Keith Lewis Keith Lewis 9 1901 2003-01-02T14:05:00Z 2003-07-13T08:24:00Z 22 12187 69469 578 138 85312 9.2720 Chapter 8
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.
Author's Notes: At the end of the chapter there's a link to some images, showing some of the places the four visited and some of the things they saw. Feel free to take a look. Watch out for Chapter 9 - Labyrinth. Coming soon.
"Here they are at last," said Sirius as he looked up from his second helping of a full English breakfast. He was sitting next to Remus with Ceri opposite, and they all looked over as the four friends walked to the Gryffindor table.
"Good morning kids," said Ceri cheerfully. "What kept you?"
"Oh you know what girls are like, Ceri. We've been waiting for them to get ready for ages!" said Ron.
"Yes and look at you!" said Hermione. "You can't go to Carcassonne dressed like that!" Ron and Ginny were dressed in wizarding robes, unlike the others who were dressed in ordinary Muggle clothes.
"What do you mean? These are my second best robes - there's nothing wrong with them!" said Ron, looking aggrieved.
"Ron - you've got to dress in Muggle clothes. You'll stand out like a beacon if you go like that. You too, Ginny."
"But I haven't got any Muggle clothes," said Ginny with a look of horror on her face.
"You'll have to borrow some of mine, then," said Hermione.
"And I've got some spare ones for you, Ron," said Harry.
Ceri laughed. "We'll get some new ones for you when we get to Carcassonne. You can help me pick them, Hermione."
As they all started to tuck into their breakfast, Ceri looked up at Sirius. "It's nice to see you eating so well, Sirius. You've put on a bit of weight since I met you last summer - you weren't much more than skin and bones back then."
"If you think that's eating well, Ceri, just keep an eye on Ron for the next twenty minutes - now that's eating well." Harry grinned at his friend.
Ron looked up and mumbled through a mouthful of bacon and egg, "What?"
Everybody laughed as Ron refused to be deflected from his favourite pastime.
After a while, Remus looked at his watch. "Come on, we've only got fifteen minutes. If you two want to get changed, you'd better get a move on."
Hermione rushed out of the hall with Ginny as Harry grabbed hold of Ron's robes and dragged him from the table. "Hang on a sec," said an indignant Ron as he stretched over to grab another piece of toast.
Dumbledore and McGonagall were waiting when all seven went out through the front doors onto the drive outside. Dumbledore had a serious expression on his weathered face when he spoke to them. "I won't tell you to be careful, because I know you will. But let me know how things progress. I want a daily report please, Sirius - you can use Hedwig." The Headmaster handed the cage to Harry, with Hedwig sleeping inside on her perch.
"See you in ten days, Professor," said Remus as they reached out and held the cricket bat. Seconds later, they had left Hogwarts.
They looked around as they materialised in a small clearing on the edge of a wood. Through the trees they could just see the beautiful mediaeval walled city of Carcassonne perched impressively on a hill. As they walked towards the city, Hermione launched into the history of the place, reeling off a multitude of facts.
"... And it's the only fortified town in Europe that's still inhabited. It has 52 towers, two concentric surrounding walls and nearly two miles of ramparts."
"Have you finished now, Hermione? My head's spinning," said Ron as the others grinned at him.
"Oh, there's plenty more I can tell you if you're interested Ron." She looked down at the piece of parchment in her hand and then scanned around the countryside, looking for the site where her parents were staying. She pointed to a small wooded area off to the right of the city. "It's over there, about a mile away," she said.
They walked for another twenty minutes before they spotted a small cabin in front of a copse of trees. Hermione saw her parents' car parked in front of the cabin, and the large garden behind, leading towards the trees.
"That looks like a good place to erect the tents - in the trees behind the cabin," said Ceri. "We can put up wards to hide them from any passing Muggles. Harry and Ron can put their tent in the garden - there's plenty of room. We'll see you later, after we've checked out the surrounding area - and you'd better not tell your parents we're here, Hermione. It might be difficult to explain why you need protection. Oh and Harry - you'd better let me take Hedwig."
Hermione ran up to the front of the cabin with the other three following closely behind. As she started to climb the short flight of steps at the front, the door opened and Mr. & Mrs. Granger stepped out. They were grinning broadly as Hermione first hugged her mother, then her father.
"Ginny, Ron, Harry - it's nice to see you all again," smiled Mrs. Granger as she came down the steps. "Come on in - we've got the kettle on."
"Thanks for letting us stay, Mrs Granger. It's very kind of you," said Harry.
"The pleasure's all ours, Harry," said Mr. Granger, still holding his daughter around the waist. "It's nice to see that Hermione has such good friends."
They sat in the cabin chatting as they drank their tea, and then Mrs. Granger got up. "Hermione, Ginny, come on, let me show you your bedroom. Arbuthnot, go and show the boys where they can put up their tent."
Ron looked at Harry, trying not to laugh. "ARBUTHNOT?" he mouthed silently. Harry bent down and pretended to pull up a sock, trying to think of something nasty to stop the fit of giggles that was threatening to erupt.
"Ok, Millie. Come on you two. Let's go out into the garden - I'll show you a good place to pitch your tent."
In the middle of erecting the tent, Hermione and Ginny came out to check on the boys' progress. "Hermione," said Ron, a grin slowly spreading over his face, "why didn't you warn us about your father's name? Do you know how hard it was for us to stop bursting out laughing?"
"What's the matter with his name! There's nothing wrong with it - it's a very old and distinguished name."
"What do they call him?" asked Ron. "Is it Arby, Buty, or Noty?" Both he and Harry fell to the floor, finally letting out the uncontrollable fits of giggles that had been lurking just beneath the surface.
"Oh you! Honestly," exclaimed Hermione indignantly as she turned, put her nose in the air, and marched back to the cabin with a smirking Ginny in tow.
For the rest of the holiday, Harry and Ron were hard pressed not to tease Hermione about her father's unusual name. Ginny had warned them to stay off the subject, and by and large they coped very well.
Hermione had calmed down by the time Millie served a delightful lunch in the garden. She sat between Harry and Ginny, and talked about what they would be seeing the following day in Rennes-le-Chateau.
"I think it'll be great, Harry. We've been researching the place in books for ages, and to finally see all the places we've read about is exciting, isn't it?"
"Yes, but I hope that all the excitement'll be about solving the mystery." He leaned close to Hermione and spoke quietly, not wishing the Grangers to hear his next comment. "And not fighting Death Eaters."
Hermione leaned close as well and whispered in Harry's ear, "But there's no reason to believe that 'You Know Who' knows we're here. How could he know we're coming now? How could he find out about it? Only us, Dumbledore and his most trusted professors know."
Harry whispered, "Dumbledore seemed pretty sure there'd be Death Eaters here, Hermione. Perhaps there's a spy at Hogwarts?"
Hermione turned quickly towards Harry, and breathed, "No!" Their heads were close together, their eyes locked as they thought about the possibility. Hermione had to turn away then, her face going slightly pink, as she felt the familiar jolt deep inside her.
Millie Granger was watching them from the other end of the table, deep in thought. 'They look so good together and they seem to be getting on so well. I wonder if Ginny could be wrong? Oh, I do hope so.'
She was jerked from her musings by her husband's voice, "We thought we'd take you on a tour of the city this afternoon, didn't we Millie? What do you think, kids?"
"Yes, dear. It should be very educational for them," said Millie looking expectantly at her daughter and the others.
"Oh that sounds great, Dad. There are so many places I'd like to see." Hermione looked towards her friends. "There's a few Templar fortifications there - it will look good if we include it in our assignments, won't it?"
Ginny grinned at Hermione's infectious enthusiasm for anything educational. "It should be good, Hermione. And we can see how the Muggles live - the shops, ice cream parlours, how they get about. Don't you think Ron?"
Ron grinned at his sister. "Sounds very interesting. Yes - I'm looking forward to that." He had his father's appetite for learning about anything to do with Muggles, and the 'ice cream parlour' reference didn't sound bad, either.
"Right," said Arbuthnot, rising from the table. "We'll clear these things away and then we can go. We should all be able to squeeze into the car."
"This reminds me of Hogwarts," said Harry as he stood looking at the ramparts of the old town. "There're so many circular towers here."
Ron stood, looking fascinated, as the cars and buses passed by, and then he let out a gasp, "What's that?" A strange-looking vehicle was passing, carrying what were obviously tourists. The vehicle made very little sound at all, unlike the other forms of transport.
"It's an electric bus, Ron," said Arbuthnot. "They use them to take tourists around the main attractions in the old town."
"Eklectric!" exclaimed Ron. "Dad would love to see this, wouldn't he Ginny?"
"He certainly would, Ron. Hey, look at those!" gasped Ginny. She had spotted a group of teenagers wearing the most outlandish clothes she had ever seen. And their hairstyles!
Harry and Hermione stood closely together, grinning at their two friends. They never failed to marvel at how little they knew about the everyday Muggle world. Harry put his hand on Hermione's shoulder. "They're having a good time, aren't they?"
"Yes. It's really great to see them like that - and we've seen hardly anything yet."
As they walked through the town centre, several very large hawks circled above the buildings. "Do they use them for delivering the mail, Mr. Granger?" asked Ginny pointing up at them.
Arbuthnot laughed. "Oh no, Ginny. They use postmen for that. Hawks have lived in the old town for a long time. They're not owned by anybody and they come and go as they please. Right Ron, what do you say we try out some of that ice cream you were on about? There's a café just along the main street."
"Great, Mr. Granger - lead on," answered Ron, a broad grin on his face.
As they neared the café, Arbuthnot looked around and found that there were two people missing. "Where's Ron and Ginny?"
They all turned around and looked back up the street. Ron and Ginny were slowly walking around a tall, circular structure, looking at it intently. It was about fifteen feet high, eight feet across, and was very ornate at the top.
"What is it, Ginny? It's made of metal and it's very strange."
"I don't know Ron. I've never seen anything like this before." She reached out her hand to touch the side of the structure.
Ron grabbed her hand and pulled it back quickly. "Don't touch it, Ginny. It might be something to do with eklectric - and dad says it's very dangerous!"
The two siblings continued to walk around the enigmatic building. "Is there a way in?" said Ginny. "There doesn't seem to be a normal door anywhere. And what are these buttons? What happens if you press them?"
The two were starting to attract some very odd glances from passing Muggles, and Arbuthnot walked over to them, grinning all over his face. "Come on, you two. Don't you want any ice cream?"
"What's this tower, Mr. Granger? Is it something to do with eklectric?" asked Ron.
"Uh, no Ron," said Arbuthnot, stifling a laugh. "It's a pissoir."
"What's a pissoir?" asked Ginny.
"Well, uh, it's a public toilet," replied Arbuthnot. "They do these things differently in France, you know."
Ginny went a bright shade of red and walked, her head held low, over towards Hermione, who was laughing so hard she had to hold on to Harry to stop herself collapsing to the ground. Ron, however, wasn't a bit embarrassed - he just kept repeating, "fascinating, really fascinating," as he walked over to the group.
Later that evening, the four friends walked into the copse of trees behind the garden.
"Hello kids," said Ceri as she saw them approach. "What have you been up to today?"
"Oh, mum and dad took us to see the city," said Hermione and looked over at Ron, smirking. "Fascinating, wasn't it Ron?"
"Yeah, yeah," he replied smiling.
"What time to you want to leave in the morning?" Harry asked Sirius.
"Well it should only take us about forty minutes to get to Rennes-le-Chateau on our brooms. So if you four come over here at about 5.30, you can have breakfast with us. If we leave at about six o'clock we should arrive just about dawn. Is that ok?"
"Yes," said Hermione. "I'll tell mum and dad not to get up with us. They'll be glad of a lie-in."
Ron just groaned, "Half past five - that's terrible. Will you wake me Harry?"
It was dark the next morning as the girls finished clearing away the breakfast things. Remus came out of his tent carrying their broomsticks. "Are we ready then?" he asked.
Hermione took her broom from Remus rather reluctantly, and looked down at the ground as she said, looking quite miserable, "I'm sorry. I don't know if I can do this."
"Hermione," said a bleary-eyed Ron. "It's not that far - we'll be there in no time."
"Ron - you know that for me, the length of the Quidditch field is a long way to fly. I've never flown this far before, and it's dark. And you know I don't like flying."
Ginny grinned at her. "Then why don't you ask Harry for a lift? It's far more comfortable sitting on his back than on a broomstick." She looked at Harry and raised her eyes questioningly.
"Yes, come on Hermione. I don't mind - and I won't do any aerobatics or anything."
Hermione looked at Harry doubtfully but said, "Well as long as you're careful and don't go too fast."
"Of course I'll be careful. You can navigate for us." Harry handed the map and compass to her.
"I'll be too busy hanging on to you to check compass bearings, Harry. Will you navigate, Professor Lupin?"
"Of course I will, Hermione. Now don't worry. Everything will be ok. I saw Harry fly over the Christmas holidays, and he's very good at it. Now everybody stick close together - you don't want to get lost."
Harry transformed into his golden eagle form, and looked at Hermione. She climbed up onto his back, just in front of his wings, and held on to his head feathers, her eyes tightly closed. Harry unfurled his wings and pushed off from the ground. He soared up and hovered, waiting for the others to mount their broomsticks and join him.
They flew through the darkness, with Remus in the lead checking the compass every so often to make sure that their heading was due south. After about thirty-five minutes, the sky started to lighten and they could just make out the ground below. Remus called a halt and they hovered while he checked the map and scanned the countryside ahead.
"Over there!" He pointed ahead and slightly to his right. "I can just make out buildings on the top of that hill. It must be Rennes-le-Chateau. Come on, let's go more slowly - and look for the tower. It should be quite prominent - it's perched just on the edge of the hill."
They slowly flew over to the hill and started to circle around its edge. "There it is!" shouted Sirius. "Land over by the right-hand side of it. There's a patch of clear ground there."
The sky had brightened considerably as they landed at the side of the tower. They hid their broomsticks under some bushes as Hermione stepped down from Harry's back. Harry transformed and rubbed his head. "I thought you were going to pull my hair out, Hermione," he said screwing his face up in pain.
"Sorry," whispered Hermione, who looked quite pleased that she was back on the ground once more.
They looked up at the tower, which was square with battlements at the top. Perched on the side nearest to them was a much thinner circular tower starting half way up and then rising above the larger tower. It looked as if it had been stuck on as an after-thought.
"Can you feel it?" Harry said to the others.
"Yes," answered Ceri, "there's magic all around here. The feeling is very strong."
The others nodded their agreement, looking around as if to spot the source of the magical emanations.
"Sauniere built it to house his library," said Hermione looking up at the tower, "and a cave has been found beneath it. Come on, let's go up and see if we can get in."
"Now take care all of you," said Sirius. "Us three will be just inside the trees. And don't forget about what I said about two of you keeping a close watch."
The four teens nodded and started up the grassy bank towards the walkway leading to the tower. Sirius and Ceri transformed and padded after Remus into the trees at the side of the building.
As they approached the tower, they could see that the door was slightly ajar. Harry opened it and peered inside. There were piles of rubble on the floor, and each of the floor's four corners disappeared down into empty space, obviously the result of fairly recent excavations. They peered into the cavity below but could see nothing. Apart from the rubble, the room was empty apart from several ornate bookcases that stood against the walls. Obviously, they once held Sauniere's library but they now stood empty.
Harry walked over to a door in the far corner. He opened it to reveal a spiral staircase, evidently going to the top of the narrow circular tower. "Come on," he said, "let's see if there's anything up here."
They walked cautiously up the staircase, Harry in the lead, until they came to another door. Harry turned the handle and pushed. The door opened and he walked out onto the top of the larger square tower. The others quickly followed and they looked out over the battlements. Below, they had a panoramic view of the small sleepy village of Rennes-le-Chateau and they could easily pick out the places they would be visiting later. To the southwest was a magnificent view over the countryside and the Pyrenees beyond.
They looked around the tower and up at the smaller one just above them. "I can't see anything here that can help us," said Hermione. "Let's go back down and look at those excavations again."
They went back down the spiral staircase and into the library. "What do you think, Harry. Can we go down there and have a look around?" said Ron doubtfully. Ron was obviously equating dark enclosed spaces with the eight-legged denizens that normally lurked there.
"Keep a look out by the door, Ginny," said Harry. "Ron, you and Hermione help me get down there."
Ron and Hermione took each of Harry's hands and helped lower him to the floor of the dark cavity below. Harry could just feel the floor as he stretched his feet out below him. "All right, let me go," he shouted up to the two.
When he stood on the floor, Harry took out his wand. "LUMOS," he whispered and the cavity was instantly illuminated. He saw that he was standing in a small cave with piles of rubble strewn around. He could feel the magical vibrations stronger here. He looked around, and in the middle of the cave he saw a circular hole in the floor. He walked over and peered inside, extending his wand into the depths below. He could see that the hole was empty, and it was just big enough to accommodate one man. It ended about seven feet below, where there were obvious signs of an unfinished excavation.
Harry sighed, knowing that the answer to the mystery was not there. It only raised more questions and just added to the mystery. He turned and went back towards the hole in the ceiling of the cave, but as he started to shout to the others to help him up, he spotted some writing on the cave wall opposite him. It was obviously in French so he quickly scribbled it down on the back of his hand. He noticed that there was a small drawing beneath the inscription and he copied that onto his hand as well.
"Ok," Harry shouted. "Help me up." He jumped up and caught the hands that suddenly appeared through the hole, braced his feet against the wall, and scrambled back up to join the others.
"What did you find?" asked Ron eagerly.
"Nothing - just another empty hole in the floor. The vibrations are stronger down there though. Oh yes, there was an inscription and a drawing or symbol on one of the walls down there. It's in French - can you make out what it means, Hermione?"
Ron and Ginny gathered round eagerly as Hermione lifted Harry's hand and peered closely at it. The small drawing consisted of a straight line with a semi-circle sitting above it, like a half moon. Protruding from the bottom of the half moon was a shape like a finger. "Well! Is it a clue to the treasure? And is that some sort of map?" asked Ron.
"No Ron." Hermione was laughing as she translated the inscription. "It's the French equivalent of 'Kilroy was here' and the 'map' is the standard drawing of Kilroy looking over a wall!"
Harry doubled up laughing, but Ron and Ginny looked puzzled. "Who's Kilroy?" asked Ron. "Is he the same one I saw written on one of the passages inside the Great Pyramid of Egypt when we went there a few years ago?"
This caused Harry and Hermione to go into further fits of laughter. "It's a sort of Muggle joke, Ron," gasped Hermione. "It crops up in the most unlikely places."
"Oh," said Ginny, "it sounds like something Fred and George would do."
"Exactly," said Harry. "Well - the only thing we've found here raises more questions and adds to the mystery. What were they trying to find down there?"
"That's anybody's guess," said Hermione as she looked at her notes. "Come on, let's go to the garden next. Ron - you and Ginny keep a look out while Harry and I look for clues."
The four went back through the tower door and climbed down into the main garden.
Charlie and Nadine drove into the quiet little town of Rennes-les-Bains, and parked near the main square. They had left Quillan earlier that morning, where the vibrations were once again stronger.
They walked over towards the little church and into the graveyard behind, where it was very quiet and peaceful. Nadine closed her eyes and concentrated, and after a few moments she let out a gasp, "It's strong, Charlie - very strong. And I can feel that it's coming from that direction." She pointed over to the northwest, to a hill on which Charlie could see perched a small village.
"What's that place?" he asked, pointing.
Nadine opened her eyes and looked up at the village. "That's Rennes-le-Chateau," she whispered quietly.
"So it looks as if there's some truth in the mystery you told me about the other night."
"Yes, I think so. It must be coming from there. It's so strong now."
"Well come on - let's go. We might be nearing the end of our search, Nadine. Is there a road up from here?"
"No, Charlie. We have to go further north, then west to Couiza. From there, there's a narrow road up to the village. Sauniere built it using some of his vast wealth, you know."
They walked back to the Land Rover and drove out of Rennes-les-Bains. After a few miles, Nadine pointed out some of the places she'd told Charlie about. "Over there on the right is Mount Cardou, where some researchers say the body of Jesus is hidden. And up on the hill on the left is the Chateau de Blanchefort - the Blancheforts had very strong links with the Knights Templar and it was Marie de Negre's gravestone - she was one of that family - that Sauniere defaced after reading the inscription."
After turning west onto a main road, they drove along until they entered the town of Couiza, and spotted a road sign for Rennes-le-Chateau. Nadine drove slowly as they started to climb the narrow road which wound it's way up the side of the steep hill. When they were almost at the top, Nadine suddenly stopped the Land Rover.
"Mon Dieu!" she exclaimed. "I can feel the vibrations without even trying. This is the place."
She drove on up into the little village and parked near the main square. "It's coming from somewhere below," said Nadine as they walked over to a little bench.
"What - further down the hill?" asked Charlie.
"No, no. Below the ground - it's right underneath our feet!"
Charlie scratched his head in consternation. "Now what do we do? Let's sit on this bench and do some thinking, Nadine. There's got to be a way to get at it somehow."
Ron walked in front of Harry and Hermione as they strolled through the gardens fronting the Villa Bethania. Ginny was behind, constantly looking around for any signs of movement.
"In 1956, some researchers found three corpses in these gardens," commented Hermione. "They were all shot."
"I can't see anything that could help us here," said Harry after a while. "Lets go over to the villa."
As they approached the large house, which was built using some of Saunier's vast wealth, Ron stopped and held up his hand. "There's somebody still living here." He pointed to the obvious signs of habitation, not least the small tabby cat mewing outside the door, wanting to get in. "They must still be in bed," said Ron, "the curtains are still drawn upstairs."
"Well we can't do much here, then," said Hermione. "And if someone's living here I can't see that there'd still be many clues to find - the new owners would have got rid of a lot of Saunier's things. Come on - let's go to the Calvary"
The four walked through a gate into the Calvary, which stood in front of the church and close to the church cemetery. They looked up at the cross that stood upon a stone base. On the base was carved the inscription 'A.O.M.P.S.'
"There's P.S. again," said Hermione. "I wonder if that refers to the Priory of Sion?"
To the right of the cross was a strange little grotto, inside which was a stone bench. They looked inside and Hermione noticed another strange carved inscription 'K.X.L.S.X.' "I wonder what that means?" she muttered.
Ron, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious, had moved over to the side of the church and he called to the others, "Hey. Look at this!"
They went over to see what he was looking at. It was a pillar that bore a cross, similar to the cross on Harry's knight amulet. They looked at it closely and saw an inscription on the base 'MISSION 1891.'
"This is one of the Visigothic pillars that supported the original alter in the church," said Hermione. "It may have been the one that hid the scrolls Sauniere found."
"But why has it been erected upside down?" asked Harry.
"Yes, you're right," said Hermione as she bent her head over to look at it. Suddenly she let out a gasp, "Look!" she exclaimed. "When you look at it upside down, the date 1891 becomes 1681 - 1.618 is the ratio for the golden section - phi - I told you about. It's not exact but it contains the same numbers - I think we're on to something here."
They looked closely at the pillar and around it's sides but could find nothing else that would help them.
"This is standing outside the church," said Hermione. "This is telling me that we'll find something inside the church - I just know it!"
"You could be right," said Harry, "but we'd better stick to our original plan and look at the church graveyard first. Sirius and the others will be expecting us to go there next."
"Ok, Harry. Let's go," said Hermione with a hint of impatience in her voice.
"Nadine, what if we use the same principle as before? Let's walk around the village and see if any one spot gives stronger readings."
"Ok, Charlie. Let's try"
They walked towards the castle that was once the chateau of Elizabeth de Rennes and looked to be in a fairly poor state of repair. Nadine couldn't detect any change in the strength of the vibrations anywhere around the castle.
Charlie looked around and said, "Let's try over there, towards the church and the cemetery."
As they neared the cemetery, Charlie suddenly stopped and let out a loud exclamation, "Bloody hell! Look who's over there - it's my little brother and sister. I don't believe it!"
Nadine looked and saw four teenagers walking cautiously inside the church graveyard. Two of them had the same colour hair as Charlie so it was obvious who they were. "Do you know who the other two are?" she asked.
"Yes - it's their friends, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger."
"Harry Potter? What's he doing here?" exclaimed Nadine. "Come on, let's find out."
Harry and Hermione looked at the gravestones of Berenger Sauniere and his housekeeper Marie Denarnaud, each deep in thought about these two people who were at the centre of the mystery they were investigating. Ron and Ginny looked around intently at the trees and bushes, looking for any sign of movement or danger. All four jumped as they heard someone shout.
"Ron. Ginny. What the hell are you doing here?"
They looked over to see Charlie Weasley, closely followed by a very pretty dark-haired girl, striding in their direction. Ginny was the first to recover. "Charlie," she squealed and ran over and threw herself into his waiting arms. Ron and the other two ran over and they all started talking at the same time.
"What are you …?"
"Why are you …?"
"Where have you …?"
Again Ginny was the first to recover her composure. She disentangled her arms from around her brother and looked at Nadine with a sly grin on her pretty face. "We can swap stories later, Charlie. But first, why don't you introduce us to your girlfriend?"
"My girlfriend?" he said uncomfortably. "Uh, this isn't my girlfriend, Ginny. This is Nadine Blanc. She's the sister of a colleague of mine."
"Oh yes," said Ginny with a smirk. "So where's your colleague then?" She reached over and held her hand out to Nadine. "Pleased to meet you, Nadine. I'm Ginny - Charlie's sister."
Nadine smiled at Ginny as she shook her hand. She saw her as one of those people you instinctively liked.
Ron and Ginny had been so surprised with the sudden appearance of their brother that they had dropped their vigilance. They hadn't noticed the rat with a silver paw running out of the cemetery towards the edge of the hill.
"I'm sorry," said Charlie, "let me introduce you to the others, Nadine. This is my youngest brother, Ron. This is his friend Hermione. And this is Harry Potter."
Nadine shook their hands in turn and asked, "Well I know who Harry Potter is, but what I don't know is what you're doing here in Rennes-le-Chateau. Shall we all go somewhere more comfortable to talk?"
"Uh, we can't yet, Nadine," said Harry. "We've got some people watching us from the trees over there. In fact, you're lucky you weren't overpowered when you ran up to us - it must have been Charlie's red hair that told them he's a Weasley. You see - we're on this sort of quest - and it's very dangerous. Come on, if you come over to that line of trees I'll introduce you to our protectors."
As they walked over to the trees, Harry explained to Charlie and Nadine about his godfather, and his innocence. He didn't want them reacting badly when they met Sirius.
They went into the trees and bushes at the edge of the graveyard and looked around. "Hello," said Remus.
They turned and saw Remus Lupin, a large dog and a wolf approach. "I'm Remus Lupin, Hogwarts professor and protector to these four." He shook hands with Charlie and Nadine who were introduced by Ron. "And these are Ceri Jones, an American Auror on special assignment to the U.K. and Sirius Black, special agent to Albus Dumbledore."
The two Animagi transformed and shook hands with Charlie and Nadine. "This comes as a bit of a shock," said Charlie. "The last time I saw you was on the front page of the Daily Prophet. Why weren't we told you were innocent?"
"It's a long story, Charlie," replied Sirius. "Look, there're some fallen trees over there. We can sit down and fill each other in about our presence here. But first, these four kids have to finish their investigation. They have to go into the church to look for something. We can cover them from here, and when they finish we can talk."
"Why do you need to cover them?" asked Nadine.
"Uh, look, it may be dangerous here," said Sirius. "We know that 'You Know Who' expects Harry and his friends to come here. He or some of his Death Eaters may be laying in wait."
Nadine gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. "Then we must get them away quickly. We can't risk them getting hurt!"
"They have to do this, Nadine. It's very important. I'll tell you all about it later." Sirius looked at the waiting teens. "Go on and be as quick as you can - and be careful!"
Harry led the other three out of the cover of the trees, and they walked through the graveyard towards the front entrance of the church, all of them looking about them warily.
As they approached the church doorway, Ron suddenly shouted and pushed Ginny to the ground. "Look out! Get down!"
Hermione turned and saw a line of eleven Death Eaters, dressed in black cloaks, approaching from the direction of the Calvary. She looked in horror, rooted to the spot, as she saw a ball of energy coming towards her.
"No!" shouted Harry as he stepped in front of her. He raised his arm and concentrated, forming a concave dish in the centre of his hand. The ball of energy hit the dish and was repelled back at the Death Eaters with increased power. Harry grabbed Hermione and dragged her to the ground alongside the two redheads.
It was now the Death Eaters' turn to look in horror as the powerful energy bolt sped back towards them. They scattered and flung themselves to the ground, but quickly raised their wands and started to fling curses. The four quickly took cover behind some large tombstones and waited as the beams of light and energy exploded around them.
The Death Eaters were thrown into confusion as the five adults emerged from the trees at the back of the graveyard, wands outstretched firing spells.
A look of fear appeared on Wormtail's face as he recognised Sirius Black and Remus Lupin. "Let's get out of here!" he yelled, and all eleven Death Eaters Apparated away.
Harry stood up and helped Hermione to her feet. She was shaking with delayed reaction. She flung herself at him and put her arms around his neck. "Oh Harry! I thought I was going to die when I saw that bolt coming at me. Thank goodness you were close. I couldn't have reacted as fast as you did."
Ginny went over and rubbed Hermione's shoulder. "It's ok now. They've gone."
"Is everybody all right?" shouted Remus as he came up to them. He turned to Sirius. "Did you see who that was, Sirius?"
"Yes I did - Wormtail! No wonder he bolted when he saw us - he knows what I'll do if I get hold of him."
Charlie went over to make sure that Ron and Ginny weren't hurt. "Well done, Ron," he said to his brother. "If you hadn't given that warning it could have been nasty. Harry, how did you deflect that Flipendus curse? It looked pretty powerful to me."
Harry grinned, "You've got to thank Professor Lupin for that - he told me how to do it."
Charlie looked at Remus with respect. Remus held up his hands and said, "It's one thing to talk through the procedure, but quite another to actually be able to do it. I'm proud of you Harry."
"I don't think that's the last we'll see of the Death Eaters, somehow," said Sirius. "They'll be back when they get over their initial shock of seeing us adults. I think we'd better leave the church investigation for another day. It'll be best if we get back to Carcassonne straight away."
"But Sirius," said Harry, "it's still light and it won't get dark for hours yet. We can't use our broomsticks."
Sirius rubbed his chin, thinking how to get back without being seen.
"Look, that's no problem," said Nadine. "I can take you all in my Land Rover. Well - I can if you all squeeze up a bit, anyway." She looked enquiringly at Sirius.
"And we can stop for something to eat on the way," said Ceri. "You must all be starving - I certainly am."
"Amen to that," said Ron, making the others laugh.
"We can't fail!" Wormtail addressed the group of ten Death Eaters. "You know what will happen to us if we go back and tell the Dark Lord that they're still alive."
They had Apparated back to the cave they were using at the foot of the hill below Rennes-le-Chateau.
"You were the one who called the attack off, Wormtail," growled Travis, one of the Death Eaters. "We could have taken them back there."
"I ... I ... I was surprised that Sirius Black turned up - he's crazy, you know, and he's after my blood. But I won't be surprised a second time."
"So what do you propose we do now?" asked Travis.
"They won't hang about the village now they know we're here," said Wormtail. "They'll re-group and come back another time. You lot stay here in the cave, and I'll hide out in the village in my Animagus form. When they come back, I'll come and fetch you. Then we can wait until the kids get far enough away from Black. Then we strike - and we'd better make sure of it next time."
"But what are we going to do about Potter?" asked another of the Death Eaters. "You saw the way he blocked my curse back there. He's getting too powerful for us."
"Don't be stupid, Brackton," said Travis. "He was lucky, that's all. And there's no one that can stop the Avada Kedavra curse."
"What about Black then?" asked Brackton. "If he's that crazy he's going to be a bit of a handful, isn't he?"
"Look," said Wormtail, "when the kids get far enough away from the adults, six of us can block off the adults and pin them down while the other five go after the kids. How does that sound?"
"That's a bit better Wormtail," said Travis, "but we'll have to pick the right place to do it."
"Leave that to me, Travis," said Wormtail. "I'm going back up to the village now. Wait here until I fetch you. I don't think it'll be until tomorrow, though."
"That was so good," breathed Ron as he loosened his belt a notch and patted his stomach. "I could settle down in this country quite easily."
"Well thank you, Ron," said Nadine, smiling. "It's nice to hear someone praising my country."
They were sitting underneath three sun umbrellas outside a small restaurant on the outskirts of Alet-les-Bains, a small town on the road to Carcassonne. They had just polished off a rather large and tasty meal, and were sitting in the warm late afternoon sunshine.
"So - it looks like our searches are linked," said Charlie. He had listened to Remus' account of Harry's quest, which had started with the amulet picking up the magical emanations.
"Yes, I think so," said Ceri. "Could you feel the magic all around in the village?"
"Yes, we could," said Charlie, "and none more so than Nadine - she's psychically tuned to that type of magical vibration."
"Could you pinpoint the source of it, Nadine?" asked Harry.
"Not exactly, Harry. But I know that it's coming from below Rennes-le-Chateau. I was trying to find the point where it is strongest when we came across you and your friends."
"So what are you going to do now?" asked Sirius. "We're probably looking for the same thing - do you want to join us in our mission? But be warned - it's dangerous, as you saw earlier."
"We've got to see it through now, Sirius," said Charlie. "Look, Nadine, you go back to the cabin and wait for Demont. I'll stay with these."
"No way, Charlie. I can be useful to you here. Demont won't be back from the ministry for a few days yet."
"But it's dangerous, Nadine," said Charlie.
"If it's dangerous for me, it is for you all, too. Stop trying to be so protective, Charlie - I get enough of that from my brother!"
Ginny laughed. "Come on, Charlie, there's no answer to that. If Nadine wants to come then you can't stop her."
"That's right, Charlie. Listen to your sister," said Ceri.
"Yes, and I agree that she should join us too," said Hermione
Charlie threw up his arms in defeat. "Why do women always stick together?"
The three girls all grinned at each other. "Nadine," said Ceri, "why don't you and Charlie stay with us at Carcassonne? You can stay in my tent and Charlie can stay in Sirius and Remus' tent. We can always make them a bit bigger if we need to."
"Yes," said Hermione, "and we can travel between there and Rennes-le-Chateau in Nadine's Land Rover - oh, as long as you don't mind Nadine?"
"Of course I don't mind."
"Yes!" shouted Hermione, happy that she wouldn't have to do any more flying.
"When we go there next, we'll have to remember to collect the brooms," said Ron.
"We'll go tomorrow and collect them," said Sirius. "But you kids can take a day off. I want to make sure that those Death Eaters are not lying in wait. And Nadine can try to pinpoint the source of the vibrations - it might make your task a bit easier."
"Hermione - perhaps we can go into the city to get some Muggle clothes," said Ginny. "Do you think your parents will take us?"
"Well I'm sure my mother will jump at the chance to look around the shops. I don't know about dad, though."
"Well he can stay with us," said Ron. "I don't fancy going round the shops. Do you, Harry?"
"No way, Ron. We can just spend a nice leisurely day lying in the sun."
"Talking about parents - do mum and dad know you're here Ron? And more to the point, do they know you've brought Ginny with you?" Charlie looked pointedly at his brother.
"Uh, I think so Charlie"
"YOU THINK SO?" shouted Charlie. "Do you know what they'll do to you when they find out? And now that I know you're here, do you know what they'll do to me too?"
"Calm down, Charlie," said Remus putting a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Professor Dumbledore was going to see them personally right after we left for France. He said he'd explain everything to them, including the need for Ron and Ginny to be here."
"Why have they got to be here, Remus - Ginny, especially?"
"I don't really know why. But if Albus Dumbledore thinks they have to be here, then who are we to argue?"
"Professor Dumbledore is very wise, Charlie," said Nadine. "I never knew him to do something without a very good reason."
Charlie looked at her and smiled. "No - I suppose you're right." He turned to his brother and sister. "And you'd better be careful - very careful. I don't want to have to tell mum and dad that you've been hurt at all. Right?"
Ron nodded. Ginny walked over, winking slyly at Nadine, and kissed her brother on the cheek. She looked up at him, smiling sweetly as she said, "You're so strong and protective, Charlie. I know you won't let anything happen to us." Her expression then turned from sweetness to fury, and she slapped him hard on the shoulder. "Of course we'll be careful, you dirty great git. What do you take us for?"
Everyone laughed, except Charlie who had a pained expression as he rubbed his shoulder.
The next day, Sirius stealthily went over to the boys' tent and woke Harry. "Harry," he whispered, not wanting to wake Ron, "we'll be going in a little while. Keep a look out for Hedwig. I sent her with a note to Professor Dumbledore last night so she should be back around lunch time. I'll see you later."
"Be careful, Sirius," said Harry as his godfather backed out of the tent.
Harry went back to sleep and about an hour later was again shaken awake - this time by Ginny. "Come on, you two, get up. Breakfast's ready."
Over breakfast the girls and Millie chatted happily about their shopping trip. "Ron," said Millie, "I'd better take your measurements if you're not coming with us. How about you, Harry? Do you need any new clothes?"
"No thank you, Mrs. Granger. I've got plenty in the tent."
"Right, well we'll leave the clearing up to you three. Ron - come and be measured, and you two girls get ready, I want to leave in ten minutes."
"What would you boys like to do today?" Arbuthnot asked as they did the washing up. "We can't go far because Millie's got the car. But we can take a walk in the countryside if you like?"
"Is there a Quidditch pitch near here, Mr. Granger?" asked Ron.
"No, Ron," Arbuthnot laughed. "There is a soccer pitch, but I doubt there'll be any game at this time of the day."
"I think a walk will be fine," said Harry. "It'll give us a good appetite for lunch."
"Ok, Harry. But we'll have to make it ourselves. Don't expect the girls back before dinner - Millie's acting as if she's been let loose - she loves company when she's shopping."
"I'll get the brooms Sirius, I won't be long," said Remus as they climbed out of the Land Rover in the square at Rennes-le-Chateau.
"No, hang on. We'll all go together. It'll be safer," said Sirius.
They looked around warily as they walked over to the Magdala Tower, and retrieved the brooms from the bushes where they'd hidden them the previous morning. There were very few people about as they walked back and put the brooms in the Land Rover.
"I want to check all around the church," said Sirius. "That's where the kids'll be when we come back tomorrow, and it's probably where any Death Eaters will be hiding."
They walked over to the graveyard and checked all the likely hiding places but found nothing. They then went into the Calvary and around the back of the church, but there was no sign of anyone hiding. They then hid inside the trees on the edge of the graveyard and waited for two hours, keeping watch on the church and the surrounding area, but they spotted no one - only the parish priest who went into the church at midday to say Mass. He didn't appear to have a congregation, because they didn't see any of the locals going inside.
By mid-afternoon, Sirius was satisfied that the area was clear of any unwanted guests. "Nadine. Would you like to check out the village now to see if you can pinpoint the vibrations?"
"Right," said Nadine. "We covered most of the village yesterday, and I checked over by the Tower when we went to get the brooms. The only places I haven't checked are the church and the Calvary."
"Let's check the Calvary first," said Charlie and they walked over and stood by the little grotto. "Anything?" he asked Nadine.
"It's still the same, Charlie. It's no stronger than yesterday. Let's try inside the church - the priest's gone now."
When they entered the church, everyone felt an increase in the magical vibrations. Nadine gasped, "It's definitely here. But still coming from below. It's much stronger in here."
"Yes, I can feel it too," said Remus. "If Harry and the others are going to find anything, it's certainly going to be here."
"Come on, there's nothing more we can do now," said Sirius. "Let's make our way back to Carcassonne - I fancy stopping at that restaurant again. What do you say?"
"Fine - I'm starving," said Charlie.
"So, Charlie," said Remus over yet another delicious lunch at the restaurant outside Alet-les-Bains, "Harry seems to be following in your footsteps - Gryffindor Seeker and captain."
"Yes, Remus, Ron's been telling me all about his exploits. I'd have loved to have seen that game against Salem."
"It was amazing, Charlie. Both Seekers had their hands on the snitch but Harry won out. Salem's Seeker -Kristen Davis - is at Hogwarts until the end of this year. She's the Gryffindor Keeper now - and very good at it as well. She also happens to be Harry's girl friend."
"Yes, Ron told me. I rather thought Harry'd end up with either Ginny or Hermione, but there you go, you never can tell with these things."
"Talking about that, Charlie," said Sirius, "you and Nadine seem to be getting on well?"
"We are, Sirius - but only as friends. She used to be at Hogwarts too - she transferred there the year after I left. How's old Flitwick these days, Remus? He was a happy old bird when I was there."
The men continued to talk about Hogwarts and old acquaintances, while the girls held a conversation of their own, talking quietly so they couldn't be heard.
"I've seen the way Charlie looks at you, Nadine. I think he really likes you," said Ceri.
"I don't know, Ceri. I came to stay with my brother to get over one relationship, and I'm a bit reluctant to start another one."
"But you do like him too don't you? I can tell by the way you look at him - and I'm an empath. I know you like each other- I can't help picking up on these things when I'm close."
Nadine smiled at Ceri. "I thought you were looking at me a bit strangely in the Land Rover today. That's what it was all about?"
"Yes - and I'm sorry, but I didn't mean to intrude. I just can't help feeling these things, especially if they're strong feelings."
"That's all right, Ceri. I'm not upset by it. And I suppose you only confirmed what I know already anyway - I do like him a lot. And you say he likes me?"
"Yes, Nadine. I'm sure of it."
Nadine looked across at Charlie, who was deep in conversation with Remus. She saw Sirius quickly look away, but she had spotted him staring at Ceri. "I think you have an admirer too, Ceri," she said nodding towards Sirius.
"Oh I don't think so, Nadine. Our relationship is strictly professional - well perhaps not strictly - we have become very good friends. But he knows that there can't be anything else - since I lost my husband and little daughter …"
Ceri told the French girl about her past, and how afraid she was of forming another relationship. "We're both in very dangerous situations. One slip and either or both of us could be badly injured or even killed - and it could happen at any time, especially now. I can't risk getting hurt like that again."
"Oh Ceri, I'm so sorry. It must have been so terrible for you. And I can see how you must feel about starting anything. But please, don't deny yourself the chance to be happy again. I know we live in dangerous times and there are going to be hard times ahead for you both, but surely, if you can share danger, why can't you share love as well?"
Ceri looked at Nadine, thinking about what she had just said. She was jerked from her thoughts by Sirius. "Come on, you two, it's time we got back - we need to speak to the kids about tomorrow."
When they arrived back at the copse of trees behind the gite, Nadine's Land Rover parked close by with wards set up around it, they could see Harry and Ron lying in the late afternoon sun, apparently sleeping. Hedwig was also sleeping on her perch in the men's tent, and a scroll of parchment was lying on the table.
Sirius picked up the letter and saw that it was addressed to himself. He opened it and read quietly, then called as he walked outside the tent, "Hey, Charlie. Come and listen to this."
They all gathered round as Sirius read ..
'Dear Sirius, Remus and Ceri,
Thank you for your update today. Be very careful when you go back to the village. You probably won't see Voldemort there, but be wary that whomever he sends will be very reluctant to leave without accomplishing their grisly task, so they are bound to try again.
I spoke to Arthur and Molly Weasley yesterday and explained everything to them. They are worried, obviously, but they accept that Ron and Ginny have a role to play in the solution of the mystery.
They also gave me an interesting piece of information. It seems that their second eldest son, Charlie, is in your neck of the woods. He's there on ministry business concerning magical vibrations that are upsetting the creatures in their Forbidden Forest. Now it seems to me that these vibrations, and the ones Harry and I've been detecting could well be one and the same.
I would suggest that you try to contact Charlie - he could be of great help to you all, and it would give Arthur and Molly some piece of mind knowing that he's with you to look out for the kids. You can trust him with your life - I knew him well when he was at Hogwarts. Let me know if you manage to get hold of him.
Give my regards to the youngsters.
"I'll send him a note with Hedwig later tonight," said Sirius. "Your parents will be glad to hear you're on the team, Charlie."
"Yes, thanks Sirius. That's a weight off my mind, I can tell you."
They all looked up when they heard a lot of high-pitched giggling and squealing coming from the garden. They saw two angry-looking boys, dripping wet, and two laughing girls, each holding an empty water bucket, a pile of shopping bags resting on the floor beside them.
"Oh, you're all wet," said Ginny solemnly. "You'll have to try your new clothes on now."
"Come on," said Hermione handing two carrier bags to the boys, "you can dry off and change in our bedroom. Harry, we got you something new as well - we didn't want you to feel left out. We'll wait here till you get back. Dad's helping mum cook dinner."
"Pssst. Hermione, Ginny. Over here," Sirius whispered from the trees.
The girls ran over and immediately grabbed Ceri and Nadine, and marched them over to the girls' tent. "You have just got to see what we've bought," said Hermione excitedly as they disappeared from view.
Sirius shrugged his shoulders in defeat. "I wanted to tell Hermione about the church - but who am I to try to compete with a fashion show!"
Later, Ron and Harry, wearing their new clothes, joined the group. Nadine told them about the strong emanations in the church. "I just know the secret's in there somewhere," said Hermione. "I've had a feeling all along."
"We should leave early in the morning," said Sirius. "You need to spend as much time as you can looking for clues, and the priest comes to the church at midday to say Mass. So if you haven't finished by then you'll have to wait inside until the priest goes - I don't want you wandering outside for any length of time."
"Shall we meet at say 6.30 by the Land Rover?" Nadine raised her eyes at the teens.
"Ok. See you in the morning," said Ron as he led the three others back into the garden, eager to see what was for dinner.
It was almost 7.30 by the time Nadine parked the Land Rover as close as she could to the church.
"Wait here," Sirius said as he, Ceri, Remus and Charlie got out and started to look all around the area outside the church, leaving Nadine to curb the impatience of the four teens.
After about fifteen minutes, Ceri came out of the church and opened the tail door of the Land Rover. "Come on. It's all clear. Go straight to the church - and good luck."
Harry led the other three down the narrow lane to the front of the church, and they paused and looked at the porch, which was covered by a small roof. Above the door was an ornate carving, protected by the roof. At the very apex of the carving was a ribbon-like motif draped over a cross. It bore the inscription 'In Hoc Signo Vinces'
"What does that mean, Hermione?" asked Harry pointing to it.
"Under this sign you win," she replied, but she was more interested in another inscription, on the central stone supporting the main arch. "Phew. Look at that," she breathed pointing up at it. "'Terribilis est locus iste'," she read aloud.
"What's that?" asked Ron.
Hermione gulped loudly and translated, "It says 'This place is terrible.'"
The four looked nervously at each other. "I don't think I'm going to like this," squeaked Ginny.
"Come on, let's go in," said Harry. As they entered, they all felt a strong magical presence. "Something's definitely here," he said.
Ron, Harry and Hermione nearly jumped out of their skins when Ginny let out a loud shriek. They looked at her and saw that she had her eyes fixed on something to her left.
"Bloody hell," breathed Ron as he saw what Ginny was looking at.
Just to the left of the doorway was the most hideous statue they had ever seen. It was a crouching devil, supporting the holy water stoop. Above that there was a carving of what looked like two lizards, and above that were four winged angels. Underneath the angels was an inscription in French 'Par ce signe tu le vaincras.'
"Why would Sauniere put something like this in his church?" said Ginny, now recovered from her shock. They all shook their heads. "And what does that inscription mean, Hermione?"
"'Par ce signe tu le vaincras' - It means, 'With this sign you will conquer him'." Hermione thought for a moment, then said, "Those words are almost the same as the ones the Emperor Constantine saw written in the sky, together with a glowing cross, just before he won a decisive and important battle that gave him control of the Roman Empire - that's what converted him to Christianity. And being the emperor of Rome, he ensured that Christianity survived those terrible times and beyond. You could say that those words made Christianity what it is today - the religion of half the people in the world. But the words he saw were 'Par ce signe, tu vaincras' - With this sign you will conquer. Two letters have been added - L and E - le which means him." She started counting the letters from the left hand side of the inscription and said, "L is the thirteenth letter and E is the fourteenth. 1314 - that's the date that Jacques de Molay, the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, was burnt to death by the inquisition - curious." She muttered the last word very quietly as the others looked at her intently.
Her brow creased as she thought hard for a few moments, then she said, "This is a holy water stoop, so the words mean that by dipping your fingers in the water and making the sign of the cross, you will overcome Satan. But I ... don't ... know."
"It could also mean something else, though, couldn't it Hermione. What are you thinking?" asked Harry curiously.
"Yes, of course!" she exclaimed excitedly. "Look at it - the devil is Asmodeus, the limping devil that guarded King Solomon's temple in Jerusalem. He's also known as Rex Mundi - the Lord of the Earth - Earth! The receptacle he's holding is a water stoop - Water! The lizards are salamanders - beings of fire - Fire! And the angels are beings of the air - Air!" She looked at the other three expectantly.
When they looked blankly at her, she said, exasperatedly, "Don't you see? Earth -Water - Fire - Air. The four ancient mystical symbols of alchemy - Magic. So the inscription could mean, 'You will conquer him by magic'"
"Conquer who - Satan?" asked Ron.
"I think I can answer that, Ron," said Harry quietly. "The devil - Lord Voldemort. It all fits - why else have we been called here? There's magic in this place, and we have to use it, somehow, to be able to defeat him."
Four very subdued teens stepped into the main body of the church, the confessional to the left and the main aisle to the right, leading up to the alter.
Hermione looked to her left. "Look," she whispered. "There's that tombstone that Sauniere uncovered. There's Prince Sigesbert being ridden to safety on a horse." She looked at the inscription below the tombstone carving and gasped, "Look - it says here that he was saved by his uncle on 17th January 681 AD. 681 - 0.618 is the reciprocal of the Golden Section 1.618 - again it's not exact, but it contains the same numbers. And January 17th seems to crop up a lot in this mystery. That priest was murdered on 17th January, Sauniere had a heart attack on 17th January, and quite a few other things have happened on that day - Marie de Negre died on 17th January, Nicolas Flamel created the philosophers stone on 17th January. What does it all mean?"
Ron's eyes were drawn to the floor of the aisle, which led up to the altar. It was laid out like a chessboard. He counted the squares. "Sixty-Four," he said looking at the others. "There're sixty four squares in that floor pattern, just like a chessboard."
"All those statues around the sides of the church are looking at the ground," commented Ginny. "Are they always supposed to do that in a church?"
They walked nervously down the aisle, looking around them at the paintings and statues. Hermione looked up at the ornate alter, which featured a statue of Jesus with one hand raised to the sky and one hand lowered to the ground. "This is the traditional gesture of the Tarot magician," she told the others. "It means 'As Above So Below' - heaven recreated on earth. I wonder if it has another deeper meaning?"
The others looked at her expectantly, but Hermione merely shrugged and they continued to walk forward. Just behind the altar they saw two statues, one on either side. "That's interesting," said Hermione. "The statue on the right is of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus. And the one on the left is her husband, Joseph, and he's also holding a baby. Some bible scholars have postulated that Jesus had a brother. I wonder if Sauniere knew something more?"
Harry, Ron and Ginny walked up to the altar and started examining it in detail. Hermione, meanwhile, started looking at the Stations of the Cross - paintings and bas-reliefs that were placed around the church in the order of the story of the crucifixion. "The Stations of the Cross are the wrong way round," she said. "They're reversed compared to other churches." She went up and started looking at them closely. When she came to the fourth station, she gasped, "I think I've found something. Come and look here!"
The three gathered around Hermione and looked at the painting. It was placed on the left hand wall, just before the entrance to the church tower. Like the others, the painting's frame was an arch of golden circles, each one about the size of a Golden Snitch. It showed Jesus carrying the cross with one man and two women helping him. The man was looking to the centre of the painting, but his hand was pointing in the opposite direction - to the frame on the left hand side - directly at the fifth golden circle from the bottom.
"The symbolism is obvious," said Hermione, her voice revealing the awe she was feeling. "Don't you see? This is the fourth station of the cross, and there are four of us. There are four people in this painting - Jesus - the main player, helped by one man and two women. Harry's the main player - the Anima Summa - Ron's the man whose hand is pointing at the circle on the frame, and Ginny and I are the two women." She looked at the others, her eyes sparkling with excitement.
"I think you're right," said Ginny, but didn't comment about another symbolism she could see in the painting. The older of the two women - the symbolic Hermione - was holding Jesus' hand and crying in despair!
"You're on to something, Hermione," said Harry. "Ron, point your wand at the fifth circle and see what happens."
Ron took out his wand from his pocket and touched the fifth circle. Nothing happened.
"Say Alohomora, Ron," breathed Hermione suddenly. "The man's hand is balled into a fist as if he's grasping something. It looks like he's trying to open a door."
They all looked on with baited breath as Ron again touched the fifth circle with his wand and whispered, "ALOHOMORA." All of a sudden, things started to happen.
The painting shimmered and then disappeared, showing a blank wall. Then a small square hole appeared at the centre and quickly spread to form an arch, leading into a darkened chamber beyond. Ron looked back at the others nervously. He took a deep breath and said, "Oh well, we've come this far," and stepped into the chamber, quickly followed by Harry and then the two girls.
As they entered, a blue light sprang from the back wall. They found themselves in a small chamber, and in the middle was a small table with five chairs. A man, his head and shoulders in silhouette against the blue light, occupied the chair at the furthest end of the table. The occupant spoke with a soft voice, and no discernable accent.
"Yes, you are most certainly the ones. Only the Anima Summa and his helpers could have found this secret chamber. Welcome - I've been waiting for your arrival."
They looked at the man, who was in his sixties, as he beckoned them to sit in the other four seats around the table. He smiled at their nervousness. "So young," he sighed.
When the four sat down, the man continued, "I am the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion. My name is not important, but the society I represent is. Over millennia, we have been charged to keep the secret from those who would corrupt it. The secret is only for the Anima Summa and his helpers - no one else. Not even I! You see, although we keep the secret, we don't know what it is. We only know that we must help the Anima Summa when the time is right. And that time is now."
He paused as he looked at the four youngsters sitting around him, letting what he had said be fully absorbed by them.
"It is thought that Jean de Gisors founded our ancient order and was the first of our Grand Masters, but we existed long before that - so far back in time that our roots have long been forgotten. Jean de Gisors created the Knights Templar as the physical protectors of the secret, because it was feared that the Saracens would soon discover it. With the help of that Holy Order, it was removed from beneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and taken to Rhedae, where it still resides. We - the Priory of Sion - remain the spiritual guardians of the secret, as it has always been."
The four teens listened with rapt attention - Hermione in particular was enthralled. She knew that what was being told to them was very privileged information, and only a very few people throughout history had known it.
The Grand Master continued, "In more recent times, the priest of this parish found out that a very great secret was hidden here. We gave the Abbe Sauniere a very large sum of money to refurbish his church and surrounding area with two things in mind. Firstly, he was charged with creating as many diversions as possible to deflect prying eyes away from the true nature of the secret. And secondly, to show the way to the true seekers of the secret - the Anima Summa and his helpers. Sauniere, though, was not a wizard - so one of our number, the witch Marie Denarnaud, became his housekeeper to help with the magical aspects of the refurbishment and to keep watch over the church."
"What about the mysterious deaths and the date 17th January always cropping up?" asked Hermione.
"Part of the diversion, my child. It is true that there have been deaths, but they were natural deaths made to look suspicious to further the deception and add to the mystery."
Hermione nodded. "How did you know that I'd be in Diagon Alley last July, when you made sure I bought the amulet for Harry?"
"Ah - so you've worked out that it came from us - such great intelligence in one so young." He smiled at Hermione. "In ancient times, we the guardians were given special magical powers to enable us to do such things."
"Have there been many true seekers in the past?" asked Hermione.
"No - very few. Only a pre-ordained chosen few have been privileged to know the secret. The last to know it was Merlin, when the world of his time came into great peril. He, too, had three helpers - it has always been so since the beginning of time. There must always be three. And they must all be brave and true - as are you. They were King Arthur Pendragon, Morgana and the lady Guinevere and they helped the Anima Summa - Merlin - find his way to the secret. One of their number was strong of mind and intellect - that was Guinevere. And again it must also be so now - all of you are brave and true, or you wouldn't have come this far in your search, and one of you has a very fine mind - able to unravel the clues to the secret." He looked directly at Hermione and smiled. "It is very obvious that you are that one."
Hermione blushed and looked down at her hands.
"And also blessed with humility," said the grand master. He then looked at Harry.
"You, Anima Summa, have been charged by ancient prophecy to protect the world from great evil, and it is the nature of the secret that I guard to help you in this task."
"So where is the secret? Can you tell us where to go?" asked Ginny.
"I only know that the secret resides in Rhedae - but not exactly where. What I do have is a guide that will show you the way. This was handed down by my predecessor, and he received it from his predecessor, as it has been since the secret was brought to this place. The guide is in the form of two riddles," he looked at the four, in turn, "which you must solve both before and during your journey to the place you seek. The way is difficult and tortuous and you must use all your qualities and talents if you are to prevail - your bravery, your compassion, your intellect, and the special powers of the Anima Summa himself. Be warned that one false move and you could all be lost forever - be very careful. Be true to yourselves and each other and I am sure that you will find what you seek."
The teens nodded gravely, waiting to hear the riddles. Ron, however, voiced some of the concerns that the others had. "But Grand Master, we're still very young - we haven't even sat our OWLS yet. And we've still got a lot to learn - we don't know nearly as much as Merlin and his helpers did, so how are we going to cope?"
The man smiled. "The things that you need you already have. You don't have to be old to be brave and true. One of you already has great knowledge, despite her tender years. It is true that you gain more knowledge as you get older, but intelligence is with you from the day you are born - it matters not whether you know everything there is to know - you're intellect will always see you through."
He looked at Hermione. "I suggest you write these down and guard them closely. And remember, they are for your eyes only. First," said the Grand Master, "start your quest in the terrible place. Look to the fruit and their joining with the sign of the teacher, who will cast 3 on the 4th."
Hermione finished writing the first riddle onto a piece of parchment, and then looked up in anticipation of the second.
"Second," he continued, "let the rule of gold be your guide and when it is hidden, follow the Light of the Righteous."
"What do they mean?" asked Ron looking puzzled, as did all of them.
"That I cannot tell. Even if I knew, I could not tell you. It is for you four alone to solve the riddles. You must do this to prove that you are worthy to know the secret - it has always been so in the past. Now you must go and I wish you well in your task."
The blue light went out, suddenly, and the room fell into darkness. Then the entry archway, which had closed after they had entered, opened once more to let in the light from the church. The four saw that the Grand Master was no longer there.
"Come on," said Harry, "let's get back to the others. We've got a lot of thinking to do. I hope you're on form, Hermione, 'cause I haven't got a clue what those riddles mean."
As they left the chamber, they looked behind to see the archway disappear, and the painting of the fourth Station of the Cross took its place. Everything was as it was earlier. As they left the church, Ceri ran over to them. "Where have you been? We couldn't find you inside. The priest finished saying Mass ages ago!"
"What!" they all gasped at the same time, and Harry voiced their puzzlement, "But I thought the priest started his service at midday - that's hours away!"
"Harry," said Ceri in disbelief, "it's nearly four in the afternoon!"
"But ... but we've only been inside the church for two hours at the most. It's only about 10 o'clock, surely." They all looked at their watches and were surprised to see the time was 3.55 pm.
Hermione looked as puzzled as the rest of them. "We heard a lot of strange and very privileged things in there. I know we were all wrapped up in it, but eight hours? No way!"
"There you are!" Sirius shouted as he ran up to them, closely followed by the other adults. "Where the hell have you been? Do you know how frantic we've been out here? Where did you get to and how did you manage to leave the church without us seeing you?"
"Slow down, Sirius," said Ceri, "something very strange has happened here today. I think we need to leave as soon as we can - we can talk on the way back to Carcassonne."
"But I need to do some more research in the church, Ceri," said Hermione.
Sirius looked at her fondly. "We can come back another day, Hermione. Right now, we need to try to work out what's happened."
Wormtail, who had been hiding inside a bush close to the church entrance, heard what was said. He now knew he would have another, and hopefully better, chance to attack. As the Land Rover drove out of the village and down the narrow road, Wormtail transformed and Apparated back to the cave to update the Death Eaters on the events of the day.
After dinner that evening, the four teens sat outside the boys' tent and talked about their experiences in the church. It was only now that they started to realise the full seriousness of the task that faced them. Harry, in particular, kept hearing the words of the Grand Master over and over again.
'You, Anima Summa, have been charged by ancient prophecy to protect the world from great evil.'
They looked at the riddles once more, and tried to fathom their meaning. Hermione mentally shook herself, and tried to concentrate. It had been very difficult for her since leaving the church - the other three had made it plain that they placed great reliance on her ability to make sense of the riddles. She knew the great importance of solving the clues and for almost the first time in her life, she began to have doubts - doubts that she would be able to cope with the awesome responsibility being placed on her young shoulders.
She looked miserably at her feet and her eyes were wet. "I ... I ... don't know if I can do this. I don't know if I'm smart enough to do it," she wailed.
The others looked at her helplessly. Then Harry moved over to her and put his hands on her cheeks. He lifted her head up and looked into the tortured eyes of his friend. "Hermione, I know how you feel - we all do. All four of us have got to complete this task, and we've got to do it together - you're not alone in this - we've all got to help each other. And there's no one I know who's smarter than you. Just try to relax a bit - treat it as one of those complicated Arithmancy problems you always manage to solve. Come on, we'll try to help as much as we can."
She looked gratefully at Harry, and then took a deep breath. "Come on," she said with determination, "let's try again. Ginny, will you read the first riddle - slowly please?"
Ginny picked up the parchment and read, 'Start your quest in the terrible place. Look to the fruit and their joining with the sign of the teacher, who will cast 3 on the 4th.'
"Right," said Hermione, "the first bit is easy. The terrible place must be the church, itself. Remember the inscription we read over the doorway? 'This place is terrible'"
The others nodded, grinning. This was the old Hermione - no more doubts showed in her sparkling eyes. "So we have to start in the church," said Ron. "What next?"
"Ginny," said Hermione, "can you read the rest of the riddle again please?"
After Ginny finished reading, Hermione put her head in her hands and groaned with frustration, "That doesn't make any sense at all! Look to the fruit - what fruit? And what's the sign of the teacher?"
Hermione continued to rack her brains, shaking her head from side to side, trying to think of the books she'd read on the mystery, hoping that there was something - anything - that could help. Suddenly she stopped moving.
"What?" asked Ginny. Hermione didn't answer - she shot to her feet and ran into the gite without saying a word.
"What's up with her?" asked Ron.
"I hope she's ok," said Harry looking worried. "She's under a lot of pressure with these riddles. She knows we expect her to solve them. And we're not helping much!"
Harry needn't have worried, however. Hermione came bounding back out of the gite clutching several books in her arms. She sat back down and opened one of the books to the page that showed a copy of the second scroll that Sauniere had uncovered and the English translation of the coded message. Hermione read the message aloud to the rest of them.
SHEPHERDESS NO TEMPTATION THAT POUSSIN TENIERS HOLD THE KEY PEACE 681 BY THE CROSS AND THIS HORSE OF GOD I COMPLETE THIS DAEMON GUARDIAN AT MIDDAY BLUE APPLES.
"It starts to make more sense now," she said. "Notice 681 - 0.618 the reciprocal of the golden section - again the same numbers. By this horse of God - the horse is the Knight in chess, and the floor of the church is covered with a chessboard. Daemon Guardian - that's Asmodeus, the devil inside the entrance of the church. But look at the last bit - 'At Midday Blue Apples' - that could be the fruit in the riddle. It says 'Look to the Fruit' - 'Look to the Blue Apples' - that still doesn't make sense though!"
Hermione frowned, then brightened. "Wait a minute. I've seen something about blue apples in one of the books. Hang on!" Hermione picked up another book and turned to a page, which showed the stained glass windows inside the church, and some comments made by the author.
"Yes!" she hissed. "Listen to this, 'At certain times of the year, an apple tree that bears 3 blue apples is cast through the southern stained-glass windows.' And the message in the scroll says 'At Midday Blue Apples.' So the light is reflected through the window at midday, but at what time of the year?"
Hermione continued to look through the book, but couldn't find any further reference to the time of year the phenomenon happened. As she looked, she saw something that gave her yet another insight.
"The Teacher! Look - look at this photo of one of the stained glass windows in the church - it shows Jesus teaching his disciples. Jesus is the teacher. The riddle says about the sign of the teacher who will cast 3 on the 4th. Yes - I don't know what the 3 is, but the 4th - that's tomorrow, Good Friday."
"So whatever's going to happen will occur at midday tomorrow!" said Harry.
"Yes," said Hermione, "we've got to be inside the church then. Whatever happens then is going to show us where we start our journey to the secret."
"That's brilliant, Hermione. I'm proud of you. I knew you'd be able to figure it out," said a smiling Harry.
"What about the second riddle?" said Ron. "Read it out, Ginny."
Ginny read, "Let the rule of gold be your guide and when it is hidden, follow the Light of the Righteous." She looked up blankly at the others, who looked hopefully at Hermione.
"Hmmmmm," she said. "The rule of gold must be the Golden Section - 1.618 - there's so many references to it in the church. It must be that!"
"But how the hell do we follow 1.618?" asked Ron sceptically. "That doesn't make much sense to me."
"I don't know, Ron," said Hermione, "but I know one thing. I've got to start reading up everything I can about the golden section. And I've got to do it by midday tomorrow. It's a good thing I brought my Arithmancy books with me."
"What about the Light of the Righteous?" said Harry. "It says when the golden rule is hidden, follow the Light of the Righteous. Could that mean there will be some magical light to guide us?"
"I don't know Harry," said Hermione. "I can't see how we can work that one out until we actually start on our journey. We're just going to have to work it out when the time comes. Right," she said brightly, "I'm going to go and do some reading." She picked up her books and trotted back into the cabin.
"She's absolutely amazing," said Ron. The other two nodded their agreement.
"I told her not so long ago," said Harry, "that I didn't know what I'd do without her. This is one of those times that brings the truth of it right home to me."
Ginny smiled as she looked at Harry, nodding her agreement. "Let's go and see Sirius and the others," she said. "We've got to tell them about tomorrow."
They found the others sitting outside their tents. Sirius, Ceri and Remus were talking together about what to say in their report to Professor Dumbledore. Nadine and Charlie were sitting quite close together, laughing at something one of them had said. When he saw the kids, Charlie got up and walked over to them.
"Hermione's cracked the first riddle," Harry said as he went over to Sirius, closely followed by Ron and Charlie. Ginny looked at Nadine and went over and sat by her. "So - what were you two laughing at?" she asked.
"Oh - Charlie was telling me about one of his run-ins with Snape."
Ginny grinned slyly. "You two seem to be getting on, don't you? There's nothing you want to tell me, is there?"
"Ginny!" said Nadine with mock indignation. "Now what should I be telling you?"
"Oh you know - that you and Charlie have finally seen the light and got together?"
"Ginny Weasley! What gives you that idea?"
"It's plain to see, Nadine. It's written all over both your faces when you're together. You like him don't you?"
Nadine sighed, "It's that obvious is it? Yes, I like your brother, Ginny. He makes me laugh and I didn't think I could ever laugh again after ...well, that's another story. But I don't think Charlie's ready to make any commitment yet. At least, he hasn't said anything to me - that, well, he likes me or anything."
Ginny beamed at the French girl. "It's obvious he likes you, Nadine. He just needs a little nudge in the right direction. And I'm pretty good at nudging my brothers when the need arises. Oh I'm so glad, Nadine. This is great!"
"Ginny - now don't do anything rash. If and when Charlie wants to say something, he will, I'm sure. Let's not rush things, please?"
"Come on, Nadine. Let's go and join the others. We've got some news about the riddles." Ginny couldn't stop grinning as they walked over to the other tent.
"So," Sirius said, "we have to be at the church just before midday, when you expect something to happen?"
"That's right, Sirius," said Harry, "and you may have a long wait. Hermione thinks that we'll have to go on a journey to get to the secret. We know it's somewhere in the village and we think that the starting point is the church. But if today's events are anything to go by, don't expect to see us till we come back out of the church. Anything might happen, and when it does it'll probably be magical."
"We'll stick to the same plan as today then," said Ceri. "We'll spread out outside the church and wait. If the Death Eaters turn up I'll come inside to warn you, but just in case, don't rush out of the church without checking that the coast is clear."
"Is there anything else we can do to help?" asked Remus.
"I don't think so, Professor," said Harry. "We've got to do this on our own - the Grand Master told us that. All we can do is be guided by whatever comes our way. I know one thing, though. We've got to have clear heads tomorrow. Come on, let's get back and get an early night."
The three kids walked towards the garden. As they left the copse of trees, Ginny turned and called, "Goodnight Charlie. Have a nice night."
"Now what did she mean by that?" he asked Nadine.
Nadine just grinned and shook her head.
Author's Notes (2) : The following is a link to my photo album, which contains 5 images that are relevant to this chapter -Feel free to have a look at them.
- The 4th Station of the Cross - where Hermione spotted the symbolism and the key to solving the mystery.
- The devil inside the church entrance that made Ginny scream.
- Magdala Tower.
- Rennes-le-Chateau as seen when the gang approached on their broomsticks
- The church at Rennes-le-Chateau