Chapter Two: A Flavour of Ankh-Morpork

"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 times.

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 always happened.

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, is there?

"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 version…"

"… 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 our…"

"Guests," Lord Vetinari told him. "These people are our honoured guests, and as such it is my duty to welcome them to the city."

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 here…"

"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.

"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 he nodded.

"Within reason."

"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