"Giants are… they're not very nice." - Ron Weasley
Harry nearly choked on his mouthful of asparagus.
"I… err…" he spluttered.
Draco cast him a worried glance, which he returned with a
smile before turning back to Ponder.
"As a matter of fact, Ponder, I… let's start at the
beginning, shall we?" Harry kept his voice down, as Ponder had done, and
was frantically thinking through the story, trying to edit out anything that he
might be ashamed of.
"Good idea," Ponder said. He seemed prepared to
wait for the story to begin properly.
"Well… for one thing, yes, actually, if things have
happened as I suspect they have, your… mother," Harry's voice faltered
over the word—Neville and motherhood were not concepts that fitted together
easily—but he took a deep breath and went on, "Neville was a man. I'm,
"Homosexual?" Ponder supplied in an undertone.
"I don't mind—some of the best wizards at UU incline the same way."
Harry raised his eyebrows questioningly, something Ponder
was absolutely sure he'd learned from Draco. It didn't quite fit Harry's round
face the way it did Draco's more pointed features.
"The current Senior Wrangler, for one; and probably
the Dean of Liberal Studies. And of course there are always rumours about
Rincewind—his friend Twoflower is very, um, fitting of certain common
stereotypes—but I'm not sure. I think he'd run if anyone actually tried
anything, whatever gender they were. Anyway, he's barely one of our best
wizards. Not that it matters; I quite like him. The Librarian and he are great
friends." Taking note of the expression of cultural overload Harry was
displaying, Ponder stopped. "Sorry. You were saying?"
"I… I loved Neville. In a physical way as well as an
"Draco, too?" Ponder guessed.
Harry nodded. "With Neville gone… when he left me…
I thought he'd been killed outright by some sort of evaporating spell… we were
fighting an evil wizard at the time, you see… times were hard…" In an
undertone, over the rest of that course and the next, Harry outlined for Ponder
the basic course of his life: from Hogwarts, through the war, and into his time
as Minister of Magic.
He was just about to describe how, at sixty-seven, he'd
finally persuaded Draco that he really was ready to retire and that Hermione's
daughter could take over as Minister, when Vetinari turned to him and said,
"You've lead an interesting life."
Blushing bright scarlet to a degree he thought he'd given
up at fourteen, Harry stuttered and looked desperately at Draco.
"We're both quite old, Lord Vetinari," Draco said
smoothly. "You can imagine, we've lived in interesting times, and been in
the thick of the creation of history."
"I must introduce you to Commander Vimes,"
Vetinari said. "He, too, has more than once been in the centre of history
in the making."
"That would be fascinating, I'm sure," Draco
"He and his wife will be attending the dancing
tonight," Vetinari commented. "I'll see if I can introduce you then,
if that's agreeable to you. They are in the room now, but not—as you see—at
the high table. The commander has developed what he refers to as 'moral
objections' to being seated with the best society."
Draco nodded. "At our Ministry, we did occasionally
come across similar attitudes." His face was tightly controlled, but Harry
remembered what he meant: the Christmas party, and Ron, refusing to sit at the
same table as a Malfoy. In the end, they'd compromised that year (Draco found an
engagement somewhere else for most of the time), and after that, they'd been
much more tactful about the seating arrangements. Or—one crazy year—not had
seating arrangements at all, due to a sudden rash of escapes from Azkaban, all
of whom were conveniently caught by the end of January.
Harry had his suspicions about who might have been to blame
for that, but he'd never managed to prove anything, even with Mad-Eye Moody's
"It occurs in all political circles…" Vetinari
said, and then stopped, looking sharply across the room at a sudden apparition.
* * *
It was, technically speaking, a wizzard. It said so on its
It seemed to have been running: its feet were bare, its
breath came in gasps and its hat was soaked from the rain outside, causing the
brim to hang even further down and lend it an air of dangerous madness.
"Rincewind?" Ponder said into the silence,
The apparition nodded.
"I… I… I… " he stuttered.
"Take a deep breath, Rincewind," Vetinari
instructed. Nobody in the room, hearing the tone of voice, was surprised when
Rincewind managed to obey.
"Good. Now tell me—" Vetinari leaned forward
across the table, and Rincewind staggered a little closer, "—what is
"Big," Rincewind said, quite calmly, and then
started to hyperventilate again. His whole body was shaking. He seemed about
Harry hurried around the table and caught him as he fell,
seeing that no-one else was going to.
He had the distinct impression that Draco had said
something about "idiot Gryffindors who had to be helpful" as he
"Tell me," Harry said, turning Rincewind to face
him. Vetinari seemed about to complain about this sudden usurping of his power,
but Harry's air of command, though very different in character to his own, was
pretty damn commanding.
Secretly, Draco was a little impressed by that.
"Tell me what it is, Rincewind," Harry said
kindly to the shaking man. "It's a big…"
"Black," Rincewind said.
Harry nodded, and smiled just enough to show that he was
pleased with Rincewind, without suggesting that he was taking this information
in any way lightly. "A big, black…"
"Nasty, evil, stinking, tall, thing," Rincewind
Harry nodded again. "Where is it?"
"Outside the city walls. And trying to come in."
A skinny balding man wearing a smart yet practical Watch
uniform appeared at Harry's elbow. "Which gate? Who's there?" he
"Captain Carrot's there, Commander," Rincewind
said, "Not at a gate as such. More… the wall. End of Ankh Street."
"I have to go down there and see what's
"No, you don't, Commander Vimes. You could delegate
someone else to do it."
Vimes stared at Vetinari for a moment, and Harry wondered
wildly what exactly the subtext of this situation was—but then Vimes was
nodding. "I could, sir, but I choose not to. Excuse me, sir."
"That, I will not do," Vetinari said, his voice
ringing through the room as Vimes turned to leave. "In recent months, I've
been feeling a little out of touch with my city. I shall accompany you."
"As shall I," Draco said, standing as the
Patrician did so. His tone brooked no argument.
Harry caught his eye briefly, and then looked at Rincewind,
ignoring the murmurs which sprang up throughout the busy room. "Show us the
way, lad," he said gently. "The way you came will do, I'm sure."
* * *
Walking through the city as part of the relief
column—they stopped for support at Pseudopolis Yard—was a strange experience
for Harry. He'd marched with armies before, but always at their head or as their
hero. That place was now filled by Vetinari, because this was his city if it was
Vimes, Harry saw, would disagree with that. He'd sent his
wife home—"Make sure the dragons don't add to our trouble"—and
walked at Vetinari's side, close behind Rincewind. He walked like a man who
owned the streets he walked on, not through any law or deeds, but simply because
he knew them so well.
Harry himself stayed by Rincewind's side, aware that he
seemed to need the support—and someone to stop him running away. Harry knew
how that felt. He had a feeling he might have run away from the final battle
with Voldemort if Neville hadn't been there to cheer him on.
Citizens flocked out to see what was happening—Harry
noticed rich and poor, young and old, at least one assassin slipping along the
rooftops above them, a watchman who was having trouble keeping his arm on, and a
man who seemed to be a beggar with a duck on his head. He also realised that
he'd stopped noticing Ankh-Morpork's Smell, the fame of which Ponder had been at
some pains to point out earlier in the day.
He didn't know where Ponder was—in the rush and the
excitement, he'd lost track of him.
Ponder, by contrast, had a very good idea where he was. And
he didn't like it.
"Come on, come on," Mustrum Ridcully said to him,
taking him by the arm and frog-marching him through the streets. "We're
wizards, you know. Got to be seen to be helping out in an emergency."
"Helpful… very helpful… back at UU," Ponder
gasped, but Ridcully ignored him.
The column walked on, following Rincewind and casting
nervous glances up to the sky, waiting for their first glimpse of the big, black
* * *
Standing on the wall, high above where Ankh Street met
Endless Street, Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson and Sergeant Delphine Angua von
Uberwald were surveying the landscape. Mostly, there were suburbs, dense and
dirty rows of houses which stretched away until, in the middle distance, they
turned into dense and dirty rows of cabbages.
There was one exception. Directly in front of them, nursing
a series of cuts on his arm, was a tall man-shaping thing swathed in a black
robe. His feet—Carrot had assumed 'he' from the voice and apparent shape, and
Angua's nose tended to agree—were carefully placed in the streets, though
they'd knocked the upper stories of a couple of buildings off on the way down.
The roofs clustered around his knees, much like tall grass stems.
Shortly above that, his legs disappeared into the folds of
black wool he was cloaked in. After that, he went on up… and up… and up…
until Carrot was craning his neck back to see the giant's head—his face was
hidden in further folds of cloak. Carrot could see why people were panicking,
although he wasn't. The giant was scary, and very good at looming.
* * *
They puffed their way up the stairs to the top of the wall,
preceded by Vimes and the younger members of the Watch. Harry, looking around
him, thought, we're old. All of us. If I and Draco are seventy, Ponder must be
fifty, Vetinari's slightly older than me—seventy-five?—and Ridcully's older
than that. Maybe these wizards have got some sort of life-prolonging potion…
Draco caught his wandering glance and grabbed his hand.
Harry wasn't sure what Draco thought he'd been thinking, but he smiled to
reassure him that he hadn't actually been thinking anything of the sort.
Behind them, Ponder was worried. Through the narrow
streets, they'd had occasional glimpses of the black figure, but not enough to
really tell what it was. The moment of truth was approaching, and Ponder had
seen enough truths in his life time to consider the possibility that it would be
better to stay in the dark.
* * *
"Report?" Vimes demanded the instant he was
within hearing distance of Carrot.
"He's big and dressed in black, sir," Carrot
reported. "And he's got a strange accent—not one I've heard before."
"You spoke to it?" Vetinari sounded surprised,
and rather unimpressed by the fifty-four foot cloaked man demanding entrance to
Carrot nodded. "Yes, your lordship. For what I
understood, I think he's requesting asylum."
"He won't fit," Vimes said, and then,
"Please tell me I don't have to offer him a representative on the
Before Vetinari could
reply, Draco asked, "Did you find out why he's dressed in black?" He
was coming up behind them, closely followed by Harry and Ponder.
"No, sir," Carrot said, which earned him a
crocodile smile from Draco and an unnoticed glare from Harry, who knew that
Draco could be insufferable if he got too much of that sort of treatment.
"Ask him, on my behalf, to show his face,"
Vetinari said. "And what his name is."
Carrot took a deep breath, and Vimes, who'd heard Carrot
shout before, took a hasty step backwards. "ON BEHALF OF THE PATRICIAN OF
ANKH-MORPORK, LORD VETINARI, I REQUEST THAT YOU SHOW YOUR FACE!"
The giant bent down a little closer to listen, and then he
seemed to be considering the request.
On top of the wall, even the air became tense. Everyone
held their breath—except for Harry, who was still panting from the climb.
After a moment Carrot broke the silence. He whispered, a
little louder than needed, to Vimes: "I'm sorry his arm got hurt, sir.
Detritus got a bit carried away."
Vimes nodded shortly, because the giant was moving. With
his uninjured arm, he lifted the fold of cloth of his head and, without moving
his feet, bowed. "Name's Dangre, yer ken," he rumbled.
Ponder thought he felt the ground shake, and then his
attention was drawn to Harry and Draco. Harry looked shaken (and not, Ponder
thought, just by the physical tremor), and Draco had started to put a comforting
arm around his shoulders, but Harry had stepped away from the attempted embrace.
Ponder's never-ending curiosity stored the movement away for future
Harry stared up at Dangre, the semi-familiar heavy features
and the confident stance, so close to one he'd known and yet so different.
"He's a giant, your lordship," he said, without looking at Vetinari.
"I can see that for myself, Mr Potter. The question
is, where is he from?"
As the only giants Harry had met or even hard of before
were from the Alps, which he had established didn't exist in this world, or at
least these people's known world, he didn't have an answer to that. "Let me
talk to him," he said, stepping forward without waiting for a reply.
The giant, apparently seeing the movement, bent in for a
closer look. His breath, warm and slightly garlic-tinged, washed over them.
"Hi," Harry said, slightly lamely, and reached up
to adjust his glasses.
Draco, watching the slightly awkward gesture, wanted to
step forward, touch Harry's arm, and let him know that he had support, but after
being shrugged away earlier (and knowing why—he'd killed Hagrid midway through
the war, under threat of death, but he thought Harry had never quite forgiven
him for it), he didn't quite dare.
Only Ponder was watching Draco as the emotions flitted
across his face—the others were glued to the spectacle of a grey-haired and
bespectacled wizard, staring down an invading giant. Without even sliding the
wand out of his sleeve.
Dangre stared at Harry. Harry stared back, trying not to
start working out if he was taller than Dangre's nose.
"Po'er?" the giant asked, frowning. "Harrry
Harry nodded. "You've heard of me?"
Harry shrugged. That was too long a conversation for the
time being. "Where are you from?"
Dangre screwed up his face in thought, and then replied,
"You folks call it Him-ee-lay-ers."
"Why did you come here?"
The giant's frown deepened, and he shook his head.
"Never mind," Harry smiled. "How? Which
Dangre leaned a little further forward, until his chin was
only feet from the top of the wall. Everyone except Harry stepped back. The
silence was complete for an instant, and then the giant's voice rumbled out
again. "Over cab'age field. Down hill. From fire in fo'est. Wen in ta
res'ue wife's-sister's-daigh'er, could'na find 'er, came ou' 'ere."
"I'm sorry," Harry said. "We'll find a way
to get you home."
Draco coughed, and muttered "stupid Gryffindor"
under the cover of it.
Dangre nodded and straightened up, out of earshot. Harry
turned towards Draco and Ponder. "An accidental connection to the Floo
network, about the time we came through. Poor fellow; at least we had a
"Excuse me," Vetinari said. "Will this
attempt to get him 'home' involve my people?"
"I hope so," Harry replied. "I'm sure you
feel as much responsibility for lost and injured creatures as I do."
Draco looked at the stand-off, and decided he didn't want
his lover hanged for attempting to force the Patrician into something.
"Excuse me," he said, taking Harry's elbow. "May I have a word in
Harry stared at him, but nodded, and Vetinari turned away
to speak to the watchmen. And woman and werewolf.
"Are you mad?" Draco hissed, quite a feat with
such a non-sibilant sentence. "The last thing we want to do is be
associated with a threat to the city!"
"I'm only going to try and help," Harry said.
Draco rolled his eyes—nice blue-grey expressive eyes, Harry thought, with a
nostalgic pang for a time where he could just stare into them, as rival or
"Help? Help? We'll only make it worse!"
Harry drew himself up to his full height—a whole inch
taller than Draco—and said, "You might, but I'm going to help,"
knowing as he said it that the tone confirmed the Sorting Hat's opinion of his
suitability for Slytherin.
Hurt by the tone, Draco stepped back. "In your own
hands be it," he said. Harry detected the ghost of a carefully-controlled
Sighing—this was not how he'd envisaged Draco's
seventieth birthday playing out—but set in his course, Harry turned to Ponder.
"We need to do some research, and find a fire big enough to get him
in—it's the same principle as the fireplace and your gadget, only I've got a
magic powder that will do it.
"You have Floo powder with you?" Draco asked,
"Carry some everywhere with me—being prepared, you
know," Harry explained.
Draco snorted. "Typical."
"Also useful," Harry grinned. "Look, Ponder,
it's not that difficult, if we can get it right."
Ridcully, who had wandered across to join the
Patrician-and-Watch huddle, called, "Mr Stibbons?"
"Yes, Archchancellor?" Ponder said, when he'd
recovered from the shock.
The two groups melded into one. "Lord Vetinari—and
Commander Vimes—are very keen to have…" Ridcully paused, and waved a
hand vaguely in the giant's direction.
"Dangre," Harry supplied.
"Dangre well away from the city," Ridcully
"Without incurring further damage to property,
citizens, or visitors," Vetinari added. "Even those outside the city
"There are actually three things to do," Harry
said, and something in the way he stood and spoke made them all listen to him.
Draco thought, with a sort of pride, that somewhere along the line he'd learned
how to command troops. "One, get Dangre away from the city. Two, protect
him from irate citizens whose property he's accidentally damaged. Three, find a
way to send him home."
"With magic?" Angua asked. She sounded doubtful.
"Of course, young lady," said Ridcully
importantly. "Wizards are useful for some things, you know."
Carrot, eager to prevent detailed discussion of the point,
put in, "I'll volunteer to take command of a Watch detail to complete
objectives one and two. Sir." It wasn't entirely clear, even to Carrot, to
whom the remark was addressed, but 'sir' seemed to cover all the bases.
"Good plan," Vimes said. "Take about five
men—I'll handpick them—and take him carefully out to the edge of the fields.
You can wait there." He added, "If that's okay, sir?"
The Patrician appeared to think it was time he was
involved. "Very good, commander. Archchancellor, Mr Stibbons, would you be
kind enough to provide Mr Potter with whatever he requires?"
"Of course," Ridcully said, and Ponder nodded.
"A map of the surrounding area, to start with,"
Harry said. "Please."
"UU library," Ponder suggested, and Vetinari nodded encouragingly. They departed—Vimes, Carrot, and Angua to order Watchmen about, Ponder, Harry, and Ridcully to UU, with Draco tagging along behind.
 What Harry didn't know was that although UU had, over the years, experimented with a series of such potions, they hadn't been that successful. They were still giving one to the Bursar twice a day, along with dried frog pills when needed, because it stopped him panicking every time he smelt mustard, but had given up on the rest. The reason for Mustrum Ridcully's continued life was obscure. The Faculty, aware that when Ridcully died they'd probably be back in a cycle of assassinations and in-fighting, didn't mention it on the grounds that they might jinx it; and the student body was of the opinion that he was simply too pig-headed to let anything as simple as death prevent his continued hearty 'fun'.
Stories Chapter Index Chapter Four