Disclaimer: The characters and settings of this story are not mine. They belong to far greater, and far more British, authors than me. I contain no intention to violate copyright and promise to put everyone back when I'm done.
Author's Note: First, this is in response to the August fanfic-a-day challenge, and I'm already having to break it into chapters to keep it under the 3000 word limit.
Second, this is a Haven story – independent of the main plot, but published in the Shadow and Light series.
Finally, there is a great deal of discussion among wizards, librarians, quantum physicists, topographers, and cartographers about the presence of Library Space (L-space for short). To sum up, the axiomatic equation by which L-Space is proven to exist is: BOOKS = KNOWLEDGE = POWER = (FORCE X DISTANCE^2) / TIME. All writing has power. Given structure and narrative, that power multiplies at an exponential rate. Compiled in a book, the writing's power cannot be measured in the standard four dimensions we are familiar with, but both wizards and very drunk physicists confirm that “it all gets a bit hinky”. Libraries, by their very definition, have the capacity to warp space and time, creating L-Space, a shared extra-dimensional multiple universe . . . rabbit warren, if you will. As L-Space has existed since the first creation of writing and collection of written works (and was
that accountant ever surprised), librarians have come to agree on three rules to govern the behavior of those who wander into L-Space:
- All books must be returned by their last stamped due date
- Do not interfere with the nature of causality
While regular libraries have rather chaotic and unreliable connections to L-Space (the argument currently is whether this is due to too many overdue books, the influx of other media such as audio books, or a statistical drop in the number of batttle-axe harridans applying to become librarians.), a library of eldrich books and objects warps L-space into a far more reliable, yet dangerous, permanent connection. More than one exploring librarian has been crushed under the foot of a distracted thesaurus or devoured by a feral cliche.
Three libraries come into play in this story: the library of the Hogwarts' School of Witchcraft an Wizardry, the Unseen University Library of Ankh-Morpork, and the library of Haven, home of the Second Watcher's Council. All three meet the quantical threshold for L-Space, not to mention that all three behave as something of a two-poled eldritch magnet – full-fledged chaos at one pole and librarian-reinforced order at the other.
Should you stumble onto a portal into L-Space, your best option is to slowly back out until you are on safe ground, and then bugger off. Believe me, librarians are
far more harsh dealing with L-Space interlopers than they are with overdue book holders, those who dog-ear pages, spine-breakers, or the despicable crayon-scribblers. Trust me on this one.
Headmistress McGonagall found her again, slumped by one of the fireplaces, surrounded by empty bottles of butterbeer and weeping softly. Her clothes, once bright, fresh, and pressed were now stained, wrinkled, disarrayed. She refused to take a permanent position with the Hogwarts' kitchen, but didn't accept the pay an independent position was given.
It was hard not to feel sorry for her, and yet at the same time, to wish you could stand her up, dump a bucket of water on her and tell her to put her chin up and carry on. Why, look at all those who'd been lost during the Battle of Hogwarts. One of the Weasley boys, several professors – including Snape, who Harry Potter had told her was Dumbledore's own agent within Voldemort's inner circle. And Dobby, the only house elf who had been able to charm Winky out of her despair.
Yet, Winky had also lost the only family she'd ever known. She'd been repudiated by them. It didn't matter that Barty Crouch Sr. was an heartless prig with his own wand stuck up his arse (teak, completely inflexible, hippogrif hair) or that Barty Crouch Jr. was a Death Eater. A house elf “freed” by their family was as crushed as any child disowned before the age of 10, or a pet left to fend for itself, dumped out of a car beside a highway. A house elf without a family to serve was likely to wither away, until they just expired from grief. In fact, in all her years and with all her reading, Dobby was the only house elf she'd ever seen to be at all happy at his freedom. Of course, his family had been the Malfoys, so it really shouldn't have been surprise at all.
No, Hogwarts was not the place for little Winky. She needed a family to care for and be cared for in return. She needed children – proper children, not little sociopaths with wands – and pets, iron grates in the fireplace to sweep, windows to clean, tea to pour, a mistress and a master to please. The world was in too much tumult after the Battle of Hogwarts to simply arrange the adoption of a house elf, especially one as traumatized as little Winky. Most wizarding families lucky enough to claim a house elf took years to really train them up, which was why, on finding a good family, a house elf would raise their children to serve the family, and the family, in its turn, would protect and cherish their elf.
The Headmistress considered the matter for a moment. Albus would have been able to solve the problem like cutting the Gordian knot. She had far fewer resources. However, after a few minutes thought, coming at it from rather a sideways angle, she had an answer. Mistress Pince, the librarian had died in the battle, sacrificing her life to protect the books. McGonagall hadn't had a chance to advertise for a replacement yet, though there was a stack of curricula vitae
piling up on her desk for all manner of positions. Apparently, now that Voldemort was dead, anything at Hogwarts was considered a plum position.
“All right, then, Winky,” McGonagall said stoutly, “up we go.”
She picked up the house elf like a small child, something that was never done unless an elf was injured or sick. Winky wriggled, trying to escape, but she was too tired, too drunk, and too listless to make any headway.
“Winky is sorry, Mistress,” she sobbed. “Winky will work. Winky will scrub floors. Winky will polish furniture. Please, give Winky work.”
“There, there,” Minerva said, patting her back. “You are not well, Winky, and it is the duty of a house elf to recuperate if they are not well. You wouldn't want to spread an illness to the students, would you?”
Horrified, Winky gasped. She would have gabbled out apology after apology, pulled her ears in self-punishment, and perhaps knocked her head against the doorframe as the Headmistress carried her out of the kitchen, but McGonagall cut her off.
“Of course you won't, Winky. You're a very good house elf,” McGonagall assured her. “I'm just going to take you somewhere you can rest without all that noise.”
Of course, the entire castle of Hogwarts was filled with noise as, over the summer term, repairs were completed to everything from basement and below to the highest turrets. Yet, the library was the quietest place in the castle, with the exception of the Headmistress's quarters. She'd had them finish those first, as she couldn't hear herself think with all that racket, and there was so much to do.
In the library, there were still piles of debris. All the dangerous books had been rounded up and caged. Thank heavens, Hagrid had been able to accomplish that in the first hours after the end of the battle, and she had added containment spells to keep them tranquilized. Protection spells had been laid over most of the surviving shelves, as the holes in the wall and ceiling allowed rain to drip in. It was cold and dank, and the dusty smell of books, the quiet of evenings reading, was held at bay by the scent of cold ash.
Headmistress McGonagall considered the remaining collection. Anywhere would do. The weightiness of all these books, almost half containing some form of magic, ensured that the connection could be opened nearly anywhere in the room. Oh, one thing first.
She carefully stepped through rubble and piles of books torn to pieces – that part tugged at her heart almost as badly as seeing her students injured in battle. She followed the organizational system Mistress Pince had set up more than ten years ago. A shame, really, losing her. The students reviled her, which was a very good indication of how adept a librarian she was. She would be difficult to replace.
Those books not scattered by blasts or scorched by curses were still in regimented order on their shelves. It took her only a moment to find the one she was looking for while Winky clung to her neck weeping. It was a slender volume, bound in fabric, not leather, intended more for home use than a school, but included in the collection for knowledge's sake. The Cayre and Feedyng of the Houfe Elf
the title read, its gilt letters worn down to an atom's thickness. It wasn't as dusty as Minerva had expected. Curious, she opened the small book and flipped through several pages. There were sentences underlined in pencil with annotations in the border or at the bottom. She immediately recognized the handwriting – Hermione Granger's – and smiled with pride and a little joy. Thank heavens the child – no, young lady – had survived. With any luck, she might talk Miss Granger into returning to Hogwarts as a professor in a few years. Perhaps. She seemed bent on joining Potter as an Auror, rounding up the last of the Death Eaters.
“Well, Irma would roll over in her grave to see this,” McGonagall commented to herself. A library book written in? Even in pencil? Scandalous!
” she commanded, not bothering with her wand.
The handwriting vanished, the gilt of the title and on the edges of the paper reappeared, and the worn spots of the fabric binding rewove themselves.
“Now then, Winky,” she said, picking up her robes, “let's find a spot for you to nap until you feel better.”
Winky managed a snuffling nod, clearly feeling the worse for her butterbeer consumption.
Behind the checkout desk, on a shelf below where the largest reference books were kept – a good anchor, that – McGonagall laid out a cushion from one of the benches, and then, considering the cold, clammy air, even in summer, pulled off her outer robe and spread it over the cushion.
“No, no!” Winky cried out. “Winky is dirty and will get mistress's robe dirty!”
“Of course you will,” McGonagall agreed. “And when you awake, your first job, Winky, will be to clean yourself and then my robe. I want it spanking clean, any rips or holes mended, pressed and hanging on my office door no later than breakfast tomorrow. Am I clear?”
Wide-eyed and a micron less miserable at having meaningful work waiting for her, Winky nodded.
“Now then,” McGonagall continued. “Let's have a nice little lie down.”
Winky obediently crawled into shelf and laid down on the robe. Headmistress McGonagall wrapped her several times until the house elf was snug and warm. Then she tucked the book into the folds of her robe.
,” McGonagall murmured, and Winky went out like a light.
Professor Minerva McGonagall, now Headmistress of Hogwarts and heir to more headaches and complications than most mortal minds could conceive, stood ramrod straight. She took her wand out of her sleeve, but only tapped several times on the shelf above Winky, as if calling a meeting to order.
“Now hear this,” she announced, and the space of the library flexed the tiniest bit with each word. “This is a general appeal. This house elf is a badly abused innocent in need of a family to take care of and by which to be cared for. If you have the means to do this, please see to it. You will have my thanks and gratitude, which are no small things.”
It seemed as though her voice echoed a bit more than it should have, and the walls flexed gently with the rhythm of her speech, as if they were stretched fabric and not stone. For a moment, McGonagall waited, tapping her wand against her other hand. Then, she abruptly turned and made her way out of the library. At the door, she paused and looked back. Winky slept soundly. Nothing in the library stirred except the occasional drop of water landing on some stone or book or broken chair.
She would check back late in the evening. If nothing happened, Winky was no worse off than before. If something did happen . . . well, at the very least, it would confirm the stories Irma had shared with her over a glass of sherry, and that was worth writing down in its own book.
“I was only looking for a more complete version of Fnayle Fummoning: Dangyrs and Dyversions
, and this other book jumped out and attacked
me!” the young wizard wailed.
He held up the ankle in question, which was indeed being gnawed upon by a vade mecum
of Horace Worbleblat's Topography of Multi-Dimensional Bibliospace with Consideration of Media, Material, and Language
The Librarian carefully pried the book loose from the wizard's bony ankle. There was some bruising and several papercuts. Then he patted it several times, gave it - the book, not the ankle - a dry kiss, and reached up with its extremely long, hairy arm to stow the book in a safer place. Then, he grasped one of the brass railings with his foot, hung upside down and searched through the recently returned books until he found what the nervous wizardling was looking for.
The Librarian handed the wizard Fnayle Fummonings: Dangyrs and Dyversions
and then shook one very long, agile index finger at him.
“Yes, yes,” the wizard quickly agreed. “Absolutely no snail summoning outside of the University grounds, and nothing larger than a sausage. Yes, I've read the article about the Giant Snail Rampage**, but that was back in the Century of the Fruitbat. I'm certainly not that foolish.”
The Librarian puffed himself up to deliver a lecture of great eloquence on the foolhardiness of student wizards and their pet obsessions. While snails might be one of the less harmful ones, there was still plenty of chance for-
He tilted his head and stared off into space, as if listening to a far away voice.
“So I'll just . . . be off?” the wizard asked.
The Librarian waved him away, absently, and climbed quickly to the top of one of the stacks. The request was in another language, but if there was anything a wizard and a librarian mastered, it was communication.“This is a general appeal. This house elf is a badly abused innocent in need of a family to take care of and by which to be cared for. If you have the means to do this, please see to it. You will have my thanks and gratitude, which are no small things.”
Hmmm. He thumbed his lower lip in thought. Female, elderly, very authoritative. Actually reminded him of one of the witches out on the Ramparts. House elf? In Ankh-Morpork, house elves were usually a bane. People burned down their homes to get rid of them, only to find the cursed thing sitting on the front porch of their new home, ready for another round. Worse than termites.
He swung down and crossed, arm over arm, by the ceiling rafters over to a quiet, lonely section of the stacks. It took him a bit to find the title, and when he did, he remembered to stroke the spine of the book to calm it before he unlatched the cover. There, he flipped through the pages until he found the entry for house elf and read through it, hanging by one arm. Done, he relatched the book and returned it to its proper place, and then swung over to an even more lonesome stack.
Gingerly, since the text he was looking for was actually written on a scroll of goat hide with a reed pen dipped in oak gall ink, he unrolled it until he found a drawing. It was apparently done by a child. In the middle was a great tree with a pool in front of it. Stationed around the tree and pool were stick figures of people, each of them with some individual detail. A tweed jacket on one, boobies and a dagger-like weapon on another, one with an eye patch, one with long hair, one with a straw hat and – good grief, her?
Well, if that woman had somehow come to stay there, it was probably the perfect place. Practically perfect.
Mind made up, he carefully rolled the scroll back and put it in its proper place.
“Say, Librarian,” one of the wizards called, “I need help finding a volume on-”
“OOK,” the librarian replied.
The wizard took it as “I'll be back in fifteen, twenty minutes. Don't touch ANYTHING,” sighed, and found a chair to sit on while he waited.
Finding the first place was really not that difficult. While not exactly adjacent to his own familiar L-space, it existed at something of a right angle. It took a bit of a twist and turn, and he was in the library the very assured woman had spoken from.
” he muttered, and had any person been standing within hearing, they would have paled just a little bit at the havoc the Librarian promised to bestow on anyone who would treat a library so.
House elf, house elf, house elf. Here was the house elf, curled up and snoring, wrapped in a warm black robe. Definitely quite unlike the usual house elf in Ankh-Morpork. It would be best to move her straight to the second spot without going through his own library.
Gently, he gathered the sleeping house elf up and picked up the book when it fell out of the folds of the robe. Mmmm. Definitely a good idea. Finally, he wrote a short message on the dusty counter, and climbed back up into L-Space.
The second library was more difficult to get to – as if it weren't far geographically speaking, but none of the highways had an exit for that street. So, he had to take the land roads, and keep an eye out for landmarks. For a bit, there, he had to climb as high as he could, pull some leaves down for cover and hold the little elf against his chest while a pack of ravening metaphors stampeded past.
Finally, he found the correct spot and dropped down into a well furnished medieval tower filled with books. Most of them were on the shelves, neatly placed. Others were stacked hither and yon, as if waiting check out cards, Dewey decimals, and the name of the library stamped on the bookend.
Sitting at a desk in the middle of the room was a middle aged man wearing a tweed jacket and glasses. The glasses had slipped down to the bottom of his nose, and he'd been flipping through pages of lists. When he looked up, his expression turned to one of fascinated, but wary, interest.
“Jenny,” he called, “did we at any time order an orangutan?”
“A what?” A woman in the next room called.
“An orangutan. Primate, great ape, native to Indonesia and Malaysia?” the man called again.
“What would we do with an orangutan?” she asked, walking in. “Oh!”
The Librarian climbed down and stepped carefully between the stacks of books. When he reached the man in tweed, he handed over his charge. The man, absolutely fascinated, took the bundle without looking at it, and the Librarian handed him the book as well.
“Uh . . .” the woman said.
“I see,” the man answered. “And you're here, asking, in all sincerity?”
“Well, yes, of course,” Giles agreed. “It is
rather a brotherhood, isn't it? Of course, we'll help.”
“You're very welcome, and of course you can check in on her whenever you like.”
The Librarian made his way back to the shelves, climbed them easily, and then took one more handhold to pull himself back into L-Space.
“What was that about?” Jenny asked.
“I'm not entirely sure,” Giles said, “but we do have an instruction book and an elf of some manner. I think it would be best to call Xander in on this.”
Continued tomorrow . . .
* In its defense, the poor book had received some very undeserved, hostile reviews. Chewing on passing ankles seemed a reasonable way for it to vent its spleen.
** It was ghastly. The wizard in question had apparently gotten bored with average size snails (which in Ankh-Morpork can outweigh a cat) and had summoned quite a few gargantuan snails to a part of town which had enough problems. Several of the less conscious were overrun, one was suffocated, and the rest begged to be killed when it seemed the slime could not be removed. None of the people were willing to use salt on the snails, large as they were, so the Patrician had ordered the guard to proceed with oil and flame. The townsfolk followed behind with buckets of crushed garlic. The neighborhood in question, while quite slimy, was replete with escargot for some time.