Chapter 5 The Disc of Gates
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.
The five youngsters relaxed in their usual seats by the fireside in Gryffindor common room. The weather had taken a turn for the worse at Hogwarts, and the sleet beat loudly against the window. They all felt pleasantly drowsy following the sumptuous dinner in the Great Hall that evening. They'd arrived back at the school that afternoon after their mind-bending experiences in the Garden of Eden, and had spent time before the meal relating to Dumbledore and the rest of his close advisors what had happened.
Snape had been suitably impressed - he even managed a few stunned exclamations, and little Professor Flitwick had been beside himself with excitement, jumping up from his seat more than once to pace around the room, muttering to himself while he absorbed the revelations.
The headmaster had been astounded, as had Professor McGonagall, and before they knew it, they began to re-evaluate the events throughout history, fitting them into the new discoveries and chronology as if they were pieces of a complicated jigsaw puzzle. Dumbledore had then ordered that they all take a well-earned break for the rest of the day, and the following day, to recharge their batteries before carrying on their research to find the location of fabled Atlantis.
But the five couldn't resist discussing what they'd learned as they lounged in front of the fire. "How do Adam and Eve fit into all this?" asked Ron.
"It's purely allegorical, Ron," replied Hermione. "It's just a metaphor for the re-creation, rather than the creation, of the human race. It's just symbolism for a new dawn and the rise of civilisation once more."
"I don't think the theologists see it in quite those terms," remarked Margot. "A lot of people actually believe, quite literally, what was written in the religious texts."
"Perhaps so," replied Hermione. "But don't forget that most of the creation stories from the great religions were based on the original Sumerian writings, and I'm sure that the original scribes wrote it symbolically so that the emerging culture could better understand what had happened. The Sumerians wrote about genetic experiments and seeding humanity with the powers of the 'gods'. Does that ring a bell to you?"
"Well yes," said Ginny, "but that's because we know what happened. But the bible didn't say anything about genetic experiments and seeding."
"No," replied Hermione, "but the Hebrews obviously adapted the Sumerian version for their own ends, and remember that most of the Old Testament was written around 600 to 500 BC after the Hebrews had been taken into captivity to Babylon. And they must have had sight of the Sumerian religious texts during that period. But Genesis does say that man was created in God's image - that could mean that they were seeded with magical powers."
"The bible does speak about the Nephilim though," said Harry. "We saw it when we read Genesis earlier in the year."
"That's right," said Hermione. "It called them 'the fallen ones'. I read in a commentary somewhere that the apocryphal book of Enoch says a lot more about the fallen angels."
"What does that mean?" asked Ron. "I don't remember there being a book of Enoch in the bible."
"That's because it wasn't included Ron," said Hermione. "What it contained didn't fit in with current theological thinking back then, even though it was a much revered religious tract around the time of Jesus. You see, back in the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine, the Christian church was divided between the teachings of the Jerusalem Church, that's the one that was headed by Jesus' brother, James, and the Pauline Church - those who followed the teachings of Saint Paul. That was back in about 325 AD, and Constantine wanted to bring an end to the divisions. The Pauline view won the day and the Gnostic part of the church was declared to be heretical. That was the time that they decided which of the religious tracts would be included in the bible. Enoch wasn't included because he spoke of angels who were not very… well, angelic. You see he spoke of angels marrying humans - ring a bell? That offended the current way of thinking, of course, so the book was omitted."
"So they had censorship even in those days!" said Ron.
"We're going to have to get a lot of books on Atlantis," said Harry. "There's probably hundreds and hundreds of them."
"And all giving a different location for Atlantis, no doubt," said Ginny.
"And you won't find anything written by the establishment on it," said Hermione. "They look on anyone who even mentions the word 'Atlantis' as a crank. That's why it's been left to the enlightened few to write about it, those brave souls who don't give a monkeys if they're shunned by the establishment."
"And we think that times have changed since the Synod of Nicene?" said Margot, reflectively.
"There's quite a bit about Atlantis in those new-age books I read," said Ron. "Perhaps we should start with those."
"This is probably going to be the most difficult part of the quest," said Ginny. "How are we going to find a land that disappeared below the ocean ages and ages ago?"
"I don't know, Ginny," answered Hermione. "But don't forget that the last few pages of the Book of Thoth are still blank. Perhaps we'll get directions when the book is complete."
"And all we can do until that happens is to try to find out as much as we can about where the researchers think Atlantis is," said Margot.
"I wonder when the sixth helper will contact us?" asked Ginny. "If finding Nibiru is the last leg of the quest, and it must be - remember that Thoth told us we had to go back to the start of wizard-kind - Nibiru - then he, or she, should make an appearance fairly soon, don't you think?"
"I can't understand why we haven't been contacted before now," said Harry. "But Thoth obviously knows what he's talking about, so we'll just have to wait."
"Do you think that when she, or he, eventually appears we'll know that it's the sixth helper?" asked Ron. "I mean; the person probably won't even know herself that she has to be part of the team."
"Or himself," said Ginny, frowning at her brother.
"Come on, we'd better get some sleep," said Hermione. "I know that Dumbledore told us to take the day off tomorrow, but I, for one, am going to start reading Ron's books first thing in the morning."
The following morning, Katie walked beside her father as they patrolled the edge of the Forbidden Forest. She kept glancing at him, trying to decide if this was a good time to talk to him about Ceri, and she felt nervous about broaching the subject.
"Uh Dad," she began. "What do you think of Ceri? She's a very nice lady isn't she?"
Sirius looked at his daughter long and hard, wondering why she seemed so nervous, and speculating that she may have picked up on his obvious attraction to the beautiful American. "Yes, she is," he said. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, you've both been living in each other's pockets for quite a while now, so I thought that you might be… well, sort of attached in other ways."
"Other ways? What do you mean, Katie?"
Katie groaned silently, well aware that this wasn't going to be easy. She stopped and turned towards him, deciding that attack was the best way forward. "Well, it's obvious how you feel about her, Dad. So when are you two going to see the light and get together?"
Sirius stood stunned for a few moments. "Is it that obvious? You… you don't mind?"
"Of course I don't mind," she replied, catching under his arm. "Mum died a long time ago, and it's about time you got a life."
Sirius looked across to the far end of the school grounds, where Ceri and Nadine were patrolling, and stared wistfully towards the subject of their conversation. Earlier that morning, Katie, Nadine, Charlie, Oliver and Remus had discussed the situation, and had decided that things had gone on long enough, and it was well overdue that Sirius and Ceri gave in to their feelings. Katie and Nadine had agreed that they would tackle each of them separately during the morning patrol.
"I… I've spoken to Katie about you and her father," said Nadine, glancing at Ceri.
"You've what?" she replied, looking panicky.
"I told her how you feel about him and… how he feels about you."
"What did she say?" asked Ceri, hurriedly, looking concerned as she stared at Sirius and his daughter walking at the far end of the grounds.
Nadine smiled. "She thought it was cute."
"Cute? What do you mean? She wasn't… upset at all?"
"Of course she wasn't. I told you, Katie's a very sensible girl, and there's nothing she'd like more that to see her father happy. She's talking to him about you right now."
"What?" The panic was now plain to see in her face.
"Oh, I think she's finished talking to him. Here he comes! I think I'd better see how she got on."
"No - don't go!" shouted Ceri. Her mind was in turmoil as she watched Nadine walk across the grass in the direction of Sirius, who was still striding purposefully towards her. She was caught in the depths of indecision, not knowing whether to run and hide somewhere, or stay where she stood to find out what Sirius really thought about her. She remained rooted to the spot.
As they passed, Nadine whispered to Sirius, seeing the determined look on his rugged features, "Be gentle with her - she's in a bit of a panic."
"She's not the only one," he whispered in reply.
As he got ever closer, Sirius' earlier determination started to wane. His stride faltered at the realisation that he had absolutely no idea what he was going to say. But all thoughts of composing a flowery speech were driven from his head when he got within five yards of her and saw the look in her eyes. He melted when he saw how vulnerable she looked, a vulnerability mixed with a tinge of panic and fear.
He slowly approached and reached out to her, drawing her close to him and gazing deep into her lovely eyes. "Ceri, I… I love you, you know. I think I always have."
Ceri couldn't suppress the sob that escaped from her lips, and it was her turn to reach up and pull Sirius tightly to her, the tears flowing freely as she rested her head on his shoulder and whispered, "Me too, Sirius."
"I can't believe this," said Sirius. "Why has it taken us so long?"
"Fear Sirius," breathed Ceri. "Fear of the unknown."
Sirius cupped the back of her head with his right hand and leaned forward to crush his lips against hers. All his pent-up emotion went into that kiss, and Ceri responded in kind.
Ginny let out a yell of delight as she saw the scene unfold before her as she watched from the window of Gryffindor common room. Nadine had earlier given her the wheeze that something was likely to happen at the edge of the Forbidden Forest that morning and Ginny had ignored all attempts by her friends to make her join in their research of Ron's books, waiting for the beautiful moment to arrive.
"Quick," she shouted, "you'd better come and see this."
"At last!" exclaimed Harry as he saw what was happening across the school grounds.
"Do you think they'll ever come up for breath?" grinned Ron, leaning over his sister.
"It's so sweet," said Margot, catching Ron's hand.
"I'm so happy for them," breathed Hermione, wiping a small tear from the corner of her eye. "I thought it would never happen."
"Do you think we should go down to speak to them?" asked Harry.
Ginny shook her head. "No, not yet. They've got a lot to catch up on."
Katie and Nadine hugged each other when they saw what was happening. A little earlier, they'd stood frozen to the spot, fearful that their plan would somehow backfire, but now they knew that it had worked.
"No regrets?" asked Nadine.
"None at all," Katie replied. "Look at them - how can I regret what they just found."
When Sirius and Ceri walked up to the school some time later, they were mobbed by all their friends. They grinned self-consciously as they accepted their congratulations, and felt a great relief that the people who were closest to them were genuinely happy for them.
Lord Voldemort gazed along the double row of Death Eaters standing before him outside his cave. They were the Dark Guard, now the elite in Voldemort's army following the disappearance of Alvis Grimwald and his men, and at their front stood his inner circle. He held the Disc of Gates up in front of them so that all could see it. "The time has come. The spells have been revealed and the ancient talisman is now under my control."
The Death Eaters roared their approval.
"In two days, we show the world what we are capable of. I plan to demonstrate my power both here and in America. And when they have seen, they will capitulate. You, my Dark Guard, will stand by my side and witness the destruction, which will herald the start of a new era. They will quake with fear when they hear of what will be unleashed on them unless they submit to my rule."
He looked from one end of the line to the other, and then at his inner circle. "Lucius - I want you to contact my chief lieutenants in the U.S. I want them to select for me a high profile target that will send shock waves through the land. Tell them that I want to attack at first light the day after tomorrow."
Lucius nodded and hurriedly left the scene to carry out the Dark Lord's orders.
"When we return, we will strike at the spiritual heart of the magical community in this country. There will be no doubting my intent, and the Ministry will quickly fall.
"Then I will seek out the Anima Summas and wipe them from the face of the Earth."
"I'm glad to hear that Sirius and Ceri are together at last," said Demont as he and Anne-Marie sat at the kitchen table across form Charlie and Nadine in the cabin. They'd decided to visit Nadine's brother once more, using the good news as cover for one more try to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Charlie had been very reluctant at first, now almost convinced that the mystery was confined to Nadine's head, but he'd relented to accompany her following his girlfriend's initial gentle persuasion, later anger, and final tantrums. And he now thought that perhaps she'd been right all along.
Demont and Anne-Marie were obviously very agitated, glancing at their watches frequently and fidgeting in their seats as the early afternoon wore on.
"We're not keeping you from anything important are we?" asked Charlie.
"No… no, nothing," replied Demont, glancing at his girlfriend. "Well, we just want to check out a few of the hippogriffs up at the forest, and we know where they'll be at this time of the day. We don't want to miss them."
"We'd better get going then," said Nadine. "We have to be back at Hogwarts before long, in any case."
Demont looked slightly relieved and quickly rose from his chair. "Well it's been great seeing you again, but I know how busy you all are back at Hogwarts."
After saying their goodbyes, the pair walked up the small valley towards their Portkey. Charlie frowned at Nadine. "What are you up to? Why did you tell them we had to get back to the school so quickly?"
"We're not going Charlie," she said with a wry smile. "That was just a ruse to get them off their guard. Did you see how nervous they both were? I'm sure that something's going to happen very soon, and they obviously didn't want us around when it does."
"What've you got in mind?"
"We'll keep a watch from these trees, and if they come back out of the cabin, we'll follow them."
Charlie looked at Nadine a bit doubtfully, but didn't raise any objections. They entered the line of trees towards the top of the valley and settled down to wait, looking down at the cabin for any sign of movement.
About ten minutes later, four cloaked figures approached the cabin from the bottom end of the valley - two witches and two wizards. They looked about them nervously as if to make sure that they weren't being observed, and knocked the cabin door and stood impatiently for it to be opened.
The door opened a crack and then opened fully. Anne-Marie quickly ushered the new arrivals inside and then stood for a few moments, looking around the valley to make sure that no one was watching.
"Who the devil were they?" exclaimed Charlie.
Nadine shook her head. "I've got no idea. I didn't recognise any of them."
"Does this fit in with your suspicions?" he asked.
Again Nadine shook her head. "No. I didn't expect this. I suppose I was wrong. But there's something odd going on, all the same."
"So what did you think it was - I mean, your first suspicion?"
Nadine coloured up slightly. "Never you mind - the least said about that the better. But we've got something else to chew on now."
"I wonder who those people are?"
"So do I Charlie, so do I."
Professor Snape walked between the rows of seats, looking at the seventh-year students chop their potions ingredients. He grinned evilly as he watched Neville make a mess of the dandelion roots, and looked forward to the time when he'd demonstrate the effects of one of the more difficult potions of their final year.
"Come on," he yelled. "This has to be done quickly of you're to get it right. It's about time you were adding the liquid ingredients now!"
Ron scowled as he tipped the chopped roots into his cauldron and reached for the can of caterpillars to extract their greasy innards.
Ten minutes later, most of the students had started to apply the variable heat techniques they'd learned the previous year, and sat back to wait for the bubbling concoctions to simmer down to form a gelatinous paste.
Hermione glanced at Margot's potion and grinned when she saw that it was roughly the same colour and consistency as her own, but she gasped when she looked at poor old Neville's. His potion was far too runny and was a bile-green colour instead of the sickly-yellow of the rest. She feared the worst as she saw the smug look on Snape's face as he glanced towards Neville.
"Right," he said suddenly. "They should all be nearly ready now. I want you all to stir the potion until it gets to the soft-peak stage, then take the piece of cloth in front of you and smear it with the potion."
A few minutes later, they all sat looking at their small pieces of cloth in front of them, staring at the wisps of steam that rose into the air, filling the room with the faint smell of rotten eggs.
"Longbottom," said Snape in oily tones, "come to the front of the class and show everyone your piece of cloth."
Neville slowly got up from his seat and glanced nervously at Snape as he approached, holding his piece of cloth gingerly by the corner.
"Now I'd like you to place the cloth against your forehead, the side smeared with your potion next to your skin."
Neville glanced around the room fearfully, looking at the malevolent grins of the Slytherins and the worried frowns of the Gryffindors, as he slowly reached up and placed the cloth onto the front of his head.
"How long do I have to hold it there Professor?" he squeaked.
"Until something happens," answered Snape, looking at his watch. He waited for a few moments and then turned to the rest of the class.
"If Longbottom has done this correctly," he grinned at some of the Slytherins as they sniggered, "then in one minute's time, his face will glow with a healthy sheen as the potion infuses the skin with the most wonderful of tonics. But if he hasn't," he turned and grinned evilly at Neville, "his face will erupt with hundreds and hundreds of dark-coloured warts."
He glanced once more at his watch and then back up at the hapless Neville, who squeaked fearfully as he felt things start to happen. Hermione and Margot gasped as they saw Neville's face start to become covered in vile warts. After a few more minutes, the poor boy's face was completely covered.
Hermione shouted at Snape, "How long will they stay on his face, Professor?"
"Only for the rest of the day Granger. Right - the rest of you try it."
Everyone was just a little nervous as each applied their cloth to their forehead, but the vast majority walked out at the end of the class with healthy, shining faces. Neville and Goyle were the only exceptions.
That night, Margot had a dream - or more correctly, a nightmare. The following morning, she sat at the headmaster's desk telling everyone what it was about.
"I saw someone walk out of a dark cave," she said. "It was 'You Know Who'. And he was holding the Disc above his head."
She shuddered as she recalled the vivid images of her dream. "He said some strange words and the black crystal at the centre of the Disc started to glow with a strange light. Then he walked further out from the cave and held the Disc higher, the crystal getting brighter, yet darker, at the same time. It's difficult to describe - I could never have envisaged something getting brighter and darker all at the same time."
Her grandfather reached out and stroked her hair. "It's all right Margot. But carry on - we need to know what you saw."
"Everything happened so quickly," she said. "A bright black light shot from the crystal at the centre of the Disc, but when I looked at where it was aimed, there was nothing - just nothing. Whatever had been there, was completely gone - all that was left was just an eerie emptiness."
Margot gasped and covered her face with her hands as she tried to shut out the dreadful images, and Ron leaned close and held her tightly, trying to banish the agony of her vision.
"Do you think that 'You Know Who' has…" started McGonagall.
Dumbledore nodded grimly. "I'm afraid so, Minerva. It looks like he's got at the spells at last. Margot," he said gently, "did you get a sense of when this might happen? Where it will happen?"
She shook her head. "No, I'm sorry Professor, I told you everything I felt and saw."
Dumbledore nodded. "It's all right Margot." He turned and spoke to the rest of the people in his office. "I think we can expect this to happen fairly soon, and we've got a lot of thinking to do. Once he's activated the Disc, he'll feel that nothing can stand in his way. We'd better start to make some contingency plans, I feel."
Alicia shivered as she walked with Fred up to the ramshackle headquarters building in Camp Merlin. It was early morning and she pulled her robes tightly around her as she looked up at the leaden sky, which promised something nasty in the not too distant future.
They started up the steps to the main entrance, but the door suddenly burst open and 'Mad Eye' Moody limped out, grinning at the pair. Alicia suppressed a shudder as she looked at Moody's magical eye revolving crazily in its socket.
"Welcome to Camp Merlin," bellowed the old wizard, catching around their shoulders and leading them back down the steps. "Glad you could both make it - I want to try out a few things with your Relocator gadgets. We've already started a little exercise - there's a squad of trainees from Camp Morgana hiding out in the rough country just outside these woods, and a team from this camp is going to try to track them down - and try to avoid a few ambushes of course. I'd like you both to join them."
"What sort of things do you want to try out?" asked Fred.
"Well one of the most difficult things to defend against is the unexpected attack - a well planned ambush can be devastating, so I want to try out some tactical formations as the team walk through the more exposed places. I know you can't make the Relocators react automatically when a curse is being thrown, but I'd like to try and improve reaction times by the team members - I'm hoping that if you observe what goes on, it might give you some ideas that'll help with that."
"So you'd like us to follow close behind them?" asked Fred.
"That's right laddie, they'll be leaving in about five minutes. The team leader, Gerwyn, has issued Relocators to his team and he knows what I'm looking for."
"How long is the exercise likely to last?" asked Alicia, glancing once more at the dark clouds above.
"Oh that depends," replied 'Mad Eye'. "It may be over in an hour or it could go on all day - it only finishes when every member of one team is captured. You're not afraid of getting a bit wet are you?"
"Well hypothermia and pneumonia did spring to mind," said Alicia.
"Oh don't worry lassie," said 'Mad Eye' in an off-hand manner. "Gerwyn's got plenty of magical flasks of hot soup, and in any case, the nurse here is almost as good as Madame Pomfrey."
Alicia glanced at Fred darkly as they walked across the compound towards a group of ten young witches and wizards. Moody introduced the pair, and then turned on his heel and limped quickly back to his headquarters building, the loud clicks from his walking stick diminishing and then disappearing all together as he went inside.
"I hope you two are up for a bit of roughing it?" smiled Gerwyn as he appraised Fred and Alicia. "It can get a bit wild on these mountains this late in autumn."
Fred groaned as he felt the negative vibes coming from Alicia, and he made a point of not looking at her as he replied, "It gets just as inhospitable up in Scotland, Gerwyn. We're both used to a bit of cold and rain."
"Good. We'll head out along the path for a mile or so before we come to the open ground. We don't know where the enemy is, only that they're out there somewhere. Once we get out of the cover of the woods, I suggest that you follow us about twenty yards back - you don't want to get hit by a full body bind if you can help it, do you!"
"Lead on," said Fred, gesturing to the path that led into the dark forest.
The pair hung back a little to let the trainees get well ahead, and then followed. Fred screwed up his eyes, waiting for the explosion.
"Fred Weasley!" exclaimed Alicia, turning to face him and jabbing a finger into his chest. "Why on earth did I agree to come on this… this… this ridiculous jaunt with you! I bet that Angelina is sitting in a nice warm room back at the Shrieking Shack, sipping a nice hot cup of tea, and look at us! If we get out of this in one piece, you can look out!"
Fred smiled weakly, but didn't dare reply. He thought of saying something amusing, but he didn't think it would go down very well with the angry girl at this particular moment. He looked up as the first few drops of sleet started to fall from the sky, and thought that he'd better not tell Alicia that once they emerged from the protection of the forest, the conditions would only get worse.
Alicia stormed ahead, making Fred increase his stride to catch up with her, but for the next fifteen minutes or so she maintained a stony silence. Again, Fred groaned silently. He'd hoped that he'd be able to get a bit closer to her on this exercise, hoped that perhaps she'd start to feel for him what he felt for her, but he resigned himself to being consigned to the doghouse for the remainder of the day.
Gerwyn was waiting for the pair at the edge of the forest, and tossed them several tiny flasks. "I think you'll need these as the day wears on - I don't think this weather's going to get any better."
Fred looked out from the cover of the trees and saw the sleet driving across the landscape, driven by quite a stiff breeze. The high tussock grass swayed in the icy wind, bending over to reveal the muddy water-filled channels that meandered beneath it. Gerwyn pointed to a rocky knoll about half a mile away to their right. "We'll head towards that hill and see if we can pick up any sign of the enemy. Oh, you'd better watch your footing on this stretch of the moor - you can easily break an ankle if you're not careful."
Alicia pulled the hood of her robes over her head and walked out onto the moor. She shuddered as she felt the full force of the wind and the icy sleet and staggered slightly as she stepped across the hummocks of grass. Fred held out a hand and caught her elbow, trying to steady her, but she pulled her arm away angrily.
"I was only trying to help," said Fred, staring forlornly at the angry girl.
"Well don't!" she blurted, and staggered on in the wake of the trainees.
Fifteen minutes later, they all stood on the firmer ground of the little rocky hillock that rose above the treacherous grass and looked around the terrain. Behind them was the wood and to either side was the rough featureless moorland, stretching for several miles in both directions.
Gerwyn pointed to the middle distance ahead of them, where the tussock grass became dotted with rocky outcrops, marking the start of an area that led into the rocky terrain of limestone country.
"That's where they're likely to be," said Gerwyn. "In amongst those rocks and ravines. Now when we get there, form up into the pattern we talked about at the briefing, and yell out if you spot anything. And as soon as you hear a yell, press your Relocator button. Are you two ok?"
"We'll follow on behind and keep a close look out," said Fred, then turning to Alicia, said, "I don't know what, exactly, we'll be able to spot; just keep an open mind and see if you can come up with something."
Alicia nodded and followed Fred slowly down the knoll and across the horrible clumps of grass towards the rocky area. The team arranged themselves into an odd-shaped formation, two in the lead, three on each side, the middle ones walking side-ways while keeping a close watch on their flanks, and two at the rear, again walking in a crab-like fashion as they scrutinised the likely hiding places to the sides and rear.
Fred whispered to Alicia, "If anything's going to happen, I think it'll be over there." He pointed to some raised ground to the right, about a hundred yards ahead of them, where several little ravines led through some hillocks towards some low cliffs.
Alicia nodded. "I think you're right. That's a classic place to hold an ambush."
Fred grinned. Those were the first civil words Alicia had said to him since they'd arrived at Camp Merlin, and he hoped that her dark mood was slipping away at last. Alicia mentally kicked herself. She hadn't intended to appear friendly so soon. Her evil mood had started before they'd left the Shrieking Shack that morning, but the cause wasn't anything that Fred had said or done. She just felt put out, mainly with Angelina, at being manipulated into coming on this trip. She'd started to melt when she'd seen the stricken look on Fred's face after she'd rebuffed his offer of help a few minutes ago, and she thought, perhaps, that this whole thing might just turn out to be fun if she let it - despite the atrocious weather.
She was dragged from her thoughts when she spotted movement towards the top of one of the hillocks, just where Fred had pointed to a few moments ago. Their team was now directly below, and obviously hadn't seen anything yet. She held out a hand and placed it on Fred's arm, silently pointing to the hillock with the other. They both stopped and waited for the action to begin.
The trainee that Alicia had spotted flung the first spell, hitting one of the wizards on the right of the formation and placing him in a full body bind. The trainee behind the one who was hit yelled, and the rest of the team were relocated to positions ten yards away, but not before another of the group was hit. They took up defensive positions behind several rocks opposite the hillock and traded spells with the ambushers for the next half hour. Then the attackers fell silent. After another ten minutes of inaction, Gerwyn sent two of his team around the flanks of the hillock to find out what was going on, and a few minutes later they walked back, reporting that the area was now clear.
"They've gone on to look for their next place to ambush us," said Gerwyn, shaking his head in resignation. "They can do this all day until they get all of us."
He released his two colleagues from their body binds, and sent them back to Camp Merlin, their part in the exercise now over.
The team arranged themselves into a slightly different formation and walked on through the rocky terrain.
Over the next few hours, they endured three surprise attacks, and four more of their number returned to camp, leaving just four to resume the exercise. Before they did, however, Gerwyn called a halt for lunch, and led the way into an old ruined farmhouse. Although it no longer had a ceiling, some of the walls still stood and provided some shelter from the persistent sleet and wind. Gerwyn talked tactics to his remaining three team-members over lunch, while Fred and Alicia sat together on a cold, hard flagstone in a corner of one of the rooms to eat their sandwiches.
"Have you spotted anything yet Lissy?" asked Fred.
Alicia thought for a few moments before replying. "Each one of those ambushes was sudden and very efficient. The people who were hit had absolutely no warning it was coming, and stood no chance of Relocating in time to avoid it. There must be something that can be done to give them some sort of early warning of an attack."
Fred nodded in agreement. "There're two things that may be possible. One - we can attach a sort of strap on the Relocator so that it can be strapped onto the wrist and sit at the base of the palm. That way, an Auror need only close his hand to activate it - it would save several precious fractions of a second."
Alicia grinned and nodded. "That should be easy to do - it's just one extra step in the production process. And the second one?"
"That's more difficult," said Fred. "And it means making an entirely new device. I was thinking that perhaps we could build a small detector, which the Auror can wear somewhere on the outside of his robes. It should be possible to make something that will pick up the magical vibrations as soon as a spell is thrown, and warn the Auror in some way - say a bleep or something. What do you think?"
"I suppose so…" she answered, then her eyes opened wide as she thought of something. "We can do better than that," she said excitedly. "What if we attach the device - we can make it very small - to the other end of the strap holding the Relocator, and when it detects a spell being thrown, it could send a signal into the wrist muscles, causing the Auror's hand to clasp shut and press the button. It's the closest we'll come to making the Relocator work automatically."
Fred thought for a few moments and then gasped, "Yes. I think I can see how we can do that - I'll have to run it past George, but I don't think there'll be a problem. That's brilliant Lissy."
In his excitement, Fred leaned forward and grasped Alicia by the shoulders, pulling her close and planting a big kiss on her cheek. Then, as he drew back, his eyes grew wide, realising what he'd done. Alicia stared at Fred through shaded eyes, a pink tinge running up her cheeks.
"Uh… sorry Alicia," said Fred shakily. "I… I'd better go and tell Gerwyn about our ideas - see what he thinks."
As Fred got up and walked across to the four trainees, Alicia slowly grinned as she placed her hand on the spot where Fred had kissed her. She looked at her boss' back with narrowed eyes and breathed quietly to herself, "I don't think he was joking - he was genuinely shy when he realised what he'd done. I think Angelina was right about him - and about me, if it comes to that!"
A few minutes later, Fred walked back over, grinning. "They like it," he said. "And now that our job is done, fancy a bit of fun? I told Gerwyn that we'll help him out - I've volunteered our services. What do you say?"
Alicia grinned at his infectious enthusiasm. "Why not? It might be a bit warmer that standing around watching the action anyway."
Half an hour later, the six walked slowly down a narrow ravine, well aware that this place was a likely spot for an ambush. Alicia yelled when she heard the scrape of a careless boot against some loose stones and pressed her Relocator button. The rest of the team reacted quickly and avoided the first volley of spells sent from the rocks above.
Later, Fred swore blind that he hadn't put a special charm on Alicia's Relocator. He was adamant that it was purely coincidental that they both relocated behind a large rock, facing each other with their lips just inches apart. They stared deeply into each other's eyes and then leaned forward, both feeling a tingling elation as their lips met. They both reached up and pulled themselves into closer contact as the battle raged around them.
Gerwyn and his team, now reduced to four effective members, were quickly immobilised by the attackers, as were Fred and Alicia. The attackers took five minutes to recover from their hilarity at seeing two of the enemy, their romantic pose frozen by the full body bind, still locked in an embrace, and they insisted on keeping the spell in place while they levitated them and took them back to Camp Merlin to be put on display in front of the whole camp - the unlikely trophies of their victory.
'Mad Eye' Moody had a wide grin on his face as he released the pair from the spell. "I thought you came here to work, not play," he said.
Fred and Alicia's faces were now crimson from the embarrassment of it all. "Uh, Mr. Moody - sir - you won't say anything about this to George when you see him next will you?" asked Fred pleadingly.
Moody turned to the laughing trainees gathered around the couple. "What do you say? Should I keep quiet about this?"
"I'll reserve judgement on that response," he said, grinning at Fred as he listened to the opposing choruses of 'Yes!' and 'No!'
That evening, Fred and Alicia arrived back at the Shrieking Shack just in time for dinner, Fred sitting alongside George and Alicia taking the spare seat beside Angelina.
"Well?" whispered Angelina.
"Well what?" Alicia replied.
"Something's happened hasn't it? I can see it in your face."
Alicia coloured up slightly and glanced across the table at Fred, who was ignoring the various dishes of food in front of him and grinning at her dreamily. Angelina glanced at Fred and a wide smile lit up her face. She gasped, "I knew it!"
"You knew what?" said George, looking across the table.
"Those two," she said. "I knew that if they were left on their own they'd finally connect."
Lee and the ministry employees grinned, looking at the red but happy faces of the pair, but George just sat stunned. "Good god!" he exclaimed.
The happy news spread quickly throughout Hogwarts when Ginny read the message delivered by George's owl the following morning. She ran down to the Great Hall and told Ron and the others, who passed the news along the length of the Gryffindor table.
Nadine smiled happily when Ron rushed up to the top table and spoke to them, but frowned slightly when she looked down towards Ginny, who sat staring into the distance with a sad expression on her face. "What's the matter with Ginny?" she asked Ron. "Wasn't she glad to hear the news?"
Ron looked quizzically at Nadine and then towards Ginny, shaking his head. "She was the first to hear about it, and she was as excited as I've ever seen her. I don't know why she's looking like that."
Nadine turned to Ceri and prised her away from Sirius for a few moments, pointing down at the red-haired girl. "Can you pick up any emotions from Ginny? I think there's something wrong."
Ceri stared at Ginny and concentrated. "Sadness," she breathed, frowning, "All I can pick up is sadness."
As the students started to file out of the Great Hall, Nadine waved for Hermione and Margot to join her. "There's something the matter with Ginny," she told them. "Ceri's just picked up feelings of sadness coming from her. Has anything happened to cause this?"
"No nothing," said Hermione, looking worried as she glanced towards her friend still sitting at the table.
"She hasn't said anything's wrong," said Margot. "Only a few minutes ago she was full of excitement when she told us about Fred and Alicia."
"Perhaps it might be a good idea for you both to have a quiet word with her," said Ceri. "She's more likely to open up to you two that us."
Hermione and Margot nodded and walked slowly down towards the table where they sat, one on either side of Ginny, who jumped slightly when she saw that she was no longer alone.
"What's the matter Ginny?" asked Hermione. "You were looking so sad a few moments ago."
Ginny grinned weakly, but then her face dropped into a sad expression once more. "It's not that I'm unhappy about Fred and Alicia - I'm really, really excited for them both, but it… it just brought it home to me that everybody seems to be getting together except me. There's you two, Fred, Charlie and Nadine, Sirius and Ceri - and I'm really pleased for you all. But when is it going to be my turn? Will it ever be my turn?"
"Oh Ginny," breathed Hermione, rubbing her friend's shoulder. "We've spoken about this before, haven't we? I'm sure you'll find the right one soon."
"Maybe it'll be the sixth team member," said Margot. "He might be out there now, just waiting for you to come into his life."
Ginny smiled weakly, knowing full well that her friends were just trying to buck her up - she knew that they didn't know - no one knew - whether the sixth team member would be the one, or even if it would be a boy."
"I'm sorry," she told them. "I'm just being silly, aren't I?"
The sun was just pushing its first rays of light over the horizon, lighting up the pretty little town in a remote part of New England. To the untrained eye, there was nothing remarkable about the town. But to those who knew about such things, it was a very remarkable place. Most of the inhabitants were made up of witches and wizards, most of whom worked in the Congress of Magic offices in Washington.
As he'd done on his last visit to the country, Lord Voldemort stood on a hill looking down at the town. He hissed with anticipation, eager to activate and use the fabled powers of the Disc of Gates for the first time. He'd spent days learning the correct pronunciations of the spells from Ahmed, and he'd rewarded the Arab with a brief look at some of the writings in the Necronomicon - after all, that was his wish. Voldemort hadn't really known if Ahmed was mentally strong enough to survive the experience, but survive he did. But he returned to his home in Jordan just a little bit unhinged.
Voldemort glanced at the two struggling figures, a witch and a wizard, who were held firmly by four beefy American Death Eaters. "Watch what happens here this morning," he told them. "Note every detail of what will happen to your miserable town, for that is the price of your survival. That is why you won't join your fellow citizens in what is to come."
He turned to look down on the town once more, then raised the Disc of Gates from its resting place on his chest and held it above his head, making sure that the dark crystal at the centre pointed towards the middle of the town. He breathed deeply, feeling the power build, then he roared the spells that sent destruction onto the unsuspecting folk below.
"NEGELTU BABU ETUTU." The dark crystal at the centre of the Disc stared to glow, sending vibrations through the Dark Lord's arms as he felt the power, telling him that it was primed for use.
"ABATU MARE ALI."
A dark light crept slowly from the crystal, picking up speed as it neared its target. The light spread out to cover the whole town and then faded, the dark light coming from the crystal slowly waning until it was as it had been before. Nothing seemed to have been destroyed, though. The town still stood and not a building had fallen. But Voldemort and his Death Eaters knew what had happened, and the two prisoners would soon know as well.
"Release them," said Voldemort. The two stopped struggling when they were free once more, and just stared grimly at the Dark Lord, wondering what had happened in the town.
"Go back to your homes below," said Voldemort, "and when you have seen, tell those in power that Lord Voldemort has started his campaign of terror. Tell them that I will wait for one week for their surrender. And if I don't receive it, then I will give another demonstration of my power, and then another and another until they finally see sense. Tell them to publish their answer in the wizarding press. One week - no longer. Now go."
Voldemort and his minions disappeared from the hill overlooking the town, Apparating back to the Portkey, which they would use to return to the U.K. for the next demonstration of power later that afternoon.
The witch and wizard walked quickly to the town and rushed into their little house, and then upstairs to where their two children were sleeping. They both gasped when they found the two little beds unoccupied, and rushed through the rest of the house, trying to find where they'd hidden themselves following the attack by the four large Death Eaters. But they found nothing.
They ran quickly to the house next door, hoping that the kids had gone to their elderly neighbours for help, but there was no answer to their pounding on the front door. They ran to the next house, with the same result, and so it went until they came to a house where they knew that an elderly Muggle was bedridden, looked after by her son and his wife. This time, they found that the front door was open and they rushed inside and upstairs to the bedrooms. But no one was there - the house was completely empty.
They ran, panic-stricken, to the little newsagents at the bottom of their street where they knew the wizard opened his shop at the crack of dawn, but although the shop was open, no one stood behind the counter. For the next hour, they went from house to house, shop to shop, but not a person could be found - it was as if the inhabitants had been wiped from the face of the Earth.
Finally, they gave up the fruitless search and Apparated to the buildings of the Magical Congress to raise the alarm.
It was just after lunch at Hogwarts and the cold rain swilled down heavily, soaking the school grounds and the many people who milled about. When Dumbledore received the urgent message from Fudge just under half an hour previously, telling him of the attack in New England, he hadn't wasted a minute putting into action the contingency plan he'd previously worked out with his closest advisors. He knew that Voldemort had started his terror campaign using the Disc of Gates and he also knew that nowhere in the country was safe any longer, not even Hogwarts - especially not Hogwarts.
Dumbledore was only too aware that the Anima Summas would be right towards the top of Voldemort's list of targets, and Hogwarts would be one of the first places he'd come looking for them. It had been an agonising decision to close the school, but one that was necessary for the safety of the students, and the Anima Summas in particular.
Most of the professors were organising the horseless carriages to take the students to Hogsmeade railway station - the Hogwarts express had been on standby there for several days, and it would soon be leaving for the comparative safety of the Capitol.
Five of the students, however, would not be on it. Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny and Margot would be leaving Hogwarts shortly for a secret site, accompanied by the protectors, Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape, Flitwick, Jules, Dobby, Winky and Hagrid - and Fang, of course.
They'd agreed on a remote site, one that was very rarely visited, but was also known to the five friends and their protectors. Ever since it had been chosen, everyone had been warned not to breath a word of it for fear that the spy, who still hadn't been detected, would get wind of it.
The elves, with the exception of Winky and Dobby of course, would be dispersed among the families of the most trusted students. But now they were helping to move the contents of the school library down to the Portkey site, just outside the main entranceway. Dumbledore had also insisted that his own collection of volumes should be taken - he didn't want Voldemort getting his hands on some of the more valuable ones. Winky, Dobby, Flitwick and McGonagall were kept busy ferrying the books and several other valuable items, including the sorting hat, via the Portkey to their new destination.
The last of the students left for the station, the four horseless carriages moving swiftly down the drive. The spy in the last carriage stuck her head out of the window and looked back in frustration - she hadn't been able to find out where the secret site was, and she knew that her spying days were over - she hoped that the Dark Lord wouldn't take out his frustration on her.
The activity in the school grounds became less frantic after they'd left - but only marginally so. It was a curious sight - Fang was barking at Hedwig and Pigwidgeon, who were hooting at Fawkes, who was disdainful in his complete lack of interest in what was going on around him.
"Are we about ready to leave, Headmaster?" asked an anxious Sirius.
"Not yet," he said. "Fred, George and the others are still to arrive, and I've asked George to make sure the train leaves safely before he comes."
"Here they come now, Headmaster," said Snape. Fred and Alicia led the group from the Shrieking Shack into the school grounds, levitating a huge mound of boxes before them - they'd destroyed the stocks that they couldn't manage to take with them, but made sure that they had all the Relocators and the raw materials needed to continue their production - and the prototypes of the Relocators that Fred and Alicia had dreamt up. The twins had readily agreed to move their operation to the secret site once Dumbledore had told them about an imminent attack on the school.
"George should be here shortly," shouted Fred. "I heard the train leaving before we came into the school grounds."
Harry stood slightly apart from everybody, looking sadly up at Gryffindor Tower. He hated to leave the place that had been his home for almost seven years, but he knew that Dumbledore's decision was the correct one. It was even more important, now that they were so close to completing the final quest, that they avoid a confrontation with Voldemort. He knew that they'd stand little chance against the Disc of Gates unless they got hold of the final spell.
Hermione walked up to stand beside him. "Let's hope we won't be away for too long, Harry."
Harry glanced at her, frowning. "I only hope that when we come back it'll still be standing."
Dumbledore walked up to stand beside the pair, looking equally sad. "I've got a feeling that Voldemort won't destroy the school. This used to be his home too, a long time ago, as you know, and he loved the place back then."
He seemed to pull himself taller and a determined look came into his eyes. "But even though Hogwarts has had to be abandoned, I absolutely refuse to abandon what it represents. Apart from the professors who will accompany us, the others will be carrying on with the teaching process - even though it will be a lot more difficult. They'll be Owling the students with lessons each day and receiving regular assessment test from them so that they can keep tabs on their progress. It's far from ideal, of course, but it's the best we can do under the circumstances and it might just help to keep their minds off the horror that will surely come over the next few weeks and months."
Hermione smiled at the headmaster. "I think it's absolutely amazing that you've been able to set this up in so short a time, Professor."
"It's thanks to all the professors that this has been possible," he replied. "They'll have their work cut out to keep up with all the owls that they'll get each day."
"Here's George," shouted Ron.
Dumbledore sighed, "It's time to go. Come on you two."
Fifteen minutes later, Hogwarts School and grounds were completely empty - deserted for the first time since it was built so long ago. At the same time, a surprisingly fine afternoon greeted the new arrivals at the secret site. It wasn't often, just at the start of winter, that it was fine deep in the mountains of the Central Beacons, and Harry and the others were relieved as they looked up at the surrounding cliffs in the hanging valley of Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad - the secret resting place of Pontius Aurigula.
Less than one hour later, Voldemort and his elite guard stood on the mountainside overlooking Hogsmeade. He frowned at the lack of movement in the village, and looked beyond towards the school, where there appeared to be an equal lack of activity.
He turned to Lucius. "What's this, Lucius? Everything seems to be deserted!"
Lucius shook his head. "Everything seemed normal just a few hours ago, my Lord. Perhaps they've heard of the events in America and decided to leave, fearing that you'd target them next."
Voldemort hissed and shouted to his guard. "Get down there and search the place - bring anyone you find up here to me."
Half an hour later, Travis walked up to his master. "The place is deserted, my Lord. We found just these two old people hiding in one of the houses."
Voldemort walked up to the old witch and wizard, who were struggling in the grasp of some of his guards. "Where is everybody? Where have they gone?"
The old wizard's chin jutted out in defiance. "Gone - away from here. Dumbledore told them you'd come."
"Why didn't you join them?" he hissed.
"We've lived here all our lives, and neither you nor anyone else will drive us from our home."
"Brave words, old man," said Voldemort darkly. He turned to Travis. "Take them further up the mountain and make sure they watch the power of the Disc."
Voldemort raised the Disc of Gates above his head and felt the power build. He aimed it at the far end of the village and shouted the ancient spell that activated the Disc. Then, when he felt the raw power surge through the Disc, he shouted the spell of destruction.
A dark crimson beam shot from the Disc and destroyed a small cottage towards the middle of the village. Then Voldemort slightly raised his aim and the beam wove a trail of destruction through the houses at the far end of the village, finally coming to rest on the Shrieking Shack, which exploded in a cloud of crushed bricks and wood.
Voldemort turned to the two defiant people. "Tell Cornelius Fudge what you have seen. I could easily have destroyed the whole village, but it looks more impressive to show how selective my power can be, don't you think? Tell him that I demand his complete capitulation to my rule. If I have not read his answer in the Daily Prophet by one week from today, I will start destroying all the wizarding communities in the country - and then it will be the turn of the Muggles. Do you understand?"
The wizard nodded his head briefly. Voldemort then signalled to his men and strode down the mountainside, leaving the two old people to stare after him. He led his men through the outskirts of Hogsmeade and through the rubble where once stood half the village. He stopped when he came to the school gates and lifted his wand to diminish the wards that were still in place, then he walked onto the hallowed turf and up towards the school.
He stood outside the main entrance while he signalled his men to search the buildings, and hissed with frustration when they reported that no one was left inside.
He resisted the temptation to destroy the school, and raised his head into the driving rain, shouting to the wind to give vent to his anger, "You can't hide from me Anima Summas. I will track you down - make no mistake about that!"
Cornelius Fudge was in a panic as he sat at his desk in his office at the Ministry of Magic. Facing him looking equally unsettled was his counterpart from the American Magical Congress - Jack Branson - who'd made an impromptu visit to London that morning to deliver the news of Voldemort's attack.
Fudge looked up as Marcus popped his head around the door and beckoned to him. Fudge walked over and listened to what he had to say for a few minutes, then sighed and sat back down at his desk.
"Well it's happened here," he told the American. "He's destroyed half of Hogsmeade - thank god you gave us sufficient warning to evacuate the place. And we've had the same message that you had - we've got one week to give him an answer."
Branson thumped his fist down hard on Fudge's desk. "We can't give in to these sorts of threats - it's inconceivable to hand over power to that madman."
"I agree," said Fudge, "but there's no doubting the power of that device he has - and he's perfectly capable of carrying out his threats. I'd better speak to the Prime Minister - warn him about what we're up against."
Branson nodded. "I'll speak to the President this evening when I get back. But he'll want to know what's happening with the Anima Summas - how close they are to completing the final quest, and when they can take this guy on."
"I spoke to Professor Dumbledore earlier," Fudge replied, "and he says that they're very close now - it seems that they've got one more ancient place to find, then they'll be ready. They've moved to a secret location to carry on with their research, and they've got full protection there."
"Will he be able to find them?" asked Branson.
"It's unlikely - not even I know where they've gone. But Dumbledore has promised to keep me informed of progress, and as soon as I hear something, I'll let you know straight away."
Branson nodded. "We'll have to use the week's grace to think up what we're going to publish in the magical press - we don't want to give in, but I'm sure we can come up with a form of words that will stall him a bit longer."
Fudge frowned. "It had better be good - he's no fool, and he's not the most patient of people."
Charlie, Ceri, Remus and Oliver all rubbed their hands vigorously together and stamped their feet on the frozen ground in an attempt to generate a bit of heat - they'd drawn the short straws to place Whammos and various magical wards on the tops of the cliffs surrounding the hanging valley. Sirius, Katie and Nadine were doing the same on the terrain down below at the entrance into the valley.
The day had been fine - not a cloud in the sky - but that inevitably meant a hard frost at night at this time of year - especially in the mountains. The afternoon had been spent erecting the buildings and tents to house everyone and the large library of books, and setting up wards in the immediate vicinity, and it wasn't until darkness had fallen that they'd had the time to set up their wider defences.
They made their way around the top of the cliffs, using their wands to light the way, and placed Whammos at regular intervals both close to the cliff and further back on the grassy terrain. Finally, they dropped down towards the valley entrance and met up with Sirius and the others before walking up into the newly erected community for a well-earned hot supper.
Ceri greeted Sirius with a brief peck on the cheek, and caught under his arm as they walked along. The rest hung back slightly and grinned at the couple - they knew that they'd had precious little time to get fully comfortable with their new situation, and hoped that they'd be able to spend some time together at this remote place, before going on what they hoped would be the last leg of the quest.
Their thoughts inevitable turned to the quest, and the research that the five kids would be doing. On the morning of the evacuation, Hermione had received several books from her parents, following her urgent request, and she'd seemed confident that they had everything they needed to make a judgment on the likely location of Nibiru - Atlantis.
Earlier that evening, Dumbledore had called a brief meeting with the protectors and had told them about Voldemort's ultimatum, but he'd made it clear that they weren't to say anything about it to the five youngsters - he didn't want to put any undue pressure on them that might interfere with the quality of their research. He rightly surmised that rather than spurring them on to greater efforts, it would most likely be counter-productive and may cause them to come to hasty and ill-conceived decisions.
"It's a far cry from the Great Hall," said Katie as she walked into the dining tent, where most of the others were already sitting around the circular table.
"What's for supper?" asked Oliver as he took the seat next to Harry.
"Something called Welsh Rarebit," he replied. "Don't ask me what it is, but Dobby seems to think that we'll like it."
"Hey Ceri," shouted Ron when she and Sirius sat down opposite them, "what's this Welsh Rarebit then?"
"Oh you'll love it Ron," she said. "It's called 'Caws Pobi' in Welsh, and it's a savoury dish. It's a hot, thick cheesy sauce on toast, using one-year-old Cheddar cheese mixed with eggs, butter, flour, beer, mustard, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Just the job for a cold night like this."
Ron smiled and stuck his nose in the air as Winky and Dobby 'popped' into the dining tent carrying trays of the steaming traditional dish. Fifteen minutes later he was calling for more, while everyone else just leaned back in their seats, patting their full stomachs.
The next morning, the five sat in the library tent with a pile of books about fabled Atlantis on the large table. The freezing temperatures of the night before had disappeared, but the first flurries of snow had started early with the arrival of the dark clouds that threatened to block out the sun for some time to come.
"It's amazing," said Ginny. "Nobody knows where Atlantis is, yet there's all these books about it."
"That's just human nature Ginny," said Hermione. "Always striving to find something - even if they don't quite believe themselves that it actually exists."
"But we know it exists," said Harry. "But how are we going to sort out the facts from all this speculation?"
"I think we should start at the beginning," said Margot.
"I agree," said Hermione.
"So where's the beginning?" asked Ron.
"That's Plato," replied Hermione. "All these books are as a result of his two dialogues - the Timaeus and the Critias. Most of the critics point out that all the information about Atlantis is confined to these two books, with no corroborating evidence from any other source. But, of course, we know that's not strictly true, because the demise of Atlantis was as a result of the Great Flood - and whatever was the cause of it - and there's plenty of legends concerning the Flood from virtually every ancient culture in the world."
"So shall we stick with Plato first then?" asked Ginny.
Hermione nodded. "I've already done some reading on that. The two books were written in the fourth century BC, and Atlantis is given only a brief mention in the first one - The Timaeus. The second book - The Critias, which Pluto never completed - goes on to give a lot more detail about the ancient civilisation. Plato quotes Solon - the Archon of Athens - who was the first person to bring the story of Atlantis to the attention of the ancient Greeks. Solon heard about it during his travels throughout Egypt, when he visited a temple priest in the city of Sais in the Egyptian Delta region. The priest told him that the history of the lost civilisation was written on the pillars of the ancient temple by none other than Thoth, and that Atlantis was destroyed some 9,000 years before Solon's visit. That dates the destruction to about 9,500 to 10,000 BC!"
"What's an Archon, Hermione?" interrupted Ron.
"It's a chief Magistrate in ancient Greece," she replied, before continuing, "The Critias gives a lot of the physical details of Atlantis, their religions, legislature and so forth, but since it doesn't exist as it was described any more I think we can ignore all that."
"So where does Solon say that Atlantis actually was?" asked Harry.
"The only thing he says is that it lay beyond the pillars of Hercules - that's the Straights of Gibraltar - the narrow straights that form the boundary between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean."
"And how big did he say it was?" asked Margot.
"Huge - he said that it was as big as Libya - that's what the Greeks called Africa by the way - and Asia combined."
"That's crazy!" exclaimed Ginny. "That would make it bigger than the North Atlantic Ocean itself!"
"Don't forget, Ginny," answered Hermione, "the full extent of Libya and Asia wasn't known to the Greeks back then, so it was probably a lot smaller that it at first might seem."
"Ok then," said Ron. "So where does that leave us?"
"We read," said Harry. "We've got to find out what all these researchers have come up with, and then try to decide where the most likely location for Atlantis is."
"Aaaarrrggghhh," yelled Lee Jordan as he looked angrily at Fred and George. "I think you two should be the guinea pigs for trying this out and let me fire the wand!"
Alicia, Angelina and most of the Ministry employees giggled, but looked quickly back down at the things they were working on when Lee shot them all a dark look. The twins looked sheepishly at Lee, who was shaking his left hand after the little detection device had sent a pulse of energy into his wrist, causing his hand to extend rather than contract.
"Sorry Lee," said George. "Too much power, I think. Hang on a minute while we make some adjustments."
Fred released the strap holding the little square-shaped box from Lee's wrist and set in on the little table at the far end of their production tent. They opened the box and spoke in muted tones as they made some adjustments with their wands and then walked back to Lee.
"I want a big bonus for doing this!" Lee exclaimed as he allowed Fred to strap the device back on his wrist.
"Don't worry Lee," said Fred. "If this works out, we'll all have a nice big bonus. Ready?"
Lee closed his eyes and waited for George to fire off an unforgivable curse from the far end of the tent, his wand aimed at the ground. Before they left Hogsmeade, the twins had obtained special permission to use unforgivable curses in the interests of research and development of the new device.
"CRUCIO," yelled George, and Lee collapsed to the floor, rubbing his wrist and laughing uncontrollably.
"Uh, too little power this time," said Fred as George approached.
Lee got up from the floor and again speared the pair with an evil look. "I don't know what was worse, the pain or the itch!"
Again, Fred and George made adjustments to the little box and strapped it back on Lee's wrist.
"CRUCIO," yelled George, and this time it was smiles all round as Lee relocated ten yards to the left of his earlier position. The energy pulse had been of the right magnitude and caused his fingers to clench into his palm, activating the Relocator button.
"Excellent," shouted Alicia, feeling very pleased that her suggestion had been put into practice and that it appeared to work properly at last.
"We've still got a lot of tests to do," said Fred, "but I think we've cracked it."
One of the most difficult things with the project had been to get the device to detect only unforgivable curses - as George had pointed out quite early in its development, it would be of no use just to detect ordinary magical spells, because in the thick of a fight with Death Eaters, Aurors would be Relocating right, left and centre, and would cause too much disruption to any tactics employed.
"We'll make about fifty initially, I think," said George. "And we can test out each one to make sure the adjustments are right. Then we can give some to Sirius to try out on their next jaunt, and Moody can have the others."
"Don't expect to use me to test them all out," said Lee.
"Don't worry Lee," replied Fred, "we'll all test them. After all, we don't know yet whether the pulse strength will suit everybody. Some people may need less power and some more, so between the fifteen of us here we should be able to find that out."
"We can ask Sirius and the others to help with the tests as well," said Angelina. "And thinking about it, it may be better if we use them. At least we'd be sure that they'd work for them out in the field."
"Good thinking Ang," said George. "We can ask them at lunch."
The five youngsters sat in the library tent that evening, determined to get in one more session before going to bed. They were all engrossed in the books they were reading, but Ron suddenly slammed his shut and flung it onto the table.
"This is so bloody repetitive," he said, shaking his head. "Most of these researchers write about the same things, and apart from just a few, they all home in on no more than about six general locations."
"I'm finding the same thing too," said Hermione. The others nodded in agreement.
"Let's recap what we've found so far then," said Harry. "I've come across some weird and wonderful propositions, but most of the books I've read seem to concentrate on three main sites - the island of Santorini in the Mediterranean, the islands of the Caribbean and the Bahamas, and the small island groups on the Eastern side of the North Atlantic."
"That's what I'm getting too," said Ginny, a sentiment echoed by the others.
"So what do you think?" asked Ron. "Should we count up the votes for each place and go with the most popular?"
"That's hardly the most logical way to go about it Ron," admonished Margot. "I'm sure we can come up with something better than that."
"Why don't we discuss the pros and cons for each place," said Ginny, "and come to a consensus on the most likely place?"
They all nodded and looked at Hermione. "You want me to start it off, I suppose!"
"Come on Hermione," said Ron. "You know how much you like to talk about various theories, and don't worry, if you start on one of your rants, I'll put a silencing spell on you."
She shot a warning look at Ron, and then glanced down at the notes she'd made. "Well I think we can forget about the Santorini option. To start with, it's inside the Pillars of Hercules and not outside them like Plato said. And in any case, that's the place where the academic establishment - or at least those who've dared to write about it - think where it is. And only because it fits in with a known event - the huge volcanic explosion that destroyed the island of Thera - that's what Santorini was called in ancient times."
"And god forbid that you'd agree with anything the establishment think," breathed Ron under his breath.
"I heard that Ron!" she exclaimed. "But they're way off the mark in any case. They think that Atlantis was part of the Minoan civilisation, but everyone knows that they continued to flourish on Crete for several hundred years after the explosion - they weren't destroyed by a single cataclysm!"
"If you say so," grinned Harry.
"Don't tease her!" exclaimed Margot. "She's perfectly correct in what she says.
Hermione shot Margot a look of gratitude and continued, "Now the other two regions are more difficult to assess. Some of these authors have made a very strong case for Atlantis being in the Caribbean and surrounding islands, with their seat of power centred on the Greater Antilles - that's Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. It seems to tie in with the legends of the ancient cultures of South and Central America - like the Olmecs, the Toltecs and the Maya - that talk about strange white-skinned people with blue eyes coming to their lands from the East and bringing civilisation to their people."
"That ties in well with what we know from the Book of Thoth," said Ginny.
Hermione nodded. "But the names of the leaders of the strange people don't ring any bells - Quetzalcoatl in Mexico and Viracocha further south - there are other equally unfamiliar and unpronounceable names put forward as well, depending on the culture."
"I read about the strange structures they've found under the sea off the Bahamas," said Margot. "Do you think there's a link?"
Hermione nodded. "Almost certainly so. If they're right, the Antilles and Bahamas were part of the same great island chain of Atlantis. Some of the researchers have proposed that the area was devastated by a huge falling asteroid or comet, and I suppose that when you look at the islands on a map, they do seem to form the outer rim of a massive crater."
"What about the other side of the Atlantic?" asked Ginny. "Do you think that some of the island groups there have an equally strong claim to be Atlantis?"
"Yes, I think so," she replied. "The Azores are right on Dolphin ridge - that's the mid-Atlantic ridge running from Iceland to the Bahamas - and the nine islands of the group could well be the tops of the highest mountains of Atlantis, left stranded there after the great destruction and flood. Some authors say that the Canary Islands are part of the same island chain, as well. In many ways, it makes more sense for Atlantis to be situated close to the Pillars of Hercules, because that would explain how the Egyptians came to know about the place. The Carthaginians and Phoenicians - the great seafaring peoples of ancient times - also knew about the Azores, and they could have brought back the tales of a great civilisation that once lived there. Then, there's the mysterious statue, now lost, that the first modern seafarers found on one of the islands. It was of a man sitting on a horse and his arm was pointing to the west."
"So which is it?" asked Harry. "The Caribbean or the Azores?"
Hermione shrugged her shoulders. "Your guess is as good as mine. But I read somewhere that there's no secret so hidden that it cannot be found. We'll just have to read the rest of the books and hope that one of us stumbles across something that'll point the way to one or the other as the most likely place."
Author's notes : Please leave a review. No images for this chapter, I'm afraid. Watch out for chapter 6 - Hot and Cold - coming soon.