In European folklore and folk belief, a changeling is the offspring of a fairy, troll, elf or other legendary creature that has been secretly left in exchange for a human child [infant]. The motivation for this conduct stems from the desire to have a human servant, the love of a human child, or from malice.

He had never been safe in that house.

And now, it seemed, his soul was in just as much danger as his life. The house was bad and the streets seemed to be joining it. Was there no safe haven left? Hogwarts had creatures, forests, and teachers that had been just as dangerous! His street had dementors, and his house... well, he had finally added up all of the clues tonight and he lived on Privet Drive. He knew that nobody else could have known that this house was just as unsafe, of course—he still didn't really want to believe it himself. But it was true and he knew he had to leave immediately, regardless of what Sirius and Arthur Weasley had written to him in their letters or what the Ministry would think.

Dementors, he had read in one of his books, only affected magical beings. If that were true, how had it affected his supposedly Muggle cousin? He doubted that Dudley was magical, so he searched through all his books, his mind working ahead of his hands, and soon, he thought he had come up with the answer.

He had never known his blood cousin.

It was sad that it had taken him this long to figure it out, but now, looking back, Harry had nothing but signs of it. Dudley's voracious appetite, his malicious temper, along with of the other unpleasant things Harry had always associated with the being. Jealousy and making sure nobody knew anything about magic...

"He has a book about faeries," Dudley said as they entered, Harry's eyes widening in surprise. He had won the spelling contest in school, winning with the word 'ambulance.' His teacher had said it was an advanced word for a second grader and had happily given him the prize, saying to make sure he kept the good work up.

"You what?! There's no such thing as magic!" His aunt riffled though his school bag until she grabbed the first place prize ribbon and the small fairy tale book. "Who did you cheat off of?!"

"I didn't cheat!" Harry protested. "I won!" He was sent to his cupboard, his aunt ripping the pages from the book and throwing them away, Dudley smirking at him. "Why did you tell her?" Harry demanded, glaring furiously at his cousin from the door to the cupboard.

"Because everything here is mine." Dudley's voice was menacing, and he suddenly punched Harry in the arm, Harry staring in shock at him--he could've sworn that for a moment Dudley had changed... "Don't think you can have anything here. It's all mine!"

Harry shut his eyes. The countless plates, the insults and temper tantrums, jealousy over anything involving Harry. Even a letter...

"Dad!" said Dudley suddenly. "Dad, Harry's got something!"

Harry was on the point of unfolding his letter, which was written on the same heavy parchment as the envelope, when it was jerked sharply out of his hand by Uncle Vernon.

"That's mine!" said Harry, trying to snatch it back. He risked a glance at his cousin, who just had a triumphant smirk on his face, and for a moment, Harry swore something about Dudley just changed, as he had thought quite a few times before, but it must have been a trick of the light. He glanced at his uncle, who had earned his attention once more by speaking.

"Who'd be writing to you?" sneered Uncle Vernon, shaking the letter open with one hand and glancing at it. His face went from red to green faster than a set of traffic lights. And it didn't stop there. Within seconds it was the grayish white of old porridge.

Harry remembered the tons of letters--it was how he learned about the Magical world, after all. But there were so many incidents where he had thought his cousin had transformed, where he had wondered why a boy who had gotten anything and everything he had ever wanted could be so mean and spiteful, why he hated magic so much when he knew nothing about it...

Add that to the fact that the dementors had affected him--and Harry's book had clearly stated that only those with magic in them, even if it was latent like a Squib's, could see and experience the effects of a dementor. Nobody else in the neighborhood except for the three of them had been affected. If that had been a wizarding neighborhood, everyone would have been.

It made sense, in a sickening way, and Harry only wished he had seen all of this before. What was he supposed to do now that he knew that the "Dudley" in Privet Drive was an imposter, fake—a changeling. Why was it even here? He didn't know, but he knew that he couldn't stay there. If his cousin could've been taken, then he could too. And judging from the way his friends were keeping things from him, it was time to return the favor. He had to go, run, like he had planned on doing two summers ago.

Harry James Potter, age fifteen, knew what he had to do. He had to leave, make sure that he couldn't be tracked. For all he knew, the changeling was working with Voldemort.

He looked at his trunk and sighed, thinking. He hadn't read or studied like that in a long time—not since before Hogwarts. He would have to pack lightly and leave. He would lie to his relatives—that wasn't difficult.

Except Dudley wouldn't be fooled. What if he was in league with Voldemort? The perfect spy, especially since Harry knew all too well that the people least expected could prove to be the ones that caused every plan to fall apart. Wormtail's role in his parents' deaths proved that much.

But panicking wouldn't help him in this situation. Harry shut his eyes and thought for a few moments. He had to leave the house, preferably unexpectedly. But the Ministry was able to track him. His letters tonight proved that, and so did the letter three years ago when Dobby had performed the hover charm.

Wait. No. Harry forced himself to remember—a few other students in his year had mentioned that they did magic at home. Hermione had, after all, and yet none of them ever got in trouble. The Ministry could track him, but how? All of his accidental magic before Hogwarts had never earned him a visit or letter, so maybe it was his wand?

He couldn't just get rid of his wand though. Voldemort was out there. So step number one was to get money, enough so that he could travel and not worry about it. He'd have to get wizard money and Muggle money—he still remembered when the Dursleys had left him in King's Cross. He hadn't even been able to buy a juice! He kept a decent amount on him at all times, but he knew that he was going to need more if he was on the run from both the Ministry and Voldemort. Harry knew he'd have to keep on his toes and evade them. One major way to do that was the Muggle world.

Fine. So step one was to get some more money. Then he had to find a spare wand. Harry doubted Ollivander would give him a spare wand though. But he was sure another place would help him—everyone said Knockturn Alley was the place for illegal trade and the like. He was positive there'd be a spare wand there.

Although he could imagine the headline: Harry Potter in Knockturn Alley! Harry repressed a groan. He was famous. The scar, his hair and his eyes would make him stand out. Not to mention his clothes and Hedwig...

He perked up suddenly and ran to his closet. Clothes that Dudley hadn't liked or grown out of were everywhere in it and Harry dug through until he found what he was looking for. A gray newsboy cap—his Aunt Petunia had bought it for Dudley because she thought it was cute, but he hadn't liked it. Harry put it on and looked at his reflection. Part of his scar was still visible. He went back to the closet and grinned, seeing a thin black t-shirt that was too large for him and blended in with his hair. He ripped it and tied it over the scar, making sure that the knot wasn't visible. It'd have to do for now; he could worry more about it later.

But his eyes and glasses, there wasn't much he could do about that really, was there? Harry sighed and wondered. He had seen an eyeglasses shop on Diagon Alley before. Maybe he could pay them a visit or--wait. He had an even better idea. His eyes widened in realization. A Muggle eye place had contacts, colored ones without prescription. Harry had enough Muggle money for that, he was sure of it. That and the hat should cover him if he used an alias, he was sure.

He was about to drift off to sleep when he sat awake again. An alias, but what? And what if the changeling suspected that he knew now? He had to go tonight. Fine. Harry kept the hat and makeshift bandana on and checked his money. He would risk the Knight Bus for now; tell them he wanted to go to London in the morning. He would sleep on there. And from there, he'd pick up the contacts, go to Diagon Alley and decide what to do from there.

But he needed an alias. Something he'd still respond to and be able to write without a problem, but what? His name was Harry James Potter. But Harry was sometimes a nickname though. One of his classmates in primary school had been named Harold but people had called him Harry. And Potter... he had always been behind a girl named Angela Porter in his primary school. Harold Porter--or for short, Harry Porter. It sounded enough like his name that he could use it, because he'd turn if someone used it, and he'd be able to write it without a problem—could just pass it off as sloppy handwriting if he wrote "Potter" instead of "Porter."

Good. Harry made sure he had his money and wand. He looked at Hedwig and asked worriedly, "You'll be able to find me?" At her reassuring hoot, Harry nodded and said, "Okay, but just stay hidden." Another hoot and an affection nip on his fingers when he opened the window, and then she was gone.

Harry watched her for a few seconds before he grabbed his invisibility cloak. He paused, thinking, and sighed. He had been about to just run off with nothing but the money and hat, but he knew that he'd have to keep a clear head and think ahead. He grabbed his backpack and thought for a few moments. The photo album with his parents' pictures, his pocket knife, the Marauder's Map, his sneakoscope... he looked around and smiled, seeing the small wooden flute Hagrid gave him a few years ago. Once that was in the bag, Harry went to his trunk and took out a few books that he thought would be useful--transfiguration, charms, potions... he put a few ingredients in his bag too, deciding to buy a new one or see if a charm could be done to make it larger on the inside. He took another look around the room and made sure his Gringotts key was secure and hidden on its chain around his neck.

Everything finished, Harry crept out of his room--the entire house was silent except for snores. Good. He left 4 Privet Drive, walked a few blocks away to the playground he had been at earlier and lit up his wand to summon the Knight Bus.

A second and a deafening BANG later, a gigantic pair of wheels and headlights screeched to a halt. The Knight Bus had come. The conductor in a purple uniform leapt out of the bus and began to speak. "Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. Just stick out your wand hand, step on board and we can take you anywhere you want to go. My name is Stan Shunpike, and I will be your conductor this evening."

Harry nodded and said, "I'm going to Muggle London, but I'd prefer to reach it in the morning, if that's all right?"

Stan nodded and said, "That'll be eleven Sickles, but for thirteen you get 'ot chocolate, and for fifteen you get an 'ot water bottle an' a toofbrush in the color of your choice."

Harry paid fifteen Sickles and was about to enter the bus when Stan said, "Oh wait, woss your name?"

"Harold Porter," Harry said, surprised at how easily the lie came to his lips. "But most people just call me Harry." That, at least, wasn't a lie.

Stan nodded and led the way. Just as Harry remembered, there were no seats; instead, half a dozen brass bedsteads stood beside the curtained windows. Candles were burning in brackets beside each bed, illuminating the wood-paneled walls. A tiny witch in a nightcap at the rear of the bus muttered, "Thirty Sickles a pound... outrageous it is..." and rolled over in her sleep.

"You 'ave this one," Stan whispered indicating the bed right behind the driver, who was sitting in an armchair in front of the steering wheel. "This is our driver, Ernie Prang. This is Harry, Ern. "

Ernie Prang, an elderly wizard wearing very thick glasses, nodded to Harry, who smiled back, placed his bag under his bed and said, "Well, good night."

"Night," both of them said. Harry, being exhausted at this point, didn't bother to take off his hat or glasses as he finally went to sleep.

It seemed like only a moment later when he was shaken awake by Stan. Harry yawned and looked up at him. "Whereabouts in Muggle London?"

Harry thought a moment and said, "King's Cross." It was a major stop and Harry knew that anywhere he had to travel would be easy to reach from there.

"'Ere you go."

Harry took his bag out from under the bed, nodded to the two of them and said, "Thanks." With that, he stepped off the Knight Bus and smiled--no Cornelius Fudge, no Albus Dumbledore... nobody was around this time. He quickly entered King's Cross station, hoping he could find a map or something similar. He was relatively sure he had enough for a pair of contacts.

He entered the bustling train station, somehow still managing to be awed by so many people coming and going, each of them with their own agendas, their own lives. It was amazing. He found an information desk and shyly walked up to it

"Hello," the man behind the desk said, giving Harry a smile. "Need help with anything?"

"Yes, I'm looking for an eye doctor," Harry admitted, wondering if the man was just going to give him an odd look.

"Oh, it's just around the bend there." The man indicated a corner, "Can't miss it. Anything else?"

"There's one… inside the station?" Harry asked, a bit surprised by that knowledge.

The man chuckled, "Well, you have to remember, this is a rather large station."

"That's true," Harry said, smiling. "Well, thank you." He walked off in the direction the man had pointed at and soon found himself at the optometrist's office. Luckily, it was empty, and a woman behind the counter in a lab coat looked up.

"Hello. Walk-in?"

"Y-Yes, if that's okay," Harry stammered.

"Not a problem. I'm Dr. Lisa Daniels. First thing we're going to do is make a file for you---your parents didn't come?" She looked around, a bit thrown off.

Harry had experience with situations like this, though, growing up, and he knew the best way around it. "My aunt took my cousin somewhere else, said I was old enough to be able to do this on my own."

Lisa made a disapproving face and sighed, "All right. Your name?"

"Harold Porter," Harry said, watching as she wrote it down.

"Date of Birth?"

"July 31st, 1980."

"Do you know your former prescription?" Lisa inquired, peering at his glasses. When Harry shook his head, she said, "Well, when was the last time you had a proper eye exam?"

"I don't remember," Harry admitted. "My aunt brought me a few years ago to a small place in Surrey for these, but I've used the same ones for years."

"I thought as much," Lisa said, looking at the thick frames and Harry looked at his feet, trying hard not to blush. "Well, come on then. Let's get your eyes examined."

Harry was sitting in the chair, and he had been sure the last time he had been to get glasses, it had taken a lot longer than this. "Well, this is easy… and it looks as if it's thinner than the ones you're wearing. I think that your eyes have gotten a little better."

"Really?" Harry perked up, glad for that.

"In fact, I think we may have this one here…" Lisa went to the back and a few moments later came out, "Yes. Okay Harold, now you have a few choices—we have a special deal going on with our glasses, but I think the best for you would be our 2 for 1 offer for £60."

"Oh, well, okay," Harry said, surprised and walking to a shelf. "Are these included?" When she nodded, it took a bit, but he found two frames that were similar and that he liked. "These please."

"Not a problem. Anything else?"

Harry nodded, "I was interested in buying some contacts—colored ones."

"You have lovely eyes," Lisa said quietly, looking at Harry's emerald green eyes, "but if you say so…" She showed him a poster with all of the options, and soon Harry settled for a bright blue color. Lisa smiled at him and after showing the prices, Harry decided to buy the six month supply. He glanced at his Muggle money—he had enough for the glasses and the contacts, with some left over, but he knew that he would have to go to Gringotts soon. "Anything else?"

"I was wondering if you had non-prescription versions of these."

Lisa blinked and shrugged, "Yes. It's not as much though, so you shouldn't have to worry." She smiled at the relief on his face and said, "£20 for the glasses, £15 for contacts."

He had enough. "Okay, those too, please." He really had to watch it now though…

"Okay. It should be two or three hours…" She looked around the shop and back at Harry, "You can come back later, if you want them today, or tomorrow."

"I'll be back later today," Harry said, giving her a smile as he left the shop and looked at the large clock on the wall that displayed the departure and arrival times for the trains. Well, he had quite a bit of time to kill. What next? He didn't have a lot of money…

His hair, of course… Harry mentally whapped himself and walked back to the information desk. The man from earlier was still there, and he gave Harry a smile, "Hey, back again?"

Harry nodded, "Yes. I was wondering if there was a barber shop near here."

"Right across the street from the main entrance—can't miss it." The man pointed once more.

"Thank you," Harry said, going where the man had indicated and he repressed a groan—it wasn't a barber shop! It was a beauty salon! He sighed and mentally decided to just get it over and done with. Besides, they couldn't be any worse than his Aunt Petunia's haircuts. Mentally shuddering, Harry walked across the street, taking off his headband as he did so, and into the salon.

Everyone in the shop looked at him for a second or two before returning to whatever they had been doing previously. Harry was a bit surprised that there were so many people there, but he wisely remained silent.

"Hello there," a woman said, smiling at him from one of the chairs the customers sat in. "Waiting for someone?"

"Er, no… I was wondering if… if I could get a hair cut," Harry managed.

She gave him a smile and said, "Well, sure, a trim is no problem, but you have such nice hair, it'd be a shame to just chop it all off. How about I give you the special treatment for £25?"

The teen repressed a sigh and just shrugged. He could always get it chopped off if he didn't like it.

"Okay, come on then…"

It took some time—the lady washed his hair, trimmed it, put something else in it… Harry made himself sit still as she put the stuff on his eyebrows too.

He didn't know if she was working or just playing with his hair at some points, as she took out the hair dryer and gels and other things. Finally, though, she told Harry he was finished. He took a look in the mirror and blinked in surprise.

His hair was golden blond with windswept spikes in the front while the back was more smooth and flakey. He blinked at few times and looked at himself. His hair looked nothing like what he was used to, and he knew his sweatband would cover the scar. "It's great!"

"Was there any doubt?" The woman smiled as Harry paid her the £25 and a little extra for tip, and he left happily, putting on his sweatband outside--it was summer and he was wandering around, so Harry was pretty sure it wasn't drawing attention, but he knew that he was going to need another solution soon. The man behind the desk had known what he was doing when he had sent Harry to the salon after all.

Now a bit hungry, Harry bought lunch and returned to the optometrist's office, reading quietly as he ate his sandwich and drank his juice. He threw away his trash and returned to reading quietly until Lisa was finished. After a few lessons on proper contact lenses care and putting them on, Harry glanced at his reflection.

Wow. He would leave King's Cross Station this afternoon looking nothing like he had this morning. He paid for the pairs of glasses and his contacts and left Lisa's shop, walking through the huge train station before stopping in front of a large map with the Underground stops and some "places of interest."

Harry thought for a few moments as he stared at the map--how would he reach Diagon Alley from here? The Leaky Cauldron was on Charing Cross Road, he knew that much. He looked at the ceiling, thinking a bit, and suddenly perked up, remembering some of the different conversations and remarks people had made the few times he had been on Diagon Alley or in the Leaky Cauldron. There had been mention of a Square before, something with an L… Lei... Harry looked at the map once more and grinned broadly—that was it! Leicester Square was close to the Leaky Cauldron, and there was a stop on the map. He could take the Underground to Leicester Square and walk from there, he was sure of it! He glanced at the clock, surprised that it wasn't too late in the day, and found the train that would stop at Leicester Square.

A short train ride later, Harry got off at the station and looked around, trying to get his bearings, when he heard rather loud arguing coming from a nearby park--a nice park. It had benches and a fountain and a group of people near his age. Harry chuckled; they were the source of the rather loud arguing.

"You can't have a fair game if it's three on two!" A girl shouted

"Well, Cal bailed, what do you want me to do?!" A tall guy snapped back.

Harry could see people giving them strange looks, and he was inclined to as well--they seemed like a gang of sorts, all having the same odd gray fish somewhere on their clothes. Harry was going to walk by when a younger kid in the group noticed him, "Hey!"

Harry looked around and pointed at himself. The kid nodded and said, "You play?"

"Um... er... play what exactly?"

The group gaped at him as if he had two heads and all of them simultaneously exclaimed, "Football!"

"Oh. Um..." Harry looked at them and shook his head, "Sorry. I've got to go--"

"Oh come on, just fill in til Cal gets--that son of a bi--!"

"Nick!" the girl hissed, until she turned. Harry, confused, turned with the rest of the group to see another group there--it seemed as if they had an insect of sorts on their clothes. "Cal... you left us to hang with the Mantises?"

"Well, I did move," a boy that reminded Harry instantly of Ron--Cal--said. "It only makes sense. C'mon guys."

"You bast--"


"But he--ARGH!" The older boy, Nick, glared at the group leaving.

"Have fun practicing for the game this weekend," Cal said as those with him laughed. "Hope your new guy's half as good as me." With that they walked away, leaving Harry confused.

"Huh? New guy?" Harry looked at the group with him and said, "I'm not a fish--"

"Sharks," Nick corrected tiredly. "We're the Sharks. I'm Nick--" which was interrupted by the rest of the group chorusing 'the Brick!' as Nick continued as if they hadn't spoken, "that's Grace," the girl who had yelled at Nick constantly gave Harry a grin while everyone chorused 'Amazing Grace!' and earned a mock-glare from her as Nick continued, "that's Blades, that's Jinx , and that's Harry." He indicated the kid that had beckoned Harry over. "And you are?"

"Harold, but everyone calls me Harry," Harry explained with an amused look.

"Oh, this is going to be weird," the other Harry said.

Nick laughed, "No it's not, Tweak."

"I don't twitch anymore!" the kid exclaimed hotly, making the others laugh. "Anyway... would you mind playing Keeper while we practice? Please?" He asked Harry this, the others all looking at him hopefully.

Harry imagined trying to have Quidditch practice without a Keeper, or missing a player. It wouldn't be as effective, he knew that much, so he nodded, "Just for a little bit, though. I have some errands to run and they're really important."

"An hour, two tops," Nick said, shaking Harry's hand. "Who knows, we might be able to find a way to separate you and Tweak." At the kid's glare, everyone chuckled and Harry took the place between two trees that the group had decided would be the goal. He was on a team with Grace and Blades, both who grinned at him and said to 'make sure they won.'

It was a lot harder than Quidditch--more physical movement--but Harry's Seeker skills and build helped him. He was fast to notice changes in the game, moved fast enough to catch the ball and throw it back in, impressing his teammates and annoying the opposing team. And, to Harry's great surprise, he was not only enjoying himself, but he was good at this.

Eventually, the two hours passed, everyone panting heavily. "C'mon," Nick said, leading the way to a vendor and buying everyone some lemonade. "This is only because we've got someone new that's going to kick arse on Saturday and you guys got lucky and won. Don't get used to this."

Everyone laughed, Harry sipping the lemonade--good, sweet, and cold. Delicious.

Tweak slowly grinned, "I think I know a nickname for him too."


"Did you see how fast he moved?! He was like lightning!"

The others nodded as one, and Jinx said slowly, "Yeah, he does. Lightning..."

"But that's too long," Blades said softly, Harry having a feeling that his control of the situation was long gone.

Grace looked at him and back at Nick, "How about Light instead, then?"

"Is that all right with you?" Nick asked Harry.

"That's fine," Harry said, blinking. This was new--a group of people that didn't know anything about him except the fact that he was decent at something, and accepting him for it. "I'll see you guys later." He realized that surprisingly, he meant it--he really wouldn't mind seeing the Sharks again.

"Later!" The group went back to talking and relaxing, drinking their lemonade and just having fun. Harry wished he was able to stay with them, but he was sure he'd have other chances. That thought cheering him, he finally left the park and, after a few minutes of walking, reached the Leaky Cauldron.

He walked through, tapping the bricks in the back with his wand, and quickly made his way to Gringotts. After a ride to the vault, where Harry grabbed a bunch of money, they returned to the main floor, where Harry got half of what he took converted into Muggle money, surprised at the exchange rate. Apparently, magical money was worth a lot more than Muggle money... he pushed the thought aside and walked through Diagon Alley. No place seemed to sell spare wands, and Harry sighed, knowing he'd have to go to Knockturn Alley after all.

He made his way to the dark, twisting alleyway devoted to the Dark Arts, swallowing hard as he walked through, nervous. Finally, he saw a sign that made him do a double take and mentally sigh. Caligosto's Wand Shoppe. Well, he knew that he would probably end up coming to Knockturn Alley.

Better the devil he knew than dealing with a being he knew nothing about. Not for the first time, Harry wondered about what had happened to his real cousin before pushing the thoughts about the changeling and his family away. That wouldn't help him right now. Right now, he had to get another wand. Mentally steeling himself for a scary experience, Harry entered the shop and looked around, a bit surprised.

This place, Caligosto's, was nothing like what Harry was expecting. He was used to Ollivander's--a narrow and shabby little shop lined floor to ceiling with thousands of narrow boxes. This shop looked more like the optometrist place he just left--tidy, with a few wand-making items obvious in the boxes and shelves. It was neat with a few chairs for customers.

"Just a moment!" a voice called from the back. Harry took a seat and a few moments later, an older woman appeared. She reminded him instantly of Mrs. Weasley, except a bit shorter and with more white hair. Harry felt immediately at ease around her. "Hello there, young man." She gave Harry a warm grin and continued, "Do you need your wand repaired?"

"Oh no, ma'am, I need a wand," Harry said.

She clicked her tongue, "Another late bloomer, then? Not a problem. Let's just head to the back room--don't want anyone walking in while we're trying to sync a perfect core for you." She led the way to a room that reminded Harry of the eye exam room, only without the machines, but with posters and pictures of different magical places and explanations of core ingrediants. Harry placed his bag down and looked at the woman, who gave him a smile, "Just a few basic things, okay? Can you stretch out your wand arm, dear? It's usually the hand you write with."

Harry was about to stick up his right arm when he thought of something that would definitely make people think he wasn't the same person. He stuck out his left arm instead, mentally vowing to become just as capable with it. He knew that meant a lot of practice, but he was sure he'd find the time to do it.

She measured Harry's arm and made a few "Hmmm" noises, and finally smiled. "Well, you're going to be fun to make. I haven't had a challenge in a good while. Take this." She gave Harry a small little thing that looked like a metal business card. "It'll vibrate when your wand's finished. No need for you to stay here bored. Go finish your shopping."

"T-Thank you, ma'am."

"Oh posh. Call me Gwen." She gave him a smile and walked into another room while Harry saw himself out. He looked around Knockturn Alley and lowered his hat a bit before deciding to look around a bit. He walked around, a bit surprised--it was a lot like Diagon Alley, surprisingly, but unlike Diagon Alley, Knockturn Alley was surrounded by buildings, which made the alley a lot darker than Diagon Alley. That might explain the name, though... it sounded like a play on the word "nocturnally." The teen mentally shrugged and looked around and decided to take Gwen's advice and shop.

He bought a new schoolbag--he found one that was advertised as a "high capacity pack, the dream bag that will never fill up, and will stay lightweight: guaranteed! Lifetime warranty included!" That sounded perfect for his needs. He also bought a few magical sweatbands that were far thinner than the t-shirt bandanna around his head and better suited for his needs, since they were designed to let the skin breathe and blend in with the user so that it wouldn't stand out in a game--which mean no worrying about the color, which made Harry very relieved. He put one on immediately and smiled--it really did blend in perfectly. Magic really did have its uses, he knew that much.

Next, Harry bought a few outfits at the second-hand shop--it had a decent selection of Muggle clothes as well as robes that seemed in very good shape. Some of them were in better shape than some of Ron's robes and Harry was pretty sure these prices were cheaper than any of the shops in Diagon Alley. Why didn't the Weasleys shop here instead? He bought a few books as well and placed them into his bag.

Well, his was still wasn't finished, and he had bought his clothes, so Harry decided he would leave wearing one of his new outfits. He told the clerk what he wanted to do, and the shopkeeper was fine with it. Harry entered the fitting room and when he was finished, he stared at himself in the mirror, surprised. Staring back at him was... well, it wasn't Harry Potter, he knew that much.

His reflection was that of a slim young man with bright blue eyes, golden blond hair with windswept spikes in the front where the back was more smooth and flakey, dressed in a black, high-collared shirt, light khaki pants and black sneakers... which was nothing like what Harry Potter looked like.

The salesperson nodded his approval of Harry's new outfit as the teen left the store. Harry smiled, glad about the new things, and jumped, startled, when the card--the one that let him know his wand was finished--activated. Harry quickly returned to Caligosto's.

"Here you are dear," Gwen said when she saw him, taking the metal card from him and gently pushing the box with his wand towards him. "I'll admit, it took a bit, but I managed." She looked around and looked at him, "You seem destined for great things."

Harry stared at her in disbelief--her too? Ollivander had said something similar, and Harry knew just from looking at the new wand that it wasn't his old one. How could both wand makers say the same thing with two completely different things?

She chuckled, "Don't worry. It's just these ingredients... anyway, to let you know, your wand is thirteen inches long, it's made of birch wood and its core is a runespoor's fang." At the look of confusion, Gwen elaborated, "It's rare. I've only seen it with those who deal with Dark Magic--like an Auror. I've never seen it used for evil, just against it."

Harry took his wand from its box and just looked at it for a few seconds. It was sleek, fine-grained, pale in color, and seemed to have an attractive sheen all its own without him even polishing it. He looked at Gwen and said softly, "Thank you."

"Oh posh. You're going to do amazing things, young man, just watch. Anyway, that'll be sixteen galleons--oh, don't forget this either. It comes with the wand." Gwen handed him a wand-polishing kit. "Reminds people to care for it, I think."

Harry paid her without a problem and smiled at the kit, putting it in his bag. He remembered his embarrassment at the Weighing of the Wands last year--he was relieved he wouldn't have to relieve that again. "Thank you. I'll be back for refills."

"Well then, I'll be seeing you, dearie." With that, she returned to the back while Harry left the shop.

He finished up his last bit of shopping, deciding to pick up two more caps he had seen in the shop and blinked as Hedwig flew into the shop and landed on his shoulder. "Oh, that's right... I've got to get rid of my old wand..." He sighed. "Thanks girl." He took his wand from its sheath, looked at it a moment and knew one day he'd take it back. He patted Hedwig gently, and she gave him an affectionate nip on his finger before taking his old holly wand and flying out of the shop. Harry sighed, put his birch wand where his holly wand had been, paid for his two hats and left Knockturn Alley.

He passed through Diagon Alley and paused a moment in the Leaky Cauldron--the Weasleys and Hermione were here awfully early to be shopping for school supplies. He quietly bought a few bottles of pumpkin juice. Harry was thanking Tom as Arthur came up to the counter. Arthur gave Harry a brief glance and turned to the bartender, while Tom wrapped up the pumpkin juice for Harry so that they wouldn't break in his bag

"Tom, I'm sorry to bother you, but has Harry Potter checked in at all?"

The elderly bartender shook his head, "A few Aurors asked earlier. I showed them the guest registry too. I'm sorry Arthur. If he comes by, I'll let you know."

"Thank you." Arthur turned and walked back to his family, Harry sharing a look with Tom and shrugging before putting the bottles in his bag and leaving the Leaky Cauldron, surprised. He had managed to fool the Weasleys? But he hadn't even thought his disguise was much of a difference! Changing his hair and eyes, covering the scar and wearing some new clothes had managed to fool everyone? It was a bit surprising.

He looked around. It was late afternoon, early evening. His shopping hadn't taken long at all.

The teenager sighed. He couldn't stay with his family--not as long as the changeling was there--or his friends--they were busy and in enough danger from Voldemort without adding a changeling to the risks too--but he couldn't just stand around. He was pretty sure he had been running away from the one question he had wanted to ask for some time now: What was going to happen now? Harry wished someone could just tell him that, because nothing else really mattered anymore. He looked wistfully back into the Leaky Cauldron at the Weasleys and Hermione talking. They were lucky. They had the rest of summer to relax, adults to look out for them.

"Ron, Hermione," he said softly, knowing they couldn't hear him, "I wish I were normal like you." With that, Harry turned and walked into Muggle London, not knowing where he was going, but knowing he couldn't stay here.