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Fics begun in 2003 (post-OOTP)

Chapter Nineteen


August 18

Harry loved the way that the Bonnie hugged the A328. The ride back from Edinburgh was a rush of winding curves, roller-coaster hills and sharp breaks. There was little need for him to mind the wet pavement, since the motorbike never actually touched it. He felt as though he had mastered riding at last, with a little help from Devlin Whitehorn’s manual. He preferred keeping the Bonnie in very-low-level flight; it played well to his broom-riding instincts. He could easily manage a hundred in flight, even through the curves if no one was watching. When he was ‘riding’, the motorbike bucked and wobbled and slid just like the real thing.

The manual had been very helpful indeed. He had found, for example, that the saddlebags were fashioned from dragon hide. He could put magic-sensitive things like Muggle electronics in the bags, and carry them without risk of damage. He also found that he could change the colour and detailing to match his whim; he had immediately tweaked the red tank into proper Gryffindor crimson.

He found that he liked Edinburgh very much. It was big and noisy and busy, but felt accessible to him in a way that London did not. He had made the journey to and from St. Ebb five times now in eleven days. It was nice to be close to the city but still able to retreat from it, he had decided. One of his saddlebags was filled nearly to overflowing with compact discs. His purchases were a smorgasbord, rather like Sirius’ album collection – pop, metal, jazz, classical. He’d even purchased a disc by Heather Magruder, the performer that Keith MacLeish had scheduled for the Daily Prophet party in September. She didn’t seem to be terribly wrapped up in self-promotion – the case wasn’t adorned with her picture, unlike nearly every other disc that he purchased. He felt a bit self-indulgent after a week and a half of spending; there had been a new compact disc player, clothes, books, artwork, and many gifts for friends. He’d arranged for Hermione’s birthday present, and he hoped that she’d appreciate it. He’d watched three sunrises and a half-dozen sunsets, thrown some pebbles from the cliffs, walked the beach, and thoroughly soaked up the newness of being on his own. On the main, he thought that Sirius would be pleased.

The other saddlebag was filled with groceries – things that Harry wanted but couldn’t purchase from the little market in St. Ebb. He didn’t need much, since he was only taking breakfast and snacks at the bothy. Mr. Granger had called him a ‘foodie’, he recalled. Perhaps that was true, because Harry had fallen hard for L’Oiseau Chanteur.

He came across it unexpectedly, in the way that true loves are often found. He was acquainting himself with St. Ebb, and tarried until early afternoon. Hungry and knackered, he stumbled into a small restaurant. A French-influenced restaurant in a Scottish fishing village – however ridden with holidaymakers that village might be – seemed unusual even to Harry, and he was very uncertain whether to give it a go. It was terribly busy, even at a quarter past two – a good sign, he had suspected – but a waitress took pity on him and seated him at a tiny table jammed into a nook that faced into the kitchen. A swarthy fellow with expensive-looking shoes thrust a menu at him and demanded an order. Harkening back to the carts in the London market, Harry closed the menu and asked for the most interesting thing that the kitchen served. The swarthy fellow – ‘The Greek’, everyone called him – told him that the most interesting things wouldn’t be found on the menu.

The chef was a woman called Shona. Harry guessed that she might be a bit older than Bill Weasley, but he was a poor judge. She had dark hair pulled back in a braid, and powerful hands. She seldom smiled, and her eyes were hard – many members of the Order had eyes like that. She had quickly appraised him, and told him matter-of-factly what he would be eating. Her food was wonderful, he decided instantly.

Watching her work was a lesson in command, he decided. She was ruthless, and her language made him blush at first. She knew everything about everyone in her domain – likes, dislikes, boiling points, ambitions – and she played them, just as surely as Ginny played the violin. Most of the kitchen staff seemed fanatically loyal to her, and the waiters and waitresses appeared to love her or fear her – either way, they did their best. He watched her push people right to the edge, and then offer something – praise, sympathy, instruction – which they needed in order to go on. The kitchen was a combat zone, Harry learned; knives blazed, plates flew, and it was hot as a boiling cauldron. It was only appropriate that the chef was a general, he thought – a general who had mastered every part of the work. Harry watched carefully, and he learned by watching.

He came back for the evening meal, which caused The Greek – the swarthy fellow who Harry had since decided was a manager of sorts, or a representative of the owner, or something like that – to raise an eyebrow. Harry drew a smile from him by the third evening meal, which was as rare as a unicorn if the staff were to be believed. He also fell into a very interesting dance beginning that evening, which caused him to return just as surely as the food.

Harry rated a good table, The Greek had decided. Harry’s table was secluded, off to one side, but afforded him a clear view of both the kitchen and the whole of the seating area – the ‘floor’, they called it. He saw her peeking out from the kitchen, and recognised her immediately – longish dark hair, bright eyes, pleasant face. It was terribly obvious that she was trying not to be obvious, and he knew then that she was neither Auror nor Death Eater. I wondered what you were doing, he thought, and now I know. She disappeared from view, and returned wearing a server’s apron and a nametag. She waited his table that night, and he enjoyed it. If he hadn’t been able to sense the ebb and flow of her emotions, he wouldn’t have known that she was covering any nervousness at all; she was, in fact, as nervous as he was. He wondered why her thoughts were so open to him, and worried that he might be accidentally intruding in her mind. He resolved to learn more about Legilimency, and he wondered if Dumbledore’s drifting around the edges of his own mind was sometimes an accidental intrusion.

He came back for the midday meal the next day, and – to his surprise – so did she. As the days passed, it became easier for him to remain outside of her feelings and thoughts. She was obviously related to Shona in some way, though he hadn’t yet summoned the nerve to enquire as to the specifics. He guessed that she was near his age, most likely a little older. He thought that Shona was probably too young to be her mother, but he’d heard stories via Dudley of pregnancies at Smelting and among the Stonewall crowd. She possessed a softer version of Shona’s features. She also possessed a similar irreverence, though not the same vocabulary. She had a Scottish accent, but it was a gentle lilt next to Shona’s chain-saw burr. Her voice was strong and smooth; it was the kind of voice that easily carried, and she seemed self-conscious about it. Harry decided sometime during his fifth evening meal that he liked listening to her.

She wore a different nametag every day, and therefore used a different name. She hadn’t asked Harry his name the first evening, and so he decided to play along once it was clear that a game was afoot. It was an integral part of the dance now. She would be Margaret – ‘that’s Your Highness to you’, she insisted – and he became Philip. She was Merry, and he decided to be Chris. The previous day, she had been Lily. She took note of his surprise, he knew, though he hoped she hadn’t seen flashes of anger or sadness – she didn’t know what she’d done, of course, and he didn’t want to hold it against her. It took him until the end of the first course to decide upon James. He hadn’t yet used Harry, and he doubted that he had ever heard her real name. She had missed two of his meals, and he had missed her both times. He knew that he was surely a bit thick when it came to girls, but even he couldn’t help but take notice that she only waited on one table – his table – while the other servers took several each.

At some point, one of the older waitresses had kindly explained to him that he left rather large gratuities. He felt it was easier in the evenings to simply leave a 50-pound note; he preferred to slip out when he was finished, and didn’t want to trouble anyone for change. The Greek actually suggested that if Harry wanted to toss about large notes, he could pay for both meals of the day in the evening; this had caused quite a stir. The previous evening, he had peeked into the kitchen to see ‘Lily’ divide his entire gratuity amongst the kitchen staff; she didn’t keep a pence.

He was determined that he would summon the courage to ask about that, among other things. He wondered what name she would choose for the day, and debated whether he should choose to be Harry. He wanted to know her name, and he didn’t; he enjoyed whatever was happening very much, and didn’t care to do or say anything that might end it or even threaten it. He cleared the last curve of significance on the A328, and sped along the straightaway that took him to the turn for St. Ebb. There was most likely a table being held, and he didn’t care to be late.

Everyone knew who he was, and the bartender let him in well before the start of the midday service. The Greek was nowhere to be seen; Eduardo, one of the kitchen staff, waved and pointed at the small table near the kitchen. Perhaps they’re full today, he thought, and he made his way across the floor.

Shona addressed a huddle of servers in the kitchen. He knew that she was frustrated by the midday servers, who were a younger and less experienced lot than the evening servers. She berated a young woman who Harry hadn’t seen before, because she didn’t know what prosciutto was. Harry knew, but only because he’d bothered to pick up a good text on the culinary arts at a book shop he’d happened upon in Edinburgh.

“What effing good are yeh? Yeh cannae fool English knobdobbers without the details! Once more – it’s Italian ham, with a light cure!” she hollered, slapping her own forehead. “I’ll run the effing features good and slow, then!”

She spoke slowly, hanging on each syllable with obvious contempt. “The fish is baked halibut, with baby red potatoes, asparagus, tomatoes and leeks. The meat is roast capercailzie with port wine sauce and braised red cabbage. The soup is soupe de poisson with rouille. Any of you need ‘rouille’ explained – again? Pasta is farfalle with roasted vegetables, garlic, baby artichokes, basil and extra virgin olive oil, and the dessert is tarte Tatin. Questions?” She glowered at them, and no one dared open their mouth.

Shona ordered beneficently, “Taste everything, my little numpties. Stand ready by twelve. There are at least a dozen six-tops in the book.” She peeked out into the house, and caught his eye.

He grinned. “The features sound good,” he said. “I’ll have a hard time choosing.”

She shook her head. “Slumming, are yeh? Didn’t The Greek give yeh Table Ten?”

Harry shrugged. “I didn’t see him; Eduardo waved me over. All the action’s back here, anyway.” He smirked, and added, “Besides… I wouldn’t want to be out there with all those English knobdobbers, now would I?”

Shona nearly smiled. “Yer exempt… for the moment.” The Muggle papers in London and the news readers on the telly had gone on about ‘the Scottish problem’ all summer, and he could sense the unease. Harry knew that Shona had strong feelings about the holidaymakers who overran the area, and tended to agree with her; he’d seen some rather ugly behaviour along the High Street.

She turned to her station in the kitchen, and he turned to a book. Bill Weasley had sent him a charmed copy of Mastery of the Sword by Sun-Tzu as a belated birthday present; it appeared to Muggles as though it were The Art of War.

“Och, here’s trouble,” Shona called out. Harry peeked over the top of his book. She was there, and Shona awkwardly returned her light hug.

“Thought I’d pitch in a bit,” the hugger offered, and added with a chuckle, “You’ve been prattling on about the day staff in your sleep.”

Shona unpacked saucing spoons. “Yer startin’ ta sound like the English, little bird. The bufties are rubbin’ off on yeh.”

The hugger – lacking a consistent name to remember, Harry simply thought of her as She – pulled back her dark hair, and efficiently twisted it into a knot. “Do you want the help, or not?”

“Not if yer covering one table,” Shona growled; she turned and shot a pointed look at Harry, who dove behind his book.

She glared at Shona, and Shona sighed, “Fine – it’s yer holiday.” She stalked over to a supply rack, rifled through a bin, and held out a nametag. “Yer ‘Madeleine’ today,” she spat, and added in a whisper loud enough for Harry to hear, “He seems a decent one, but yeh don’t know him. Dinnae get caught with yer breeks down.”

‘Madeleine’ tied on a server’s apron. “Charming,” she deadpanned.

“Yer head’s full o’ mince,” Shona muttered disapprovingly.

“I’ll take Table Four,” ‘Madeleine’ said, gesturing to one of the six-tops, “and Table Twenty-Six, of course.” She smiled at Harry, who had already decided that he liked her smile very much.

The intercom buzzed and Shona picked up, annoyed.

“Telephone call for Chef,” the hostess’ voice crackled over the speaker.

Shona groused, “This had better be good! It’d better not be that baldy bastard with the purple hat – Digger, or whatever his effing name is! If it is, yeh tell him to go off and bugger the very first…”

There was a loud squelch, and the hostess cut her off. “It’s Bruce MacShane, about the tomatoes. He’s waiting on line one, Chef.”

She pushed the blinking red light, and screamed, “Crackin’ ta hear from yeh, MacShane! What kind of glue-sniffing subhuman trash yeh got working for you? I wouldn’t feed the tomatoes they trucked over to a boatload of… yer mental! They’re pure shite! I’ve got three effing greengrocers – three! It’s always you that BENDS ME OVER AND … four crates, and yer talking some sense… NO! I dinnae need three greengrocers any more – I can call Tim right now… four hours? I need them for the first seating tonight! Two hours, and NO EFFING EXCUSES!” She jabbed at the light, and turned her full attention to the sauces.

Harry was still stuck on ‘purple hat’ and ‘Digger’. She couldn’t possibly mean Dedalus Diggle, he assured himself. It’s hard to imagine Diggle touching a telephone.

She stood before him, notepad in hand. “Good afternoon, sir. Apparently, my name is Madeleine,” she chuckled.

He smiled. He couldn’t help himself, really. “Hello, Madeleine. I’m Harry.”

She surveyed him carefully, and he had no idea what she was thinking. After her slow appraisal, she said definitively, “No question about it – you certainly are. In fact, I’d say you could use a trim – especially in the back.”

Harry playfully scowled. “It’s a boring name, I know, but I’m rather attached to it. So… what will I be having today?” he asked.

You will be having the pasta feature,” she answered immediately. “Two of Shona’s meals per day, and you’ll end up with a tyre ‘round the middle unless you mind your choices.”

Please, don’t let another one start mothering me, Harry silently plead to any powers-that-be who might be looking on. He grumbled, “I run five miles a day. That should allow me the fish, I think.”

She smiled approvingly. “You’re a runner?”

He shrugged. “It’s something I picked up this summer. I…” He stopped himself. The real reasons were completely out-of-bounds, he knew. “I need to stay fit,” he tossed out.

“I’ve taken it up over the last year or so,” she pouted. “It’s boring, but… it was recommended to me.”

An unseen, unknown force compelled him to respond, “Perhaps it would go better with some company?” He darted behind his menu before he finished the sentence, blushing furiously.

“Perhaps it would,” she said, and left. He felt her uncertainty as clearly as his own, and quickly shifted his concentration to the menu in his hands. He wished that her mind was completely closed to him, but control in that area was up to him.

She returned fifteen minutes later with the pasta feature. As she set it before him, she said, “I typically go out around three. That way, I’m sure to be back in time for…” She stopped, and her cheeks coloured slightly.

“Do you have a favourite route?” he asked quickly.

She regained her composure. “I prefer the single-track roads in the countryside. I usually avoid walking around the village. Why? Do you have a good spot?”

“I run on the beaches, south of here a few miles,” he said. “There’s an unbroken stretch that must be about a mile long.”

Her right eyebrow rose slightly. “Down by the tower house?” she asked.

“South of it,” he answered.

“That’s…. private property, you know,” she told him hesitantly.

He wrestled with his choices for an explanation. “I have permission to be there,” he decided.

She crossed her arms. “I thought you said you ran five miles a day. It’s five miles just to get there.”

“You saw me riding, didn’t you?” he asked.

Her eyes lowered, and she chewed on her lower lip. At length, she answered, “I did. That’s why I noticed you. You looked… familiar.”

Harry’s curiosity was piqued yet again, but he was afraid to question her; he felt as though she might simply fade away if he did.

She said quickly, “Pick me up at three, at the far end of the High Street – by the chemist’s shop.” She walked purposefully into the kitchen, tossed aside her apron, and disappeared into the maelstrom of servers and runners and cooks.

Harry lingered over the pasta. He felt a bit dizzy. He wasn’t quite certain what he was getting himself into, or why he was getting himself into it.  

By a quarter to three, Harry was so flummoxed that he nearly forgot to enlarge both helmets before setting out from the bothy back to St. Ebb. He carefully tethered the second helmet to the back of the seat and – with a careful look around – slipped into low-level flight across the rolling promontory to the narrow lane that ran between the tower house and the carriageway.

She watched him glide down the High Street, from a bench next to the druggist. She wore black sweatpants, an oversized grey sweatshirt emblazoned “Indiana University”, and trainers that looked new and expensive. Her hair was pulled into a short ponytail that flowed out the back of a plain white baseball cap, and her eyes were hidden behind black sunglasses. He reached for the tethered helmet, and handed it to her. She dropped her baseball cap into one of his saddlebags, flipped on the helmet, and climbed onto the back of the motorbike in a businesslike manner that suggested this wasn’t her first ride.

She was clearly in a hurry, and her unsettledness rubbed off on him. He found himself looking for Death Eaters, Aurors, Order members and other unwelcome faces. That was when he spotted the black Ford Anglia. The brim of a hat obscured the driver’s face, and the front-seat passenger was leant over as though he were hiding something. It pulled off the kerb just as they passed, and it trailed too closely. Harry thought he saw flashes of white light directed toward them.

“We’re being followed,” Harry said aloud, and she nearly lost her grip on him. She cursed, and he cringed – it was hard to keep track of all the things she wasn’t supposed to know, he thought. “Erm… sorry – I didn’t think to tell you about the radios in the helmets,” he offered by way of cover.

“Is it a black Anglia?” she asked.

“Did you see it pull out behind us?” he asked in turn.

“I didn’t have to,” she answered curtly. “They’ve been sniffing around for the last day or two.”

Bloody hell! he thought. They’re following her? Aloud, he settled for asking her, “Erm… should I lose them?”

“I was so hoping I wouldn’t have to deal with this,” she sighed. “It’s probably too late, but if you can manage it…?”

Without hesitation, he said, “I can handle that. I hope you don’t mind high speeds.”

She replied just as he twisted the throttle hard. “Go as fast as you… YEEEOOOWWW!” He took the curves faster than the Anglia could possibly manage, though not so fast as to arouse any immediate suspicions in her. The pursuers were nowhere to be seen by the time that Harry pulled onto Lissance Lane and gently ascended toward the tower house.

Harry felt her grip on him tighten. She asked him, “Are you… are you absolutely sure that it’s all right to be here?”

“Yes, absolutely,” he assured her. He rode up to the circle at the entry to the tower house, and stopped. “We’ll need to walk from here.” He had sought a way for them to ride to the cliffs without betraying the true nature of the Bonnie, and could think of none.

He tied the two helmets to the seat, and she retrieved her baseball cap. As they began to pick their way across the tall grasses, he caught her looking up at the parapets atop the tower. She crossed her arms tightly, as though she were cold. “I’ve never been up close before,” she said ominously.

She was making him nervous, and Harry tried not to snap at her. “What do you mean by that? It’s just a house – a big one, but just a house!”

She looked at him as though he had just arrived from another planet. “I’ve been away, but I was raised here – I know that you weren’t. Trust me when I say that this is not just another house,” she insisted.

Harry wasn’t at all sure what he should ask about next – the mysterious pursuers, her reaction to the tower house, or perhaps her real name – so he settled for silence. She stopped at the rise that marked the beginning of the narrow path down the cliff face. “What’s that, over there?” she asked, pointing south along the cliff line.

“Just a bothy,” Harry answered. You passed the test – you must be a Muggle, he thought.

She squinted and hesitated. “Must’ve been a trick of the light,” she concluded.

“What?” he asked.

She began to answer. “At first, it looked like it was… forget about it – it’s silly.”

“What did you see?” he pressed.

She frowned. “It looked like it was flickering or something, right? It had to be glare off the water, or something.” He moved nearer to her, peered at the bothy, saw no sign of a flicker or a glare, and wondered.

She looked over the edge of the rise. “Looks like a good place for a run,” she decided, and trotted onto the path.

She wasn’t a natural runner. She held her arms too close to her sides, and looked uncomfortable though obviously committed to the effort. He wondered who had recommended that she run, and why. She’s a puzzle, and I want to figure her out, he thought, which in turn made him think of Ron. He thought of the Burrow, and hoped that the Weasleys were recovering.

He considered asking one of the many questions in his mind, but the look of grim determination on her face caused him to hold back. She was there to run, he recognised, and it wouldn’t do for him to get in her way.

She was reticent to run past the northernmost stack, away from the tower. They went a few hundred yards before she insisted that they turn back. He still got in his five miles, though it took nine trips back and forth across his portion of the beach. She stayed with him doggedly; he slowed his usual pace a bit by way of accommodation, but wasn’t shy about making her run hard. He didn’t think that she would appreciate being coddled.

She stopped at the centre of the beach, equidistant from each stack, and turned to face the cliff. The face was nearly vertical there; the terrain softened from sheer rock to steep moss-covered hills on either side. She breathed hard for a while, and then slowly settled. She seemed to be listening for something.

“Do you hear that?” she asked.

Harry was still for a moment, and then shrugged. “I don’t hear anything… well, there’s the surf and a few birds. Beyond that, it’s quiet.”

She nodded brightly. “Exactly – you can scarcely hear the surf. It’s as though the cliffs absorb sound. I think this would be a fantastic place to sing.” She put her hands on her hips, and surveyed from left to right. “It’s wonderful – it really is. I can see why you run here.”

Harry smiled. “It grew on me very quickly,” he said. “I’m glad you like it. So go ahead and sing, then.”

Her eyes grew wide. “What… are you talking about?” she asked hesitantly.

“You said this would be a great place to sing,” he explained. “Don’t let me stop you.”

She looked around nervously. “You’re joking, right? What if someone heard me?”

“We have to be a mile from anyone,” Harry said. “Who would hear you? There’s me, and the birds.” Surprised by her expression, he added reassuringly, “I promise I won’t make fun. I mean, we all think we sound good in the shower – right?”

Her eyebrows climbed even higher, and she laughed nervously. “You… don’t have any idea who I am, do you?”

“Should I?” he asked honestly.

She began to smile. “I assumed that you were toying with me… well, you were toying with me… that is, we were toying with each other, and… you really don’t know who I am?”

“I assumed that you never actually used your real name, of course,” Harry admitted. “I didn’t use my name until this afternoon.”

“So you are Harry, then?” she asked, and faintly blushed. “Sorry – I shouldn’t have made fun. I thought we were still having our game.”

He grinned. “It was good fun, our game – wasn’t it?”

“It was fun. I haven’t had as much fun in a long, long time.” She extended her hand, and added, “I’m Heather, by the way.”

Harry took her hand. “Heather… Heather who sings… I’ve been invited to hear someone named Heather perform next month. Do you mean to say… are you telling me that’s you?” he asked.

She laughed. “I think there may be something to my pet theory, I think.”

“Which pet theory is that, exactly?” Harry asked dubiously.

“That you very recently fell to Earth,” Heather answered.

Harry’s brow furrowed and he pulled his hand free. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Heather rolled her eyes. “You’re obviously well-to-do, but you’ve rarely eaten out –”

“Wha… what would make you… that’s not true…erm…I mean, I’ve been in a few…” Harry spluttered.

Heather began, “Do I need to go over all the reasons why everyone knows that…?”

“That’s not necessary,” Harry cut her off sullenly. He was intensely curious to know what ‘everyone’ knew, but wasn’t prepared for a list.

“Right, then – back to my theory,” she continued. “You’ve seen little or nothing on the telly in at least the last five years, and I wonder if you’ve ever seen a movie. Trust me on that; it’s amazing how much idle conversation revolves around the telly and the latest movie… I’m sorry, I’ll stop.”

“Why?” Harry muttered.

“You look uncomfortable,” she said. “I wasn’t trying for that. I just… I just wanted you to know why I think you’re interesting.”

Heather had reminded him eerily of Hermione until the last; Hermione would have pressed her point beyond the pale. She thinks I’m interesting, he thought, and he rather liked the idea. He watched her face, more boldly than he had managed before with a girl – except for Hermione, of course, who was an exception in so many ways.

She seemed uncomfortable with silence, or perhaps with his gaze. “The Greek thinks you’re either an angel or a demon. He claims to have a wealth of experience with both. Shona… well, she isn’t sure what to make of you.”

Harry had answers to two of his big questions, at least implicitly. He chose to go after a third. “Can I ask what she is to you?”

“Who… you mean Shona?” Heather asked. When Harry nodded, she said, “It’s a bit complicated.”

“How complicated can it be?” Harry asked. “Is she your sister? Your cousin? Your aunt?”

“It’s complicated,” Heather frowned.

“Uncomplicate it for me, then,” Harry said with a grin.

She seemed disarmed. Her frown faded, but she sighed. “I was raised by a cousin who I thought was my aunt – Auntie Fiona. I was given her last name, in fact. I found out about Shona when I was ten, but by then I was already boarding with Madame Hartmann six months a year, and… anyhow… when Shona came back to Scotland, my cousin was all too happy for me to summer here. I’ve managed at least a month with her every summer since I was eleven.”

The questions mounted in Harry’s mind, but he stuck with Shona. “She’s your mother, then?” Harry confirmed.

“She gave birth to me,” Heather corrected him firmly. “I don’t call anyone my mother.”

Harry began, “I take it that your father…”

“Shona won’t talk about it,” Heather said. “I don’t think that I want to know.” She sat down cross-legged on the sand. “So… tell me about your happy family?”

Harry sat beside her and struggled to sort out the details that he could share; what remained was rather vague, he realised. He answered her with as little emotion as he could manage. “My parents were killed when I was a baby. My aunt and uncle took me in, but only because they had to do it... that’s as nicely as I can put it. I was sent to boarding school, and I spent as much of the summers away as I could.”

She didn’t tell him that she was sorry, she didn’t try to comfort him, she didn’t make excuses for his aunt and uncle – she just nodded, searched his face with sad eyes, and briefly set her hand atop his. He didn’t pull away.

“Did you make any friends, at this boarding school of yours?” she asked. He noticed her hands now, and how she moved them when she talked.

“A few,” Harry answered. “Ron and I have been tight since the first time we… well, since we first arrived at school, I suppose. Hermione has been my closest friend, to tell you the truth. There’s Ron’s sister, Ginny... and Neville… Luna, of course…”

“Luna? That’s an interesting name,” she said.

“She has an interesting father,” Harry chuckled.

“You’re fortunate to have a lot of friends,” Heather remarked. She sifted sand and pebbles in her hands. “I’ve been tutored privately since I was nine. Fiona couldn’t have known what it would be like – always around adults, studying and practising all day, working in the evening.” She sighed. “To hell with it – the truth is that she wouldn’t have cared even if she knew. I’ve been back here for about three weeks. That’s the longest I’ve been in one place for two years.”

“Who watches out for you, then?” Harry asked.

“I do,” Heather answered.

Harry said, “That’s not right. What about Shona?”

Heather snorted. “Shona went to the School of Hard Knocks, and she worships at the Hard Work Kirk. ‘No chef should be above pot-scrubbing,’ she says. She expects me to work hard, because I’m likely to have one shot. She’s right about that part, of course.”

“Are you doing what you want to do?” Harry asked.

Heather hesitated. “What a question!” she said. “It’s what I do, and it’s what I know. Sometimes… sometimes I want to just run, right? Just throw my passport and some money in a bag, and run for it – right through the Chunnel, and on to Italy, or Greece, or… you get the picture. Shona’s usually on my arse about practicing, and Julian’s been on the phone every day asking when I’ll be back to work, and Madame Hartmann’s crabbing about arrangements, and… anyway, it never ends. This summer’s been grand, though. I told everyone to sod off until the end of August, and so far I’ve been able to hold the line.”

“But you’ll be back to work in September,” Harry assumed.

Heather nodded. “People depend on me; I don’t want to disappoint them. I do like the work, you know. I like being on a stage, and I do like singing and performing. I’m lucky enough to work with great musicians most of the time. I’ve done some songwriting lately, and I’ve picked up a few instruments along the way. I really like the business end of it as well, but everyone still thinks they should be able to take advantage.”

“Why? Because you’re young?” asked Harry.

Heather’s expression darkened, and she fumed, “They see a teenager. They forget that I’ve been doing this for half my life. I’m more than ready to take charge of my own career. Another ten months, and I get to make the decisions for a change … oh, my God! Hide me!

Harry looked around the beach, and suddenly felt very exposed. He felt for the tip of his wand in his sleeve. “What? Hide you? Why? Where?

“I told them I wouldn’t be working this month – I told them!” she groaned.

Harry looked to the north, and saw two men walking onto the beach from behind the stack. “You work with them, then?”

“You could say that,” Heather growled. “It’s more like working for them, most of the time. Of course, dear Julian always knows best – after all, he has my best interests at heart. At least I know where Burke stands; he only has a job because I’m doing well, and he probably hates me for it.”

Harry said ruefully, “I understand you better than you might think. You know, I think that we’re both owed a decent summer holiday for a change.” He stood, and added with certainty, “I’ll take care of this.”

She eyed him curiously. “How?”

“You might want to head in another direction,” Harry suggested. “You’re a bit conspicuous sitting here, right?”

She stood, brushed the sand from her sweatpants, and strolled slowly toward the cliff face. Harry walked confidently, almost aggressively, toward the two intruders.

The man on the left was tall and lanky, with long blond hair cascading to his shoulders. He wore a black shirt that looked expensive, casual pants, and boat shoes over bare feet. He tossed his hair back twice while Harry walked toward them; Harry thought he looked vain. The other man was shorter and older, with closely cropped greying hair. He wore a sport coat and slacks, and shoes that were completely unsuited for walking on a beach.

The tall man on the left flipped back his bangs and waved genially. “Hullo there! Smashing walk, isn’t it?”

The shorter man grumbled, “Yeah, bloody great.”

Harry had no desire for uninvited guests on his property to begin with, and the fact that Heather didn’t seem to care for the two men sealed his mood. He clenched his jaw. “You’re on my property,” he said flatly.

“Sorry?” the tall man said.

“He said we’re on his property,” the shorter man said, with a note of exasperation in his voice.

I heard him. I understood that this was MacLeish’s beach,” the tall man told Harry confidently.

Harry pointed at the stack behind them. “To there,” he said. “Between the stacks, it’s mine.”

The tall man raised an eyebrow. “I see. Perhaps we should introduce ourselves. I’m Julian Sumner, and my associate is Burke Preston. We’re associated with one of Mr. Keith MacLeish’s recording concerns. And you are…?”

“The owner of this beach,” Harry growled.

The older man quietly reminded his companion, “Wilton did say that the former owner of Mr. MacLeish's lands retained the adjacent property.”

The tall man – Julian – appraised Harry. “She didn’t warn us that the former owner might be unfriendly.”

Burke, the older man, countered, “She did say that he valued his privacy, Julian… and it appears that we’re interrupting, besides.” He squinted. “You… look familiar.”

Harry froze inside for a moment, and then blustered, “I doubt we run in the same circles.”

Julian saw Heather’s back in the distance and winced. “Er, sorry. I failed to take notice, and… look, we really would appreciate being able to walk the entire beach –”

Burke cut in crossly, “He would. It’ll require the better part of the evening to extract the sand from my shoes.”

“Whoever told you that I value my privacy was correct,” Harry said darkly. “No one is to come on this property without an invitation from me. I have taken some… interesting security measures.” He hoped that he was successfully preying on their imaginations.

Burke quickly turned around. “Terribly sorry to bother you. We’ll be heading back the way that we came.”

Julian groused, “I understand the desire for privacy – believe me, I do – but there’s no need to be so inhospitable!” He hesitated until Burke had moved several paces away, and then quickly dashed after him.

Harry waited until the two men rounded the stack, and then strode quickly toward Heather. He was more than a little satisfied with himself. “See? All taken care of,” he called out.

Heather turned to face him, and she radiated barely-suppressed anger. “This is your property?” she asked accusingly.

Harry was taken aback. Instinctively, he snapped, “We were keeping a few secrets from one another – our names, for example? It hadn’t occurred to me that I should detail my living arrangements, up to now.”

“You live in that?” she demanded, inclining her head toward the top of the cliffs in the direction of the tower house. She was red-faced, and she clenched and unclenched her fists. He wondered if she had more of Shona’s disposition than he had realised.

“I’m living in the bothy, actually. I haven’t worked up the nerve to go in the tower yet,” he admitted.

“Then you’re a Black,” she spat.

“My godfather was a Black,” Harry said nervously. “It’s complicated… he died, but I was… he… I suppose you could say that he adopted me, but he was already dead when… anyway, I ended up his heir, and inherited part of the estate.”

She let her eyes bore into him for a while, and seemed to weigh his explanation. “Do you understand what else you’ve inherited?” she said icily.

He held up his hands in surrender. “Care to explain it to me?” he asked.

Her eyes were narrow and cold. “The Blacks bled these parts dry for centuries,” she explained. “They owned nearly everything, and held sway over the rest. They used to collect assessments on most of the property in the village – like it was still some kind of medieval fiefdom or something. After they disappeared, some English came up and tried to run the tower as an inn. People swore it was haunted. They didn’t last. Most of the people in the village will tell you the whole place is cursed; they won’t come near the place. Of course, you know what happened last month.” She reached out and angrily shoved him. “I can’t believe you! You send that little monster around to start everything all over again, and then you have the nerve to prance in here and get everyone to like you? How evil do you have to be…?”

Harry tried to calm himself, but failed. “What happened last month? What little monster? What are you talking about?” he shouted.

Don’t play dumb with me!” she shouted back. “I hate it when people play dumb with me! He works for you, for God’s sake! The little freak wears nothing but purple… what’s his name…?”

Harry closed his eyes. “Diggle,” he said. “Dedalus Diggle.”

“I knew it! He does work for you!” Heather had a wild look in her eyes.

Harry fell to his knees, and buried his head in his hands. “What was he thinking? Why can’t anything ever be simple?” he muttered.

Well? What do you have to say for yourself?” Heather demanded, and kicked sand at him.

Harry shielded his eyes, and waited for her to stop. He brushed sand from his hair, looked up at her, and said as calmly as he could manage, “You have no reason to trust me, but I’m going to ask you to try. I want you to tell me, as best you can, exactly what Diggle has done.”

She stared at him for a long time. He tried to return her gaze, but something about it felt incredibly uncomfortable – like she was judging him. After a long time, she sat down with obvious reluctance. “You swear to me that you have no idea what’s going on?” she snapped.

“I’ve only just received the inheritance,” Harry explained. “Diggle would have been working on behalf of the Black Family Trust a month ago.”

“Fine, then. This Diggle started collecting back assessments, on behalf of… on behalf of you, or this Trust you mentioned, or whomever,” Heather fumed. “I’ve seen the papers that he gave to Shona. He wanted ten years’ back assessments, with interest. Most people just rolled over and paid; even the idea that the Blacks had returned scared them into it. Shona wouldn’t let The Greek pay him. She wanted proof.”

“What kind of proof?” Harry asked.

“She wanted to see one of the Blacks, in the flesh,” answered Heather. “Diggle said that wouldn’t be possible, and threatened to evict her – to have the property seized! I… I stepped in, and told The Greek to pay him off and be done with it.”

Harry looked at her in surprise. “How did you manage that?”

Heather said, “He’s rough around the edges, but he really wants to succeed. I’m lucky to have happened on a good manager.”

“Excuse me?” said Harry, who was now quite confused.

“He works for me,” Heather explained. “Well, he works for the company that Burke set up on my behalf. I own L’Oiseau Chanteur, you see?” A look of concern spread across her face. “You won’t tell Shona, will you?” she asked.

Harry stammered in reply, “Erm… no, I won’t… I… er, I suppose that’s between you and… she doesn’t know? She really doesn’t know?”

“She worked in Edinburgh when I met her,” Heather said quietly. “She was sous chef for one of the large hotel and meeting concerns. She hated it. She never wanted to live in the city; that’s not why she came back to Scotland. When the money began to come in, after my first release, she refused to take anything from me. So it couldn’t be from me, get it? In comes The Greek, working for this faceless investor. She jumped at the chance to come back home. I wanted to do something for her… it just seemed right, you know?”

Harry found himself smiling, despite himself. “You’re a good person, you know,” he said earnestly.

Heather took a deep breath and asked hopefully, “You really didn’t mean for this to happen, did you? I see that… in your eyes. Can you straighten it out, then?”

Harry looked deeply into her eyes. “I would never be part of anything like this,” he said. “I’ll fix it, somehow – I swear it.”

The corners of her mouth turned up slightly. “I… believe you… but if you don’t come through, I’ll lock you in a closet with Shona and her cleavers.”

Harry returned to the bothy after dropping Heather near the village; she felt it would be better to walk back alone. He examined each scrap of parchment that addressed his own finances and the Black Trust. He understood less than half of it, and his temples throbbed after four hours of slogging through endless detail. He understood enough to piece together part of what Diggle had done – he couldn’t fathom why Diggle had done it, however.

He stepped outside the bothy, and called for Hedwig. She was unsettled by the peculiar wards, and preferred to perch on a rock outcropping that faced the door from a distance. She flew toward him hesitantly. He knew better than to bring her inside; he had done that once, and she had pecked at him mercilessly. He looked over his letter. It was brief and indirect; he had no way of knowing who might be seeing or screening his posts.

Mr. Wolfe –

It’s important that I see my conservator tonight. I’ve received some very disturbing information about trust arrangements, which must be addressed immediately. I’m certain that my conservator knows exactly where I can be found. Tell him that Barry White won’t be singing tonight, even though I’m “Born to be Wild”.

Mr. Black

He figured that if Remus knew that the bothy had been a ‘pad’ and had spent time there, then he was certainly familiar with Sirius’ album collection as well. He rolled up the parchment, and carefully tied it to Hedwig’s leg.

“Hedwig, I need you to get this to Remus,” he said, as he gently stroked her feathers. “It’s very important that he get this tonight. Do you understand?”

She flapped her wings in acknowledgement, and raced southward. Harry watched her until she disappeared against the darkening sky, and then returned inside. He would repair whatever damage had been done, no matter the cost. He wouldn’t have Heather or Shona or Hermione or Luna or anyone else think that he would ever condone what Diggle had done. He knew that Ron and Ginny and the rest of the Weasleys wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if they knew. He punched the speed bag three times – hard – and thought of ways to make Dedalus Diggle squirm.

Harry spent the evening tidying up, reading, and listening to his new compact discs. He hesitated at listening to Heather’s disc. He had no idea what it would be like; he only knew that she sang. For all he knew, it might sound like the Weird Sisters – although only the Bee Gees had come close to that, after nearly two weeks of listening to Sirius’ record collection. He found Hermione’s picture face down atop the armoire, and cursed himself for forgetting where it was. After the glass was cleaned and the frame dusted, he replaced it on the wall.

Hedwig impatiently tapped at the window just before midnight, and barely held still long enough for Harry to retrieve the envelope attached to her leg. She screeched and quickly retreated beyond the wards.

Mr. Black –

You seem to share an old friend’s taste in music. My concern has escalated in recent days. Your conservator has information regarding your trust arrangements, which should be shared in person. The conservator has solicited professional assistance. Please meet the conservator and his associate in the village tomorrow at one o’clock. He asks that you make suitable midday meal arrangements for three. I am told that you have developed a taste for French cuisine.


R. John Wolfe

In the back of his mind, he had suspected that his minders had somehow followed him to St. Ebb. He wasn’t comforted by Lupin’s confirmation. He succumbed to a morbid interest in what Voldemort might be doing, and wondered whether he was hatching yet another plan. His scar hadn’t even tingled for nearly two weeks. He sensed vague feelings of irritation or frustration, but nothing more.

Harry fetched another piece of parchment and his quill. The summer was coming to a close, and it was time to make good on a promise. He wrote an invitation to Ron.

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