Disclaimer: I think I got ripped off when I stole the nail; I have no idea what to do with it. I own nothing in any way related to Harry Potter. Cricket is still mad at me.

Harry Potter and the Strength of Three

Chapter 16, Incognito

As Dumbledore lead them through the front of the shop, Harry cast furtive glances around towards the shelves. Ollivander himself seemed to not be in yet... or, remembering Harry's own wand buying experience, the creepy old man was probably waiting among the stacks for an unwary buyer to enter his store. Wands... I'll need a new one. Could a wizard even get a new wand? As Ollivander had said, the wand chooses the wizard... not the other way around. What if no other wand was compatible with Harry? But surely accidents have happened in the past... That's right! Ron had gotten a new wand after his had broken in their second year.

Harry decided to wait until later to ask the Headmaster about a new wand... he had no wizarding money for one, and he didn't want to bring up the memories of the day before and spoil the semi-festive mood of the group.

Dumbledore led them out onto the street amidst the jangling of the hanging bells above the door, and Harry immediately caught his breath. The entire street as far as he could see in either direction was teeming with people. What if someone recognized him? Did Dumbledore's charm really work? He felt sweat break out on his brow as his breathing quickened, and he quickly grabbed the nearest "twin" that was at hand and buried his face in her shoulder.

"My scar! Can yo..." Harry stopped in surprise, before experimentally making a few non-sense noises to make sure he had heard right. "Erm... Do I look like... me?" The voice was still surprising... several octaves deeper and slightly gravelly sounding, almost like a younger Moody... if Moody had been from Texas. Harry shuddered at the thought. He turned to the window of the wand shop, but it was far too dirty to make out his reflection.

"No Har... erm, I mean, yes... you do look like yourself, John." Harry breathed a sigh of relief, turning away from whoever the twin was and facing Dumbledore once more. He let out a yelp of surprise, then clamped his mouth shut as the Headmaster looked at him questioningly. Surreptitiously, he brought a hand down to rub his sore bum. She pinched my bum! Then another thought occurred to him. Who pinched him? He glanced over his shoulder to see both Hermione and Tonks standing next to eachother in their identical disguises smiling innocently at him. This will definitely take some getting used to...

"First, we will go to Gringotts." Dumbledore smiled, beginning to walk down the street to their left. "A vault has been set up for each of you for the duration of your stay in Britain." Harry saw Ron grimace slightly out of the corner of his eye. Would he consider this to be charity? Even in circumstances like this? Harry shook his head in defeat as he followed the Headmaster through the crowd of people. Dumbledore seemed to walk unimpeded through the teeming bodies, and Harry noticed that people seemed to part before him without even looking. Being known as the greatest wizard alive certainly has its uses...

It felt strange for Harry to walk down the street. Something seemed to be missing... different. The pocket of emptiness that Dumbledore walked in was just that, unfortunately... an empty pocket around Dumbledore. The people moving out of his way seemed to gravitate back in front of Harry and the others as soon as the Headmaster had passed them by, making it hard for them to keep up the pace he was setting. Harry looked curiously at the various people bumping and jostling him as he walked, trying to figure out what was wrong.

"What are ye gawking at," Harry jerked his head around at this, he had been staring at a man beside him without meaning to. "That's right, wanker. Keep yer eyes t'yerself." The man spit on the ground at Harry's feet, and he had to put an arm out to stop Ron from throttling the man. Despite not having the Weasley complexion, which showed anger in a shade of brilliant red that was unmistakable, Ron's eyes still showed his irritation quite well.

"Sorry sir." Harry muttered, dragging Ron forward by his arm. He heard the man mutter something about "damn yanks" after they had gotten a few paces ahead, and Harry couldn't help the smile that broke out across his face.

"What 'te 'ell awe ye smilin' at, Harry?" Harry jabbed an elbow in his friends gut, giving him a warning look, but couldn't help laughing at his accent. He sounded like one of the actors in the American cowboy movies Dudley used to watch when they were little. Dudley... Remembering what he had sounded like himself, Harry stopped laughing. They both sounded like cowboys.

"It's John, remember?" Ron had the decency to look abashed, but Harry could here him muttering curses under his breath as he rubbed his side. Hearing words like "bloody sodding bastard" in a cowboy's voice was slightly disturbing. "I'm smiling because... well, because I'm nobody!" Harry crowed the last word as though it was the best thing to ever happen to him, causing several passers-by to look at him oddly.

"Nobody?" One of the twins put a hand on his shoulder, and Harry looked over into the aristocratic face. Even seeing someone who looked like a Malfoy couldn't spoil his mood.

"Yes, nobody, ever since I came into the wizarding world, I've had people pointing at me and talking behind my back." He saw a glimmer of understanding flash in his friend's pale blue eye. "Now, look at me! I can walk down the street and be insulted!" Ron broke out laughing, and Harry followed soon after. Who in their right mind would want to be insulted? He sure led a strange life.

Soon they were climbing the stairs to Gringotts, and Harry let a sigh of relief pass his lips as they left the milling crowd behind. He heard it echoed around him as his friends did the same. "Why is it so busy today?" Harry asked the Headmaster as a Goblin opened the door for them. Dumbledore looked at him sadly, walking slowly to a counter to the left of the doors.

"The minister is going to hold a press conference today in regards to your death." Harry heard Ron utter a curse under his breath, but did not turn to admonish him. His own mind was reeling. Was this a good idea? How would everyone react to find that they weren't dead after all? He shook his head as they stopped before a particularly ugly looking goblin. We'll deal with it when the time comes.

Dumbledore cleared his throat quietly to get the goblin's attention, who jumped slightly when it saw who was at his counter. "Good day... Lunkfoot is it?" Harry noticed the plaque that stood on the Goblins counter. His name was indeed Lunkfoot. He heard Ron snickering behind him, but the Goblin didn't seem to notice, being in shock as he was from Dumbledore's appearance.

"Y-yes, indeed sir, I am Lunkfoot. How may I be of service?" The goblin's voice was much like every other Goblin Harry had heard speak in the past... like sand in a grinder. Dumbledore smiled benignly at the Goblin as he produced a parchment from his pocket. He slid the folded parchment across the counter and the Goblin picked it up with trembling fingers. He seemed to read it thoroughly before speaking. "I see... and these four will be the owners of the vaults I presume?" Dumbledore nodded, and the Goblin slid from his stool and disappeared from sight.

Harry turned his head as he heard a woman screeching loudly a few tellers away from them. Supposedly, the Goblins had atrocious exchange rates, and the interest rate on her loan was ludicrously high. Highway robbery, it was. Harry turned back to the counter as Lunkfoot returned. The goblin again picked up the parchment before raising his head to look at the four friends behind Dumbledore.

"Alex Atherton?" Ron brushed past Harry and stood nervously before the Goblin. Harry again turned his head to look at the screeching woman. She was now hitting the Goblin over the head with her purse, while the Goblin ineffectively tried to calm her down. Apparently, interest rates were very bad. Ron returned to his side, and Harry walked up to the counter as the Goblin said "John Atherton" in a slightly bored tone.

He found the Goblin holding a key, not unlike the one for his own vault. It was definitely newer, as it gleamed in a well polished way as the goblin held it out to him. "Place your right index finger on the key please." Harry did so, and the Goblin waved his free hand over his hand twice. The key glowed slightly as he did this, and Harry saw words in a strange dialect form on a parchment the Goblin was staring at. With a grunt, Lunkfoot set the key down and slid it across the counter to Harry. "Replacement keys can be bought at a cost of two Galleons each. This key is linked to your magical signature, so we will know if someone else tries to use it." Harry nodded, pocketing the key before turning and walking back to Ron. The two girls repeated the action while Harry observed two burlier Goblins escort the hysterical woman to the door. She was trying to hit them with her purse as well, but it didn't seem to faze them. Harry shook his head. It didn't seem like a good idea to get a loan at this bank.

Before they left Dumbledore handed them each a small coin pouch, tinkling merrily with coins. Harry saw Ron peaking into his pouch when he thought no one was looking, he turned slightly pale from whatever he had seen and hurried to catch up with them at the door, a nervous grin on his face. When they reached the steps the Headmaster turned once again and looked seriously at each of them in turn.

"I have to speak at the press conference, so I'm afraid that you're on your own for now. I trust that you can find your way back to the... apartment?" Seeing each of them nod, he smiled. "Now, we cannot go to your homes and collect any of your belongings, obviously. The money you will find in those pouches should be enough for each of you to purchase some new clothes and anything else you need. You can even go into London if you wish, as I trust that Mia here can keep you all in line." Harry made a mental note of which twin Dumbledore was pointing at. So, that one's Tonks.

"Now, Nia and Alex, I need your wands." Seeing their reluctant and confused expressions he explained himself better. "I will be giving them to your parents... as a keepsake. You can't do magic anyways, if you did the ministry would know that you were alive. I've already given John's wand to... your mother, Alex. She requested to have both of your wands." Harry felt tears form in his eyes, and quickly pushed his glasses atop his head to wipe them away. Dumbledore was smiling sadly at him. "She really did think you part of her family, John. Mia will be keeping her wand as she is of-age and can do all the magic she likes... although I would prefer she only do so in an emergency." The twin Harry had marked as Tonks blushed slightly, and Harry couldn't help but smile. His other two friends handed Dumbledore their wands. "Now... when buying clothing remember your cover stories. You are all from America, dress the part." With that and one last twinkle, the Headmaster turned and disappeared within the crowd on the street below.

Only after Dumbledore was gone did Harry remember the questions that he forgot to ask... Where was Dudley? Was he ok? What about Cricket? With a shake of his head he followed his friends as they dove into the crowd of people on the street.

Dudley looked through the many clothing racks nonchalantly, as though they were hardly worth his notice. The fact that his shirt and jeans were torn and blood-stained in several places did well to disabuse this notion. When he had walked into the store he had received several strange looks, and after seeing himself in a mirror he had found out why. He looked dreadful.

After walking for what seemed like days, he had gotten lucky and hitched a ride into London. Even if he had been forced to ride in the back of the truck, it was still awful nice of the driver to pick him up. (Said driver had taken one look at his appearance and locked the doors, pointing to the box.) He had thought his day was bad before he got to London, but it had promptly gotten much worse. Dudley was a big guy, and had been on a strict training program for his boxing for over a year. A program that ensured he was fed very well. With no money or anyone to go to he had to resort to something he never would have thought he would one day do.

Dumpster diving.

Cricket had seemed to enjoy the meal of garbage much better than Dudley had. Even though the food was fairly recent (Dudley had watched the garbage being carried to the dumpster) just the thought of eating what someone else had considered trash was disgusting. The smell of the older trash had kept him from eating more than the half of a cheeseburger he had eaten.

After eating the two had walked further down an alley and slept for a couple hours covered by an unfolded cardboard box he had found.

Of course, none of this had done anything to help his outward appearance. He was dirty. He had ratty clothes. And he stunk.

Not to mention the many scabbed over cuts and burns that were visible through the holes in his clothing.

Needless to say, Dudley was surprised he hadn't been kicked out as soon as he walked into the store. He supposed that looking strong and menacing might have something to do with it. The blood might have helped too.

Although he desperately needed clothes he had no way of paying for them... so of course he would be stealing them. He had stolen things before, of course, but nothing as expensive as clothes, and not since he was thirteen. Even then he had been caught and forced to give the candy back. With a furtive glance at the clerk, (who was glaring at him in a decidedly unfriendly fashion), and a woman browsing through the boys jeans with her son (who was admonishing the boy for pointing at "the dirty man") he picked up a pair of jeans and walked to the dressing room. Once inside, he slipped off his shoes and jeans and put on the new ones, slipping the tattered ones on over those. Unfortunately, with all the holes in his old jeans anyone could see the new pair beneath. With a grimace, he removed the jeans once more and put them into the backpack instead, quieting Cricket in the process.

Leaving the backpack and cricket in the dressing room, he walked around and picked out another pair of jeans, along with a hooded sweatshirt and two shirts. He carried them back to the dressing room quickly. The clerk was on the phone, and since it was pretty obvious that Dudley was stealing, it didn't take a genius to figure out who the woman was calling. He had to leave before the police arrived. He quickly threw the clothes into the backpack, which was now too full for cricket, and slung it over his shoulder. With a cluck of his tongue, he had his traveling companion back on his shoulder.

As soon as he left he heard the little boy exclaim about the "chick-munk" on his shoulder, and couldn't help but smile. It felt good to smile. The clerk intercepted him at the door.

"Did you find everything you needed?" She asked, looking pointedly at his backpack. Dudley smiled his trademark mischievous grin, but dropped it when she only scowled harder.

"Nope, I decided that I don't want anything, thanks." He saw a police cruiser pull up outside, and felt his stomach clench in a most uncomfortable way. "I really must be going, places to go and all that." He moved to go around the clerk, but she moved with him, cutting off his escape.

"I really think you should stay, sir." She said, almost smirking this time. Dudley grimaced, before gently taking hold of her upper arms and bodily lifting her out of the way. She looked up at him, shocked.

"I'm afraid I really have to go." Dudley moved quickly out of the store, turning in the opposite direction of where the police were coming, looking for an alley, a crowd of people... anything. The street seemed to be oddly empty. Just my luck... He picked up his pace slightly, hearing the door chimes of the clothing store behind him, sure enough, the clerks yell rent the air behind him soon after.

"There he is! In the black tank top!" Dudley glanced behind him, and felt his stomach drop as two cops started after him. Shit! How would he ever avenge his friends if he was in jail? All of them...dead. With a growl Dudley began sprinting, looking for anything to lose the police, but he could see nothing. Cricket chattered in his ear angrily, and afraid that his small friend would slip and fall, he grabbed the rodent and continued running with her cradled to his chest. No alley ways presented themselves, he ran for blocks and still could find nowhere to hide, to lose himself. However, he heard the police soon start to drop behind him, until finally he seemed in the clear. Even so, he continued running until he found an alley, quickly ducking into it. Couldn't find one until they give up... typical.

Minutes later, Dudley emerged with new clothes, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up to hide his face, with Cricket once again astride his shoulder. The police would be looking for him now. If he got caught, all of his plans would be ruined. Sure, stealing clothing wasn't much; he would probably spend a night in the clink. But they would find the gun in his bag. That in itself was illegal, but if they found that it was the same gun that had murdered several people in greater winging? He wouldn't be avenging anyone for a long, long time.

He felt something sharp sting his palm, and looking down, found that he had unconsciously gripped the pendant again. The Welsh cross was still bloodstained... but he couldn't bring himself to wash it clean. It seemed fitting that he would bring death to those that had killed his friends wearing her bloodstained cross. He was surprised that thinking about it didn't make him cry anymore, but then decided that he probably didn't have anymore left to cry.

Now, where did wizards hang out in London?


I hurt my arm and so I can't work. This is the result. Typing is a little awkward with a brace over my hand and wrist, but I manage. Stings a bit too, considering that the doctor thinks I might have broke one of the small bones at the base of my thumb.

Thanks for reviewing.