Part Two

Chapter Nine: What A Wonderful World

"Is it not written: 'What you don't know, can’t hurt you'?" –Lu-Tze


"Which raises another good question," said Hermione. "Where *are* we?"

"There's snow," Ponder volunteered. "I'm cold. And wet."

"And it's dark," Harry said. Draco was struck forcibly by how alike their voices were.

"Well, you can do something about that," Draco said. "We are wizards, after all." He sat up and whispered, Lumos,” and the tip of his wand cast a warm yellow glow over the area. "I can't see everyone—come a bit closer to the light, all of you."

Harry and Hermione were already close, but they got up, blinking a little, and Harry helped Draco to his feet, before copying his spell. From somewhere off to the left, Ponder crawled into the circle, and a couple of seconds later Gytha and Rincewind joined them.

Their eyes adjusted to the light. They could see each other—mussed, with wide frightened eyes—but nothing around them.

"There are trees," Ponder said after a moment. "That's what I was hanging in—my robe got caught on a branch." He displayed the long rip he'd made when he struggled to get away.

"And Dangre's gone," Hermione said. "We wouldn't have heard him—giants move quite silently in snow and have good night vision, so he's probably with his family already. Though I half-expect to hear a greeting call or two soon."

Harry nodded. "So, we're in the Himalayas somewhere," he said. "What's the plan now?"

In the distance, a pair of huge lungs bellowed out a giant's greeting. Hermione smiled, and said, "I was right. He's home okay."

"But we're not, which is a more immediate concern," Draco said. "Do we have a plan?"

"Run away!" Rincewind suggested urgently, but Ponder caught hold of his elbow.

"Unlikely to work," he said. "Magic's probably our only chance."

Suddenly, Gytha spoke up. "With only seven of us? Difficult."

"In your world, perhaps," Hermione said. "But as far as I know, this is our world, and our magical rules apply."

"Do you have an actual plan, Mrs Pince, or merely pompous statements to make?" Draco asked cuttingly, with a sly grin for Gytha.

"I'll have you know, Mr Malfoy, that I'm perfectly capable of formulating a plan at short notice," Hermione told him. "And, unlike yourself, I'm also capable of working with the locals to find substitute materials for supplies I lack, as our presence here demonstrates."

Harry, having been listening to versions of this argument since he was eleven, sighed. "This isn't the time," he said. "As I see them, we've got magical travel options—Apparition, Floo Powder, and portkeys—or non-magical—walking, running, or finding something to ride."

"Or broomsticks," Draco put in.

"Or broomsticks," Harry agreed. "The trouble is, we…"

"Broomsticks are for *witches*," Ponder broke, aghast. "Wizards don't use them."

"The types of magic aren't as separate here," Gytha said.

"As I was saying," Harry went on, voice rising slightly, "we don't actually have broomsticks, Portkeys, or Floo powder to use, and Apparition won't work for all of us. I think walking's our best choice."

"Through the mountains, at night," Hermione said. "I'm not keen on this."

"Neither am I," Harry told her, "but I don't see another choice. If anyone's got suggestions, I'm listening; if not, I'm going to start walking."

He held his wand like a torch, picked a direction, and set off.

"Harry!" Hermione shouted. "Not that way!"

He didn't turn back. "Stupid pig-headed Gryffindor," Draco muttered, and went after him.

"How do you know which way to go?" Gytha asked, curious.

"Stars," Hermione said, dimming her wand-light and pointing upwards. "I noticed when we arrived—if you know the patterns, it's easy enough to pick out north. We should head north or south, if we can; that should bring us out of the mountains fastest."

Looking up at the unfamiliar constellations, Gytha realised how far she was from home, and shivered. She reminded Hermione of her own daughter, Alicia, now Minister for Magic, when she'd just left Hogwarts—facing a big world about which she knew lots from books and little from experience.

Hermione slipped an arm around Gytha's shoulders. "Don't worry," she said. "Harry may have his stupid moments, but he's a big hero in our world and he has a tendency to get out of even the worst scrapes."

Two steps behind them, Ponder listened, entranced. Harry—his father—was seen as a hero? He'd mentioned doing great things in several wars, but he'd cast it as "what one did when one had to" rather than as "heroic deeds which made one a trusted leader". It was mostly, Ponder supposed, a matter of point of view, but it was intriguing all the same.

Soon enough, Harry and Draco returned—though Ponder did note that Draco was keeping a firm grip on Harry's hand, firm enough to turn his knuckles white.

"Which way, Hermione?" Draco asked, his voice carefully bland.

"South, I suggest," she said, pointing. "We'll have to detour a bit at times, but that looks easiest from here and it has to bring us out in India or Pakistan eventually."

"Right," Draco said, and led them off, still dragging Harry behind him.

* * *

"I hate walking," Draco moaned, for the sixth time in an hour. They'd found a yak path, which was dirty and stony but seemed safe when compared with the snows and undergrowth.

"So do I," Rincewind agreed, and then added, "Running's more my style."

"Do you remember," Hermione asked Harry, "when—back in the war—we had to do route marches so that the Death Eaters wouldn't detect our magical traces?"

"Yes, I remember," Harry said. "We alternated between complaining, inventing marching rhymes with swearwords in, and telling each other stories."

Hermione grinned at him in the glowing light of their wands, and Harry's heart leapt nostalgically. "Don't you think it's time for a change?"

He grinned back. "Do you have a story in mind, or is the field open to take volunteers?"

"Nothing specific," Hermione said. "Anyone can start."

There was a silence, complete save for their footfalls in the snow.

"*I* don't mind starting," Draco said. "This is only a short story, but it's a true one."

"Go on," Harry said.

"Once upon a time," Draco began, and Harry thought he could still hear the whiny tone carefully hidden in his voice, but then dismissed that as merely Draco's accent, "there was a very old man, who was bored with doing the same things day in and day out. So, when he received an invitation to visit some in-laws in a foreign city, he naturally accepted at once.

"However, once there, his significant other—who didn't have two brain cells to rub together—became embroiled with local problems, and forced him to engage in an unpredictable magical experiment, which—of course—landed him in dire straits. Where his feet are slowly freezing off and he's going to die of cold and hunger."

"You're not going to do anything of the sort," Harry said. He tried to keep his voice calm, but anger bubbled beneath it.

"Why not?" Draco asked, almost insolently. Ponder had the distinct impression that he wanted to provoke an argument because at least that would be interesting.

"I won't let you!"

Harry's voice had risen to a shout, and Draco stopped, turning to face him fully. As he did so, a stone or branch on the path moved under his weight and he tripped. He caught his balance quickly enough, but his ankle had twisted awkwardly and when he tried to touch his foot to the ground he yelped in pain.

The whole group stopped. Harry moved closer, and offered Draco his support. Draco leant on him gratefully, but said, "I am now. I can't walk."

"You can still Apparate," Hermione said firmly, and then added as she caught sight of Gytha's frightened face, "That's probably a good plan, actually. If you Apparate ahead, you'll be able to give us some idea of what sort of terrain's coming up."

"Not until dawn," Draco said. "And even then, I only have so much power."

"By dawn, you might be able to put your weight on it, especially if we bind it up a bit," Harry said, practically. "It's nearly time for a rest anyway."

Hermione nodded, and Ponder—who'd been yawning for some time—looked much happier.

"What are we supposed to shelter under? A pile of snow?" Draco asked sardonically. Harry heard the tremor of fear in his voice and held him tighter.

"The rock face we passed only a few minutes ago had some likely looking caves in," Gytha suggested.

"They did?" Hermione asked.

Gytha nodded. "It didn't seem important at the time—we were pressing on—but I did notice them."

"Let's go back there, then," Hermione said decisively. "Draco, can you limp along that far if you lean on Harry?"

"Yes," Harry replied, but he did it in a whisper so soft that only Draco heard.

Draco tried a couple of steps using Harry as a crutch, and then nodded. "I can try."

"When you're running, you never get into arguments," Rincewind muttered as he trailed along behind them.

* * *

They huddled carefully into a damp cave. There were drier ones, but they smelt worryingly of animals. This one went quite a long way back, although after about five feet it was too low for anyone to get into, and it had a series of low shelves across the floor which people could sit on.

For warmth and comfort, they sat close together. Harry and Draco practically wrapped around each other. Hermione sat on Harry's other side, and Ponder just below them. Gytha sat as close as possible to Hermione, and Rincewind—seeing the wisdom of the plan—sat slightly higher than Ponder, close to both him and Draco. It was, in the glow of Hermione's wand, to which she had also added a warming spell (Draco and Harry were saving their energy), almost cosy.

"Has anyone got requests for stories?" Hermione asked, when they were settled and silent. "That's easier than trying to think of one straight off."

They thought for a moment, and then Ponder tipped his head back to look at Harry. "I'd like to hear more about my mot… about my fath… about Neville."

Harry felt Hermione stiffen—she, too, had been a good friend of Neville's.

"I expect I can tell you some things," Harry said, trying to sound relaxed and reassuring. "For starters, Hermione knew him too."

"Before he…"

"Before You-Know-Who killed him," Hermione said, matter-of-factly.

"Well, maybe Voldemort killed him, and maybe he died of something else," Harry said. "It's a little more complicated than we'd previously thought, Hermione."

"Oh?" Her voice invited confidence.

Harry swallowed hard. "Yes. Err. Ponder here—I told you he was my son, didn't I? Well, it seems like—you probably guessed that Neville and I—"

"It was fairly obvious," Hermione said. "Especially with—" she spared Draco a sharp glance, "—hindsight."

"Right," Harry nodded. "Anyway—Neville and I were together, right up to the final fight with Voldemort. We—there's a tradition—"

"Had hot wild sex the night before the battle," Draco put in, slightly gleefully. "I'm glad to know you learnt something at school."

"Quite so," Harry said, blushing. "We slept together, and then the next day there was the battle, and Neville disappeared. Everyone thought he was dead. But—Hermione, Draco, you remember Neville. Look at me—look at him—think about Neville…"

Hermione brightened the tip of her wand a little and studied them both. "I… you're saying—he's Neville's son, too? That's impossible—unless you’re trying to tell me that Neville was, I don't know, transgendered."

Harry shook his head. "No. I… Neville was a man, okay? That's sort of…"

"The way you swing," Hermione said, in the tone of one who had heard the phrase many times as the famous Harry Potter tried to explain to the world that he was even more different than they had previously thought.

"Yes," Harry agreed.

"But that's impossible," Hermione repeated. "Two men do not produce a baby. Fact of life."

Harry shrugged. "I know. But Ponder here was found in Ankh-Morpork, roughly the time Neville disappeared, perhaps a few months later, he had a father called Neville, and you have to admit—he looks a lot like me."

"He does," Hermione agreed after studying him some more. "And strange things do happen to you—and they had a tendency to happen to Neville, too."

"You're not kidding," Harry muttered, remembering some of those strange things. He looked around as his companions—Gytha, currently frowning deeply as she tried to understand what she'd just heard; Rincewind, fast asleep with his head on a rock; Hermione, studying him carefully and still sending little glances down at Ponder's messy hair; Draco, leaning on his shoulder and yawning tiredly; and Ponder, also falling asleep. Ponder, his… son.

That still seemed like it would take some more getting used to.

Harry smiled at Hermione, leaned his cheek on Draco's soft hair, and drifted into a doze.

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