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Fics begun in 2003 (post-OOTP)

Chapter Twenty-one

DOWNSIDE UP

August 19, noon

“Take your time, Harry,” Dumbledore said, his voice calculated to reassure. Harry wasn’t terribly interested in reassurance; he wasn’t terribly interested in entering the tower at all.

Shacklebolt criticised, “You’re letting your imagination run away with you – it’s dictating your actions. Get hold of yourself.”

Tonks stood beside Harry and gently put her arm around his shoulders; she touched him almost gingerly, as though she were afraid of hurting him. He was surprised by the gesture, and even more surprised by the pain in her eyes. “He’s not here,” she said quietly. “It’s yours to take.”

“I don’t know if I want to take it,” he admitted.

Her eyes flared and her hand tightened on his shoulder. From someone else, Harry might not have taken notice. Coming from Tonks, the power of the gesture lay in its unexpectedness. “Show him respect,” she said harshly. “He gave this to you, so you’ll take it.”

Harry fumbled with the key and walked toward the black painted door that breached the wall. He thought of what he’d told Hermione – it seemed so long ago, he thought – Gryffindors go forward.

He said idly to the silver serpent knocker and the snakes carved into the stone trim, “This is mine now.” Tonks abruptly pulled her arm from him; he understood why when the sibilance of Parseltongue echoed in his ears. He turned the key, and strode through the door and into a courtyard.

He walked around the outside of the tower first. Shacklebolt watched the turrets above, Dumbledore paused to look periodically at various plants, and Tonks followed Harry at a distance. Inside the wall, the tower was surrounded by unkempt and overgrown gardens on part of three sides. In the back, where the wall began to follow the promontory downward toward the sea, there was a huge walk-through trellis, fully enclosed by winding vines and in the shape of a cross. A thick knot of trees filled out the remainder of the backside. Continuing around, Harry came upon a carriage house and then a stable, separated from the remainder of the yard by additional walls. The huge doors that led from the carriage house through the wall were concealed by thick brush – both inside and outside.

“I see why my mum liked it here,” Tonks said, just before she caught her toe on a raised flagstone and nearly fell atop Harry.

“How did you ever manage to become an Auror?” Harry laughed. Tonks’ face grew stern, almost McGonagall-stern. Harry winced, and added, “I know, I know – I’m a prat.”

Her expression softened slightly. “You’re not a prat, Harry,” she told him. “A thoughtless git, perhaps…”

“Ouch,” he deadpanned.

They resumed their walk around the tower, with Tonks following more closely. As they neared the door that entered the tower itself, Tonks said casually, “When it matters, everything comes together. That’s why I survived Auror training. That… and Kingsley took pity on me at first, in his way.”

Dumbledore spotted Harry and Tonks waiting before the tower, and turned his attention away from the plants. Shacklebolt appeared next to the door. “I should have brought a broom,” he said. “Someone could be hiding behind the turrets or the parapets.”

“You’re spending too much time around Moody,” Tonks chided him.

“Are you ready to enter?” Dumbledore asked Harry.

Harry turned to Tonks. “This really should be yours,” he said.

Tonks shrugged. “I’m not a Black. I wasn’t even raised as one; my mum saw to that. Besides, inheritance is arranged to favour men.” With a smirk, she added, “Compensation for your shortcomings, I suppose.”

Harry raised an eyebrow in mock-consternation and asked, “Was that a short joke?” He did his best to keep a straight face as Tonks squirmed.

She babbled, “I meant men generally… I wasn’t… it wasn’t about you… I would never… you’re of perfectly normal height!” He snorted, and then laughed at her predicament. She swatted his arm, but smiled.

“What do you think - should we go in together?” he asked.

“The door’s wide enough for one,” Tonks returned. “Age before beauty, then.” She stepped in front of Harry, wand extended.

“In that case, allow me,” Shacklebolt offered, and eased Tonks aside. “Harry, you turn the key. I’ll open the door.” As Harry turned the key, Shacklebolt moved past him and into the darkness, wand extended and lit.

Harry peered in from behind. The door opened into a small irregular foyer. To the left, an opening appeared to lead into a spiral staircase. Ahead was a door. To the right, a hallway opened.

“Where are the sconces?” Shacklebolt wondered aloud.

Harry pushed in behind him, followed by Tonks, who advised, “Look up.” Over the heads was a small chandelier formed of brass and glass.

Shacklebolt pointed his wand, and Tonks grabbed his arm. “No!” she insisted. “It’s an electric light.”

Shacklebolt frowned. “The Blacks used Muggle lighting? I find that hard to believe.”

Harry found and flipped a switch on the wall, and the foyer was brilliantly lit. “Sirius’ letter said that Muggles leased the place after his parents were gone. Heather told me they tried to turn it into an inn of some kind.”

Shacklebolt’s frown remained. “Calling her by first name, are you? Albus, I know you want to afford Harry more freedom, but surely you’ve had a talk about the dangers of familiarity with…”

Harry felt a ripple of rage, the first he could recall in days. “If you have a problem with my choices, then you talk to me,” he warned.

Shacklebolt appeared ready to snap in return but stopped himself. Instead, he sighed, “I speak only out of concern. If you’re insistent upon spending valuable time consorting, then it should be with your own kind –”

Harry cut him off. “What kind would that be?” he snarled.

Shacklebolt attempted to explain himself. “I wasn’t trying to besmirch anyone. Consorting with Muggles takes so much more effort, Harry. There’s the double life, of course – not to mention the lack of familiarity with customs and such. I don’t expect you’ll have the energy to waste, or the opportunity when you move back to Hogwarts in September.”

Harry advanced on Shacklebolt, who took a step backward and gripped his wand. “Remember where I was raised? I’m a bit light on Muggle culture, but sometimes I’m lost around wizards. As for September, I don’t plan to be trapped at Hogwarts.”

“We have not yet decided where you will live in the fall,” Dumbledore said from the doorway.

Harry whirled around, and glared. Anger seemed more painful now, he thought; it felt as though a half-healed wound had torn open. “We haven’t, but I have,” he growled. “Let’s get on with this.”

“Harry, we’re just trying to help,” Tonks offered.

“We’re trying to keep you alive,” clarified Shacklebolt.

“And we all know why you’re doing that,” Harry grumbled.

Tonks appeared stung, whilst Dumbledore looked on with evident disapproval. She blurted out, “I’ll start with the garret, then,” and dashed up the spiral stairs and out of view.

In short order, Harry decided that his fears about the tower might have been unfounded. The Muggles had extensively remodelled; anything reminiscent of the Black residence in London save the door knocker had long since been expunged. Dumbledore and Shacklebolt combed the first floor, looking for traps, boggarts, ghouls, and residual dark magic from the days of the Blacks. Harry chose to follow along casually. He felt no sense of foreboding, he felt no comfort; he felt nothing from the place at all. It was just a building to him. Home was a quarter-mile to the southeast.

The ground floor was taken up with a large area for eating and food preparation, adjacent to a long and narrow vaulted kitchen. One cellar held all the Muggle mechanicals – the laundry equipment, a walk-in freezer, huge water heaters, and the like. The other cellar was set as storage or pantry, and also contained a water closet. It had its own separate spiral stair. Harry split off from Dumbledore, and ascended.

The stair rose for two flights. The first flight opened into a great hall; the second to a loft that overlooked the hall. The high ceiling of the hall was boldly painted and patterned. A large dining table, with seating for twenty, dominated the centre of the hall. From the loft, he looked right to an ornate fireplace, straight ahead to a series of tapestries and an opening to another spiral stair, and left to tall windows that overlooked the sea. The loft itself was set as a sitting area, with settees and softly padded armchairs.

Harry descended to the hall itself. Atop the dining table was an envelope, with a small box adjacent. Harry’s name was written on the envelope in Dedalus Diggle’s florid strokes. He resisted the urge to shred the envelope and instead tore it open.

Dear Mr. Potter:

Per Mr. Black’s instructions, I have engaged assistance to assure that the tower has been prepared for occupancy.  This did require the contracting of Muggles with expertise in the repair and replacement of various machines. I suspect that they were overpaid. I do not understand why Mr. Black wished to have these Muggle features restored, as opposed to returning the tower to its prior condition. Nonetheless, I have carefully followed his instructions.

The Lord of the manor’s bedchamber has been prepared for your use. I have contacted a former caretaker of the property, to seek his services for instances when the property may be unoccupied. I shall contact you with more information on this matter forthwith.

I was unable to enter or even find the Lord of the Manor’s study. Mr. Black explained to me that this would be the case. Inside the box you will find the Black signet ring, per Mr. Black’s request. Only the heir to the Black clan title may wear the ring; it will reject all others. According to Mr. Black, the ring will be required to gain entry into the study.

It should be a straightforward matter for you to return the tower to its former state. I am happy to contract for house-elves, craft mages, or other servants who may assist you in that endeavour. All the resources that you will ever require are at your disposal, having been amply replaced in keeping with Mr. Black’s desires. Acting on your behalf has been an honour and a pleasure beyond my wildest imagining. I may be reached by name via the Great Hall fireplace, at any time that you may require.

Respectfully,

Dedalus Diggle, Esq.

Harry read the last paragraph several times. His eyes stuck on ‘… having been amply replaced in keeping with Mr. Black’s desires’. Sirius wouldn’t have asked Diggle to take money from Muggles, Harry assured himself. He pounded his fist against the table, and let out a guttural shout.

Shacklebolt raced from the far staircase, wand at the ready. “What is it?” he boomed. He picked up the letter that Harry had flung, quickly read it and said, “Reached by name via the…? Why in Merlin’s name…?” He lowered the letter, and shook his head. “Apparently, Sirius’ instructions have preempted those of the Order.”

Harry growled, “I’m glad we’re hooked up. Any time, he said? Smashing! How about now?” He pointed his wand at the huge fireplace, and green flames erupted. There was a small unobtrusive container of Floo powder set on the mantle, amongst the bric-a-brac. Harry tossed a pinch, shouted “Dedalus Diggle!”, and thrust his head into the fire.

“Oh!” Diggle squeaked. He was seated at an ancient desk that dwarfed him, and his violet hat fell off as he quivered in fright. “Mr. Potter, what an unexpected… please come in!” He looked at Harry, and his anticipatory smile faded. “You look a fright! Is something the matter?”

Harry gritted his teeth. “I’m at the tower. I need you here now,” he snapped.

“Of course, of course!” Diggle said brightly, as he bounded from his chair. He gathered his things, and sauntered through the fire almost before Harry could back away.

Diggle pulled out his own brush, and expertly flicked the soot from his valise. “What is it that you need, Mr. Potter…? Oh! Hello, Kingsley… er… didn’t anticipate seeing you here…”

“I didn’t anticipate seeing anyone Floo into this tower,” Shacklebolt glowered.

Diggle swallowed audibly. “Look here, Kingsley,” he offered nervously; “I have an obligation to my late client, an obligation that I swore to fulfil. I’ll have you know that it hasn’t been easy, either. Sirius was a fine fellow – he didn’t deserve anything that befell him – but he had absolutely no idea of the complexity involved in his requests. If I’d levied a typical percentage for my efforts, I’d be quite wealthy now.”

He turned to Harry. “But I didn’t do that,” he said proudly. “I would have paid him for the opportunity to serve you, Mr. Potter. I owed your father a tremendous debt from days gone by, a debt that I feared I should never have opportunity to repay. I take solace in knowing that I have played a small part in assuring that his son shall want for nothing. You will never again have to grovel in the presence of those horrible Muggles.”

Harry clenched and unclenched his fists. “Those horrible Muggles, as you call them, are my concern and not yours,” he said. His voice gained power with each syllable.

Diggle looked at Harry and then Shacklebolt uncertainly. “I… I didn’t mean to imply… er… that is…”

Dumbledore strode onto the loft that overlooked the hall. “Dedalus, what an unexpected surprise!” he said warmly. “How is it that you came to join us?”

“Mr. Potter… er… contacted me through the… erm… I can explain, you see…” stammered Diggle. 

Dumbledore seemed to glide to them, moving effortlessly down the stairs and across the hall. “It was decided that the tower would not be connected to the Floo Network, Dedalus. It was decided, and it was agreed upon by all present. I believe that you were present, were you not?” Diggle seemed to shrink before Harry’s eyes. He squeaked about professional responsibility and sputtered about contractual obligations, and Dumbledore gazed at him impassively.

Harry turned to Dumbledore in frustration. “Who decided that? I certainly wasn't there, and this is my property. Now if you'll excuse me, Mr. Diggle and I have business to discuss,” he snapped.

Dumbledore remained calm. “Would you not prefer to await Remus?” he asked. “As your conservator, he should be present. In addition, I understood that he possessed some information that might pertain to the matter at hand.”

I know everything that I need to know,” Harry answered angrily.

In the absence of Remus, perhaps I should remain,” Dumbledore said.

Harry reached for the box containing the signet ring. “Mr. Diggle, we can continue our conversation in the study,” he said forcefully as he opened the box.

 

Dumbledore placed his hand over the box. “Harry, I have conversed with Phineas Nigellus through the door to the study. You would deeply regret taking Dedalus into that room whilst in your present state of mind. If and when you choose to enter that room for the first time, you shall do so calmly. Please respect my opinion on this matter, if nothing else.” Harry met his eyes, debated for a moment, and then closed the box.

Tonks bounded into the room from the main stairs. “I think they’ve arrived,” she said with a smirk. “My dad should be in fine form. I hope Remus kept him from killing Odd.”

“Mr. Lovegood? I thought Remus was bringing Mr. Tonks,” Harry said.

“Oh, he did,” said Dumbledore. “Mr. Tonks and Mr. Lovegood shared quarters at Hogwarts for seven years. Despite what I or others may think, Mr. Lovegood does bring valuable perspective from time to time.”

“That doesn't explain why he's here,” Harry said.

“I believe your friends wanted to see you,” Dumbledore returned. “Miss Lovegood wished to convey her thanks, young Mr. Weasley wanted to answer his post in person, and Miss Weasley is... along for the ride, I believe the saying goes?”

It was supposed to be Remus and one other person. I should have been told,” Harry snapped.

Yes, you should have been informed,” admitted Dumbledore. “The matter slipped from my mind. There was rather a lot to go on about last evening – this morning, to be proper about it.”

Before he followed Tonks to the front door, Harry glared at Diggle, and barked, “Sit!” From the corner of his eye, he saw Diggle comply.

 

A van was parked just outside the wall, like no van that Harry had ever seen plying the streets of Little Whinging. It appeared well kept, down to the blue and white paint, but the style was surely quite old. A spare tyre projected from the front, centred beneath the square divided windshield. A chrome circle held the tyre in place, marked with an interlocking V and W. The top bubbled up, as though it could be raised. A huge white poodle was painted on each of the two side doors.

The two doors flung open, and Remus Lupin emerged. He was clad in his Muggle clothes – looking every inch the tired Oxford don – and his face was etched with fatigue, horror and relief. “Harry!” he called out. “We’re here at last, thank Merlin!”

Harry clasped his hands. “I take it we're to meet here, rather than L'Oiseau Chanteur?” he said curtly.

Lupin’s brow furrowed. “Look, Harry, I apologise for the extra guests. Quite a few people were anxious to see you. I hope…”

“You owe me a drink,” Ron called out, “and I could really use it right about now!” He coughed as he clambered from the back of the van.

Harry shook his hand, and sized him up. Ron looked as relaxed as Harry remembered him from years past. He wondered if Ron had permanently adopted Bill’s look, minus the earring and ponytail. “Good to see you, mate,” Harry offered.

“Good to be alive,” Ron laughed. Quietly and with a conspiratorial look, he added, “I’d have been bloody terrified, if there were a van in my vision. Did you know that thing is actually burning when it moves?” Harry briefly considered an attempt to explain petrol but thought better of it, and then thought better of it. He was still uncomfortable with Ron’s casual acceptance of the visions of death.

“That drink will be butterbeer, Ron – butterbeer,” Bill Weasley warned, though in a friendly way. He turned to Harry, hand extended. “How are you, Harry? Tonks told me that you were faring well up here.”

“Another minder, I see?” Harry grunted.

“That's right – Ron and Ginny's minder,” Bill said with a frown.

Harry heard Ginny’s voice. “Leave it,” she said, “I’ll carry everything in. You just concentrate on walking.”

“I am not an invalid, Ginny. While it is true that I could feel better, I am perfectly capable of carrying my own bag,” Luna protested.

Ron rolled his eyes. “Ginny’s been taking a test run at being Mum,” he explained. “She’s rather good at it. I think that Luna’s had her fill.”

Harry winced. “Between Ginny and Hermione, I’d wager Luna hasn’t had a moment of peace.”

Ron’s mouth tightened. “Harry… er… about Hermione - ”

“Dumbledore already told me,” Harry cut him off.

Odd Lovegood and Ted Tonks came around the side of the van. “For the last time, there are no such things as nargles!” Mr. Tonks spluttered.

Mr. Lovegood said kindly, “Ted, you’re simply incapable of believing anything that you can’t see. I’m sure that’s a useful trait in your line of endeavour, but… well, it leaves you a bit stiff. Not that that’s necessarily bad, of course… being a bit stiff, that is. I mean, you always were that way. You wear it well, truly.” It was obvious that Mr. Lovegood’s tone was only leaving Mr. Tonks more exasperated; it was equally obvious that Mr. Lovegood either failed to notice or simply didn’t care.

Lupin cut in. “Ted, Diggle’s here,” he said.

Mr. Tonks frowned and wondered aloud, “How on earth did that come about?” He shook Harry’s hand and went on, “Pleased to see you, Harry, though I wish it were under more settled circumstances. I’m too often the bearer of unpleasant news; it’s a professional hazard.”

“I’ve already had my fill of bad news where Diggle’s concerned,” Harry grumbled. “I called him here so that I could sack him.”

“It’s a shame that Sirius didn’t save you the trouble,” Mr. Tonks said. “What’s prompted you, specifically?”

“He’s been collecting money from the residents around here – some kind of assessment,” Harry explained. “He was doing it in my name, more or less.”

Mr. Tonks nodded. “Relief payments – they were an ugly practice a hundred years ago; they should be illegal now. I surmised as much from the ledger entries. I’m pleased that Andromeda rejected our monies from the Black Trust.”

Lupin shook his head. “Diggle has quite a lot of explaining to do, Harry,” he said sadly. “What you’ve described is deplorable, but not the worst of it.”

Harry’s eyebrows rose. There was a tap on the back of his shoulder. He turned to face Luna, who was smiling at him. “I am pleased to see you, Harry,” she said. “This place must suit you; you appear rested. I do not believe that you have ever been well-rested, not in the time that I have known you.”

She wore denims and a high turtle-neck. Harry’s eyes drifted to the collar and then to Luna’s face. “How are you?” he asked

Her smile never dimmed. “Scars fade, given enough time,” she said. “I am not ashamed of mine; it is sensitive to the breeze, so I choose to cover it.”

“I’m sorry,” Harry mumbled. “You didn’t deserve…” He wondered how she could possibly continue to smile. Ginny hovered in the background, and carefully watched Luna.

“This ground has already been trod,” Luna said. “Might we go inside? I would like to sit for a moment.” She’s so pale, he thought. Before he had an opportunity to offer any assistance, Ginny and Mr. Lovegood moved in and spirited Luna into the tower.

Ron shook his head. “Your own bloody tower,” he said.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Harry said glumly.

“Professor Lupin told us you had some business. I guess it’s to be taken care of right now?” Ron said. “There must be some food around here. Meet up with you afterwards?”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Harry called back absently.

Mr. Tonks reached into the van, and pulled out a crate filled with papers. “Carry this, would you?” he asked Harry. He handed off a second crate to Lupin, and took two valises himself. As they walked inside, Mr. Tonks advised Harry, “Before you do anything rash, Diggle needs to validate as much of this information as possible.”

Lupin added, “I’m very angry with Diggle, Harry, but we also need to consider his other recent work. He needs to remain on our side at the conclusion of this. Do you understand?”

Harry mulled this over. It made sense to him, when he thought about it – as a member of the Order, Diggle surely knew too much to be safely driven off. “I don’t like it, but I understand,” he answered.

Lupin entered the great hall just ahead of Harry. “Hello, Dedalus. We have so much to discuss that I hardly know where to begin,” he growled. He set the crate on the dining table, and crossed his arms sternly. Harry set his crate next to the first.

“Hello, Ted,” Diggle said curtly as Mr. Tonks entered the room. “I take it you’ve hired him, Lupin?” Lupin’s glare provided an unmistakable answer.

“Good afternoon, Dedalus,” Mr. Tonks said crisply. “It would seem that you’ve really cocked things up this time. I have made a minor career of tidying up after you, but this is a corker. The fact that it concerns Harry, of all people, makes it that much worse.”

“No sense at all, Dedalus,” Lupin accused.

“Had I known that I would be walking into an inquisition, I might have prepared a few notes,” Diggle fumed.

“I doubt that it would make the slightest difference,” Lupin shot back.

Mr. Tonks leaned against the side of the dining table. “About three weeks ago, Remus asked if I would review the financial statements that Gringotts provided him. Frankly, it took a week to make any sense of them whatever. He and I, along with Amelia Bones, have put in another week or two evaluating your various decisions and have drawn some rather pointed conclusions. Let’s begin with the Black ancestral castle and properties, not to mention the ownership stake in the Daily Prophet. You must realise, of course, that you were completely taken by Keith MacLeish? You couldn’t possibly have evaluated comparable properties.”

“You make the castle sound like a hobby farm,” Diggle said defensively. “What comparable properties do you have in mind? In any case, ready currency was required. Mr. Black laid out a whole raft of requirements that were to be fulfilled prior to the reading of the will. There wasn’t time to wait for the perfect client. Do you honestly believe that people are lined up to purchase something like that?”

Mr. Tonks insisted, “People are lined up to buy, Dedalus! With the boom in the Muggle economy and high interest in historical properties… for someone whose livelihood is dependent upon interchange with Muggles, you’re utterly blind to them!”

Diggle said through clenched teeth, “My livelihood is dependent upon assisting wizarding families forced to deal with Muggles, for whatever reasons that may arise.”

“So it was better to be grossly underpaid for the castle than to put it in the hands of a Muggle?” Mr. Tonks asked. “It is MacLeish, after all; many of our friends and colleagues no longer consider him to be one of us.”

“Mr. Black wanted the castle liquidated. Can you imagine what would have happened if the castle itself had been divided into shares? Would you have preferred to share ownership of a castle with the Malfoy family? Perhaps I did undervalue the castle, but I was able to liquidate it in two weeks’ time, and MacLeish substantially undervalued Harry’s share of the Daily Prophet,” Diggle said defiantly. “The escalation of that share value over time –”

Mr. Tonks cut him off. “You were misdirected – intentionally misdirected. He gave you a fair value on a modest investment, but managed to get your approval on a contract that you obviously failed to read, and received a castle and thousands of acres for pence on the pound! As icing on the cake, you moved all of it to Galleons in a single business day. The effect of a transaction of that size on the exchange rate probably cost a quarter of a million pounds!”

“As I said, ready currency was required...” Diggle repeated. He stopped, and looked up sharply. “What do you mean about failing to read the contract?”

“You gave MacLeish a limited license to use Harry’s name and image,” Mr. Tonks said. “The undervaluation of the investment was essentially payment for those rights.”

Harry cut in. “My name and image… what do you mean?” he asked apprehensively.

“For the next two years, MacLeish owns limited rights to use your name and face,” Mr. Tonks explained. “He’s also asserted rights to the phrases ‘The Boy-Who-Lived’ and ‘Bloody Harry’.” Diggle winced, and Harry’s eyes bore into him.

“You sold my name?” Harry snarled.

Mr. Tonks gestured for Harry to relax. “It sounds a bit worse than it is, Harry,” he said. “For example, he hasn’t the right to use your name as an endorsement for any product, although he can theoretically prevent you from making your own endorsements. When the rights lapse, you can refuse renewal of the agreement.”

“This is unbelievable,” Harry glowered.

“Mr. Potter, I apologise for my oversight,” Diggle said hastily. “I had understood that the assignment of rights only related to promotion of your partnership in the Daily Prophet.”

“Don’t refer to it as a partnership,” Mr. Tonks interjected. “Harry is a shareholder, not a partner. He has no decision-making authority, and no effective ability to oppose the decisions of management. After selling Harry fifteen percent, MacLeish still holds sixty-nine percent of Vox Populi.”

“MacLeish has consistently described Harry as a partner,” Diggle pointed out, “both privately and publicly.”

“MacLeish doesn’t have partners!” Mr. Tonks cried out. “If he’s painting Harry as a partner, it’s only because he gains something from it. How could you possibly put Harry in business with him? What were you thinking?

“Keith MacLeish is a wealthy and powerful man. He is well connected in the wizarding world, and well respected by those who actually matter. His connections to our government are growing daily. It is to Harry’s benefit to have a relationship with someone like that,” Diggle insisted.

Lupin said acidly, “You could have applied that description to Lucius Malfoy until this summer.”

Diggle’s eyebrows shot up, and he said excitedly, “MacLeish is not a Death Eater. He is not a supporter of Voldemort simply because he is wealthy and powerful. I do not conduct business with Death Eaters.”

Mr. Tonks opened one of his valises, and removed a folder. “I see,” he said offhandedly. He flipped a few sheets inside the folder, adjusted his spectacles, and began, “You made a number of short term investments in June and July, with respect to the Black Trust. Two of them were in partnership with Global Ventures, Ltd… one on July 3 for a little less than a million pounds, supposedly repaid with interest on July 9… and another on July 10 for just over a million pounds, supposedly repaid with interest on August 2. You made three short-term investments in July with respect to Harry’s personal funds… one was with Global Ventures, on July 29 for just over a million pounds… supposedly repaid with interest last Wednesday. Was there anything suspicious about these particular transactions?”

Diggle crossed his arms. “I’ve used short term investments frequently in the past – and I know you have as well. Muggles are forever pinching their cash flow, and they’ll pay dearly to get around that.”

“Did you bother to check up on Global Ventures?” Mr. Tonks asked.

“It is a holding company for a shipping concern,” Diggle answered. “I’ve worked with them a few times over the years. They borrow on liberal terms, and they pay off early.”

“Global Ventures, Ltd. is owned by Echo Partners, Ltd., by way of about a dozen corporate shells and cul-de-sacs,” Mr. Tonks said. “Exactly how many times have you worked with them?”

“Don’t play the barrister with me, Ted – it’s childish,” snapped Diggle.

“I suppose it’s reasonable that you could have been fooled,” Mr. Tonks sighed. “Andromeda spent the better part of two weeks chasing the ownership trail. I might have asked her to drop the search, but she began to run into familiar threads. Shortly after that, we happened upon Echo Partners, Ltd. Regrettably, we’re quite familiar with that company. Are you familiar with Greco-Roman mythology? Given your name, I would have assumed –”

“What in Merlin’s name are you playing at? Get to the point, would you?” Diggle demanded.

Mr. Tonks pressed on. “In mythology, Echo was a nymph. She was hopelessly in love with a beautiful youth by the name of Narcissus. Echo Partners, Ltd. has one owner, and you can surmise who he is.”

Diggle’s mouth slowly began to drop. “It’s not possible,” he said hoarsely.

Mr. Tonks delivered the deathblow. “One of the shell companies was called LXM Corporation. You wouldn’t have had to dig nearly as deeply for that one, though I admit that it didn’t strike me on first or even second viewing. L – X – M. Lucius – Xavier – Malfoy.”

Diggle slumped in his chair; his face paled, and his breathing turned increasingly agonal. “Not possible… Malfoy… not possible… couldn’t be… sweet Merlin, it’s not… what have I done?” he cried.

“Dedalus, what you’ve done is to launder money for a Death Eater,” Mr. Tonks said. He went on dispassionately, “On July 5, my dear brother-in-law successfully bought his way out of prison, using the money borrowed from the Black Trust. The repayment was made in marks, and drawn off an Albanian bank – you can figure it out from there. On July 16, some very dangerous rune stones were stolen from a Muggle museum in Athens. It was a sophisticated bit of thievery, I was told – quite expensive to pull off. One of the thieves was caught by Greek magical law enforcement. He said that a tall British man with long blond hair financed the job, and he described the buyer of the runes as a British man with a metal hand. Again, the repayment to the Trust was in marks, drawn from a different Albanian bank. On two occasions, the Hogwarts Board of Governors issued adverse findings regarding Harry. The first action took place three days after the last Global Ventures investment. Both times, the same voting bloc supported the findings. Three of those members are now under investigation, suspected of having taken bribes that total an amount quite similar to that last investment of yours. That one was repaid directly from Lucius Malfoy’s accounts; since his estate is again subject to impound by the Ministry, chances are good that Harry will have to return that money. When you put it all together, Dedalus, that’s not a very good run … not a very good run at all.”

Harry stood frozen in horror. His face felt hot as a flame. As Diggle cried out, Harry heard his own voice as if from a distance. “Let me get this straight… Lucius Malfoy borrowed my money to get me dismissed from Hogwarts?”

“That’s the long and short of it, Harry. I’m terribly sorry,” Mr. Tonks said. Harry laughed nervously, almost hysterically.

Diggle stammered, “M… M… Mister Potter, I… I don’t know what to say. You can’t… you can’t believe that I’d willingly lend money to Lucius Malfoy?”

“What should Harry believe, then?” Lupin growled.

Diggle fumbled clumsily through his valise. “I admit, I made mistakes, but… I want you to take a look at this, Ted. I want you to take a look at this, and tell me what you’d do differently.” He pulled out a thick file, and waved it frantically in Mr. Tonks’ direction. Diggle looked to Dumbledore, and Dumbledore returned the look impassively. Harry noticed that Tonks was watching her father with appreciation; he also thought that Bill Weasley was prepared to roast Diggle on a spit.

Mr. Tonks scanned the first page inside the file, flipped it aside, scanned the second page, and frowned deeply. He pulled a chair out from the dining table, sat, and spread the contents of the folder across the table. “This is unbelievable,” he muttered. Lupin peered over his shoulder, and then pulled up a chair of his own. Diggle began to take on the air of a man being vindicated. He glanced at Harry, and Harry glared back because everyone seemed to be missing the point.

After several minutes, Mr. Tonks looked up at Dumbledore, who stood across the table from him. “These are perhaps the most contradictory instructions I have ever read,” he concluded.

“See?” Diggle trumpeted. “You see what I had to deal with?”

Mr. Tonks frowned deeply. “Yes, Dedalus, I see what you had to deal with. You were in over your head on this one. You could have sought help. I would gladly have helped you, if you’d asked. You could have pulled additional resources from Gringotts. Even Carlo Greengrass might have helped you on the property matters. You could have done something. You were in over your head, and look what happened as a result!”

Harry reached his boiling point. “Mr. Diggle, why did you collect money from the people living in the village?” he asked.

Diggle failed to recognise the quaver in Harry’s voice. He answered, “In order to provide for the estate corpus that Mr. Black desired, while still satisfying his requests regarding personal property and inheritance, additional funds were required. I wasn’t about to obligate your personal funds, and I was not authorised to use funds from the Potter Trust. The principal source of income for the Black Trust over the last two centuries has been recurring relief payments. I simply reinstituted a long-standing practice.”

Harry’s voice shook. “Did you ever think to ask what I might think about this?” From the corner of his eye, he saw Tonks and Bill Weasley edge closer.

“At the time I reinstituted the payments, you had not yet accepted the inheritance,” Diggle explained. “Mr. Potter – Harry – they owed you this. The Muggles owe you for your suffering… I'm sorry, are you feeling ill?”

Harry advanced on Diggle, who nearly knocked over his valise in fright. “The only Muggles who have treated me poorly are my own family, and they’re my problem. The people who live here have never done anything to me. How am I supposed to live here, when all of my neighbours hate me because I’m taking their money? Did you think about that?”

Diggle said hesitantly, “You make it sound as though you would be living here among them. As Lord of the manor, well, you live above them of course. Collecting relief payments on these lands is a perfectly legal –”

Harry stopped inches from Diggle, who looked into Harry’s eyes and clearly began to panic. “It may be legal,” Harry said, “but that doesn’t mean it’s right. No more – it’s done, do you hear?”

Diggle spluttered, “I… I’m… I’m sorry… I didn’t seek to offend you… I only wanted to…”

Harry ignored him. He said flatly, “Mr. Tonks, I’d very much like to hire you, and I figure I'd have Madam Bones' blessing to do it. Mr. Diggle, as soon as you’ve answered every question that Mr. Tonks and Remus have for you – and I mean every question – I want you to leave. I have nothing else to say to you. If you’ll excuse me, please?” He picked up the small box from the dining table, pocketed it, and rushed blindly up the stairs.

It was right there, if I’d known to look, he thought as he sprinted upward. ‘Tell Malfoy to continue his efforts’ – that’s what Voldemort said to Wormtail. Everyone said there were Galleons influencing the Board of Governors… I never would have believed that they were mine.

He heard Dumbledore call after him – something about avoiding the study. That’s fine, he thought, I don’t even know where it is. He simply wanted to find the highest point in the tower. At Hogwarts, at the times when everything seemed to be falling apart, Harry had scaled the Astronomy Tower, or climbed atop the Owlery – anywhere, provided that it was high above the earth.

The stairs ended at the second floor, and a small passage led to another narrow stair that continued upward. He sat at its base and just breathed, and hoped for calm. I just hope that Remus and Mr. Tonks can straighten things out, he decided at length.

When he felt more settled, he took the narrow winding stair that ended at the garret. An open door to the left revealed a library. He wandered past the shelves, and saw many titles that he recognised from Grimmauld Place. To the right, a handful of steps led to a short corridor that in turn led to two bedrooms. Harry looked in the first; he sought a window that would accommodate him, or a service door that led to the roof. He heard voices in the second room, and quietly peered inside.

Luna sat in an armchair, facing the window. Ginny fluffed a pillow, and eased it behind Luna. “There, that’s better,” Ginny murmured.

“My back is uninjured,” Luna said dismissively, as though she were focussed on something outside.

Ron leaned against the wall. “She’s just concerned, that’s all. You shouldn’t be travelling yet.”

Luna turned to face Ron. “I lost a fair amount of blood, and thus I tire easily. My neck is sensitive and slightly sore. The bruises have subsided. None of these preclude me from travelling…” She stopped and inclined her head toward Ginny, and added, “… or walking, or picking up after myself.”

“I wonder where Harry’s off to?” Ron said. “When all hell broke loose with Diggle, I thought he was running up here.”

“Perhaps you should look for him, Ronald?” Luna offered. “I imagine he could use a friend at the moment.” She added with a sigh, “He certainly has suffered this summer, has he not?”

You’ve suffered,” Ron returned. “Harry, he’s just… I don’t know… star-crossed, I suppose. This must be what that sodding prophecy is about – you know, the part about not being able to live.”

“Ron, I don’t think we should discuss it,” Ginny warned.

“What is it with you?” Ron snapped. “You act like he doesn’t exist any more… bloody hell, it was the snog, wasn’t it? But that doesn’t figure… you were the one that shoved him off, right?”

“It’s nothing to do with that,” Ginny said darkly. “Drop it.”

“Ronald, you sound hungry,” Luna said. She affected an ethereal tone, and intoned, “Treacle tarts are in ascension… and the tea leaves show a deadly penchant for pumpkin juice…”

Ron gave a mock shiver. “Urgh… you sound just like Trelawney – the old bat. Just don’t do the thing, you know, that thing with the eyes that she… I asked you not to do that! Luna!

Ginny laughed. “Can I get you anything, anything at all?” she asked Luna.

Luna shook her head. “Perhaps you should find somewhere to practice?” she suggested. “You haven’t played since last evening; you must be longing for it.”

“I did manage to get in a few minutes this morning, before we left,” Ginny admitted nervously.

“Don’t encourage her!” Ron barked at Luna. “It’s torture, I tell you! She never stops!”

“Perhaps you could take up the lute, Ronald,” Luna said in a lilt, and then added in song, “You could serenade me, O good and gentle knight!”

Ron turned ashen. “You really are loony… you do know that, right?”

Luna turned back to whatever it was that she saw outside the window. “It pleases me to satisfy the expectations of others,” she said absently.

“She’s mental,” Ron said to Ginny. “Fancy a snack?”

Ginny picked up her violin case from the floor. “I think I’ll find a quiet spot instead.”

“There must be a suitable dungeon,” Ron grumbled.

Harry pressed himself into the corner as Ron and Ginny passed by. He didn’t want to be seen as an eavesdropper… like Ron, he thought. He waited for a few moments, and then knocked on the door frame. “May I come in?” he asked.

“You just missed Ronald and Ginny,” Luna said, without looking away from the window.

“I’ll catch up with them later,” said Harry. “It was nice of you to come along.”

“It is nice of you to tolerate uninvited guests,” Luna returned.

“Er… Luna… what are you looking at?” Harry asked, not entirely sure that he was prepared for a Luna Lovegood answer.

“Something absolutely fascinating,” Luna answered. “Come to the window.”

Harry crouched beside her, and she stuck her arm out the window. Her index finger pointed directly toward the bothy. “Look there, adjacent to the cliffs.” She swirled her arm around, tracing a broad circle with her finger.

“Erm… what is it that I’m looking at?” Harry asked nervously.

“Look at that small pile of rocks, nearest to the cliffs,” Luna directed. “In which direction does the pile cast its shadow?”

Harry thought for a moment. “Let me see… northeast?”

“Yes, if the sea is directly east,” Luna said. “Look at the pile of rocks over there, away from the cliffs… no, not that one – the one farthest from us.”

“All right – I see it.”

“In which direction does the shadow point?”

Harry looked, and then looked again. “Southwest,” he whispered.

“Look at the rest of the piles of rock, Harry. All of the shadows appear to point away from the space bounded by the piles,” Luna observed.

“I’ll be switched… you’re right,” Harry said. “How did you see that… why did you see that?”

Luna smiled, and her big eyes shone. “My daddy prides himself on seeing the world clearly, and he taught that to me. Do you know what most of us do, when confronted with phenomena that break the rules? We see those phenomena through the lens of the rules, and thus we do not see them at all. I open my eyes, and I see. Muggles often think that the world is right side up. Wizards and witches know that it’s upside down. Unfortunately for them, it’s actually downside up.”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “ ‘Downside up’ ?”

“Downside up,” Luna repeated. “I will borrow my daddy’s explanation, as I have been unable to improve upon it. Can you do a headstand?”

Harry froze. “I’m sorry?”

“A headstand – can you do a headstand?” Luna asked. “You can balance against the wall, provided that you are faced toward the centre of the room.” She made no move to leave her chair.

Harry felt like a fool, and he hoped fervently that no one else entered the room. Still, he did as she asked. “Now what?” he asked uncomfortably.

“Look around. How would you describe your position?” she asked.

“I’m upside down!” he blurted in exasperation.

“Where is ‘down’?” Luna asked calmly.

“Right here, for Merlin’s sake!” he shouted, and banged his elbow against the floor.

“But that’s ‘up’… isn’t it? Where is ‘down’?” she asked.

“It’s not ‘up’…” Harry stopped. He looked straight ahead. The floor was above him, and the ceiling fell away at his feet. “Okay, it’s ‘up’ at the moment. Is that your point?”

Luna slowly rose from the chair, and positioned herself in front of Harry. “Is it still ‘up’?” she asked him.

“For me? I suppose it is,” he said.

Luna smiled again – this time it was the enigmatic smile that Harry remembered from Hogwarts. “What does that make me, then?”

“Erm… upside down?” he ventured.

Luna said, “The blood rushing into your head is certain evidence that, in fact, you are the one who is upside down.”

“It looks to me like you’re hanging from the ceiling,” Harry said with a grin.

“You might want to consider coming out of that headstand, although your face looks rather fetching in Gryffindor red,” Luna suggested. Harry eased himself down, and Luna continued, “I was not upside down, of course. Gravity still rules – you could feel it, obviously. Still, your perception of the world differed from mine, and you held to that view in the face of my insistence to the contrary. You could not describe yourself as right side up, nor would it have been appropriate to describe yourself as upside down. You, Harry Potter, were downside up.”

“You’re telling me that you live your life in a constant headstand?” Harry laughed.

“I am downside up, thank you. Most of the rest of the world is firmly attached to the ceiling,” Luna said seriously. “Which are you?”

“I can do a headstand now and then,” Harry offered.

“You should do so sparingly,” Luna recommended seriously. “I’m loony, you know.” Harry and Luna talked about nothing in particular until Ron walked in, a tray of snacks and a pitcher of juice in hand. Luna didn’t raise the issue of the inconsistent shadows again; Harry thought that was strange but somehow predictable.

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