7a/7b is the single most self-indulgent section of this story, 7b is imminent, and the 7a cliffhangeroid is basically a fake so I can fulfill a promise to get this out by 8/31.
—Ed.


A Merlyon, a Brid had hente,
and in hire foot heo gan hit bringe;
hit couthe not speke, but thus hit mente:
how Merci passeth alle thinge.
Merci was in that Briddes muynde,
but thereof knew the Hauk non,
for in hire foot heo gan hit bynde,
and heold hit stille as eny ston;
heo dude after the cours of kynde
and flew in-to a treo anon.
Thorw kuynde the Brid gan Merci fynde,
for on the morwe heo let hit gon.
Ful still I stod my-self al-on,
to herken hou that Brid gan synge:
awey wol wende bothe Murthe and moon,
and Merci passeth alle thinge.
— Unknown.

Lo, quod he, caste up thyne eye,
Se yonder, lo, the Galaxye...
— Chaucer.

Syne come down throw the spere of Saturn ald,
Quhilk fader is of all the sternis cald.
— Henryson.

#

Westward Ho! (7a: Around Kirkus Square).

Nicolas Flamel riffled through the contents of Tom Riddle's box, but not in any purposeful way. "I'm not really sure there's more to be said, really. There's more data — all manner of interesting bits and bobs in the Wizengamot report, especially the parts that were, I mean are, sealed, but there is no grand sweeping statement to be wrung out of it, unless it's that sometimes, everything that can go wrong, does go wrong."

The Tutor said, "I have a prefect who'd say the sealed parts are the bits where the Ministry went wrong."

"He'd be nearly right," said Pear, while Flamel put back all the items he'd removed from the box. "Committee of wizards or school board, the one thing politicians really can't tolerate is embarrassment. Not that they precisely mishandled Voldemort — and he was Voldemort by then — but that he exposed their failings. He had a knack for signing up allies. He'd talk to people that wouldn't touch the Ministry, people the Ministry wouldn't touch — giants, centaurs; ogres — and if you make an impossible alliance, clearly it wasn't actually impossible to begin with, so why is the wizarding world at at odds with so many magical communities? That's what they sealed up — Voldemort proving that a lot of people who supposedly understand only force are actually open to negotiation."

"If such an one was to come from God, and not the Devil, what a force for good might he not be in this old world of ours," quoted Nicolas Flamel. "Bram Stoker. He talked to vampires, too. Not Stoker, Voldemort. Also werewolves."

"Werewolves talked to vampires?" said the Tutor.

"Funny boy," said Flamel. "Would you like to take this with you?" he added, setting the lid of the box in place. "It's doing me no good, perhaps you can squeeze some insight out of it with that youthful brain of yours."

"Do you think that's a good idea?" said the Tutor. "I mean, bit surprised you've even told me as much as you have — like I said to Professor Dumbledore, some people think I might have Voldemort shrapnel in my head."

Flamel drew his yew wand and pressed it down on the lid, causing the box to shrink to the size of an individually packaged jelly bean. "If you do, it's presently inert — not only did you find me, you walked under the horseshoe above my door without reacting like you'd been clouted with Galahad's three-wood. I rather expect your being here is part of a plan — Dumbledore quietly nudging you to seek me out, against the possibility that you might be under the influence of such a thing. I wish he'd bothered to tell me about it — but I suppose he was counting on my surprise at seeing you.

He tugged the handle-holes to demonstrate the box's resizeability before turning it over to him. "Pully-squeezy," he said. "Now, let us downstairs so I can tell you even more distressing things. A sofa of reasonable comfort is much preferable to a hard lab chair for sad business..."

.
.*.

After they rattled back down the stairs, Flamel make a short detour to kitchen to pick up some Instant-Icing Straws for their now warm butterbeers. When inserted, frost appeared instantly on the outside of the bottles but the straw didn't get any warmer, which said everything about the wizarding world that the Tutor really wanted to know.

It wasn't technically possible to quaff through a straw, but the Tutor gave it his best shot, and when he was done he asked, "So what was the unpleasant part of Voldemorrrrrrrt not coming back? — Sorry."

"I knew there was a reason I never serve butterbeer at formal occasions," said Flamel, and patted his mouth with a napkin. "The unpleasant part...

"...well, brilliance and stupidity often walk hand in hand."

There was a tiny pause while Flamel and Pear traded a glance that meant there was a joke that usually went along with that phrase, but they weren't going to to do it under the circumstances. "—Especially," continued Flamel, "once you've started blocking yourself off from your doubts, becoming a creature of mere calculation rather than thought. What if, having performed his world-binding, he found it to be a sort of Protego Ultima, rendering him impervious to all ordinary attacks, and so never gave any thought to the edge cases of regeneration, such as, well, being vapourised?

"Rendered an atomic soul, unable to reoccupy his body because he didn't have one, unable even to form a ghost because ghosts derive their shapes from the form of their bodies at death and his was wholly inchoate , unable to do anything but suffer unbuffered reality until the end of the universe...and then what? Last in the queue for Judgement Day? God will be quite irate at having been made to wait so long, I should think..."

Pear gave her husband a pained look.

Well, Harry, there's something worse than being Vanished to oblivion, the Tutor said silently. He bound himself to the world, he haunts the world — and yet not as a revenant, he never left so he can't come back — less than a ghost, not a nightmare because he's just as not-quite-there in broad daylight — something that fits in the crack between, or some weird hybrid of the two...call him a rêvenéant.

{ You call him that, I can't pronounce it. }

"Now," said Flamel, and leaned over to take up his bubble-pipe from the table. "Do you remember me saying that twenty-one years of mucking about with alchemy was almost a complete waste of time, except for the people I met along the way?"

"Yes."

"While I was trying to decipher some gibberish in that alchemical book I bought, I travelled with a man whose religion featured six hundred and thirteen unbreakable commandments — and the obligation to break pretty much every last one of them at once in order to save a life. He died. I couldn't do anything. In retrospect, that was when I embarked on becoming a doctor. Meeting Dumbledore...made me wonder whether it's possible to be enough of a doctor.

"Well, it must have been ninety years ago or so, back when we were — never mind, where doesn't matter — but imagine our surprise when a boy shows up on our doorstep, knows exactly who we are, making very anxious inquiries about the Philosopher's Stone.

"Desperate, in fact. And if you think that should have stopped him getting to me..." Flamel's pipe had just ejected a pink bubble of unusual size; he watched it float across the room until it exploded in pink sparks. "Albus thinks my notion of a stone-seeker was a person who wanted the stone, wanted it for his own sake — and he didn't fit either of those descriptions even then.

"I couldn't help him, of course. I couldn't help him, I couldn't help anyone. I told him what I told you, about how I made my stone through pure happenstance.

"And when I managed to gabble it all out...he looked at me, I've never seen a look so intensely focused, and he said: Why not cast a Patronus into the workings?"

Since Harry didn't know what a Patronus was, the Tutor said "A what?"

Flamel pointed the stem of his pipe at Pear.

"Broadly speaking," said Pear, who'd been writing the dictionary on such things, "a Patronus is a beneficent phantasm evoked by focusing with coherent intensity on a happy memory. It may manifest as a spirit animal, and is useful for various purposes including defence against Dark forces."

"What she said," said Flamel. "Although the manifestation may be only a matter of psychology — the beginner may get only a happy cloud of ecstatic electricity — St Elmo's fire sort of thing, as you may have read in The Tempest, although the more puissant wizard could get the fully formed Ariana. —Ariel, excuse me.

"The upshot being, late onset magic aside, if the driving force behind the creation of my stone was fundamentally, for lack of a better word, love, why not try love's sibling? Deine Zauber binden wieder was der Mode Schwerd geteilt, as Schiller wrote.

"So we tried it. I tell a lie. He tried it. The boy replicated my entire laboratory setup, took it from my memories as though it were a blueprint in my shirt pocket and Transfigured it into existence out of our dinnerware and a couple of empty wine bottles about as quickly as I said it.

"Heaven only knows how he managed to summon up a joyful memory at a moment like that, but he did, and must have been a damn good memory, because — he created a stone." He contemplated his pipe. "Not so fiery as mine...not quite so — useful. A good idea, though. He presented it at a conference, got a gold medal for it ironically enough. He just never admitted that he'd succeeded. Several people have gotten some, well, Rhine stones I suppose you could call them.

"Those gold spectacles of his, does he still wear them? He doesn't really need them, not any more. They used to have silver rims. He's certainly escaped with scars things that should have taken off his limbs...and I gather he took a day off when he came down with dragon pox..."

The Tutor didn't really want to ask, but did anyway, just to interrupt the emergent ticking of the clock. "But did it...help?"

Nicolas Flamel regarded the wall for a few moments. "It provided," he said, "a mercy.

"There's never enough mercy.

"And mercy is never enough."

.
.*.

There was a rattle at the flaps of the brass-railed balcony mounted in the back wall.

"The raven wheeled round, swart and dusky!" said Flamel — but it wasn't Bruce. What stuck itself between the flaps was more of a matronly snowball with a beak.

"Hedwig!" said Harry (to the Tutor's surprise).

And indeed it was, so the Tutor got up and went over to see what she'd brought.

"Waaugh," said Bruce, poking his head in after her. She gave him an imperious look, and he turned his head upside-down at her, and then his whole body, and fell over. She did not care to notice, instead presenting her little carrier bag.

"Your owl? Looking for you, not me," said Flamel, setting down the pipe. "Interesting loophole. Maybe I can get mail normally. I should try subscribing to magazines under the name of Mr Poofles. He never gets any mail..."

"What about me?" said Pear.

"Well, you can subscribe under his name too, he won't mind." Flamel picked up the peach and lazily tossed it from hand to hand while wearing a grin au fromage.

Hedwig's pouch contained Harry's Owl Postal Order and, unsurprisingly, a flier from Samakkhi Chumnum. "Oh, excellent!" said the Tutor. "Christmas shopping is a go. Mind if I give her a cracker?"

"Knock yourself out," said Flamel, setting the peach down again. "Shopping! Kirkus Square, nearly forgot. After I get you that lunch I should pick up some things, turn this peach into a pie — we should leave immediately."

"Brown sherry," said Pear and Flamel simultaneously.

"Can you make a pie from one peach?" asked the Tutor.

"James Harry Potter," said Flamel severely, drawing his yew wand and prodding the peach on the table until it was five times its original size, "turning one peach into a whole pie is what magic is for. Now come along, come along!"

"Want to come with?" the Tutor asked Hedwig, who regally indicated she had her own plans for the day — and after quietly checking the mass of the peach the Tutor followed after Nicolas Flamel.

"Have fun, children," said Pear.

.
.*.

Flamel opened his closet door. Hanging on its back in a transparent suit bag was a set of wizarding clothes: red and yellow striped pants, purple coat with yellow vest and a white-collared red shirt under it, topped off with a swirly-patterned red scarf that had taken a course in cravatting.

"There was a matching hat, but the stars disappeared," said Flamel, noticing the Tutor's interest. "What do you think? Too garish, or not garish enough? I wear it when I visit Diagon Alley, no point in being conspicuous."

The Tutor considered it carefully. "The coat's a bit monochrome. Have you considered patchwork?"

Flamel shrugged out of his white lab coat. "I saw a chap wearing a coat of that description in a pub not too long ago," he said, swapping the coat for a jacket in the battered blackish-brown leather vein — dragon-shed, judging by the scales. "I was going to ask for his tailor, but he was being surly at a glass of carrot juice so I didn't. Now let me see..."

He rummaged around on the shelf mounted over the clothing rod, and handed the Tutor a little black bag. "I've got a Masamune scalpel in there," he said conversationally. "Passes harmlessly through living flesh as though it were fog, cuts only what you want it to. Pity those who live without magic, Harry."

He returned to his searching, and with a hollow ceramic rattle took down a blue sugar bowl — empty.

"How can we be out of floo powder?" he said. "We never use any!"

"We never use any so you never buy any, dear," called Pear.

"I'd go into London and buy some Floo powder, if I had any Floo powder," said Nicolas Flamel, drumming his fingers on the jar. "How very annoying. Side-along Apparation will put you off your lunch and your breakfast all over my shoes — there's never a Portkey around when you need one — I suppose we could take the..."

He stopped.

"Oh," he said, and then "Ah," and it was the kind of Ah spelled with a silent "Eurek".

"What?" said the Tutor.

Nicolas Flamel took him by the arm and steered him to the door. "It's a lovely day: we'll drive."

"Drive? From here to London? There isn't time," said the Tutor.

"Oh, I think there just may be after all," said the threshold-crossing philosopher enigmatically, and then "Brown sherry!" just before Pear did.

#

After they'd leaped over the side doors and had buckled themselves in, Flamel clapped his hands together and waved his index finger in an instructive manner. "The Ministry of Magic gets very cranky over the enchantment of Muggle artefacts, for various reasons, one of which is that it's a process that, once started, may continue on its own.

"I bought this car new from Caradoc's Drake-Chevalier, and I can honestly say no one's ever laid a spell on it to my knowledge, but — I have been a shameful influence on her. Went on a two-day to Holland and left my wand in the glove box overnight."

"Is that where the wind-down hard top came from?" said the Tutor.

"That and a few other things," said Flamel. The Tutor followed the philosopher's pointing finger to a plastic block with two knobs, fourteen push-buttons and an analogue frequency display. "Magic transistor radio?" he said.

Flamel poked the seventh radio push-button, which was labelled at right angles with the word CRUISING in red Dymo tape. "Well, yes. Started out with only seven buttons, this radio, sprouted the rest on its own. Picks up Radio Tokyo now, plus wizard wireless. But next to it. That button was fresh this morning."

To the right of the radio was another button, a big violet round one. A brass plate under it read Watling Street.

Flamel supplied key to ignition and switched on the engine. The radio aerial rose."And Watling Street," he added as he backed out of the driveway, "is the ancient path to Londinium. Care to give it a push?"

[The speaker in the dashboard came to quiet life as he turned into the lane:

was her name, since I left her I've never been the same —

Vworp went the needle. "Whoops, wrong track, wrong side," said the announcer. "Amateur radio, me. One more time. Bambarria!"

Crack

arriba y arriba y adentro y arriba —]

I have never been able to resist a button, never never never, said the Tutor, and it was more of a swear. But with the finger outstretched he paused nonetheless. "You don't know what's going to happen?" he said.

"I assume the vehicle knows what it's doing," said Flamel, shifting from R into D. "Never steered me wrong. We shall see what we shall see."

The Tutor pushed the violet button, and a circle lit up in magenta around it.

Flamel pressed down the accelerator, and they drove slowly down the sun-dappled street. There were a few people out and about mowing lawns and clipping bushes and collecting mail.

Flamel exchanged a friendly wave with, apparently, Otto E. Mezzo, Veterinarian, hooked around the two corners of the block, accelerated into the empty lane behind his house —

#

— and with no warning or even a sneeze the road was gone and the car was driving down a tunnel of bright fog. The radio cut out and started making intermittent blurp noises.

"Oh, that is brilliant!" said Nicolas Flamel. "Isn't it brilliant?"

The gravity hadn't changed, and there was still some sort of road underneath the wheels, and the air was still air, although it had the post-storm smell you got at Hogwarts. The fog itself was bright and rainbow-coloured, blue end ahead, red astern, lit from outside in sunrise-pink.

"Spiffing," said the Tutor.

"I read a story once," said Flamel, "—idea was, fog is actually a field of indeterminacy, if you're not careful when you're out for a walk in it you'll fall out of the world. Muggle notion of course — so gloomy-doomy."

"You have been listening to MuchMagic with Elphias Doge," the radio announced, and then went back to static with occasional blurps.

"No telling where we'll come out," said Flamel. "Have a look in the glove box, would you? There should be a few maps. Ta. —Oh, and it's time I confessed my ulterior motive."

Amidst the usual detritus you find in a glove box there were three maps — all-England, London, and a directory of shops in Kirkus Square — and the Pelican edition of Uncle Fred In The Springtime. "Ulterior motive," said the Tutor.

"I'm using you as an expedient and felicitous cover story," said the philosopher. "The last time we went into town I arranged our anniversary trip to Tunbridge Wells, and Pear thinks that's going to be it, but no, I've been plotting a fortnight at Schloss Ylvazbaden in Keinichtsplatz. A really proper spa excursion to finally make up for the disaster of '32 — eight different microclimates and their New Year's fireworks are spectacular."

The radio blurped again. ("— coming up on Owl Post from the New World, Oliver Liftbick explores quodpot through a visit with the Roxbury Russets —")

"We'd got all the way to Nebelsbad, you see," said Flamel, a faraway look in his eye, "and some rich American had packed up the entire hotel, staff and all, and shipped it to a place called Colorado to replace a hotel that had burned down or exploded or some rubbish. What I get for not making a reservation in advance."

(Blurp. "—but right now, please enjoy Victor Netta and the Lennox Sister with 'Sweet Dreams Are Made On Such'.")

"And —" Flamel hesitated, casting an eye towards the violet circle on the dashboard, which had stopped being an unbroken circle and was now unwinding its way towards being a dot — "we were watching the sun go down, and the mountain snowpack was looking like vanilla ice cream with strawberry syrup on, and I said...I said...no...she said, No, we are not going to stay here and enjoy this beautiful sunset! You're a wizard! and so we went to Colorado and enjoyed that sunset instead.

"Strange how I forgot about that, no passports, signed in under the name of Smith with the collusion of young Mr Zeris at the front desk. Maybe it wasn't such a disaster after —whoops, here we are!"

The violet light went out, and the glowing tunnel of fog, which had been flickering electrically, suddenly disappeared, and they were in London.

Stopped, in fact, at the back of a paused line of cars in Rupert Street, Soho.

"Splendid!" said Flamel, and patted the base of the gear-shift. "You see? Switched to Neutral all on her own. Pass me the London map, would you?"

.
.*.

The Tutor looked around curiously on Harry's behalf as they drove a twisty course through twisty streets.

{ Hey! } said Harry a few minutes later during another pause in the traffic. { It's the Thai take-ways! }

And it was: Samakkhi Chumnum Thai Takeaway & Delivery, sandwiched between a Woolworths and a Waterstones. There was an eyeball-itching sign in its window that read Parking In Rear, but the Tutor found himself more drawn to the Waterstones next to it.

Bookshop! he said. Love a bookshop, Harry!

{ Totally not surprised. }

No, I mean it as an imperative! If you ever want to see the mind of man spread out before you, study books. Books are what people think. History books to rationalise what you did, newspapers to rationalise what you're doing, and above all, fiction to tell yourselves what you would do if only you could.

You remember I said something about you lot being a social species raising itself in total isolation? And yet you make progress. Two steps forward, 0ne and a half back to be sure, but how do you even manage that when there are no adults to show you the way?

You invent them. You can't just tell a boy to be a man when there's not a single good example to hand — so you make one up. You mislead, but in the right direction.

He leaned up and over the door for a closer look at the contents of the window display, and found it to be a half-off sale on Titan Star Trek books.

{ Um, } said Harry.

Don't knock new civilisation, Harry. It has to come from somewhere.

They drove on again. "Now, unfinished business," said Flamel. "As I say, what Dumbledore's up to these days, he's not seen fit to share with me, but — mentions of me cropping up in odd places, conspicuously hiding something at Gringotts and then conspicuously transferring it to Hogwarts...making sure that you saw that happen, I believe?"

The Tutor nodded.

"Well, he wasn't keeping anything safe at Gringotts," said Flamel. "You don't keep things safe in a safe at his level of expertise — and not at Hogwarts, either. If he wanted to keep something safe he'd Vanish it. So, he's fishing for someone, and he's open to the possibility that it might be you under control, meaning that yes, he's also open to the minuscule possibility that Voldemort's on a comeback tour. The latter, of course, he wouldn't want to tell you directly for fear of distressing you unnecessarily. So, proceeding on the notion that your whole excursion boils down to getting my expert second opinion on where you stand — that is the case, yes?"

The Tutor nodded.

"Net, you're in good shape," said Flamel. "Pear and I agree, the trick is that Voldemort marked you as his equal. That was careless and stupid. Do you see why?"

"Going to go with no."

Flamel leaned over towards him, and said in low, conspiratorial tones: "You were a toddler." He leaned back into proper position and turned the car around a familiar corner. "An infant! He equated himself with an infant under the terms of a prophecy, for all intents and purposes accepting the terms of a magical contract. Infants are no match for adults, and with respect neither are eleven-year-olds. If Voldemort is floating about, he's very probably operating with the handicap of...let's say a very narrowly focused point of view.

"My advice: if Dumbledore has a plan — and he obviously does — stand back and watch the fireworks."

"Gotcha," said the Tutor.

Flamel took another turn, another in a series of turns that had added up to a meandering and counterproductive route, and when they passed Samakkhi Chumnum Thai Takeaway & Delivery for the third time the Tutor finally asked "Where exactly are we going?"

"Kirkus Square, but exactly is exactly the wrong word," said Flamel. "Certain streets have uncertain corners — sooner or later we'll turn ours.

He spun the wheel once again —

.

.*.

— and instead of driving the perimeter of a city block, they were driving the perimeter of a plaza surrounded by a brick wall.

"I should probably say, Lo!" said Nicolas Flamel. "or Behold!"

They drove past the rear entrance of Samakkhi Chumnum and passed a signpost reading SLOW — PARKING AHEAD. Flamel decelerated into what appeared to be a dead end.

"Parking!" said Flamel. "Hop out."

The Tutor hopped out. There was no sign of a car park, just a large blue metal box mounted against a brick wall — a vending machine by its general design, although it did have PARKING written on it in white.

Having hopped, he skipped the skipping and just jumped over to the vending machine. Instead of a single large glass window with a variety of items behind, it had many small doors, each with its own tiny window, and a dial handle and a coin slot —

Nicolas Flamel whistled at him from behind, and said "Think fast!" when the Tutor turned back. Harry Potter's quidditchy reflexes caught a sickle out of midair.

"Good job!" said Flamel, leaning into the back seat of the car and pulling out a whangee stick. "Pick a spot, any spot. Empty spot."

The Tutor turned back to the box, took a step forwards, saw that behind most of them were, yes, very small cars...

{ Hagrid thought parking meters were clever, } said Harry, impressed.

Hahaaa! said the Tutor. This is better than clever, do you know what this is?

{ —? }

It's an automat!

{}

...you do know what an automat...

{ . }

Oh, never mind, 'course you don't, nobody ever gets my jokes...that would have gone over big in 1937...

He scanned the range of windows; the eye caught a flash of red, which proved to be a shiny 1964 Dodge sedan with two empty surfboard racks. He squinted at the tiny license tag:

California
07DA061A

(Very very tiny bumper stickers — AAC Assn. and Surf's Up and Golden Sands Resort/Au Delà De La Mer! )

There was a free space between it and a yellow car with its lights on, so he popped in the coin and pulled the appropriate handle, and as soon as the window was open the Drake-Chevalier was drawn inside, shrinking smoothly to fit. When the window closed it spit out a slip of paper reading 104-44-30, which was presumably the combination for the lock.

"Shall we go?" said Nicolas Flamel, twirling his whangee stick.

#

Kirkus Square wasn't simply Diagon Alley folded up and rearranged tic-tac-toe style; some of the shops in Diagon Alley might have been shabby and sag-roofed, but they were that way with a posh deliberation, or more probably a witchy-wizardy style imposed by merchants' association mandate. Kirkus Square, on the other hand, was cheap and cheerful and could easily be mistaken for a completely ordinary shopping centre...until you noticed, for example, that the chap walking into Alligator Tattoos had a woodpecker riding on his head, and that although the biker-pirate who came out of the same door a moment later looked ordinary enough, when you got a look at his exposed shoulder, the tail-nibbling snake he'd just had put on was as alive under the skin as any portrait.

Nicolas Flamel led him to a booth with a sign on it reading Information & Assistance, where they both had their hands stamped. "Security system," explained Flamel. "It allows children to run amok within reason. Among other things I can follow your position on this directory —" he waved the Kirkus Square map from the glove box — "and if you leave the square it'll yank me to you. I assume you wish to run amok?"

"Within reason," said the Tutor. "Oh, hang on..." Harry, what was the licence tag on that yellow car?

{ BWV 591, } said Harry. { Why? }

Just in case I don't manage to solve any other problems today, said the Tutor, and reported the vehicle with its lights on to the management.

Loving those quidditchy eyeballs, by the way. Notice everything, that's my motto. One of my mottoes.

"Now!" said Flamel, checking his map. "Let me get my business out of the way..."

"Question," said the Tutor, looking around at the clientele of Kirkus Square. "Where do squibs get wizarding money?"

— "Owner of a yellow Siva Edwardian,
license BWV 591, your lights are on."

"Traditionally," said Flamel, stowing the map, "mucking, grubbing and leeching." He laid a hand lightly on the Tutor's borrowed shoulder and steered him down the street. "Mucking and grubbing. that's rooting around quarries and fields and forests for magically useful bits and bobs to sell — recently-shed unicorn horns and so on. Sorting through beetles, people will pay to avoid having to do that."

Nackle's Kitchenware

"Leeching is attaching yourself to the ladies and gentlemen of leisure — people from the best families on allowances — quite possibly squibs themselves, in certain circles doing magic is considered declassé so no one knows for sure — who spend all their time in society. Keep them entertained and when they send you out for coffee or whatever it's tacitly understood that you keep the change. Can be quite a nice life so long as you don't get greedy."

Wizardwear by Mr Lang

"In modern times — Ministry of Magic. Always hiring for ley-line mapping, never have to worry about that coming to a stop, the standing stones keep going walkabout and they have to redraw everything. Do you know what a Bézier curve is?"

"No?" said the Tutor, who did.

Pen, Calamus & Quill

"Pity, I keep forgetting. But you don't find many actual wizards willing to squelch around in a field of mud in the rain working a magical theodolite, is the point."

Grendl's Confectioneries

"—Oh, and there's a basic disability stipend, though it's been shrinking ever since Corny Fudge got in.

"Aaand you could sign up with a charitable foundation like St Oswin's, visiting the invalids and the elderly — no magic necessary, just patience."

Taikuri Millinery
(Ooh, I'd like a hat like that. And only 10 sickles 6 knuts...)

"Ah, here we are."

.
.*.

WOODRAVEN'S WORLD OF TRAVEL.

SKIING?
Keanjaho!

SURFING?
Aprositus!

SEE IT ALL?
Hong Kong • Timbuctoo • Wonga Wonga • Honolulu
Paris • Montreal • Buenos Aires

AIRA HONEYMOON
Breakfast On The Banks Of The Nithra
Wade Under The Waterfalls Of The River Kra
5 Days And 4½ Nights In The Glorious City
Of Marble And Beryl
Starting At 500 Galleons

Ask About Our Uamh-Binne Day Trips

"Uamh-Binne," said Flamel. "That sounds familiar...oh, yes! that was where we found that lost girl. Lucky happenstance, that, though someone should have told the search party."

They went inside...

...well, Flamel went inside. Between the sound of maracas coming from Saman Sindhu's Dance Studio on the left and the exotically perfumed clouds drifting out of the door of Smocza Jama on the right, the Tutor ended up hanging out the doorway from the jamb, ogling the signage outside...

Josiah S. Marsh
Boccræft • Dreamcræft • Drycræft • Galdorcræft • Wiccræft
Scincræft • Swinsungcræft • Læcecræft

Keep A Rainbow In Your Pocket With
Dr Pye's Permanent Soap Bubbles.

Tute & Mowitt
Burglar-Beating Alligator Suitcases
"Yes We Do"

REIDSETT
Everything & More
(By Appointment.)

Crocklefether, Squiggs & Co.
Est. 1453
ESOTERICA
CRYSTAL * CABALAS * OILS
50% Off All Colatures And Emunctories.

Julian Bower, Mirrors & Mysteries
CLOSED

Closed?! Well that's rubbish!

Next to the candyman's was

Blatt's of Garden Valley
Single Roses To Hundred Acre Woods
Water Features A Speciality
Open 11AM — Midnight

and both were selling edible candytufts, though of radically different kinds...

There was also a craft vinegar and oil store, but they couldn't all be amazing.

[The plaza was open to the sky, he could see a jet flying overhead — and how could that work? Couldn't they see in? Maybe it wasn't an emboited spatial expansion — that'd be hard to conceal from scientists in the long run, they use very very sensitive observational equipment, scientists do, some of that gravitational wave detection kit could locate Diagon Alley, you don't want that, wouldn't it be more elegant if it were conceptual engineering? Just splice directly into configuration space. Two different versions of the same jet overhead, one that can see the muggle front half of Samakkhi Chumnum, one that can see the wizard back end, but the second jet is only the possibility of a jet, not the reality...]

A youngish wizard dressed in scarlet and green emerged from Smocza Jama, clutching a box of cigars and muttering darkly to himself about having to go all the way to England for a sufficiently disreputable smoke.

"There, that's that taken care of," said Nicolas Flamel, coming up from behind. "And thank you for not running off, it's always embarrassing to have to accio a child." He gently pushed the Tutor through the door.

#

By the map, Kirkus Square was a set of nine small square blocks laid out in a three by three grid; the centre square was actually empty of buildings. What it had instead was a large number of free-standing tables and chairs; a slightly smaller number of food carts; a moderately-sized reflecting pool equipped with a sculpted dragon horse that roamed around and occasionally sprayed water from its mouth in impressive gouts; and a dais, suitable for use as a bandstand, which was good because there was a band on it, dressed in sky-blue uniforms and playing something that involved a lot of castanets; their vocalist was engaged in a a tap-dancing break in the middle of a cloud of conjured bluebirds. According to the drop-cloths behind them and tour shirts they were selling, they were Aliss Sprynges.

"Zappo! " cried the singer, and the music stopped, and the bluebirds turned into a rain of blueberries ["Don't eat them, Pierre," said a woman who had a small boy on a leash, "you don't know what they've been"], and the audience burst into applause.

Whilst the band was signing autographs and taking down its signage, Nicolas Flamel bought two four course meals on a stick from a cart labelled Blizhini's Blintzes & Pasties and turned one over to the Tutor, who in turn turned it over to Harry, and they all sat down at a table, where the Tutor steered the eyes around while Harry focused the mouth on the kebab.

There was some form of Ministry of Magic office off to the northwest, with an It's The Law poster on its wall; outside its door, propped open with a rock, stood a trio of burly men in fur-trimmed doorkeeper's uniforms, each one stronger and tougher than the others. They were all complacently eating chocolate biscuits out of green boxes labeled Firesign Girl Guides.

And next to that was a multistorey corner building labeled Flann's, with a large glass window, and the eyes got stuck on that for a bit because behind the large glass window there was definitely indoor quidditch going on, among other things.

And next to that was a large sign reading AERARIUM.

Aha! Owl Post Office!

[A wizard in a kilt walking his hound-dog had just met the boy on a leash and the dog didn't know what to make of it.

"Sit, Beeble," said the wizard.]

"Someone lost a fez," said Nicolas Flamel, bending down under the table. "Oh, a perfect fit, too..."

Aliss Sprynges had finished clearing the stage, and the next band was climbing up to deploy its own decorations.

[A couple of young wizards passed behind the Tutor and Nicolas Flamel, crossing the square towards Flann's, jingling coins in their pockets.

"You do have it down, now, yes?"

"Of course."

"First wave?"

"Don't get tired."

"Second wave?"

"Aim higher."

"Good."]

A pushcart vendor pulled up to the table in a cart rattling and clinking glassily. "May I interest anyone in a beverage?"

The Tutor, still full of butterbeer, shook his head no, as did Nicolas Flamel. "Though come to think of it," added Flamel, "I do need a bottle of brown sherry for later."

"Easily done!" said the vendor, producing one.

"Also, if you should have one, a bottle of the finest Prussian grape. Ideally, Pinot Noir Précoce Wortschrift '63."

"But of course. The September or the November?"

"September."

"Naturellement," said the vendor.

The lead singer of the next band stepped up to the front of the stage.

"We're Sigil," he said, "though we're thinking of changing the name."

They launched into a song about making crop circles.

"Ah," said Nicolas Flamel, sinking back into his chair, "Kirkus Square. No other place quite like it.

"If you need me, I'll either be here or in the farmer's market section..."

#

The Tutor weaved his way through fruit carts selling dunkelberries, glitterberries, snozzberries and stumbleberries towards the Aerarium.

{ If you want to get me a gold cauldron for Christmas, } said Harry, a bit wistfully, { this is probably a good place to look for one. }

How would that be a surprise?

{ I'll keep my eyes closed while you buy it! }

Don't think that would work. Why do you want a gold cauldron, anyway?

{ ...I don't know, they're just...cool! }

They certainly can't get very hot. They're used for making rarefied potions, I know that much. Maybe there's an affinity in your family tree. You should probably ask Hagrid if your parents had a knack for potions — and you never did ask him about the gryphon, you know.

{ Yeah! I'll do that tomorrow, } said Harry. { Hey! I just remembered something. When Hagrid took me to Gringotts, he told the goblins that he was here about the You-Know-What in Vault 713. And they seemed to know what he meant. Why would Professor Dumbledore tell the goblins what he was keeping unless he wanted them to know? }

Exactly, Harry, exactly.

.
.*.

The Aerarium, which judging by the people in the queue was for the benefit of those who didn't want to carry their purchases home, had behind a glass wall a back room full of owls — but not only owls; several of the birdstands were being gripped by green parrotoids.

"Hang about," said the Tutor, taking out his manilla envelope, "are those kakapos?"

"Yes, they are," said the owl attendant (an attendant for the owls, not an attendant who was an owl — then again who knows, animagus?).

"Why?"

"Long distance shipping. Other than phoenixes, they're the only birds known to be capable of Apparation."

"Brilliant!" said the Tutor. He pulled the postal orders out of his bag, and a tiny envelope came out along with them. It fell to the ground and a little dirt spilled out of it.

{ What's that? } asked Harry, while the Tutor picked it up and stowed it away again.

Contingency plan, said the Tutor, taking out a Weasley pen for the endorsement. School grounds. Technically, you never left them.

#

He paused a moment at

Wyrt and Telga
Garden Shop & Florist
We Stock Only Spadroon's Ploughshares.

so Harry could appreciate the delphiniums and geraniums, although the trees that produced red wellies instead of fruit were more interesting to the Tutor. A bit further down the path to gardening forks a couple of small boys were contemplating a small scraggly bush in a pot with a small scraggly tag hanging off it reading Festive Bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum regius), a rather larger and less scraggly tag reading Decorates well and a very large new tag reading Free With Any Purchase, and a bit further down from them a man with a flower in his hand was having a grumpy discussion with the shopkeeper.

["It's a blue moonwort-aster hybrid, why do you want a herbicide for it?"

"'s a bloody weed, innit? 's takin' over the whole garden an' I can't budge it."

"Dried and crushed the flowers go for a galleon an ounce."

"...like I said, I want to buy some fertiliser for this thing."]

At which point the Tutor was distracted by someone towing a bunch of Mother Turne's Lighter Than Air Pies on strings, and then while following after the pies there was Hat Planet, and then he backed into a shoe shop, which was a good opportunity to buy Harry his promised set of new trainers.

.
.*.

{ You don't buy trainers by colour, } Harry explained patiently. { And yellow trainers under black robes? I'm not in Hufflepuff. }

Well, then, how about these red ones — and these yellow spats!

{ What did I just say? And I don't think you wear spats with trainers. }

I certainly would! My taste is vastly worse than you'd believe. I think I used to wear rainbow pants. ...I suppose that's a reason not to get them. Also because they're not for me?

{ Good boy, Rupert. }

How do you buy trainers?

{ Aunt Petunia always bought the dodgiest ones with a decent sole. }

That would make sense, wouldn't it...well, then, best quality soles and then high end uppers for a change.

Slightly swayed by the posters up of quidditch players with endorsement contracts — which did make sense even though it was an air sport; Harry was getting a lot of use out of reparo due to hard landings — Harry chose a sensible set of Fleetwing Kapoks with the pop-out quidditch wings, plus the BroomGrip option that the professionals relied on...

...and, with a mental eye-roll, the colour-changing dial in the tongue, which the Tutor promptly set to plum purple.

{ Purple? Really? }

It's the colour of change, I'm all about it.

.
.*.

Mien Wu
Su Mi
BARBERSHOP.

B. Dash
Desiderata & Nugamenta

Bowker's Plumbing Supplies
No Water? No Problem!

The Temporium
by
Sonnette & Cascabel

Backlight's Reasonably Magickal Masks

.
.*.

At the next intersection he was nearly run down by an animated animal made of willow caning. The street it had come from was full of similar escapees from Ing's 24-Hour Imports, whose overmatched shopkeeper was trying to lasso them with little success.

{ No worries, I've got this! } said Harry Potter, and mentally shoved the Tutor out of the way in order to grab his wand. "Accio horse!"

And the Tutor thanked goodness for bludger training, as the cane creature came flying backwards towards them at considerable speed. Harry dodged out of the way, grabbed it by its spine as it passed him ("Gotcha!") and gave it the old Wingardium Leviosa almost simultaneously. He triumphantly hauled it up over his head. Its legs thrashed the air uselessly and it neighed at him.

The Tutor looked up at it. Oh, that's a great wicker stallion. Or is it wicker? Maybe it's rattan. Calamus rotang? How much is it? Is there a price tag?

{ It'd really clutter up the common room, } said Harry, carrying it down the street towards the vendor, who wasn't having much luck with the other escapees.

That's true, sighed the Tutor. Could I have the knees back, please?

{ Okay, okay, give me five minutes, } said Harry.

It took a little more than five minutes to catch all the escaped wicker animals, and he insisted on crossing over to a pavement display of Arthurian playsets outside

Aumbrie & Stoup
SUNDRIES and OBLIQUITIES.

on his own, but he did give the knees back. The arms and hands he held off on, because you could put toy people in the Siege Perilous and it would eat them up while making yum-yum-yum noises.

{ Why do they call it the Siege Perilous? } he asked, feeding it another complaining knight. ["I'm not looking for the Holy Grail! I'm not even from this playset! Oh boggaarrrgh..."]

Siege is an old word for chair, said the Tutor, getting in a quick knee-bend. Comes from the Latin for sit. Why they put the adjective afterward, well, it's cooler that way.

.
.*.

Aumbrie & Stoup, held a number of things (where N ≥ Stevenson's Number) and the Tutor bobbed happily past wooden bins of whigmaleeries, fabricated vulture eggs, candy that was only visible through Spectrespecs, Spectrespecs, padawatans and tampat-dawats, Syleham lamps, statues of long-necked goddesses, silver-plated elephant skeletons in 1:12 scale, crockets, pyxides, xoanons, boxes of Toverfee's Rock Candy ("don't say we didn't warn you") and jars of Fotherwick's Unknown Flavour Jelly-Babies ("guaranteed unidentifiable"), assorted flameless fireworks including Skywriting Sparklers, packets of Thundermints, bags of Thunderpants, sets of ivory-backed hairbrushes, Dr Wolf's Invisible Shoes, Dr Wolf's invisible heel inserts for your invisible shoes, Expand-O-Pocket inserts for your pockets, Honvágy dolls that ran home if you lost them, lichorice sticks, expansion packs for phantasmagoria boxes, no phantasmagoria boxes, small solidungulate perissodactyls in candy colours, some simple household steel ingots, Brenfenbronner's All-In-One Spherical Soaps, misbinned phantasmagoria boxes that he swapped out for the small solidungulate perissodactyls in candy colours, chocolate cauldrons, lava clocks, observation bells, deobstruents, silvery automatic bees, self-inflating balloons, occulting beryllium spheres and a tray of self-winding magimechanical hoopoes, scrawny little brown wood-carved owls that ran back and forth going "Koo koo skoos" whenever they bumped into anything, and all that was aisle 1.

In the corner, just past a display of Tarot decks decorated with ears of corn and green peppers (there was a sign up reading Misprinted Decks: Buy Three Get Approximately One) he found a whole corner devoted to fuzzy pink cubes that sighed happily when you picked them up and giggled when you tickled them.

"How much are these, please?" he asked the salesperson, whose engraved nametag read Ms Aumbrie.

"Ah," she said, "Laughter Cubes." Her traveling gaze stick on the muted gold Hogwarts shield on his cap. Her eyebrow flickered. "—Mr Stoup!" she called to the man at the desk.

"Yes, Ms Aumbrie?"

"Are the new cards in, Mr Stoup?"

"Right here, Mr Aumbrie," said Mr Stoup, holding up a stack of them.

Ms Aumbrie accio'd them, and presented him with ten business cards with spinning ampersands, and one fuzzy pink cube. "With our compliments — one day only special promotion to...persons with red hair. Laughter Cubes are available exclusively from Aumbrie & Stoup."

"Thanks!"

"Our pleasure. They store conveniently in any corner and engorgio well as furniture. The harder you sit on them the better they seem to like it."

[A blonde woman wafted by with a basket full of bottles of multicoloured ink and things bright yellow and almost surreally familiar, followed by her daughter.

"Look, mama," said the girl, pointing into the next aisle, "they have Toothpixies."

"As every store should!" said her mother.]

"You carry legal tablets?" he said to Ms Aumbrie, pointing at the bright yellow things.

"We are Aumbrie and Stoup," she said by way of explanation.

I love this shop. This is a spiffing shop. "You should open a second location in Diagon Alley."

Ms Aumbrie said, rather blandly, "Although it is always pleasant to see a Hogwarts houve, Aumbrie and Stoup enjoy our present distance from Knockturn Alley..."

["Not to mention the Diagon Alley Merchants Society," said Mr Stoup.]

"...and will continue so to do in the future," concluded Ms Aumbrie.

After that he felt obliged to buy something, even though at this stage he wanted just to make mental notes on things to buy later if he didn't find even cooler things, and at Harry's suggestion he grabbed a set of posters of Elektra Blixt-Damm, the Swedish Seeker and noted speed violist, in various poses holding her silver-plated sub-mini broom like an electric guitar, a subtlety that would probably go unnoticed by a lot of people at Hogwarts, too bad for them.

{ What's houve mean? } asked Harry, once they were back outside.

It's old-school for cap, translated the Tutor. Not just old-school, founding-of-the-school. AD 1000.

#

Under a BIRD WORLDERS UNITE banner, with an animated cuckoo flying back and forth, he found Eric's Animal Adoption Agency.

{ Remember, } said Harry, { only owls, cats and toads. }

I know, I know, I'm just looking.

Inside the front window (which had a printed sign inside it reading This Window Is Tap Proofed in large letters and Kiss Your Fingertips Goodbye in rather smaller handwriting) was a large nest of small fuzzy things. There was a sign:

Need Your Beauty Sleep? The
UNCOMMON DORMOUSE
(Endymionis somnum dormit)
Is The Most Soothing Pet In The World!

{ Huh, } said Harry after a moment.

What?

{ I was just thinking I can see Professor Kettleburn keeping the lid on about Scabbers, but if Percy had him too, how come no one complained then? I mean, Percy should have done, he's Percy.}

Rats aren't forbidden pets, Harry, they're permitted cat and owl food.

{ Oh. Ew. }

To the right of the entrance was a hooked pole with a doorless cage hanging from it; inside the cage was a vulturous bird. It was singing quietly to itself, a medley of songs from The Fantasticks if he wasn't mistaken. He popped his head in the door. There were signs up reading You May See Our Aracuan Bird Whether You Want To Or Not and Yes! We Have Grenzbegriffs! and Oysters, Lobsters and Parakleets Available By Special Arrangement and the attendant was doing maintenance on an aquarium holding a fish shaped like a pillow and talking to a customer about the proper care and feeding of scrilms, and it all smelled like an open grassy field, and he didn't have time, so it was on to the shop next door—

#

Mrs Vigg's Gempathetic Magic
Loose Stones · Talismans · Amulets · Cheap Trinkets
WE BUY CRYSTALS

Under which sign was another reading

GOING INTO BUSINESS SALE

"That's the way you do it," he said approvingly, and went inside. He circled around a pyramid of bottles of wild lynx urine bearing a Do It Yourself sign, thence past a display of music-stones (which were making noises like a glass armonica), thence to the daystones, nightstones, sunstones, moonstones, milkstones and rainstones (and thunderstones, which were good protection against magical lawsuits) and then spotted a glass case containing a ring with a remarkable, tiny, translucent black gem on it, remarkable because inside it was an even tinier toad.

The toad blinked.

"Toadstone," he read from the ring's card. A bit on the nose, but certainly the kind of toad Neville ought to have, the kind that stays safely on your finger. And then he saw the price, which would have emptied all of his pockets. "Blimey!" he said. "Bit steep for a stone with a toad in."

"Not so," said the attendant. "It protects from dark magic and general misfortune, has healing powers for all manner of wounds and interior pains, detects poisons and weeps antidote. Also the setting's gorgeous, that counts for a lot."

He looked at the price again. "Student discount?"

"Five per centum with identification."

"Too rich for my blood," he said. "Where do you keep the cheap trinkets, please?"

"In the barrels in the back, child."

.
.*.

Pausing only to admire a display of rainbow-coloured rhodomagnetic crystals you could use to build your own wizard wireless set, he dove into the trinket barrels, sorting through cheap planetary rings, lead-glass gems, mediocre jasper in various colours, and various obelisks and metobelisks before turning up some more desirable rubbish — junk jewelry in animal forms: bears, dogs, bulls, and yes yes yes, snakes and lions. Also eagles. No badgers, but he didn't know anyone in Hufflepuff yet. And then, could he get a woohoo, a silver-backed dragon tie-pin made of red-spotted deep green quartz.

And this, he thought, will do nicely.

{ What, you're getting something for Malfoy? } said Harry.

I certainly am, is that a problem?

{ Well, you know, we're not...friends... }

"Oh! My, what a splendid bloodstone," said a passing wizard. "Gemma heliotropion to we lapidaries."

The Tutor found him instantly trustworthy on the grounds that he was wearing a black bow tie, even if it was just pinned to his collar.

[Harry had once asked him "What is it with you and bow ties?"

"Everyone should wear bow ties!" he'd replied. "Draco Malfoy, big red bow tie. Tell me Professor McGonagall shouldn't wear a bow tie. Professor Dumbledore — actually, he may well be wearing one."]

"Bloodstone!" said the Tutor. "That's not magically leechy, is it? It's to be a gift."

"Not 't all, not 't all," said the wizard, twiddling the blue carbuncle ring on his finger. "It stops bleeding and expels poisons, but its most extraordinary virtue is that its bearer is — subtrahat visibus obviorum — effectually concealed from sight of all present."

"Ah," said the entirely visible Tutor, examining his entirely visible self. "No wonder it's in the knick-knack barrel, it's broken."

"Perhaps, perhaps," said the wizard. "Perhaps not. Even a limestone pebble, properly treated, may work wonders for the impudent. Anoint that device with extract of heliotropium peruvianum and the results may surprise you." The wizard leaned in conspiratorially. "Incidentally, I heard your conversation with the sales staff. Have you a reasonably old toad, my boy?"

"As it happens, yes," said the Tutor. "Why?"

"Have you got a red blanket?"

He did.

"Put the blanket in front of a warm stove. Put the toad on the blanket. In short order — shally-mi-gally-mi-zoop! it will vomit up a stone. Grab the stone quickly before the toad swallows it up again." He twiddled the blue carbuncle ring straight off his finger — it was really too big for him — looked at it briefly and tucked it into his shirt pocket.

"Really?"

"Bob," said the wizard, straightening up again, "is your parent's sibling. Getting it set in a ring I leave as an exercise for the student, though I recommend the crafting-wire method. Once you've made it you can also use it for dactylomancy, although I personally have never located anything more than the toad it came from."

"...Why," asked the Tutor, "has my toad got a stone in it?"

The wizard shrugged. "Toads grow stones in their brains. Everyone needs a hobby, don't you think? If you should happen to have a dragon, try the same trick — dragonstones do all that toadstones do and give light in the dark. And possibly make you all-seeing and all-knowing, though I have a doubt. They are definitely useful against invisibility, and eliminate the need for glasses."

"Cool!"

"Indeed," said the wizard.

#

At the Elmkin Lane street sign he ran into a pushcart advertising Madam Hildegard Zelkova's Wand Shop at number 13: a cart staffed, apparently, by Madam Zelkova herself, who seemed to be assembled of shawls and scarves and looked like she'd had a wild night involving at least one hedge.

"May I interest you in a wand, pet?" she said, regarding him, or at least his cap, with a canny eye.

"Already have one, thank you," he said, patting his — well, Harry's — jacket pocket.

She walked around him widdershins. "Ah," she said, "but is it the right one?" She took Harry's wand hand (was she guessing which one it was? She had a 50-50 chance) in a way sufficiently professional as to not quite seem rude (she was wearing white gloves though she'd been bare-handed a moment ago) and examined the palm, the wrinkles on the knuckles, the nail-beds, the ridges on the nails. "A phoenix-feather core? And I perceive you've been to Ollivander's, so holly shaft." She spread the thumb and pinky, prodded the bones in the wrist. "Somewhere between eleven and thirteen inches."

If she was cold reading she was doing a very good job. He drew the holly wand. "Spot on!" he said.

"Ah," she said, plucking it from his hand with that same weirdly professional imposition. She waved it past her nose. "I know the tree. Arbroath, three hundred years old come New Year's." She held the wand up to her ear and plucked it with her finger, listening critically. "There's an echo. Is this part —" she plucked it again — "no, it's definitely part of a pair. Mated or related, do you know?"

"Mr Ollivander said it had a brother."

"Possibly a mistake to break up the set," she said. "What did the sibling do for you?"

"It had been sold already."

"And that's the other problem," she said. She held out a hand open-palmed and she set the wand down a fraction of an inch over it; it floated freely like a compass needle, coming to a stop pointing at him — not quite directly, there was a bias towards his left. "Some wands could wait in a box forever waiting for the right wielder, but some do get impatient. If it's been sitting in a box for years, an ambitious wand may settle for an imprecise match. If you'd gotten to the other one first — ah well, milk over the bridge, as a friend of mine used to say." She handed it back to him. "Can you balance it on your fingertip, pet?"

"I never tried," he said, and set the quidditchy reflexes to it. They did an excellent job.

"Hmm," she said, watching the balancing act. She didn't seem nearly as impressed as he was. "It should be self-stabilising. Well, give it a good nightly polishing with oleum heraclini, that'll help. Ask your potions teacher. Ollivander — I don't quibble his final results, but you're not even twelve, it's like shoes, you want a wand that fits well now, not seven years from now." She struck a hand on heart pose. "And that is why all mine are strictly bespoke: the wand chooses the wizard, to be sure, but some wands will want you more than others. And if you're interested in a spare...?"

He stowed the holly wand and shrugged in an open-minded way. He could see her shop from the corner, and it wasn't much larger than the pushcart; she could probably use the business. Also she was talking about a thaumaturgic instrument that doubled as a water pistol, so why not the right tool for the right job?

From her cart she took what looked rather like a multilayer ice cube tray, each transparent compartment filled with sawdust, and studied it while walking in circles around him.

"Interesting," she said, moving it towards and fromwards him. "Tricky, tricky…laurel, yes, lovely laurel, evergreen in all its parts…" She stepped back and rotated the tray. "A taste of...no, not for a while yet...something in you wants orangewood. Strong, flexible, doesn't warp…only a bit of orangewood, though...orangewood handle with...

"...a palm core. Daemonorops, I think. Yes, that would suit you. Orangewood handle over laurel with daemonorops-seed core. I can assemble one in thirty minutes, satisfaction guaranteed."

He looked at her price list. By his present standards they were quite affordable, but something about that fact niggled at him...

Harry, asked the Tutor, didn't your wand cost about the same as these?

{ Yes, why? }

The wizarding world doesn't really do inflation and Ollivander's supposed to be high-end. "It's funny," the Tutor said aloud. "I've been window shopping — my Ollivander's wand cost seven galleons, and I don't see how he can stay in business at those prices."

"Seven," said Madam Zelkova, raising an eyebrow. "I'd have thought ten times that. Possibly more."

And Harry yelped silently: { A seventy-galleon wand and I'm carrying it in my jacket pocket?! }

Madam Zelkova continued ruminatively: "Even discounted as part of a broken set, it must have been tagged at its original price and on the shelf quite a while. Yours may not have been the first branch that holly ever gave, but maybe close to it.

"...Can I interest you in a wand case, if nothing else?"

"Yes!" said Harry. "Make it two. —And the wand."

#

The Tutor and Harry filled the next thirty minutes with a sinuous path through the square, from Marlek's Hoopery ("Coming Soon", alas), to Wagstaff & Witzling's Broomtricks, which didn't offer any of the big-name brooms that the Famous Quidditch Players flew, just up and comers like the Middlesbrough Meteorite and the Norville Barnstormer, to Myfanwy Derpins's BAKERY (which had free samples of little square puddings called spøgefugl, very nice), to Rufus Beech's Closeouts, Samples and Discards!

The Tutor turned at the sign with the exclamation point, and crossed by way of a display of only slightly cracked cheval glasses into the Not Necessarily Magic Carpets section, and and after some very fast nosing nabbed a sunset-red oriental rug that would have been quite expensive but was going at fire-sale rates due to the fact that it was cursed. Or, more accurately, that it cursed — in an unknown tongue, if you tracked mud on it.

Which means it will go down extremely well at school, he commented silently while arranging a Christmas Eve delivery to the Slytherin common room.

{ Slytherin? } said Harry. { Why Slytherin? }

Love the green, but needs some contrast. They may not like the colour, too Gryffindor, but the median age is fourteen — a rug that says *&^%&%! they'll never be able to reject.

On exiting Rufus Beech's he passed a couple of small boys walking by outside carrying a small scraggly bush in a pot (it was now covered in glitterberries and looked quite nice, really), and stopped in front of number 220 next door, which had an aroma flowing out of it the likes of which the seventh-year end of the Gryffindor breakfast table only aspired to, and everyone seated inside had a book and a steaming cup, or several books and several steaming cups. He looked up at its overhead banner:

SEABERG'S LATTE COFFEE
KNUT UNIVERSITY
Macchiato • Corretto
Doppio • Ristretto
Carrot Juice

Now that beats Starbucks any day.

{ ...What's Starbucks? }

A chain coffee shop you haven't got yet. A rather interesting one in its way. The name's out of Moby Dick, but the company founders have completely different accounts of how they arrived at it, as though they took different paths through configuration space and met up again afterwards.

Well, I mean, everyone takes a slightly different path through configuration space, otherwise you'd all be the same person, but maybe sometimes your paths are more widely separated. There's this thing called consensus reality and mygoodness am I drifting...

{ It's okay, I stopped paying attention. }

...Then how did you know to say you'd stopped paying attention?

There was a pause.

{ Sorry, did you say something? }

Funny boy.

Woodraven's Travel was now offering Swimming Tours of Cantref y Gwaelod, and Marlek's Hoopery was still only "Coming Soon" (alas), and he bought a watch at The Temporium just in time to be on time to pick up Harry's new wand.

.
.*.

"Give it a try," urged Madam Zelkova, so the Tutor turned the appropriate limbs back over (again, sigh).

Harry took up the new wand — which didn't have the sort of Zen piece-of-a-tree raw elegance that the Ollivander did, but did fit his hand better because of the handle, and was fairly handsome in its way — and dug in his pocket for a knut. He tossed it to the ground and it rolled away across the pavement.

"Accio knut!"

He didn't even need to move his receiving hand, the coin went straight to it as though there were an invisible rubber band: thwip!

"Snappy!" said Harry. "I like it."

"In fairness," cautioned Madam Zelkova, counting out his change, "you'll grow out of it, not into it like an Ollivander, so you'll want a refit in about eighteen months."

"That's okay," said Harry, balancing the wand on his finger, or rather letting the wand balance itself. "...Do you sell gift certificates?"

She might not have until then, but —

"Yes," said Madam Zelkova, "yes I do."

#

At the intersection of Island and Starling Streets was a building whose architecture made a statement, and what it said was, "You've been looking for a book shop, now shut up and get inside."

WULFRÆD LETTER'S BOOKHOUSE
Books • More Books • Additional Books
Carol Waiss-Waldon, Mgr.
(We Also Sell Magazines)

In the front window was a poster:

LECTUS KENT
Author Of
RAISING THE ROOF and GETTING OUT FROM UNDER
(Magical Construction & Deconstruction Techniques.)
Will Be Signing Here TO-MORROW.

How could he resist that?

Just inside the door was a brass washtub covered in dragons and full of clearance items. There was a signpost sticking out of it topped by an animated poster of a wizard with a charming smile and a carefully black-markered front tooth. "50% Off All Gilderoy Lockhart Books!" it said, with "Books" crossed out and "Objects" written in.

Next to the presently unstaffed register at the checkout there was a typewriter — a Blickensderfer Model 11 with a sticker on the back that read "Z39.50 SWEEPS!" — with a stack of manuscript piled up next to it, indicating that someone felt there still weren't enough books.

He crossed over to the newspaper and magazine section. Up top was all the boring adult stuff like the Daily Prophet* and The Spectacle, but down at shin-height they had the current Martin Miggs The Mad Muggle and several back numbers of Animagus Tails featuring Hugo The Rat (who wasn't cute and always skipped out on paying his bills) and an imported American comic called Iggy the Stoof and, haha, yes, totally muggle comics including (Harry, have you ever noticed that if Professor Snape shaved and wore a bow tie he'd look just like—) Count Duckula.

(* Lucius Malfoy had his picture on the cover again, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony this time. There was a chap who knew how to design a look for himself — a whole crowd in formal-wear behind him, and they all seemed faintly unkempt by comparison simply because they hadn't chosen their clothes to suit their hair.)

He found that while moving between the top and bottom sections, Harry's quidditchy fingers had snatched up the current Which Broomstick, and he got in a quick peek at its review of the Baudekyn & Squench 2LC [Sidebar: "...stops on a dime, by which we mean if you slam on the brakes you'll be in North America by the time it comes to a halt."] before there was a sudden tacatacatacataca behind him and he turned to find a woman at the typewriter, rattling away at two hundred words a minute. He quickly returned the magazine on the grounds that this was not a library, and moved off through the store.

The number one nonfiction best seller this week was BEAR AND BACK AGAIN by Sable Anwitch, an inspirational motivational metamorphmagus memoir about the power of friendship with more Ernest Shepard illustrations than one had an right to expect, followed by J.K. Shiller's Guide to the Glittering Globules, a comprehensive treatment of the differences between alchemical gold, elf gold, fairy gold, goblin gold, house-elf gold and leprechaun gold (the only gold it omitted was actual gold, presumably because it was of no interest to anyone), and the softcover edition of Hogwarts: A Historical Supplement.

{ Hermione, } said Harry.

Gotcha, said the Tutor, briefly flipping through the pages. [Rarely heard due to the abduction of one of the bells, the Hogwarts Carillon was installed by Amyas Le Poulet, formerly of the Royal Guardsmen, as part of the Merlin refurbishment program...]

The bell over the door jingled, and the woman with the leashèd boy came in. The typing paused. "Hello, Mrs Beugler," said the paused typist, "your audio newspapers are in."

"Thank you, Carol."

In the fiction area, Rescued By An Owl was number one on the chart, but the whole rack had been cleared out in favour of a big display devoted to

The Life and Times of Clara Rose Lovegood
An Epic Novel Covering Many Generations.
"A Terrific Read And A Stunning First Novel."
—Wendy Darling, Recensio.

all of which had yellow circle stickers reading Autographed.

Past the best-sellers was a whole section to an author whose name he'd picked up only recently, Rafe Bloodwyrthe. They were all of a series — The Shrike: Take A Chance; The Shrike: Second Chance, and so on. He pulled out one subtitled The Leviathan Stratagem and flipped to the back cover.

COUNTDOWN TO DOOM!
The Wizarding World Quakes
Before The Emperor Of Zmrzlina —
Except For One Man!
Cameron Smith Is
A Wizard Beyond Fear:™
THE SHRIKE!Ⓡ

{ They'd eat those up in Gryffindor, } said Harry.

Oh, they will, they will!

Further and further back he went, past all the potboilers and genre fiction like The Shadow Over Yarmouth, past Magical Europe On One Galleon And Two Knuts A Day by Ford Vairogs, Jr., past Why Won't My Wand Work On Wednesday?, past Studies In Empyrement: Brother Phoenix by Verbus ffinch-Fletchley and Xanthos Fink-Nottle's Brilliant Beastie Book, past Gustave H. Sherman's book on the use of unaccountable numbers in arithmancy, past titles on illogical logic (where he paused long enough to find out that according to the Schrödinger-Wittgenstein-Milligan theorem, any unopened box contains a rhinoceros), and into the obscurities and foreign imports, black-bound volumes with excitingly mysterious titles like Haligwaldentraumen and Im Zwiespalt Der Seele and Mittelschmerz Und Wundermittelschmerz and Mohorovičić Electrum, and when he finally hit the back wall he found it was the best kind of book shop back wall, the kind where there's an open door with an auxiliary book shop behind it, and oh it was a shame there wasn't time...

#

When he finally worked his way back up front with a mental list, he found that there was a wizard at the checkout with an actual list, and a dismayingly long one, too.

"Sacrobosco's Dreams."

"Yes."

"Atrocious Misspelling, by Varopis Lucubroni."

"Yes."

"Into the Woods With Varna Vidder."

"Yes."

"Accounting Magic: The Art of Numeric Terpsichory—"

"Yes. Look," said the manager, "could I...just...have the list?"

The wizard showed her the list.

"...Yeah, never mind," she said.

"My handwriting gets worse and worse," he said. "Particular Magic by Roald Bergliot Dawlish?"

"Volume one or two?"

"Oh, gosh. Both I suppose..."

The manager looked like she wanted to say, No, we don't have either. "Yes..."

"Have you — 'anything and everything' by Mrs Röst, author of The Big Book of Successful Essays?"

"We've got The Sea Above And The Sky Below."

"I'll have that, then..."

Since he couldn't wait all day, the Tutor left the book shop with some regret, not to say irritation.

#

Outside he was momentarily uncertain as to where to go next, if only because by this point there was nowhere to go but back...

...except...

...out of the corner of his eye...

...a sign on a pole reading Utrubique Alley.

He hadn't seen that before. And with these quidditchy eyeballs, either he was getting careless or it hadn't been there, and that was the very best kind of alley to explore.


Upon rugged limestone scars and cliffs, where nothing else, save a little ivy, can establish anchorage, the yew is often seen clinging, as if bound to the rock with clamps of iron. Well-nigh flattened against the perpendicular face of the stone, and with the merest ledge or crevice for its feet, it holds itself unchanged for centuries, and is the most imposing picture nature affords of imperturbable endurance.
— Leo Hartley Grindon.