"You know, mixing up stuff to see what happens." - Ponder Stibbons.
"It's no good, Harry," Hermione said, when ten minutes of hurried explanations had resulted in little clarity and no ideas. "I can't kneel here forever, I'm coming through."
Harry tried to protest, but Hermione was confident enough to simply ignore him, and within seconds she was standing in one of Lancre Castle's many spare sitting rooms—this one given over to the use of visiting wizards for the time being. From the mat in front of the fire, she surveyed the assembled company.
Directly in front of her stood Harry, blinking tiredly behind his glasses. On one side him stood Draco—never her favourite person—and on the other side stood a slightly younger man, whom she recognised as the first face from the fire. He looked a lot like Harry, and a little like someone else she knew but couldn't name.
By his side stood a young woman who was holding a copy of
one of her earlier books from the days when she still published under her maiden
name and found it amusing to give them titles that slyly referenced Muggle
In the far corner, a man wearing tatty robes and a pointed hat with the word WIZZARD on it leaned against a sideboard; and on the sideboard sat an orang-utan eating an apple.
In the centre of the room there was a table, and by the table stood an older lady with a distinct air of confusion.
"Hermione Granger?" the young women with the book said. "I've been reading this, and…"
"It's Hermione Pince now, but that doesn't matter," Hermione smiled at her. "You are?"
"Gytha Ogg," the young women replied, and sketched a curtsy. "The trouble is, we have to get this giant back to your world, and I'm worried that the movement of the space-time continuum may mean that…"
"… we don't have that much time," Hermione finished, and was rewarded with a wide grin from Gytha. "Yes. Now, if…" She moved to the table, where Gytha had stacked all the books she had consulted and the notes she'd made on the way.
"I told you she'd take over," Draco said bitterly to Harry.
"Hey, calm down," Harry said, and wrapped his arms around Draco's waist. "If she can get Dangre home, we can go home too. I don't know about you, but I'd like to get some sleep."
Overhearing them, Magrat drifted away from the table, and said, "If you like, we've got plenty of spare bedrooms."
"Please," Harry said gratefully, though it earned him a dirty look from Draco.
"I'll stay here," Draco said.
"No you won't," Harry told him, and turned back to Magrat. "If you'd…"
Magrat gave them a confused glance, but said, "Down the corridor, first on the left and then second on the right."
"Thank you," Harry said, taking a firmer grip on Draco. "If anything exciting happens, call us." He pulled Draco from the room.
* * *
Harry awoke and waited for the confusion to abate. It took
a few moments for him to remember exactly where in the space-time continuum he
was this morning, but once this was accomplished, he rolled over and
tried to prod Draco.
Draco wasn’t there. Harry blinked. Then he swung his legs out of bed and ambled towards the door. Sleepily, he retraced his steps from the night before, and soon enough, found himself in the sitting-room given over to the wizards. The night before, it had been a large, irregular room, with stone flagstones making up the floor and all manner of eclectic furniture arranged around the edges. The wizards, being wizards, had commandeered most of the chairs, while the Watch, being the Watch, had congregated in the corners of the room, out of the wind, having a quiet smoke.
Now, it was quiet and empty, except for a woman methodically tidying. Harry was surprised to see it was the queen. “Hello,” he said awkwardly.
She looked up. “Good morning, Mr Potter. You’ll find your friends outside.”
“Draco, too?” Harry asked, wondering if he should stay and help. It didn’t seem quite right, to his way of thinking, the monarch doing her own cleaning.
“Yes, him too,” replied Magrat, over her shoulder. She was busy dusting. “Stop by the kitchens on your way down, get some breakfast.”
Harry thanked her and left the room. As he shut the door, he distinctly heard her sneeze.
In the end he didn’t get breakfast. He was rather afraid he would get lost trying to find the kitchens, so eventually he made his way outside. The other wizards and the Watch weren’t too difficult to find; the sounds of laughter and incantations and great deal of swearing carried over the air. Harry followed, and at length came to an open square of short green grass. He dimly remembered crossing it on his way to the castle the night before, but there hadn’t been so much activity then. Neither had there been a thick chalk octagon on the ground, or half a dozen glowing metal buckets, each bucket being sporadically attended to. As Harry came near, Hermione tossed a handful of something into the nearest one. A cloud of smoke drifted out of it and she smiled grimly.
“Something’s burning,” said Harry wryly, and she looked up.
“Morning, Harry,” she said through the smoke. “Slept well, did you?”
“Um… yes,” said Harry, uncomfortably aware that Hermione’s eyebrows were getting singed. “What are you doing? Where’s Draco?”
“He’s over there,” she said, and pointed over to where the giant was sitting, some distance away. “He and Gytha are trying to explain the plan to Dangre. I’m just taking care of the finishing touches.”
“What finishing touches might those be?"
”Well…” She paused, stepping backwards. “We’re trying to replicate Floo powder. A lot of it. I’m going to put it in the buckets, place each one on a point of the octagon, and hopefully, with enough power, whatever’s inside the octagon will be sent wherever we want to send it.”
“Why an octagon?” Harry asked.
“It’s thaumaturgically significant,” said Ponder, appearing suddenly. “The number that follows seven is very important in all disciplines of magic.”
“The number… what, you mean eigh-mmf.”
“Sorry,” Ponder apologised, and withdrew his hand from Harry’s mouth. “You’re a wizard, you don’t want to say that.”
Harry felt a sudden sense of deja-vu and said nothing in reply.
“Dangre!” yelled an impatient female voice. Slowly, the giant lumbered over to them, Gytha dancing around his feet. “Are we ready?” she asked breathlessly.
“What, so soon?” Harry asked before he could stop himself.
Hermione laughed. “Serves you right for not getting up earlier, Harry. We’ve been getting things ready since dawn. Now, Dangre… would you care to step inside the octagon?”
The octagon had clearly been designed to accommodate a giant’s feet, but he scuffed the chalk when stepping over it, so Ponder, with a resigned sigh, began re-drawing the affected sides. As he did so, Gytha went round checking the buckets.
“What’s actually in them?” Harry asked Hermione as they watched.
“What, the buckets? Let’s see…” Hermione counted off on her fingers. “Dragon balm, thyme, rosewater, sulphur, lithium salts, Flobberworm droppings, sugar, lime…”
“Hang on.” Harry held up one hand. “Dragon balm? They have dragons here?”
“Not our sort,” Hermione said. “They don’t have Flobberworms, either. We substituted Gytha’s mum’s muscle-soothing mixture for the dragon balm, and manure from her uncle’s stable floor instead of Flobberworm droppings.”
“And the lithium salts? Draco mentioned them once before, but we couldn’t find them.”
“Lithium silicate, in the granite. Turns out they call it something different here – ‘saxeum’, if I remember rightly. Anyway, it’s all been taken care of.”
“Clever,” said Harry approvingly. “I knew we brought you here for a reason.”
She blushed slightly, but shook her head. “It wasn’t me, it was all Gytha’s doing.”
“She’s very efficient.”
“Yes… can be rather bossy at times, though.” Hermione paused. “Ah, well, it’s for a good cause.”
Neither of them spoke for a moment, watching as Gytha finished inspecting the seventh bucket. Hermione wasn’t interested in her for the moment. Her eyes were resting on someone else. “Harry,” she said.
“The one in the wizard’s hat, with the chalk. Who is he?”
“His name’s Ponder Stibbons,” Harry replied, not looking at her. “He’s part of the university faculty at Ankh-Morpork.”
“I know who he is, Harry. Now tell me – who is he really?”
Harry sighed and turned to face her. “I’m not a hundred percent sure,” he said honestly, “but I think he’s my son.”
Hermione turned to look at Ponder again, noting the distinctive features of the younger wizard. “I thought so,” she said gently. “Who was his mother?”
“Hermione! We’re ready!” yelled Gytha at that point. As Hermione moved quickly towards her, she saw Ponder suddenly straighten up, pushing his hair out of his eyes in a very familiar way.
“I’m ready, too,” he said seriously. “Let’s do this.”
Gytha ran to fetch Draco, who had been deep in conversation with Sam Vimes, and positioned him at one point of the octagon. Next to him, on the next point, stood Hermione. Doubtfully, Harry took up his position on another point, and Gytha and Ponder followed suit on two of the remaining points.
Following which, they all stared at each other. “Ah,” said Gytha faintly, and counted. Five people. Eight points on the octagon.
“Ah,” said Harry. Behind him, the Watch were running towards them.
“What’s up?” called Carrot.
“We’re three people short,” Draco told him.
“There’s three of us,” Angua said, pointing at herself, Vimes and Carrot.
“Are you wizards?” asked Hermione, and then grinned as Vimes’ and Carrot’s expressions told her everything she needed to know.
“Rincewind is,” Ponder said, and strode off to grab the other wizard by the collar before he started sprinting. Once deposited on a point of the octagon, Rincewind didn’t move. There were some things you didn’t fight.
“Two more,” Gytha said, and then: “Do they have to be actual wizards?”
“What did you have in mind?” asked Hermione.
“Magrat and my mam,” she said. “They’re witches.”
Five minutes later, Tracie Ogg and the Queen of Lancre had been carefully positioned on the remaining points. All eight of them were standing behind a bucket of smoking, aromatic natural Floo powder. Rincewind and Ponder were pointing their staffs at the centre of the octagon, where Dangre was standing. Harry, Hermione and Draco were pointing their wands, and Magrat and Tracie their broomsticks. Gytha, lacking any of these attributes, was merely holding her hands out in front of her and hoping for the best.
“Now what? What do we say?” asked Magrat.
“Nothing in particular,” Hermione told her, “just any word you feel will concentrate your power.”
A sudden silence fell. Dangre, for all his bulk, seemed capable of standing perfectly still, and all around him, wizards and witches had closed their eyes. Some distance away, hiding behind a rock, the watchmen were holding their breath. The grass had stopped rustling, and there were no birds singing.
And then, suddenly, with shouts of “Avaunt!” and “Help!” and “Mudblood!” and “Logic!” and “Potatoes!” and sundry others, things began to happen. The thick, aromatic smoke became overpowering, clouding vision, and with howling winds and a sudden drop in temperature, the spell caught.
* * *
Five minutes later, the air was warm enough and the smoke had cleared sufficiently for Vimes to dare ordering his people out from behind the rock. They stumbled out, rubbing their eyes.
“Ook,” said a small voice.
“Oh, hello,” Angua told the orang-utan as she stepped over the grass, and then she paused. “Wait… you’re a wizard, technically. Why didn’t you volunteer?”
The Librarian extended a shaking digit over to where the smoke was still thickest. “Ook,” he said mournfully. Through the smoke, only two figures were dimly visible – Tracie Ogg and Magrat. Of Dangre and the wizards, there was no sign, except perhaps the fact that the octagon now had snow in the middle of it.
“Oh,” said Angua after a while. “That was why.”
* * *
Several people yelled, “Where am I?”
It was pitch dark, and it was very cold, and it was a few moments before anyone spoke again. Finally, Harry dislodged his foot from Draco’s elbow and his hands from Hermione’s hair, and checked to see if he was still alive. A brief check that all his arms and legs were still attached went some way to proving this, so he went to the next step and tried speaking. “Draco?”
“Waaah,” said Draco, and kicked him.
Harry was reassured, and moved on. “Ponder?”
“Over here,” came a whisper of Ponder’s voice. “I
think I’m upside down.” There came the sound of scuffling, then something
hitting the snow with a thump, and then someone saying, “Ow!"
Harry paused, decided Ponder seemed to be taking care of things, and continued: “Hermione?”
“Just here, Harry.” She prodded him. Harry grinned in the dark, and was about to ask after Rincewind and Gytha and everyone else, when he realised with a jolt that he’d asked after Ponder before he’d thought of Hermione. He filed away the thought for future contemplation, and said, “Gytha?”
“Here. And I’m sitting on Rincewind.”
“Aargh,” agreed Rincewind.
“Magrat? Mrs Ogg?” Harry finished.
Silence. “Mam!” Gytha yelled, and the sound reverberated and echoed all round, but there was no reply.
“They’re not here,” said Harry gently. “Wherever here is.”
Stories Index Chapter Index Chapter Nine