Chapter Twelve: A Charming Memory of Adultery 

"…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 said.

There was a chorus of agreement from the other Discworld wizards. "You're not alone," Ponder said. "Is there any chance…"

"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 that one."

"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 rice.

Harry swallowed and translated, "He means, who are you?"

"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 than Draco."

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."

Ichabod nodded.

"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. "Um.”

"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 sentiment.

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 loud!"

"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 starters?"

"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 ago."

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 name?"

"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 Ramtops."

"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.

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