"…it's not quite as good as winning Witch Weekly's Most-Charming-Smile Award five times in a row, as I have- but it's a start, Harry, it's a start." - Prof. Gilderoy Lockhart
Having indicated with pointing and a few words through the
translating charm which hut belonged to the wizard, the boys stuck their tongues
out in a friendly gesture and then turned back towards home. They were clearly
nervous about getting too close to the house.
It was a roughly-built thing, more ramshackle than the
others in the village, and no-one here seemed
keen to greet them. A few women hurried about in the distance, but they seemed
to take no notice of the newcomers.
"I guess we'd better try knocking," Harry said.
The whole group seemed suddenly hesitant.
He took a couple of steps forward, but stopped short of the
door when it was opened from the inside.
The man who stood there was, surprisingly, white-skinned
under his tan. His hair was a tawny-blond streaked with white, and his eyes were
a shade of grey which reminded Hermione—recently tuned in to noticing family
resemblances—of Draco. Something about his face reminded her of someone else,
too, though she couldn't be sure what.
The man stared at them for a moment. Finally, he said
(without the aid of a translating charm), "Come to make sure there isn’t
another heir?" He sounded bitterly amused.
Harry was at the front of the group, but the man fixed his
eyes on Draco, who shook his head. "What do you mean?"
The man returned to silent staring, and Gytha decided that
it was time someone moved the conversation along. "I'm hungry," she
There was a chorus of agreement from the other Discworld
wizards. "You're not alone," Ponder said. "Is there any
"Of course." Apparently even Roundworld wizards
had a reasonable sense of hospitality, because the man stepped back, waving them
in. "I'm afraid I've only got local food-- rice and yak butter—but I'm
sure you'll all survive." His voice dropped slightly. "I'm also afraid
I can't invite you all in by name."
"Oh," Harry blushed. "Sorry. Introductions.
I'm Harry Potter, this is…"
"Draco Malfoy," the man said. "I guessed
"Draco; Hermione Gra—sorry, Pince; my son Ponder
Stibbons; his apprentice Gytha Ogg; and Rincewind and his Luggage." The
Luggage attempted a many-kneed bow.
"Well, come in," the man repeated, although he
eyed the Luggage slightly worriedly. "I'm Ichabod Lockhart."
"Lockhart?" Hermione asked, frowning at him as
she filed past. "The nose, of course, but—the eyes?"
Ichabod sighed. "Are the giveaway. Look, sit
down—anywhere there's space—and I'll tell you who I am while you eat."
The room was full of odd items balanced on every flat
surface—dried roots, bits of animal bodies, cauldrons with a little stain of
something sticky in the bottom, and suchlike magical debris. There were only
three books. Hermione noted that they all had the
word 'potion' in the title.
Ichabod bustled for a while, sorting out seats (though
Rincewind opted to sit on the Luggage), clean-ish dishes, and food. Eventually
they were all chewing, and he sat down with them.
"So oo ar oo?" Draco enquired, his mouth full of
Harry swallowed and translated, "He means, who are
"I'm Ichabod Lockhart, and on my birth certificate it
says I'm the son of Narcissa Black. As it happens, I'm about seven years younger
They chewed in silence for a moment, shocked or bemused
depending on their backgrounds. When he reached the end of his mouthful, Draco
said, "You're my illegitimate half-brother."
"You must have been born during the year my mother
spent in India when I was seven," Draco went on in a conversational tone.
"Lockhart was yeti-hunting about that time."
"Yes," Ichabod said. "As far as I know,
that's right. But, if you'll excuse me, why is the famous Harry Potter—yes, I
may not have heard much news in the last fifty years, but I do know who Harry
Potter is—here with his son and Draco Malfoy?"
"That's… not easy to answer," Harry said.
"Firstly, we ought to make it clear that we're not
really here to see you. I mean, that's not why we're in the Himalayas, and we've
got no interest in hurting you," Hermione said.
He nodded, though he didn't look much comforted. "But
why are you here?"
"Well," Harry took over, having marshalled his
thoughts, "It's complicated. If you think of it as…"
"… a matter of common knowledge," Draco said
with a sharp smile. "Harry and I are here together because—as you'd know
if you had access to Western wizarding news—we've officially been a couple for
forty-two years now."
"There's that, for starters," Harry agreed,
"and there's also the string of magical accidents and coincidences which
could reasonably be compared to a ball of tangled string with a being played
with by a small swamp dragon and a large and aggressive kitten. Let's just say
that it was magical and it didn't go as intended" –
Ichabod looked like he knew all about that sort of thing—"and
these three," here Harry indicated Gytha, Ponder, and Rincewind, "have
been living on another world all their lives, and would like to go home."
"And so would I," Draco said. "Home.
England. My own bed."
"Right." Harry agreed wholeheartedly with that
Ichabod nodded, studying them carefully.
"Have you got any, err—Floo powder?" Ponder
asked, stumbling over the unfamiliar word but still hopeful.
"I'm afraid no," Ichabod said. "I've always
been too afraid of my existence being discovered by either Lucius or some
remaining Black family member to join the Floo network, and the local
magic-using lamas prefer to Apparate. The nearest people I know who would have
any are the Ministry Outpost in India."
They all look so disappointed—like the villagers when he
stopped telling stories, which was what they expected from a wizard and hence
why they knew so much about Lucius Malfoy and others—that he added, "It's
not that far. Three days’ journey, maybe, if you buy some horses."
At the mention of horses, Ponder cheered up immensely.
"If you could give us directions…"
Ichabod thought for a moment, head tipped to one side in a
gesture Harry thought he must have learned from Narcissa, because it seemed
hauntingly similar to the way Draco sometimes looked. "Better than
that," he said. "I'm about due for a break from the potions work I'm
doing here. I'll come with you, just as far as the research lab."
Noises of happy agreement came from all corners of the
room. The plan was settled.
* * *
Once on horseback—the villagers, given the news that
Ichabod would be out of town for a while and a promise that he would bring the
horses back with him, had been quite happy to lend them mounts—Draco and
Ponder, and for that matter Gytha, were much happier, even just sitting in the
road waiting to head off.
Harry was feeling more than a little embarrassed; for some
reason, he'd assumed that Hermione wouldn't be able to ride, even if she
pretended she'd done it before. He'd been startled when she swung herself
confidently up and sat as if she'd been born in the saddle, and had made the
mistake of saying so.
She'd looked down at him—something she hadn't been able
to do since his fifth-year growth spurt—and said, "I used to be a teenage
girl, Harry, of course I can ride," before trotting away to confer with
Ichabod about their route.
Rincewind was muttering something about preferring sandals
because they were easier to escape on, and the Luggage was dancing around the
horses' hooves, apparently trying to get kicked.
Eventually, they were all mounted and ready to go. Harry
clung tight to Draco, enjoying the chance to hug him even as he hated the
feeling of trying to balance on a moving animal with a mind of its own. Well,
actually… he tried to stop his mind concerning
itself with teenage girls, horses, and reasons for the association thereof, but
something in the combination of near-panic and Draco's closeness gave his mind a
mind of its own.
He shook his head. This was all most unpleasant. And
because he hadn't been warned that they were going to partake in a gigantic
battle against fate and the elements, there had been no chance to indulge in any
of the things that traditionally preceded such fights.
If he'd been able to interest Draco in that on his
birthday, they might not be here. On the other hand, such traditions seemed to
have created large parts of the problem.
Well, he thought, you win some, you lose some. He tried to
shrug philosophically, but Draco snapped, "Sit still, Harry, for crying out
"Okay, okay," Harry said, and then more quietly,
"Sorry. Love you."
Draco gave no sign of having heard. Harry wondered if that
was because he didn't want to talk, or because he really hadn't heard. He
considered saying it again, as a sort of test, but he didn't get the chance.
The path had widened a little as they entered a valley, and
Ichabod rode up beside them. "So," he said. "Tell me a little
more—just what's common knowledge in Britain—who was Ponder's mother, for
"Err," said Harry. He was tired. Once, he'd been
able to diplomatically fend off questions for hours. It had been a large part of
his job as Minister for Magic. Now, though, he was torn between wanting to fend
them off, and an urge towards honesty which had been nearly (but not quite)
beaten out of him during his years in politics.
"Well, it's not actually common knowledge that Harry
*has* a son," said Draco. "I didn't know myself until a matter of days
Harry noticed that he'd carefully left out the fact that
*Harry* hadn't known until around the same time.
"Mind you," Draco went on reflectively, "I
didn't know I had a brother until about lunchtime today. Funny how these things
turn up, isn't it?"
He smiled at Ichabod with the cold smile that sent shivers
down the spine of the average person. Ichabod merely returned it. "Yes,
very strange," he said. "Even stranger that he should have grown up on
a different world."
"Hardly anyone's fault, though," Draco replied.
"Considering he was sent there before he was born by Voldemort."
The name clunked into the air and hung there for a moment
while Ichabod paled. "Ah…" he said. "I… um… you say that
"My boyfriend blasted him off the face of the
earth," Draco said with a carefully casual wave of the hand.
Ichabod looked at Harry, who found it in himself to lift
his head and meet his eyes.
"Besides," Harry said, "the name Voldemort
itself never had any power except what we gave it by trying to avoid it."
"Right," Ichabod nodded nervously.
Harry pressed the advantage. "Anyway, I'm sure you're
not interested in that ancient history," he said with a bright smile.
"Tell us some more about yourself, and what it's like to live out here in
the wilds of nowhere."
"It's… mostly it's boring," Ichabod said.
"High and cold and dangerous and quite often smelly."
"Sounds like Lancre," Gytha put in, riding up on
Harry and Draco's other side. "Only even higher—the air is a little
thinner up here than it is in Bad Ass, more like if you go up into the higher
"Bad Ass?" Ichabod repeated, incredulous.
Gytha nodded. "It's just one of those things. Tell me
about this place, anyway."
"Well, it's some of the highest country on the
planet," Ichabod said, sounding a little proud of his homeland. "It's
also inaccessible, which I imagine is why my parents chose it for me."
"You know," Draco said, "I knew my mother
was keen on children being seen and not heard, but I never realised how lucky I
was to be good-looking enough that she could bear to see me."
It was pointed, well timed, and splendidly effective. No-one could find anything to say in reply before the path narrowed again and conversation became impossible.
Stories Index Chapter Index Chapter Thirteen