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Under The Gaze of The Necromancer

Harry walked out of the Leaky Cauldron and past another poster promising an enormous reward for the information leading to the arrest or death of one Sirius Black, to explore Diagon Alley.

After a few minutes of aimlessness, he glanced down one of the side streets to behold something magical. At first his eyes skipped over it, but then they fixed upon it and Harry's jaw dropped in shock when he saw a tantalizingly familiar logo on one of the shops down the spur road.

"Ghostbusters," he whispered in awe, "we ain't afraid of no ghost." The name of the shop and the motto below it confirmed it. He had to go in!

To Harry's delight, the young man inside was dressed in a tan jumpsuit very similar to the ones in the movie.

"What can I do for you, kid?" the man behind the counter asked, face half concealed by a big bushy mustache.

"Um... Can I see your proton packs?" Harry asked hopefully.

"Muggleborn?"

"Close enough," Harry agreed.

"Hate to be the one to tell you, but we don't have any. Named the shop after the movie, but we use magic not technology," he explained.

"Oh." Harry's shoulders dropped. "What do you do?"

"Same as in the movie," he replied, "you got a ghost or poltergeist or something similar that you want to get rid of, we do it."

"How?"

"Have a seat, kid." The man waved him over to one of the mismatched chairs. "Fore I forget, name's Dirk Murray, call me Dirk."

"Harry Potter, call me Harry," he replied.

"Really?" The man's eyes flicked to his scar. "Never expected to see you in my shop."

"Why not?"

"Most wizards don't like to have anything to do with necromancy if they can help it," Dirk explained, "regard it a bit like normal folks regard working in a mortuary, necessary, but a bit creepy." And he'd have expected someone of the boy's stature to send a go between if he had need of the shop's services.

"What's necromancy?" Harry asked.

"Magic of the dead. Encompasses everything a mortician or a coroner does in the normal world along with busting ghosts," he finished with a smile. With the occasional raising for flavor, wizards were strange and it was not uncommon for one to wish to attend their own funeral or... Best to not even think about that.

"Oh. They don't teach anything like that at Hogwarts," Harry offered.

"Wouldn't expect them to. Like I said, most wizards regard it as creepy but necessary. Hogwarts is where the future politicians, business leaders, and bureaucrats come from. You want to learn necromancy or how to be a tailor or anything frightfully blue collar, you go to one of the trade schools."

"What else can you do?" Harry asked. "Can you speak with people that have died?"

"I can't, but I know how you can if you're good enough," Dirk replied. "On the higher levels, it does a lot of other things I don't know much about, think it's how the Ministry takes care of Dementors too."

"Could you teach me?" Harry asked, eager for a chance to speak with his parents.

"A bit," he agreed, "why?"

"We've got a poltergeist at the castle that's always giving us trouble, I thought it might be nice to be able to threaten him into good behavior," Harry answered, not wanting to give his real reason. He hated being pitied and his real reason almost guaranteed it.

"Sure," the man agreed, "but be sure not to banish him. Pretty sure the Hogwarts spirits are protected as being vital parts of the school."

"Doesn't mean I can't scare him," Harry countered.

"True," Dirk agreed, "okay, first thing you're going to need is a provisional license for underaged sorcery. It'll let you do magic under my supervision or at my direction."

"Where do I get that?" Harry asked.

"Ministry has a branch office at the end of the street. Tell them that you're interested in all types of magic or that you're interested in seeing how the other half lives or something," he advised. "Do not tell them that you want to become a necromancer or any other trade job. You're a Hogwarts student and you're Harry Potter, scandal would be enormous. And before you say something about not caring, you're not the one the angry mobs would go after." He made a mental note to strengthen the wards around the shop, maybe get a portkey or an off the books floo.

"I read that in order to be a leader, you must first learn how your followers live. It's fascinating that anyone could live in such disgusting conditions. Did you know that they do the work of house elves?" Harry's eyes widened in comical shock. "Imagine it."

"Works for me, kid," Dirk agreed, "might think about talking to some of the others along the street too. It'll give you a chance to learn a bit more than you can here, and it'll also give you a chance to see how the rest of your future followers live."

"I was just kidding about that," Harry said quickly, "it's not anything I really believe."

"Believe it or not, chances are it'll happen. Like I said, you're a Hogwarts student and you're Harry Potter. Either one is almost a sure ticket to at least moderate success, together? Together they almost guarantee greatness."

"I'm not trying to be great," Harry mumbled, staring down at his shoe covered toes as if they were the most fascinating things in the world.

"Don't know how often it happens to people who are," Dirk replied.

"I'm gonna go get that license," Harry mumbled, eager to get away from the uncomfortable conversation.

Harry stepped out of the shop and walked down the cobblestone street to the office of the Ministry representative for a meeting, that turned out to be much easier than anticipated. The man had almost fallen over himself to help 'the-boy-who-lived' and given Harry much more than he had asked for. It was his first real taste of how much his unwanted fame could help him if he let it. Days after the incident, the boy would still be unsure if it left a sweet or a sour taste in his mouth.

Harry returned to the shop in a daze and plopped back down on the worn wooden chair he'd left only a few minutes ago.

"How'd the meeting go?" Dirk prompted.

"He told me that he couldn't have me become some sort of tradesman, no matter how noble my reasons," Harry replied.

"Can't teach you without it, sorry, kid," Dirk sighed.

"So he made me a deputy code inspector. Said it would look good on my application to the Ministry to have already worked for them in a lower position," Harry continued. The man had done a few other things for him as well, but the last thing Harry wanted was for anyone to think that he was trying to abuse his position.

"What? Let me see that." Dirk took the paper from the boy's hands and stared at it for a few moments before bursting into laughter. "Looks like old Diggler is brighter than I thought he was. This is good for you, good for me, and good for Diggler."

"What?"

"It lets you learn anything you want, it lets him sit in his office and mark time till his retirement, and it gets me an in with the Ministry." Seeing the confused look on Harry's face, he decided to elaborate. "Way Diggler worded this, you can do any magic you want on this street, when you're on duty, and in when you're in your private room, which is good for you. Diggler is marking time till he gets to retire, doesn't want to do anymore work than he has to and this lets him dump a lot of what he really hates onto your lap without getting in trouble with the Ministry. One of his major duties, one he hates, is inspecting the shops. In the old days, it let him take bribes but the higher ups take such a large chunk these days that none of the little fish bother with it anymore. Ministry won't say a word because he's helping 'the-boy-who-lived' with his education. Good for him. Good for me because you're in charge of code enforcement, unless I was wrong about being on your good side."

"Teach me and you'll be on my great side," Harry replied.

"A win for everyone so long as you were serious about being willing to work this summer," Dirk summarized.

"I am," Harry agreed. "What can you teach me first?"

"A fairly boring and obscure mental art, you need to know it to avoid getting possessed by angry spirits you were hired to exorcize... Well, you wouldn't be hired and it wouldn't be needed if all you're going to do is scare the poltergeist at Hogwarts, but it's good to know anyway," Dirk offered. "I'm told it also lets you keep from getting your mind read, but I don't know much about that."

"Okay," Harry agreed. "What should I do first?"

"Go to your room, get comfortable, and try to let your thoughts drift." Dirk took a deep breath. "Relax, close your eyes, and try to get yourself in a state between being asleep and being awake."

"Then what?"

"Stay there as long as you can until you fall asleep," Dirk replied, "we'll go to part two at the end of the week if you think you're good enough."

"Okay," Harry agreed.

"Do the same thing tomorrow morning," Dirk said, "don't even bother getting out of bed unless you're hungry or need to use the loo. Come here after you've had lunch and we'll work on something else till it's time for you to practice that again."

"Alright," Harry agreed, "see you tomorrow afternoon."

"See you tomorrow, Harry," Dirk agreed, wondering if he would. Wasn't like anyone with his status was likely to stick with blue collar work for long.

To Dirk's surprise and pleasure, Harry arrived the next day for instruction. He wasn't sure how long the boy would come before he lost interest, but he was willing to enjoy what time he had with the celebrity. Anything he could do for the boy now would be fodder for the stories he'd tell his grandchildren in a few decades.

"Have you eaten yet, Harry?"

"Yeah," Harry agreed, "had something before I came today."

"Good, because I didn't think to bring enough for two," Dirk replied.

The man pulled a plastic wrapped plate out of the icebox and waved the tip of his wand in a square pattern, causing cube of red light to spring up around his frozen meal. The cube hummed with force for a few minutes as the plate rotated before fading away with a loud 'ding' sound.

"What was that?" Harry asked.

"Charm that can heat or cook simple meals, bachelor's best friend," Dirk replied. "Girlfriend usually wraps leftovers up for me to bring to work." He pulled off the plastic wrap to reveal a beef noodle dish.

"What does she do?"

"Works at a jeweler selling overpriced baubles to rich ladies," Dirk said. "Met her at school, but she didn't want to try to get a job in the magical world. Too afraid that she'd be expected to provide extras to the boss, assuming she could get anything at all." Take an honorable man not to lean on a girl as pretty as his, something that was in short supply in Magical England. Both honorable men and pretty girls that is.

"Extras?" Harry's nose wrinkled as he tried to work out the undercurrent.

"Not something I'm going to discuss with a kid," Dirk said firmly, "just figure that being a muggleborn is hard enough as a man."

"Oh . . . I wonder if Hermione knows," Harry mused.

"Who's Hermione?"

"My best friend at Hogwarts, a muggleborn," Harry answered.

"She's got a better chance than most, being a Hogwarts student," Dirk assured the boy, "most muggleborn from Hogwarts manage to find something, well, those that don't marry into one of the important magical families right out of school anyway." He took another bite. "Girlfriend and I went to a trade school, not in the same league as Hogwarts at all." Dirk finished his meal and cleaned the plate with a flick of his wand.

"So what are we going to learn today?" Harry asked eagerly, changing subjects.

"Did you do the exercises I showed you?"

"Yeah," Harry agreed, "not sure when I fell asleep though."

"Good enough. You can do half an hour less today and half an hour less tomorrow morning." Dirk yawned. "Cutting back ten minutes a day after that to about five minutes in the evening before you go to sleep and five in the morning after you wake up."

"What do I do after that?"

"They can tell you more about it at the solicitor's office down the street," Dirk continued, "I learned enough to keep from having to share space in my head with something I was trying to remove from someone's house. They learn it because they need to keep secrets, even the secretaries. Ask for Mandy if you go in, she's one of my girlfriend's friends." Another looker too, one who'd managed to find a decent man to work for.

"I'll talk to them when I'm ready to go to the next step," Harry promised.

"Good. Another week before I can start teaching you Necromatic spells, but I can teach you some of the others I know right now if you want." No way in hell was he going to teach the boy anything till he was sure the kid had the basic protections down so it didn't matter if he suddenly decided to quit.

"Sure," Harry agreed, "could you teach me that cooking spell you used earlier?"

"Happy to," Dirk agreed. "Anything else you'd like to know?"

"Do you know any good defense spells?"

"A couple," Dirk agreed, "mostly know how to deal with restless spirits, zombies, vampires, and the like." Fine for the occasional mugger too, provided he had blood on his hands.

"Could you teach me those too?" Harry asked eagerly.

"I could and I'd be glad to." He scratched his chin. "Feel free to drop by tomorrow afternoon to learn what I know if you like, but it might be a better idea to use the gym down the street, least in the morning and evening when I do most of my work."

"Why?" Harry asked.

"It's a bit low brow, but Jim, guy that runs the gym, was a champion in his day." Kid needed all the help he could get with that psychopath after him. "You want to learn defense, he'd be your guy. Like I said, most of what I know is how to defend against the dead since that's most of what I do."

"I'll check it out tomorrow morning before I come here," Harry promised before they started work on the handful of common household spells that Dirk found useful in day to day life.

IIIIIIIIII

The gym was a big boxy affair with faded white paint, a wooden sign hung above the door featuring two silhouetted figures in dueling stances facing each other. The door creaked when he opened it and a wave of wet heat seemed to hit him like the fist of a giant made of air. His nostrils were assaulted by the smell of a hundred generations of stale sweat and his ears rang with the sound of the bell announcing the start or end of a round.

The boy paused for a second to allow his eyes to adjust to the dimly lit interior. As they did, he noticed that all of the walls were covered in pealing paint and posters of fighters save one which held an impressive display of trophies. A ring sat proudly in the center of the room and the remaining space was filled with a bewildering array of mysterious equipment.

"What can I do for you, kid?" an old man demanded, emerging from the gloom. His face was covered in scars, his nose favored the left, and the set of his jaw indicated the lack of at least a few teeth.

"Dirk, down at Ghostbusters, told me I should come here to learn some defense spells," Harry volunteered.

"You want to learn spells, you've come to the wrong place," the grizzled old man coughed, "you want to learn to fight, you've come to the right one. Which is it?"

"How to fight," Harry amended.

"Good, problem with most wizards is that they come into a fight with too many spells," the old man began, "can't decide what to use and that costs them. Best thing to do, in my opinion anyway, is to have maybe a dozen you can use really well." The old man gave a coughing laugh. "Hell, better to know three spells really well than a hundred you can barely cast."

"Makes sense," Harry agreed with as much confidence as he could muster, trying to sound like he had enough knowledge to have an informed opinion.

"Fee is fifteen galleons a month for training," the old man continued. "You get an hour of my time a day and as much of your time as you care to spend on the machines."

"Could I have two hours of your time a day for thirty galleons a month?" Harry asked hopefully.

The old man gave him a sharp look. "Can you afford-" He squinted. "Harry Potter?"

"Yes, sir," Harry agreed.

"Call me coach," the old man ordered. "At least two hours a morning for thirty galleons a month. Be here early tomorrow." And more if the boy would take it, he was very aware of what they all owed the lad.

"Thank you." Harry grinned. "Coach. What do we do first?"

"You want to start now?" the man asked, amused.

"If we can," Harry agreed.

"Go into the locker room and pick a locker without a name on it, there'll be a set of clothes to train in. Change and meet me out here."

Harry was out and changed in five minutes. Quidditch may not do much to improve physical conditioning, but it, and his habit of sleeping in while at school had taught him how to change quickly.

"First thing we're going to do is warm up," Harry's new coach pronounced. "I'm going to show you how to stretch, first thing I want you to do when you get here from now on is to go through this routine and then start jumping rope."

After a quick warm up, the Coach cleared his throat and began to explain his views on how duels were won and lost.

"Simplicity is the key, like I said before, it's better to know a couple spells really well than to have a thousand you can barely cast. You and I, we're going to practice five spells this summer," the Coach began, "my opinion is that's all you need in the ring, only used four myself in my last title fight." Which he'd won less than a minute after the bell had rung, but the boy didn't need to know that yet.

"What about outside of it?" Harry asked.

"That's the rub, isn't it?" The old man sighed. "Outside the ring, there aren't any rules and there isn't any ref to save you. Tactics change a bit too, can't really use much transfiguration inside the ring but it can be deadly outside of it."

"That makes sense."

"I'll teach you what I know, work on the basics with you, but you'll have to find someone else to help you translate it to the real world. Best I can do, sorry, kid."

"It's good enough," Harry replied.

"Like I said before, we'll start on five spells and on conditioning. Work till you know those five spells so well you can cast 'em in your sleep. That's one aspect of dueling. Couple others we'll work on are dodging and fighting without a wand. Duel isn't over till you're out or you forfeit, knowing how to throw a punch can be the difference between taking home a full purse and an empty one." Or who ended up in a box in the real world, he didn't add.

Harry left the gym a few hours later tired, sore, and feeling like a thousand galleons. It was an odd feeling, the boy reflected, a mixture of horrible and great, as if his body wasn't sure how to react so was doing both at once.

Harry's good mood vanished when he stepped up to the shop and saw a closed sign in the window. What was he supposed to do now?

"Are you Harry?" a female voice asked.

"Yeah," Harry agreed,

"I'm Mandy," a pleasingly plump blond woman introduced herself with a wide pouty smile. "Dirk had to go on an emergency call and asked me to tell you." She glanced at her watch. "And now I have to run cause I'm late and my boss is going to kill me."

"I could talk with him if you want," Harry offered.

"Thanks but I don't think . . ." the woman trailed off. "You're Harry Potter!" she accused.

"Yes," Harry admitted.

"You can help, Mr. Potter," she said quickly. "Thank you for offering, you're a life saver."

The woman led him to an office building where a weedy looking man with a receding hairline was waiting at the door. The man had a pair of thick round glasses covering an annoyed set of eyes and his lips were pursed.

"Ten minutes late," he said flatly.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Abbot, I was helping Mr. Potter with something," Mandy squeaked.

"Mr. Potter?" The man's eyes were fixed on Harry's scar. "Of course, good work, Mandy."

"Thank you, sir."

"Do you know my daughter Hannah?" the man asked eagerly. "Hufflepuff in your year."

"We have a few classes together," Harry replied, "she seems nice."

"Abraham Abbott, left Hogwarts about four years before your parents did and set up practice," he introduced himself. "What can we do for you today, Mr. Potter?"

"Um, what do you do here?" Harry asked.

"Good question," Abraham said with a wide smile, "most people don't know that there's as many law specializations as there are branches of magic, more even. We mostly focus on tax law here, my wife's an accountant, went to Hengefaddon to study numbers."

"Dirk mentioned I should talk to you about advice on how to work on my mental conditioning and um..." It seemed rude to just demand instruction. "I was wondering if there was anything I should know about my inheritance?"

"Mandy's the one to talk to about Occlumency, that's the fancy name for the mental conditioning you talked about, hate to admit it but she's better at it than I am. As for your other issue, I'd guess that it's being held in trust but I don't know. I can look into it for you if you like."

"Please," Harry agreed. "How much do I owe you?"

"Your signature on a paper and fifty galleons to start with," he replied. "Hopefully it won't go over, I'll let you know if it does."

"Thank you."

"No, thank you, Mr. Potter, for choosing to place your trust in me. Mandy, take the rest of the afternoon to help young Mr. Potter with his studies. Sally," he raised his voice, "I'm going to need your help drafting a couple of letters."

"Yes, Mr. Abbott," a woman's voice responded.

Harry spent the rest of the day at the Law office learning a few more tricks to strengthen the security around his mind and to be on hand in case his new barrister had any more questions or needed any more papers signed.

After getting back to the Cauldron, Harry had a large meal before retiring to his room to go through his new exercises, both physical and mental.

Upon awaking the next morning, Harry gulped down a couple bites of toast and rushed to the gym to start his new morning workout routine. Half an hour of stretching was followed by fifteen minutes of jumprope and two hours of casting. Lunch followed that, which in turn was followed by a visit to his favorite shop for another lesson on the wonders of necromancy.

"Afternoon, Harry," Dirk said as the boy walked in.

"Afternoon, Dirk," Harry replied. "How'd the job go yesterday?"

"Messy, it's never good when you've got to get involved in a domestic dispute," he said. "My girlfriend tells me you spent the afternoon at her friend's law firm?"

"Yeah, they're looking into some thing for me and they gave me some more exercises to improve my mental shields."

"Good, uh, Harry?"

"Yeah?"

"Speaking of girlfriends, uh . . . mine would like an autographed picture, if that's not too much trouble," Dirk said nervously. "Sorry, Harry, but I promised her I'd ask." She'd been rather annoyed to learn that he was teaching Harry Potter from her best friend and hadn't said anything to her.

"I suppose it's the least I can do," Harry sighed.

"Thanks, sorry, but she's a big fan. Think it has to do with your eyes," Dirk mumbled. She'd always been fond of freshly pickled toad for some reason. The man reached under the counter and pulled out a couple books. "Dug these up for you last night."

"Thanks," Harry said. "What are they?"

"Some of my old, school manuals," Dirk explained. "I never bothered with the advanced stuff, make enough busting ghosts not to have to, but it's all there. Read 'em when you get home tonight and let me know if you have any questions."

"I will," Harry agreed. "Does this mean you're going to start teaching me necromancy?"

"Yup. OK, now the first thing we gotta do is attune your magic to the necrotic aura most spirits have. This is the most difficult part of learning Necromancy and will show how far you can advance in the art. Like most branches of magic, Necromancy replies on inborn talent as much as skill."

"Any way to improve your 'talent' if it turns out to be a little on the low side?" Harry asked anxiously.

"Several ways, not all dangerous or dark either. Being close to death enhances the talent. So, working in a hospital with the sick and dying can help. You can have a healer bring you close to death to really attune yourself, but that's considered borderline grey and borderline insane for that matter."

The man stopped and considered what to say. "Truthfully with who you are and what happened when you were a kid I don't expect you to have any problems. You survived an Avada to the head, the only way you could get more attuned is if the spirits themselves invited you to special events and you attended or you some how got a hold of one of the Deathly Hallows."

"Like a death day celebration?" Harry asked.

"Exactly," the man agreed. "Having the dead notice you and invite you personally is about as good as it gets. Having a ghost hit on you works too."

"Hit on you?"

"Yeah, see a relationship with a ghost enhances the connection. Most powerful Necromancers have a... relationship with the dead that isn't discussed."

"How do you mean?" Harry asked confused.

"I mean it isn't discussed, period, end of story."

"But-"

"Let's check your aura before we bother worrying any more or go breaking taboos that generally make my workload go up, okay kid?"

Harry watched as Dirk cast an unfamiliar spell and waited for the results.

"That can't be right," Dirk mumbled. "Let's try it again."

"Well?" Harry asked, waiting nervously for the results.

"Hmmm?" Dirk's eyes focused on the boy's face. "Well, we'll start off with a couple control exercises, then a couple more when you've got the first ones down."

"Okay," Harry agreed. "What's my power level?"

"Not sure. I must be casting the spell wrong," Dirk admitted. "I'll call in a favor and have one of my old professors drop by to do it later."

The afternoon went quickly, none of the exercises were very difficult and Harry was fairly sure he had them down by the time his stomach informed him that it was time to eat dinner.

"Just remember," Dirk called after Harry as he was leaving the shop. "No more than fifteen minutes at a time per exercise. You don't get any benefit from going longer and you risk causing a blockage." Which was more annoying than dangerous.

"I'll be careful," Harry assured the man.

Another night at the Cauldron spent practicing everything he'd learned was followed by another morning at the gym and another afternoon at his favorite shop.

"Afternoon, Harry," Dirk said as the boy walked in. "Girlfriend wanted me to tell you thanks for the picture."

"No problem," Harry said quickly, not wanting to think about it. "What're we gonna do today?"

"Afraid we can't do much till the end of the week when your mental shields are strong enough," Dirk said regretfully.

"Why not?"

"Like I said before, learning this stuff opens you up so you need to be able to keep things out. Sorry, kid, but I'm not gonna let you take any risks you don't have to."

"Can we learn anatomy then?" Harry asked hopefully.

"What do you want to learn anatomy for?" Dirk said with a frown, fairly sure the kid wasn't asking for access to his porn stash.

"Recommends it in your book," Harry replied.

"Nurse's office three doors down on the left, butcher seven doors down on the right," Dirk said after a moment of thought, "not sure where else to look."

"Great!" Harry cheered. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Just keep practicing your mental shields and the control exercises I taught you," Dirk called after the boy.

"I will," Harry promised as he darted out the door.

IIIIIIIIII

Nurse Joy looked up when the door chimed and hit the child that came through with a quick diagnostic charm. "You haven't been eating enough," she scolded.

"I've been eating more this week," he said quickly.

"Hmmm, true," she allowed. "What brings you to my clinic?"

"I wanted to learn anatomy and Dirk recommended you," Harry explained.

"Alright," she agreed. "Have a seat." She lifted a large book off the shelf and put it in Harry's lap. "Look at the pictures and tell me if you have any questions."

"Thank you," Harry said happily.

"So why did you chose the necromancy career track?" Joy asked.

"Necromancy career track?" Harry asked, nose wrinkling. "What do you mean?"

"At school. You did chose to study necromancy, didn't you? That's why you're working at Dirk's office this summer, isn't it?"

"Oh, I'm sorry for the confusion Miss . . ."

"Joy," she supplied.

"I'm sorry for the confusion, Ms. Joy, but I'm not studying necromancy in school or working in Dirk's office." Harry looked up from the book. "I'm actually the Deputy Code Inspector for this street and that's why I'm learning things from all the shops."

"Aren't you a little young to be a Deputy Code Inspector?" she asked, smirking.

"Why yes, yes I am," Harry agreed. "But they still made me one." He dug around his pockets and pulled out his paperwork. "See?"

Joy glanced at the paperwork, that was followed by a closer look when it appeared genuine. "Harry Potter?" she said dumbly, eyes flicking to the scar.

"Yes?"

"You're Harry Potter," she accused.

"I am," Harry agreed.

"Get my attention after you've finished flipping through that book," she ordered. "Just because all you came here to learn was anatomy, doesn't mean that's all I'm gonna teach you. There are a few basic spells I think that everyone should know and I'm not gonna let you leave without learning them."

Harry spent another two hours in the Nurse's office till she closed for lunch, choosing to visit his other prospect before seeing to his own meal.

IIIIIIIIII

The butcher's eyebrow rose when he saw the boy enter unaccompanied by an adult, the other rose when the boy stated that he was the deputy code inspector and produced the paperwork to prove it. "What did you want to inspect first?"

"Dirk said I could learn about anatomy here?" Harry replied. "What do you think I should inspect?"

"How much time do you have?"

"An hour maybe?" Harry mused. "But I can come back after I've had lunch."

"Suppose I could teach you a couple cuts and show you the chart," the butcher said thoughtfully.

Harry watched in fascination as the man welded his wand like a surgeon's scalpel, separating familiar looking steaks from the carcass hanging in the back of the shop.

"That was wicked," Harry said. "Do you think you could teach me?"

"Can teach you the charms and how to use a knife," he agreed. "Takes a bit longer to learn where to cut."

"Why do you use a knife if you've got charms?" Harry asked.

"Cause two of my employees are squibs and cause a knife doesn't wear you out as much. Only reason I ever use charms is because the purebloods get uncomfortable if you do anything that looks too muggle around 'em. Now first thing you need to know is the right way to hold your wand," he began.

As they were variations of versions he already knew, Harry mastered the basic cutting charms used by magical butchers long before he needed to break for lunch.

"Might have to teach you some of the others later," the butcher remarked, pleased by how quickly his student was picking things up. "Wonderful job, kid." They'd focus on knife work if the kid came back for a second lesson.

"Thanks, um." Harry looked around, trying to think of a way to pay the man back for all the help he'd given. "You know the law says that you have to keep your shop clean."

"We're a butcher shop, Harry. As the saying goes, if you like sausage, don't learn how it's made."

"Oh, I understand that you can't cut up the meat as clean as if you were cutting flowers. By the way, Jane at the Flowermart says 'hi'. No, what I was thinking was Nurse Joy showed me these cleaning spells they use in the surgery that might be useful."

"Write 'em down," the butcher asked. "I'll practice them while you're gone and you can do your inspection when you get back."

"Okay," Harry agreed. Doing his best to copy down the spells on a piece of paper.

"Here," the butcher handed him another scrap of paper when he'd finished.

"What's this?" Harry asked.

"The spells I use to keep my apron white," the butcher replied. "Doesn't sterilize like your spells, but it makes everything look clean. Stains keep customers away."

"Wow! Nurse Joy was complaining about how hard it was to get blood stains out of her robes. This is great. I can share this with her, right?"

Lunch was followed by a return to the nurse's office to do a bit more studying and to teach the woman the laundry charm he'd picked up from the butcher. That was followed by a return to the butcher's shop to conduct the promised health and safety inspection.

"Thank you, Harry," the butcher said, proudly hanging a notice stating that his shop had achieved a perfect score in the window. "First time I've ever gotten a perfect score without giving the inspector a bribe."

"I didn't do anything," Harry said modestly. "Just passed on a couple charms I learned."

IIIIIIIIII

Tom waived Harry over the second the boy got back to the pub and leaned in to whisper. "Hear you're going around the alley learning things?"

"I don't really know much about the wizarding world," Harry agreed.

"That's what I figured," the old man said softly. "Come down in an hour and go to booth three in the back. There's someone that wants to teach you something."

"What?" Harry asked.

"Something you won't learn in Hogwarts but that you'll need to know if some of the rumors are true," Tom replied cryptically.

Harry went up stairs and took a quick shower, that was followed by a large meal. A glance at the clock confirmed it was time for his appointment and the boy crept downstairs to the appointed place.

The private booth was dark, too dark to distinguish any of his new instructor's identifying details. All he could distinguish through the all concealing shadows was a distinctly feminine shape, a few stray locks of blond hair, and a hauntingly familiar chin.

The smell of spilled alcohol and old tobacco permeated the air.

"Sit," the woman ordered.

"Why did you call me here?" Harry asked.

"I was scheduled to get my dark mark three days after the Dark Lord was killed," the woman admitted. "Luckily as it turned out, I wouldn't have survived the ceremony." She took a sip of her drink. "I'm not going to go in to details, but in order to get the mark you had to first prove yourself. It involved the death and torture of an innocent, usually a bit of rape thrown in for added flavor. The other Death Eaters would watch and the master would judge." She raised a trembling hand to take another sip. "You were rated on how well you did. Lack of creativity earned torture, refusal earned a place at someone else's initiation."

"If you weren't willing to do what it took to earn a mark, why did you join?" Harry demanded. "Why would any decent person even consider it?!"

"The mark only went to the real hard cores, the inner circle types which made up a small percentage of the Dark Lord's followers. Most of us joined to protect our culture . . . No, that's not right. We joined to give our people the chance to build their own culture. Look at the wizarding world, look how magic users crudely ape the muggle world they say they disdain." She took another sip of her drink.

"We're parasites producing nothing, aping the muggles, pathetic. The number of muggleborn every year ensures that we'll never be able to break the cycle. My goal wasn't to set the world alight, my goal was to loosen our ties with the muggles, to . . . to give us long enough to develop our own culture. I joined a madman with what I thought were the best of intentions and my punishment was to watch my dream die. My penance is to give it up and to endure the life my youthful folly inflicted upon me."

"Is there anything I can do?" Harry asked, stung by the bitterness that colored the woman's tone.

"You will come to meet with me three days a week, you will learn all that I can teach you, you will do your best," she ordered. "Perhaps helping you will silence the voices that torment me in the dark hours of the night." She downed the remainder of her drink. "Now leave a foolish woman to the only friend she has left in the world," the woman commanded, topping up her glass. "We shall see each other again at the same time, the day after tomorrow."

IIIIIIIIII

Harry went through his usual routine the next morning; breakfast was followed by the gym which in turn was followed by a stop at his now favorite shop.

"Mandy says her boss needs to have a word with you and she wants to check on your progress," Dirk announced as the boy came in.

The business with his solicitor didn't take long, he'd just had to sign a couple papers authorizing the man to get some documents from the Ministry and a couple more authorizing him to contact a few companies to ask about royalties. The business with Mandy had taken a bit longer, the woman was determined that the 'boy-who-lived' have the best mental shields possible. Because of this, it was nearly time for lunch by the time he got out.

The boy walked out of his solicitor's office and paused as he tried to decide what to do next. On the one hand, he could go back to the Cauldron to get something to eat. On the other, he could put off lunch in favor of doing a bit more exploring. In the end, the decision was rendered mute when a dainty hand came to rest on his shoulder.

"Are you lost?" a soft contralto asked. "Do you know where your parents are?"

Harry turned to find himself face to face with a blue haired woman wearing a red robe. "I'm not lost," he replied, ignoring the question about his parents.

The woman's eyes flicked to his scar for an instant and her stern look morphed into a smile. "You must be Harry, the shopkeepers have told me about how you've been hanging around the street. My name's Auror Jenny, I'm in charge of making sure this street stays safe."

"Pleased to meet you, Auror Jenny. I'm responsible for making sure all the codes are followed," he said with a smile. The boy's hand darted into his pocket and emerged with his paperwork.

"I knew Diggler was lazy, but this takes the cake," she said in disgust. "You eaten yet?"

"No, Auror Jenny."

"Just Jenny," she said. "Come on, I'll buy you lunch. It's the least I can do for a colleague."

"Okay," Harry agreed. "Where are we going?"

"Chip and Curry shop at the end of the street. It's got all three things I look for in a meal; cheap, fast, and good." Pity it didn't have healthy too, but as it wasn't one of her three criteria she didn't worry about it overmuch. "Haven't been there yet?"

"I've only seen a little bit of the magical world," Harry agreed. "I barely know anything about it."

"Know what an Auror does?" she asked. Good bit of society expected the boy to become one after Hogwarts, least she could do was give him a little push in the right direction.

"No."

"Most people think we're dark wizard hunters, and we are, but that's not all we are. What we do is solve problems."

"How do you do that?"

"Well, I personally walk my beat at least twice a day and sit in my corner box the rest of the time. Others inspect wards, conduct investigations, and do loads of other things. Best thing about being an Auror in my opinion is that there's so much variety you never get bored."

"Wow!"

"Would you like to walk my beat with me after lunch to get an idea of how some Aurors work?"

"That'd be great," Harry agreed instantly.

"Just keep in mind that I'm a beat Auror. My job is to be visible and to help people, much less exciting than some of the other jobs Aurors do." Her superiors would skin her alive if they found out she'd discouraged 'the-boy-who-lived' from a career in law enforcement.

"Sometimes boring is good," Harry replied, thinking about how his first year at Hogwarts ended.

Jenny regarded the boy out of the corner of her eye. Just what kind of life had he had to teach him that lesson at such a young age? She made a mental note to kick that question up the chain. "Sometimes it is," she agreed.

Testament to its popularity, the shop was crowded with dozens of witches and wizards eating lunch when they arrived.

"Jenny, over here!" a male voice called out. Harry turned and saw a barrel chested man with a black beard and no hair waving them over to a corner booth.

"Bob!" she replied, a big grin on her face. "Come on, Harry, I'll introduce you." The Auror elbowed her way to the crowed and waved for Harry to take a seat as she slid in beside the man. "Harry, Bob. Bob, Harry."

"Good to meet you," Bob said.

"Good to meet you too," Harry replied.

"Bob works on the presses at the Prophet," Jenny explained. He was also her boyfriend of a year and a half. "You should check 'em out some time, they're pretty interesting."

"Could I?" Harry asked hopefully.

"Of course," Bob agreed. "I could give you a tour after lunch if you want."

"I can drop you off after we get done walking my beat if you like, Harry," Jenny added, hoping for an excuse to visit with her man.

"That'd be great," Harry agreed instantly.

The meal wasn't quite up to the Cauldron or Hogwarts, but it was quite a bit cheaper and he wasn't the one paying for it anyway, so Harry had no complaints.

After they were finished, Jenny took him on her beat, giving the boy a thoroughly professional tour of London's magical shopping district. She introduced him to shopkeepers, she gave impromptu history lessons, she bought him an ice cream cone, and finally, she showed him another entrance to London proper.

"One last street to walk and we can get you to the Prophet," she promised, taking the boy's hand and walking to a crosswalk. "Watch this," she said with a wink. The Auror reached into her pocket and gave her wand a twist, causing the lights to turn red and the crossing signal to come on.

"How'd you do that?" Harry asked, more than a bit impressed by what he'd seen.

"All the street lights are charmed so Aurors can switch them with the right wand movement," she replied. "Department of Magical Law Enforcement tends to have a higher percentage of muggle-born and a much better relationship with their non-magical counterparts than the rest of the ministry."

"Could you teach me?" Harry asked as they crossed the street.

"I'm not supposed to teach non-ministry personnel, but since you're a Deputy Code Inspector, sure. Just don't show your friends how to do it, okay?"

"Deal," Harry agreed instantly.

Auror Jenny glanced around to make sure no one was paying a whole lot of attention before hustling Harry towards and through a dilapidated wooden fence. "Wards on the street are supposed to keep anyone who doesn't know about magic from noticing anything strange, but it's always a good idea to double check."

Especially since they were contracted out to one of the former Minister's cronies rather than the ward specialists that should have put them up. More work for her department, more work for the departments that maintained the wards, a bit of extra gold for a corrupt politician and his toady. Sometimes she wished she was still ignorant about how the world really worked.

"What's on this street?" Harry asked, looking around.

"Businesses catering to muggle-born and half-bloods mostly," Jenny replied, pulling out her wand. "Watch what I do."

"Okay," Harry agreed, soaking in every detail as the woman demonstrated the twist that would control the lights outside.

"We'll let you do it for real when we go back," Jenny stated. "Now, main thing the ministry expects us to do in this alley is bust people for illegally enchanting muggle devices. Way I avoid that is by stating that I'm a pureblood and don't know what a muggle device is supposed to look like. Way I suggest you deal with the problem, should it ever come up, is by sneering that it's not your job to deal with enchanted muggle items. Ask for a bigger budget if they press you on it."

"Okay?" Harry said unsurely.

"Shouldn't come up, I'm just telling you how to deal with it if it does. Another good thing to do is to demand your union rep and to let Diggler handle things. Man's a master of bureaucratic infighting."

Harry glanced around and noticed a gramophone display in one of the windows next to a display showing a slightly more modern record player.

"See something you like?"

"Thought it might be nice to be able to have music at Hogwarts," Harry agreed.

"Come on," she said, waving him towards the shop. "I'll introduce you."

The bell on the door rang as they walked in and Harry got his first look at the interior of the store after his escort had moved aside. The center of the store was filled with a number of large, raised bins filled with every imaginable category of single and album, separated by clean hardwood paths. The back of the store was taken up by two soundproof listening booths. The area around the display window was dedicated to record players ranging from old Edison type wax cylinder players to relatively modern turn tables. The walls were papered with posters and a young green haired clerk leaned on the counter bracketed by a register on one side and a rack of spare needles on the other.

"Business or personal, Jenny?" the clerk, a youngish looking man asked with a grin.

"Personal," the Auror replied. "Harry here needs a record player to take back to Hogwarts."

"Hogwarts?" the clerk's eyebrows rose. "You'll want something that doesn't use electricity then."

"Because electronics don't work at Hogwarts, right?" Harry asked, having a vague memory of Hermione quoting something along those lines from her favorite book.

"Because the Professors tend to make things they know are electronic not work at Hogwarts," the clerk replied. "Least that's the rumor. Hogwarts is the school where the elite send their children, can't have the little darlings contaminated with muggle things, can we?"

"You'll want to watch what you say around Aurors and Hogwarts students in the future, Jacob," Auror Jenny said calmly. "Especially when that Auror is a pureblood and the Hogwarts student is both a ministry employee and tremendously influential."

"Come on, Jenny, I know you're alright and I know you wouldn't bring anyone to my shop that would cause a problem," the clerk replied, sounding a bit annoyed.

"I'm alright, Harry's alright, I might someday bring in a trainee who isn't," Jenny said firmly. "Be careful till you know who you're dealing with."

"Is it really that bad?" Harry asked. He wasn't liking what he was starting to piece together about the wizarding world from the offhanded comments made by the people around the alley.

"Yes and no," Jenny said. "There are a lot of laws on the books that can be used to harass people that are ignored most of the time. Jacob has a few things in his shop that aren't technically legal."

"Not technically illegal either," the man added quickly.

"But that won't matter if he gets on the wrong side of the wrong person," Jenny continued. "A pureblood trainee Auror from the wrong family, a Hogwarts student from the wrong family, that sort of thing. That's why he needs to be careful," she said firmly, giving the man a sharp look.

"I will be, Jenny, I always am."

"Good." She flashed a dazzling smile. "Back to the subject of Harry's record player."

"Right," the clerk agreed. "Wait . . . Harry?"

"Yes," Jenny agreed. "That Harry. Don't make a big deal of it."

"Right, sorry bout that," Jacob agreed quickly. "How bout a Victor V phonograph?" the clerk suggested. The man reached under the counter and pulled out what appeared to be a wooden box with a bell shaped metal horn perched on it. "Hand crank, should look antique and mechanical enough to get a nod from most anyone."

"How old is it?" Harry asked, staring at the device with wide eyes.

"Think we put this one together six or seven months ago," the clerk replied. "Might be younger, might be older."

"But it looks like it's at least a hundred years old," Harry protested.

"Model we based it on is about that age," the clerk agreed. "This thing is ancient enough so that even the most traditional purebloods tend to be comfortable with it, let's them pretend they don't know it came from muggles. Means there's a market which means we build 'em to fill the demand."

"How's the sound quality?" Jenny demanded.

"Few subtle enchantments to make it quite a bit better than the original version. We also enchant the records to keep them from wearing out or breaking. Care for a demonstration?"

"Yeah," Harry said enthusiastically.

"Pick out a record and take the left listening room, that's the one we have another Victor V set up."

"Not going to show us how to use it, Jacob?"

"Can't leave the counter," the clerk explained. "Not unless I had a really good reason," he purred, batting his eyelids.

"My boyfriend would rip your arms off and shove them up your-" She glanced at Harry. "Nose," Jenny giggled. "Wouldn't even have to use his wand."

In the end, Harry left the record shop a few galleons lighter with a phonograph, a shrunken case containing what the clerk had described the bare minimum needed to start a collection, and a short book titled 'Every Day Magic for the Normal World' which the clerk had recommended due to the fact that it contained several spells allowing one to change records without leaving their chair and Harry had bought because it contained a spell on how to change television channels from another room. Poor Dudley was just going to have to get used to educational programming. "What else is on this street?" the boy asked.

"Oh, loads of things," Auror Jenny replied. "Corner shop, hardware store, couple places to eat, a small healer's officer specializing in every day problems, grocer, butcher, baker, candlestick maker."

"What, candlestick maker?" Harry gave her an odd look.

"Just wanted to see if you were listening," she said sweetly. "You'll find everything on this street that you'd find on a normal shopping street in normal London." She looked up and waved her hand at the windows. "Plus a generous amount of living space. So that's the three streets I take care of," she continued. "Other streets belong to other Aurors."

"Wow!"

"Ready to head to the Prophet?" She asked, happy to have an excuse to visit her boyfriend on the ministry's galleon.

"Yeah," Harry agreed.

The left the shopping street and came to a halt at the cross walk. Auror Jenny nudged the boy after a minute of waiting, prompting him to hastily cast the spell needed to get across the road.

"Good work," she said with a wide grin. They waved to a couple familiar people as they strolled down the street to the building that held the Daily Prophet. "I'm here to see Bob," Jenny announced as they strolled through the front doors.

The Chief Editor stuck his head out of his office. "Does he know you're coming?"

"Yup," Jenny agreed.

"Does he know I'm going to dock his pay for visiting his girlfriend on company time?" he added with a playful grin.

"Did you know I have the Deputy Code Inspector with me?" Jenny shot back. "Wonder what sort of fines you'd get if he was in a bad mood?"

"Where?"

"Chief, I'd like to introduce you to Deputy Code Inspector Harry Potter," she said, patting the boy on the back.

"A pleasure to meet your acquaintance, Harry." The Editor stepped out of his office and squatted down to be at eye level with the boy. "I'd like to thank you for everything you and your parents have done for the world."

"Um . . ." Harry licked his lips, still not comfortable or sure of how to deal with his fame or the reasons for it.

"Deputy Code Inspector," the Chief Editor said suddenly, noticing the boy's nervousness and changing the subject in hopes of making him more comfortable. "How'd you get that job?" Might be worth a paragraph or two to help fill one of the back pages.

"Chief Inspector Diggler gave me the job so I could learn more about how people run their businesses without breaking the law about underaged magic," Harry said.

"Interested in the magic of the common people, huh?" Could be a good angle to play if he had room for a larger story.

"I'm interested in all magic," Harry replied. "I didn't know about it at all till I got my letter."

"Wonderful attitude," the Chief Editor said, widening his grin. 'Have to make a note to look into that statement,' he thought to himself. Didn't at all agree with the majority of the rumors about the boy's upbringing. The man rose to his full height and turned to the receptionist. "Bob's in the back working on the big press. Tell him to take a few minutes to show Deputy Inspector Potter around."

"Got it, Chief," the woman agreed.

"Deputy Inspector Potter, I'd appreciate it if you told me about any health or safety violations or even potential violations you might see," he requested formally. Never hurt to cultivate the leaders of tomorrow, especially one that constantly got ten percent of the vote in every election since the fall of the Dark Lord despite not being old enough to take office.

The receptionist took them deeper into the building and stopped before a gleaming chrome stairway. "Wanna see a neat trick?" the woman asked with a wicked grin. Harry nodded, a matching grin forming on his face. "Take out your wand."

"Okay," the boy complied.

Her hand wrapped around his wrist and led him in a complicated pattern, causing the stairs to start moving up. "One of the former editors had it enchanted to help him get up when he started having trouble with the stairs. Neat, huh?"

"Yeah," Harry agreed.

Bob was just finishing with one of the large presses when they found him on the upper level. "See if she'll start up!" he ordered. To his visible pleasure, it did. "Decided to join us, Harry?"

"Yeah," Harry agreed.

"Give me a few minutes to take a break and I'll give you the penny tour," he said. The man's wand appeared in his hand and he seemed to float in midair as he pulled it back. "That's better."

"What'd you just do?" Harry asked.

"Air recliner spell," Bob replied. "Pull back on your wand while visualizing the effect you want. Hopefully won't take more than a couple falls before you get it right."

As luck would have it, it took three before Harry got the spell down and was happily reclining in the air.

The purpose of the Prophet, Bob explained, was to inform the public about important events in the wizarding world. His purpose at the Prophet was to make sure the giant presses that turned out the papers remained running as much as possible.

The tour that followed was illuminating. Harry saw giant tubs of ink that flowed thicker than anything they used at Hogwarts, a thousand nooks, two thousand crannies, and the musty basement storage area where copies of all the earlier editions were kept in perpetuity.

"Kinda interesting to come down here sometimes to read the early issues and see what people cared about in the old days," Bob added.

Coincidentally, the tour ended the same time Bob and Jenny got off work and so Harry ended up having another meal with the couple before getting back to the Cauldron and eventually to bed.

IIIIIIIIII

There was a strange man in the shop when Harry arrived to visit Dirk the next morning. He looked a lot like Dumbledore with his long white beard and oddly decorated robes, little skulls rather than planets. The glint in his eye was the main difference, suggesting barely restrained madness rather than paternal approval.

"You must be Harry," the man said with a grand smile, springing to his feet. "Pleasure to meet you, Dirk's told me wonderful things about you and your desire to study magic's most fascinating art, wonderful things."

"A pleasure to meet you, sir," Harry replied. The boy found that his hand had been captured and vigorously pumped.

"This is Master Necromancer Aleister Dee," Dirk introduced the man. "He's here from the Guild of Necromancers to double check your power levels."

"Thank you for coming, sir," Harry said politely.

"Happy to be here," the man replied. "Would have been happier if I'd known how late you came in so I could have had a bit of lounging about this morning, but such is life."

"Harry spends his mornings at the gym down the street learning how to fight," Dirk volunteered quickly.

"Something Necromancy can be quite useful for if you know the right spells," Aleister said with a wide smile.

"Really?" Harry's eyes were sparkling.

"Of course," the man agreed. "If not for my interest in offensive magic, I'd have never survived the zombie plague of '13." He wrote down a spell and handed it to the boy. "We usually use this one when dealing with particularly dangerous undead."

"What's it do?" Harry asked.

"It summons the sacred fire and casts your foes into the molten maw of an insatiable gort," he replied with a grin. "Just be sure there's something around for the gort to eat or he might decide to eat you." That wasn't strictly true, the gort had a remarkably refined palate and had stated more than once that humans weren't flavorful enough unless first marinated in dark magic and decay for a decade or two.

"Okay," Harry promised.

"Sure it's a good idea to just give him the spell without any instruction, sir?" Dirk asked.

"Fine," the man agreed. "We'll practice it later, Harry, to make sure you know what you're doing."

"Okay, sir," Harry said quickly.

"Should probably show you the primary shield spell we use when we're fighting against hordes of the undead too," he said thoughtfully. "Creates a safe bubble around you that protects against spiritual and elemental attacks. Can also be cast around ghosts to temporarily trap them in a particular location."

A previous Minister had been able to endure the presence of his predecessor for two days before calling the Guild to explain that the proposed tax on necromancy as a dark art had been a misunderstanding and that he'd really appreciate it if they would be willing to let bygones be bygones.

"But we can discuss that later, after we've taken care of the reason I came here today."

"This'll be just like last time, Harry," Dirk told the boy. "Just relax."

"This can't be right," the Master Necromancer mumbled. He recast the spell and rechecked his results.

"Is it bad?" Harry asked.

"No, it's good," the man said absently, trying to figure out how a schoolboy had many times more necromatic energy than he did. Possibly due to exposure to the killing curse? He made a mental note to send a copy of his results to a friend at the Department of Mysteries, maybe she could make sense of the odd readings he was getting from the boy's scar.

Harry spent a rather enjoyable afternoon learning a number of very dangerous spells of the sort used by professional necromancers that specialized in dealing with the more lethal sorts of undead.

At Tom's direction, Harry went directly to the private corner booth to speak with his most mysterious tutor when he got back to the Cauldron that night.

"Have a seat, Harry," the woman ordered. "Have you eaten?"

"Not yet," he replied.

She signaled for Tom's presence. "I suppose the correct way to do so will be the first thing we'll cover then."

"What else are you going to teach me?"

"Politics, society, how to conduct yourself as befitting your station, etiquette." The woman took a deep pull of her drink. "How Death Eaters are recruited, what the meetings were like, everything I know about the bastard and his slaves."

The lesson was odd to say the least, his instructor spent the first half of the meal silently watching him eat and the next half calmly explaining what he'd done wrong and why.

"Your every gesture screams to the world who you are," she stated firmly. "From your clothing, to your haircut, to your handwriting, to the way you eat your steak. The important thing is that you train yourself to be able to present whatever image you wish to show. Do you understand?"

"I understand," he agreed.

"We'll meet again in two days," she said dismissing him. "Bring a parchment and some quills."

"I'm going back to Hogwarts tomorrow," Harry said.

"I trust you know how to sneak out to Hogsmead?" she asked, a touch of amusement coloring her voice.

"No," he admitted.

"Starting your third year and you don't know how to do the important things," she stated with a short laugh. "It seems you needed me more than I thought."

IIIIIIIIII

Harry spent the next morning making his goodbyes to the people he'd met during his time in the alley before going through Tom's floo to platform nine and three quarters.

Unsurprisingly, Ron was mostly indifferent to the account of Harry's summer adventure. So he learned a few charms used by the labor class, so what? The boy had made several halfhearted attempts to change the subject before slumping down and going to sleep. By contrast, Hermione was fascinated by just how much there was to learn about the magical world that wasn't covered in Hogwarts, taking copious notes on potential avenues of interest.

That fascination quickly turned to distress upon hearing what Harry had managed to learn from Dirk about what most purebloods viewed as a muggleborn's proper place in society.

"He said it's better for Hogwarts students," Harry said, trying to calm the girl.

"Hogwarts recruits the best of us," Hermione said in disgust. "The smartest and most magically powerful for breeding stock and the richest to get a chance to siphon off some of their fortune."

"So we . . . Do you feel cold all of the sudden?" the boy asked.

"Look at the windows," Hermione said as frost began to form.

"What's going on, Hermione?"

"I don't know," she replied. The girl reached over to shake Ron awake. "I don't think it's natural." The girl's voice was filled with nervousness as she pulled out her wand.

"Whazzit? Why's it so cold all the sudden?" the redhead mumbled.

Harry rose to his feet as the door slowly opened, stepping forward to put himself between his friends and whatever was on the other side.

The urge to flee was almost overwhelming when the black cloaked horror stepped into the compartment. Harry looked like a conductor trying to dissuade a mosquito as he frantically tried to raise the shield he'd learned the day before.

The creature drifted closer and the boy's half completed shield shattered under the strange creature's onslaught. Abandoning it, the boy frantically tried to cast the most powerful bit of offensive magic he had in his arsenal of techniques, instinctively knowing that failure meant a horrific death.

Harry could feel his soul being ripped from his body. His new awareness meant that the pain was tremendous, worse than anything he'd experienced, worse than anything he could describe. He used the meager skills he'd managed to acquire over the last week of summer to try to resist.

It didn't work, if anything it made things worse stretching the length of his suffering to an eternity of agony. Refusing to give into the voice in the back of his head begging him to stop, to do anything to make the pain go away, Harry redoubled his efforts managing to slow the creature's progress to a snail's pace. Harry Potter would never give in, Harry Potter would make the thing earn its victory, Harry Potter swore that should he survive he would make the beings pay for their attack and the pain it forced him to endure!

In a flash, the pain stopped and he could hear his friend's excited voices echoing from a long way off. He'd won, Harry held onto that thought as the world went black, he had beaten the creature and retained his soul.

AN: Ended things here because it seemed like a great stopping point, the first part of what will be the next chapter of this if I ever get around to writing it is below. Mention was made at the fact that every merchant was polite to Harry. Let's put it this way, he's a war hero, the son of two other war hero's, who's got the power to regulate your business out of existence and attends a school reserved for the most influential future leaders in society. If you ran a shop, would you be rude to this person?

Chapter 02 part 01

Abraham Abbott frowned when his daughter's owl flew through his office window to land on his desk. He'd just put her on the train a couple hours before, what in the world could be the problem?

His expression darkened when he read the letter. "Mandy!"

"Sir?" the woman squeaked, hoping to all that was holy that she wasn't the reason for the expression on his face.

"Dementors boarded the express and tried to kiss Harry Potter," he growled. "I'll be at the Ministry for the rest of the day explaining to our esteemed leader how unhappy I am to hear that he's responsible for an attack on my client and the fact that those soul sucking monsters were anywhere near my daughter."

"Yes, sir," she agreed, her expression mirroring his. "None of the children were hurt, were they?"

"Lavender says that she and Harry are fine along with all their friends," he stated, muzzling a bit of his fury. "Fortunately, the new Defense Professor was on the train to drive them off."

He threw on his robes and stormed out of the room, returning a moment later with a look of unholy glee on his face. "On second thought, I'm a tax attorney. Mandy, I need you to contact Malfoy, Attila, and Temujin. Tell Murdia what happened and that I would take it as a personal favor if she'd accompany me to my meeting with the Minister."

"Yes, sir," Mandy agreed with a wide toothy grin.

Like they said, you want to fuck someone you get a lawyer. You want to fuck someone to death, you get Murdia Malfoy. He'd look forward to pissing on the grave of the man who allowed soul sucking monsters near his innocent baby girl and youngest client.

IIIIIIIIII

Diggler frowned when he heard what had happened to his summer assistant. Dementors attacking an employee of the Ministry? Such things were just not done.

The old man threw a handful of floo into the fire. "Union of Ministry Workers," he said calmly. Looked like it was time to remind the politician of the sacristy of the bureaucracy.

Dozens of similar meetings were occurring throughout Diagon and its varied connected alleys as the common people heard what had happened and contacted their representatives to express their displeasure.

IIIIIIIIII

Fudge looked up in annoyance when his aide burst in without knocking. This had better be good or he'd find himself a new aide and the unfortunate in front of him would learn just how unpleasant some Ministry jobs were.

"What?" he barked.

"Sir, the head of the Necromancers guild is here with their lawyer, the representative for the Union of Ministry workers is here with her lawyer, the head of the butcher's union is here with his lawyer, the head of the healers guild is here with her lawyer, the head of the Diagon Alley Merchant's association is here with his lawyer, and Solicitor Abraham Abbott is here accompanied by his lawyer, Murdia Malfoy." The aide gulped. "They're all demanding to see you and none of them are happy."

"What?" Fudge squeaked. "What's this about?"

"Dementors tried to kiss the 'boy-who-lived' on the Hogwarts express," the aide replied. "That's . . . Sir, they're very, very unhappy that you permitted that to happen." Though the word the half formed angry mob in the waiting room had used was 'caused' along with other words like 'negligence' and 'attempted murder.'

"Show in Abbott and Malfoy first, the-" Should he meet with the Merchant's Association or the Union of Ministry workers next? Decisions, decisions.

"They want to see you together, sir," the aide interjected. "They're insisting upon it."

"Damn." Fudge sighed in resignation. "Show them in."

"Yes, sir."

To the Minister's intense and visible displeasure, the group had picked up another member while his aide was briefing him.

"Amelia," Fudge simpered. "I thought you were taking some time off?"

"Imagine my surprise when I found out my dementors had been removed from Azkaban and unleashed around school children, one of which happens to be my niece," Amelia said coldly. "I came back as soon as I could."

It was the first and the worst meeting Fudge had about the issue that day, it would not be the last.

AN which covers everything above, not just the second chapter: Thanks go to howardcshaw for the disclaimer. I'd written the same thing but differently, saw how he put it and decided it looked better. Look up 'Daffy Duck, The Wizard,' which was the inspiration for this and might I point out that every spell from the song appeared. On a completely unrelated note, people have asked when I'm going to produce another long fic. Answer is: I'm in the middle of several very large fics which is why none of them have been finished and posted to fanfiction dot net. Splitting my time between many means they're all written slower than I would like. Aside from that, being an international man of mystery tends to eat up a lot of free time.

Beta and several scenes by dogbertcarroll

Scene by meteoricshipyards

Typos and mistakes corrected by scretchy, odonata617, runecutter, mjihde

Omake: Triwizard Reactions

"I know him, Chief, but not well," the girl agreed.

"I want you to go to Hogwarts and interview him, confirm that he didn't enter himself in that stupid contest, and get a statement." The Editor grinned. "Point out that he gets some control of what's written if he cooperates and none if he doesn't."

"Triwizard was supposed to be my story," Skeeter growled.

"Still is," the Editor tried to placate his most popular (and difficult) reporter. "Trying to free you up so you can investigate who put the kid in the contest."

"We sure he didn't put himself in, Chief?" Skeeter asked thoughtfully.

"Kid drops by sometimes during the summers, you ever get a chance to talk with him?"

"Never even noticed him, Chief," Rita admitted. Which was a shame as Harry Potter was just the sort of contact it paid to cultivate.

"Nice kid if a bit shy, hates fame more than anything." The Editor laughed. "Chances of him volunteering for something like this are slim to none."

"Understood, Chief," Rita agreed.

"That said, the chances of him taking a win are pretty good. Even if he is younger than the others, the kid's got a lot of potential. Seems to soak up anything you want to teach like a sponge."

"Push the idea that the kid's been forced into it but that he's a brave little sucker and what not?" Rita asked.

"Yes, but carefully," the Editor agreed, "Prophet isn't the only place he spends time in during the summers. Kid's popular enough that our neighbors will lynch us if we print anything that isn't positive."

Omake: Seniority

"He's been working at the Ministry longer than you have, of course he's senior," the flunky sneered, "show more respect the next time you speak with him. I don't care if you are old school chums, too much familiarity in public upsets the order of things."

"Yes, sir," Percy agreed, thinking that he should have spent more time cultivating Harry Potter. "Sorry about that, Mr. Potter, I forgot my place for a moment."

Omake: The Ending

A cold smile appeared on Harry's face when he realized where he was. It was foolish to take on even a moderately skilled practitioner of Death Magic in a cemetery, it was sheer folly to do it with one of his power and skill level.

Omake by

You posted a bit before about the foolishness of dragging Harry to a graveyard.

It might have been intended as a final line to the story, but I was trying to imagine how a battle in a graveyard might go.

The idea of summoning hordes of zombies, skeletons or inferni seemed disrespectful, as the departed there are strangers. Likewise, random ghosts seemed rude as well.

But I suddenly pictured a scene involving non-JKR poltergeists, invisible spirits with a limited strength for moving things. If Harry were to keep summoning them, their number would keep increasing, and inevitably win over nearly any force.

I imagine Peter walking in with his wand in one hand, and his master in the other (although why he didn't have Voldy in a stroller is beyond me). As he strode to where the portkey arrived, he was startled to feel his head momentarily pulled back as something tugged at his hair.

Then Peter felt a yank on his wand that almost pulled it from his grasp, while something yanked his master to the side. It was at that point that he noticed his belt start to undo itself, while his hair was again yanked back, and something tried to pull his left shoe back.

Peter cursed to himself about the folly of walking into battle with both hands full, but his master had insisted that Peter carry him, and riding on Peter's shoulders or in a backpack was too undignified. Peter tried to hold onto his belt and his wand with the same hand, when something pulled the back of his robes up, entangling the dark lord.

This didn't last long, as suddenly the dark lord was being pulled from Peter's grasp with much more force than it had the first time. When Peter used both hands to pull the Dark lord back to his chest, his trousers were fully opened and started sliding towards his knees.

Peter managed to slow their descent by adopting a wide stance with bent knees, which had the added advantage of keeping his untied shoelaces from tying themselves together; instead, the laces completely removed themselves and flew off into the bushes. Peter's belt followed shortly after them.

Peter barely noticed when his underwear gave him a wedgie, but the back of his robes threading themselves between Peters legs, between his trousers and his underwear, was most unpleasant.

But it was when Peter's wand split in two that he finally started to panic. Dropping his master, he tried to draw his master's wand to defend himself, but it was yanked from his grip. His master was being pulled off of the ground by his arms, but they were pulling in opposite directions so his master wasn't moving very far.

This meant that when Peter's shoes were yanked back, he fell forward, on top of his master. Peter's shoes joined their laces in flying off.

When Harry found them, Peter was upside down, trying to keep his feet from slipping through the legs of his trousers. His trousers were bouncing up and down eight feet above the ground trying to shake Peter out of them, while Voldemort's homunculous was hugging Peter's left arm with it's arms and legs.

Harry the Business Man
by DisobedienceWriter

During a lull in his meeting with Master Necromancer Dee, Harry realized he had someone who could answer a question he'd had for two years. "Mr. Dee, I was wondering about how you make a nearly headless ghost really headless..."

"That one at Hogwarts, right? Favors for ghosts are steep. They have to be paid for."

"Favors."

"The dead can help the living. The living can help the dead. Why be a necromancer if you can't do something interesting once in a while?"

"You said a favor had to be paid for?"

"You're part of a guild now, son. We'd all starve if we didn't demand our sickles first."

X-X-X

Three days into Harry's third year at Hogwarts he finally found Nearly Headless Nick. The old ghost was perplexed by what Harry said at first then terribly excited. An end to being Nearly Headless? He'd waited centuries.

"Yes, let's do it now," the ghost said.

"I can help you, but I have to charge you guild minimums."

"Which guild?"

"Between you and me, I joined the Necromancer's Guild over the summer."

"Ah ha, oh! Maybe you really can do something about this little bit of
`skin'..."

"Yes, I had to make myself a sword..."

"Let me see it, young man."

Harry drew out an unimpressive sword. To the living, at least. Nick almost found himself flung through the wall.

"Enchanted to effect the dead? Can you put that away?"

"I'm told it's a bit strong," Harry said.

"A bit. A bit? A rotten carp is a bit strong. This sword is just what I need. Thank you, Harry."

"Well, payment comes first."

"Ah." The ghost went from buoyant to depressed.

"No bronze or gold. A necromancer can only be paid in silver."

"I didn't know that."

"I didn't either. Old rule. Apparently there was a new spell at the time that made good fakes of bronze and gold. Rule's been on the books for about eight hundred years."

"They can counterfeit something that looks like silver, Harry."

"I learned a spell to detect counterfeit silver. Nasty thing, too."

"How so?"

"The one who made the faked silver turns blue for a year and a day. Not too hard to pick out a blue man, is it?"

"Um, yes. That leaves only one problem. Must say I'm fresh out of silver. No pockets. Don't need silver as a ghost."

"Hmm..."

"But, you know, Harry, I did leave behind several caches back in the day. Valuables, you understand. Buried in pitched cloth. Good chance some of it is still around."

"I suppose that could work. Is some of it silver?"

"Perhaps. Whatever wasn't you could sell for silver."

"Then I'd have to join the Merchant's Guild. They're even rougher than the Necromancers. They don't accept payment in bronze, silver, or gold."

"What do they want?"

"Firewhiskey."

Nick shook his partially severed head. "Now I know you're joking."

"A bit. The Necromancers don't like the Merchants. Don't ask why. I guess I could take your old things..."

"Old? Call them antiques. Worth more that way."

"Have to wait until summer until I can get out of the castle, though..."

"Wait? No, no. There's got to be a way to do this all faster. I've been waiting four hundred years."

"I thought it was five hundred?"

"Oh, perhaps you're right. The mind does wander after a few centuries. The one cache I distinctly remember was on my wife's father's estate in Oxfordshire..."

Thus Harry had a business going as a third year. Performing favors for ghosts in exchange for the things they left behind when they were alive. He also received one very critical piece of information from Ravenclaw's Grey Lady. He increased his influence among the dead without having to handle the requests from the rather perverted Moaning Myrtle.

Harry Doesn't Forget
by DisobedienceWriter

The portkey dropped Harry in the cemetery. He felt comforted by the magic he felt in this place. It welcomed him. It told him the story of what waited for him, the preparations in place for a ritual. Death, after all, liked Harry Potter. Instead of being mad that it had failed to take Harry as an infant, death had begun to treat him almost as an equal.

Harry looked at his fellow Hogwarts Champion. "Cedric, take the portkey back."

"This wasn't what was supposed..."

Harry banished the portkey at Cedric who disappeared. Better to protect the still-innocent. Better to have no witnesses. Harry would have no part of inflicting on Cedric Diggory things he could never unsee.

He stalked forward. Pettigrew had been walking toward where Harry and Cedric had arrived. Harry stunned the half-rat, half-man. A wrapped bundle – a spirit trapped in flesh – tumbled out of his frozen arms.

Harry transfigured a clump of dry grass into a stand for the baby. He approached and looked at the creature.

"I've been waiting for you to say hello, Tom."

"Potter, what have you done?"

"You have so many so eager to see you return. Haven't they told you things about me."

"You're a fourth year student."

"I am. I am also more."

Harry waved his holly and phoenix wand in a tight cork screw.

Moments later, a void in the darkness opened. Foul creatures in ragged black cloaks arrived, penned together.

"I never forget, Voldemort. Flight from Death. I never forget. You never joined the Necromancer's Guild."

"Too many limits on what they permit one to learn."

"Just enough," Harry said. "You, who fear death, could have learned little. I know that you don't know your craft as well as you think. Perhaps a demonstration."

Harry whipped his wand at the penned Dementors he'd summoned out of Azkaban. In a moment they were compelled into various places throughout the cemetery, each one on a grave marker. The stone reached upward, freezing and making permanent additions to the graveyard. The place was a fearsome place now in appearance although Magical Britain was now a far safer place.

"My allies."

"I thank you. People were nervous for my safety the summer after my second year at Hogwarts. They started me on this path – more because they feared Sirius Black coming after me. But I think I learned because you kept coming for me. Now...now, I guess we are ready for our final meeting."

"I have come closer to immortality..."

"No, you haven't. I can smell the death magic on you. I know you've dabbled in Egyptian and Chinese soul vessels. You know how many there are in Egypt today? Hundreds, perhaps a thousand. Let me show you why they don't work."

Harry twisted his wand.

The spirit of Tom Riddle trapped in flesh howled. He was sucked from his vessel and appeared in a bubble that shimmered in the faint moonlight. The flesh turned to ash and blew away in the breeze.

"You want immortality? I've heard of porcelain lasting for a thousand years, perhaps longer. Let's see if you enjoy this."

In a bout of transfiguration that Professor McGonagall would have looked askance of, the bubble containing the active spirit of Tom Riddle shifted form, grew opaque. In the place of the bubble was...a urinal.

"Perhaps the Ministry of Magic needs an upgrade to one of its bathrooms?"

Harry levitated the porcelain object, certain he could feel the rage radiating out of the thing. Let Voldemort enjoy a century of being pissed on – before Harry returned and dealt with him permanently. Harry had left the sensations and smells all available to the spirit.

He apparated away with his prize. He'd have to calm some people down. He also needed to determine who had turned the Triwizard Cup into a portkey. What might that person merit?