Chapter Five: A Romantic Breakfast For Twelve (With Horsemeat)

"When there is no full moon, a werewolf is as harmless as any other human." - Newt Scamander, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them


It took some time to clear up the mess and persuade Rincewind the world wasn’t ending, but the sun was barely up by the time Sam and the researchers were trudging across the streets of Ankh-Morpork. The first people were making their way out onto the streets, and the zombies, werewolves and vampires were crawling back into the shadows. The rosy half-light made the city seem almost pleasant; if you turned your head and squinted, the Ankh looked like it was made of water. Ponder was almost proud, in a twisted, perverse sort of way. His parents, or parent, might have been absent for almost half a century, but he’d made a life for himself. This, this place, this frantic cesspool of a city, frothing with life and magic, was his home. He belonged here.  

Along with quite a lot of other things, he reflected, looking at the dragons scampering in the yard outside the Vimes' house. It was strangely comforting to think that even if they didn't manage to get Dangre home, he'd find a way to fit in eventually.

"Come in, come in," Sybil Vimes insisted. "Hurry along—the food's getting cold already."

Commander Vimes was there already, tucking right into his breakfast. By his side sat Vetinari, making the butler nervous and looking remarkably comfortable.

"Sit down, sit down," Sybil said, bustling them into seats. "Have some sausages."

Ridcully, who had almost miraculously appeared as they left the UU grounds[1], took a seat and plunged into the food with gusto, while the others hung back a little. The Librarian scorned the table, heading for the sideboard where a basket of fruit was quickly stripped of its bananas.

"No dragons at the table," Sybil said, swatting a scaly nose out the door. "Except for Mr Malfoy, of course. Go on, people, tuck in."

Sam Vimes junior graciously pulled a chair out for Gytha Ogg, and she sat down. Ponder—encouraged by the familiar sight of Ridcully stuffing his face—joined them, and finally Draco, Harry and Rincewind took courage and entered the fray.

For a brief moment there was near-silence: the scraping of plates, the chink of cutlery, and the chewing of twelve sets of jaws were the only sounds.

Then Sybil stopped, cocking her head to listen. She took a deep breath, reached one hand under the table, and hauled, emerging triumphant with a small dragon's greenish head in one hand. She looked at it sternly. "No. Dragons. At. The. Table," she said, and glared at her husband and son.

They looked back at her, their faces pictures of innocence. Harry was amused to note that both Draco and Vetinari automatically assumed the same expression.

Once Sybil had thrown the dragon out, with further glaring and a touch of symbolic door-banging, she set to chairing the meeting. "So, what are you going to do about this giant, then?" she asked, looking at Vimes.

Vimes looked at Vetinari, who turned an enquiring gaze on Ridcully.

Ridcully glanced up from his food and tilted his head towards Ponder before returning to the more important matter on his plate.

Ponder received the full weight of seven pairs of eyes, and paled. He shot a helpless look at Gytha, who was fully occupied pretending not to return Sam's interested stares, and then turned to the Librarian, who took it upon himself to explain.

"Ook," he said. "Ook, ook ook eek."

Sybil nodded. "That's not good enough though, is it?" she said to the room at large. "What you need is a *plan*."

Harry and Draco, veterans of planning meetings, cleared their throats in unison, and then stopped, glancing at each other and trying to decide who should take precedence.

In the ensuing pause, Vetinari spoke. "Don't worry, Lady Sybil. I'm sure the fine and educated gentlemen from the University—aided by Miss Ogg, of course—will conceive and execute the best possible course of action. With the Watch's assistance."

"Of course," Vimes said. "It's just a matter of telling me what you need."

* * *

Waving the travellers off was quite a performance. A crowd—jeering, cheering, shouting, pickpocketing, profiteering, and stinking—gathered at the city gate. Vetinari was there, Sybil by his side; Sam was there, preparing to mourn the loss of his love in full traditional teenage angst mode. Ridcully was there, accompanied by a wide cross-section of the UU faculty. Those of the Watch who were staying behind formed a guard of honour—part good luck gesture, part protection—and they were off in style.[2]

Gytha, who came from Lancre and was being exceptionally bossy, rode in front. Behind her, Vimes headed the watchmen: himself, Carrot, Angua, and Reg Shoe at the back. Dangre, having been unable to sleep all night, had picked his ways back to the city walls early that morning and was now somewhere in their midst, depending on which foot he was standing on—horses from anywhere other than Ankh-Morpork would have bolted.

After the watchmen came the wizards: Harry and Draco sharing a horse because Harry had never learned to ride, and then Ponder with the Librarian behind him because the saddlemaker had never learned how to make them for orang-utans. Finally, Rincewind finished the parade, with the many-legged squat figure of the Luggage trotting along behind him. The position made him feel a little nervous, because if—or when—he wanted to run, the people in front would block his way.

On the other hand, Ankh-Morpork was at his back, and it wasn't such a bad place to run to.

For a while, they travelled through the suburbs—places where Dangre had to set his feet down carefully for fear of killing someone—but after about half an hour they were in real farming country, with only the occasional farmhouse to avoid. The giant's feet raised a stink to rival that of the city as they crushed hundreds of cabbages in a stride. Gradually, the sun climbed higher in the sky, and with the growing warmth the strict processional order relaxed.

"So, you're a werewolf?" Draco said conversationally to Angua.

"And you're a wizard. Got a point?"

Draco tensed a little at the tone, and grinned. Harry, feeling the tension, raised his head rapidly from its resting place on Draco's shoulder, and said, "I'm sure Draco only meant to comment on how happy he is—we are—to see that werewolves' rights are another area of parallel evolution."

Angua, interested by the connotations of that statement but unwilling to cast her city into a bad light (at least in front of outsiders), said, "Haven't your werewolves always been treated well, then?"

"Sadly not," Harry said, shaking his head. "Until after the war, when I managed to start getting reforms made, werewolves were another of those groups that suffered badly from prejudice. Remus Lupin, for example…"

"Prejudice is one of the worst evils in the world today," Reg Shoe cut in, hearing a key word. "The things some zombies go through are…"

At the same time, Ponder said, "Remus Lupin? The man who was in the library?"

"Yes," said Harry and Draco at once, to both of them. They both took deep breaths to go on from there, sensed this, and both paused; then Harry said, "Yes, Ponder. That was Remus Lupin—a werewolf, a good man, and the best teacher of Defence Against the Dark Arts I—and for that matter, Neville—ever had. He's dead now."

Vimes, listening to the conversation from a few yards ahead, cast a sidelong glance towards Angua, but nothing showed on her face.

"Lupin?" Vimes said instead. "Wasn't that the name of the man we found confused in an alleyway, and took to UU?"

Carrot nodded. "That's right, sir—four years ago now. Remus Lupin was his name—I'm sorry to hear he died not long after that."

Harry shook his head. "He died, oh, getting on for seventeen years ago now."

"Tell me…" Ponder began, but then Gytha suddenly stopped her horse, and they were all occupied with not bumping into each other for several seconds.

"Damn," she said when they'd stopped. "Professor Stibbons, I'd ignored any problems of time we might have, assuming we were dealing with a steady-run parallel world; but if this man Lupin really was here four years ago, when he'd been dead twelve years in his own world, we might be dealing with a wavering association. We have to get Dangre—and Harry and Draco—home as soon as possible, or they might not arrive in the correct time frame. Did Lupin ever go missing?"

"Not so much so that we couldn't find him," Harry told her.

"Commander Vimes, how long was he here?"

"Less than twenty-four hours," Angua answered.

"And his friend—Sirius, I think?—was only here for fifteen minutes or so," Ponder added. "Though I think in the end the Archchancellor kept the bed. He has something of an obsession with four-posters."

Harry and Draco tried to fit that information into their world view, and failed. They weren't, however, given time for more questions—Gytha rattled off a stream of orders. "We need to start moving. They've been here nearly a day already; we might have less than eight hours before the worlds start to shift position again. I'll try and think of a way to measure that. Anyway—can these horses gallop?"

Without waiting for an answer, she wheeled her horse around and kicked it hard in the ribs. It took a leap and was off; the others followed in close succession.

They moved fast for the next three hours, as the distant mountains drew closer and the sun reached noon. Even Dangre was starting to feel the strain when they reached the shade of the first trees of the Forest of Skund, and paused for a rest.

"At least the trees are dry," Draco observed, quietly, to Harry. "If all else fails, they'll make a big enough blaze to send our big friend home in."

Harry nodded. "Yes. But let's leave the destruction of a place of natural beauty to the last choice, shall we?"

"Oh, shame," Draco said, straight-faced, but his grey eyes sparkled with life. Harry would never admit it, but this was a good plan from one angle: Draco was considerably happier than he had been the morning before.

Harry was about to lean over and kiss him, but Gytha's voice intruded on their private moment. "That's enough rest, people. We have to keep going—twenty-seven hours and counting!"

They mounted the tired horses and were off again, keeping to the shade of the forest as far as they could. Ponder, getting into the swing of bouncing along on a horse's back, steered his steed alongside Draco and Harry's, and asked, "We do have a plan, right?"

"If Gytha doesn't have one already, we'll think of one," Harry promised his son. "Draco knows how to make Floo powder, I know how it works, we can use other magic if we have to, and from what I've heard this Tracie Ogg is a pretty powerful witch, as well. We'll manage."

"If we're right about the lithium salts being available in Ramtop ores," Draco added. "If that's not that case, we're pretty much stuck here until we find another source."

He would have said more, but Gytha—who, without consultation, had become the group leader—heard them talking. "Don't waste breath!" she called over her shoulder, and kicked her mount once more.

They thought it prudent to obey her for the time being.

[1] It wasn't really a miracle. If they'd stopped to think about it for a moment, Ponder at least should have recalled the way the echoes of the University were carefully managed to relay any mention of food, anywhere in the building, directly to the Archchancellor's ears. This leads to much fun being had by all when some high-spirited students decide to have a midnight feast.

[2] As opposed to the burgers, which were off and in a bun.

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