Chapter Three: The Concept of Motherhood

"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, err…"

"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 emotional way."

"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 replied.

"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 help.

"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 hat.

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, stunned.

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 it?"

"Big," Rincewind said, quite calmly, and then started to hyperventilate again. His whole body was shaking. He seemed about to…

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 passed.

"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 finished.

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 asked.

"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 happening."

"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 anyone's.

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 whatever-it-was.

* * *

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…[1]

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 his city.

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 Watch."

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 investigation.

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 Po'er?"

Harry nodded. "You've heard of me?"

"'oo hasn'?"

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. "Um… place."

"Never mind," Harry smiled. "How? Which way?"

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 choice."

"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 private?"

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 lover.

"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 pout.

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, eyebrow raised.

"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 finished.

"Without incurring further damage to property, citizens, or visitors," Vetinari added. "Even those outside the city walls."

"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.

[1] 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'.

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