"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
"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?
"In your world, perhaps," Hermione said.
"But as far as I know, this is our world, and our magical rules
"Do you have an actual plan, Mrs Pince, or merely
pompous statements to make?" Draco asked cuttingly, with a sly grin for
"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
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
"Or broomsticks," Draco put in.
"Or broomsticks," Harry agreed. "The trouble
"Broomsticks are for *witches*," Ponder broke,
aghast. "Wizards don't use them."
"The types of magic aren't as separate here,"
"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
"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
"Harry!" Hermione shouted. "Not that
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,
"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
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
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
"Which way, Hermione?" Draco asked, his voice
"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
There was a silence, complete save for their footfalls in
"*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
"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),
"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…
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
"Before You-Know-Who killed him," Hermione said,
"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,
"Right," Harry nodded. "Anyway—Neville and
I were together, right up to the final fight with Voldemort. We—there's a
"Had hot wild sex the night before the battle,"
Draco put in, slightly gleefully. "I'm glad to know you learnt something at
"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,
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
"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,
That still seemed like it would take some more getting used
Harry smiled at Hermione, leaned his cheek on Draco's soft hair, and drifted into a doze.
Stories Index Chapter Index Chapter Ten