"Ook." - The Librarian, Unseen University
The sun had set and the
main gates were firmly closed when they arrived, but both Ridcully and Ponder
had been students at the University and made for the hole in the wall without
thinking about it.
“This is what you have in
place of a secret passageway?” asked Harry as he clambered through the stones.
Ponder nodded. “Saves
trouble all round.”
Also apparently without
thinking about it, Ridcully turned left at the next corridor. Ponder turned
“Where is he going?”
asked Harry wonderingly. Draco said nothing; the long trek across the foetid
streets of Ankh-Morpork had silenced him almost as effectively as various other
methods Harry cared to mention.
“Kitchens,” said Ponder. Off Harry’s look, he continued: “He’s probably gone to get something to eat.”
Harry glanced at his watch. It didn’t help him much. Telling time in an alternate dimension (or whatever this was) was presumably not something it had been designed to do. He settled for saying, “Something to eat? At this time?”
Ponder frowned. “Are you sure you’re a wizard?”
“Sorry, just saying…”
They were still walking as they talked, and their voices echoed in the late-night quiet. The winding passages reminded Harry of Hogwarts. He could feel the sense of raw history, the weight of years whispering through the stones in the walls. It was eerily familiar.
Ponder led them into the Library. It had been a part of his life for almost half a century, and so he never thought of the effect it might have on those who had never laid eyes on it before. He had to wait for Harry and Draco to catch up with him; they were walking slowly, eyes roaming around the books, row upon row, shelf upon shelf, dimension upon dimension, and up above them the glory of the great glass dome, currently letting in the light of a thousand stars.
Harry in particular was looking up, straight through the glass to the sky above, and Ponder grinned. “It’s impressive,” he said, “but it’s never been the same since Commander Vimes fell through it.”
He didn’t wait for Harry to reply. Casting his eyes around, he searched for anything that resembled a peacefully snoring bundle of red-orange fur, but in the end he gave up and called, “Librarian!”
They didn’t have long to wait. After a moment, the Librarian knuckled slowly across the floor, making his way through the shelves. “Ook?” he inquired, a little crossly.
“Sorry,” Ponder apologised. “We’re having a bit of a crisis. There’s a giant outside the city walls and Lord Vetinari isn’t very happy about it.”
“Ook,” the Librarian replied, and Ponder nodded.
“What did he say?” Harry asked, but before Ponder could reply, Draco cut him off.
“He didn’t say anything! He’s just a monk-… mmf.”
Harry watched bemusedly as Ponder withdrew his hand from Draco’s mouth. “Sorry,” Ponder said again. “I mean… well, you would have regretted saying that.”
The Librarian nodded sagely, and Draco, seeing the way the light shone in the ape’s dark eyes, decided not to pursue the point.
* * *
The Librarian was not the only one who objected to being woken.
+++Incorrect Temporal Parameters. Redo From Start+++
“Sorry,” apologised Ponder yet again.
Hex whirred, and inside, the termites began to scurry along their appointed pathways. The clicking of the springs and the teeth-grinding of the mouse settled into familiar background noise, and Ponder sighed. Linking Hex with the Library had provided the perfect excuse to load the thinking engine onto castors and carefully wheel it out of the High Energy Magic building and into the more familiar surroundings of the Library itself.
Ponder could never rid himself of the idea that Hex was slowing becoming more than the sum of its parts, and the loud snoring coming from somewhere within the confines of the machine had not done much to dispel his fears. Happily, the stentorian sounds turned out to be emanating from the vicinity of one Big Mad Drongo.
“Waah?” he said intelligently, curled up somewhere underneath the keyboard. His expression suggested that it was, without a shadow of a doubt, four fifteen in the afternoon, and if perchance it wasn’t four fifteen in the afternoon, it ought to be.
“Harry, Draco, this is Adrian Turnipseed,” said Ponder, helplessly. “He’s… not at his best at the moment.”
“Waah,” agreed Adrian, and went back to sleep. Hex’s mouse nibbled at his hair.
“Ah,” said Harry faintly.
Draco sniffed. “I thought we had work to do,” he said pointedly.
Ponder was suddenly businesslike. “Yes, we do,” he replied. “As I see it, our multi-dimensionally-enhanced friend out there arrived here in much the same way as you did. Is that not the case?”
Harry was suddenly aware that this was going to be a long night, and sat down on the floor. “Yes,” he said. “We call it Floo powder. You throw it into the fireplace, state your destination clearly, and then step into the flames.”
“Wait a moment,” Draco interjected, propping himself up on his elbows. “Floo powder works because we have a Floo network. Fireplaces all connected together,” he added with a glance at Ponder, “and you can’t travel outside the network. You have to link fireplaces before you can travel between them.”
Ponder noticed Draco was much more pleasant when he was explaining things. Aloud, he said, “I don’t suppose the High Energy Magic building is on the network?”
“No,” Harry said, “which isn’t to say we’re the first visitors from our world to end up here. We might well not be.”
“I agree,” said Ponder thoughtfully. “Down in the Street of Cunning Artificers, there used to be a supposed portal to another world. If you went through the doorway, you came out somewhere that wasn’t on the Disc.”
“Where was it?” asked Harry.
“I’m not entirely sure,” said Ponder honestly. “According to the university records, the doorway wasn’t open for very long and there wasn’t much time to explore the other side. I think it was a place called… Wincanton. Yes, Wincanton.”
“I think I’ve heard of it,” said Harry, interested. “It sounds like it’s in our world.”
“Really?” replied Ponder eagerly. “Maybe we can find out…”
“We’re getting sidetracked,” interrupted Draco impatiently and little too loudly. Adrian twitched at the noise, then rolled over and started snoring again. The Librarian gave them all a stern look from his perch on the top of a bookshelf.
“You’re right.” Harry sighed. “I’m worried about how we’re going to do this. We don’t have enough Floo powder to send a giant home, and we don’t have any way of getting more.”
“Is that true?” Ponder asked. “Can we not synthesise it somehow? What’s it made of?”
“Lithium salts,” said Draco unexpectedly. Off their looks, he added, “What?”
Harry shook his head. “Nothing.”
Ponder ignored the exchange. “Lithium…” he said thoughtfully. “I don’t think I know what that is.”
“Maybe you do, but you call it something else,” Harry suggested. “Parallel evolution, you know.”
“It’ll be in the Library.” Ponder clapped his hands together, and the Librarian’s ears pricked up at the mention of books. “The Librarian will know where to start, at least; he can help you try and find something you recognise in the books. I’ll deal with Hex…
“No, you won’t!”
They all looked up. Ponder turned towards the newcomer with a smile. “Gytha.”
She glared at him. “Professor Stibbons, where’s Hex? What have you done with it?”
“It’s here,” Ponder said, taking a step to one side and revealing the thinking engine, artistically decorated with Big Mad Drongo.
She sniffed, and joined Harry and Draco in sitting on the floor. “There wasn’t any need to move it,” she stated. “Why are you all up so late?”
Ponder resisted the urge to reciprocate the question. “We’re doing some research,” he said, and felt moved to explain fully. She listened patiently, and then a certain gleam appeared in her eyes.
Harry, thinking of Hermione in younger days, wasn’t at all surprised to see her striding off between the bookshelves, leaving professor, ape and thinking engine floundering in her wake.
* * *
Some time later, Ponder’s personality seemed to be slowly intertwining with that of Hex. He had a distracted, enthusiastic look in his eyes that incongruously reminded Harry of Remus Lupin as a teacher.
Gytha and the Librarian were no longer within calling distance. They had last been seen heading off in search of the Lost Reading Room, or something along those lines. Harry said as much to Ponder.
“Good,” replied his son without looking up. “Maybe they’ll find out what happened to last year’s expedition.”
Before Harry could comment on this, a muffled screech made him leap to his feet. “Draco!”
Dreamily, Ponder watched him go. “He’s my father, you know,” he said wonderingly, trying out the words.
Hex clicked, and the pen started moving.
+++Irrelevant. Resistance Is Futile+++
“Waah,” said Adrian.
“Oh, shut up,” said Ponder.
* * *
Three shelves away, Harry skidded to a halt. In a gap on the lowermost shelf, Draco was lying on the floor and thrashing wildly. “Harry!” he yelled.
“What happened?” Harry asked, kneeling to be with eye-level with him.
“I was just looking,” Draco said incoherently, “just looking, and I pulled a book, and he, and he…”
Harry grabbed him by the hands and pulled. “And who?”
“Him!” Draco rolled over and pointed.
Curled up on the floor in the gap was another wizard. He had the word “Wizzard” on his hat. “Rincewind,” said Harry knowledgably.
“Rincewind?” said another voice. It was Ponder, apparently come to see what all the noise was about. “Oh, it’s all right, he’s Deputy Librarian.”
“Should he be doing that?” Draco asked, extending a shaking index finger. Rincewind, eyes tightly closed, was gasping for air, limbs scrabbling against empty air.
“It’s all right,” said Ponder again. “That just shows he’s dreaming.”
That said, he wandered off towards Hex, leaving Harry with a disgruntled Draco. Harry smiled. “It was your idea to come here,” he said smoothly, and walked away.
* * *
Some time later than that, the Librarian and Gytha came back. Ponder extricated himself with some difficulty from Hex, and in so doing caught the student’s attention. “Professor Stibbons!” she exclaimed. “What did you do with the imp-mail system?”
“It was… ah… mislaid in the transfer from the HEM,” he told her. “It can be reinstated with practically no trouble at all.”
Harry grinned; he had reason to believe the components of said system had been given to the Librarian to quietly dispose of. Ape, human and human stared impassively into space until Gytha was forced to give it up. “The Librarian’s had an idea,” she said, changing the subject.
“Ook,” agreed the Librarian.
“What is it?” Ponder asked.
“Ook. Ook, ook. Eeek.”
“Ah,” said Ponder, and with a brief smile, turned to Harry. Draco was sitting on the floor, not listening. “Harry… are you familiar with the concept of L-space?”
Harry shook his head. “I don’t think so. Should I be?”
“Probably not. I could give you a lengthy explanation about large collections of books and relative thaumaturgical concentrations…”
“Ook!” interjected the Librarian, clearly in favour.
“…but it would take up too much time. What it boils down to is, all libraries are connected. Particularly magical libraries. If you know what you’re doing – and even if I don’t, Hex and the Librarian certainly do – you can get your hands on any book ever written in the multiverse, even books that haven’t been written yet.”
Draco jerked to attention. “Does that mean that we could take a book out from anywhere?”
Ponder nodded. “Theoretically, yes. It would help if we knew exactly which book we were looking for.”
Harry grinned. “Good enough.”
* * *
Elsewhere in the multiverse, Madam Pince was settling down at her desk. Monday morning, and the first students of the week would be in after breakfast. She had sharpened her quill in readiness for the week’s batch of overdue notices.
As it happened, it was not a student who walked through the door first, but a teacher, walking slowly and silently. Madam Pince was grudgingly approving. Not many people knew how to behave in a library nowadays.
“Professor,” she said, nodding at him.
“Madam,” he returned, eyes twinkling. “How are you this fine morning?”
“I’m well, thank you. Can I help you with anything?”
There weren’t many people the librarian volunteered to help, and the professor smiled to himself. “No, thank you. Just browsing. Has Severus been in?”
“Professor Snape is still at breakfast,” she told him.
“Good, good. He will insist on attempting to teach first-years the most complex potions, and then he complains when they accidentally destroy his classroom. I wonder, are there any books on how to unstick children from the ceiling?”
Madam Pince didn’t reply. She was too busy letting her mouth drop open.
Another professor, a first-year with no house insignia, an elderly gentleman with a scar on his forehead, and a large, orange-furred orang-utan had materialised by a bookshelf. The elderly man immediately disappeared, running off in search of something.
“Sorry,” apologised one of them. “Just passing through – Harry, hurry up! – sorry for the inconvenience, we’ll be on our way now…”
And they were. Harry reappeared within a second, holding a book, and with a pop, they all disappeared into thin air.
After a second, Madam Pince recovered her powers of speech. “You can’t Apparate or Disapparate within Hogwarts grounds!” she exclaimed, sitting heavily on her chair. “Did you ever see such a thing? And was that a monkey?”
Remus Lupin smiled to himself. “It was an orang-utan,” he said gently. “Don’t call him a monkey, he doesn’t like it. Would you like a glass of water?”
“What? Oh… yes, please…”
He went to get her one, but took a brief detour through the shelves on his way, looking for a newly-appeared gap in the books. When he found it, he smiled again, and headed off towards the kitchens.
* * *
“Who were they?” Ponder asked when they arrived back at UU.
“Madam Pince,” said Harry thoughtfully, “she’s the Hogwarts’ librarian, and that was Remus Lupin… he’s an old friend of my dad’s.”
“My grandfather?” Ponder asked unnecessarily, just to hear himself ask
Harry nodded, and would have said more, but Gytha interrupted. “Let’s see the book,” she said impatiently. Harry held it out, and she read, “Out Of The Frying Pan And Into The Fire: Travelling By Floo.”
“By Hermione Granger,” Harry said, grinning. “Another old friend.”
Draco sniffed. “This particular old friend has a book in every single Dewey Decimal category, even the Muggle ones. The woman is obsessed.”
“Obsessed with what?” asked Gytha, interested.
“Nothing in particular. Just obsessed.”
“She’s a good writer, though,” Gytha observed. She was already well into Chapter One.
“Glad to hear it,” said Draco. “Now, can we finally start getting somewhere?”
Ponder nodded emphatically. “Hex will want to read that too, Gytha. But yes; we should be making headway now.”
* * *
They did. By the time the golden-syrup Disc dawn was making itself felt across the grey Ankh-Morpork sky, they had made their plans. Along the way, Ponder had fallen asleep across Hex and on top of Big Mad Drongo, Gytha had fallen asleep on the pages of Out Of The Frying Pan, and Harry had fallen asleep on top of Draco on top of Rincewind.
That meant that only the Librarian was awake to answer the low knocking at the door.
He knuckled across the floor to answer it. The sound gave Ponder a push towards consciousness. “Waah?”
Underneath him, Adrian moved and rolled over. Ponder grabbed at the nearest thing that came to hand, which was Hex’s mouse. It squeaked indignantly and Ponder swore under his breath. “If that’s Ridcully…”
Gytha’s eyes were the next to open, and being closer to the door, she could confirm that barring overnight accidents, it wasn’t Ridcully. It was a boy with long blonde hair, about nineteen years old. The Librarian moved to let him in, but the moment he stepped over the threshold, the books began to protest. Pages fluttered, spines cracked, and the occasional volume leapt from the shelves. Gytha understood their reaction – the boy most likely didn’t have a magical bone in his body. The Librarian seemed less than amused; standing up, he shouted, “Ook!”
The books fell silent and were still. The Librarian delivered a glare all round and sat down again.
Ponder yawned, rubbing at his eyes. “Morning, Sam,” he said, realising that he would have to make introductions; they were never the Librarian’s strong point. “Harry, Draco, Gytha… this is Sam Vimes.”
Draco’s brow furrowed. “But Commander Vimes…”
“He’s my dad,” explained the boy, grinning. “I’m named after him, of course.” He paused to look around him, and said in a different tone, “You’ve been busy.”
“You could say that, yes,” Harry replied dryly. “It’s been an interesting night.”
“That’s what Mum thought,” said Sam. “She says, come for breakfast. She sent me to fetch you all.”
“Me, too?” asked Gytha, lifting her head.
“Of course.” He smiled at her and she blushed slightly. “Shall we go?”
Stories Chapter Index Chapter Five