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Harry Potter: The Path of Indifference #5

Lessons from Thieves

After Harry’s unexplained absence from the train station, as you would expect his parents and Sirius were less than pleased and cornered him when he got home, while his brother watched. Between the events of school and his behavior so far, they were both and angry and worried. So as soon as he got back from his excursion, they told him to tell them where he was.

“No,” was the response he gave them. Repeatedly.

“We have ways of making you talk son,” James warned after the umpteenth time. “If I have to bring in a truth serum or hex you into talking then I will. Answer the question.”

Harry’s response was a challenge. “Then do it. If you think I’m distant now, intentional poison and cursing me will make you parents of the year I’m sure. Or what, you’ll take my memories too?”

James scowled, but Lily placed a calming hand on his shoulder and took the lead. “Harry, please let us help you. You’ve been through a lot and need someone to rely on.”

“I don’t want to help. Not from you,” he finished, heading for his room…only for a spell to hit him and his legs went right back to a chair to sit him down in. Harry huffed. “I’m telling you, we don’t want to have this discussion. The truth will not be pleasant.”

Sirius took a different approach. “It must’ve been a Disillusionment Charm for him to slip past us.”

“Bedazzling Hex,” Harry corrected on a subconscious thought.

Sirius gave a nod at the accomplishment. “It must’ve took you some time to get that down, but you’ve tipped your hand too soon. They’ll always be on the lookout for you using that spell.”

“I’ll pick up some new ones then.”

“Where did you learn to do that in the first place?” James asked. “You didn’t interact with anyone who would be old enough to use that spell enough from what we gathered on your school life. Was it whoever you were owling?”

“None of your business,” Harry stated.

“Harry, talk to us,” Lily said, keeping her patience. “We just want to help and grow closer as a family.”

“I…don’t…care,” Harry stated once more. “I don’t want to be closer. I want to be left alone to take my sleeping draught and get to sleep.”

James stuck with the stern hand approach. “You are just a child, who is supposed to be listening to his parents for his own safety. Yet we’re trying to help you and you keep rebelling against us. Honestly Harry, you’ve gotten more detention than the Marauders together in one year.”

Harry scoffed. “Safety? You’re not even there for nine months out of the year. We’ve been attacked by trolls, Voldemort, and ignorant classmates divided by a stupid housing system that leaves them ill-prepared for interacting with those of a different house—a different nature to their own.

“And I’m fully aware I’m being rebellious and to many it seems unfair or unjust,” Harry agreed. “I’m not a nice person overall to most people and I’ve accepted that—both the consequences and benefits that come with it—but that Marauders crack was just low. Most times I got punished it was self-defense…or payback. You guys earned your detentions. ”

“Low?” Sirius honestly sounded offended at that. “How could you not like the Marauders?”

“You were bullies,” Harry said coldly. “Even Lily refused to date James until he got his act together somewhat. If you’ve been following my detention record, you can tell I really dislike bullies and follow the eye for an eye code.”

“That wasn’t bullying!” Sirius argued. “That was pranking!”

“Pranks are only funny to everyone but the victim,” Harry rebutted. “Pranks are mean-spirited. Pranking is bullying, which is why me and the Weasley Twins have a business agreement about what happens if they pull it on me or someone I tell them not to. Not only do I revoke their right to sell my Howler Busters, but I show them a few of the curses I’ve learned. I’d like them to not bully anyone in general, but then I’d be forcing my orders down their throat like a dictator.”

“An eye for an eye makes the world blind,” Lily pointed out, getting back on track.

Harry’s counter-argument was surprisingly dark. “Then everyone will be equal in the darkness.”

Sirius, still not satisfied with the previous answer, tried another approach and broke up the pending debate. “Harry, we admit to causing a bit of trouble, but no one got hurt.”

“You tried to kill a man as a prank,” Harry pointed out. “James still gloats about Professor Snape owing a Life Debt because you tried. If Remus had killed him, that would have gotten him sent to Azkaban, or since he was cursed with being a werewolf, had him executed for the safety of others. Not to mention Dumbledore would have come under fire for allowing a werewolf to attend. You put your best friend, the Headmaster, and another student in danger—for a prank.”

Finally Sirius said, “Snivellus was an arse!”

“Sirius!” Lily yelled at him for cursing in front of the boys and interrupting her efforts.

“So that gives you the right to attempt to murder him,” Harry asked. “If this discussion was bought before an unbiased Auror at the time, you’d wind up in Azkaban. At least I confessed up to killing Qurriell out of self-defense and felt regret to the point I can still see his corpse in my mind as clear as day, but you’re hiding behind the past and don’t feel guilty in the slightest.”

Sirius tried to find a way to go against that, but looking back there was a hell of a lot that could’ve gone wrong and…well, he didn’t feel bad about Snape, but he could’ve screwed over Remus and Dumbledore. “I got nothing, but I should go apologize to Remus for that.”

He apparated away.

“Honestly, I don’t even want to go to Hogwarts anymore,” Harry said. “As I told a few others on the train, I couldn’t care less if I was expelled from the school. I’ve got no reason to want to go anywhere Gene has been.”

“Harry, you know that Gene didn’t ask for his life to be what it is,” Lily stated placidly.

“I understand Gene didn’t want to be the Boy-Who-Lived,” Harry stated. “It was that or we’d both be dead. That’s the reason I haven’t gone out of my way to make his life a living nightmare, even now. Mindless revenge over things people can’t control is pointless. I was content not even speaking with him until he hit me with the very spell James stole from Professor Snape and tried to lecture me about who I could talk with.”

“You sold me out to Slytherin!” Gene exclaimed.

“No, I gave him an answer to a question and we weren’t even sorted then,” Harry told him. “House divisions and points mean nothing to me. At this point the professors don’t bother subtracting or adding points from me because as a disciplinary action it holds no effect on me. They stick with detention if I’m bad and as long as I get my work done with good marks, I’m galleon.”

“Potters have been going to Hogwarts for generations,” James said. “Besides, if you get kicked out of one school, what makes you think you’ll get into another considering your conduct? Your wand could very well be snapped.”

“Then I can get a new wand and teach myself with the dozen or so books I have, or, if it comes to it, leave the magical world,” Harry pointed out. “In the Mundane world there are many other public schools with less…fatal educational hazards. I already intended to apply for an educational equivalent of a high school degree when I can and find a college abroad.”

Okay, now they really were worried about him. A blatant disregard for punishments suited for his age and a backup plan should he get kicked out of school. That couldn’t be good in someone his age. He was planning on leaving his old life behind, had no friends according to himself, and falling for the Dark Arts…

Oh God, Lily thought. She looked her husband and whispered, “He’s just like Sev was…

“Harry, dear,” Lily said cautiously. “I’ve seen a dear friend go the same way you are and it’s a lonely path filled with regret.”

“If it’s the path I chose for myself I won’t regret it,” he replied calmly. Tired of this, he decided to change the subject. He looked at his mother. “By the way, did you know that your sister has a son?”

Lily blinked. “Petunia? She hasn’t spoken to me since James and her husband had a falling out. How did you…?”

“I looked her up,” Harry said. “She was reluctant to talk to me since she hadn’t heard from you in years and her obvious dislike of the magical world. Well, more like hate, but we spoke long enough for me pick up some information and a promise not to come within a mile of their home or contact them again…she didn’t say anything about you though.”

Lifting her hand to cover her mouth, Lily sunk into thought. “But she hates our side of things…”

“No, she immensely dislikes the magical world because you were gifted and she wasn’t as a child,” Harry said. “James is rich by wizard standards and all, meaning you got power, money, and fame since Gene is the Boy-Who-Lived, while she lives an ordinary life. I can relate to her because I’m stuck under Gene’s shadow as long as I’m a Potter and you’ve doted on him much like your parents did to you, so I really get where she’s coming from.”

“Harry, we don’t—” Lily was cut off when Harry raised his hand, not wanting to go back to the subject.

“But the real reason she dislikes the magical world it because it took you away from her as a child,” Harry stated. “You were gone for most of the year, came back to show off in front of her for a few months, and then were gone again. Even now, do you know the first thing she asked me when I called her?”

Lily shook her head.

“She asked ‘Did something happen to my sister?'” Harry told her. Granted, there was a ‘Freak’ in that sentence, but he was driving a point across. “You may have been mundane-born, but you’ve become so entrenched in this world that you’ve lost touch with your own sister and she only thought she’d be contacted if you were murdered or something. At least I went out of my way to save Gene.”

“I…” Lily looked a bit lost as she walked away. “I’ll go see if I can send her an owl or something…”

Well, that’s two down, Harry thought. Wasn’t nice and I’ll go through Hell for it later…now, how do I get James to drop it? He has nothing I can use against him…ah, yes.

“Look, we both know Voldemort is coming back or half-back at this point,” Harry stated. “Rather than trying to interrogate me, why not get Gene up to date on his skills so he doesn’t end up a sacrificial lamb?”

James wasn’t buying it. “That was a very cold thing you did to your mother and uncle. Your mother has often spent many nights wondering about her sister, and you knew it, didn’t you?”

Harry dropped his impassive mask and got serious. “I told you I didn’t want to have this discussion. I don’t have to forgive you all for neglecting me, only to take an interest when it came between choosing between Voldemort or Gene.”

“Regardless of whether or not you forgive us, you are still a child,” the adult stated. To be fair he had a point. “And you were right. I was a bully, but I got my act together. My past doesn’t define who I am today. What’s your excuse for being one?”

“I am not a bully!” Harry shouted.

“Maybe not physically, but what you did to your mother and uncle—who were patient with you despite everything—was emotional bullying. As for school, you may be following the ‘eye for an eye’ theorem, but that rarely works out in the long run. As you said, all are equal in the dark, only because you can’t see the monster you’ve become in the end.

“Now, since you can’t tell us where you went today,”—James nodded to the stairs—”you are grounded for a month. Leave your wand. You can use it for homework only until the period of punishment is up. Since you like your muggle books and plan on leaving when you’re older, you can study them as well.”

“Fine by me,” Harry shrugged, before adding a sarcastic, “Glad we had this talk.”

A Month Later

The month gave him time to think—and get a start on his homework, being a Ravenclaw and all—but most of his thoughts didn’t linger on the topics of school or the mundane, but rather that of Voldemort. What drove someone into becoming like a psychopath who sought immortality at the expense of the lives of others? What made him the man he was today?

As Professor Snape said, he knew nothing of the enemy he loathed with a passion. It wasn’t like he could find a psychopath to follow around and get a feel for, not without being killed. And he couldn’t act the part without coming off as an idiot or sinking into it. He had to start out fresh—learn about what drove criminals and society’s outcasts at a base-level.

So Harry would learn how the criminal mind would think.

It just so happened that the Weasley Twins told him of a supplier for what he might have needed for improved Howler Busters, because eventually the people who made the Howlers would make them resistant. They all knew that, so he had been planning on something a little stronger in the works. That same supplier was someone his parents and Sirius often spoke of as the lowest level of the criminal pyramid: The Petty Thief.

After grabbing a letter and putting it in an envelope, Harry pocketed it into his pouch with intent to have it delivered by a common postal owl to Myrtle and left his room in common street clothes since he had the intention of going through mundane territory as well.

“Where are you going?” Gene asked as he spied Harry heading down the stairs.

“None of your business,” was his response as he headed to the fireplace to use the Floo. He had to admit, it was one of the perks magicals had over mundane. Grabbing the powder and throwing it in, he said, “My month is up and I’ve got things to do. Diagon Alley!”

Cold flames washed over his skin as he entered and was taken from point A to point B, stumbling as he landed and taking a moment to center himself. For a brief second he considered going to retrieve his important items from Sherry, but there was a chance his parent’s had a tracking spell or eyes sent out to watch for him and he lacked the Bedazzling Hex without his wand. So, after dropping the letter off, he searched for the thief he sought, finding him in one of the five haunts the twins mentioned—an out of the way alley this time. There was a man there, short with ginger hair and brown eyes that widened a bit when he saw Harry.

“Mundungus Fletcher?” Harry asked, just to be certain.

He nodded, an inquisitive brow raised. “I know you. You’re that Auror James’s other boy. What brings a privileged one like you here? If it’s about those accusations, he’s got no proof and—”

“Look, I came on my own and this is pure business. The Twins told me to come see you about acquiring supplies through some less-reputable means when we were talking not too long ago? I need to get my hands on a few catalysts with some being illegal to own before adulthood, books on multiple subjects, and other things—and I need them discreetly and possibly to learn how to procure such material in the future by myself.”

“It’s gonna cost you,” he said after a moment. He was used to smuggling goods for the Weasley Twins and less-than-stellar other youngsters, so this was nothing new. “And I assume you have money that can’t be traced back to your parent’s vaults? Between the risk of the Goblins revolting again while handing all the banks and the chance of it being traced back, I’d rather coin or barter up front.”

As he pulled out some of the galleons he made from his Howler Busters, two strands of the Unicorn Hair fell onto the ground, and Mundungus snatched them up quickly. With a keen eye, he recognized it. “Unicorn Hair?”

“Yeah…?” Harry’s eyebrow rose, letting the galleons fall into his pocket after seeing the man’s eyes light up. “I got them from the Forbidden Forest in Hogwarts.”

“Those hairs are worth ten galleons a strand, right up there with Threstral Hairs…and I just so happen to know some backdoor wand makers who need some that I can charge at a higher rate. If you’ve got a few more, we can do business.”

Harry pulled out the rest and the man’s eyes lit up further, like a Christmas tree. “You’ll get two hairs for every answer. Deal?”

No sense in wasting easy money for a few questions. “What do you need and want to know?”

“To start with: The Trace,” Harry told him. “I need to know how to deceive it. I figured a thief such as yourself would know.”

“Thief is such a harsh word…” He steepled his fingers. “Appropriation Expert is more fitting. Exactly how good are you with potions?”

“One of the best in my year,” Harry stated.

“You’re only a First year, so not very,” he incorrectly summed up. Harry brushed it aside for the sake of information gathering. “Here’s the thing age potions don’t fool it because it monitors your magical core’s age, not physical, much like an age line.”

“Then what can I use for it?” he asked. When the thi—appropriation expert made a gesture for him to pony up he gave him two hairs. He gave them to the man.

“There’s another reason things that enhance your magical ability are illegal, it causes an overflux,” he stated, pocketing the strands. “By making your magical core produce more magic than the set amount per age range you can fool it temporarily, until it settles down. It’s not without risks, but it’s much cleaner than simply trying to break The Trace, which is illegal—well, more illegal. ”

“If I wanted to say, become an expert in your field of choice, how would I go about it.” Harry asked next, handing over the hairs.

“First Lesson in Appropriations 101: Learn to read lips,” he said. “Privacy wards can stop sounds, but rarely do they attempt to stop visual as well for conversations. You should also have a good means of escape.”

“What about apparating?” Another two hairs given.

“Nah,” he answered. “Too risky and noisy if you aren’t good at it. There are too many ways to screw up apparition since they rely on your own magic, like an Anti-apparation jinx or a Splinching Curse to make anyone who tried pay for it—not that it’s legal to know such a thing. All good appropriations experts of my caliber know how to make a portkey to a safe house…although the Black Family’s defenses were tricky to get around.”

“I remember that, my uncle complained you stole some of his silver…how did you steal Sirius’s silver?” Harry asked incredulously. “I’ve been told they’ve been cursed if anyone outside the Black Family took them from the house. Yet you still draw breath?”

Another gesture for payment and said payment later, Mundungus answered with “I broke the curse obviously.”

Harry looked at him with skeptical eyes. “You know how to break curses?”

“Kid, I appropriate from witches and wizards. People who tend to get curse-happy when you take from them and have been trained in using a versatile tool called a ‘wand’ since childhood. That’s another two hairs.”

“How…you don’t exactly look like cursebreaker-material,” he said, handing over four hairs for this and the previous question, tacking on a quick, “no offense meant.”

“You’d be surprised how easy it is to…appropriate a cursebreaker’s notes and books once they were no longer around,” he said, not really taking offense since he’d been called worse to his face. It was an occupational risk. “They tend to leave behind widows who are only all too eager to be rid of their deceased’s reasons for entering the next great adventure.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “You steal from widows?”

“Well, it’s not like they need or can use the stuff,” he shrugged, continuing the trade and noticing the boy still had about ten hairs left. “Besides, it’s not like I do anything more than a confusion or stunner. I may be an appropriations expert, but guys like us operate at a semi-civil level—not like Death Eaters used to or the really dirty guys. I mean, if I was really sleazy I’d just stun you and take those hairs, modifying your memories on my way out to go get a drink…by the way, never meet with someone in a shady alley without being ready to draw.”

“…noted,” Harry said unsettled. The man before him, referred to as a petty criminal, had a decent skill set if his words were true. “If you’re that skilled, why are you a thief?”

“That’s a long and personal story,” he said bitterly, rubbing his chin. “It’s going to cost you all of the hairs you’ve got, non-negotiable.”

It was worth it and he had no further need of the hairs. He handed five hairs over. “Half now and half when finished, start talking.”

Mundungus clicked his teeth and sighed as he put them away. “Let’s see, I was born about 1960 or so in a place in Ireland to a mundane mum and some wizard I don’t really give two shakes about even now, out of a one-night stand. When she got pregnant and tried to find him, he obliviated her sloppily—after all, merely pointing a wand and casting the spell is risky, hence there are specialized departments for things that tamper with memories—and left her unaware of how she was pregnant and caused a falling out with her parents.

“We weren’t well off and to survive we did what we had to until the wizard who sought me out for my education at Hogwarts was ‘kind’ enough to point out how I was conceived and then she was made to forget. That angered her and she wanted her memories back since the spell only covered up the memories. He undid the spell’s effects and when I left home for schooling, paid through a fund of Hogwarts since the wizarding population is low and several alumni contribute, she sought retribution against the guy. The next thing I knew I was receiving a notice both were dead—murder-suicide.”

Harry looked pale. “I’m…sorry, I—”

“Yeah, yeah, let me finish,” Mundungus said. Sympathy wouldn’t bring her back. “You paid, so listen. Anyway, during the three months we weren’t at school I had to stay at an orphanage of sorts for magicals, crappy food and ramshackle walls, where a couple of the guys took it upon themselves to make things better by depriving society of what it deprived them. ”

Harry blinked. “You joined a ragtag guild of thieves?”

“Now, I take offense to that,” he crossed his arms, “we’re a network of appropriations experts, even now. Once a member, always a member…unless you rat them out to the proper authorities like that weasel did. Sure, I can understand looking out for yourself. We all can and I probably would have bought him a drink and had a laugh about it if it didn’t get me a stint in Azkaban. Who lets soul-sucking creatures inhabit a prison for petty theft?

“Anyway, once you’re branded an ex-convict, most job opportunities are scarce, forcing you to go back to what you were put in for to make a living and survive. After I was bailed out of trouble by a hastily accused murder—which I won’t go into details—by Dumbledore, I avoided the network and did my own thing. Story end, now pay up.”

“Do they have an apprenticeship program?” Harry asked on an off-chance. “This network you speak of?”

“Not for you,” he said, plucking the last of the hairs. “Sorry kid, you’re related to an Auror and from a noble house. That screams too risky and they’d never take you.”

“Right,” Harry replied. First time that being well-off hindered him for certain.

“One last thing,” the older man added. “Just because someone has a sympathetic background, it doesn’t mean what they’re doing is anything less than what it is. If you think otherwise they’ll take advantage of you and think nothing of it. Tragic story or not, I have no intention of changing what it is I do and kindness is exploitable.”

“Noted,” Harry said before making arrangements for some catalysts to be delivered to him later on and leaving.

Two-hundred and sixty galleons in five minutes, Mundungus thought. “Not a bad morning.”

With his tasks on the magical side of things done and the lack of a wand, along with not wanting to deal with his parents or brother at the moment, Harry left the alley and went out towards the mall to visit the arcade.

The sounds of machinery and games, children of various ages who weren’t looking at him with eyes that spoke of fear, envy, or hatred, the atmosphere itself felt different than that of Hogwarts and he missed it dearly. It was his slice of Heaven compared to everything else. Nine months of ancient castles and classes only made being here sweeter.

“Haven’t seen you around here in a while,” a familiar voice said. Harry turned to come face to face with a lean, but tall pre-teen who hung out with him whenever he came before, Aaron. “Where you been?”

“My parents sent me to a boarding school and I’m back on break.” Harry answered.

“Is that the reason you have these weird coins?” Aaron asked. Harry blinked, so he showed him he had gotten some of the magical currency he kept in his pocket rather than his pouch.

“They’re from the country I was in…Switzerland,” he lied. “Yeah, let’s go with that. Can I have them back?”

The older boy handed them back. “Can’t use ’em, so why not?”

This time putting them away in his pouch, the young wizard asked, “How did you do that?”

“You want me to show you how to pickpocket?” Harry nodded. “It’s going to cost you some real money.”

Man today is turning out to be expensive, Harry whined in his head as he pulled his wallet from an inside pocket of his jacket and presented it to him. It was his movie/arcade fund, but some sacrifices were needed. “Just take as much as you want.”

Aaron looked at him as he grew a second head as he carefully grabbed the wallet, his mind altering between disgust at the casual way he handed over the money and why he wanted to learn so bad he would pay up. Still, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he emptied the wallet completely and handed it back to a waiting Harry, who seemed to expect it. Counting the cash, he quickly put it away after he was done and said, “Follow me.”

Thus began the impromptu lesson in pickpocketing, with the chosen class being the streets as pedestrians walked past while Aaron showed him the ropes until Harry tried for himself. A part of him realized it was wrong, but he was doing it for a greater purpose.

The police officer who had spotted them mid-theft thought otherwise. “Hey!”

Aaron swore under his breath and grabbed Harry. “You were made, come on!”

With Harry being unfamiliar in this part of the city, he had Aaron lead him with the cop on their rear, grateful he kept his cardio up. But as long as they were on the main street it was only a matter of time before they were caught. Both of them knew that, so Aaron led him to an alley with a seven-foot stone bulwark between it and the exit.

“This is a dead end!” Harry told him, still running towards it.

Aaron didn’t reply, going at the wall on the side of the fence and and leaping up and kicking off it to get the necessary height to scale it. On top of it, he extended his hand for Harry to grab and pulled him over as the officer closed in, narrowly missing Harry by a foot as they both hopped down on the other side, buying precious minutes.

Aaron sighed as he took the cash out of the wallet Harry stole and then tossed it back over for the cop to return it, minus the pounds he took out of it. He couldn’t use the credit cards anyway. Looking back at Harry, he motioned for him to follow him as the shorter of the two was still panting. “Come on, let’s hit the store.”

Harry followed silently as they entered a supermarket and Aaron bought groceries and had him help carry them into what could only politely be described as slums, weather-worn bricks forming ramshackle buildings that looked worse on the interior, cries from babies and youths alike with parents either yelling or consoling. It unnerved Harry. “This is where you live?”

“Yeah,” Aaron admitted as he stopped in front of a door with a crack running through it and fished out a key from his pocket to open it. The door revealed what was a rather small apartment as he had Harry set the bags on the countertop of the kitchen.

“Aaron?” an older and feminine voice called for him as the owner entered the room. She had to be around Harry’s mother’s age he figured, but the difference was that she seemed older with wrinkles and occasional strands of grey hair mixed in with black that was in a ponytail. She looked between the boys and the groceries and said, “Who’s your friend?”

“He’s a pal of mine who goes to a boarding school and came back for a few days,” Aaron told her.

She sighed as she looked at Harry. “You didn’t drag this child into this did you?”

“He volunteered,” Aaron defended. “Where’s Sophie?”

“I’m going to go pick her up from her grandmother’s now,” his mother stated, taking a momentary glance at the other boy and the groceries and then looking…tired. “Just…don’t let him help you again, you hear?”

Aaron nodded and she left out, leaving the two alone for the moment. Harry was polite enough not to comment on anything about the circumstances, but Aaron saw the question in his eyes about the look she had at the end and how placid she seemed about what was done. “She knows I did what I had to do to get these, but she doesn’t like it.”

“She didn’t seem mad about it though,” Harry said.

“Not mad,” he huffed. “She’s used to it. As long as my little sister doesn’t know about it since she’s just out of Kindergarten. Smart one already she is, gotta future ahead of her. I’m a lost cause though until I get old enough to find some work. Until then, I do what I gotta do.”

Harry helped him put away the groceries and then had Aaron walk him towards the more populated street as the sunset to avoid him getting into trouble with the locals, giving him time to think about the circumstances both Aaron and Mundungus both lived in. Both were criminals and didn’t deny that to themselves. They were just doing what they had to in order to survive.

Snipe told him he didn’t understand the mind of the person he hated the most or his followers, who were typically either wealthy pure-blood elitists or guys looking to blame others for their misfortune and sought galleons and glory, and he still didn’t. But he saw just how narrow his view was. Having his father, though distant, being an Auror and wealthy had him see things from one point of view rather than the same view that those two had. Even though the Weasleys were impoverished they never resorted to crime, staying on the good side of the law.

But for the two he went with today, things were deeper shades of grey, surviving by depriving others of what they had despite the consequences. It was a step in the right direction for learning what he needed to, but he could help but feel there was so much that could be done for them both though, a different path taken with some guidance. The wizard could break curses, yet had to resort to petty theft and moving merchandise because of a stint in Azkaban, and Aaron saw himself as a lost cause due to poverty, only pinning his family’s hopes for the future on his baby sister.

All in all, today has been productive in some aspects and a sobering realization of how cruel the world could be just because—Harry’s thoughts ended when he was grabbed and felt like he was squeezed through a tube, finding himself at his home. He eyed his kidnapper and noticed it was his uncle. “You do realize you could’ve splinched me, right?”

“Side-along Apparations rely on the one doing the jumping’s skill, which I am proficient in,” Sirius stated.

“Uh-huh, sure,” Harry scoffed before turning his attention to the others. “Was it really that difficult to just wait until I came home on my own accord rather than kidnap me? Really?”

“Yes,” James said. “Especially considering you aided and abetted a criminal today.”

Harry blinked, before putting the pieces together. “You had Sirius follow me from the moment I told Gene to shove off and used the Floo to announce where I was going. If he was following me into the mall, he would have been in human form and under a spell since dogs aren’t allowed.”

“Explain yourself,” was all James said.

“I refuse,” Harry replied all the same. Sure, he could confess he was getting into the mindset of people fundamentally different than he was…but he wasn’t on good terms with any of them, so why bother?

“Fine,” James huffed. “You’re grounded, again.”

“Fine by me,” Harry replied, much to his father’s anger. “You just don’t get it James, you have little power over me as long as I have to go to Hogwarts. There’s not much you can do to me baring physical punishment or grounding, and for me that’s hardly a hindrance.”

James rubbed his chin and narrowed his eyes behind his glasses, before a smile grew on his face. “Actually, your mother and I have been discussing that and we’ve called in a favor. Pack your bags Harry, you’re going on a little trip the day after tomorrow…”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “To where?”

James merely chuckled. “You could say a correctional program for wayward young wizards and witches, established by Madam Bones in an effort to curb future rouge elements. She claimed inspiration from the muggle world so you should be familiar with it.”

“You’re sending me to the magical equivalent of Boot Camp?” Harry growled lowly.

“You were right,” James admitted. “There’s only so much I can do, so I figured I’d let the experts handle it.”

Harry exhaled deeply before meeting his father’s gaze, defiance still in his eyes. “Bring. It. On. Then.”

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