Of Helpful Import...

This story was intended as a prediction of canon, as of the Harry Potterverse before Half-Blood Prince was released. If you've noticed, this e-novel was completed and begun the summer before Book 6 was released. It was heavily researced and discussed, so that virtually all of the events that played out in this work were entirely possible within the Potter realm (again, as of HBP.) Many things, specifically character development, wound up being alarmingly in-line with the way Rowling wrote her own novel.

It contains heavy interaction between some rarely explored characters. As this story's author already loved the universe she was borrowing, it is her way of paying tribute to the genre's creator to flesh out some backgrounds of Potter folk that we don't know much about. Other subject matter includes fully dealing with the controversy-packed topics of bigotry, racism, self-mutilation, revenge, murder, suicide and torture--both psychological and physical.

By so doing, this work involved the writer immersing herself completely into the emotionality of Harry Potter and his mates, their motivations, why Harry rationalises how he does and why he can continue to heal despite everything that happens to him. Sound boring? I assure you it's not--she kills Harry off in the first chapter. Or does she?

This story has been described as a combination of Five People You Meet In Heaven, What Dreams May Come, The Crow, and Harry Potter all rolled into one. Read on to see for yourself, you won't be disappointed...

Harry gets in a fatal car crash with the Dursleys and finds someone framed him for their alleged murders. In this provocative tale of flight, friendship, and fury, he must learn the will to survive and face destiny comes from mind, body, and soul. After all is said and done, with the unfailing support of those you love, you can never truly be alone.


After wending his way through King's Cross Station, Harry heaved his trunk into the boot of his uncle's car. Thankfully he was able to do this by himself with ease now, as he had grown a nice pair of strong shoulders over the past year. His Uncle Vernon had been in no mood to assist him in transferring his belongings from the trolley anyway. Harry reached for his meticulously swaddled Firebolt and carefully placed it in the boot.

Harry knew his uncle's surly mood was largely due to the "friendly warning" he had just received from his magical friends in the Order of the Phoenix. He sniggered thinking back to the terrified look on his uncle's face as Mad-Eye Moody had exposed his magical eye to him. He would treasure the priceless moment forever.

Dudley, Aunt Petunia, and Uncle Vernon all climbed into the car as Harry slammed the boot lid.

Not wanting to leave Hedwig alone with his creepy relatives, he returned the trolley to the station and carried his owl back out to the car with him.

While he was walking, Harry thought back to the conversation he'd had before leaving all his friends…

Hermione and Ron had both said they would write, and talk to him soon. He had wanted to believe them; however he still wasn't sure if he wanted too regularly of correspondence anyway. Harry sort of just wanted to cocoon up in his room on Privet Drive and not think about anything for awhile. He'd thought entirely too much about everything lately. He even thought about his thinking. It's like…traumatic over-analysis, he supposed. Granted, he'd miss everybody terribly if they failed to write, but….the thought of regularly corresponding with people was just….more trouble than it was worth. Besides, he would probably depress them with whatever he wrote anyway. No sense in worrying anybody.

All the Dursleys glared at him as he climbed in the car. He would have set the cage on the seat between him and Dudley, but as his cousin resembled the offspring of Mack lorry meets vintage Rolls, there just wasn't enough room. How is it possible that somebody who's lost weight can still take up over half a bench seat? Harry thought incredulously. Instead, he balanced the owl cage on his lap, careful to keep concealed the wand under his shirt.

Noticing nobody else had bothered with it (Harry supposed Uncle Vernon and Dudley were too fat and he knew Aunt Petunia despised wrinkled clothing), he buckled his safety belt. Maybe I'll get lucky and we'll have an accident, Harry thought vindictively.

When he shut the door, something very strange happened. A charge of green energy briefly flared around the outside of the vehicle, immediately followed by an ice-water trickle down his back.

Uncle Vernon whipped around, his face turning a nasty shade of puce.

"What do you mean by doing magic, boy!" he roared.

"I didn't do anything!" Harry protested loudly. "How could I, when I've got Hedwig's cage on my lap?"

His uncle flung himself forward, as it was obviously quite difficult for a man of his size to face Harry from a contorted position. Instead, he glowered at Harry from the rearview mirror.

Not really wanting to look at Uncle Vernon's plum-shaded face anymore, Harry glanced away, and it happened to be in Dudley's direction.

His cousin was cowering and jiggling like a gigantic flesh-coloured gelatin mold. This has to be a record, Harry noticed with morbid amusement, watching Dudley shake as a bowl full of jelly. Only sixteen years old, and already elephantine Dudders could give St. Nicholas a run for his money.

"No more monkey business," Uncle Vernon seethed through clenched teeth, "or so help me, I'll make your life so miserable, you'll wish you'd never heard of Privet Drive."

Harry's head snapped to the front of the car with a near-audible crack.

"Believe me, you're already much too late for that," he snarled in retaliation. "Just bugger off, I have more important things to deal with than the likes of you," he lashed out.

Uncle Vernon narrowed his eyes warningly.

"You watch your language, you insolent, ungrateful, little leech, or I swear I'll—"

"You'll what?" Harry cut in dangerously. "Spare me your tiresome threats. You're already aware of what'll happen if my wizard friends find out about you." His eyes flashed menacingly. "I might have something to lose by hexing you into oblivion, but they don't," he finished savagely; knowing not a word of it was true.

Aunt Petunia gave a shocked gasp as Dudley started trembling even more, whilst attempting to cram his titanic self further against the doorframe away from Harry.

Uncle Vernon made a feral growl in the back of his throat and jammed the vehicle into drive.

Folding his arms tightly against his chest, Harry stared resolutely out the window.

Fifteen minutes ago he had said goodbye to his wizard friends, and fifteen minutes later his loathsome relatives were already starting in on him. One thing was clear, however. Harry would not take their rubbish this summer. He'd had more than enough. NO MORE!

Though truth be told, the most pressing concerns on his mind weren't the Dursleys or even Sirius, for that matter.

It was the green flash they'd all seen. Also the trickling sensation down his back. Nearly the only times he had seen green flashes of light was when someone was playing around with Dark magic. Definitely not a good sign.

The ice-water-down-the-spine trick he'd felt only once before when Mad-Eye Moody had used the Disillusionment Charm on him during his escape from Little Whinging nearly a year ago. Most peculiar, and again—not a good sign.

He supposed he should say something to the Dursleys about this, but knew it wouldn't do any good. They'd just start shouting at him again.

Uncle Vernon angrily jerked the car about with his huge ham-fists.

Coming out of the car park, they had been nearly struck by no less than four drivers.

Harry's uncle roared and shook with anger at each near-hit, whilst making rude gestures toward the offending cars.

"Bloody idiots must be going blind!" he bellowed, as each driver ignored him and his road rage.

The near-accidents were happening to them on the roads, too.

Harry struggled to keep Hedwig's cage from sliding around off his lap as Uncle Vernon jerked the steering wheel hither and thither.

And then it happened.

During a particularly nasty curve on a road, the car lifted violently high into the air. Everyone but Harry was yelling in fright.

Uncle Vernon yanked the wheel too far and overcorrected. They had absolutely no time to brace themselves; the car appeared to put on an extra burst of speed as it careened almost straight downward.

What transpired next appeared to take no time and an eternity all in one.

Simultaneously, Uncle Vernon screamed, Petunia shrieked, Dudley squealed, Harry gasped. Their cries seemed to go on and on, but they logically were airbourne for only seconds.

As Harry's hands closed convulsively around the bars of Hedwig's cage, he could've sworn he saw hooded figures out the front windscreen.

Death Eaters! he noticed, horrified, here in the heart of London!

Then the car rotated on its axis and smashed at an odd angle straight into the ground.

Upon impact, Harry felt the seatbelt pull taught across his body and bite into him. Something inside cracked and tore near his shoulder where the seatbelt restrained him, but he had no time to think about it as the car had failed to stop rolling.

Hedwig's cage wrenched out of his grasp as his arms flew outward.

Then the window nearest Harry exploded; the car turned and his errant limbs caught the shards.

Something huge rammed up against him, knocking the wind out of his already-abused body. That must be Dudley, Harry assumed dully.

Suddenly, the car gave a particularly savage jolt as it rolled and balanced precariously up on Harry's side of the vehicle.

His neck whipped back and the side of his head slammed into the car interior, causing him to cry out and tear up.

There came a great heaving groan as the car shuddered, crunched down on all four wheels, and was still. Painfully fighting all the way, Harry gave himself up to the encroaching darkness.

A steady drip-drip-dripping sound brought Harry back to consciousness. It seemed to be originating just below his head.

He moaned and went to raise a hand to his forehead automatically; it was aching fiercely.

Yelping a raspy Gah! at the stabbing pain in his neck and shoulder that started at this simple movement, he opened his eyes. Why couldn't he move his arm, and why did it hurt so badly?

Harry could now tell that he was bent almost double, with only a shoulder strap of a seatbelt to hold him up. I'm in a car? he realised wildly. Everything was blurred, as his glasses had mysteriously disappeared. It was also quite dark.

Then he caught site of the red rivulet streaming down his left arm and onto his lap. Harry nearly retched in revulsion after catching a glimpse of the mince the window glass had made of his forearm.

It all started coming back to him…the green flash….the swerving car….the flight….the crash…

"HEDWIG!" he shouted and began rising. Harry yelled "Ouch!" as the back of his head struck something immediately behind it. Sinking back downward, he used his good hand to hold the new lump forming on the back of his head.

Apparently, the passenger bubble of the vehicle had been almost totally compressed where he was sitting. He tried looking around him, but the ache near his shoulder severely limited the movement. Lovely. Trapped. He was trapped.

He had to get out of here. NOW. Find out what happened to Hedwig and the Dursleys. And why in the four Houses of Hogwarts hadn't anybody shown up yet to help them? Sun was barely starting to set when they left the train station, and now the street torches were lit, casting an eerie light about the scene. This place should be swarming with emergency response personnel. Or at the very least, curious passerby should've noticed a smashed car in their midst. Where were all the people?

If ever a time came to flout the Decree for the Restriction of Underage Wizardry, this was it. Ministry of Magic be damned.

Praying he would still find his trusty wand, he reached under his t-shirt. Good—still there! But as he pulled it out, it came apart in his hands.

"Oh no!" he croaked in lament, as the phoenix feather fluttered out onto his bloodied trouser leg. Apparently, his seatbelt had slapped against it too hard, causing it to snap in half lengthwise with the grain.

What now? Harry had been half-sure he could pull off some sort of rescue with his wand. What was he supposed to do? If he could just get in contact with a wizard, any wizard…any good wizard…think, think, THINK!

Harry blinked involuntarily as something trickled into his eye. Reaching up a hand to clear it away, his fingers came away slicked with matted hair and coagulated blood. Was there anyplace left on him that wasn't oozing? A deep gouge ran from temple up to hairline. Evidently his glasses had left a nasty impression where his head had struck the door. And the source of the dripping that woke him had been his own open head wound. An ominous sign yet ironically reassuring. Dead men don't bleed.

Eurgh, Harry slapped himself mentally, snap out of it. Don't think grotesquely, just—get it over with, cover it up, and above all don't think about it…or you'll go mad. Besides, calming down should be a piece of cake. You've dealt with Voldemort four times successfully; you can certainly deal with a Muggle-world car crash.

He felt a tingling sensation on his leg and looked down. The phoenix feather was sparkling feebly; it had already soaked up some of the liquid underneath it. To avoid it more damage, he slipped it in his pocket. Gaining solace in the limited effects, Harry was inspired to take assessment of the situation…stock injuries along with what he did and didn't have available to him.

Pushing his aching brain into clinical mode, he checked himself over. Cut on the head, cuts on the arms, legs seemed okay—he flexed them experimentally. His ribs where Dudley ran into him were starting to throb and it was becoming gradually harder to breathe as well. But his shoulder….he raised his good hand and gingerly probed the painful area. Wincing, Harry concluded the seatbelt had snapped his collarbone as well as his wand. This could get to be problematic. In order to move, he was going to have to secure his useless arm somehow.

It was a good thing he made it a regular practise wearing an over shirt.

At least the hand on his bad arm still worked; he'd need it to undo the sleeve buttons on the opposite arm. Catching the cuff of the sleeve in his teeth, he carefully shrugged his right arm out of the shirt. Next, he tried to just tie the empty sleeve to the tail; it wouldn't work—to unsupported.

Setting his jaw, he carefully peeled back the other shredded sleeve from his left arm. Then he closed his eyes and brought it free after unbuttoning the cuff.

Again using his teeth and tongue with the good hand, he knotted the ends of the shirt collar together. Could still come undone…double knot it—there.

Despite the coolness of evening, he was beginning to sweat. This was indeed hard work; knotting a shirt in the dark hunched over half-blind with a shoulder injury.

Harry slid the knotted shirt collar up behind the elbow of his hurt arm, laying the remainder of the shirt across his lap. He picked up the sleeve nearest his torso, carefully sliding it up over the back of his neck and holding the end in his mouth.

Next Harry reached for the opposite sleeve and began the somewhat tedious process of double-tying the sleeve ends together; he had to get them to hold without cinching his arm too high. When the fit seemed right, he then folded the remainder of the fabric across his lap width-wise in on itself; knotting the length was a bit more of an issue.

Since he was unable to raise the shirttail close enough to tie the end in his teeth, he instead twisted up the excess material as a bread baggie, and simply held onto it in the hand of his injured arm.

Panting with his exertions, Harry allowed himself a break to rest. He could still not hear any telltale noise, save for the street sounds and crickets outside.

Time to vacate this deathtrap, he resolved.

Harry reached across his chest with his good arm and attempted to pull the door lever out…but it was already jammed in the open position. He then pushed on the door a bit, but it wouldn't budge.

Just as well, he told himself. Hadn't really believed it would be that easy besides. Since he obviously couldn't begin boisterously ramming the door open due to his arm injury, he'd just have to reposition himself to kick it open. Somehow.

Harry grabbed the two halves of his wand he'd set on the seat and prised the seatbelt buckle open with them. He then tucked them into his sling. Feeling behind him, he tried to gauge how much room he would have to manoeuver with on the seat. The answer? Not much.

His hand ran into Dudley almost straightaway.

It seemed the only way he was going to get even a little more room was by wedging himself in the dark floor space at their feet. Great. Never in his life had Harry wished he was still a runty child more than now.

Steeling himself, he swung up his legs, rolled right and pushed himself diagonally downward in one smooth motion. One way or another, he thought in mild surprise, that could've gone worse. Now he was just about flush with the back of the driver's seat, with enough room to kick out toward the door.

Which was undoubtedly going to hurt more than at little. Just do it.

Shutting his eyes, he summoned all the strength and rage he possessed on that stubborn door; the door between him and freedom.

"You stupid thing—" he flung out feet together in punctuated rhythm—

WHAM! Wince.

"I will not—"

WHAM! Flinch.

"Let you stay—"

WHAM! Gulp.

"Between me—"

CRUNCH! Whimper.

"And my rescue!"


At last, the hateful door gave way; before Harry could move any more, he had to catch his breath.

Cradling his arm and sucking in sharp shallow breaths through his teeth, he felt an undeniable sense of victory surge through him despite the pain. Even though it was far from over, this was a major step he'd just accomplished.

Someone else in the car was stirring now and Harry could tell it was Dudley by the tone. The shouting had probably roused him.

"Dudley?" Harry called hoarsely.

"Dudley!" he shouted louder. Still, no cognitive response.

Hooking a foot outside the car, he half-scooted half-pushed himself slowly and painfully out the opening. As difficult as it had been to kick the door open, this was undeniably worse. He felt something jabbing him in his already achy side.

Jamming his free arm beneath himself, he retrieved the offending item. His glasses. Or rather, what was left of them. The lenses were completely missing; a gnarled black wire was all that remained. He doubted even Hermione knew a spell powerful enough to repair this mishmash. Knowing it was hopeless, Harry stashed the wire into his sling with the pieces of his wand. Just keep moving…

He twisted his body and spilled out of the car unceremoniously onto his knees. Ow, ow, ow, he chanted to himself with every painful breath. At least it was grass he'd landed on. They appeared to have crashed in some sort of park. And he was free. Free!

Quickly pushing himself up off the ground, Harry felt a ripple of nausea pass through him and vomited on the lawn. Shaking now, he lowered himself carefully back down. Just what I need, he thought disgustedly, to get sick all over everybody and everything. Things just can't go worse!

But in an instant they did. Infinitely worse.

Despite the already-present throb in his head, Harry felt an unmistakable staggering flame sear through his curse scar. It had been a good thing he was so close to ground; had he been standing, he would be sprawled out by now. As it was, he tried to make heads or tails of what he just sensed.

Voldemort…was…angry. Very angry about something—furious in fact. Something involving him—Harry. Probably angry his Death Eaters haven't found me yet, he supplied mentally. This put a brand new sense of urgency on the situation. If Voldemort were looking for him, he'd have to get somewhere safe…quickly. He'd be an easy target, with no glasses, no wand, and a broken arm.

Harry stood up—more deliberately this time—and began squinting around in the darkness for his owl's cage. Turning in the direction of the car, he noticed something very odd indeed. Save for his door being open, he couldn't see a car at all. So the green flash had been an Invisibility Charm. That explains why nobody came for rescue. Nobody could see them while they were in the car.

Opposite from the side of the car he was on, he could make out a little hillock. Evidently the one they had rolled down and come to rest at the bottom of. Trying to focus his eyes on a glint he spotted, he skirted carefully around the area of car where he estimated the rear was occupying.

Looking down, he lowered himself next to the glint. This was indeed Hedwig's cage. It was resting on the mangled wires, tipped over on one side. His pet was slumped over in the bottom, still and breathing very shallowly.

"Oh, Hedwig," Harry said roughly, "I'm so sorry…my faithful friend…"

Crouching down slowly, he opened and gingerly reached inside the cage. He lifted her gently and righted the cage with the toe of his shoe, and reverently set her in the bottom and shut the door.

"I promise, I'll get you help soon," he swore to her while slowly easing himself back up. Catching hold of the cage in his hand, he carried it over to the open car door and placed it inside.

Peering inside at the Dursleys, he couldn't see anything outwardly wrong with them, but that didn't mean anything. Even barring the fact he had no glasses. Dudley was still making odd noises and mumbling.

Regardless of the need to leave, Harry still found himself requiring a rest again. Each walk around was becoming more and more exhaustive as the stitch in his side grew and it became increasingly harder to breathe.

Obviously that ache was where the cursed seatbelt had restrained him. Oh well, as long as I'm still moving, he resigned to himself.

Now to set about summoning immediate wizard assistance.

Even if Harry could open the boot, he knew he was in absolutely no shape to ride his Firebolt. It would be suicide. After all, he'd tried riding a broom with a broken arm once before with calamitous results.

More to the point, he needed think of something that required minimum effort to accomplish due to his waning strength. This weakness was very disconcerting; he'd always been able to handle things before. Save for the dementors. However, he could now accomplish that with relative ease as well. What was wrong with him?

Harry leaned heavily against the invisible car. Never mind. What we need is transportation…for several people…fast...something glimmered across Harry's mind…

The Knight Bus? He nearly rejected the idea out of hand, it was so crazy. The Knight bus-turned ambulance? Absurd! Maniacal blind-as-a-bat Ernie behind the wheel…if the car crash hadn't killed the Dursleys, a ride in the Knight Bus was sure to. With a broken wand, he very likely couldn't summon the bus regardless. Unless…

Harry slid back down near ground and removed his mangled glasses and wand from the sling. Retrieving the phoenix feather buried in his pocket, he then placed it in the centre of one of the red-tinged halves of wand and lined it up with the other half. Good thing they still matched. Now for something to hold this mélange all together…

Gripping the wand handle in his left hand despite the sling's fabric bunch, he held it fast between his index and middle fingers. Carefully, he secured one end of his glasses wire against the base of the wand with his thumb; with the other hand he spiralled the rest of the wire around up the tip as high as it would reach.

Harry looked dubiously at his woefully inadequate repair job. What a mess, he thought with distaste. After that, he pushed himself up the car fender again with great effort and positioned his feet. Here goes nothing, he thought. Closing his eyes, he buried his head against his shoulder and jutted out his wand hand.

Not a thing happened.

In a fit of frustration, he growled and hawked several large spit wads all over the dead wand. This WILL work, I HAVE to leave, Voldemort's on his way, he thought furiously whilst frantically smearing the saliva into the crack in his wand as best he could. And all of this hard effort is going to pay off right—

"NOW!" Harry shouted as he thrust his wand arm back into the air as high as it would go. A bolt of energy shot through him from toe to wand tip.

Suddenly, a large popping sound rent the air as the lurid purple Knight Bus appeared and slowed to a stop not far from him.

Bringing down his arm, he gazed at his substandard wand in sheer amazement. Three cheers for magical loogies, Harry thought in a daze.

"Huzzah," he whispered in salute to his damaged wooden tangle.

A thankfully familiar figure emerged from the bus as it opened, and stood silhouetted in the doorway. The man was recognisable, even though Harry was without his specs and in the dark.

"'Oo 'sair?" questioned Stan Shunpike, narrowing his eyes in Harry's general direction.

"Stan!" Harry shouted in blessed relief, "Stan, it's me—Harry Potter!"

"'Arry Potter, 'ay?" Stan repeated skeptically. "'Ow come I can't see you?" Shunpike's eyes were still not focussing on him.

"What do you mean you 'can't see me'?" he said to Stan frantically.

"Well, we can see you," replied Ernie who had come down the steps behind Stan, "but we can't see you," he finished most unhelpfully, squinting into the darkness as Stan was.

They can't see me? Harry's mind reeled as more panic rose within him by the minute. Curious passengers were beginning to gawk out the windows of the bus. Why didn't—of course! he remembered. The trickle down his back outside King's Cross Station! The Disillusionment Charm he'd suspected all along…. Just explain a bit to Stan and Ernie…I'll be fine.

"Someone used a Disillusionment Charm on me, and I can't reverse it! Plus my wand is broken!" Harry shouted, feeling a bit dizzy now. "It happened to four of us, we're hurt, we need—"

"An' 'ow d'we know this isn't a prank?" Stan said suspiciously, cutting him off.

"Good finkin'," tossed Ernie to Stan over his shoulder. Then to Harry, "'Ow d'we know you're not prankin' us?"

"It's not a prank!" Harry yelled as hard as he could, head pounding in protest, "this is serious, we all need a ride on your blasted bus—"

"'Cause we've been pranked before," Stan began again as if Harry hadn't even spoken, "by 'nvis'ble drunk wizards, we're not 'bout to let it 'appen again, y'know," he finished firmly, nodding his head and turning with Ernie to leave.

Harry screamed in aggravation. Why would these idiots not listen! The Knight Bus was his last hope. If it left without he and the Dursleys….

As his thoughts and feelings worked into a lather, he began breathing more shallowly and painfully than ever. What would happen to him, what would happen to Hedwig…a random errant image of Sirius flashed over his mental circuit. Sirius wouldn't give up, Harry seized on the thought, he would fight to the last…he would make these fools see! I'll fight like Sirius! If he could only make himself stop hyperventilating.

"What is happening here?" called out a clear female voice in utmost authority. Harry hadn't even seen the woman enter the bus doorway, blocking Stan's and Ernie's retreat back inside. He couldn't have answered even if he had noticed her.

"Oi, nuffink, ma'am," Stan immediately replied, he and Ernie snapping to almost-attention. "Jes' some joker."

"Yeah," joined in Ernie, "someone 'oo 'sinvis'ble, telling us 'ees got 'urt wif 'urt people an' fings—"

"What did you say?" she questioned them both sharply, alighting off the steps in a rush.

Harry tried in a vain attempt to attract her attention as even more anger coursed through him at his inability. Think about Sirius, he reminded himself, deal with by fighting it. His vision was getting fuzzier, and he was beginning to pass out.

The witch strode purposefully in toward him, as if listening for Harry's strangled breathing.

"Some bloke," started Stan again, "sayin 'is wan' is broke an' if that's so, 'ow could 'ee call us 'ere? Says someone 'it 'im wif a Disillu—fingy. It 'as to be a joke, 'sappened before," he defended. "Gits."

Suddenly Harry felt a very odd sensation, which seemed to originate with his frustration; it felt as if something heavy and stringy was issuing forth from his scalp. It itched relentlessly too. He watched, astonished, as his hair magically grew down passed the front of his face to his waist. What the bloody hell? He commenced choking as his hair flowed in a black curtain about him. Going from too much air to not enough…

"'Ee also says 'is name is "Arry Potter," Ernie added helpfully as an afterthought.

"Moronic simpletons!" shouted the tall woman after this revelation. She pushed passed them in Harry's direction, pulling out her wand in a flash. Then she pointed it at Harry as if she had known where he was all along.

"Finite Disillusio!" her voice rang out.

Three gasps punctuated the darkness as a hot water-like blast washed over Harry and he was finally revealed for all to see.

Evidently, his weakened body had had enough. Just as the witch rushed for him, he felt his knees finally buckle under stress. Strong arms caught and held him upright.

"See!" yelled Stan and Ernie together, and pointed accusingly in Harry's direction. "That's no' 'Arry Potter! "Ee 'as much shorter 'air an' glasses—"

"I don't care if he's the Great Nicodemus Incarnate!" Her eyes sparked an inferno of warning. "This young man needs help!" shouted the witch lividly.

She peered down critically at him in her arms. Drawing her wand out again, she rested it straight on his constricted airway and incanted soothingly, "Evictiphobius Accioncordia."

Immediately, Harry was able to breathe more easily, save the ever-present stitch in his right side. As he sucked in great gulps of air, the witch swept the hair back from his face with one arm while still holding him in the other. As she surveyed his forehead, her brows knitted together and smoothed again. For once, it wasn't his scar someone was worried about.

"Don't fight this fear with rage," she told him in the same comforting tone as her last spell, "assuage it with an inner calm. Listen to your heartbeat, breathe with it."

Just as he started to feel a bit more relaxed, Harry felt another wave of sickness crash over him and began retching at their feet. The witch held his newly long hair back from his mouth and addressed Ernie and Stan again. They flinched at her words.

"You two should be ashamed of yourselves. If you had better powers of observation, you would've known that the entire Wizard World is out looking for a young dark-haired teenage wizard and his three Muggle companions, with special attention to be paid in the London area. It was said they were possibly injured or disoriented, and to be offered assistance. The Alert—sent out by the Minister of Magic himself—went out over the Wireless more than four hours ago."

She helped Harry straighten up as he finished with his sickness, still acting the epitome of righteous indignation.

"Now I'm not sure if the Alert meant Harry Potter, and I haven't seen any wizards yet with this boy right here—" her eyes flicked to Harry, "but he emerged under your noses by means of some very suspicious circumstances—with injuries whilst in the London area," she emphasized crossly.

Harry looked up at her and spoke up again finally. "Thank you," he said gratefully, in a winded tone.

"It's all part of the job," she replied rather curtly. Then abruptly, "Are you Harry Potter?" She glared daggers at Stan and Ernie after asking, as if daring them to challenge Harry's answer.

"Yes, I am," he replied guardedly, inching away from her and wilting against the car.

Now he could see that magic folk started to stream out of the bus and onto the grass around him and the vehicle. He severely doubted any Death Eaters would be foolish enough to show up here in their midst.

Apparently, his reappearance had caused quite an uproar. When he looked behind him, he saw precisely why. The Dursleys were all as visible as he was; they sat sprawled as if floating in midair since the car surrounding them was still not visible.

"And who are these people?" she questioned and gestured, her voice all business.

"My aunt, uncle, and cousin—Muggles," he concluded quietly as his head, arm, and side started aching more again. Little lightheadedness spots twinkled at the edge of his vision.

"And how much of this is yours?" she said, pointing to the various red blotches on his body and clothing under his mane of thick hair.

"Wuh, the blood?" he looked at her weirdly. What an odd question. "All of it, I suspect." Her eyes grew huge.

"You, you, and you—" she spun about and shouted unexpectedly, pointing to three wizards, "I want you to each open one of those doors—" she pointed to the Dursleys—"when you turn the car visible, and DON'T move anybody until I come back!"

Not bothering waiting for replies, the witch turned back to Harry and got him to lean off the car once more.

She then slid a protective arm under his hair around his waist. He sagged against her as she helped him navigate and walk slowly up the steps of the Knight Bus. It was getting harder for him to remember how to put one foot in front of the other. He should tell her about the Death Eaters…

"I trust you won't bungle up the task of helping young Mr. Potter find a seat," she said coldly to Stan, who slunk back inside the bus. Now he looked properly abashed.

"No, ma'am." Stan turned around, head hanging, and gestured Harry to an empty bed.

"You will also see to it that he remains seated indefinitely," she clipped off in a voice which left no room for argument.

"Yes, ma'am." Stan blinked.

"That means "at all costs", she amended after recalculating her words.

"Yes, ma'am. 'Ndef'nitely, ma'am."

"Make sure that he does not fall asleep either. Do you understand?"

"'Arry Potter's not to fall asleep, yes ma'am."

Wrinkling her brow imperiously at Shunpike a last time, she turned to Harry and snapped, "I'll be right back, don't go anywhere."

After turning around and walking up the aisle a bit, she vanished three of the beds with a rather complex-sounding spell on her way out.

Stan seemed to have read the unspoken question on Harry's lips.

"Tha' tair's Madam Adonna. Polite an' friendly to a fault—in a non-'mergency situation—but if sick or 'urt folks're about, she turns into a right hippogriff on a rampage until the danger's o'er." He nodded knowingly at Harry. "An' she's also an 'ealer at St. Mungo's," added Stan in an almost reverent voice.

Interesting. Harry had never seen a fully-trained wizard healer at her element before. Wondering through his thickening mental fog he said, "Are all healers snippy like that? She certainly seems to know her stuff, though," added Harry hastily, just in case.

"Dunno," answered Stan. "She 's th' only one I know of 'oo reg'larly chooses t' ride th' Knight Bus. Says Disapparatin' all th' time makes wizards lazy," he finished, shrugging.

Harry lapsed into silence about then. As he sat there, oddly disjointed thoughts strayed cross his mind. What would he do if his aunt and uncle died? What was up with this hair thing? People were searching for him, he now knew. For hours. So far, his scar had only hurt that once. Where would he be taken now? The Order would be near spare with worry, he was certain. I should tell someone about the Death Eaters, he reminded himself again. Why did that critical piece of information keep slipping his mind?

Not knowing how long he'd sat there, Harry vaguely noticed he was getting colder. Much colder. But his face felt flushed at the same time. Weird. Before long he started feeling jittery and shivery and closed his eyes to try and ward it all off. Harry was so very exhausted… If I close my eyes, I can make it stop…

"Don' you be driftin' off on me," Stan said irritatedly, slapping Harry roughly about the face and bringing him rudely back to full consciousness. Madam 'ould 'ave my 'ead iffen she came back an' you were passed out."

Throwing a warm blanket about Harry's shoulders he continued, "You can 'ave one o' these," and bringing up a steaming mug from nowhere, "an' 'ere's an 'ot choc'late, compliments of th' establishment," he finished with a quirky sideways smile.

Harry gratefully took the warm mug from Stan and practically curled himself around it. Apparently I was colder than I thought, he mused, taking steady sips of the liquid. What is it with wizard chocolate that helps one feel calmer? he wondered, as its influence spread through him the more he drank. The fuzzy blanket was working like a charm, too. He began feeling nominally better though his injuries pulsed with every heartbeat.

Harry contemplated Stan for a moment; apparently the young conductor was trying to attain for his earlier serious error in judgment.

"Why Stan, I never knew you cared," he said looking up at Shunpike, reflecting the same bemused expression.

The young man brightened instantly. "'S'all part of the job, Mr. Potter," he swaggered with supercilious dignity, a twinkle in his eye.

"Hey," Harry began, remembering something important, "I was wondering if you could tell Madam Adonna about my owl, Hedwig—"

He stopped in midsentence. What they saw next made all thought fly from his mind.

Stan and Harry froze as the bus door squeaked open and a piercing wail filled the air. Harry knew that sound well. It came from the sirens of the Muggle law enforcement—Scotland Yard! He must've been very knackered indeed not to have noticed the flashing lights and ruckus that were just outside. Please don't let them have started an investigation, he thought, horrified.

Foreboding filled his chest as he watched the wizard folk quickly climb aboard in mostly-silence and take their seats. Had the Muggles seen them? Harry knew that the Knight Bus was invisible to non-magic people when it was moving, but he doubted it had ever stayed in one exposed place for so long before.

His fellow passengers spoke in hushed voices, hardly saying a word except out of necessity. The Dursleys were brought in with them—on what were obviously conjured stretchers, wheeled but not floating—and secured in place. Dudley was still muttering oaths in his semiconscious state; Harry's aunt and uncle were still out cold. They all looked ghastly pale.

Harry looked back up as Madam Adonna stiffly walked inside, bringing up the rear. Her jaw was set and her eyes were luminous—she looked positively grim.

As Harry squinted, he realised why. Two officers of the Metropolitan Police had tromped onto the bus behind her! He drew a sharp breath, which stabbed his aching ribcage and collarbone. So they had been seen! They all stopped here because of meHarry thought with pangs of guilt. The wizards severely outnumbered the officers though. Surely they could be overcome if necessary.

After Madam Adonna had checked to make sure the Dursleys cots were secure, she practically shoved the Met officers gracelessly down on a bed together as far to the back of the bus as possible. Their hip radios crackled with the goings on between the Metropolitan Police Station and its mobile units. So that's why we're not overcoming them, Harry noticed, they're probably keeping in contact with their patrol cars outside.

"I suggest you stay seated, sirs, we don't need any more injuries tonight," Madam Adonna practically growled, still remaining dangerously polite.

At first, the two officers looked as if they were going to fly up at her in retaliation, but came to the dawning realisation they were out of their element here. Plus the look on Madam Adonna's face could melt cauldrons.

Then she turned to everyone at large and said tightly, "I'm sure these men won't bite, and won't mind if we continue interacting with one another."

Harry noticed as she quickly tried to catch every solemn magic eye and continued hurriedly onward.

"After all, it was our…'Anachronistic Convention,' " Madam Adonna wrapped her mouth around the words with a distasteful sneer, "which we of course abandoned to help these poor car crash victims in their hour of need. Right, gentlemen?" She stared mightily toward the two officers in the back.

"Er, quite right, Doctor," one began, loudly clearing his throat. "Yes well, carry on then," said the other one, gesturing languidly with one arm.

Madam Adonna smiled, which was more like a grimace.

"And as much as we all appreciate your selfless escort to hospital, I have a patient to attend to straightaway," she gestured behind herself to Harry, "so if you will excuse me."

She briskly strode up the aisle to where Stan and Harry were. As she did, Harry saw the Muggle officers staring at him, forgetting themselves. When Harry returned their looks, they quickly glanced away after having realised what they were doing—not allowing privacy aboard public transport. An offence near punishable by death in some counties.

Madam Adonna gave Harry the once-over again. Her eyes flickered briefly and she looked to Stan.

"Mr. Shunpike."

"Yes, ma'am." The conductor was looking anywhere but at her.

She went on in a slightly repentant tone, "You gave a peaky shocked car crash victim a blanket and hot chocolate."

Stan gulped and looked as if he wanted to sink into the floor.

"Aye, ma'am."

"Well done. You made adequate use of the resources available. Considering your earlier "nincomperformance", I never would have believed it possible."

Shunpike was positively nonplussed and simply said, "Fank you, Madam Adonna."

Then she leaned over to him and hissed quietly, "Stan, tell Ernie book it to the nearest Muggle hospital. This is something I was going to have us do anyway, just not in so "enthusiastic" a method." She glanced to the back of the bus. "No magic in front of the Muggles—as we all know—and best speed! Muggle speed Stan—we don't want any of our non-magical or injured passengers to suffer any permanent ill effects from their ride."

Shunpike clicked his heels together and gave her a small salute by way of understanding, and about faced to his seat at the front of the bus.

Before Harry could ask her anything, Madam faced him again and said in the same hushed tones, "We found your owl in the backseat and the wizard's paraphernalia in the boot. Luckily someone had already Disapparated with the owl to a place where she can be looked after and they will of course, stay in touch via the Floo Powder Network. The other belongings were left with another young wizard who will be meeting us later at hospital. We believed the things should be kept from prying Muggle eyes; he brought them to the Ministry for safe keeping where he's also giving a report on your whereabouts."

She was speaking so swiftly and softly; Harry could hardly keep up with what she was saying.

"And my relatives?" he spoke up quietly, glancing back at the Dursleys on their beds.

Madam Adonna pursed her lips and her eyes clouded over. "I've done all I can for them right now. The young one looks the most promising for recovery, however. There just wasn't enough time before the bobbies showed up; evidently several people called in after seeing us and told the Yard that a bunch of freaks were participating in a car-burning riot. By then, the kneazle was out of the bag—we couldn't jump them, and now we have Met patrol clearing us a path to hospital."

The bus lurched violently to life and had it not been for the Madam standing right by, Harry would've tumbled off the side of the bed.

He gasped in shock and pain as she caught him; the hot chocolate dropped out of his hand to crash on the floor. Madam Adonna's catch had jolted all of his injuries but he supposed it would've been worse had he been left to fall. Everyone in the bus, including the Met men, studiously ignored the interaction between he and the healer. They chose instead to murmur amongst themselves in hushed tones. Thank Godric for British politeness.

"I've only got a few minutes to attend your injuries, it's your turn with the "doctor" now," she redirected, trying hard not to jostle too much whilst pushing him back upright. "That's what I told them I am, so they wouldn't force us to wait for their ambulances."

Harry found he could not sit up however; the bumps and bangs of the bus were too much for him to handle. He started feeling sick again due to Ernie's annoying overcorrections and began breathing gingerly once more. And his ribcage…it was starting to hurt even more than his broken collarbone, and that was saying something.

Immediately noticing his distress, Madam Adonna gently lowered him to lie flat on the bed. It really didn't help much.

"We convinced the Patrol it would be better for us to take you in, since we could carry the four of you in one. Logic won out."

"Now we'll get your shoulder," she said, mostly to herself.

Leaning over him, she examined his crude sling.

"You did this." She was near amazed.

"Yes." He clenched his teeth as the bus moved.

"Clever, Potter. Near genius," she appraised.

Harry tried responding, but the bus chose that moment to brake and Madam Adonna had to catch him again. This ride is going to kill me, he thought through a haze of pain.

"Normally I would want to remove this straight away with a Vanishing Spell, but you're bleeding somewhere."

Making sure the Muggle officers still weren't watching, she carefully brought her wand out from underneath her cloak and discreetly pointed it at him. She closed her eyes and waved it above and around his left arm as if divining something from the action. Which, Harry mused, she probably was.

Her eyes opened, and she said, "Nasty business. It's just as I thought; not only did your collarbone snap, but the shoulder has become separated from its socket. If I tell the bones to mend, your arm will be in the wrong place—it needs to be set. It requires a very powerful spell—loudly incanted—to repair it and not even those two," she vaguely gestured to the Met—"will miss the significance without a distraction."

The wizard's low-key conversation was punctuated with crackling messages sent via the Met's hip radios. They appeared to be communicating at regular intervals with their escort backup.

Reaching up, Madam Adonna carefully untied the knotted shirt-sling and unwrapped it from his forearm. It stabbed, burned and itched as a fire; the shirt fabric was clinging to the wound.

Harry clamped down his teeth even harder.

"This would be broken glass—" Madam began.

"Broken glass," he said with her through gritted teeth.

"My kingdom for a potions dresser," she went on, nearly shaking her head. "Usually, I'd just apply something to dissolve the foreign object, give you some Derma-Gro to heal the slashes in your arm and be done with it." She paused as if resigning herself. "As it is, we'll have to settle for quick and dirty. Brace yourself, Potter. Accio Vitro Deruptus!"

Harry barely had time to think as he felt the glass pieces rip out of his skin at Madam Adonna's vociferously whispered command. The action brought an involuntary yelp from his throat. Through his fog, he saw her wand, which was now glistening with the red-stained glass shards once imbedded in his arm. They stuck tight to the tip as if glued to it.

"Mr. Shunpike," she direct crisply to the front of the bus, "fresh bedsheets, if you please."

Stan reached up and pulled some bedding off a shelf somewhere above him and walked quickly through the swaying bus. He alone appeared to be totally unaffected by the vomit-inducing motion.

Taking a sheet from him, Madam Adonna applied it to Harry's forearm, which had started to bleed afresh now the glass had been so forcibly torn out of it. She mopped up the wound and pointed her wand toward it, whispering, "Cauterio Dermia!" Harry felt the area grow intensely warm.

"Best I can do is stop the bleeding," she said apologetically. "I'll do the same here." Reaching for Harry's head, she swept his hair out of the way again. She grabbed another sheet from Stan and started cleaning away the blood on his forehead.

Harry's end of the conversation was minimal; he was trying to tolerate the swerving vibrations of the bus combined with all his physical pain. It required loads of effort. But he still had to ask something.

"You said you planned to go to Muggle hospital. Why?"

The healer blazed a look into his face. "Because something dangerous is happening at St. Mungo's; I don't trust it. I don't think you'd be safe there."

She said it with such finality; he knew that would be all she would tell him. It must be something very dangerous, for a healer to trust Muggle medicine above magical arts. So much for that line of questioning.

Then Madam Adonna brought her wand up underneath the sheet and quietly incanted, "Cauterio Dermia!" toward his head wound.

"And now for your collarbone and shoulder," she said in a hushed tone, mostly to herself.

"But I thought you said you couldn't—" he winced painfully.

"Do it without distracting the officers, yes." She smiled grimly. "Trust me, we can distract them. Normally we knock out patients for this procedure, but I don't want to go mucking about with your concussion," said went on, wiping the glass pieces off her wand with another sheet. "Even in bright lighting your pupils are still so dilated, I can hardly tell what colour your grey eyes are."

"But my eyes are green," Harry wheezed automatically.

She gave him a shrewd and calculating look. It was almost…Snape-like in intensity. He didn't like it.

"Very well," she said crisply, shrugging it off, "what we need now is ballast." Turning to Stan, "I require you to stand opposite me on that side of the bed," she fluttered her fingers, "thank you, and grasp Potter's undamaged forearm like this." Stan moved over and reached out his hand.

Madam Adonna leaned over and placed his and Stan's hands and forearms together from fingertip to elbow, interlocking the digits. She appeared oblivious to the complete awkwardness of the situation; however, Harry and Stan studiously avoided looking in one another's direction after exchanging looks.

"No matter what Potter does to you," said Madam Adonna to Shunpike in dead seriousness, "do not move or let go. I'll have your head if you do."

Harry's eyes widened hugely while Stan swallowed timidly and nodded. The pair steadied themselves as best they could. Neither of them knew what the mad healer would do next. They would find out soon enough though.

Throwing a last glance over her shoulder to make sure the Met men were still not watching, Madam Adonna carefully stretched Harry's injured arm out to full length.

Then she lifted her eyes up to Harry's face and steadily said, "I'm not going to lie to you; this will hurt like hell on a hippogriff. Don't let go of Stan's arm. We'll go on the count of three—count with me, Potter."

"One," they began together.

"Two." Harry held his breath and steeled himself.

"Thraaaaaaaaaaauuuuggghhh!" he screamed for all he was worth.

Madam Adonna had yanked outward on his arm a count early; he felt certain the woman was trying to tear it off. As if that weren't bad enough, she actually twisted it, but something in his shoulder thunked back into place as he bellowed again. Stan's voice had joined him; apparently Harry had unknowingly grasped Shunpike's arm in a viselike grip. True to his word, Stan still never moved an inch.

Whilst the entire melee, Madam Adonna sneaked out her wand and pointed it at his collarbone and shouted, "FOKKUS CLAVIKUS REVITIKUS!"

Harry felt a weird tingling hot spot crawling under his skin as his arm was healed at last. But a terrible stabbing sensation now pierced him from inside all along his right ribcage. As Madam and Stan finally let go of his arms, he curled fetally around that terrible ache.

In spite of himself, Harry was really beginning to hate Madam Adonna. He knew logically she was only trying to heal him, but he couldn't help it. Through his pain, it felt as if she was enjoying how many ways she could make him hurt. I'll show her quick and dirty, he fumed with irrational anger, just give me a good wand. He still couldn't catch his breath.

All the shouting had evidently caught the attention of the Muggle officers. They both stood up in a rush and one yelled imperiously, "What is the meaning of this?"

Now in no mood for even feigned niceties, Madam Adonna whirled around in his direction after laying her wand on the bed.

She matched the officer's volume and threw back at him, "You've been witnessing a routine resetting of a compound shoulder separation," she lied expertly, "and if your laddikens can't handle that, I suggest you remove yourselves from this bus!"

The bus was dead silent save for Harry's gasping.

And as neither one of the proud bobbies wanted to be thought of as less than a man, they glanced at each other and reluctantly strutted to their seat. Or attempted to strut, rather. Their heads knocked painfully together as the bus swayed to and fro when they sat. One of them lost his hat.

Turning back around, Madam Adonna gestured Shunpike back to his seat. She thanked him again as he winced and rubbed the bruise marks on his hand where Harry had gripped him.

Peering down at Harry in renewed concern she said, "Are you all right? I know it's a bit of a shock at first, but it should be feeling—" she stopped herself.

"Potter, I need to see that side you're guarding. Please pull back so I may examine it."

Harry tried his very best to comply; however, he could not.

"I--c--can--n't," he tried to tell her through choked sobs, as every breath was agony.

The healer gently pushed him on his back and carefully prised his arms away from his middle.

Placing her wand in the centre of his shirt, she muttered, "Dissendium Diffendo." His t-shirt split wide open down along the focus.

"Mighty Merlin's Mercy!" she breathed in a shocked tone, taken aback by what she saw. Quickly remembering where she was, she closed her eyes and lifted her wand to the ride side of Harry's abdomen, once again divining his condition. Harry wanted to ask her what she'd seen, but hadn't strength or breath enough to do so.

Madam Adonna had barely begun muttering some more incantations over his torso when the Knight Bus ominously came to a screeching halt. They had arrived at hospital. Since the Met had already radioed ahead, the emergency Muggles were standing by and poured onto the bus as soon as it stopped. Harry was out of breath. Madam was out of luck. They were out of time.

The more starved of oxygen he became, the more his senses winked out. Though his eyes were open, Harry could see nothing; he was only distantly aware of a rush of voices surrounding him. He thought he heard someone say, "massive internal injuries" and "emergency surgery", but couldn't process what it meant. Thoughts floated around in a surreal tangle. Vaguely he remembered something about Death Eaters...hadn't seen any in a week or so, had he? Something about his Firebolt in the Ministry of Magic…a wreck of a wand…knotting his shirt?…Sirius opening a mangled car door and letting him out…Dudley cursing in his sleep….

His last coherent thoughts were, what if Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia don't survive and Dudley does? That would leave us both orphans. In a strange way, we'd be even.