"For a true taste of Ankh-Morpork, try a Knuckle Sandwich." -Wellcome to Ankh-Morpork, Citie of One Thousand Surprises, Guild of Merchants publication
At the lordly age of twenty-one, Harry Potter had lived in
two worlds, won the war against the powers of darkness, and had sex several
At the age of seventy, he'd had quite a lot more sex, but
he'd never won another war, and he hadn't expected to suddenly be faced with a
third world. A world, apparently, in which orang-utans were a normal part of
university staff. He supposed they couldn't really be worse than some of his
professors at Hogwarts. Mentally, he made a note to ask Hermione what sort of
ape she thought Professor Snape would have been, and turned his attention back
to the matter in hand.
"… and this is Gytha Ogg," Ponder said. He'd
been making introductions, clearly. Draco was smiling.
That worried Harry a little.
"Perhaps you could tell us a little about your world,
sir," the young women he'd been introduced to as Gytha said. "Where
are you from? What's it like? Do you have magic?"
"I'd be happy to. And call me Draco, please." He
was enjoying the presence of an audience—always the show-off, Harry thought
fondly. "We have magic, indeed—" Draco produced his wand and
demonstrated a couple of transfiguration spells, "—and…"
Harry looked around the room—there were some chairs in
the far corner. Unobtrusively, he slipped across and sat down. Let Draco have
his day—it was only fair to let the birthday boy be the centre of attention,
and Harry was sure they'd recognise the scar and turn the tables soon enough. It
He leaned his head back against the wall, listened to the
tone of Draco's voice rather than the words, and let himself doze off.
When Draco was still talking a full hour later, the
students gathered round him—talking sometimes, but mostly hanging on his every
word—Ponder started to regret having allowed him in. He noticed Harry in the
corner and decided to kill two birds with one stone, by being polite and getting
out of the circle of students at the same time.
"I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name," Ponder
said, seating himself.
"Potter—Harry Potter," Harry told him, and was
more startled by the lack of reaction the name got (from a man who claimed to be
a wizard, too!), than by anything else he'd seen so far, although the
extraordinary machine in the corner, which seemed to be sending a line of
termites out to examine Draco's wand, was a close second.
"So, err, Harry—you're, um, from a different
planet," Ponder said. He sounded awkward, and with a jolt, he reminded
Harry of Neville.
"Yes," Harry said, "but that doesn't matter.
How old are you?"
"I'll be fifty-one in two months time," Ponder
said. "Are you…"
"Who were your parents?"
Now Harry came to think about it, Ponder was wearing
glasses too, about the same thickness as his own. And the messy hair under the
hat was the same texture. There was more of Neville about the chin, but the
nose… Harry knew that nose. The mirror. Pictures of his own father.
"I… I was brought up by a girl who worked here as a
cleaner, but she told me—when I was old enough to start attending lectures if
I could prove I had a magical background—that my parents were both wizards;
she said some woman from the Shades had found me and one of my parents—she
thought my father, because his name was Neville, but there was some
confusion—in the road. He died, and she brought me up."
His suspicions confirmed, Harry swallowed hard, nervous
suddenly. "Look—Ponder, lad—this is going to be odd, but… I think I
might be your father."
From his own recent experience of the same process, he
could recognise the stages as Ponder went through them: look at the stranger.
Remember the face in your mirror. Compare. Not as much contrast as you'd expect,
"Ah…" Ponder said, and looked about to say
something else, but he was prevented by a noise from the other side of the room.
Someone was banging on the door, and they seemed quite determined to get in.
As host, and lord of his domain, Ponder hurried over and
opened the door. Mustrum Ridcully burst through in a waft of mustard-scented
air, closely followed by a tall, noble-looking gentlemen who was dressed
entirely in black. Harry had the distinct impression that, like Lucius Malfoy,
he was not used to being disobeyed.
"Your lordship, this is our Reader in Invisible
Studies, also head of the Very Small Bits of Magic Investigations Department and
Professor of Thaumatics, Ponder Stibbons; these are some of his students: Gytha
Ogg, Albus Dibbler, Clark Telcontar, Sev of Klatch…"
Ponder leaped in to explain. "His real name is much
longer, but none of us could say it, so we settle for a chopped-off
"… only then we called him 'Severus', because we cut
his name short…" Albus put in.
"… and then we shortened that to Sev," Gytha
finished, with a slightly wicked grin.
Harry, coming up behind Ponder, could suddenly see why
Draco had got on with these people so easily and quickly.
"Be that as it may," Ridcully said firmly,
"this is Sev of Klatch, and two other students whose names I don't
know—you met the other one, George, when he came with me to tell you about
"Guests," Lord Vetinari told him. "These
people are our honoured guests, and as such it is my duty to welcome them to the
Draco took Harry's hand and pulled him forwards, giving
Vetinari a polite smile as he did so. "Draco Malfoy. I'm honoured to be
"Lord Havelock Vetinari," Ridcully supplied.
"Your lordship," Draco finished, and held out an
elegant hand. Vetinari smiled at him, and they shook very briefly and carefully.
"And you are…" Vetinari enquired, turning to
"Harry Potter," Harry told him—and shook hands
firmly and a little roughly, just to show how different he was from Draco.
"You would, I'm sure, like to see a little more of
this splendid city of ours," Vetinari said. "Someone must be appointed
to guide you." His gaze seemed to be slightly reproving of Ponder.
"Actually," Harry began, thinking, we must be
getting home, people will worry, but Draco's voice cut across him.
"We'd be delighted to spend some more time here,"
Draco said. "I'm sure there's much we can learn from a trade of ideas
between our two cultures."
Ridcully got the distinct impression that Vetinari was glad
to have someone playing this game at his own level. However, as Ridcully had no
intention of playing that sort of game, he decided to tilt the playing field in
his own direction.
"The University will be glad to have you all as guests
at dinner," he said.
"And I would be delighted to attend," Vetinari
said. "However, I'm sorry to say that I have guests at the Palace this
evening—heads of all the guilds. If you recall, Archchancellor, you were
invited. Would it not be better to include our honoured guests in that party? At
the top table, of course," he added, with a nod to Draco.
Harry rolled his eyes surreptitiously. He'd had a lot of
practice over the years—being Minister of Magic was essentially the same as
being Patrician, as far as he could see, and he'd hated all the politics then.
Draco had enjoyed it, though. Harry would have quit the post a lot earlier if it
wasn't for Draco.
"We would love to come—if you'd grant us one
boon?" Draco's tone carried a little more command that Vetinari liked, but
"We've already established a profitable relationship
with Professor Stibbons—if he could be present as well, I'm sure that would
help things along," Draco said.
Vetinari smiled thinly. "I'm sure that can be
arranged," he said. "Perhaps Professor Stibbons would like to
accompany us now—I intend to take a carriage ride back to the Palace, and if
there were to be company in the form of honoured guests, I'm sure I could be
persuaded to delay my paperwork a little and go the long way round, in order to
give you a flavour of Ankh-Morpork's streets."
"That would be lovely," Draco said.
"Shall we be going, then?" Vetinari asked.
"I'm sorry to steal one of your professors away like this, Archchancellor,
but at the request of our guests…"
Ridcully nodded shortly.
"I'll look forward to seeing you at dinner tonight,
then," Vetinari smiled, and waved for Draco to precede him from the room.
Harry, overcome by a sudden and uncharacteristic attack of jealousy, hurried
after him and took his arm.
Vetinari swept after them, and Ponder, flustered and
puzzled, stumbled along behind.
* * *
Ponder thought big dinners were a good plan; but he found
the ones at the University much more to his taste than those at the Palace. For
one thing, at UU, it was normal practice to start at the top of the first course
and shovel in as much food as you could, keeping going on the magically-refilled
plates until you reached the bottom.
The transportation magic had improved dramatically in
recent years, and you now didn't have to clean your plate yourself before
requesting the next course. Not that left-over food was normally a problem.
At the Palace, by contrast, you had to eat slowly, and talk
to someone between bites, and wait until the maids come round with the next
course. It was boring. Not to mention not being very satisfying.
To his left was the current head of the Assassins' Guild, a
nervous-looking pale young man who sniffed every mouthful for poison before he
ate, and never said anything, even 'pass the salt'. To his right was
Harry—who'd been placed to Vetinari's left, to mirror Draco on the other side.
Vetinari and Draco were deep in an abstract (and rather
loud) conversion about styles of government in
different countries, which—to judge by his expression—Harry had lost
interest in some time ago.
Very, very quietly, Ponder said, "So—dad—tell me about my mother. Presumably, her name wasn't actually Neville."
Stories Chapter Index Chapter Three