Harry was having troubles.
Unfortunately, this wasn't exactly news, as he'd been having all manner of troubles since before he could remember. In fact to say he had troubles would be like saying gravity worked—just another universal constant.
Thunder rumbled, and a downy pair of talons shifted in his hair. He sighed. "Hedwig, get off my head. It was funny the first time, but now it's just getting old."
The owl twittered in a self-satisfied manner. Harry supposed he should be amazed that Hedwig had a strong enough grasp of the English language to understand why it was amusing when she sat on his head, but he didn't quite have the energy. Like any small child might, she had worn out the joke a long time ago. It was probably her way of trying to cheer him up, figuring if he'd chuckled at it once he would do so again.
Despite himself, his lip couldn't help quirking, and he reached up to ruffle her feathers. "Silly bird."
His creaking neck attested to how heavy she was—though he wasn't certain, he imagined she should have stopped growing by now—but compressed discs were the least of his worries at the moment. And, as if he were afflicted with some kind of mental Tourette's, the familiar thought intruded:
Sirius was dead.
It had taken him weeks to get to this point—where he could truly say there was not some treacherous part of him that still believed, in the deepest recesses of his mind, that there was some way to undo what had been done. Sirius was not a ghost. He was not simply trapped somewhere, waiting for rescue. The little mirror—that damn device which, had Harry only thought of it, could have stopped it all from happening—lay shattered against Harry's bedroom wall even now.
Sirius was dead.
Once he'd accepted it, the words had become inescapable, a quiet mantra lurking behind every thought. Incessant. Infuriating. Maddening.
He remembered those first days, when he'd alternated between explosive rage—at everyone, including Sirius, but mostly himself—and a bone-deep weariness that verged on catatonia. He'd lost count of the number of times he'd left Number 4 with his hands twitching and the fixtures rattling. More than once, the juxtaposition of Vernon's golf clubs next to the man's car in the garage had been almost too much to resist.
But resist Harry had, managing to do minimal damage to the Dursley's property in a feat of what he acknowledged to be superhuman restraint. Left unresolved, his anger forced him to venture in ever widening circles in order to reign it in. Some days he ranged so far he had to hop a bus to get back to the house. Unseasonable storms had been tearing across the countryside, flooding some neighborhoods and ripping roofs off others, so it was no surprise that he rarely saw anyone else out in the rain.
Some part of him knew it was a bad idea to bottle up his anger like that, and if he didn't have a psychotic break first, he might just end up dead of pneumonia. Like now—he was sitting in the grass, surrounded by the scrubby bushes and trees clogging up the little green space between neighborhoods, while thunder rolled above. His baggy clothes lay plastered against his skin from the constant precipitation, which fell on him unimpeded save for the stubborn owl perched on his head.
But sometimes it was, quite literally, the only way he could cool off. Between losing his head at his idiot relatives, and working himself into spirals of self-loathing and crippling doubt, he'd begun to notice that something was… wrong.
And of course it wasn't enough that his godfather was dead and a treasured dream of shelter and hope for the future had come crashing down with him, or that Sirius' death lay squarely on Harry's shoulders, or that a madman was after his blood and Harry was supposedly the only one who could stop him (with no training, no advantage, and no time, thanks). No, the icing on the cake, the pièce de résistance, was that for the past several weeks—with alarming frequency—Harry had been unintentionally shattering, exploding, igniting, shredding, and generally destroying all manner of mundane objects.
He was the one prophesized to defeat Voldemort, and he was losing control of his magic.
The rain was coming down in sheets as he trudged back toward the Dursleys, and the wind picked up periodically to slap him in the face with droplets. Hedwig swooped close by overhead, but no one was out to witness his 'freakishness', and he didn't mind the company. He could tell she really wanted to ride on his shoulder, but she would soon be too big to be able to stay on, and he'd told her so.
Steam rolled off him in waves, although it didn't feel particularly cold out. It mirrored the way his magic felt—bubbling just beneath the skin, chaotic and unpredictable. He didn't like it, which made him angry, which only fed the problem.
He wondered cynically if he was in some kind of wizard regression. He couldn't even check to see if his wand-work had suffered, since he was still underage and it was illegal to cast anything. Maybe he was in some kind of developmental reversal, and after his stopover at accidental magic he would eventually end up a Squib. He squinted skyward, and thought that would be just his luck.
Upon reaching the doorstep, Harry was greeted with a screech from his aunt. "Filthy boy! Where do you go crawling around all day?" But it lacked any real feeling, and he could tell it was more for posterity's sake than anything else.
Harry simply sighed, shucking his shoes and carrying them up the stairs. She was probably just disappointed that he hadn't managed to get himself struck by lightning yet. He combed his fingers through his unruly black hair, and sprinkled the bits of pine needles over the banister as he went. She would have him sweeping the entire house regardless; he might as well earn it.
He reached his room, illuminated only by orange beams of straggling sunlight that spilled through his open window, and flopped back on his bed with a noisy exhalation. Hedwig flapped in from the windowsill to land on his chest, as she was wont to do lately, and drove the rest of wind out of him.
"Silly bird," he greeted her, scrunching up his eyes when she nibbled at his nose with her black beak. "You really are getting quite big, you know. You must still be growing." He frowned with amusement as she padded unsteadily from his chest to his stomach and back again, dripping rainwater all over his shirt. "Any letters for me?"
She twittered, gracing him with a luminous yellow gaze.
"Oh good," he said. But instead of rising to check the small pile of envelopes by the window, he closed his eyes. He already knew what they would all be saying—the same things they'd been saying for the past several weeks. He didn't need to read, again, someone telling him that nothing was his fault. He didn't need anyone telling him that he'd done the best he could. They didn't understand that he couldn't afford to make mistakes. They didn't understand the responsibility that threatened to smother him even now. They thought it was okay to tell him he'd done nothing wrong.
He tossed an arm over his face. He knew they only had the best of intentions, but pity and sympathy made him angrier than everything else. It was like they were advocating the way he had acted—like they saw him as the victim rather than the perpetrator. How could they so easily excuse him from responsibility?
Sirius was dead.
He could have simply floated off into oblivion right at that moment—blackness crept into the corners of his vision as he stared at the back of his arm, and he felt as if the bed would swallow him.
But loose items around his room began to rattle with the rhythmic thud of a heavy set of feet coming up the stairs. His heart rate had just begun to pick up in anxiety when a shape of walrus proportions darkened his doorway.
"Up, boy!" Uncle Vernon demanded, and Harry could just imagine the rain of spit that accompanied the words. "You are not going to force your aunt to slave away in that kitchen all on her own while you lay about. Up!"
Harry swallowed a sigh and rolled to his feet, dislodging Hedwig and sending her flapping to the dresser. He stepped by his uncle warily—the man was bright red and blowing like a racehorse, but that could have merely been a side effect of his journey up the stairs.
All through dinner, Harry felt the same sense of detachment that had plagued him on and off all summer. It was just beyond his ability to stomach, watching his aunt and uncle and cousin Dudley bickering around the table. Listening to them argue over the last bit of cantaloupe, or sending snide comments his way. They were so petty and insular, so… ordinary. His vision glazed over as he sat, and he couldn't stop himself from seeing the events of the Ministry in his mind's eye. Images flashed: the dream (even now, he could hardly convince himself Sirius hadn't really been tortured), the flight on the thestrals, the battle amongst the prophecies, the race through the Department of Mysteries, Dumbledore's duel against Voldemort, and…
"If you puke at this table, I will take out my belt, boy!"
Vernon's barking voice brought him back to the present, and Harry realized how tense his face had become. With an effort, he smoothed out his features and tried to squash his emotions. "Got it," he replied quietly.
Vernon brandished his fork at Harry once for good measure, before returning to his pork chop and a story about the office window-washer. Petunia was primly eating her peas and nodding to every word, and Dudley seemed to have half a chop in his maw, while the other half waited in the wings, and his attention was glued to the kitchen television. Harry stared at them all. They were oblivious. His stomach soured with the realization that he envied them.
He stood and shoved his chair back, grabbing his plate and departing before he could convince himself that it would be reasonable to hex the lot of them.
Halfway to the sink his plate shattered in his hand. Petunia shrieked, and Vernon thundered, but Harry could only stare, uncomprehending, at the ceramic shards as they clattered to the floor.
Petunia came after him with a hand towel and whacked him several times with it before shouldering him out of the way to scoop up the bits of broken plate.
Their angry voices buzzed in the background as he excused himself from the room, utterly drained and confused. One thing was for certain—he had a big problem.
He awoke the next morning with a sense of something he hadn't possessed in ages: purpose. Well, he reflected, beyond the all-encompassing purpose of bumping Voldemort off the mortal coil, at least.
He'd thought long and hard about how to go about solving his newest problem. His first reaction had been to pen a letter to his obnoxiously intelligent friend Hermione. He'd run into troubles in figuring out just how to phrase his question, though: Say Hermione, I think I'm turning into a Squib; what should I do? Hey Hermione, I'm setting things on fire; any ideas? So Hermione, I have this friend…
She would know the theoretical 'friend' was him, and would probably tell the Order. Then Dumbledore would be setting up five more sets of walls around him, spouting reassurances while at the same time saying nothing at all. Oh no, Harry, the 'power Voldemort knows not' is the complete absence of power. You will defeat the Dark Lord through irony alone!
No, that wouldn't do. He couldn't talk to Hermione about this until he had a chance to convince her of the need for secrecy in person, and since Harry didn't have the resources of Hogwarts at his fingertips, he was really left with only one option: undercover shopping in Diagon Alley.
What joy, he thought darkly as he laced up his trainers. If he wasn't recognized by some element of the media or wizarding public, he was likely to be accosted by Death Eaters. If he were honest with himself, the former filled him with at least as much dread as the latter. But it couldn't be helped—he could either brave the Alley, or he could wait and see how long it would take for him to spontaneously combust in a fit of uncontrolled anger.
He knew the Order had people watching the house. Frankly, at this point he was wasn't going to wait and see if he had their permission to leave, and he didn't care whether they followed him or not. If they somehow lost him, he wouldn't be disappointed. So, armed with baseball cap and a pair of slightly bent aviator sunglasses over his normal lenses, Harry hoofed it to the bus stop just outside the neighborhood before the sun had properly cleared the trees, looking over his shoulder in an effort to spot anyone following him.
The connecting train ride downtown was long, chilly, and uneventful. Harry kept glancing at the few other passengers, who were wearing business suits and robotically drinking coffee during their morning commutes, and found it both refreshing and disconcerting that he didn't have to worry about them staring at him. After months in the wizarding world, it felt strange and liberating to not be recognized in public.
He hopped off the train near his stop and walked the six blocks toward the Leaky Cauldron. Ducking in and out of London traffic, he felt like a ragamuffin in his worn out jeans and faded brown tee, but it was likely the sunglasses and '87 Chicago Cubs hat that were earning him sideways glances. Unfortunately, it was the only hat Harry could dig up that hadn't looked like it wanted to be paired with a three-piece suit.
He spied the Leaky Cauldron—with passersby avoiding it like water eddying around a rock in a stream—and ducked inside. The warm, smoky air hit him in a rolling blast, but he didn't take any time to linger. He was out the back door before anyone even had a chance to look up, and followed another group of wizards through the arch in the bricks.
Diagon Alley was almost deserted this time of morning—or at least, he hoped that was the only reason for such light foot traffic. Many of the shops weren't even open yet, but he knew his target destination, Flourish and Blotts, would be.
"Harry Potter?" screeched someone behind him, and Harry nearly jumped out of his skin. Glancing back, he realized it was simply a pair of ladies talking animatedly, waving around a copy of a newspaper. He gulped, trying to slow his galloping heart, and ticked another year off his life expectancy, courtesy of the Daily Prophet.
No one had seen him yet, and he felt unusually lucky. Ducking into the front door of Flourish and Blotts, he heard someone mutter, "Bloody Potter…"
Harry grit his teeth when he realized man at the front counter was also nose deep in the Daily Prophet, and wondered morbidly what the paper was saying about him today that had everyone in such a froth. He tugged the hat a bit lower. "Sir, could you tell me where I might find some books on, er, Squibs?"
The sales clerk gave him a squinty sort of glance, but pointed him toward the back of the store without comment.
Harry nodded in thanks and followed the directions, past the normal, well-tended isles, and into territory he'd never traversed. The rows of books grew closer together, the light grew dim, and spines grew dustier. In the very furthest corner, he spied several titles that seemed indicate he was in the right place: So Your Kid's a Squib, and Shades of Beige: Life as a Muggle, and The Idiot's Guide to the Mundane World. Harry swallowed, overcome with an irrational fear that to touch these books was to make them come true.
Harry Potter, The-Boy-Who-Lived-Long-Enough-To-Become-A-Muggle, he mocked himself as he scanned the titles for anything that looked helpful. If they could only see you now.
He soon discovered, however, that most of the books talked about children who had never manifested any power, and that wasn't exactly helpful to him. There were a few that discussed growing old and losing powers, but it seemed most of them actually chalked it up to becoming senile, rather than any quantifiable loss.
Further down the row were some texts about magical maladies that could result in a loss of power, but he looked through them carefully and found himself sharing none of the symptoms. Maybe it would be under wild magic, he thought to himself, and set off again.
A half hour later, Harry was no closer to his goal, and the shop was beginning to wake up. Stomach growling in harmony with his own irritated grumblings, he made for the front of the store. He couldn't really call the trip a total loss though—he was certainly relieved that his symptoms didn't match anything he'd been able to read about. Unfortunately, that also meant that he still didn't know what was wrong with him, and the idea that it was something highly unusual wasn't very comforting.
Under his arm he carried The Auror's Starter Companion, a hefty book of recommended hexes and charms for anyone hoping to get into the Auror Program, as well as Spellsmith's Almanac: 1930 – 1960, a rather yellowed book full of homemade, non-Ministry Approved spells, as well as tips on how they were designed and performed. One thing that stood out to Harry as he reflected on what he'd seen in his short time as a wizard was watching the way Dumbledore fought. There wasn't anyone else who dueled quite like the old man did, and Harry knew that if he wanted to be that good, one of the only people capable of teaching him was the headmaster himself. Barring that, which seemed rather likely, Harry would have to teach himself.
That is, he reminded himself, if he managed to get his magic back under control.
"Would you like me to shrink those for you?" asked the cashier.
"Please," Harry nodded. He couldn't wait for the day when he would be able to do these things for himself. Giving the fellow a smile of thanks, he slipped the wallet-sized books into his pocket and stepped out into the sunshine.
He looked left, toward the distant monstrosity of Gringotts, and right, around the twisting lane that led back toward the Leaky Cauldron and Muggle London. With a sigh, he realized he was out of options, unless he went looking for bookstores down one of Diagon's branch alleys. He didn't imagine anything dealing with squibs would be found down Knockturn, unless it was related to human trafficking. He turned resignedly to the right, and was pleasantly surprised to see Florean Fortescue already setting out street side chairs.
"You're opening early," Harry remarked with a grin as he neared the ice cream shop.
"Ah!" The kindly man seemed truly gobsmacked for a moment, before his face broke into a wide smile. "Why if it isn't Mr. Potter! My word, it's good to see you, my young friend!"
"And you," Harry returned sincerely, wincing slightly at the man's volume. Ever since that summer before third year, when Harry had been put up at the Leaky Cauldron, Florean Fortescue had been one of his favorite vendors. Free ice cream, and the man had somehow made Magical History interesting. "How is business these days?"
"Oh, can't complain, can't complain. Times being what they are and all—oh, have a seat, Mr. Potter," Fortescue insisted gregariously, pulling out a chair. "I want you to try my newest concoction!"
Harry, reflecting that this turn of events was exactly what he'd been hoping for, was happy to oblige. He reclined in the little wicker chair, safe behind a screen of marigolds, and watched flurries of people go by, wondering how long this sort of peace would last. His gaze drifted over the sunny street before coming back around to observe Fortescue through window glass as the man bustled about behind the counter. It was all so fragile, he thought. So easy for one man to wreak havoc on this little world.
He realized he'd been staring at something plastered across Fortescue's shop front, and focused on it. The Galloping Galleon, he read, frowning in puzzlement. From what he could tell it was an ad for some sort of wizarding show. But apparently it was either meant to be mysterious, or it was taken for granted that everyone who needed to know about it already did. At any rate, if the gold lettering and Art Nuevo-style of the scene it depicted (which looked like nothing so much as a big-top circus arena) were indications, it was quite an important event.
"There we are, Mr. Potter." Florean Fortescue had reappeared with dish in hand. He deposited it before Harry with a flourish. "Have at it!"
Harry picked up the spoon, and eyed the dessert doubtfully. It was mostly pale green, but there were swirls of bright orange and little chunks of something reddish-brown deposited throughout. It honestly looked a bit like someone had tried to eat a handful of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, and then changed their mind at the last minute. "Wow, this looks… What flavor did you say it was?"
"It's green tea and mango swirl, with red bean accents," Fortescue responded proudly. "I've been dabbling in flavors of a more eastern persuasion, you see."
Harry nodded sadly. He had been hoping for chocolate. "What's that, if you don't mind my asking?" he asked, pointing at the poster. His hope was to distract the man long enough to take a taste without broadcasting his reaction.
"Oh, this?" Fortescue asked, looking up at the colorful ad.
Harry quickly went in for a bite. He squinted at the flavor, and his head twisted sideways of its own volition. It wasn't as bad as he'd been expecting, but…
"The Galloping Galleon is something of a get together for the who's who in wizarding culture, I suppose," Fortescue was saying. "It's a big to-do every summer. I've been asked to help cater several times, in fact."
"Oh, yeah, I guess I have heard of it," Harry lied uncomfortably. It seemed there was always another reminder that he was still essentially an outsider. He wondered how many wizarding affairs he was oblivious to. Really, he spent all year at a school where his only contact with the outside world came through the newspaper or his friends. Of those friends, he spent the vast majority of his time with Hermione and Ron. Hermione was muggle-born, and Ron—brilliant friend though he was—wasn't exactly on the cutting edge of magical culture as far as Harry could tell.
"So what do you think of the new flavors?"
"Right." Harry floundered for a moment. "It's, er… It's really not bad. Takes a little getting used to." He tried for an encouraging smile.
"Excellent!" The man clapped his hands together enthusiastically, and slapped Harry on the shoulder. "I've still some setting up to do, but you just sit and enjoy that, Mr. Potter. On the house!"
"Oh… you shouldn't have…" Harry protested weakly, but the ice cream vendor had already disappeared into the shop. Harry sighed. He was sorely tempted to bolt, but somebody had to eat this damn ice cream or Florean Fortescue would have a sad day.
Harry poked at his frozen treat and reflected grimly that he was back to square one. But at least he'd made it out in public without any mishaps. No mobs of reporters, no Death Eater attacks, no Voldemort sightings. All in all, it had been a pretty uneventful trip. If he were completely honest with himself, he was a little bit—
A wall of air and debris slammed into him with the force of a freight train, just before a cracking boom nearly blew out his eardrums. He flew (along with his table, chair, and bowl of ice cream) into the side of the ice cream shop. His head impacted the glass amidst a spider-web of cracks, and a potted plant smashed into his gut in the same moment. He was dimly aware of people running in all directions, and a ringing, buzzing in his ears. Coughing, he pulled himself to his feet, and squinted into the billowing dust. Death Eaters, here? His aviators were cracked, hanging from one ear, and he tossed them away. He could just barely make out shadows in the shifting rubble, and lurched back as a bolt of red missed him by inches.
In that moment his mind cleared, and his blood thrummed with anticipation. Finally! Finally, the bastard was making a move!
His wand was already in his hand, and he lunged forward as more spells shot from the midst of the explosion, targeting random people in the street. Quickly, he cast, "Protego!" The shield was little more than a wisp, and he felt panic. No, he thought, grinding his teeth, this can't be happening now. "Protego!" he shouted again, throwing up barriers behind the victims—couples, families, and children. This time the shields blazed into existence, bright and strong.
The Death Eaters were shooting at everyone.
Harry cast a mirror spell over himself before slipping up the street and dashing across it. Another Harry copied his movements several meters away, and what fire the doppelganger didn't manage to draw, Harry dodged or deflected.
He slipped down the alley just on the other side of the building adjacent to the explosion, jumping over a pile of crates and a mound of refuse before he spotted a balcony over a low window. A flick of his wand shoved a dumpster into place, and he vaulted up. A strong push off the windowsill with his foot sent him onto the balcony, and from there he hauled himself up onto the shingled roof. He scrambled for the roof's peak and crouched behind a crooked chimneystack, where he had a bird's eye view of the enemy.
They were just beginning to move out into the street.
Casting quickly, Harry banished the few civilians he could see out of his way, before muttering, "Accio wall." The big fieldstones that made up the walls of Quality Quidditch Supplies tore loose with an almighty racket. He grimaced for the store, but didn't flinch when the microwave-sized stones bombarded the gang of black-robed figures. Heavy, meaty thuds sounded as the rocks hit home, taking out half of them.
Dashing closer over the shingled roof (while belatedly dodging the few stones that had continued on in their original trajectory), Harry began shooting stunners and body-bind curses as quickly as he could. The Death Eaters were wheeling about, and several sent curses his way. Harry raised a shield, trying to figure out how he could break up the quickly regrouping opposition. Inspiration came quickly, and he shouted, "Expecto Patronum!" The monstrous silver stag erupted from his wand and, at his direction, thundered toward the group of Death Eaters.
They were being harried from more than one side now, and the appearance of a giant, glowing buck in their midst was more than they could handle. In that moment of confusion, Harry sent several stunners whizzing down that were so charged they snapped like fireworks. Two black-robed figures dropped, and more were falling to spells from street level. In the face of three more stunners from Harry, the last two toppled. The street went still as the dust began to settle.
Harry slid down the shingles to the demolished side of the building and dropped to the ground. His intention was to get a look at the destruction, to try and figure out what spell had caused it exactly, but from what his inexperienced eye could determine, it looked like nothing so much as muggle bomb.
There was something odd about all of this. What had their mission been? Firing randomly into the crowd just seemed like wanton terrorism—which, granted, did seem like something Voldemort would orchestrate—but it had been so sloppy, and the Death Eaters had been taken down so easily.
Harry stuck his wand in his back pocket and pulled off his hat to scrub a hand through his hair, thoroughly mystified. A glance toward the street told him the Death Eaters were in the process of suffering through a civilian arrest, and he felt an almost uncontrollable urge to laugh as a slightly dumpy housewife sat on the back of one and twisted his arms around.
Then he felt a swooping sensation in his gut as he realized exactly who he was looking at: Molly Weasley. He ducked against the side of the building, but it was impossible to hide there, especially with everyone glancing in his direction to get a look at the rubble from the explosion.
He cursed silently, and tried to calm his breathing. He would just have to tread carefully, normally, until he got to the street, and then blend in with the rest of the gawkers. Whipping his baseball cap back on and sticking his hands in his pockets, he tried his best to saunter over the chunks of rock and smoking timbers. Despite his own feelings on the matter, the Order didn't want him leaving Privet Drive unsupervised—if Molly caught him here, he was dead.
He was so close—just a few more paces to the street. He was actually holding his breath, eyes glued to the back of Molly Weasley's head, which was probably why he didn't notice the person who slid up next to him and hooked one vulture claw through his arm.
"Haaarry Potter," purred a venomous voice in his ear.
He froze, and that was all the advantage Rita Skeeter needed to yank him into the dim doorway of a recently vacated shop. Plaster dust was still trickling from the ceiling, but apparently Skeeter was not one to quibble about structural soundness.
She pounced immediately, brilliant teeth flashing against blood red lips. "What brings you out and about on this fine summer day, Mr. Potter?"
Harry's eyes jumped from her glittering nails on his arm to her predatory teeth and back again, and he swallowed. "Er, you know, just shopping…"
She gave him a look of mock disbelief. "After all this time with nothing but public silence, you finally show up on the very same day that a group of Death Eaters attacks Diagon Alley? My, my, circumstances are not in your favor today…"
Harry felt a hot flash of anger. "If you're suggesting I was helping them, maybe you should rewind the tape and see who fired at—" He immediately clamped down, and wished he hadn't spoken at all when he saw the flash of triumph in her eyes. She did have a point, though; the timing was suspicious. Could it have been more than coincidence?
"Oh, going vigilante, eh Harry?"
"If I were, you'd be the last to know about it," he shot back, jerking his sleeve free from her clutches.
"Nice disguise, kid!" she chortled as he ducked out of the shop.
Great, now he'd been officially spotted by the press. It was time to get home before something else went wrong with this day. He tugged his cap lower, pulling fringe down for extra measure, and skirted around the outside of the crowd that had gathered around the fallen Death Eaters. He managed a glimpse of them, as they were getting their faces ground into the dirt by several red-robed Aurors, and felt his jaw drop.
"They're just kids," he breathed.
Rattled, he pushed on through the throng, trying to sort out this new information. Were they the Junior Death Eaters, or just knock-offs? He wasn't sure which was worse. If there were people out imitating Voldemort's followers… that meant the Order had more than just one faction to deal with, and it meant that the Death Eaters, and Voldemort, had yet to make a real move. He felt a swell of frustration at the whole situation.
Idiot kids. Idiot Dark Lord.
He snapped his fingers in irritation, and almost wasn't surprised when the air ignited for a brief moment in a crackle of flame. While people on all sides ran in the other direction toward the battle site, Harry paused in the street, holding his fingers up, and snapped them again. There was a little flash, and the scent of smoke. He shook his head, and kept walking.