Exit Stage Left

••Wonderful World••

In which there is always more than the eye can see

"So… how do you get to these other alleys, M- Daniel?"

Daniel had shot his mini-me a warning look when he went to call him 'Mister'; "Well, you're learning", he complemented, sneakily ruffling Harry's hair – "My name's Daniel, nothin' else. And, er – walk? Cos, you know, I find that's the best way to get anywhere… well, except if ya wanna go international, then you hop a portkey or telo-pad. Of course, they're as crappy as each other, and you have to pay through the nose for em, so I find it easier just to sneak in ille- er, how bout we just keep that to ourselves, yeah? You're a real sport, kid. Distraction… ah, yes, it's just up here."

Out of the corner of his eyes, Daniel saw Harry was looking kind of dazed, but he didn't let that bother him – he dazed, distressed and/or shocked many a person in his life. Usually at the same time. "Okay, it's just past Gringotts - the bank, you know."

"I know it's a bank – I'm not stupid." Harry looked disgruntled at the slowness and tone of voice he was speaking in just for the fun of it. Daniel didn't care, if it could get such a reaction out of the kid.

"Oh, so you're not stupid, just ignorant." He commented. "You do know that it's just as bad being one or the other, and even worse when you're both, right?"

"Like you?" Harry muttered under his breath.

Daniel couldn't have felt more proud.

"What was that?" He instead asked sharply, levelling a spooky 'I-make-kids-cry' glare down at him.

"Nothing." The teen said quickly, wide green eyes looking up at him.

"That's what I thought." Daniel replied smugly. 'Ok, I think it was…" he looked around, and upon seeing the big lettering of 'Vertic Alley', made a noise of triumph and grabbed Harry, dragging the kid over to it. "Here it is!"

Harry was looking at him like he didn't see his complete and utter awesomeness. "It's a wall, with an advertisement on it." He stated.

Daniel scoffed, "Ah, young padawan, there is much for you to learn. This isn't just a wall, see? Riddle me this – how do you get to Diagon Alley?"

Daniel was levelled with a look that clearly questioned his sanity. "No, really! Come on, share it with the class."

In lieu of pointing out that there was no 'class' around, Harry Potter replied, "Well… you go into the Leaky Cauldron, and then you go out the back, and then you… tap the bricks to open up the wall!"

Daniel chuckled at his surprised expression; "You're such a *cute* kid! Aww, you look like you've just discovered KFC's secret recipe – and don't glare at me, cos' which one of us here is taking the time to be someone's totally cool stand-in guardian?"

"…" The put-out Boy-Who-Lived mumbled something under his breath, looking quite subdued and chastised now. "What was that? You'll have to speak up, kid." Daniel mocked smugly.

"… you." Harry muttered grudgingly.

Hmm. Maybe not as chastised as Daniel would have liked. Seemed his broody-teenager phase had started sooner than he remembered. "That's right!" He replied blithely. "Now, watch and learn."

Daniel mimed reaching into his pocket, only realising belatedly that he still didn't have a freaking wand on him (maybe it was in the stupid trunk?) and quickly improvised on the fly, conjuring a stick that would pass for a wand in a superficial inspection. Mentally wiping his forehead in relief he pulled it out. "Okay, whatcha gotta do for this one is find the brick that's got a smiley-face on it – and no, I'm not pulling this outta my ass… see, there it is! And then you just poke it with the tip of your wand."

He pushed it in, and unlike how the bricks had reformed into the entrance for Diagon, the wall emitted a blinding flash of light, making Harry, who hadn't known what to expect (and hadn't been told because Daniel was a bastard like that) quickly shield his eyes, a pained gasp escaping from him.

"Oh it's not that bad, you wuss." Daniel cajoled, smirking down at the frozen kid.

When Harry finally removed his hands from his face, he stared. "…Madame Puddifoot's?" He ask/stated, shooting an incredulous look at the pink, sparkling sign pronouncing their arrival in the shop, his masculine sensibilities rebelling at the heavily pink and frilly décor, not to mention the heavy perfume in the air.

Daniel shuddered and quickly started shepherding the young Potter to the door , swatting away a floating heart as he did so. "Don't ask. Just… don't. Stupid wizards…."

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"But… why did we come out in M-" the glare Daniel shot at Harry made the boy-hero re-think his use of the name, "M- a shop?" He finished.

Daniel rolled his eyes, "Wizard Logic. No, seriously. Hazza, have you ever seen wizards do the logical thing? Hell no! In every situation, they must take the stupidest path! I think that magic mucks with their brains. Of course I'm fine, cos' I'm just awesome like that, but you might wanna watch out for magic's immense propensity to erode away logical thinking over time. I think it also has something to do with the company you keep, though." Daniel added, looking pensive.

"That's it?" Harry asked sceptically, "But… why? Why do we have to go through walls just to get into a new street… and where is the street, because you've been leading me through this hallway for a while?"

Daniel shrugged, "The street's just outta this hall, so soon you'll get your first look. The wall thing? Meh, I think it has something to do with paranoid delusions – even if an 'enemy force' made it through the Leaky Caldron, which is the outer-most wall, or any of the other entrance points, for that matter, they'd still have to know where and how to get through the next and so on. Now, stop here and back up!"

Daniel shooed Harry back, and the thirteen-year-old hit the bright-red wall, revealing the roughly tyre-sized black dot that stood out starkly against the wooden flooring of the hall way that Harry had somehow completely missed the existence of.

"B-but that wasn't there before!" He protested.

Daniel shot a look at him, "Well of course it wasn't there before! You asking about how to get out brought it up, and me telling you about the exit finally let you see it. Now shut up for a second here and let me think."

Daniel paced a tight circle around the outside of the spot (a quite strange sight) and then tapped the middle of it with his shoe. "Okay, the door should be there now – come on."

"…?" Daniel, seeing Harry's reluctance and plain confusion, let out an exasperated sigh and grabbed him, steering him down and around the corner (that also hadn't been there before) and through the door.

As Harry stared in shock at the new street, Daniel flourished his hands and announced; "Welcome, to Vertic Alley, Third District! Keep your fingers away from the lamps, pants tucked into your shoes and your wand in a secure position at all times! Oh, and take a step to the left."

Daniel yanked Harry away and out of the path of the kid on a toy broom that was whizzing down the street.

"Umm… is it just me… or does this look like more than a street?" Harry asked, confused at the tidier shopfronts and more modern-looking shops, as well as the trees he could see further down one end.

"Huh?" Daniel asked absently, looking around for a certain shop that he felt they needed to make a priority out of.

"This… 'Vertic Alley' – it looks really big for a single street." Harry expanded, looking expectantly up at his pseudo-guardian.

"Well, that's 'cos it's more than just a street, kid! We're in the Third, duh – I just told you!" Daniel said, as if that was (or should be) completely comprehensible to the boy.

"The… Third?" Harry parroted, rather helplessly.

"Yeah, you know, the Third!" Daniel repeated, waving vaguely at the line of shop fronts.

"…But I thought this was Vertic Alley?" Daniel stared down at the mini-Saviour for a second in incomprehension, before it clicked.

"Oops." He chuckled and rubbed the back of his head sheepishly while dodging out of the way of another kid on a toy broom zooming past. "Heh, sorry Harry, I kinda forgot that it wouldn't be obvious to you – I guess I better explain it from the start, huh?"

"That would be helpful." The young Potter muttered under his breath, slightly glaring up at his self-appointed guardian.

"Okay okay! Don't get your wand in a knot! Hmm how should I… alright! So, you know Diagon alley, yes? Well, Diagon is part of the Fourth District – basically, you've got access to school supplies, novelties, more general wares, and then, of course, the more shady stores in Knockturn – but those are mostly the ones made readily available to all wizards that visit Britain – you pick up a book, and it'll direct you to the Leaky Cauldron to enter our British wizarding stores – foreign wizards won't get further than the Fourth unless they have friends in Britain to show them into the other Districts. Now, along with the Fourth, you've got the First, Second and Third – we're in the Third at the moment, and it specialises in more things – like say, medical supplies, better quality goods, furniture and the like, and all the stuff you can buy here will be better quality than what you can get on Diagon (but also generally more expensive) – you'll also find the weird second-hand stores here. The Second is also referred to as the 'Limos District', and I think that's because of a guy named Limos who managed to create the refractory colour-modifying ward that's still in operation today – and no, I won't explain that, you'll get it when you see what the District looks like. The Second contains a flee market, as well as shops focused mostly towards teen witches and wizards in one part, and then it also contains the night life – pubs, night clubs, but also restaurants and stuff of the much more 'legal' persuasion than you can find… somewhere I'm not gonna mention." Daniel shot a mostly playful shifty-eyed look at the slack-jawed Potter.

Harry looked like he was having trouble digesting all the information. "…I had no idea it was so… much." He muttered. "Why are there four districts though? Oh, and you didn't mention the First." He added.

Daniel sighed. "Why four? Eh, I couldn't tell ya. But you'll know when we move between the districts because you'll have to move a wall outta the way. The First? Well, that's mostly housing and apartments for wizards and witches that want to be in a community – you won't find any of the pure-blood supremacists there, so it's a nice place – there's also regular port-keys you can catch from there to tourist spots like the Zoo and stuff. It's also called 'Horizon Alley' because of the street running through it." He shrugged, scratching his brain to try and explain it all in a way that Harry could understand.

"Look, there's four of 'em, the outer-most being the Fourth and most easily accessible. Then, going by the numbers, you get through walls so that the First is in the middle – like a big onion, with layers I guess. Why all the districts and stuff? Eh, that's the paranoia. I think it's to protect from invading forces (or at least external ones, anyway) – the attacker will be at the least slowed down while passing the walls, and at the most stopped in their tracks because they can't find the entrance points to the next district. Housing and stuff is in the middle for that reason, too."

"…Okay." Harry said after a moment, having to adjust his view of what he had thought to be 'just' Diagon Alley drastically as he absorbed the new information.

"I just have one question." Harry said a moment later, and waited until Daniel was looking at him expectantly to ask.

"Why do I need to keep my pants tucked into my shoes?"

«±ΰ±»

"Oh no, I'm afraid I cannot fix his eyesight today."

Harry opened his mouth to protest, but the man shot him a look that had him closing it again. "The reason I will not fix them today is that it would mean a lot of pain on the young lad's part for very little reason at all. You see, his prescription will no doubt change as he ages, and if I fixed it so his eyesight was perfect now, he would just need glasses later still. Also, I never perform any permanent modifications on any subject before they have passes their age of majority." The man sniffed, looking as if even the thought of such an act mortally offended his very existence.

Harry's eyes were wide, but Daniel just raised a brow curiously, examining the shop and half-heartedly listening to the wizard's rant as he poked different sets of glasses that were displayed along the walls. "And why would that be?" He drawled disinterestedly.

The man's lips thinned into a scowl and he said, "Why, everybody knows not to attempt any kind of bodily modification until after the age of majority! It is when a wizard's magic reaches its full potential, and there is a high chance of it attacking any changes that came about unnaturally in the course of a wizard or witch's lifetime! Why, I believe some people have been driven into insanity upon discovering some… things rather left unknown that reverted after that! Also, if the person's magic cannot rectify the change… well, it doesn't bare thinking about!"

Harry's faced twisted into something strange as he imagined just what the wizard was hinting at, each scenario more twisted than the last. Daniel's bored voice broke him out of this rather unhealthy line of thought, "Yeah sure, no magic-fix, gottcha. Just fit him for glasses, would ya? Oh and put in a few perks, yeah?"

Harry hadn't expected that getting new glasses would be such a big deal. When he got his first glasses, his Aunt Petunia had just asked for the cheapest ones in the store and that had been that. This time, the shopkeeper seemed absolutely set on putting every single pair in the entire shop onto his face, no matter how horrible (there was a neon-pink pair that stood out starkly in his vividest nightmares when considering just what type his aunt may buy his if he ever managed to completely lose his glasses that didn't bare thinking about, really) and seemed really fixed on whether he should have square, rectangle, oval or circle frames, and then which colour… it took almost an hour for the man to finally stop and declare that this pair was perfect!

The glasses were unassuming, and if anything could be said about them it was that they complemented the young boy's appearance, instead of completely overshadowing his face as the old, bulky round and black ones had.

"These glasses come equipped with a heat sensor, zoom option and, and best of all, they'll point you to the closest source of alcohol when prompted." The shop keeper stated in complete seriousness, bustling off with them towards the counter and taking out his wand, waving it and doing something to the glass.

Harry frowned at the last option mentioned, and looked confusedly up at Daniel.

"Trust me, kid, you'll be grateful when you're older." Daniel muttered to Harry out of the corner of his mouth as he passed on his way to the counter, pulling a wallet out of his back pocket.

Harry watched disconnectedly as Daniel handed some galleons over to the man behind the counter, conversing in a low tone. Even though his world was blurry from the lack of glasses at the moment, Harry had a sneaking suspicion that the man who had made himself his temporary guardian was smirking. He felt like he had missed something, and it had something to do with the silent communication between the two adults, but was at a loss as to what. In his state of confusion, the thought of protesting the money Daniel was spending on him didn't even enter his mind.

Daniel returned from the counter and handed Harry his new glasses, "Come on kid, we've gotta hit a few more places today."

Harry eventually managed to get his wits about him enough to demand that they visit Gringotts so he could stop Daniel from spending money on him. It was strange, although not unpleasant to have an adult (in appearance if nothing else) taking an interest in his well-being, and throughout the week he eventually grew to appreciate the weirdness that was his life and its new addition with Daniel Bennett. The man actually forced him to get proper muggles clothes that fit, and took him to locations that, in his words, "all people just have to see". Before the end of the week, Harry had been coerced into going against the Minister of Magic's words and sneak into muggle London to visit famous landmarks that he'd never had the opportunity to see before like Big Ben and Trafalgar Square.

Harry couldn't help but be thankful that his week of freedom had been shaken up, and was truly happy with his first experience of being able to be 'Just Harry'. He was dreading when Daniel would discover (as was bound to happen eventually) that he was more than just Harry, he was Harry Potter… he didn't want to lose the man who was coming to feel like something of a big brother to him. Would Daniel be angry for the deception? Would he completely change his reactions to him? Would he want nothing more to do with him?

Harry hoped that Daniel would never find out… but school time was fast approaching, and for the first time ever he didn't want it to. When he went to Hogwarts, he'd never see Daniel again.

«±ΰ±»

Yes yes, finally an update. Eh, enjoy, and sorry 'bout the wait – the explanation is on my profile but I can't be stuffed to write it again here :). Oh, and any spelling mistakes and such just post em in and i'll do my best to change 'em - I typed this up really fast an haven't gotten a chance to re-read it.