"The premises are so delightfully extensive, that two people might live together without ever seeing, hearing, or meeting." – George Gordon, Lord Byron.
One by one, they stepped into the main sitting room of
Malfoy Manor, to discover that the house elves had carefully cleaned around the
debris of Draco's various birthday presents. In a vague sort of way, the
companions started discussing plans.
Hermione tried to take charge. "I'll just tell Huxley
where I am," she said, "and then…"
"We can go home?" said Gytha, hopefully.
"Well, then we can start working on sending you home,
yes," Hermione said.
"You'll be wanting the library," Draco said,
morosely. "Can you find your own way?"
"In this place?" Harry laughed. "They need
at least one guide."
"Excuse me a moment," said Hermione, sticking her
head into the fireplace.
"Come next door and have a bite to eat while she does
that," Draco said, remembering the lessons of his youth. Good hosts always
offered food, and besides… "I seem to remember someone suggesting that
birthday cake might be on offer."
He looked at Harry, who did his best to look mysterious.
The mystery—what there was of it—was
soon reduced by several slices, and they started off towards the library,
through Malfoy Manor's dark corridors and weird, echoing halls.
"Big house," Ponder commented, when they'd been
walking for five minutes and hadn't arrived.
Draco shrugged. "The family have been adding to it
ever since William the Conqueror gave us the original castle."
"Like UU," Gytha said. "It seems to have
acquired a new building every generation since Malich's time."
"I suppose so," Draco replied, looking
thoughtful. "New generations need new things. Anyway—here we are."
He sketched a complex sigil over the carved oak, and the
door swung open with a gloomy creak.
"Of course, a significant proportion of the ancestors
were over-dramatic villains," he added, leading the group in.
"It's got nothing on the Tower of Art," Gytha
said, and then she stepped over the threshold and stared at something in
mid-air, her face going pale. She came to a complete halt.
Harry, who as the only other person who knew the way, had
been relegated to the back to round up any stragglers, nearly walked into her.
"What is it, Gytha?" he asked.
She shook her head, wordless, and then turned and walked
past him, out of the room again.
He exchanged glances with Draco before following her,
Hermione close behind.
She leaned against the cold stone wall of the corridor,
visibly shaking. "What's the matter?" Hermione asked gently.
"It… that… in there," Gytha managed.
"Come and sit down," Harry said, opening another
nearby door. "This is just a sitting room. Nothing to worry about."
She accepted the invitation, as well as the glass of
something slightly stronger than water which Harry produced from somewhere.
"There's—a ghost, or something," Gytha
explained, when she was a little calmer. "Didn't you see her? A tall woman,
very powerful—and I think she had witch-magic as well as wizard."
Harry thought for a moment, and then forced a laugh.
"There are ghosts all over this place," he said. "Eighteen, last
time we counted."
"No," Gytha said. "Why didn't any of you see
"Some of them are shy," Harry told her. "And
some of them have incredibly cruel senses of humour. Tell me, did she have long,
Gytha nodded. Hermione tried to catch Harry's eye, but he
was already grimacing. "Probably Narcissa Malfoy. My—well,
not-quite-mother-in-law. She was bad when she was alive, and she's worse
"That makes sense," Gytha said, standing up.
"It's okay. I'm better now."
"You don't have to…" Hermione began, but Gytha
was heading for the door. "I want to," she said firmly.
* * *
"Are you alright?" Ponder asked anxiously as they
re-entered the library.
"I'm fine," Gytha said, still pale. "I
just—had a dizzy spell."
Hermione nodded briskly. "Let's get on, then,"
she said. "Draco, is this pile of books categorised at all, or do I have to
trawl through the lot?"
"It's organised, of course," he sneered. "As
you'd expect, it uses the Malfoy Standard system of 1482, which had been
accepted international standard since 1531."
Hermione snorted, but went to the bookshelves and started
reading the titles anyway.
Mystified, the three Disc-dwellers looked at Harry.
"These days, most people use the Granger Method, which the British Ministry
of Magic has been recommending since 2021," he explained. "Draco, may
I have a private word with you?"
Without waiting for an answer, he swept out of the room,
abandoning the others to their studies.
"There had better be a good reason for this,"
Draco hissed, as the door shut behind them. "I don't like leaving them
alone in there with my books."
"She can look after herself," Harry said tartly.
"Look—Gytha wasn't just dizzy. She saw a ghost."
"It wasn't just any old ghost."
"What was different about it?" Draco was
listening properly now.
"For one thing, she said it had witch-magic as well as
wizard-magic. Now, I'm not entirely sure what that means, but given her
description—" he slid his hand around Draco's waist—"it wasn't
"Who?" Draco asked, quietly.
"Your mother," Harry replied.
Draco couldn't really go pale, having been born that
way and never bothering to change, but his eyes went wide and his breathing
quickened a little. "I thought we managed to Banish her," he said, and
quickly corrected, "her ghost."
"So did I," Harry said.
"What did you tell them—Gytha and Hermione?"
"Not much—who she was, that it wasn't a surprise,
that she had a cruel sense of humour. Nothing untrue, just not all the
"Right," Draco nodded, but he still looked
shaken. "So you think neither of them will ask awkward questions?"
"I think it'll be okay, even if they do," Harry
said. "I've got a plan, and it involves telling at least some of
"Is that wise?"
"It's only your pride that stopped us telling anyone
before," Harry commented. "I don't think that telling a few
trustworthy people, most of whom don't know anyone else we know, is going to be
that much of a problem."
"I still don't like it," Draco mumbled, but he
followed Harry back into the library.
* * *
The Malfoy System, Rincewind learned, was both complex and
magically-based, so that you had to use a spell to do almost anything with it.
For example, if you wanted a book on Transfiguration, you had to cast a 'Find'
spell, and then name the book you wanted. If you weren't sure which volume you
needed, you cast a 'Find' spell, spoke a couple of keywords, and books pulled
themselves off the shelves to dance in front of you until you picked one out and
sent the others away. Similar spells enabled you to find all the books by one
author or published at a certain time.
For Rincewind, who was hopeless with spells, it was nearly
impossible to use; and when more than one wizard was working with it at a time,
the whole room filled with flying books, so that he spent more time cowering
under the table than reading.
Hermione grumbled about how inferior the system was to her
own. "It laid the groundwork, I'll give it that. But the ability to use
wildcard runes and to construct more complex search strings—what the Muggles
call Boolean—really is invaluable. You'll have to reorganise sometime, Draco—why
not now? Or last week?"
"Because," Draco growled, "I like it the way
Gytha had got the hang of it quite quickly, and she and
Hermione were soon buried deep in research and detailed discussions of Moebius
curves, waveforms, and other arcane things.
"I don't like this," Rincewind said to Harry.
"Can I go somewhere else, please?"
"Um… yes," said Harry, and signalled across the
room to Draco.
Draco looked around, peering through the clouds of books to
see everyone, and then raised his hands in a dramatic gesture. The air went
"How's the research going, Mrs Pince?" he
"I think we're getting somewhere," Hermione
replied. "Give me another three or four hours, and I'll have a definite
answer about whether we can use the Floo system to send these people home.
"Three or four hours?" Draco said. "I
know—who wants a quick tour of the wonders of wizarding London?"
"It can't be worse than being beaten to death by
books," Rincewind said, and Ponder nodded agreement.
"I'd be interested," he said.
"Hermione, if I leave you here will you swear on your
life that you won't damage anything?"
"Honestly, Draco, do you think it's likely that I
"Yes. Swear," Draco demanded.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "I swear."
"Gytha, are you staying here?" Harry asked,
trying to change the subject.
"Err.. I think so," Gytha said, glancing at
Hermione. "I can help with the calculations."
"Okay," Draco said. "Four of us, then. Jolly
They left Hermione and Gytha hard at work, and wandered
back downstairs to a fireplace with a pot of Floo powder.
"Say 'Diagon Alley'," Draco instructed, and then
added with a sidelong glance at Harry, "Make sure it doesn't sound like
Harry ducked his head, still cursing the day he'd filled
Draco in on that story, and waited while the others went ahead, Ponder first.
* * *
Diagon Alley was full of people, who stopped and stared at
Harry and Ponder and Draco. One or two of them spared glances for the strangely
dressed Rincewind, too, and several were forced to take a few steps back by the
"You have the daftest ideas sometimes," Harry
muttered to Draco. Silently, Draco put his arm around Harry's shoulders.
"Don't mind us," Harry said to the crowd.
"There's nothing of interest to see here." He made his best do-what-I-say
face, and they mostly moved on and let the little group alone.
One didn't. "Harry, Draco, it's good to see you again,
" Colin Creevy said chirpily. "Would you mind introducing me to your
"Actually, Colin, I don't have that much time to
talk," Harry lied. "We're on a research mission—Ministry stuff, not
exactly public knowledge yet. Another day, okay?"
"If you say so, Harry," Colin said, shrewd enough
to be doubtful but unable to actually argue with him. "I'll see you
"See you," Harry said, and swept the other on up
the street to a quieter spot.
After that, they didn't have a lot of trouble. People
recognised Harry and Draco, but they were a familiar sight in the wizarding
world and nobody did much more than point the group out to their children.
"This is… strange," Ponder said, staring
around. "It's like UU—everyone is magical—but it's like the centre of a
"That's right," Harry said, and a note of pride
entered his voice. "It's the centre of wizarding in Britain—in fact,
sometimes people call it the centre of the wizarding world."
"It's amazing," Ponder breathed. "Although I
don't understand why they're selling broomsticks."
"In our world, wizards as well as witches ride
broomsticks," Harry replied. He was about to say more, but a sudden scream
cut him off.
"Rincewind," Ponder said, turning toward the
source of the scream.
A pair of shoes sat in the road. Their owner had
"He was right there," Draco said. "I think
someone jostled him, and he…"
"Ran away," Ponder said. "I'm surprised it hasn't happened before now, to be honest."
 "Alfie is being sorry cake is being smaller, Master," the house elf had cringed on Draco's enquiry. "Alfie is doing much work in preserving cake, Master. But Master is eating some, and then Master is away for weeks, and then Master is coming back and demanding cake still here… Alfie is doing his best." With both Harry and Hermione looking on, Draco had been rather more lenient than he might once have been.
Stories Index Chapter Index Chapter Sixteen