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Anima Summa Book 2 - As Above So Below by Anima Summa

Anima Summa Book 2 - As Above So Below

Anima Summa

Keith Lewis Keith Lewis 6 1629 2003-04-21T10:27:00Z 2003-07-25T09:58:00Z 21 11988 68334 569 136 83918 9.2720 Chapter 2 Of Gods and Men

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 : To answer a couple of queries on the review board (thanks for reviewing, by the way) :

Malfoy spying - you're right in what you say, but there are a few things going on behind the scenes that you're not aware of yet - the answers will come a bit later in the fic.

Broomstick chases? Wish I'd thought of that before! But there is a bit of flying action later on.

There's a link to my picture board at the end of the chapter - feel free to take a look. Coming soon - Chapter 3 - Necronomicon.

The protectors, including little Professor Flitwick, walked on either side of the four friends as they ambled slowly through the ruined city. They had arrived in the foothills of Mount Olympus that afternoon and had just come upon a large expanse of a partially excavated site on their way further up the mountain to find a good camping place for the night. Remus, who was in the lead, had a look of excitement on his face as he told the others about the place.

"Dion," he said in hushed tones. "The sacred city of the Macedonians. They worshipped Zeus and the other Olympian gods here over two thousand years ago. I remember reading about it when I was in Greece before."

Towards the centre of the city, he stopped and turned to the rest of the group. "Do you know that Alexander the Great of Macedon started out on his conquest of the world from this place in 334 BC? He came here to make sacrifices to the gods in the hope of a successful campaign. They must have liked what he gave them that day."

Ron had a tortured look on his face. "Professor Lupin. You sound like Hermione. Have you caught the same thirst for knowledge that she's got?"

Remus grinned at the redheaded boy. "I had it before it got hold of Hermione, Ron."

Hermione, meanwhile, had a look of rapture on her beautiful features as she looked around the ancient site, soaking up everything that Remus said. "Shut up, Ron. Listen and learn," she whispered. "How did it get in such a ruined state, Professor?"

"It was destroyed by an earthquake in the fifth century AD," he replied as he led the group along a rickety paved street.

Suddenly, Sirius jumped to the front and held up his hand, listening intently. "What's that noise?"

They could all hear it now, a sort of low rumble, interspersed with higher-pitched creaking sounds. Ceri quickly moved up beside Sirius and pulled her wand from her robes, looking towards a ruined temple about a hundred yards away. "It's coming from the direction of that temple," she said.

The two Aurors looked on with surprise as little Professor Flitwick suddenly started giggling. "No need to worry," he said, smiling at the two as he passed them. "Come on, this is quite a famous sight in Dion."

He led the group into the confines of the ruined temple, still chuckling to himself, and pointed to a pool fed by a small stream. "Frogs!" he said.

All around the pool were hundreds of frogs, basking in the late afternoon sunshine, setting up a tremendous chorus of croaks. The group laughed with relief at their earlier display of apprehension, an apprehension born of the ever-present threat that Death Eaters could turn up at any time. Professor Flitwick continued, "I heard about it when I studied ancient Greece at University. This is the temple of Isis - the famous Egyptian goddess. Her cult was brought to Dion when the Romans took over the place." He pointed to several statues that still stood within the temple ruins. "Those are statues of the goddess, which survived the quake."

The group continued on and soon left the ruined city, heading up through the foothills of Mount Olympus as the sun dipped down towards the western horizon. Soon, they entered a forest of deciduous trees and started looking around for a good place to pitch their tents. Charlie shouted to the rest when he found a small clearing in the forest, beside a large rocky outcrop.

That evening, they all sat around a blazing campfire after finishing their meal, listening with interest as Remus and Flitwick told them about the myths and legends of ancient Greece. The tales from the Iliad and Odyssey never failed to produce a feeling of literary magic. Charlie and Nadine sat a little apart from the others, Nadine leaning back comfortably against Charlie's chest. Charlie had a glazed look in his eyes as he stared up at the brilliant display of stars overhead. "It's mind-boggling, Nadine," he whispered.

"What is?" she replied as she snuggled a little closer.

"The stars. The universe - it's mind-boggling."

"Yes, it's very beautiful isn't it?"

"No - well yes it is, of course," said Charlie, "but I didn't mean that. Just look out there, Nadine, try to look beyond the stars. What's there, do you think?"

Nadine smiled. She loved to listen to Charlie when he got into one of his contemplative moods, struggling to understand the mysteries of life. "I don't know, Charlie, you'd best ask the Centaurs that one, I think."

"I don't think the Centaurs will be able to tell me what I want to know. They just read the patterns and extract messages and portents from the heavens, but I want to know what's out there - beyond the stars. Just think about it, Nadine, everything we've been brought up to believe, all our experiences in life, everything is finite. We are born, we live and we die. Every road has a start and an end; everything we do has a start and an end; there's always an end to things. But up there, is there an end? We're told that space is infinite. We're taught about the 'big bang' theory of the universe, with the boundary of the stars and galaxies always in a state of expansion from a common starting point. We're told that there's nothing beyond that boundary, but there's got to be something, otherwise the stars wouldn't be able to expand into it. Oh I don't know."

Nadine laughed. "You're an incurable romantic and a dreamer, Charlie. Maybe that's why I love you so much." She turned her head and quickly kissed him on the lips, then turned back to nestle into the comfort of his arms.

After breakfast the next morning, they continued on their way through the forest, the ground always sloping upwards. Without warning, they emerged into a large clearing at the edge of the forest and stood transfixed as they saw the beauty before them. The magnificent panorama of Mount Olympus and its subsidiary peaks spread before them, the summit clearly seen against the deep blue background of a cloudless sky.

"Oh it's so beautiful," breathed Ginny.

"Yes but what worries me," said Harry, "is that I can't see any clouds at the top. If the gateway to the meeting place of the gods is through a gate of clouds then where is it?"

"What worries me, Harry," moaned Ron, "is how far away it is. It's miles away. And look at how steep and rugged it is towards the top. Who was the bloke that wrote that you could get up and back in a day, Hermione? Bloody Hercules?"

"Ron!" said Hermione. "I only told you what I read. But I must admit that whoever he is, he must be pretty fit to do it in a day."

"Well I can't see us getting to the top today," said Ceri as she visually mapped out their route to the summit. "We've got to go through that forest of pine trees about two miles away, and then we get to the difficult part. That terrain looks quite steep and difficult to me." She pointed up at the mountain. "Do you see that small rocky valley just before the final stretch to the summit?"

They all squinted into the distance and could just make out the place to which Ceri was pointing. She continued, "If we can reach that valley by this evening then we'll have done well. It looks a good place to set up camp."

Sirius nodded. "I agree, Ceri. We'll aim to get there before dark and pitch our tents. We'll have the whole of tomorrow to explore the summit."

"Until we get to that pine forest, we've got a couple of miles of open ground to cross, so we'd better take up protective positions around the four kids. You lead the way, Sirius. Charlie and Nadine can take the left flank, and Remus and Filius the right. I'll bring up the rear. Ready?"

Sirius stepped out from the cover of the trees and looked around him intently. After a few minutes he gestured to the others. "It's all clear. Come on, let's get started."

After another three hours of walking, they emerged from the forest of pine trees onto the rough terrain of the mountain. Ahead of them, they could see the rough outline of a path that wound its way towards the summit. "Right," said Sirius. "This is where the real climbing starts. We should get to that valley in about another four hours if everything goes well. What's the matter Ron?"

Ron wore one of his pained expressions as he looked at the rugged path up to the valley. "Over the last few hours I've grown to accept that I've got to climb up there. But I'm not going to do it on an empty stomach. I'm bloody starving! All this exercise is giving me an appetite. Can't we stop for something to eat?"

Everyone laughed, as he looked pleadingly at Sirius, who threw up his hands in resignation. "All right Ron We can afford to stop for half an hour. And since when did you need exercise to give you an appetite? But after this, we don't stop till we get to that valley, right?"

"Right, Sirius, right. Now where are those sandwiches?"

Half an hour later, they were back on the rough track that led up into the heights of Mount Olympus. They kept to the same protective formation as before, with Sirius in the lead, their vigilance heightened by the many hiding places that were in the rough terrain.

Sirius held up his hand to halt the others when he saw something up ahead, on the left side of the track. He tentatively walked towards an object that gave off a diffuse white glow, which was apparent even in the bright sunlight. He relaxed when he drew near and saw that it was a statue, scantily clad, standing some six feet tall and made of glowing white marble. He called the others towards him and they gathered around the statue.

"Hephaestus!" exclaimed Flitwick. "It's Hephaestus, one of the Olympian gods. He's one of Zeus' sons. I saw his statue in a temple in Athens."

"That's strange," said Remus. "I haven't heard that there were any statues on the upper trail to Mount Olympus. There should have been at least a reference to them in the mythology books. I wonder. Nadine, see what you can make of it."

Nadine approached the statue and held out her hand to touch its gleaming arm. "Yes," she breathed quietly. "I can feel something. It's giving off a psychic vibration. It feels like a magical ward, similar to the ones placed around Hogwarts. No wonder there haven't been any references to it in Muggle books - Muggles can't see it."

"So why do you think it's here?" Harry asked the group in general.

They all looked at each other with blank stares. "It'll have to remain a mystery then," said Sirius. "Come on, I don't want to hang about here too long. Lets go."

After a quarter of a mile, and just as they came to a branch in the trail, one leading off to the left and one leading to the right, they came to another of the gleaming statues, standing on the side of the trail that branched to the left.

"This is Demeter," said Flitwick. "One of Zeus' two sisters and another of the Olympians."

"Check it out please, Nadine," said Sirius.

"It's the same," said Nadine as she touched the statue. "The same psychic vibrations as the other one."

"Do you think that these are markers?" asked Hermione. "Leading the way to the meeting place of the gods?"

"You could be right, Hermione," answered Remus. "We'll soon know if we come across any more of these statues."

After four long and arduous hours, the group arrived at the small rocky valley. The sun had dropped below the horizon and it was getting dark. On the way up, they had seen another five of the glowing statues, each one representing one of the Olympian Gods.

"I don't think there's any doubt about it," said Flitwick as they sat in front of the campfire eating their supper. "Those statues must have been placed there to guide the lesser gods to the meeting place on Olympus - those who wanted to consult the ruling gods about various things."

"Yes Professor," said Hermione, "and that leaves four more that we'll pass before we get there, apart from the statue of the chief god, Zeus, that is."

"This is exciting isn't it," said Flitwick, unable to keep his enthusiasm in check. "Just think. Tomorrow we might get to see and talk to the main gods and goddesses of the ancient Greek world."

"Well I don't know about that, Filius," said Sirius, "but one thing is quite clear. We haven't seen any Death Eaters up to now and it doesn't look as if they're aware of our little expedition. I just hope it stays that way."

"I've been thinking about that," said Ceri. "It's strange that the Death Eaters turned up when we went to France but not here, at least not so far. I wonder if that's because of the school holidays, and the spy's not at Hogwarts to overhear any of our conversations."

"I bet it's that bloody Draco Malfoy!" exclaimed Ron with a hint of venom.

"You don't know that, Ron," said Ginny.

"No," said Harry, "we don't. And we won't be sure who it is until we catch him or her red-handed."

"Enough speculation for one night," said Sirius suppressing an enormous yawn. "We've all had a hard day and there's another one waiting for us tomorrow. I suggest we all turn in and get a good night's sleep. Have you set up all the wards, Ceri?"

"Yes, Sirius," she replied. "I set them up at both entrances to the valley. We'll know if anybody starts snooping around in the night."

Ten weary souls went to their two large tents and it didn't take long before they all fell into an exhausted sleep, but not before each of them thought about what they'd find the following day.


Voldemort and Lucius were the first to reach the temple. They could see, above the tall and impressive entranceway, markings in the same curious style as those on the statue in the centre of the city. They heard strangled noises coming from inside the building and they slowly entered, their wands held high. On the left-hand side of the circular room they saw Prink, sitting on the floor hugging his knees, which were drawn up to his chest. He was rocking slowly backwards and forwards, gibbering something that made no sense at all.

They then looked to the centre of the chamber, where they saw the petrified body of Plonger, stretched on the floor beneath the black altar. After glancing at the frescos that decorated the walls, Voldemort looked at the top of the altar and saw the black-bound book resting there. First, a look of pure ecstasy came over him, but this was quickly followed by a look of dark anger. He strode over to the cringing Prink and bent over him. "What has happened here, Prink?"

Prink jumped as he heard the Dark Lord's voice and he looked up at him with staring eyes, and spittle dribbling down his chin. He stuttered for a few moments and then let out a low moan.

"Prink!" shouted Voldemort. "Pull yourself together. Now tell me what happened."

A spark of recognition entered Prink's mind and he made a valiant effort to calm himself, desperately trying to forget the look on Plonger's face. He pointed over towards Plonger and tried to explain. "He… he…" but gave up as the vision of Plonger's face once more came to the forefront of his consciousness.

"He opened the book, didn't he Prink?" sneered Voldemort. Prink nodded in reply.

Voldemort let out a gasp of frustration, "The fool!" He turned to Lucius. "He wasn't to know that Aleric wrote a note at the back of his book outlining the ritual to be performed before the Necronomicon can be safely opened. The stupid fool - I had hopes for Plonger. He was one of my best followers."

They turned as Wormtail and Travis rushed through the doorway, summoned by Plonger's shriek of pure agony that had echoed throughout the ancient city.

"You two," hissed Voldemort, "get Plonger and stand him up outside this building. I want him to remain there as a warning to anyone who thinks he can do what only I can do. And don't look at his face, unless you want to end up like Prink over there."

Wormtail and Travis looked at the gibbering Prink and then slowly walked over to Plonger, being extremely careful not to look at his face. As they carried him, face down, to the outside of the temple, Voldemort slowly walked up the steps towards the top of the altar where he paused, looking at the Necronomicon with reverence, before stretching out his hand to lovingly caress the black binding. Then he lifted the tome in both hands and turned towards Lucius Malfoy.

"This is my destiny, Lucius," he said forcefully. "This is the one thing that will ensure my triumph over the Anima Summas and set my way free for the conquest of the world."

He stepped down from the altar and walked towards the doorway. "Come. I have to get back to my cave. I've got a lot of very important reading to do." He turned towards Prink, still gibbering and shaking in the corner. An evil grin spread over his face as he pulled his wand from his robes and pointed it at the unfortunate man. "But before we go, I'd better put this pathetic bundle out of his misery. AVADA KEDAVRA."

A powerful beam of green light shot from Voldemort's wand and struck Prink in the centre of his chest. Prink looked with disbelief at Voldemort before sagging, lifeless, to the floor.


The group of ten, four teenagers and six adults, set out for the summit of Mount Olympus early the following morning. They stuck to the same formation as before, but had to walk in single file along some of the narrower places, and along a narrow ridge as they neared the top. They came to their second glowing statue of the morning after an hour's walk, and there was no mistaking its identity.

"It's Hermes," whispered Hermione. "Look at the winged hat and shoes, and the wand he's holding."

"He's beautiful," said Ginny as she looked at the statue with longing. "I wish he was at Hogwarts."

"Hey, perhaps this is it!" exclaimed Ron suddenly. "This is Hermes. Perhaps this is where we have to meet him."

They all looked around, but could see no one. "Talk to him, Harry. See if you get a response," said Ron.

Harry looked at Ron dubiously. "I'm not going to talk to a chunk of marble, Ron."

"Go on, Harry," said Hermione. "Ron may be right. Try it."

Harry self-consciously walked to the front of the statue and stuttered, "He… Hello. Hermes. Can you hear me?"

After a few moments, with no response coming from the statue, Ginny giggled. "Perhaps he doesn't like speaking to boys. You try Hermione, you're named after him, after all."

Hermione nodded and placed her wand on the statue. "Hermes. I'm Hermione. Can you hear me?" After a minute of waiting, still nothing happened.

Harry turned to Ron. "If you tell anybody back at the school that I spoke to a statue, I'll make your life hell."

"Me too," said Hermione, her face slightly pink.

"Well it was worth a try wasn't it?" said Ron defensively.

They continued on their way, which became steadily steeper and more difficult. Just before they reached the huge rocky massif, which was the summit of the mountain, they came upon another statue, that of a beautiful woman with an enigmatic smile on her face.

"Hera," said Flitwick. "That's Zeus' wife, the goddess of fertility."

They walked past the beautiful statue and after a short while came to the base of the rocky summit.

"It's going to be very difficult to climb that," said Charlie.

"And I can't see any clouds at the top," added Nadine.

"Perhaps we don't have to climb it," said Hermione. "The books say that the gateway of clouds is at the summit, not on it. Let's walk around the base, there may be something behind."

They walked around to the left of the summit and started to angle towards the back end, Sirius in the lead. "It's here," he suddenly shouted.

They all walked up alongside Sirius and stared at the last glowing statue. The shock of hair, the beard flowing from his chin in ringlets and the regal expression on his face testified that this was the ruler of all the gods. Mighty Zeus. But that was not all that attracted their attention. Immediately behind the statue was a strange looking area of mistiness that hovered just above the ground.

"The gate," breathed Hermione. "The gate to the meeting place of the gods."

"Come on," said Ron. "Let's go in and see what's there."

Harry turned to the adults. "I think we need to do this alone, just like we had to at Rennes-le-Chateau."

Sirius nodded. "All right. But be careful, and if there's the slightest hint of danger, get back here straight away."

Flitwick looked disappointed at having to stay outside as he watched the four youngsters move slowly into the mist. At first, the mist was no more than a shimmering haziness, and they could see the adults watching anxiously as they looked back at them, but then it became more defined and after a few yards they found themselves in the middle of a dense cloud. They looked back but could see nothing of Sirius and the others.

As they walked slowly on, they began to hear the faint sounds of music. Hermione tilted her head, listening intently. "I think that's the sound of the lyre and the panpipes," she whispered. "The music of the gods."

They walked a little way further, but stopped as they saw a swirling ahead of them in the cloud. Then, out of the dense mist, came three of the most beautiful young women they had ever seen. "Wow," said Ron with reverence, his eyes wide and unblinking.

They drifted slowly towards the four friends and stopped about five yards in front of them. The tallest of the young women drifted forward and then stopped. She looked at the youngsters and then smiled. "We are the Seasons," she said. "The guardians of the gateway of the gods. I am Thallo, and my companions are Carpo and Auxo. Why do you approach the abode of the gods?"

Harry cleared his throat. "We have been charged to seek out Hermes. I," he looked at Hermione, "and Hermione, who was named after the great Hermes, are the Anima Summas. And these are our two helpers. We wish to listen to Hermes' council, council that will speed us on our way to a great knowledge, knowledge that will help us in our struggle against the evil Dark Forces that are abroad in the world."

Thallo smiled as she appraised the four. "We can see that you are brave and true and your hearts are filled with goodness. But I fear you have come too late, there have been no visitors to this place for thousands of years. We, or should I say our spirits, still guard the way in the hope that the great times will return, but there is no longer anything here to guard. But we will allow you to pass so that you can see for yourselves."

The three spirits drifted back into the mists, leaving the way open for the four teens to proceed.

"Is it worth going on?" asked a disappointed Ron. "She said there's nothing here any more."

"We've got to Ron," said Hermione. "Hermes, or his spirit, may still be here to speak to us. And anyway, if we don't find anything here then I don't know how we'll be able to continue with the quest. Come on."

As they walked further, the cloud becoming thicker, and they found that they could no longer see the ground under their feet. They appeared to be walking on the very cloud itself. Then the swirling cloud thinned and they stood at the entrance to the abode of the gods. In front of them was an ornate gateway, leading into an avenue with buildings standing on both sides.

Harry and Ron were the first to go in through the gateway, quickly followed by the two girls. They walked along the avenue and stopped at the first building on the left. Ron tentatively looked inside, and then gestured for the others to follow. The place was deserted. It appeared to be someone's living quarters, with a strange bed in one corner of the room and various pieces of furniture dotted around. They walked back onto the avenue and looked around them.

"Let's see where this road leads," said Harry. "We can come back and examine these buildings later."

Up ahead, they could see another entranceway, through which shone a gentle diffuse light. They walked up to the entranceway and looked through. They saw a square courtyard, open to the sky, with five rooms on either side. The floor, unlike the avenue they had just come down, was a mass of cloud, gently undulating to the quiet sound of the weird music that was just on the boundaries of their hearing. Ornate stone benches were spaced around the perimeter of the court, in front of the many marble pillars that stretched up to the sky.

"Look over there," said Ginny pointing to a large temple-like structure opposite the entranceway to the courtyard. "That must be something important. Let's look inside."

She stepped onto the cloudy floor of the courtyard, testing that it would hold her weight, and then walked purposefully, followed by the other three, across towards the temple. They went in through the doorway and looked around. "This must be the meeting place," whispered Hermione.

She looked with awe at the large marble-furnished hall. Her eyes were drawn to the bright ceiling, which was a bright blue, symbolising the sky. Along each side of the hall were ten marble thrones, five on each side, and at the far end were seven marble steps, each enamelled with one of the colours of the rainbow. The steps led up to a podium on which there were two extremely large and ornate thrones. The largest one was made of polished black marble, adorned with gold, and had a ruby-eyed golden eagle perched on the right arm, and a purple ram's fleece covering the seat. The other throne was made of ivory, with three crystal steps leading up to it. Willow leaves and golden cuckoos decorated the back, and a full moon hung above it. The seat was covered with white cow skin.

"Why are you whispering, Hermi?" asked Ron. "There's nobody here, you know."

Hermione scowled at Ron. "I know, Ron, but this is the meeting place of the gods and we should treat it with reverence." She pointed to the large throne. "That must be Zeus' throne, and the one alongside it must be Hera's. The other ten thrones around the hall must be those of the other Olympian gods.

"Let's see if we can find Hermes' throne," said Harry. "There might be something there."

Ron and Ginny walked to the right side of the hall to examine the thrones, and Harry and Hermione went to the left. "This is it," said Hermione as she looked at the throne nearest the front of the hall. "It's decorated with golden wings, so it must be the one."

The four gathered round the throne and looked all around it, but could find nothing of significance. "Sit in it Hermione," said Ginny. "Perhaps Hermes will appear if you do."

Hermione looked doubtfully at her friend. "Oh I don't know, Ginny, it seems so… so disrespectful somehow."

"Go on, Hermione," urged Ron. "Try it."

Hermione slowly walked to the front of the throne and felt the smooth marble armrest. Then she turned and slowly, ever so slowly, sank down and sat on the fleece-covered seat. She looked up at the others as she felt an imperceptible vibration. Then the throne lifted and floated slowly towards the doorway.

"Harry!" said Hermione in a tremulous voice. "What's happening?"

"Don't worry, Hermione," he replied, albeit with a hint of panic in his voice. "We're right behind you."

All three followed the throne as it drifted out into the courtyard. It then turned to the right and floated into the first room at the side.

"Haaarrrryyy!" wailed Hermione. "Where's it taking me?"

Harry, Ron and Ginny couldn't help but grin as they rushed into the room. The throne had now settled back onto the floor and was immobile. Hermione sat wide-eyed, gripping the arms of the throne, afraid to move in case she was taken on another free ride. When she saw her friends enter, she quickly jumped up from the seat and threw her arms around Harry's neck.

"It's ok, Hermione," he whispered in her ear, kissing the side of her cheek.

Hermione quickly gained her composure and turned around to look at the throne. "Why do you think it did that?" she asked.

"Well I think," said Ginny, "that the throne thought you were Hermes and took you to his private living quarters. You're very much alike spiritually, you know."

"Yes, of course," she replied. "I read in one of the books that the furniture was made by Hephaestus - his was the first statue we saw on the path up to the summit. The book said that he made some of the chairs able to move themselves."

They looked around the room, examining every item that was inside, but could see nothing that could help them with the quest.

Hermione sighed, "There's nothing here. Come on, let's go back and take a closer look at the council hall."

"I think I'll see if I can get a lift back," said Ron as he sat in Hermes' throne. The others laughed at Ron's disappointed expression when the throne remained inert.

"I think it'll only work for Hermione, Ron," said Ginny.

At the others' insistent prompting, Hermione again sat back on the throne, which once more lifted from the floor and drifted back into the council hall, where it settled back into it's rightful place. Hermione stood back up, grinning this time, and directed the other three to look more closely around the hall.

After half an hour, the four gathered back at the foot of the steps leading up to the podium. "Nothing," said Harry.

"Although everything seems as fresh as the day it was built, the place has an air of desolation, of abandonment," said Hermione sadly. "I don't think we'll find Hermes. He should have been here, in the meeting hall. I… I just don't know what to do now."

"There's got to be something," said Harry. "Everything points to this place - there's just got to be something here somewhere."

"There's one thing we haven't tried," said Ginny. The others looked at her expectantly. "Zeus' throne. Harry - why don't you go and sit in it. See if something will happen?"

"I don't know, Ginny," said Hermione anxiously. "It may be dangerous. Zeus was famous for hurling thunderbolts at anybody who annoyed him."

"There's nothing else Hermione," said Harry gently. "I think Ginny may be right."

Hermione put her hand to her mouth as Harry quickly walked up the seven coloured steps and stood in front of the great god's throne. Then he took a deep breath and sat on the purple ram's fleece that covered the seat. He looked about him expectantly, waiting, hoping, for something to happen.

Ron suddenly shouted, pointing to the right hand side of the throne. Harry turned his head and saw a shimmering in the air. He quickly stood up and went back to stand with his friends. They all looked as the shimmering started to take form and then, on the back wall of the hall, appeared an area of cloud, about three feet high and fifteen feet wide. As they looked, fascinated, writing began to appear on the cloud until after a few moments, five large columns were displayed. The shimmering disappeared, just leaving the cloudy parchment on the back wall.

Hermione let out an excited yell, "Yes! Well done, Harry. Come on - let's see what it says." She rushed up to the cloud, quickly followed by the others.

"What sort of language is that!" exclaimed Ron. "I can't make head or tail of it."

Hermione looked disappointed as she stared at the strange script. "Well I can't be sure, but I think it's ancient Greek."

"Can you translate it, Hermione?" asked Ginny.

"No Ginny," she replied. "If it was Latin I'd have a good go, but I know nothing about ancient Greek."

"But Remus or Professor Flitwick might," said Harry suddenly. "Remember they said that they'd studied ancient Greece at University. They might be able to translate it."

"Let's see if we can take this back with us," said Ron as he stretched out his hand to grab hold of the side of the cloud. His hand disappeared, the cloud swirling around his fingers as he failed to gain any purchase.

"Well that wasn't a very good idea," he said.

"We'll have to bring them here then," said Hermione. "Let's go and get them."

"You and Harry'd better stay here, Hermione," said Ron. "Perhaps the writing may disappear if we all leave. Come on Ginny, let's go and get the professors."


"Wormtail," hissed Voldemort. "Go outside and summon Crabbe. I want him here when I perform the ritual."

Wormtail rushed outside the cave to do his master's bidding, while Voldemort, Lucius and Travis remained in Voldemort's secret cave in Northern Scotland looking down at the fabled black-bound Necronomicon.

"We have to do this right," said Voldemort. "Aleric was very specific about the procedure. He makes it plain that his instructions must be followed to the letter if the book is to be opened without anything nasty happening. I want Crabbe here because of his expertise in Dark Arts ritual, but I want you others here as well. There has to be exactly five Dark Wizards present to perform the ceremony."

A few minutes later, Wormtail came back into the cave followed by the very large figure of Crabbe, Vincent's father.

"My Lord," said Crabbe bowing to Voldemort. "How may I assist you?"

"We must perform a ritual to open the Necronomicon, Crabbe. Here, read this and make the necessary preparations." Voldemort handed Crabbe Aleric's book, turned to the inside back cover where the instructions were written. Crabbe studied them for a few minutes.

"Hmm," he said. "It will take about an hour to get everything set up. Wormtail, Travis, give me a hand with the preparations."

An hour later, everything was ready. The Necronomicon stood on an improvised altar, about four feet high and made from the loose rocks from around the outside of the cave. At each corner of the altar were four iron torch holders, each flaming with magical light. The five Dark Wizards stood around the altar, Voldemort and Crabbe on one side, and the other three opposite. Crabbe nodded to the Dark Lord, indicating that the preparations were complete and the ritual could begin.

"You must all concentrate and become immersed in the solemnity of the ritual," said Voldemort. "It is important that the mental atmosphere we generate is exactly right. Only then can I speak the words that will open the Necronomicon and protect us from the dangers that will surely be released. Are you all ready?"

The others nodded. "Then let the ritual begin."

For the next half hour, the cave was filled with the chanting of ancient Dark Arts occult verse, designed to build the right atmosphere for what was to follow. Then Voldemort stepped up and stretched out his arms over the Necronomicon, his wand in his right hand.

"ABICIO PERICULUM," he uttered in a very loud voice. "DEFENDO PULLUS SECUUTII." He paused and looked down at the black book, and taking a deep breath he said the final words of the ritual, "CAMPERIO NECRONOMICON."

A black light flowed from his wand and covered the book, which lifted slightly from the altar and remained suspended in the charged air. Then the light disappeared and the cover of the Necronomicon started to open. Wormtail, Travis and Lucius looked on with fear as the pages of the book were displayed - they knew what had happened to Plonger at Irem.

Suddenly, an inky blackness rose from the book and flowed over to each of the five Dark Wizards in turn. It didn't touch them, however. With a loud screeching sound, the darkness moved towards to cave exit and flowed outside, where it dissipated harmlessly in the bright sunlight.

"Excellent," said Voldemort with a look of deep satisfaction and excitement on his face. "You have all done well, especially you, Crabbe. Now go; I wish to study the Necronomicon thoroughly. Keep up your recruiting activities. I think that what I am about to read in these pages will allow us to start on our campaign of terror very soon."


Ron and Ginny stepped back into the cloud, on their way to fetch the two professors. They became disoriented as they walked further, not knowing which way to go to get back to the waiting group of protectors.

"I think we're lost, Ron," said Ginny.

"Yes. Hang on a minute." He raised his voice as he called out to the Seasons, "Thallo. We need your help."

The three Seasons drifted up to the redheaded pair, and Thallo stepped forward. "You need our assistance?"

"Uh, yes," said Ron. "We have to go back to fetch two professors who are waiting for us by the statue of Zeus. But I'm afraid we're lost, we don't know the way back."

Thallo grinned. "You have no need to fear. The way is always the same. Whichever direction you follow will always lead you to the point where you entered the cloud."

"Oh right," said Ron gratefully. "Thanks. Thanks a lot."

"Thallo?" asked Ginny. "Is it all right to bring our two professors through the clouds to the place of the gods?"

"Yes, my child. We will not object." Thallo and her two companions then drifted into the clouds and disappeared from sight.

Ron and Ginny walked through the clouds until they began to thin. They suddenly emerged behind the statue of Zeus, where they saw the adults watching them intently.

"Where's Harry and Hermione?" asked Sirius, looking a bit worried.

"They're back in the meeting place of the gods," said Ginny. "Look, Harry activated something that displayed some writing. Hermione thinks it's ancient Greek, but she can't read it. Can any of you help?"

"Yes!" shouted Remus and Flitwick together excitedly.

"Well come on, follow us," said Ron as he and Ginny turned back into the mist.

Remus and Professor Flitwick looked around with awe as they walked through the clouds into the courtyard and then into the great council hall. Professor Flitwick, in particular, found it difficult to contain his excitement, jumping from foot to foot as he approached the podium and looked at the cloudy parchments at the back of the hall.

After spending a few moments studying the script, Remus turned to the little professor. "It seems to be an archaic form of ancient Greek, Filius, but I recognise some of the words."

"Yes, Remus, and it seems to be grammatically close to what I've studied as well. I'm sure that between us we'll be able to translate it."

"Uh, we'll need a few pieces of parchment and a quill to do this," said Remus. "I haven't got anything on me; have you got anything Filius?"

Professor Flitwick looked abashed. "Uh, no. I haven't."

"Don't worry," said Hermione, "I never go anywhere without parchment and quill. Here you are."

The two professors beamed at Hermione as she handed over the material. "This is going to take us about an hour," said Remus.

"Take as long as you need," said Harry. "We'll explore the rest of this place. There might be something else here that'll help us."

As the professors became engrossed in their translation, the four teens walked back out into the courtyard and across into the avenue leading down to the entrance gate. They went into the first of the buildings they came to and looked around them with interest. "This seems to be some sort of workshop," said Ron.

"I think it's Hephaestus' workshop," said Hermione. "There's a partly-made table over there, and there's some paintings on this table that he's been working on."

They'd explored most of the buildings in the avenue before they came to one with a painting above the doorway of a mortar and pestle. The four stepped inside and saw about six large stone tables, with a number of stone objects lying on their surfaces. Around the walls were several large cabinets filled with bottles containing powders and liquids of various colours.

"This must be the apothecary," said Hermione.

At the back of the room, a doorway led into another room. Ron stepped through and saw what looked like three compact furnaces and a number of stone containers, each with their lids fixed firmly in place.

"Hey look at this," he shouted back to the others. "What do you think they made here?"

Harry walked over to one of the containers and gently eased off the lid. He peeked inside, but it was empty. Ginny walked over to another of the containers, which had a strange design and script on the side. She eased off the lid and saw that the container was full to the top.

"What's this?" she asked, looking at the strange fine white powder.

"Perhaps it's ambrosia," said Hermione from the other side of the room.

"What's that?" asked Ron.

"It's what the gods ate, Ron," she replied. "One of the books said that it's an uncooked mixture of honey, water, fruit, olive oil, cheese and barley."

"Ughh," said Ron as he walked over to stand alongside his sister and looked into the container. "But I don't think that's what this stuff is. It's a white powder."

Ron reached his hand inside and felt the powder. It felt very, very fine in texture and was extremely light. When he picked up a handful of it, it didn't seem to weigh anything at all. He put a small amount on the end of his finger and lifted it towards his mouth.

"Ron!" shouted Hermione as she ran over and held his arm, just preventing him from tasting the powder. "Don't. You don't know what it is and it may be dangerous. Another of the books said that ambrosia is made from a species of speckled mushroom, created whenever Zeus' thunderbolts struck the earth. It's said that this is what kept the gods immortal."

"Immortal?" said Ron. "I think I'll take some of this. I can have it for supper every night."

"Ron!" exclaimed Hermione laughing. "That's probably just a myth. But seriously, I wouldn't fool about with this stuff. It could be anything."

"I bet Snape would like to get his hands on this," said Harry. "It might keep him quiet for a few weeks trying to find out what it is and what it does."

"Hey, that's not a bad idea, Harry," said Ron.

"Just leave it be, you two," said Hermione. "I've got a bad feeling about this. It's best left where it is."

"Come on, we'd better get back," said Ginny. "They must have finished by now."

The four walked back into the council hall where they saw Remus and Professor Flitwick talking animatedly with each other, looking at the parchments in front of them.

"Have you finished, Professors?" asked Harry.

Flitwick looked up to reveal a face flushed with excitement. "Yes. Yes. All finished," he said.

Remus walked over. "And what a story this tells! I can't believe my eyes. This is absolutely incredible."

"Amazing… amazing. Who would have thought?" muttered Flitwick.

"Well come on then," said Hermione, getting caught up in the excitement displayed by her two professors. "Tell us what it says."

"Later, Hermione," said Remus. "The others will want to hear this as well, and I don't think my nerves will stand reading it out more than once. Some of the script was very old and obscure, and we couldn't understand some of the words, but I think we've got it right in the end."

"Let's get back then," she said. "I can't wait to hear this."

They all walked back through the clouds, although the three Seasons didn't put in an appearance this time, and walked out past the statue of Zeus to the others. Remus quickly explained that they'd managed to translate the script, and that they should go somewhere a little more comfortable for him to tell them all what it said.

"First things first," said Ceri, looking at her watch and raising her eyebrows meaningfully at Ron.

Ron stared for a moment and then erupted, "Bloody hell. You're right Ceri. Look at the time - it's way past dinnertime. I'm starving again."

"But Ron," wailed Hermione, "can't you wait? I want to know what the script says."

"No way, Hermione. I won't survive the wait. Come on, we can listen to the translation after we've had dinner."

Harry smiled at the pained expression on Hermione's face. "You should know by now, Hermione. Do you really want to get in the way of Ron and his next meal?"

"Oh come on then. But let's be quick," she said petulantly.

After the last morsel of food passed Remus' lips, Hermione pounced. "Come on then, Professor, let's hear it."

Remus grinned at the lovely girl, her eyes sparkling with anticipation. He turned to Flitwick. "Do you want to read it Filius?"

"No, no Remus. You go ahead."

"Right," said Remus as he pulled the parchments from his cloak pocket. "I'll read it out exactly the way we translated it. Ready?"

"Yes, come on, come on," urged Hermione.



I, Zeus, have departed this existence and moved to a higher plain. This is my testimony of the great experiment carried out in this land, an experiment that was first performed eons ago in a far off place. My colleagues and I arrived here to find barbarity and ignorance among both magical and non-magical people. It fell to us to try to bring reason to these realms, to build a society that would embrace tolerance and learning, to build a civilisation that would endure.

It was not our intention for those of this land to treat us as gods, but that was their way of understanding the magical works in which we engaged to build a greater future for them. The white ambrosia, on which we fed, made in our community here at Olympus, allowed us immortality, as well as feeding our souls with light. How ambrosia came to the knowledge of my people is lost in the mists of time, back in the great land of our ancestors.

But now it is over.

Under our guidance, Greece became a great state of learning and integrity, producing many sons and daughters of wisdom and intellect. We are all saddened by the fate that has befallen this land. It seems that nothing can stand in the way of mighty Rome, that powerful state that is intent on conquest.

And so we have departed our beloved home. We have ceased to partake of the ambrosia. Some, like myself, have decided to end our earthly existence and rise to a far greater existence. Others, like my beloved son Hermes, have chosen to end their physical existence but remain in this plain as spirits and guardians of the Light, giving aid and truth to those who are worthy and would seek that knowledge. Ah, my most favoured one; he has taken on the awesome task of moderating the thoughts and deeds of our conquerors. He has this day made haste to their seat of power. I wish him well in his task.

After Remus finished reading, everyone was silent, each staring into the campfire and digesting what they had heard about the true nature of the Olympian gods and their great experiment.

After a few minutes, Nadine cleared her throat, "It's so sad. They were truly a great people, but like so many before them, had to submit to the power of Rome."

"But they didn't submit, Nadine," said Charlie. "They chose to end their existence."

"And their great experiment didn't die," said Professor Flitwick reflectively. "Rome came to embrace the great culture of Greece, and tried to imitate them. And don't forget, perhaps their greatest legacy is still alive and well today - Democracy."

"Well now we know," said Ceri. "The Greek gods weren't gods at all - they were magical people just like us. But it just goes to show, there's a grain of truth even in the myths of the world."

"What are we going to do with this?" asked Sirius. "Are we going to tell the world the truth?"

Remus had a dreamy look in his eyes. "No Sirius, I don't think so. I don't think anybody would believe us anyway - apart from Dumbledore, that is. No, I think the myth should live on - it would be a sin to shatter the illusion."

"We saw it, you know," said Hermione quietly. "We saw the ambrosia in the apothecary building we examined."

Ron held his hand out in front of him. "And to think," he whispered, "I held immortality in the palm of my hand."

"But I thought that it was the Philosopher's Stone that gave immortality," said Ginny. "The one that Professor Dumbledore destroyed a few years ago."

"Yes Ginny," said Remus. "But who knows how the stone was used? It may have been a sort of catalyst to produce this white powdery stuff, and who's to say that there was only one Philosopher's Stone? There may have been another, even several of them, in ancient times."

"And that's another reason for keeping this quiet," said Remus. "You can imagine the furore that would follow if we told everybody about ambrosia. Not to mention Snape - he'd make our lives hell wanting to know how to get to it."

"Yes," said Flitwick, "I agree. But I for one will die happy. I feel truly privileged to know the truth of one of the greatest myths of mankind."

"But where does this leave us - with the quest, I mean?" said Harry. "Where do we go from here?"

"Zeus told us that, Harry," said Hermione. "He said that his most favoured one - that's Hermes - went to the seat of Roman power. We've got to follow Hermes to Rome."

"But Rome's a big place," he said. "Where do we go?"

"Well you know I was in Rome with my parents a few years ago," she replied. "We went to most of the ancient temples there, but I didn't go to one dedicated to Hermes. In fact, there was nothing in the guidebooks about the temple of Hermes, I'd have noticed it if there was. But I remember reading about a Roman god who was very similar to Hermes - one who wore a winged hat and sandals, and held a magical wand."

"Who's that?" asked Harry.

"His name's Mercury, Harry. Hermes must have changed his name to Mercury when he entered the Roman Empire. But I know I didn't go to a temple dedicated to Mercury back then, and I don't know if there's one still standing there."

"So it's off to Rome we go then," said Ron.

"How are we going to get there?" asked Ginny.

Everyone looked at Remus, who stared back before blurting, "Well don't look at me. I've got contacts in Greece and a few other countries, but I don't know anybody in Rome."

"Well we'd better get back to Hogwarts then," said Sirius. "Perhaps Professor Dumbledore can arrange for a Portkey to Rome."

"That'll have to wait till tomorrow," said Ceri. "We'll spend the night here, and get back to the Portkey site tomorrow; we should get there by nightfall since it's downhill all the way."

"We can spend a bit of time back in the library," said Hermione brightly. "We can do a bit of reading on Rome and Mercury - we'll have to have some idea where to look in the city - it's a big place, you know."

"Right. To bed then," said Sirius. "We'll make an early start in the morning, I think."


"So it was an experiment carried out by magical people," said Dumbledore, who sat facing the protectors and McGonagall, stroking his beard with his left hand. "They tried - and succeeded in creating a great civilisation. Such vision - such intellect. But I suppose they had to have such a far-reaching vision to give them a reason for living so long."

"What do you think that ambrosia was, Professor?" asked Charlie. "We speculated last night that it was made using the Philosopher's Stone. Did Nicholas Flamel say anything about how he used his stone?"

"No, Charlie, he didn't. And I didn't ask him about it. I may be old fashioned, but I believe that such things are best left hidden. It would cause enormous difficulties if it ever came to the world's attention."

"It's a good job Snape's not here," said Sirius. "You can imagine how he'd react to it. Anyway, where is he Professor?"

"He's at the Auror training site in the Forest of Dean. The ministry asked if he could give a lecture to the latest batch of recruits on the art of infiltration and spying."

"How is the ministry's recruitment drive going, Professor?" asked Ceri.

"Quite well, I think," he replied. "Fudge seemed happy with the way things are going when I spoke to him yesterday. Things are still very quiet though - and I fear they are far too quiet. There still hasn't been any Death Eater attack since the one on the school last month, and I can't help feeling that Voldemort is up to something. The sooner Harry and the others complete their quests the better."

McGonagall smiled. "Well it won't be for lack of trying. They're in the library right now, trying to find out as much as they can about Mercury."

"Will you be able to arrange for a Portkey to Rome, Professor?" asked Sirius.

"No problem, Sirius. I know the headmaster of the Fiuggi School for Magicians and he'll arrange it in an instant. His school is in the hills to the South East of Rome, so it shouldn't be a problem. There's one thing though. Rome is a very busy place, and full of tourists at this time of year. I think it would be best if you arrive under the cover of darkness, and away from the city nightlife, but still close enough to the place or places you need to visit. But until the four kids find out where you have to go, I can't make the arrangements."

"Anything?" asked Hermione as Ginny closed the book she'd been reading and went to put it back onto the shelf.

"Nothing in that one," she said as she browsed through the titles of the other books on the next shelf.

"I think I've got something," said Ron suddenly. The other three gathered around, looking over his shoulder at the book he was reading. He pointed to the section that had caught his attention, and read it aloud, "Mercury, Roman god of trade and travellers. He is closely associated with the Greek god, Hermes, with whom he shares many qualities and attributes. The fastest of the gods, he is usually depicted with a winged hat and sandals. His feast day is in May, and Romans used to celebrate the event in his temple in Rome."

"Does it say where in Rome, Ron?" asked Hermione.

"No, that's all I can find," he replied.

The three sat back at the table and continued reading their books. After a while, Ginny shouted, "I've got it. It's right here - listen. Mercury is equated with the Greek god, Hermes. He had a temple in Rome on the Aventine Hill, which dates back to 495 BC. His festival was celebrated at the temple on 15th May, when many offerings were also made at his shrine in the Circus Maximus. Later, the cult of Mercury spread among the Celtic and Germanic peoples."

"Well done, Ginny," said Harry, and then looked across at Hermione. "Have you heard of these places Hermione?"

"Yes Harry," she replied, "I've even been to one of them - the Circus Maximus. It's just a short distance to the South of the famous Colosseum. And the Aventine Hill is just a little further South of the Circus Maximus. But I don't remember reading about any temples there in any of the guidebooks. From what I remember, the Aventine is a mainly residential area, with just a few churches and basilicas."

"What's the Circus Maximus?" asked Ron.

"It's a huge place where the Romans held their chariot races," she replied. "You know, like the one they showed in Ben Hur."

"What's Ben Hur?" asked Ginny.

"It's an old film, Ginny. The Circus Maximus is about 650 yards long by 220 yards wide, and the chariots raced around a long stone wall at the centre. They say that the place could hold a quarter of a million people. But when I was there, it was completely in ruins, with only a few crumbling structures on the East side."

"So what do you think?" asked Harry. "Should we go and look at these places?"

"Well it doesn't look very promising," answered Hermione, "but there's nothing else we can find in these books, so I suppose we should."

"Let's go back up and tell the others," said Harry.

They all rushed into the headmaster's office, where the protectors, McGonagall and Dumbledore still sat talking about the quest. "Have you found anything?" asked Sirius.

"Yes," said Hermione. "There are two possibilities, both just south of the Colosseum."

"Right," said Dumbledore. "I'll get in touch with Professor Bagetti and arrange a Portkey for tonight. Can you think of somewhere away from the nightlife and tourists, Hermione?"

Hermione thought for a few moments, then said, "Yes, Professor. I think the Roman Forum would be an ideal place, just outside the Colosseum. There won't be any tourists about at night, and some of the ruins are illuminated, so any passing Muggle, or Death Eater, won't notice the lights from our wands."

"The Forum it is then," said Dumbledore.


The four friends, together with their protectors, arrived by Portkey just after darkness fell inside the Roman Forum. They looked about with interest at the impressive illuminated ruins, once the commercial and political centre of ancient Rome. They found themselves standing in front of an almost completely ruined temple, at the side of an avenue winding through the Forum.

"This is the temple of Julius Caesar," said Hermione in hushed tones.

"Oh no. Here we go again," said Ron. "Another bloody history lesson."

"Shut up, Ron," said Ginny. "Some of us are very interested in this. You carry on Hermione."

"This way," said Hermione as she pointed to the right. They walked slowly through the ruins, their wands held low to the ground to avoid any loose rocks. They adopted the same procedure as in Greece, with Sirius in the lead, but this time with Hermione at his side, Ceri at the rear, with Charlie and Nadine on one side and Remus and Flitwick on the other. Hermione stopped after only a few yards and pointed to a podium built from Roman brick. "This is the place where Mark Anthony delivered his famous burial speech - 'Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your ears! I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him'."

They continued on their way with Hermione pointing out some of the more famous illuminated ruins, the Temple of the Vestal Virgins, the Temple of Romulus and the Basilica of Constantine. They walked up a rise towards a huge stone arch, which marked the eastern boundary of the Forum. Hermione again stopped when she walked under the arch and held her wand towards the right-hand side. "The Arch of Titus," she said. "Even you should be interested in this, Ron. This fresco depicts Titus' victory over the Jews and his sacking of Jerusalem. You can see the slaves carrying away the treasures of the temple to Rome. See here, it shows the Menorah. This is the treasure that was later taken by the Visigoths when they conquered Rome, and took it to Carcassonne in France. Remember - a lot of writers thought it was the treasure of Rennes-le-Chateau. But we know different, don't we Ron?"

Hermione tossed her head and strode purposefully down the sloping track towards the magnificent spectacle of the Colosseum, the illumination giving it an even more regal appearance than it normally had. A shamefaced Ron called after her, "Uh, interesting Hermione. Honestly! I really do think that was interesting."

They soon reached level ground, with the Colosseum rising in front of them, and Hermione led the group to the right and past the Arch of Constantine, heading towards the Circus Maximus and the Aventine Hill. After a few hundred yards, Hermione stopped and pointed to an area of darkness, made prominent by the absence of any street lights throughout its expanse. "The Circus Maximus is here," she said. "We can't see anything, but we're fairly close to the Eastern end."

"I don't fancy that, Hermione," said Harry. "Let's try the Aventine first."

Hermione walked beside Sirius as she led the group a little further and then branched to the right, where they started to climb the Aventine Hill. Like Hermione said, it appeared to be a mainly residential area, and there were no signs of any ancient ruins.

They wandered around for a few hours, but could find not even the slightest trace of an ancient temple. "This is useless," said Ron. "I bet it's long gone. There's probably a church or a block of flats standing on the site now."

Harry sighed with a hint of resignation, "Come on then, let's go back to the chariot race track. At least we know it's there."

In fifteen minutes, the group stood at the place where they'd stopped earlier, looking with trepidation into the darkness that was the Circus Maximus.

"I don't like this one little bit," said Ceri. "You could get hurt wandering about in there, and if we light our wands, we'll stand out like a beacon to any Death Eaters that may be about."

"We should be all right, Ceri," said Hermione. "There are some old ruins just inside the boundary, only about fifty yards from where we're standing. They're the only surviving structures in the place, and once we get inside, our wand lights should be hidden."

Sirius led the way through the fence and down a steep embankment, keeping his wand low to the ground. After a short while, they came to the structures Hermione had told them about. They looked with distaste at the low ruined buildings, which were half buried in the ground. The masonry, Roman brick, looked very crumbly and unstable. "I don't think this is very safe," said Remus.

"Look over here," said Ginny, who had wandered just inside one of the structures on the left hand side, and was pointing her wand down towards the ground. They all joined her and saw that a small entrance, protected by a wire cover obviously there to keep out any adventurous tourists, led down into the inky blackness beneath the ground. There was a sign on the wire gate, written in several languages, which said 'Danger! Keep Out! Risk of Injury from Falling Masonry.'

"No way!" said Charlie. "You're not going down there - it's too dangerous, especially at night. Come on, let's look at the rest of these ruins."

After an hour of searching through the ruins, they had found nothing and there were no other entrances leading to the space below ground.

"Well we haven't got much choice now," said Ron. "We've got to go through that wire gate, there's nothing else here."

"I'm not happy about this Ron," said Charlie.

He was stopped from any further protest when Nadine put her hand on his shoulder. "They've got to do it, Charlie. There's no other way."

"These might help to protect you," said Professor Flitwick as he muttered a few words, pointed his wand, and four bright yellow helmets appeared on their heads.

"Thanks, Professor," said Ginny. "I don't like the colour much, though."

Harry grinned. "Come on then, let's go."

After Sirius and Charlie had removed the wire obstruction, Harry led his three friends down the steps and into the dark tunnel. He bent over in the confined space and held his wand out in font of him. He was not too enthused when he saw several piles of fallen brick on the floor, which led down beneath the spectator area of the Circus Maximus.

After about thirty yards, the floor levelled out and they came to a low brick wall, which ran in front of a wall of earth that flowed over the brick ceiling above. It barred their way forward, but paved areas led to the right and left, running alongside the wall.

"This must be the original level of the chariot track," said Hermione. "All the earth must have been piled on top of it since it was abandoned some fifteen hundred years ago. There's a good chance that we'll find Mercury's shrine, I think."

"Let's go to the right," said Harry. "I think it's more likely to be in that direction, towards the centre of the stadium."

They moved slowly along the pathway, all the while looking above their heads at the crumbling brick above, which was obviously struggling to support the huge expanse of earth that had been piled on top of it. They all felt nervous in the ominous and claustrophobic tunnel, but continued on into the darkness ahead.

They had covered about two hundred yards before they came to an opening on their right-hand side. "Let's look in here," said Harry as he led the way through a low brick arch and into a small room about eighteen feet square. The ceiling was higher here, and they were able to stand straight, easing the ache in their backs following their crouched approach through the tunnel.

Apart from the debris accumulated over hundreds of years that littered the paved floor, the room was completely empty, with the exception of a life-sized statue that stood in a small apse at the back.

They walked over towards it, and Ginny reached out and brushed the dust away from its head and shoulders. The statue looked to be made of white marble, and was completely naked.

"It's Mercury," whispered Hermione. "Look at the winged hat and the strange wand he's holding."

"Yes, but keep your eyes off his other wand, you girls," said Ron staring at the nether regions of the statue. "The Romans really should have put a fig leaf over that!"

"Ron!" exclaimed Hermione and Ginny together, their red faces hidden in the gloom.

"It's art Ron," said Hermione. "It doesn't count."

Harry smiled and looked more closely inside the apse and at the back of the statue. "I can't see any shelves or anything," he said.

"Maybe we've got to do something," said Ron, "like touch his wand… I mean his proper wand…. Uh, I mean the wand he's holding in his hand… oh bugger, you know what I mean!"

"It's a Caduceus, Ron. That's what his magical wand is called," said Hermione.

Ginny rolled her eyes. "We know what you mean, Ron. Go on, Harry - try it."

"What should I say?"

"Try Alohomora," said Hermione.

Harry held out his arm and placed the tip of his wand against the Caduceus. "ALOHOMORA."

The four stepped back as the statue of Mercury moved its hand, which held the Caduceus. Then it extended its arm and held the wand against the right-hand wall of the apse. After a few moments, a blue light came from the wand, after which the statue returned to its earlier position. The section of the wall where the blue light still shone shimmered, and a small stone drawer moved silently out of it. When the drawer was fully open, the blue glow faded, leaving four pairs of eyes staring at it with disbelief.

Hermione was the first to react and she walked over and looked inside, where she saw a small piece of parchment. She placed her hand in the drawer and slowly pulled out the parchment, fearful that it would disintegrate if she handled it too roughly.

She bent down, placed the parchment reverently on the floor, and then held her illuminated wand over it. The others joined her and added the light from their wands. They saw that the parchment was covered in what appeared to be a hastily written script, the scrawled words having been written at an angle, unlike the neat rows of script they had seen in the cloud parchment on Mount Olympus.

"I can't make any sense of that," said Harry. "What language is it?"

"It's ancient Latin, I think," said Hermione. "I recognise some of the words."

"Can you read it, Hermione? You're pretty good at Latin," said Ginny.

"I'll try, Ginny. I'll read out what I can translate and you write it down."

"Hang on," said Ginny as she took the parchment and quill from Hermione and gestured for Ron to bend down so that she could use his back as a rest. "Ready."

Hermione spent a few minutes studying the writing, and then started to translate. "It was written by a Roman wizard called Pontius Aurigula," she said. "He says he was the personal aide and archivist to the great wizard, Mercury."

She spent a few more minutes looking at the script, and had more difficulty in deciphering the scrawl than in translating the Latin. "Right," she said finally. "I think I've got most of it. He says, 'I must write this small journal in haste. The Barbarians are close by and I must away to a safer place. My mentor and friend, the great wizard Mercury, is no longer here; he has made the decision to return to a former abode, there to give guidance to seekers of the Light. But I have no time to say more here. I must take my life's work and set up residence at an ancient abandoned temple at the far Western extremities of the Empire, fifteen stadia from Sorviodunum'. That's it."

"That's it? That's all?" said Harry.

"Well that's not a lot of help," said Ron sullenly. "That's the second dead end we've had."

"It's not a dead end Ron," said Hermione. "And we should be grateful to poor Pontius. He must have been in fear for his life, but he still took the time to write this note and hide it away. And he has told us where he went. We'll find out more there, I'm sure."

"So you know where he went Hermione? You know where this place, Sorviodunum, is?" asked Ginny.

"Well no," said Hermione looking downcast, but then brightened. "But I'll find it!"

"I've got no doubt that you will Hermione," said Harry looking fondly at her. "But come on, we'd better get back - the others will be getting worried."

On the way back through the tunnel, Ron had a sudden thought. "Hey. Pontius said that Mercury returned to a former abode. That's Mount Olympus isn't it? That's where he lived before he went to Rome."

"I don't think so Ron," said Harry.

"Why not?" he asked.

"Because we've already been there Ron," said Hermione, "and if he was there, we'd have seen him, wouldn't we."

"Oh yea. Well it was just a thought."

Sirius breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the youngsters emerge from the tunnel. "Thank god," he breathed. "Did you get any answers?"

"Some. But they only raise more questions," said Harry

"We'd better get back to the Forum," said Remus. "I fancy a nice big dinner back at Hogwarts tonight."


That night, the four friends lounged in the Gryffindor common room, feeling too full after the large dinner they'd just eaten to go to bed. They were talking about Pontius' message and where he might have gone.

"Before I went into dinner," said Hermione, "I had a quick look in the library. One of the Latin words in the message stumped me a bit. The nearest I could come up with in the Circus Maximus was 'barbarians', but it wasn't quite right. The Latin vocabulary book I looked at didn't have the word Pontius used either, but from what I can gather, the word is made up of two others and a more accurate translation is 'Dark Forces'."

"Do you think that Dark Wizards were after him?" asked Ginny.

"It certainly looks that way," said Harry, "which would explain why he was in such a hurry."

"Yes," said Hermione. "He would have had a lot more time to give better directions if he'd been referring to the Visigoths. They took a little while to conquer Rome and there'd have been plenty of warning before they finally entered the city. And it explains why his directions were a bit vague, he wouldn't have wanted to give the Dark Forces too much information if they'd found his message."

"That's all very well," said Ron, "but we don't know a lot more now than we did before we went to Rome."

"That's not true Ron," said Hermione. "We know quite a bit more. First, we know that Mercury/Hermes went back to a place he lived before he went to Mount Olympus, and he went there to give guidance and help to seekers of the Light - that's us. So that's our ultimate aim - we've got to find out where he is now. Second, Pontius said he was Mercury's archivist, and he took his life's work with him when he fled from Rome. So I think that when we trace Pontius, we'll also have the details about Hermes' history, and in particular where he lived before Mount Olympus. And thirdly, of course, we've got Sorviodunum. That's our immediate task - we've got to find out where that is, and Pontius gave us the general area to look."

"Of course," said Ginny. "He said it was on the Western extremities of the Empire."

"That's right, Ginny," said Hermione, "and the furthest West that the Romans conquered was this country - the U.K."

"But that's still a hell of a lot of area," said Harry. "Where are we going to start looking?"

"Well there's not a lot about the Romans in the school library," said Hermione. "I had a quick look earlier. So the best place to look, I think, is in a Muggle library. Every one I've been to has a load of books on the Roman occupation of Britain. And I know that there's one close to the Leaky Cauldron, just off Charing Cross Road in London."

"So that's our next stop then," said Harry. "We'll tell the others at breakfast, and we can all go to the Leaky Cauldron by Floo Powder. And don't forget to wear your Muggle clothes."


Ron and Ginny looked with interest at the passing big red double-decker buses as they walked down Charing Cross Road the next morning. Sirius, Ceri and Remus walked a little way in front of the four teens, with Charlie, Nadine and Flitwick following about twenty yards behind. The four had been in stitches earlier at Hogwarts when Professor Flitwick had made an appearance. He looked so different and very funny in his Muggle clothes.

"This way," Hermione called to the three in front as she pointed down a street running off the main road. Soon, the group stood in front of the imposing library building, and the adults waited outside while the four friends went inside.

Hermione approached one of the library assistants and said, "Excuse me. We have to do a project for school this summer on the Romans in Britain. Can you tell me where best to look?"

The assistant directed them to the first floor, which housed the reference library. "The books on Roman Britain are along the back wall," she said.

The reference library was fairly empty; only about eight Muggles were there, sitting at some of the many tables in the large room. The four walked over to the back wall and started looking along the rows of books for likely looking titles. Five minutes later they sat at one of the empty tables and started reading. It took just one minute for Ron to look up from his book, a broad grin on his face, and declare, "I've found it. Here in the index - Sorviodunum."

He quickly turned to the page number given in the index and started to quietly read to the others, "The Romans built a minor fort, which they called Sorviodunum, beneath the impressive Iron Age hill fort known as Old Sarum, which is about two miles from Salisbury. Where Sorviodunum once stood is now the little village of Stratford-sub-Castle."

"So that's where we go next then," said Ginny. "Perhaps Pontius went to Old Sarum to live."

"Perhaps so," said Hermione, "but we need to find out how far fifteen stadia is - Pontius said the place he went to was 15 stadia from Sorviodunum."

"There's something about Roman measures in the book I've got," said Harry. He looked in the index, then turned to a page towards the middle of the book and started to read. After a few moments he looked up at his friends. "It says here that it's about the same distance as the furlong - that's 220 yards."

Hermione did a quick calculation in her head. "So fifteen stadia is about two miles. It can't be Old Sarum then, it's too close."

"Salisbury is two miles from Old Sarum," said Ron. "Perhaps it's there."

"I don't know Ron," said Hermione. "Pontius said he was going to an ancient and abandoned temple. That means it was ancient nearly two thousand years ago. I don't think Salisbury is that old, but I suppose there may have been a temple on the site before it was built. Let's get back to Hogwarts. There are large-scale maps of the country there, so we can draw a circle two miles in circumference around the village of Stratford-sub-Castle and see what we get."

Half an hour later, the four sat around a large table in the library, looking at a large-scale map of Wiltshire. Hermione opened a pair of compasses and measured off just under two miles using the same scale as the map. She then placed it on the map and drew a circle. Four pairs of eyes scanned around the line of the circle, looking for likely places.

"Look at that," said Ginny pointing to the map. "Wow! Stonehenge is right on the line of the circle, to the North."

"It has to be," said Hermione. "Some people say that Stonehenge was built about 10,000 BC, so it would have been ancient in Pontius' time. And although no one really knows what it was built for, a lot of scholars say it was a temple."

"What are we waiting for?" said Harry. "Come on, let's go and tell the others."

"Hang on Harry," said Hermione. "The place will be crawling with tourists at this time of year, and in any case they won't let anybody inside the stone circle. I was there a few years ago with my parents, and the site is fenced in and has a boundary rope around the monument. I remember one tourist climbed over the rope and tried to touch one of the stones. About five security people grabbed him before he got anywhere near."

"So we'll go tonight after dark," said Ron.

"Ok Ron," said Harry. "Hermione, you've been there, so can you remember any likely places where Pontius would have stayed?"

"That's the problem Harry," she replied. "There's nowhere in or near Stonehenge where he could have lived. There aren't any buildings or anything, just huge standing stones."

"Perhaps it's magical," said Ginny. "Like a magical tent with wards set up to hide it from muggles."

"I don't think so, Ginny," said Hermione. "If he was hiding from Dark Wizards he'd want something a bit more secure than that. We'll just have to go there and see what we can find."


Ginny shivered involuntarily as an owl hooted eerily in the moonlight. The four friends and their protectors could see the impressive Stonehenge in silhouette as they approached the rope boundary.

"We'll stay here," said Sirius, "while you go and search inside."

The four ducked underneath the rope and approached the circle, where Hermione stopped and placed her hand on one of the large standing sarsen stones forming the outer circle. She breathed deeply and whispered, "This is amazing. This is a magical place, even to Muggles. How did the builders manage to move and raise these huge stones all that time ago?"

Harry and Ron walked inside the circle and approached the massive trilithons forming the inner circle. Ginny and Hermione soon joined them and Ginny walked up to the huge structure and touched it. She shuddered. "There's magic here. I can feel it."

The others touched the huge stone and also felt the magical vibrations coming from it. "I'll fetch Nadine," said Ginny. "She's good at this. Maybe she'll be able to detect where the vibrations are strongest."

Ten minutes later, Nadine called to the four teens, "It's here," she said. "It's definitely stronger at these stones." She was standing underneath one of the trilithons in the inner circle. Harry walked up and then stepped into the space between the two standing stones and looked up at the capstone. He could feel the magical vibrations without even touching the stones.

He called to the others, "Come and feel this. I think there's something here."

Nadine watched as the three youngsters joined Harry underneath the capstone. "What do we do now?" asked Ron.

Harry and Hermione looked at each other, nodded, and then held hands, Harry's right hand and Hermione's left. They looked up at the capstone and lifted their other hands, palms upwards. "SHAJ AHNWTY," they said together.

Suddenly, they were no longer standing inside the trilithon. The four were inside a small room, which contained a stone table and a stone chair. In a corner of the room, a small window looked out on the moonlit splendour of Stonehenge. They could see Nadine looking around worriedly, and then saw her turn and run back out of the circle towards Sirius and the others.

They walked over to the table and saw a faded piece of parchment, which contained the same hurriedly written script as the one they had seen in the shrine of Mercury. Hermione bent her head and started to translate the Latin words. "It's Pontius," she said. "He says that it was a mistake to come here. The Dark Forces are outside looking for him. He says he has to flee to another place, to a more secluded site. He says he must go to a secluded and secret Roman fort in the wild country of Cambria. The fort is protected from the prying eyes of the local tribesmen by the surrounding cliffs. He says the fort was built as a treasury and armoury to support the conquest of Britannia." Hermione paused, struggling with the final part of the script. "The last part gives some directions to the fort, but it's cryptic. It says 'follow the road through the gap and it will lead to the fort'."

Hermione looked up at the others. "The Dark Wizards must have found where he was staying quite quickly," said Ginny.

"I wonder why they were after him? I wonder what they were after?" said Harry.

"Well he must have known a lot about Mercury and Hermes," said Hermione. "They might have been after the secret of immortality - how to make the ambrosia."

"That makes sense," said Ron. "So what now?"

"We'd better get back to Hogwarts," said Harry, "and start trying to unravel this latest message."

"It's a bit like a treasure hunt, isn't it?" said Ginny. "Following the clues until we come to the end of the trail."

"Well you didn't think this quest would be any easier than the last one, did you Ginny?" said Ron. "Uh Hermione. How do we get out of this place?"

Harry and Hermione again joined hands. "SHESHEM HA".

They immediately found themselves standing in the midst of the trilithon, and quickly walked back to the protectors, who had started to search the area following Nadine's report of their sudden disappearance.

"Where've you been?" asked Sirius. "Nadine said you disappeared right in front of her eyes."

"It's magic Sirius," said Harry grinning.

"Did you find out anything?" asked Remus.

"Yes - Pontius had to do a bunk again," said Ron.

"And left us with a humdinger of a puzzle this time," said Hermione. "I haven't got the faintest idea what his directions to the next place mean."

"The only place name he mentioned was the wild country of Cambria," said Ginny.

"Cambria?" said Ceri suddenly, grinning widely. "That's the Roman name for Wales. You've got to follow Pontius to Wales."

Author's Notes : Please let me know what you think of this chapter. There are a few images on my picture board of the places that the team visited during this chapter - feel free to take a look.

Mount Olympus - summit known as the Throne of Zeus. The cloud gate is around the back of the left-hand peak.
Hermes - His statue (but not the one on the path to the summit!)
Roman Forum - general view
Roman Forum - Titus' Arch showing the sack of Jerusalem
Circus Maximus - as it is today
Circus Maximus - Ruins at Eastern end. The gate leading down below ground is on the right.