Chapter 3 The King of Uruk
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
"It's a good thing you had your wits about you," said Dumbledore. "Professor Snape arrived back from the Death Eater meeting ten minutes too late to warn you."
The team had just given their report to the headmaster and his close advisors on the events at Eridu. Although it was in the early hours of the morning, no one back at Hogwarts had been able to sleep, and had waited anxiously for news from Iraq.
"Well it looks like our suspicions have been confirmed," said Sirius. "That elite squad has been set up to track us down when we're on the quest."
"But how did they know we were going to Eridu?" asked Oliver. "Do you think there's another spy here at the school?"
"I don't see how," said McGonagall. "There aren't any students here. Indeed the only people at Hogwarts at the moment are us in this room."
Dumbledore stroked his beard. "You five saw no sign of anyone when you were doing your research in the library?"
"No Professor," said Harry. "We made sure there was no one hiding anywhere amongst the rows of books."
"Hang on a minute," said Remus, taking the Marauders' Map from inside his robes. He laid the map on the headmaster's desk, said the spell that would activate it, and then looked at it carefully, shaking his head. "No one. Apart from us, the map isn't picking up anyone else in the school or in the grounds, apart from Hagrid and Fang in the hut."
"It might be a good idea to check the map whenever Harry and the others are about to do more research in the library," said Dumbledore. "Just in case."
"So what's next on the agenda?" asked Professor Flitwick.
"We've got to find out what this message means," said Hermione. Ginny took her parchment from her pocket and placed it on the table.
"I don't suppose any of you can read Sumerian cuneiform?" asked Harry, looking hopefully towards Professors Dumbledore and Denarnaud.
Everyone shook their head. "I'm afraid not, Harry," said the headmaster. "That's an even more obscure and ancient language than Egyptian hieroglyphics."
"Professor Denarnaud?" asked Hermione. "Would it be possible for you to compile a course in cuneiform and teach it to Harry and me using your accelerated learning spell?"
Jules though for a few moments and shook his head. "I'm not aware of any material on that subject that I could use. Do any of you other professors have any suggestions?"
"I believe that some of the Muggle Universities are running courses in archaic languages," said Remus. "I seem to remember reading that the University of London specialises in languages and cultures of the ancient Middle East."
"Do you have any contacts there Remus?" asked Jules.
"I'm afraid not, but I'm sure that Cornelius Fudge can pull a few strings with his Muggle counterparts in Westminster. What do you think Headmaster?"
"I think some books on learning cuneiform script would make a nice little addition to our library," he replied. "I'll get onto Fudge first thing in the morning."
"Thank you Albus," said Jules. "But it'll take me a week or two to sift through it all and produce a viable accelerated learning course."
"School starts back in a few days," said Dumbledore, "so it'll give these youngsters an opportunity to take some practical classes - Portions, Divination, Dada and so forth."
Ron and Harry groaned, and then glanced sheepishly at Snape, who grinned at them sadistically.
Lord Voldemort sat on his throne in his cave, thinking about the events of the last twenty-four hours. Ahmed and Crabbe were babbling away at the back of the cave and Voldemort closed his eyes, tired of the constant arguments. He let his mind drift back to his successful journey to Egypt…
'How do we get down there Lucius?'
Lucius Malfoy looked at his map of the temple of Seti 1 and the Osireion and pointed over to the left. 'There's a long corridor over on the left-hand side of the complex that runs down into the Osireion, my Lord.'
Lucius led the way and they soon emerged into the megalithic splendour of the Osireion. Voldemort walked swiftly to the far end of the structure and looked into the dark tunnel that led under the ground to the furthest reaches of the old temple. He lit his wand and stepped into the low and dusty place, followed by Lucius, Crabbe and Ahmed.
They walked slowly for about a hundred yards before coming to a small chamber, which was completely bare, the ancient plaster having long since crumbled and fallen to the floor. Voldemort walked over to the back of the chamber, towards a small semi-circular recess cut into the back wall. He hissed with satisfaction when he saw the small metal column in the recess, but the portrait of Seth had vanished long ago.
He held his wand onto the column and said, 'ALOHOMORA'.
Everyone looked to their left at the sound of stone grinding against stone, and saw part of the left-hand wall slowly lift into some hidden slot in the ceiling to reveal a dark entrance. Voldemort held his illuminated wand in front of him as he stepped through the entrance into one of a suite of three chambers, one chamber leading to the right and the other straight ahead.
Ahmed squeaked with delight as he saw column upon column of hieroglyphic script adorning all four walls in the first chamber. He quickly moved to the other two chambers to see that every wall was covered in the ancient writing.
'Can you translate this Ahmed?' asked Voldemort.
'Yes my Lord,' said the Arab, pulling a pile of parchments and a quill from his robes. 'I'll start straight away.'
After spending a few minutes scrutinising the writing in each of the chambers, Ahmed decided on the best order in which to start the translation, and settled down for a long and exciting day.
After six hours, Voldemort's patience started to wear a bit thin. Ahmed still hadn't finished translating the columns on the first wall in the first chamber. 'At this rate, we'll be here for a week!' hissed Voldemort.
'Oh no, my Lord,' said Ahmed. 'Once I've finished this wall, I'll have a good idea where to look for the spells we need. I should be finished within about two hours.'
'Tell me what it says so far,' ordered Voldemort.
'It's amazing -it was written by Seth himself! He tells of the conflict between himself and Osiris. Seth was the foremost Dark Wizard of his era, and Osiris and Isis were the Anima Summas. He relates how he recovered the Disc of Gates and the spells, and how they were stolen from him by Osiris and Isis, and also how Seth spied on them when they encrypted the spells that activate the Disc. Before leaving these chambers for the final battle, Seth tells how he worked out how to overcome the encryptions, a difficult and complex process, and wrote them here in case he failed to prevail - left for those of the Dark Side who would follow in his footsteps. This next column should tell me where to find those spells.'
Voldemort grunted and waved his hand at Ahmed to continue with his work. A little later, Ahmed jumped up from the floor and trotted quickly into the right-hand chamber, where he walked along the back wall until he came to two prominent columns of script towards the centre. He wrote down several spells, both in their original hieroglyphics and their translations, and then turned towards Voldemort.
'I'm finished here, my Lord,' he said, 'but I'll need to work out exactly how these spells are to be used back at your cave. There seems to be a strict ritual that needs to be enacted when these spells are to be applied, but it doesn't say exactly what the ritual is - it just hints at the key steps in its formulation.'
'Crabbe is our expert in Dark Arts ritual,' said Voldemort. 'Together with his expertise and my knowledge of the rituals in the Necronomicon, we should be able to solve the problem. Let's get back.'…
Growing tired of the delay, and weary of listening to the constant arguments between Ahmed and Crabbe, Voldemort rose from his throne and strode towards the entrance to the cave. Before going out, he turned and shouted to the back of the cave, "I'm going out for a little while - be sure to have it worked out by the time I get back!"
He closed his eyes and thought for a few minutes - and then disappeared with a loud 'pop'.
Lord Voldemort stood at the edge of the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts, looking across the deserted grounds towards the castle, and to the top of Gryffindor tower in particular. His red eyes blazed as he tried to see inside its walls, trying to get a glimpse of Potter and Granger - it would serve to focus his mind on the coming conflict.
Up in the library, Harry and the others were browsing through the books on Sumer. Suddenly, Harry gasped and clasped his hand to his scar as the searing pain shot through it.
"Harry! What's wrong!" shouted Hermione, reaching across the table to grasp his hand.
"It… it's Voldemort," Harry whispered through the pain. "I think he must be very close."
Ron shot up from his seat and ran to the window, looking frantically all around the school grounds. "I can't see him down there!" he exclaimed.
"He's there," gasped Harry. "I can feel him!"
Suddenly, Harry shot to his feet and rushed out through the library door, heading down towards the school Entrance Hall. The others followed, shouting for him to stop.
"Harry! We've got to tell Dumbledore! Don't go out there!" shouted Hermione, her eyes full of anguish as she chased after her boyfriend. But Harry didn't stop - he dashed down the staircases, flung open the main doors and shot out into the grounds, looking around him frantically for any sign of his tormentor.
"You stupid bugger, Harry!" exclaimed Ron as he pulled to a halt beside his friend. "If he's here, what do you think you're going to do? What if he's got the Disc and he's managed to decipher the spells?"
"Ron's right, Harry," gasped Ginny as she and the other two girls arrived.
Hermione stepped up alongside him and clasped his hand in hers, preparing for any attack that might come from some unseen corner of the grounds.
Voldemort's eyes narrowed as he saw first Harry, and then his friends, as they shot out of the main doorway to the school. Then his mouth tightened in an evil grin as he gazed at the two Anima Summas. He closed his eyes and tried to make contact with Harry, seeking the link that he knew was there.
Harry doubled over as a searing pain shot through his scar. Ron, Margot and Ginny rushed to support him as Hermione looked out over the grounds, searching for any sign of the Dark Lord. "We'd better get back inside," she said. "Ginny - get Professor Dumbledore and the others - quick!"
Ginny ran back inside the school as Hermione tried to connect her mind with Harry's. But there was something there - something dark and evil that was intruding, making it difficult for Hermione to reach into the mind of her boyfriend.
'Harry!' she silently wailed, trying to break through the dark mist that had gathered inside his mind.
Harry's mind was numb - he found it almost impossible to concentrate on anything. All he could feel was the searing pain, shot through with a deep-rooted evil. Vaguely, he could hear Hermione calling to him, trying to pull him back out of the mist. He tried to concentrate on her voice, feeling a sense of hope, as her mind grew stronger in his. Then, just as quickly as the crippling pain and confusion had come, it suddenly went. He felt the emotions of love and concern and Hermione's frantic attempts to reach him.
'It… it's all right, Hermione. It's gone now,' he thought. Hermione breathed a sigh of relief and held Harry's hand even tighter. Harry straightened up and stood tall beside Hermione, looking across the grounds to the edge of the Forbidden Forest.
Lord Voldemort hissed as his link with Harry was suddenly broken - he'd felt the Granger girl's mind trying to break through, but what had caused him to break off his mental attack was not the strength of her mind - it was the strength of her love. It was something completely alien to the Dark Lord, something so different to anything that he'd felt before - and he didn't like the experience one little bit.
His eyes blazed with anger as he stepped out from the edge of the forest and stood facing the youngsters in the distance. He knew that the distance was too great, but his anger made him raise his wand and point it in their direction, pausing while he built up his magical strength before releasing it in an awesome burst of power towards the four standing outside the main doorway to the school.
"AVADA KEDAVRA," he shouted.
"Quick - step up close," Harry yelled to Ron and Margot as he saw Voldemort raise his wand.
Harry and Hermione raised their hands and said the ancient spell that would cover all four in a protective force field. "DADEX MER."
The bright but dark green curse shot towards the four just as the emerald green light wove down and covered them. Voldemort's curse hit the shield and deflected harmlessly away into the sky.
Voldemort hissed once more as he saw what happened, but then stepped back into the forest when he saw Dumbledore and a number of other people run out of the school. He quickly walked back out through the cordon of protective spells which he'd earlier bypassed, and Apparated back to his cave.
"He's gone now," said Harry, feeling the last vestiges of pain disappear from his scar.
"Harry!" shouted Sirius. "What the hell made you run out here when you knew he was around?"
Harry looked at the ground, unable to meet his godfather's eyes. "Sorry Sirius," he whispered. "I… I don't know what came over me back then. I just… just wanted to get at the slimy git."
Sirius let out a frustrated gasp and grabbed his godson, pulling him tightly towards him, his anger giving way to relief when he saw that no damage had been done.
Harry looked over Sirius' shoulder at Hermione and smiled weakly. "If it wasn't for Hermione," he said, "I think he might have got us then."
Sirius released him and grinned gratefully at Hermione. Then Dumbledore strode forward and spoke to Harry, quietly but firmly.
"Harry - don't ever do anything like that again. You don't know… can't know the full extent of Voldemort's vast powers. You and Hermione have to complete the final quest and gain your own full powers before you can tackle him. Do you understand now what I've been trying to tell you these past few years?"
"Yes Professor, I'm sorry," said Harry. "I think I finally understand what you mean now."
Voldemort materialised outside his cave and strode back inside. He hadn't intended to confront the Anima Summas just yet - not without the Disc of Gates - but he couldn't resist the temptation to attack Potter's mind. He hissed as he recalled that feeling generated by the Granger girl - and he knew that he wouldn't risk feeling it again. But she'd pay for it! They'd both pay for it very soon now!
Voldemort strode over to his throne and looked towards the back of the cave when he heard a shout. "That can't be right Ahmed! There's nothing in Dark Arts ritual that allows that to take place - if you try it, we could lose those spells forever!"
"What's the trouble Crabbe?" Voldemort shouted, focussing his mind back on more immediate and important matters.
"I've never come across this type of ritual before, my Lord," he replied. "It's fraught with danger and hidden meanings. One wrong step could render the encryption beyond our ability to recover."
"Something's missing," said Ahmed. "Some archaic ritual ingredient that will bind it all together. What of the Necronomicon, my Lord; could this one archaic factor be resting within its pages?"
"Tell me what it is you're looking for," he replied, "and I'll research the many chapters on ancient ritual for the thing you need."
After Ahmed and Crabbe spent the next half hour giving details of what they required, it was now their turn to kick their heels with impatience as the Dark Lord settled down to read the Necronomicon.
The evening before school started back after the summer holiday, Harry, Hermione, Ron and Margot sat quietly in the common room, gazing out of the window at the darkening sky. Ginny had seemed a little quiet earlier that evening and had gone to bed early, saying that she felt a bit tired.
Harry touched Hermione's shoulder gently and gestured with his eyes towards the portrait hole. Then he turned towards his two friends. "Uh, we're going for a little walk. We'll see you later."
"You're not thinking of going outside are you!" exclaimed Margot. "It's not safe - he might come back for one last try at getting at you before school starts."
Hermione smiled. "No Margot - we're just going up to the Astronomy Tower."
"Oh!" said Ron, a grin slowly creeping over his face.
"And we thought that you two might want to spend a bit of time on your own - you won't get much chance after tonight," said Harry, grinning as he saw the flush creep up Ron's face.
As they walked along the corridors that meandered up to the Astronomy Tower, Harry frowned and glanced at his girlfriend. "Ginny didn't seem to be her usual bubbly self tonight Hermione - do you think she's ok? You don't think she's… ill or anything do you?"
Hermione shook her head sadly. "No Harry - she's not ill. She's just feeling a bit down, I think. After all, she sees us together, and Ron and Margot, and I think she just feels a little bit left out of things. She's thinking about the sixth member of the team, and deep down, I think she hoped it might have been Draco. She hasn't said that to me, but I'm pretty sure that's what's on her mind."
"What! Draco Malfoy! She fancies Draco Malfoy!" exclaimed Harry.
"Well he has changed, Harry. You saw how he was and how he spoke before his father took him out of the school. And… the way he looked at Ginny - I think he'd started to have… feelings for her."
"No way!" exclaimed Harry. "You'd better not say anything to Ron about this Hermione - he'll go bonkers!"
Harry stepped forward and pushed open the door that led out onto the observation deck at the top of the Astronomy Tower, and then stepped back to let Hermione walk out into the clear evening air. He quickly followed, shutting the door behind him, and then stepped up behind her, putting his arms around her.
Hermione sighed and leaned back into the comforting warmth of her boyfriend and gazed over to the western horizon, where the last faint tinges of pink were fading from the few clouds low down in the sky.
"Let's get a bit more comfortable," said Harry, sitting down with his back against the stone wall of the tower and then reaching up to help Hermione to settle down beside him.
"We shouldn't be up here you know," whispered Hermione. "We were lucky that Filch and his cat weren't patrolling the corridors, not to mention Peeves."
"They won't be on patrol until tomorrow night, and anyway, I didn't bring you up here to talk about Filch and his cat."
"No? So why did you bring me up here Harry?" she asked, grinning.
"You know why!" he replied, pulling her close and reaching up to cup his hand at the back of her neck.
Harry leaned close until his face was no more than a few inches from Hermione's, gazing into her sparkling hazel brown eyes, once more overcome with the exquisite realisation that they were actually together as a couple. Then he slowly leaned even closer, pressing his lips gently against hers.
Hermione moaned quietly and opened her lips slightly, pressing them harder against Harry's. It was now Harry's turn to moan as he felt the love and passion building inside him.
After a few minutes, they broke apart gasping, each clutching the other tightly. "Harry," Hermione whispered into his ear. "Do you... uh… I mean… the rings… do you think they're still working? I mean… I'm getting those feelings again."
Harry shuddered as he felt the soft sweet breath play over his ear. "I… I don't know Hermione. But if they are, then I know one thing - they're going to have to work overtime tonight."
They pulled apart slightly, laughing quietly, and then their expressions became more serious as they gazed once more into each other's eyes…
Breakfast in the Great Hall on the first day of school turned out to be a frantic affair for the five friends. They were laid siege by most of the students, wanting to know how the final quest was progressing, and especially by Colin Creevey and Clare Bryant, who were now the official self-appointed biographers of the exploits of the Anima Summas and their helpers.
They declared their intention of producing a school update on the quest, and wrote parchment after parchment on the details of the Eridu encounter. Their task was motivated mainly by friendship and respect, although they also had an added monetary incentive in the form of a contract from the Daily Prophet.
Harry and Hermione, however, were a bit reluctant at first but relented when Clare and Colin agreed not to portray the team in too heroic a fashion. But they took some convincing.
"Look," said Harry. "We realise that the magical community needs some sort of icon to hang on to in this conflict, but making us out to be some sort of divine beings is just not on! The real heroes are the people out there who can't do anything but hope and pray. In that sense, it's easier for us because we can get out there and do something about it. We've been placed in a position by the Light Side to carry out their task for them, so if you want to build up a sort of champion of the cause, stress the active support we're getting from the Light. Do you understand what we're getting at?"
"I think so, Harry," said Clare, looking abashed. "But it's you and Hermione everyone wants to read about, not the Light Side."
Harry looked at Hermione helplessly and she sighed. "We agree that everyone should know, within reason of course, what's going on but there are too many false idols out there already, most of whom are more interested in their own self importance than anything else. We don't want you to make us appear like that. We've been chosen to do a job and that's what we're doing - no more, no less. So just tone down the 'folk heroes' bit. Will you do that for us?"
Colin nodded. "Ok. We'll do what you ask, but we can't change what everybody thinks about you - you'll always be heroes to the rest of us."
After most of the students had left for their classes, Ginny looked over to the Slytherin table where she saw Crabbe and Goyle sitting forlornly, glancing every now and again at the Great Hall door.
"I almost feel sorry for those two," said Ginny. "They look lost without Draco. I wonder where he is - I hope he's all right."
The other four frowned and looked at Ginny helplessly. "He's probably at Malfoy Manor," said Hermione, although not really believing it. "His father can afford the best private tutors in the wizarding world."
"I wonder if he'll ever come back to the school," said Ginny. "It would be a pity if he didn't."
"Well come on then," said Ron, trying his best not to think too much about his sister's preoccupation with Draco Malfoy. "We'd better get up to Trelawney's classroom - are you looking forward to this Margot?"
"I'm not sure Ron," she replied. "I've never been taught by a seer before - it should be interesting though."
Harry, Ron and Margot were the last students to climb up into the Divination classroom and took their seats at the back. Professor Trelawney looked up and stared at Margot for a few moments. Then she got up from her desk and walked over to her. "I'm glad you've decided to attend the class Margot. I've heard a lot about you and I'm sure everybody will want to see what you can do."
Margot groaned inwardly as the professor placed a crystal ball in front of her. She'd been afraid that she'd be made the centre of attention in this class and would be expected to perform 'on tap'. She knew that the talent of a true seer was very delicate and could rarely be produced at will - it was more a thing of spontaneity, like the powers of the Anima Summas, than a normal magical spell, and in Margot's case it normally came to the fore during sleep.
"I assume you've used a crystal ball before Margot?" asked Trelawney.
"Very rarely Professor," she replied. "I usually see the future through the fog of sleep."
Professor Trelawney nodded knowingly. "Yes, many seers are only able to access their talents through the subconscious mind. But I'm intrigued to see if you are able to see the future through the crystal ball. Would you mind trying?"
"All right Professor, I'll give it a go."
"Don't feel bad if you can't see anything Margot - just try to relax, look into the crystal, and let the mists of the future reveal themselves."
Trelawney tapped the crystal ball and the fog started swirling about inside. Then she sat along side Margot, who smiled weakly at the worried-looking Ron when he squeezed her hand in support.
The rest of the students gathered around the desk, Parvati and Lavender at the front, and watched closely while Margot stared into the mist. Lavender opened her mouth to ask a question, but Trelawney held up her hand to prevent her breaking the silence and the aura of mysticism that had settled on the classroom. Everyone stood stock still for five minutes, waiting for something to happen.
Then Margot spoke softly, "I… I see something."
Everyone craned their necks to try to see into the mists swirling around inside the crystal, but all they could see were the shifting patterns in the fog.
"I… I see a long dark tunnel. And there are other people with me, walking beside me. Ron's there, and Harry, Ginny and Hermione. It's very cold and dark and there's water dripping onto us from above. There's a faint light coming from up ahead in the distance - we're walking towards it… Getting closer, much closer… Now we're… Oh! It's so beautiful…"
Ron, unable to contain his curiosity, suddenly asked, "What do you see Margot? What's so beautiful?"
Margot's eyes refocused and she sat back in her chair. "It's gone now."
Everyone looked towards Professor Trelawney, waiting for the expected outburst to admonish Ron for his untimely interruption, but looked at each other in confusion as the professor remained silent. She just stared into the crystal ball, seemingly deep in her own trance, obviously seeing a vision of her own.
Then a low moan escaped from her, "Ohhh… there is great danger here. Great danger… you must be very careful… beware the dark crystal… oh my dear god, there is tragedy… there is a death…"
Everyone gasped and looked towards Harry, Ron and Margot, their eyes full of concern and compassion. Then Trelawney let out another gasp as she sat upright in her chair. She turned to the three friends, reached out and held Margot's hand, and smiled a weak smile. "Be very careful my dear."
Then she rose slowly and walked back to the front of the class, followed by the staring eyes of the students. She picked up her notes from her desk and turned towards the door to her room; then, seemingly as an afterthought, she turned back briefly to the students and spoke very quietly, "That will be all for today. Class dismissed."
Margot brushed a tear away from her eye as she followed the two boys out of the classroom. Trelawney's performance had reawakened memories her own dark vision when she'd dreamt back at the Burrow.
The following week, Professor Denarnaud announced that the accelerated learning course for Harry and Hermione was ready. Although the material to be covered wasn't as comprehensive as he would have liked, Jules recognised that time was of the essence and a bare-bones working knowledge of the writing system was all that the pair really needed.
And so, Harry and Hermione arrived at Professor Denarnaud's classroom early on the Tuesday morning to begin their first session.
"How many sessions will it take to learn this stuff Professor?" asked Harry.
"Given your joint powers of concentration, one session today and one the day after tomorrow should be sufficient," he replied, walking towards the pair and initiating the accelerated learning spell.
"While we wait for the spell to take effect," said Jules, "I'll tell you a little about the ancient writing system known as cuneiform. A British soldier, Henry Rawlinson, came across some inscriptions carved high on a cliff at Behistun in Persia - that's modern day Iran. They consisted of identical texts in three languages - Old Persian, Akkadian or Old Babylonian and Elamite. Although none of these scripts could be understood at the time, Rawlinson managed to decipher the simpler Old Persian writings, and published his results.
"While all this was going on, thousands of clay tablets were being excavated throughout Mesopotamia, each bearing cuneiform writing. Rawlinson then managed to decipher the other two scripts, and others soon took up his work, notably one George Smith, an Assyriologist at the British Museum. It was he who first translated the Epic of Gilgamesh tablets, and announced to the world that the story of the Flood was written on the eleventh tablet of the series. This, of course, caused a big stir, since the text predated the bible texts by more than a thousand years."
"But wouldn't the theologians have been pleased?" asked Hermione. "After all, it confirmed what was in the bible."
"At first, yes, they were," replied Jules. "But when it was realised that the Sumerian flood story was almost exactly the same as the one in Genesis, it became obvious that the bible story was copied from the Sumerian version.
"Anyway, I shall be teaching you two forms of cuneiform; the original Sumerian and the later Akkadian, or Old Babylonian as it is sometimes called. We shan't bother with the later variants."
"Why don't we stick to just the Sumerian cuneiform Professor?" asked Hermione.
"I thought it best to cover both systems," he replied, "because although the timeline you are dealing with is definitely Sumerian, the vast majority of clay tablets uncovered so far are in Akkadian cuneiform, so I think it's best that you be forearmed with a knowledge of both systems."
Hermione nodded her understanding. "You've seen Ginny's copy of the clay tablet we found at Eridu Professor. What language was that written in?"
"That was Sumerian, Hermione," he replied. "But you must remember that the temple in which you found it was the oldest one in the complex, so that was only to be expected."
"So how did Egyptian hieroglyphics come to be on it?" asked Harry.
"If I knew that, I would indeed be a very wise man," smiled Jules. "I think that perhaps Enki/Thoth had something to do with it though. Right, you should be ready now, so shall we begin?"
The session continued for the whole day, with all three stopping only briefly to grab a few sandwiches that Margot, Ron and Ginny brought up from the Great Hall after lunch.
At the end of the session, the pair only just managed to stagger up to their dormitories before crashing out on their beds for the next fifteen hours. They went through the same tortuous schedule two days later and slept through until after lunch the following day, by which time they had almost the same huge appetite as Ron. After tucking away the equivalent of two lunches each, Harry and Hermione were ready to resume their research with their three friends.
Remus Lupin walked up to the library with them and checked his Marauders Map to confirm that they had the library, together with Madam Pince, to themselves.
Ginny placed her parchment, bearing the message from the temple in Eridu, onto their usual large table and sat back expectantly with Ron and Margot, waiting for the translation.
Harry and Hermione studied the cuneiform closely. "Professor Denarnaud was right," said Harry. "It's definitely archaic Sumerian."
They continued to pore over the parchment for a few minutes, Hermione making notes periodically, and then they sat up, looking towards their friends with satisfaction. Hermione lifted her notes and read out their translation.
'To the Anima Summas.
Greetings from the one you know as Enki.
Your path lies in the footsteps of the first king of the city of Uruk. Follow his journey to the fabled garden of creation. May the Sanctuary of the heavenly one help you in your quest.'
"Now why aren't I surprised that he didn't just come out with a straightforward name of a place we've got to go to!" exclaimed Ron. "Another bloody puzzle!"
Margot grinned and ruffled his hair. "But it's exciting Ron! I love puzzles."
"When this is all over Margot, I never want to see another puzzle in my life again," he replied.
"So what do you think it means?" asked Ginny. "I know that Uruk was one of the first Sumerian city states, it's about a hundred and fifty miles south of Baghdad, and just north of Eridu on the other side of the Euphrates River."
"And the first king of Uruk was Gilgamesh," said Harry. "I read it in the translation of the Sumerian Kings List tablet."
"And we have to follow in his footsteps to the fabled garden of creation," said Margot. "Where do you think that is?"
Harry smiled. "It must be referring to the Epic of Gilgamesh. I didn't read it, it's about 3000 lines of text, but I know that the tablets talk about several epic journeys that he made."
"So we have to read the Epic of Gilgamesh and especially the bit about his journey to the fabled garden of creation," said Ginny.
"What about the last part of the message?" asked Ron.
"I think that's just Thoth wishing us well in our quest," said Harry.
"Right. So who's going to read it then?" asked Ron, looking pointedly towards Hermione.
"All right," she said, "I'll read it. Pass me the translation Harry."
Hermione started reading the Epic of Gilgamesh and was soon engrossed in the text, captivated by the exploits of the fabled king. An hour later, she looked up and smiled. "Well it doesn't say precisely where the garden is, but it gives some clues."
"Tell us what it's about Hermione," said Margot.
"Well the version we've got is the one written in Akkadian, but it's based on an earlier Sumerian story. It starts off by saying that Gilgamesh built the city of Uruk and the temple complex of Eanna, dedicated to Anu and Ishtar - that's the Sumerian goddess Innana. But he wasn't very nice to start with - when he was young, he oppressed his people - a bit like Saddam Hussein really."
"Hey! Perhaps he read this as well and based his regime on Gilgamesh," grinned Ron.
"May well be," said Hermione. "The name of his country - Iraq - is based on Uruk, after all. Anyway, the people cried out to their main god, Anu, and asked him to help them. He answered their pleas and arranged for a wild man, every bit as strong as Gilgamesh, to be created and to act as his rival, so that the people would be given some peace. The wild man's name was Enkidu, and when he went to Uruk, he and Gilgamesh fought furiously. Gilgamesh won, but the pair became devoted friends afterwards.
"They made plans to go on an epic quest to a mountain covered in forests, to cut down the cedar trees. But the forest was guarded by a great demon called Humbaba. They fought the demon and killed him and then cut down several cedars, the tallest to make the great gates of the city of Uruk, and the others to build a raft to float down the Euphrates back to the city. Enkidu had a vision, in which the god, Enlil, who charged the demon to guard the cedars, declared that one of the two men who killed the guardian must die. Enkidu fell ill and eventually died.
"Gilgamesh was sick with grief and wandered about in the wild, contemplating his own death. He decided that he must seek immortality, and vowed to find the fabled Utnapishtim - Ziusudra in Sumerian - who was the Sumerian Noah and survived the great flood. In the Sumerian version of the flood story, the god Enki, unhappy that Enlil intended to wipe out humanity, told Ziusudra to built a boat and take into it the seeds of all living things. It survived the flood, of course, and Ziusudra and his wife were made immortal. So Gilgamesh wanted to find out the secret of eternal life from him. Eventually, after an epic journey, he finds Ziusudra, but is denied immortality. Gilgamesh then returned to Uruk, resigned to his mortality.
"But the part that's of most interest to us is Gilgamesh's journey to find Ziusudra, who he says, lived a pious life in the land of the gods. He arrived at the base of a mountain, called Mount Mashu, which had twin peaks and was so high it supported the heavens where fire and lightening abounded at its summit. He met the guardians of the gate of the mountain, two scorpions, and asked them to let him proceed. Eventually they did, and they opened the gate to a very long and dark pathway that goes into the bowels of the mountain. Gilgamesh walked through for a long time and then emerged into bright light and a garden of jewels with carnelian trees in bloom, a lapis lazuli tree, other trees made of precious stone, jewels and coral."
"Wow!" exclaimed Ron. "Treasure!"
"Treasure maybe, Ron," said Hermione. "But I don't believe it's what you think. Enki told us to find the fabled garden of creation, and that's what I think we'll find at the end of the tunnel underneath Mount Mashu. But doesn't it remind you of another garden?"
Margot smiled. "I know what you're thinking Hermione. You think that it's the same as the Garden of Eden, don't you?"
Hermione nodded. "I think that Enki's garden of creation was Dilmun - and Dilmun was the Sumerian Garden of Eden. I think they're one and the same."
"Woah!" exclaimed Ginny. "Just hold on one minute there. The garden of Eden is just a myth isn't it?"
Hermione and Margot merely raised their eyebrows.
"You can't be really serious about this," breathed Ginny. "Can you?"
"Even if they are the same place," said Harry, "we've still got to find it. Any idea where Mount Mashu is?"
Hermione shook her head. "There weren't any specific directions given in the Epic, and I doubt that there's a mountain called Mashu any longer - names tend to change over the years, especially when different languages come to the fore. I think our best bet is to do some research on the Garden of Eden and see if there's anything there that'll point us in the right direction."
"There was something on the Garden of Eden in one of the books I read," said Ron suddenly. "The book was a series of commentaries on alternative history about various subjects - the gods of Sumer was the one I read, but I noticed in the chapter index that there was one about the Garden of Eden. Hey! Margot - what you saw in the crystal ball in Divinations - could that have been the Garden of Eden?"
"I don't know Ron. I only had the briefest glance, but it was certainly very beautiful."
They all looked up at the sound of some of the students walking into the library following the end of afternoon classes. The spy, hidden by the invisibility cloak, sat at the end of their table and waited.
"Let's get an early dinner," said Harry. "We can come back later to do some more research."
"Ok," said Hermione. "But before we go, let's get everything ready. Ron - you and Margot can read that piece on the Garden of Eden; Ginny - see if you can find some maps on the Middle East region; Harry and I can read the Garden of Eden story in the book of Genesis in the Bible."
The spy settled down to wait after the five walked down to the kitchen to grab something to eat.
George Weasley sat in the front room of the Shrieking Shack opening the evening owl post. He picked up an official-looking letter bearing the emblem of the Ministry of Magic and quickly opened it, hoping that it was about the Relocators. He quickly read it and shouted up the stairs for Fred, Lee, Alicia and Angelina to join him.
"It's from Marcus Heatherington-Jones," he said, smiling. "He's had a report from 'Mad Eye' Moody about the Relocators, and Sirius has also written to him about them after their run-in with the Death Eaters in Iraq. He wants as many as we can make - he wants to distribute them among the Aurors out in the field. And he wants us to send some more to Moody at Camp Merlin - he's holding a big war game thing in a few weeks time, and he wants to try out a few things. Oh, and Marcus wants to send some over to his opposite number in America."
"That's great news," said Lee. "But we'll have to make loads of them in a short space of time - how're we going to cope?"
"Fred and I spoke to Marcus about that," said George. "He says in his note that Fudge will be sending five more ministry people to help us - they should be here tomorrow morning. That means that us five can concentrate on getting the Relocators ready while the rest crack on with the Whammos."
"Excellent!" exclaimed Fred. "I really think we're getting somewhere at last! But we'll have to get another room kitted out for production - we can use the spare room at the back, as long as we can find somewhere else to store all the stock."
"We'll just add a storeroom outside the back door," said George. "Oh and there's one other thing - I almost forgot. Marcus has invited two of us to Moody's big war game. As I said, Moody wants to try out a few things, but he didn't give any more details. That gives us two weeks to get ready as many Relocators as we can."
"Who's going to go?" asked Lee.
"Well either Fred or myself should go," said George. "But I think it might be an idea for one of you three to get a taste of what it's like at the sharp end."
"I'll go," said Fred. "I like old 'Mad Eye' and I want to see what sorts of things he wants to try out. Who wants to come with me then?"
"Alicia," Angelina blurted, glancing solicitously at her friend. "Uh - I just think she should get out a bit more."
"Aw - I'd like to go as well!" exclaimed Lee.
"You can go on the next field trip Lee," said Angelina, glaring at him, while at the same trying to suppress a moan after Alicia had kicked her under the table. "I really think that Alicia should go."
Fred grinned widely. "What do you say Lissy? Do you want to spend a day out with me?"
Alicia glanced at Angelina and shot her a dark look, and then she answered a bit nervously, "It should be an interesting visit Fred."
"That's settled then," said Fred. "You'd better dress for the conditions, though. It can get a bit cold and damp in the mountains of Mid Wales at this time of year."
The library still had a smattering of students sitting around, some of them frantically writing in an effort to finish their essays to be handed in the following day, when the five once more took their seats and settled down to read. The spy glanced at the clock on the wall, noting that dinner was still about an hour and a half away, and hoped that some information would be gleaned during that time. The spy didn't want to be in the library when the other students left, Crabbe had warned that great care had to be taken to prevent being detected.
For the next half hour, Harry and Hermione read through the book of Genesis, Ron and Margot read the article on the Garden of Eden, and Ginny spent some time trying to find maps of the Middle East in the Geography section of the library. Ron, Margot and Ginny sat patiently waiting for Hermione to finish scribbling a few notes onto a piece of parchment.
"Right," said Hermione. "Let's see what we've got." She looked at the notes she'd made, but before she said anything, Ron interrupted.
"You two took your time reading that," he said, grinning. "There's not much about the Garden of Eden in the bible is there?"
Hermione looked a little affronted as she pierced Ron with one of her withering stares. "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed,and some few to be chewed and digested Ron."
"That was very profound Hermione," said Ginny, grinning as she saw the confused look on her brother's face.
"Well it wasn't really my quote Ginny," she replied. "Francis Bacon said that."
"Francis who?" asked Ron, laughing. "He must have been a pig of a man!"
"Ignore him, Hermione," said Margot, grinning. "He's in one of his funny moods."
Hermione's dark stare lingered for a few moments before she looked back down at her notes. "I'll read out what Genesis says about the location of the Garden of Eden. It comes from Genesis chapter 2, verses ten to fourteen…
'Now there was a river issuing out ofEden to water the garden, and from there it began to be parted and it became, as it were, four heads. The first one's name isPishon; it is the one encircling the entire landHavilah, where the gold is. And the gold of the land is good. There also are the bdellium gum and the onyx stone.
And the name of the second river isGihon; it is the one encircling the entireland of Cush.
And the name of the third river isHiddekel; it is the one going to the east ofAsshur.
And the fourth river is theEuphrates.'
"So it gives the names of four rivers and some place names," she concluded.
"That ties in with what Ron and I've just read," said Margot. "The researcher who wrote the article is convinced that he's identified what the four rivers are called now and he's even narrowed down the approximate position of the land of Eden.
"He says that two of the rivers are easy to locate - there's the Euphrates, of course, and the Hiddekel is the Hebrew name for the river Tigris. He says that the locations of the other two rivers were cracked by a little-known scholar called Reginald Walker, but no one took him seriously. He identifies the Gihon with the present-day river Aras that runs from just north of Lake Urmia into the Caspian Sea, and the Pishon is the river Ouzan that runs from south of Lake Urmia into the Caspian. The Euphrates and Tigris rise around Lake Van, just west of Lake Urmia. So he says that the Garden of Eden is around the area of Lake Urmia."
"Where exactly is Lake Urmia?" asked Harry.
"There was a sketch of the area included in the notes," said Ron, turning to the relevant page and holding it up for the others to see. Ginny looked at the map for a few moments and then back at the maps she'd found on the Middle East.
"Got it," she said, pointing to one of the maps. "Lake Urmia is in the Zagros Mountains in north western Iran, close to the borders of northern Iraq and eastern Turkey."
"Is there anything on that map about Mount Mashu?" asked Ron.
"Nothing I can find Ron," said Ginny.
"Hang on a minute," said Hermione. "Let's just think for a moment. The Epic of Gilgamesh says that Mount Mashu is a very high mountain and has twin peaks. It also says that fire and lightening abound at the summit, so that could be referring to a volcano, or at least one that's probably extinct by now."
"So we want to look for an old volcanic mountain with twin peaks," said Harry. "Look around the Lake Urmia area Ginny, and see if you can find a mountain that fits that description."
Ginny pored over the map for a few minutes, and then exclaimed, "Here's something! There's a very large mountain to the east of the lake that seems to have two summits - it's called Mount Sahand. Hang on a minute, there's a reference section that comes with this map that gives some general descriptions of the more prominent features."
After another few minutes, Ginny exclaimed, "Yes! I think we're on to something here. Listen… Mount Sahand is a volcanic massive in north-western Iran, about twenty-five miles south of the city of Tabriz and just north of the city of Maragheh. It is shrouded in mystery and legend, and is known as 'The Throne of God'. It was revered in ancient times because of a deep well - an abyss of sweet water coming from deep below the volcano's heart. Interestingly, it was called Mount Uash by the Assyrians - that's pretty similar to Mashu isn't it? There's a picture of it here, look!"
Ginny held up the book to show a picture of the summit of the mountain, with two prominent peaks overlooking a massive depression, which was probably the collapsed caldera of the volcano.
"That's a really big mountain," said Harry. "What sort of area does it cover Ginny?"
"The highest parts of the massif cover about seven miles by five," she replied.
"Well I don't think there's any doubt that Mount Sahand is Mount Mashu," said Margot. "But how are we going to find the entrance to the underground tunnel in all that rugged terrain?"
Everyone looked blankly at each other before Hermione had a sudden thought. "Read out Enki's message Ginny - the last part of it."
Ginny picked up the parchment and read, "May the Sanctuary of the heavenly one help you in your quest."
"I don't think that Enki's merely wishing as a fair journey here," said Hermione, thinking hard. "It says 'help us in our quest' - the sanctuary of the heavenly one. The heavenly one - that's another way of referring to the main god Anu isn't it Harry?"
Harry thought for a few moments and then nodded his agreement.
"So," Hermione continued, "Enki's telling us that we'll get some help with this in the Sanctuary of Anu."
"Didn't it say in the Epic of Gilgamesh that the king built a temple to Anu in Uruk?" asked Margot.
"That's right," Hermione replied, picking up the book that contained the epic. "It says that he built the city of Uruk and the temple complex of Eanna, dedicated to Anu and Ishtar. Let's see if we can find out more about it in the books on ancient Sumer."
She looked through the titles of the books stacked in the middle of the table and picked out one about the ancient cities and their excavations, looking in the index for Uruk. She scanned through the pages until she came to a passage, scanning it quickly before she looked up at the others excitedly. Then she read it out, "In the heart of the city are two large temple complexes; the Eanna sanctuary, dedicated to the goddess Innana and the Anu sanctuary, in which stands the ruins of an important structure called the White Temple, dedicated to the chief god, Anu."
"That's it!" exclaimed Margot. "We should find help in the White Temple - perhaps Gilgamesh left some directions to where the tunnel is in Mount Mashu!"
"So that's where we go next then," said Harry. "And if we find the directions, the next stop will be the Garden of Eden."
The five friends smiled as they looked from one to another. "We'd better get as much information, photos and excavation plans about Uruk as we can," said Harry. "Sirius and the others will want to study them before we get there. Perhaps Dumbledore's contact will set up a Portkey for us like he did at Eridu."
They all trouped out of the library, on their way up to the headmaster's office, while the spy smiled smugly, composing a note to Mrs Crabbe under cover of the Invisibility Cloak.
Charlie, Nadine and Ginny walked down the little valley to Demont's cabin on a beautiful Saturday morning. They'd been allowed a few hours for the visit while they waited for the Portkey to be set up in Uruk. Sirius, Ceri and Oliver had given Dumbledore a very precise location for the Portkey, well away from the White Temple structure and in an insignificant part of the huge site, just in case the elite team of Death Eaters had learned of their proposed visit.
"Sirius wants to go tomorrow morning," said Charlie. "He doesn't want to be hampered by darkness this time, he wants to be able to see exactly what we'll come up against if the Death Eaters make an appearance."
"Never mind about Uruk, Charlie," said Ginny, trying to contain her excitement. "Concentrate on Demont and his girlfriend. I'm dying to find out what all this intrigue is about."
Nadine laughed. "So are we Ginny. Now don't forget, Charlie and I'll try to drag Ann-Marie away while you tackle Demont. And if you can't get anything out of him, we'll both try to squeeze something out of Ann-Marie while Charlie keeps Demont preoccupied with something."
"You're assuming, of course, that Anne-Marie will be here," observed Charlie. "If she works at the ministry, maybe she won't get here until later today."
"Don't be so negative Charlie," said Nadine. "She would probably have come up here last night anyway."
Ginny grinned. "Do you think they're still in bed together? It looks very quite."
Charlie stared at his sister and frowned. "You're a bit young to be thinking of such things, aren't you Ginny?"
"Don't be silly Charlie, I'm sixteen now!"
They walked up to the door and Nadine tried to open it, but found it locked. "That's strange," she said. "Demont doesn't normally lock the door."
Ginny held up her hand and listened intently, putting her ear close to the door. She giggled. "Can you hear that? There's a lot of scrambling about in there - I think they must be up to something."
Charlie and Nadine glanced at each other, looking puzzled, and then Nadine rapped sharply on the door.
They waited for several minutes, the sounds of hurried fumbling still coming from inside, before the door slowly opened a few inches and Demont's face appeared through the crack.
"What's all the secrecy about Demont!" exclaimed Nadine as she shoved hard on the door, causing Demont to stagger back inside. "I'm glad to see that you're dressed this time!"
"Hello Anne-Marie," she said as she walked over to the kitchen table, where Demont's girlfriend sat quietly at one end, looking the picture of innocence. In front of her were several thick, closed folders.
"Hello Nadine, Charlie, nice to see you both again," said Anne-Marie, glancing over Nadine's shoulder at the red-haired youngster, who stared with a slight grin, obviously appraising her.
"This is Charlie's sister - Ginny," said Nadine, turning and gesturing to Ginny.
Anne-Marie rose from her seat, walked towards the grinning Ginny and held out her hand. "Hello Ginny, what brings you here?"
Ginny shook the proffered hand, staring into the mesmerising and mysterious eyes of the older woman. "Pleased to meet you," she replied. "Nadine asked me if I wanted to come with her and Charlie to meet Demont's girlfriend, and I couldn't miss out on that now, could I?"
Anne-Marie laughed. "You're the curious type then Ginny?"
"Aren't we all?" Ginny turned to Demont, who looked a little flustered by their sudden appearance, and walked over to loop her arm through his. "Come on Demont, let's go for a little walk - I haven't seen you for ages and I want to catch up on all that's been happening."
She pulled Demont out through the cabin door into the warm sunshine. He looked back over his shoulder and raised his eyebrows in helpless resignation.
"She's a very nice lady," Ginny began. "Where did you meet such a lovely looking witch, Demont?"
"Uh, at the ministry offices in Toulouse," he replied.
"Oh, nice. Is she staying with you at the cabin now? Has she moved in?"
Demont looked at Ginny with some discomfort. "Uh, not exactly. But she gets up here as often as she can - I don't get much opportunity to go to Toulouse - the magical creatures in the forest keep me here for most of the time."
"So - can we expect the sound of wedding bells any time soon?"
"Uh - what makes you think we want to get married?"
"Don't you then? What's to stop you both - if you love each other, that is?"
"Well nothing, I suppose, but we just haven't talked about it."
"Hmmm," Ginny thought quickly, trying to find another angle to get at the core of the mystery. "What was all that scrambling that we heard while we waited for you to unlock the door?"
Demont again looked very uncomfortable. "On nothing - we were just, uh, tidying up a bit to make the place look more presentable for visitors."
"Really? So what were you doing to make the place into such a mess?"
Demont couldn't suppress a grin. "Nothing! Ginny Weasley - you are the most inquisitive girl I have ever met! And don't forget - I'm well aware of your talent for
match-making! But there's no need to practice your wily arts with Anne-Marie and me. We love each other, and we're already together."
"I know Demont, but I want to be sure that you're happy. I'm very fond of you, you know."
"And I'm very fond of you," he replied, squeezing her hand. "Come on - we'd better get back; the others will be wondering where we've got to."
They walked back into the cabin and sat with the others at the kitchen table, while Anne-Marie poured two more mugs of steaming coffee. Ginny glanced at the folders and her hand twitched, dying to see what was inside. She had the feeling that it might shed a bit of light on what was going on.
"Been working have you?" she asked, looking at the folders.
"Just some reports I had to do for the ministry," said Demont, glancing at his girlfriend a bit nervously, and then across to Charlie. "Nothing to do with the dragons, though - just a bit of local infighting among the Hippogriffs."
"Buckbeak wasn't hurt was he?" asked Ginny.
"No - no, he's fine."
"How long have you worked in Demont's department Anne-Marie?" asked Nadine.
"Oh, only a year or so," she replied.
"Funny he never mentioned you before," said Nadine, looking at her brother pointedly.
"There was no need - we got together only recently."
"So didn't you fancy each other before?" asked Ginny, grinning widely. "Or did it take you a while to pluck up the courage to ask her out?"
"Something like that," said Demont.
Nadine frowned as she continued her line of questioning. "You've mentioned Sophie and Lauren in the Care of Magical Creatures office, so why didn't you tell me Anne-Marie worked there as well? From what you said, I understood that there were only two witches working in the office."
"Uh… I… I," Demont looked at his girlfriend, his eyes pleading for some help.
"I… uh… don't normally work in the office Nadine," she said. "It's only very recently that I've taken a desk job - I used to work out in the field before that."
"Where exactly - in the field, I mean?"
"I, uh, used to help the carers of Magical Creatures monitor their activities - I spent most of my time up in the forest on the Belgian border."
"Interesting," said Nadine. "Would that be the Forbidden Forest to the east of Ypres?"
"That's right," she said, looking nervously at Demont, who raised his eyes to the ceiling.
"Hmmm. Is Jacques Flambeau still in charge of the forest? I spent some time there during our field trips from the school."
"I… I think so," she replied.
Charlie glanced at his watch and stood up from the table. "Come on you two - we'd better get back to Hogwarts. We've got that meeting with Sirius and the others in just over an hour."
Ginny and Nadine frowned when they saw the 'no-nonsense' look in Charlie's eyes, and slowly got up from the table and followed him outside the cabin.
"Sorry about all that Demont," Charlie whispered, while the three girls said their goodbyes. "You know what they're like."
"Charlie Weasley!" exclaimed Nadine as the three walked up to the main door at Hogwarts. "That meeting with Sirius isn't until this evening! What are you playing at?"
"Look. I started to get very embarrassed at the way you two were quizzing your brother and his girlfriend. I thought there might have been something strange going on when we first met them, but I'm not so sure now. Their responses to your interrogation seemed quite feasible to me, and I don't think it was very fair of you to put them through something like that."
"Come on, Charlie," said Ginny. "I agree with Nadine - there's something very strange going on - didn't you see how edgy they were?"
"And not only that," said Nadine. "Jacques Flambeau never worked at that forest - in fact there never was a Jacques Flambeau - I just made him up on the spur of the moment."
"See!" exclaimed Ginny, fixing her brother with an aggressive stare.
Alvis Grimwald looked around the ruins of the ancient city of Uruk with frustration. He and his elite team of Death Eaters had scoured the rough ground all around the crumbling ziggurat that housed the White Temple of Anu, but had found nothing that could have been a Portkey.
"This place is just too big," said Hindley Musgrove. "It could have been placed anywhere."
"Lets climb up to the temple and see if there's anything there."
Two hours later, with the sun starting to sink below the horizon, they climbed back down the ruined stone stairway and walked back onto the plain. "Do you think they'll come tonight?" asked Hindley.
Alvis shook his head. "I don't know. The spy couldn't find out when they intended to come. We'll just have to keep watch around the base of the ziggurat - you'd better organise the men into three shifts and spread them all around this thing. We can get some sleep behind some of the ruins."
"How are you going to approach this, Alvis? They'll probably be expecting an attack."
"We've got to make sure we have surprise on our side and strike when they least expect it. And when we do strike, we'd better be sure of hitting our targets. I don't want those two kids to have the time to pull a stunt like the one they pulled the last time. I think our best chance will come after they've found what they came for and when they leave the temple to go back to their Portkey site. They may think that we're not here and be more relaxed in their vigilance."
Early the following morning, Sirius waved to the group to keep low to the ground while he, Oliver, Katie and Ceri walked stealthily to each side of the ruins of the Eanna complex and peered in the direction of the White Temple. After ten minutes of careful scrutiny, they could detect no movement amid the sand and rocks that covered the vast majority of the huge site that was once the city of Uruk. The ruined ziggurat, with the equally ruined White Temple at its summit, was about six hundred yards away from their Portkey site, but was very prominent as it rose from the desolation of the mostly sand-covered ruins.
Sirius sent Oliver and Katie ahead of the main group, warning them to take whatever cover they could, but to stay no more than fifty yards ahead in case they needed support. Then he led the rest out from behind the cover of the Eanna sanctuary and walked slowly towards the White Temple, keeping to their usual formation.
Ron, holding onto Margot's hand, grinned as he looked towards Hermione. "No history lesson this morning?"
"You know as much as I do about Uruk Ron," she replied, grinning back at her friend.
Fifteen minutes later they were almost at the bottom of the ziggurat, and Oliver signalled for the main group to stop while he and Katie walked around the base to make sure than no one was hiding there. After another fifteen minutes, the pair appeared from around the other side of the ziggurat and approached their colleagues.
"Nothing," said Oliver. "If they're here, they're well hidden."
"We'll all climb up to the temple together," said Sirius, pointing towards the remains of the stone steps leading up to the top of the ziggurat. "They could be hidden anywhere in amongst all that devastation."
"There may be another way up," said Katie. "Just around the right-hand side, we spotted a bricked opening in the base that could well be a drain that once took water or something from the top of the ziggurat."
"We took a quick look inside to make sure no one was in there," said Oliver, "but it certainly seems to lead up to the top. Do you want to try it?"
"It'll be better than climbing up the outside," Sirius replied. "We'd be too exposed if we go up those steps."
Oliver and Katie led the way around to the right of the ziggurat and walked up to the narrow bricked entrance. "We'll go in front," said Oliver as he and Katie stepped into the dark interior of the tunnel.
They found the going to be very tortuous, the old water-course leading up at an angle of about forty-five degrees, and they all had to proceed in a crab-like fashion, bracing their backs against the side of the brick wall, when the floor became too smooth to provide sufficient purchase for their shoes. They were all quite breathless when they reached the end of the tunnel, and Oliver peered out onto the summit with the ruins of the White Temple to his left.
"Ok," he called back into the tunnel. "It seems to be all clear."
They all walked slowly into the ruins of the temple, most of the ceilings long since collapsed, and the protectors watched closely as the five wandered among the many nooks and crannies that lay within the partially collapsed walls. It was quite a small site, the dimensions of the temple measuring about 75 feet by 60 feet, and they'd checked out most of it before Harry spotted a cone-shaped little room at the far corner.
He called over to the other four and they looked around at the walls of the curious little room while the protectors waited outside. One of the walls held three narrow dome-shaped recesses, although they were completely empty. They had to watch their footing as they examined the walls, the loose stones on the floor threatening to twist an unsuspecting ankle if proper care weren't taken.
Margot shook her head, frowning. "It feels like there should be something here. I don't know why, but I just get the feeling that if there's anything here at all in the temple, then here it'll be."
"Well there aren't many other likely-looking places up here," said Harry, looking disappointed.
"Be patient," whispered Hermione. "We'll find something - I'm sure we will."
"Bugger!" shouted Ron, as he stumbled on one of the loose stones. He reached out his hand and grabbed hold of the sill of one of the curious recesses to stop himself crashing to the ground. But the stone he grabbed hold of just came away in his hand and he fell, stone in hand, to the hard floor, where he looked ruefully up at his four friends as he rubbed his knee furiously.
"Are you all right Ron?" asked Margot, leaning over her boyfriend to help him back to his feet.
"Well done Ron!" exclaimed Ginny, pointing excitedly to the partially demolished stone recess. "I think you've found something. Look - there seems to be a hole underneath where that stone was."
The five gathered round and looked at the dark opening, none of them wanting to stretch their hands inside in case there was something nasty crawling inside.
"Use your wand Ginny," said Hermione.
Ginny lit her wand and held it just inside the opening, but they couldn't see the bottom of the hole - it just seemed to continue beyond the limits of the illumination from Ginny's wand.
"Let's see if any more of these stones are loose," said Margot. Harry put both hands on the stone next to the hole and tried to move it, but it wouldn't budge. He tried the stone next to it, the last making up the sill, but that, too, was stuck fast.
"You'd better fall again Ron," said Harry ruefully. "Maybe you can dislodge one of those other stones. Come on, give me a hand."
Both Ron and Harry grabbed the stone next to the hole and heaved, and staggered back as the stone finally relented and left the place where it had rested for over five thousand years. The last stone in the sill came away fairly easily, and they could now reach their wands into the gaping hole to see what lay below.
The space stretched down for about four feet, ending in a stone floor at about the same level as the floor outside the recess. "There's something at the bottom," whispered Hermione. "Can you reach down and see what it is?"
"I'm not sticking my hands down there!" exclaimed Ron. "You never know what's crawling around in dark, enclosed places like that."
Harry grinned. "Grab hold of my waist Ron. I'll stretch inside and get it." Harry lifted himself up while Ron grabbed around his waist. He then stretched down inside the hole and felt around with his hands until he located the object at the bottom. It felt like a square stone, about ten inches long, and he caught hold of both ends and shouted for Ron to pull him back up.
When he was back on terra firma, Harry turned the square object over and looked at it in amazement.
"It's a clay tablet!" exclaimed Hermione. "And it's covered in cuneiform script!"
"But it's broken off at the bottom," said Harry, holding it for the others to see the jagged edge at the bottom of the tablet. "The missing piece isn't in the hole, though."
"Can you read what it says?" asked Margot.
Harry placed the tablet on the floor and he and Hermione held their illuminated wands above the rough surface to try to get a better view of the ancient writing. They joined hands and combined their efforts in trying to translate what was on the tablet. After a few minutes, Hermione let out a sigh, "It was written by Gilgamesh himself! I'll read what it says…
'I, Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, record these details of my journey in search of the fabled Ziusudra, the one whom the gods made immortal.
I wandered about in the high country, living on the fruits of the land for many days, before I came to the place below Mount Mashu - the mountain of the gods. I roamed below the twin towers of its summit, seeking entry to the place where dwells Ziusudra. I travelled up alongside the life-giving waters that flow from that awesome place, approaching from the south along the winding torrent, until I came to the place where it issued from the base of the mountain, directly below the twin towers.
There, I was confronted by the guardians who forever bar the way to the path that leads into the mystic garden. My heart was filled with…
That's where it ends. We'll never know what else Gilgamesh had to say."
"What do you make of it?" asked Ron. "He certainly gives some directions, but can you follow them?"
"He talks about a river that flows down from the base of the mountain to the south," said Harry.
"And its source must be within the depths of the mountain," said Hermione, "because he says he found the place where it flows out from the base of the mountain."
"And it was directly beneath the twin peaks," continued Harry. "So we have to try to identify a river whose source is on the south side of the mountain, underneath the peaks. That's where we'll find the entrance into the tunnel that leads to Dilmun - the Garden of Eden."
"Any ideas Ginny?" asked Margot. "You know more about the geography of the place than any of us."
"Not in that sort of detail Margot," she replied. "I'll have to check the maps when we get back to Hogwarts."
"Ok," said Hermione. "I'll copy what this tablet says in case we need to refer to it later, than we'd better replace it and seal this sill back up again."
"Don't you think this was all a bit too much of coincidence?" asked Ron, frowning as Hermione scribbled the translation onto a piece of parchment. "I mean, you don't think that this was planted here by Death Eaters to throw us off the scent?"
Harry shook his head. "No Ron - I doubt if any of them knows how to write cuneiform script - not even Voldemort."
"It was certainly a coincidence though," said Margot. "Ron falling and prising loose the stone like that - but I think it was just meant to be. I think it was the Light again."
A little later, Oliver and Katie led the way back down the old watercourse to the base of the ziggurat, where they paused to look around the immediate area before stepping out onto the plains of Uruk. They all walked alongside the base of the ziggurat and out onto open ground, heading back to the Eanna complex and the Portkey.
Oliver and Katie were a little way ahead of the main group, with Remus and Ceri on one side of the youngsters and Charlie and Nadine on the other, while Sirius brought up the rear. The attack happened so quickly that no one had time to press the buttons on their Relocators.
Oliver and Katie spun round at the sound of curses being flung, and watched in horror as Sirius crumpled to the floor, where he lay quiet and unmoving.
"Noooo!" shouted Katie as she and Oliver raced back to the group, all of them by now pressing themselves into the ground to get what cover they could. Ceri started to crawl towards Sirius as powerful curses erupted in the sandy ground all around her, while the others gazed among the many hiding places, trying to get a sight of the attackers.
"Over there!" shouted Charlie, pointing to the corner of a large mound of rubble a little way off to their left. He and the others started flinging spells, trying to give Ceri the chance to reach the fallen Sirius, while Oliver dragged Katie to one side, trying to approach the Death Eaters from a different angle. Several curses came their way, but they were able to Relocate out of harms way and gain comparative safety behind a low mound of sand.
Ceri finally reached Sirius and shook his shoulder. "Sirius," she whispered, but then gasped as she looked in horror at her bloodstained hand. She quickly felt for a pulse and was relieved to feel a steady beat, but knew that she had to get him back to Hogwarts for treatment quickly.
Then, inexplicably, everything fell silent. One second the air was filled with spells and curses, the next there was complete and utter silence. Ceri looked around to see what had happened and gasped when she saw Harry and Hermione walking towards the mound where the Death Eaters were hiding, their hands joined and a bright beam of silvery-blue light running from their outstretched hands and surrounding the mound in a silvery haze.
The others were slowly getting to their feet and following on behind them, but Katie made a dash in Ceri's direction, her face running with tears. "Ceri! Is he… still alive?"
Ceri just nodded, she knew that her voice would betray the panic she felt when she saw Sirius fall. She brushed her own tears away and made an effort to pull herself together. "I think he took a powerful Flipendus curse in the shoulder. We need to get him back to the hospital as quick as we can." She turned and looked towards the rest of the group. "He's still alive!" she shouted. "We'll get him over to the Portkey."
Ceri pointed her wand and levitated Sirius above the ground, and Katie helped steady him as they moved quickly towards the Portkey site. Meanwhile, the others looked on with fascination and awe at the scene behind the large mound. Harry and Hermione had by this time dropped their hands to their sides, but the silvery haze still covered the mound and the thirty Death Eaters that were crouched behind it. It was a very odd sight - some of the black-cloaked figures were leaning forward to look around the side of the mound, two of them had their mouths open, in the act of shouting some unheard orders, while others pointed their wands, the curses frozen just inches beyond the tips of their wands.
"What… what did you do to them?" asked Ron.
"We put them in a time warp," said Harry. "For them, the action is still going on, and they'll stay frozen in this moment, unaware that anything odd has happened, until we free them."
"Like the followers of Horus did to Apophis in the Duat?" asked Ginny
Hermione nodded. "Something like that, but I think you'll need to understand the Theory of Relativity to get the gist of how the spell works."
"Well as far as I'm concerned," said Remus vehemently, looking around at the two girls carefully moving Sirius towards the Eanna complex, "they can stay like that forever."
"Leave them there," said Charlie. "At least they won't be able to follow us when we go to the next place on the quest."
Harry nodded. "They'll be safe until after the conflict is over. Then we can release them with a squad of Aurors to take them into custody."
"Unless Saddam and his crowd see them first," said Ron.
"They might get a shock if they do," said Hermione. "They won't be able to do anything even if they did see them, but from what I've read about Uruk, no one comes here since the Iraqis stopped all excavations after the Gulf War."
Everyone stood by Sirius' bedside in the hospital as Madam Pince applied her magic to his damaged shoulder. She glanced up and nodded to the headmaster. "He should be up and around again by the morning."
Ceri and Katie sighed with relief and thanked the nurse. Then they pulled up two chairs, determined to wait until Sirius regained consciousness.
Remus grinned. "Come on then, we'd better get something to eat. I think we can leave Sirius in the capable hands of these two."
A little while later, the four watched as Ginny studied a relief map of Mount Sahand that she'd seen in one of the books on Iran. She looked up and grinned wickedly. "Did you see how Ceri reacted in the hospital?"
"Keep your mind on the map Ginny," said Harry, grinning. "I'm sure that Sirius'll find out soon enough how concerned she was."
Ginny pulled a face and bent her head back down to the map. She put her finger on the middle of the map and slowly traced it towards the bottom. "I've got it, I think. Look at this."
She held up the map for the others to see and pointed to two black dots on an elevated section. "These two dots are the twin peaks of the volcano, and just below them, right in the middle of the two in that deep valley, you can see the line of a river running down to the south - it's called the Murdi Chai, and it runs down to the east of the city of Maragheh."
"Well done Ginny," said Harry, smiling at her. "As soon as Sirius recovers, we can plan the next stage of the quest."
"Haven't you heard from them at all?" asked Lord Voldemort, looking angrily at Lucius and Travis.
"No my Lord," replied Lucius. "They left for Uruk three days ago and they haven't been seen since."
"Crabbe!" Voldemort shouted to the back of the cave where Crabbe and Ahmed were studying the spells that Voldemort had found in the Necronomicon. "Have you heard from the spy? Have Potter and his gang returned from Uruk?"
Crabbe looked up and walked over to the throne. "Yes my Lord, they returned yesterday."
Voldemort hissed with frustration. "Then we have to assume that they've been eliminated. But not to worry, as soon as we reveal those spells, I'll go after the Anima Summas myself. Have you made any sense of those spells yet?"
"Yes my Lord," replied Crabbe. "Ahmed thinks we'll be ready to do the ritual tomorrow afternoon."
"Good," breathed Voldemort. "Then we'll see just how powerful the Anima Summas really are!"
Author's Notes : Please review this chapter.
There's a few images on my picture board relating to this chapter.
- Ground plan of the ruins of Uruk
- White Temple at Uruk at top of the Ziggurat.
- Entrance to the water-course at the base of the White Temple Ziggurat.
- Gilgamesh Epic - One of the original Cuneiform tablets.
- Behistun - the key to deciphering Cuneiform script.
Chapter 4 - The Fabled Garden - coming soon.