Title: Muddy Reflections
Chapter 4: Obscurity
Escaping had been so very simple. Harry idly wondered why people didn't waltz out of Azkaban every day.
All he'd had to do was change into a Basilisk, and he and Medusa had happily slithered through the same pipelines that she'd originally used to get _in_ to Azkaban all those years ago. Once outside the prison walls, they'd crossed the moat easily, gliding along the unbroken surface of the water to freedom.
In his initial preparations, Harry had contemplated several methods of escape. He could have transfigured into his wolf-form and slipped through the bars as Sirius had done. He could have used his eagle-form and flown away. He could have used the magic he'd been practicing, opened his door with a soft "Alohomora", blasted every Dementor in sight, then exited the building with his head held high. Hell, he could have even apparated.
In the end, he'd gone with the Basilisk.
It seemed only fitting. A snake had put him there to begin with, and a snake would see him out.
While he'd been slithering through the pipelines with Medusa, he'd almost wished that he could make human sounds, just so he could have had the satisfaction of snickering.
Once they were a safe distance from the prison, Harry had apparated both of them into the heart of Muggle London. It was late, but a swift glamour ensured no one would notice him. He'd almost contemplated letting himself be seen, just to get the reactions of a few unsuspecting Muggles. After all, it wasn't every day that a gaunt, wiry man, dressed in tattered, bloodstained robes walked down Regent Street with a deadly serpent wrapped around his neck and waist.
He'd ultimately decided that no matter how satisfying it might be, he couldn't risk detection so early in his plans.
It had been simple to transfigure a couple of flyers into cold, hard cash, and Harry had bought himself a room for a few nights. It was in this time that he implemented what he'd so cleverly named, "Stage One."
His first stop had been to a small, thrifty clothing shop to purchase a couple of pairs of second-hand jeans and several shirts. Harry didn't plan on being in Muggle-land for too long; the clothes would serve his purpose.
Next, he stopped by a cosmetics store, purchasing enough cover-up to hide his scar until he managed to create a concealment spell that actually _worked_ on the damned thing. The scar was his most visible link to both Voldemort and the wizarding world at large, and as such, needed to be removed from sight at once.
He purchased a year's supply of colored contact lenses, as well. Anyone who'd known his mother would instantly recognize the unique coloring of his eyes. He briefly toyed with the notion of using a glamour, or transfiguring them, but in the unlikely event that someone cast "Finite Incantatum!" or searched him for magical residue, neither of those options would hold up. In the end, contacts would be simpler, because no one in the wizarding world would be looking for them. Besides, it wasn't as if the money mattered to him.
During his time in Azkaban, his hair had grown down past his shoulders. Ultimately, he'd decided to trim it, but keep the length. Everyone who remembered "The-Boy-Who-Lived," would recall a short mop of unruly black hair. And the supply of dirty blonde hair-dye he'd picked up would take care of that particular problem.
Once he'd taken care of his initial concerns, he found himself gazing into the mirror of his tiny bathroom. His face was thin, but the rest of him was layered, hard muscle. He'd tied his dark blonde hair back into a ponytail, and dark, brown eyes scrutinized his forehead for any hint of his irksome scar.
In the tee shirt and jeans he'd bought, he looked… plain. Just like anyone else he'd pass on the street and not give a second thought to. Besides being a bit on the lanky side, there was nothing to set him apart in a crowd.
Which, he smiled, was exactly the effect he'd been going for. Having been surrounded by fame, both the good and the bad, for all of his life, Harry was _definitely_ looking forward to being a nonentity. He knew that the only pictures anyone had of him were several years old, and comparing his current look to the Boy-Who-Lived would be like apples and oranges.
"Tell me, Doctor Potter," Harry said, staring intently at his reflection in the mirror as he adopted a slight, Irish brogue. "Got a bit o' a question fer ya. How d'ya suppose it's proper-like, to treat seven years o' solitude, coupled with daily soul-suckin' an' a touch o' mental instability?"
"Well," said Harry's reflection, "I'd obviously recommend goin' after the arses who put ya in that hell to begin with – maybe feed 'em to yer snake. But firs' I'd advise the patient to find that Voldemort fucker an' rip 'im a new arsehole."
"An' what purpose would that serve, Doctor Potter?" Harry asked, his eyes going a bit wide.
"Well, firs' it'd help the patient feel more positive, a vital step on the road to recovery. An' besides, you'll feel _much_ better 'bout yerself once ye've cut the bastard's wee balls off an' shoved 'em down his throat."
"Yer a right mad bastard, Doctor Potter," Harry smiled, showing nothing but teeth. "I'm glad I came to ya."
"Stage Two," of Harry's plan was to integrate himself back into the wizarding world. The matter of money was again solved by simple transfiguration. As he turned another handful of pebbles into Galleons, he wondered why other wizards hadn't thought of it. By anchoring the spell to the pebble, not even a "Finite Incantatum" would reveal the stone for what it was.
It never occurred to Harry that most wizards didn't know _how_ to anchor spells.
After convincing Medusa to lay low, Harry made his way to the first shop: "Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions." If he'd had any trepidation about being recognized, it was dismissed when the elderly woman smiled at him and asked what name he'd like embroidered on the tag.
"Why, miss, shame on me fer not introducin' myself proper-like," Harry answered smoothly, a charming smile on his lips. "Sean Cassidy, at yer service."
Madam Malkin blushed, clearly flattered at being shamelessly flirted with by a man one-third her age. She'd even given him a discount on the assortment of dress and casual robes he'd selected. He picked one of the black robes to wear, and the rest were packaged. Madam Malkin assured him it was no trouble to deliver them to The Leaky Cauldron later that night, where he'd told her he planned to get a room.
His next stop was, of course, Ollivanders. It was necessary to pick up a new wand because he'd be far too suspicious without one. The trouble was, he didn't know if there _was_ another wand that would accept him.
Opening the door quietly, he stepped inside. The tiny room hadn't changed at all, and thin boxes still cluttered every available space. Mr. Ollivander looked up from his desk, a small crease marring his brow.
Harry said respectfully, "Hello, sir. I'm rather interested in pickin' up a wand. Reckon ya could help me?"
"Who are you?" Mr. Ollivander asked abruptly, scrutinizing Harry's face. "It's my business to know every man, woman, and child who comes to this store, yet I do not know you."
"Sean Cassidy's the name," Harry quipped. "Been out an' abouts fer a while. Got into a spot o' trouble with a dark wizard. I don't know what happened to my wand." All of which, he thought proudly, was completely true.
"Mr. Cassidy," the older man said softly, as if testing the weight of the words on his tongue. Then he shook his head and muttered, "Perhaps I'm simply getting old."
Ollivander stood, reaching for one of the nearby boxes, and soon they were deep in the process of finding one that fit. Wand after wand, Harry swished, but none of them reacted. It didn't bode well for the escaped convict.
Finally, Ollivander threw up his hands. "Perhaps you might try picking one. You're an extremely difficult fit, Mr. Cassidy."
Blinking, Harry glanced around the tiny room, letting his eyes pass over the boxes. One of them seemed to tug at him, and curiously he reached for it. He heard Ollivander exhale sharply behind him as he gently swished the wand. A bright stream of green and gold sparkles erupted from its tip.
"Curious," the other man remarked. "That's a prototype I've been working on. Yew, eleven inches, dual core of a phoenix feather and a dragon heart-sting. One of a kind, really."
"How much?" Harry breathed, never taking his eyes from the wand.
"Seventeen Galleons," Ollivander responded primly. Harry paid without question.
He exited swiftly, not noticing the tight, proud smile on Ollivander's lips. Nor did he hear old man murmur, "I never thought to see the day there would be a wizard powerful enough to wield it, Mr. Potter."
Once outside the shop, Harry tucked the wand up his sleeve. The rest of his day was a blur as he visited various shops in both Diagon and Knockturn Alley. His purchases ranged from several plump mice for Medusa to a top of the line broom, a WinterWraith, and the supplies to take care of it. He found a quality Invisibility Cloak in one of the shadier stores and immediately bought it. While he did know several spells that would mask his presence, he preferred having a backup, just in case.
Perhaps Harry's best purchase of the day was a small trunk very similar to the one Mad-eye Moody's imposter had, with seven keyholes lined across the side. He packed all of his supplies into the first and second sections of the trunk, and tucked the keys firmly into his pocket. Several volumes of books whose subjects ranged from the common to the bizarre, encyclopedias and reference guides, and (indulgently) the latest copy of 'Quidditch Through the Ages' were selected at Flourish & Blotts. Tiny parcels of a multitude of potion ingredients, as well as phials, scales, and a new cauldron were purchased at the Apothecary. Parchment, quills, and a variety of inks were an afterthought.
Content that he had the beginnings of his new roots in the wizarding world, Harry collected Medusa. With her comforting body wrapped securely around his waist, concealed beneath his billowing robes, Harry whistled merrily as he made his way to The Leaky Cauldron.
It was an hour later that Harry found himself sitting in a small booth in the corner, quietly nursing a bottle of scotch. He was comfortable in the shadows, and his eyes lazily scanned the smattering of occupants. His mind, though, was elsewhere.
He'd been lucky when he was shopping; he hadn't run into anyone he'd known. But if his plan was to be successful, he'd have to deal with the traitors who put him into Azkaban on a daily basis, and there was no getting around it.
Did he hate them? To a certain extent, he supposed. They'd been instrumental in ruining his life, after all, and being stuck in Azkaban wasn't exactly something one just forgave and forgot. Dumbledore had been his father figure, the one person he'd depended on to always be there for him, and the man hadn't even _bothered_ to try and help him when things got rough. Ron and Hermione had turned their backs on him, despite their supposed "unconditional friendship." Even Sirius, who'd once been wrongly imprisoned himself, hadn't believed in his own godson.
But in the same regard, he'd long ago realized that he couldn't bring himself to care.
They'd turned on him. Now that he was free, he no longer had any obligations to any of them. He didn't need their forgiveness, because they had no right to judge him. He didn't want their friendship because he was perfectly capable of supporting himself. He hated them to a point, but beyond that, they no longer mattered to him.
Perhaps he'd deal with them the way he remembered Snape dealing with his students. He'd put up with them because he had to, but bubbling beneath the surface would be seven years worth of poorly concealed contempt.
The thought actually put a smile on his face. Hermione would go out of her way to try and get him to like her, because she had to have that reassurance. No one liked being despised. And she'd spend hours poring over her actions, trying to figure out what he didn't like about her.
If his plan worked, that was.
Harry was brought back by the door of the Leaky Cauldron being pushed open, and a hulking figure ducking down to fit through the doorway. The escaped convict felt a smile tugging at his lips. A curious feeling, really. Harry couldn't remember the last time he'd honestly smiled.
Rubeus Hagrid nodded his greeting to a few patrons, then slumped onto one of the barstools. Time had been kind to the half-giant, and only a few flecks of gray interrupted his dark, unruly mane.
Still smiling, Harry slipped from his seat in the corner and silently made his way over to the older man. He slid onto the stool on the giant's left. It only took him a moment to catch Hagrid's eye.
"Buy ya a drink, mate?"
Hagrid grunted his thanks, then squinted at Harry suspiciously. "Der I _know_ yeh from somewhere?"
"Nah. I been travelin' about fer a while. Only stopped here fer a day or two, an' I was lookin' fer someone to share a pint an' maybe some company."
"Well then. Who am I ter refuse? Name's Hagrid," the giant said with a wide grin.
"Sean," Harry replied, extending his hand. "Sean Cassidy, at yer service."
The younger man tried not to wince as Hagrid's paw of a hand squashed his own. Harry hailed the bartender and the pair settled into polite conversation as they drank.
"So, what do yer do, Sean?" Hagrid asked curiously.
"Nothin' at the moment. I'm still gettin' my bearin' if ya know what I mean. Feelin' a wee bit lost on what to do. Could ya fill me in on what's been goin' on then, Hagrid? Been out an' abouts fer a while, like I said."
"Not much ter tell," Hagrid replied. "I dun keep up with it. Busy teachin' at Hogwarts."
"Dumbledore still Headmaster, then?" Harry said, feigning curiosity.
"Yessir. Great man, Dumbledore. Say, yeh wouldn't happen ter be lookin' fer a spot o' work, would yeh?"
"Matter o' fact, I am. Why?"
"Well, I 'appen ter know the Headmaster's lookin' fer someone ter fill a teachin' position. With the new school year so close, he's gettin' desperate."
"Yeah? Not Potions, is it? I could nae fix a decent brew to save my life."
"Blimey, no! Hogwarts has had the same Potions Master fer the last twenty years! Dumbledore's lookin' fer someone fer Defense Against the Dark Arts."
"Ya don't say?" Harry couldn't conceal the tiny smile that curved his lips. "Well, Hagrid, I do happen to know a thing or two 'bout _that_."
Note: The conversation Harry has with himself in the mirror is not entirely mine. The idea came from The Preacher, where Cassidy (an Irish vampire) has a similar conversation with himself. I've always loved the idea of people talking to themselves, but not really talking to themselves.
Second, Cassidy-from-The-Preacher is not why I decided to give Harry the name "Sean Cassidy." Sean was a boy I knew in grade school, many, many years ago. We'll leave it at that.