of friendship or love. I have friends. I have resources. I just need to be thankful for, and attentive to, Malfoy's warning."

Capricio ate as he listened to Harry's ramble.

"Our first order of business is to talk to Albus as a sounding board for our plans," explained Harry as he sorted his Chocolate Frog cards. Upon finding the Albus Dumbledore card, he paused momentarily, and then pressed his D.A. ring to the border. Within seconds, Dumbledore appeared on the card.

"Good morning my young friend," said the smiling portrait.

"Good morning Albus," said Harry, inwardly delighted to see even this remnant of the ancient wizard. "I wanted to bring you up to speed about a few things that have transpired recently."

Harry proceeded to tell Dumbledore of the arrival at King's Cross, of Dudley's change of demeanor, of the suits and the Centre, and finally of Draco's warning. Dumbledore listened attentively, fingers steepled under his chin.

"Thank you for the information. What are you inclined to do with your new-found knowledge and abilities?" The small Porcrux smiled and waited.

"I can't go back to the Centre," said Harry sadly. "I'll miss out on any further training there if it keeps my friends safe. Additionally, I'd like to leave Privet Drive and share what I can of my experiences with Ron, Ginny, and Hermione."

Dumbledore looked up from the small card appraisingly. "It is important that you understand the spell that protects you through your mother's blood. It is similar to the muggles', the suits as you call them, creed. Muggles have an innate protection from some types of magic. That protection burgeons from love, concern for others, or devoted friendship. The magic your mother invoked in the last moments of her life, has a similar, albeit weaker, cousin in muggle's devotion. For continued efficacy, I tied your mother's magic to her sister, your closest blood relative. Your mother's charm would have protected you after her death, but it is strengthened by proximity to your mother's sister and to some extent, her son. The more time you spend with them, the stronger the protection..."

"What if," interrupted Harry excitedly, then recovering from his rudeness, he apologized, but Dumbledore encouraged him to continue.

"What if the participants in the charm like each other?" he finished.

"I had an inkling about the kind of life you would live with your aunt and uncle. Therefore I made the joining charm very strong. If there were mutual affection, rather than tolerance or enmity..." Dumbledore tapped his chin. "...I would think the charm would be more complete and enduring. The one week stay at Privet Drive was my estimation of the minimum time to validate the charm until you were of age."

"Then with Dudley and me getting on," summarized Harry, "it may not require an entire week to bring the charm to full potency!"

"Possibly not," adjudged Dumbledore. "But then, magic is an imprecise practice."

Harry considered Dumbledore's words and determined he would continue with his plan. "Could you arrange a private message to Nymphadora Tonks?"

"Yes," responded the Porcrux. "What would be your message?"

Harry gave over his plan to Dumbledore.

"Shrewd," said Dumbledore as Harry finished speaking. "If Voldemort is watching closely, this will cause him some fair amount of discomfort. Expect to hear from Nymphadora before the day is out."

Dumbledore smiled and slipped from the Chocolate Frog card.

Harry turned to Capricio. "You get some rest, I have a lot of things to arrange in the next few hours." True to his word, his time filled with frenetic activity. He placed all his spell books in his trunk under the stairs. He checked all his wands, his invisibility cloaks, and his spare clothing. Lastly he inventoried all his resources and straightened his heavy haversack. When all was prepared, he popped downstairs for a quick meal.

As he entered the kitchen his aunt was just hanging up the telephone. When she saw Harry, her eyes narrowed.

"What are you playing at?" she asked suspicion filling her voice.

Harry was taken aback. As far as he knew he had been a model nephew the past few days. "Sorry," he said. "I'm not sure what you mean."

"Something is going on. Dudley left this morning with a tale of something not agreeing with your stomach. You look fine to me. You've been banging away in your room for the past three hours. And now I get a most disturbing telephone call from your uncle. I'll ask again. What are you playing at?"

"In Dudley's defence," began Harry. "I did eat something that didn't agree with me. I wasn't able to go with Dudley to the Centre. I've been tidying up my room because I'll be leaving soon. I'm not playing at anything. I actually tried to not disturb you. I am truly sorry if I've caused a problem."

To Harry's surprise, his aunt sat down at the kitchen table and put her face in her hands and began to cry.

At a loss at his aunt's behavior, Harry put his hand reassuringly on her shoulder. She continued to cry and Harry felt glued there, as if removing his hand would send the wrong message. After several minutes, her tears were reduced to sobs. To Harry's utter amazement, she covered his hand with her tear-wetted hand but still said nothing. Harry stood as a statue, his mind in a whirl as to what her mood could mean.

"I've just heard from Vernon. He's spent a good bit of his time after work in Grunnings material labs. They apparently test for the strength of the metals they use in their drills. I don't pretend to understand it. Vernon used his position to have the lab look at the lump you gave him. They have come to the conclusion that it is actually solid gold. Its worth has been estimated to equal nearly three years of Vernon's salary. What are you playing at?"

"Nothing," said Harry truthfully. "I gave you the gold as a way to say thank you for keeping me alive."

His aunt burst into tears again. The episode took five minutes before she regained her composure.

Harry decided to address the situation. "The lump was my way of trying to make amends for all the trouble and inconvenience I've caused you. I know you have probably lived in fear since you received Dumbledore's letter about my parent's deaths. I'll be gone soon and you can get your lives back to normal."

"Abnormal has become our normal," choked out his aunt. She seemed to regain some of her brusque manner. "I'll not say that I won't miss you, neither will I invite you back for holidays. I will say be careful. I'd rather not get a letter telling me of your death."

She got up from her chair and went to a kitchen cupboard. She moved out a stack of china dishes and pulled up the shelf liner. She slipped a yellowed envelope from beneath the liner. It bore the circular impression of the dishes. She handed it to Harry.

"This is the letter that was with you when we found you on our doorstep fifteen years ago. If you are leaving, you should have it." She handed the envelope to Harry and hurried from the kitchen.

Harry looked at the faded purple ink on the envelope...it read Mrs. Petunia Dursley, et al.

He had just started to remove the letter from the envelope when the doorbell rang. He stuffed the envelope into his jeans and went to the front door.

He looked through the peephole and was of an inclination not to open the door. Outside was an unsavory character pulling a trolley full of books. Hearing the suits admonition to "never judge on outward appearances" he opened the door.

"Afta'noon guv'ner," said the homely man. "Kin I int'rest yeh in sum fine 'ncyclopedias?"

Harry almost laughed. After all he had been through, the thought of something so mundane as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman filled him with mirth. He had just begun to make his excuse, when the salesman caught his eye and winked.

"I can get my aunt," he said quickly. "She would be the one to make a decision." He let the salesman into the house.

No sooner than the door was shut, the wretched old man transformed. In the disheveled clothing stood Nymphadora Tonks. "Quick Harry, to make this look believable, we have to hurry."

She opened up the top of the encyclopedias, showing them to be hollow. "Quick, get your belongings. Don't leave anything that could compromise our world."

Harry nodded and quickly flew up the stairs and retrieved all his belongings from his room. In the scant minute it took to get back to the entrance hall, Tonks had removed the disguising clothing and was waiting for Harry. She took his haversack, Hedwig's cage and Harry's clothing and stuffed them in the hollow encyclopedias.

"Anything else?" she asked quickly.

"Just my spell books. But they'll never fit in there," answered Harry

"Get them," she said impatiently.

Harry complied without argument. Within a minute the spell books were extracted from beneath the stairs and deposited in the trunk.

"Quick, put these on," said Tonks motioning to the peddler's clothing. As Harry dressed, she secured the false top on the encyclopedias

Harry put on the clothing and he saw immediately that the huge floppy hat concealed his entire face.

Tonks looked at Harry. Screwing up her face in concentration, she began to change. In less than ten seconds, Harry stood looking at a duplicate of his aunt.

"Here's how this will work," said Tonks quickly. "Dumbledore said you needed to get out of the house and be provided with a delay in notice of that departure. In three seconds, I'm going to open this door and shoe you out of the house. Leave the house and make your way toward Wisteria Walk. I came in from the opposite direction. Stop at each house plying your wares. Odds are that no one will let you in. When you are around the corner, you can make better time. Dumbledore told me you have a plan for after that." She shushed Harry as he began to explain. "I don't need to know your plan. I'll leave just behind you, posing as your aunt. I'll go to market. I followed her enough times when the Order was shadowing you to be completely convincing. I'll lose anyone following me at the greengrocer. Now we act."

Without giving Harry time to argue, Tonks threw open the door. In a perfect Aunt Petunia voice, she bum's-rushed Harry from the house. "I don't know what that good-for-nothing nephew of mine thought, letting someone like you into a respectable home. We don't want you or your books, now get along or I'll call the bobbies."

Harry hung his head in verbal assault, backing down the walk with each threat. He pulled his cart down the sidewalk toward Wisteria Walk, stopping at each house. As Tonks had predicted, no one opened for him. He was four houses away when he saw his aunt, handbag swinging from bony wrist, leave number four and hurry off in the direction of the market. He continued his journey down the street, all the while keeping his face well hidden. When he turned the corner, he struck a defeated posture and pulled his cart slowly up the street. He traveled another circuitous ten blocks before he slipped into an alley. He sat down on his trolley in the waning light. Had he been visible from the street, he would have been the picture of dejected discouragement...a defeated peddler, talking to himself.

"Cap," Harry whispered to a wriggling lump in his pocket, "we're going to attempt to disapparate by elf spectrum. The Ministry either can't detect, or doesn't care about elf magic."

He thought of his earlier attempt of disapparating through a door at Hogwarts. He swallowed in a dry throat. "This may be uncomfortable," he said as he matched his magic to that which he had seen from Dobby, Winky, and Kreacher.

The magic was every bit as unpleasant as he had recalled. With a pop, they disappeared and an instant later, appeared with a pop at the borders of the forbidden forest outside Hogwarts grounds.

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