Keith Lewis Keith Lewis 5 1688 2003-05-15T09:43:00Z 2003-08-06T11:32:00Z 17 10993 62661 522 125 76952 9.2720
The Ibis and the Baboon.
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.
Oliver and Katie moved silently and slowly around the edge of the small wood, stopping every thirty yards or so to place a Whammo on the ground, about twenty yards inside the line of trees. Their team leader, Phil Brace, had detailed them to deploy Fred and George's modified detection devices along the perimeter of the wood. Earlier in the day, they'd had a tip off from one of their spies that an attack would be carried out on the village that night. The village lay not fifty yards from the wood, and Phil had earmarked the wood as one of the more likely places from which an attack would be launched. The other members of the team either helped with the evacuation of the wizards and witches who lived there, or placed more Whammos at other likely launching sites for the attack.
The sun had not quite sunk below the horizon and Phil surveyed the area, trying to work out where best to deploy his team. It was not an easy decision because there were at least five points from which the Death Eaters could approach. He hated having to spread his team so thinly at the five vulnerable points, but he had no choice. They had the advantage of surprise and the Whammos, of course, but with only four Aurors guarding each point, he felt very uneasy. The spy hadn't been able to find out how many Death Eaters would be in the attack, but their divisional commander could only spare one team to defend the place. Phil sighed and waited for his Aurors to finish their tasks and report back to him.
Just before darkness fell over the countryside, the Aurors were finally in their defensive positions. Oliver and Katie, together with two others, were hiding behind an outcrop of rock halfway between the village and the wood, and the nearest group were about fifty yards away to their left, keeping watch on a tree-lined lane that emerged into the clearing just in front of one of the houses. They settled down to wait, knowing that it could be a long night. Oliver and Katie felt nervous - it was their first taste of active duty and they didn't want to let the rest of the team down.
As the night wore on, the tension mounted. For the fourth time in the last hour, Katie rubbed her clammy hands on the grass and let out a deep breath, trying to calm the fast beat of her heart as it thudded in her chest. She glanced at Oliver, who was looking over the rock at the woods, wondering if he was as nervous as she, but if he was he certainly didn't show it. His gaze was steady and his demeanour calm as he looked for signs of movement in the woods. She wasn't to know, of course, that although nervous, Oliver had had some experience at keeping the outward signs in check - his first Quidditch league game for the first team was a case in point.
Just after midnight, Katie jumped as she heard a loud explosion from the other side of the village. They all looked and saw the yellow flash of light that signalled the start of the attack, and the air was soon filled with the sounds of curses being thrown. Phil rushed over and told them to hold their position, while he took two of the groups to help the four who had engaged the enemy. Five minutes later, they turned as they heard, and then saw, another Whammo that had been activated inside the wood, only about forty yards away, and was quickly followed by the flashes of another three coming from roughly the same direction.
The four defenders saw the yellow-coated figures emerge from the wood in a line abreast and Oliver quickly counted about fifteen of them. They were looking at each other in consternation at their brightly lit cloaks, not really knowing what to make of it all. As one, Oliver, Katie and the other two rose from behind their cover and sent Stupefy charms at the gleaming targets, trying to disable as many as they could before they regained the cover of the trees.
"I saw six of them fall," said Jonas. "That leaves about nine still out there. Do you think we should go after them?"
I don't think so," replied Oliver. "If they're hiding just inside that tree line, we'll be fully exposed to their fire over about thirty yards of open ground. I think we'd best wait and see if any of them show themselves. We should get some relief from some of the other groups soon."
They were still waiting ten minutes later, the fierce sound of fighting from the other side of the houses making it plain that their colleagues were fully occupied. Phil Brace quickly ran to their position and told them to hold off their group of nine Death Eaters as long as they could. The largest force, about thirty-five of them, were attacking the other side of the village and he ran over to get the final group of Aurors to help in the main fight.
"Look over there," whispered Katie, pointing to their right. They clearly saw their nine yellow-coloured Death Eaters creeping stealthily towards the other side of the village, intent on catching the other Aurors in a cross fire. "Come on," she said. "We've got to stop them. If they join up with the main group, Phil and the others won't stand a chance."
The four moved quickly to cut off the enemy, keeping to whatever meagre cover was available, and lay flat on the damp grass waiting for them to get closer. Jonas rose from the ground and stupefied the leading figure, but the rest of them weren't to be caught out a second time. Two of them had been lying on the ground keeping watch on the Aurors' earlier position and they quickly adjusted their aim to send two killing curses in their direction. Jonas collapsed to the ground as the beams hit him. Oliver and Katie instinctively rolled away to their right, but the other Auror didn't react quickly enough and was dealt the same fate as Jonas.
Oliver shouted for Katie to follow him towards a garden wall about twenty yards to their right, and they sprinted as fast as they could towards the cover, green beams following their progress but missing them by inches. They flung themselves behind the wall and moved to the furthest end from where they'd disappeared from the sight of the eight remaining Death Eaters. They fell to the ground and cautiously looked around the wall, seeing four figures creeping low to the ground towards the other end of the wall. Oliver touched Katie on her shoulder and nodded towards the four yellow beacons of light. He gestured that he'd take the two closest to the wall and for her to take the two following behind. He held up three fingers and counted down; then, still lying on the ground, they stretched around the wall and sent two Stupefy spells at their first targets. Two of the Death Eaters dropped to the ground, unconscious, and the other two looked around in surprise, just in time to see the second volley of beams strike them. They, too, fell to the ground. Oliver and Katie hurriedly ducked back behind the wall as the deadly green beams from the remaining four Death Eaters peppered the rock just above their heads.
The two young Aurors grinned at each other, the adrenalin flowing freely through their veins. They were flushed with the excitement of the action, but only too aware that they played a deadly game, a game that they'd learned well under the magical eye of 'Mad Eye' Moody. They allowed themselves only a few moments rest before they once more peeped around the corner of the wall to see what their four opponents were up to. Katie frowned when she saw just two yellow glows coming from behind each side of a boulder. She looked frantically around the area trying to pick up the telltale yellow signs of the other two, but couldn't spot them. She turned towards Oliver to voice her concerns, but was surprised to find he no longer lay by her side. She looked behind her, towards the back of the little cottage only about fifteen yards away at the other end of the garden, and shrieked with alarm, as she saw the missing two Death Eaters aiming their wands at her. She rolled to the side just as two powerful Flipendus curses hit the wall, directly behind her earlier position. She cried out as a sharp piece of stone, dislodged by the force of the curses, caught her a glancing blow on the side of her head. She screwed up her eyes in pain and held her hand to her head as she felt the warm blood from the cut running down her cheek. She heard the sound of two more spells, and waited in shocked anticipation for the agony that she'd soon be feeling. When nothing happened, she slowly opened her eyes to see Oliver, crouched low to the ground, running back towards her. Behind him, at the corner of the cottage, were the two Death Eaters, now lying prone on the grey paving stones of the path.
Oliver's eyes were filled with concern as he reached Katie, and gently put his hand on the side of her face, moving her head to see where all the blood was coming from. He quickly placed his wand onto the cut and said the spell that would temporarily stem the flow.
"I'm so sorry Katie," he said as he stared searchingly into her eyes. "I couldn't get a clear shot at them until after they'd sent those curses at you." He shook his head in self-torment as he thought of what might have happened to her.
Katie roughly pushed him away and rolled to a crouching position, shaking her head, trying to clear the feeling of nausea that suddenly came over her. "There's no time for this Oliver. There're still two of them out there, and they could be anywhere. We'd better change our position - quick."
Oliver nodded, marvelling at Katie's presence of mind after the blow she'd suffered. They moved back to the other side of the garden wall and peered around it, trying to get a fix on the position of the enemy. Katie pointed to the two yellow glows she'd seen earlier, still coming from behind the boulder. Oliver gestured for her to follow him as he dropped to the ground and started to crawl towards the boulder, which was about forty yards away from the wall. When they were just ten yards away from the boulder, Oliver stopped and motioned for Katie to go to the right hand side and he started to crawl towards the left, being careful not to make a sound, although there was little chance of the Death Eaters hearing anything over the frenzied sounds of battle coming from the other end of the village.
Oliver stood up and pressed his back into the cold, hard surface of the boulder. He glanced to the other side and saw that Katie was standing in a similar position, looking towards him for the signal to attack. Again, he held up his hand and counted down, then rushed around his side of the rock, holding his wand to the front.
The Death Eaters put up no resistance as they saw the two Aurors suddenly appear before them. They dropped their wands and raised their arms in the air in surrender, their eyes wide with fright. After they'd placed them in a full body bind, they quickly went back and stood by the corner of the little cottage, looking around the stone wall towards the fight in progress about a hundred yards away. They could see in the lights of the spells being thrown that their colleagues were pinned down in the back gardens of two cottages at the far end of the village, surrounded on three sides by about thirty glowing yellow Death Eaters.
"What now?" asked Katie.
Oliver thought quickly as he surveyed the scene. "We've got to try to help them. It's no use trying to join the others, I don't think we'd be able to in any case with all those devils surrounding them." He pointed into the darkness beyond the group of Death Eaters who held a central position, directly facing the defending Aurors. "The best thing we can do is to try to move around behind them and catch the central group in a crossfire. Before it went dark, I remember seeing an old cart turned on its side, lying against the hedge about forty yards behind them. If we can get there undetected, we can use it for cover."
"But we'll be easy meat when they see that there's only two of us," said Katie.
"Ah, that's where we've got to be a bit clever," he replied, grinning. "Don't worry too much about taking careful aim, just try to get off as many spells as you can. I'll do the same, and with any luck, the devils will think there's a lot more of us then just two. If we can cause a bit of panic in their ranks, we might just turn the tide in our favour."
Oliver and Katie ran quickly over the ground, using the darkness as cover, away from the battle and towards the hedge that run at the back of the village. They soon reached it and crept quickly to the right until they came to the ruined wooden cart. They took up position, one to each side of it, and looked at the lights of the battle unfolding in front of them. They could see that their colleagues weren't in a very good position. The Death Eaters had the upper hand, even though most of them were illuminated with the yellow light, outnumbering the Aurors two to one, and using the many large rocks that were strewn around as cover. Oliver pointed to the group of about ten Death Eaters directly in front of them and nodded.
The two concentrated hard on flinging as many spells as they could at the group, and even though they weren't aiming with any great care, they soon stupefied three of them. The remaining seven turned in surprise, seeing a large number of beams coming in their direction, and panicked. They started to run towards one of the other groups of Death Eaters on their right hand side, but they were soon caught by the spells of the defending Aurors, who couldn't believe their luck as so many exposed targets appeared before them.
Oliver and Katie then started to concentrate their fire on the group of about ten Death Eaters to their left, and that signalled the end of the battle. The Death Eaters panicked and started running away. Several of them were rendered unconscious by the pursuing Aurors, but the majority escaped into the cover of the surrounding woodland.
The mopping-up exercise that followed took only half an hour, and soon there was a heap of about twenty-eight Death Eaters lying stunned, ready to be taken back to headquarters for questioning and subsequent imprisonment. Katie and Oliver stood sadly looking down at six of their colleagues, stretched out on the ground inside one of the gardens, each staring blankly up at the dark sky, their faces bearing the mark of the killing curse. Two Aurors walked slowly up to their fallen comrades and reverently covered each of the bodies with a white cloak. Then they stood for a few moments with bowed heads, and slowly walked away.
Phil Brace walked up and stood behind his youngest and newest recruits, and put an arm around each of their shoulders. "It's a high price to pay," he said sadly. "They were all good men and we're going to miss them."
He gently pulled the pair around and led them back towards the rest of his team, who were standing and talking quietly in the field behind the cottages. "What you two did tonight," he said, "was nothing short of miraculous. Not only did you stop that group joining forces with the main body of attackers, you turned the tide of the battle in our favour. I was starting to get a bit worried that we wouldn't be able to get out of this mess. I'll be sending my report to divisional headquarters in the morning, and I'll be recommending you two for a commendation. And Alastor Moody'll be getting a copy of my report as well - he gets all the battle reports to gear his training to the latest Death Eater tactics. He'll be very proud of you. Well done, both of you."
He pointed to three white-cloaked figures that appeared around the side of the row of cottages. "Katie, you'd better go and get that cut seen to properly. The field medics have just arrived."
Oliver walked with Katie towards one of the medics and paused. "You were very brave tonight Katie," he said, looking deep into her eyes. "I feared the worse when those two fired off those Flipendus curses."
Katie stared back into Oliver's concerned eyes and grinned. "So did I Oliver. I thought I was a goner back there." She looked down at the ground briefly, and then back up into Oliver's eyes. "I didn't get a chance before, but I want to thank you for saving me."
Oliver smiled. "We make a pretty good team together Katie, don't you think?"
She nodded, and then they continued over towards the medic. As they walked, Oliver had an almost irresistible urge to hold her hand, wanting to feel the comfort of her skin against his own, but he resisted the temptation. There would be more appropriate times for that. They had, after all, just taken part in the biggest and most fierce battle of the conflict, but he felt certain that there'd be far worse to follow in the times ahead.
"It was nice to see Lee, Angelina and Alicia again," Harry said as the four friends sat eating their breakfast one morning.
"Yes," said Ron. "I can't believe it took all five of them to keep up with the trade they did in the shop last weekend."
"I wonder why Katie Bell hasn't joined the group," said Harry. "Those three girls were always together at school."
"George told me they tried to get hold of her," said Ginny, "but her parents said she'd joined the ministry defence force. She's an Auror now. And you'll never guess, she's in the same team as Oliver Wood!"
"Oh I hope she'll be ok," said Hermione.
"If I know Oliver," said Harry, "he'll be keeping his eye on her, don't you worry."
"Fred and George are going to be rolling it in now that they've started to get orders from the ministry," said Hermione.
"No wonder Lee and the girls looked so happy," said Ron. "Fred and George are paying them twice as much as they'd get at the ministry, and they've promised them a big pay rise if the Americans decide to use the Whammos."
Ginny sat with her elbow on the table, cradling her chin in her hand. "Who's Hermes Trismegistus?" she asked. She'd seen the term used quite a few times in the books they were researching the previous night. "I assume it's Hermes, but with a sort of title or something."
"I've seen that name as well," said Harry.
"So have I," said Hermione. "I looked it up - it means 'thrice great'."
"Hermes three-times great!" exclaimed Ron. "That doesn't make much sense."
The fluttering of a flock of owls interrupted them, as they delivered the morning post. One of the school owls dropped a small package in front of Hermione and she quickly ripped off the wrapping. "It's from Mum and Dad," she said, smiling as she read the brief note. Then she looked at the small and thin soft-covered book that the note was attached to. "It's a translation of the Westcar Papyrus," she said excitedly. She briefly leafed through the pages and then put it into her robe pocket. "I'll read some of this before classes start this morning." She quickly finished drinking her cup of tea, then rose from the table and walked up to the library. She wanted to read it there in case she had to look up any references in the other books.
She sat at a table in the library, opened the thin book and started reading the opening commentary by the translator of the ancient Egyptian papyrus. She was still reading, engrossed in one of the five tales that made up the body of the papyrus, when Harry burst into the library, his face flushed after running up several flights of stairs.
"Hermione! What are you doing? Come on! Snape's having kittens down in the dungeons."
Hermione looked at her watch and gasped, "Oh bother! I didn't realise the time."
She glanced at Harry as they both ran down towards the Potions classroom. "Is he very angry, Harry?"
"He's already deducted ten points from Gryffindor, and by the look of him, he won't stop there!"
Hermione closed her eyes and took a deep breath as Harry opened the classroom door. They walked quickly to their seats, Hermione glancing sheepishly at Snape.
"Ah Miss Granger at last," he said. "I see you've decided to grace us with your presence this morning. It's not too much of an effort for you is it?"
"Sorry Professor, I got carried away up in the library."
Snape's condescending tone changed and he stared at Hermione with his usual evil scowl. "The library won't be the only thing you'll be carried away in if you try to skip my class again. Another ten points from Gryffindor."
Two extremely difficult hours later, the three walked up to their Transfigurations class. The tortured expression that Hermione had worn for most of the morning left her as she remembered what she'd read in the Westcar Papyrus. "I've found something," she said to Harry and Ron. "I'll tell you about it during the lunch break."
That afternoon, they quickly finished their lunch and walked up to the common room, where they settled into their usual chairs. Harry, Ron and Ginny looked at Hermione expectantly as she briefly closed her eyes to gather her thoughts. Then she pulled the little book from her pocket, placed it on the arm of her chair and began to tell the others about what she'd read.
"The papyrus was discovered by an English traveller called Westcar in 1824. It's been dated to around 1650 BC but the ancient style and the hieroglyphics used is classical Middle Kingdom Egyptian, about four hundred years earlier. The content of the stories in the papyrus, however, relate to a time much older than that - back to the Pyramid age around 2600BC, and specifically to the rule of the Pharaoh Khufu, the supposed builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza."
"The supposed builder Hermione?" said Ron. "I went to the Great Pyramid a few years ago when we went to see Bill, and the guide told us that Khufu definitely built it."
"I looked it up in the Muggle section Ron," said Hermione indignantly. "For a long time, no one knew who the builder was, but back in 1837, a retired British army colonel, Howard Vyse, made a discovery in one of the chambers above the King's chamber in the Great Pyramid. It was directly above another one called the Davison chamber. He supposedly found some hieroglyphic graffiti, the only hieroglyphic writing ever found in the pyramid, and the translation showed that it was put there by one of the gangs of workers who built the structure. The writings praise the name of the Pharaoh Khufu. Now that's all very well, but a number of things point to it being a complete fraud. It seems that Vyse was a bit of a black sheep, and his wealthy family despaired that he'd ever make anything of himself. At that time, a number of important discoveries were being made in Egypt, and the colonel was desperate to find something that would make him famous. You can see what he was like, because he used explosives to break into the chamber - that's terrible! Anyway, it's odd that there was no writing in the Davison chamber, and the writing was found on all the walls of Vyse's chamber except the one he blew up, nothing was found on the pieces of stone from the explosion. He'd been given free reign inside the pyramid, and there weren't any controls in place like there are now - he could do whatever he liked. And he'd deliberately manipulated the dates in his diary to give his finds an air of authenticity - the diaries were later supposedly lost. And at about the same time, he declared that he'd found the builder of the third Giza Pyramid inside that structure, the Pharaoh Menkaure, but the skeleton and coffin lid were later found to come from completely different time periods, and both much later than the pyramid itself. Even an eminent Egyptologist has said it was a forgery. So you can see what a dubious character he was. But ever since, Egyptologists have refused to be budged from the assertion that the Great Pyramid was built by Khufu - ridiculous isn't it?"
Hermione now looked pointedly at Harry who, all through her tirade, had just sat there grinning at her. "What!" she exclaimed.
"You really look cute when you get on your soapbox Hermione; I could watch you for ever."
"Oh," she said, colouring up slightly.
"What has all this got to do with Hermes?" asked Ginny.
"Well nothing," she replied a bit sheepishly. "But it's Ron's fault for starting me off. Now let me get back to the papyrus. As I said, the stories revolve around the time of the Pharaoh Khufu, and tell the tale of his five sons, each telling their father about marvellous events that happened in their past. But the fifth son, Prince Hardedef, asks permission to introduce a living magician, called Djedi, who would tell him of the location of a secret chamber." Hermione picked up the book and turned to a page she had marked. "His son told him, 'This Djedi knows the number of the secret chambers of the sanctuary of Thoth.' When he was brought into the palace, Khufu questioned Djedi about the secret chambers." Again Hermione looked at the book. "But he replied, 'I do not know the number O King, my Lord, but I know where the place is. The number is in a chest of flint in the building called 'Inventory' in On. The number is in that chest.' It goes on to say that the chest would be brought to the Pharaoh by the eldest son of a priest's wife, who had not yet given birth." Hermione looked back up at her friends.
"Is that it!" exclaimed Ron incredulously. "How can that help us? I didn't hear Hermes mentioned once!"
"I know, Ron," said Hermione, "but it does speak about secret chambers, and this mysterious sanctuary of Thoth. I've got a strange feeling that it's significant, somehow. And there was a footnote made by the translator, who mentioned the American psychic, Edgar Cayce, who had visions about a secret chamber in Egypt that he calls The Hall of Records. It may well be the same as the secret chambers of Thoth."
"Who the hell is Thoth, anyway?" asked Ron.
"I don't know," Hermione replied, "but I know a man who does - or at least will have some books about him - Professor Dumbledore. Remember he said earlier this year that he studied Egyptian hieroglyphics at university, and he must have studied the ancient culture there as part of the course. We'll ask him. What's the time Ginny?"
Ginny looked at her watch. "It's twenty to two."
"Right," she said assertively. "There's no time like the present. We'll just have enough time to speak to him before afternoon classes. Come on."
As they walked down the corridor, Harry said, "So it looks like we'll have to go to Egypt?"
"It certainly looks that way Harry," replied Hermione.
Professor Dumbledore sat at his desk in his office listening, together with his team, to Snape finishing his report on his spying mission the previous night.
"Thank you Severus," he said when Snape had finished. "I'm sure that the ministry are going to be very interested in that development. To finish off the meeting, I'll tell you about the chat I had with 'Mad Eye' Moody this morning. Ah… one moment." He picked up his wand and waved it in the direction of the door. "Our four young friends want to see me, it seems."
Harry led his friends into the office and pulled up short. "Oh, sorry Professor; we didn't know you were in a meeting."
"We were just about to finish Harry," said Dumbledore as he again waved his wand and four chairs suddenly appeared. "Take a seat - I'm sure you'll be interested in the final item. Now where was I? Ah yes, I spoke with Alastor Moody this morning, and he told me about a fierce battle that took place in Sussex a few days ago. About fifty Death Eaters attacked a little village defended by a team of only twenty Aurors. It appears that two of our old students were instrumental in turning the flow of the battle in favour of the Aurors. They showed great bravery and they've been given a commendation. It seems that Oliver Wood and Katie Bell are starting to make a name for themselves."
"Are they both all right?" asked Harry. "They weren't hurt were they?"
"No, no. They're both perfectly all right. Now, what do you want to speak to me about?"
"We've found something in our research that we think you may be able to help with, Professor," said Hermione. "It looks like our quest lies in Egypt, and since you studied hieroglyphics at University, we though you may have some books we can look at on the ancient culture."
"I have indeed," he replied pointing to the large bookcase behind his desk, "and you're welcome to borrow anything you think may help. As a matter of interest, what have you found?"
"Well our study of the Hermetic texts pointed us to an old script called the Westcar Papyrus, and I had a copy of the translation from my parents this morning." Hermione glanced sheepishly at Snape, who smiled and nodded his head knowingly.
"But instead of talking about Hermes," she continued, "it made reference to the secret chamber of Thoth. We really need to find out who Thoth was."
"Ah Thoth," said Dumbledore. "Well I can tell you something about him, but I know there's a great deal more in some of my books. Now let's see… Thoth, that's the Greek name for the ancient Egyptian moon god, Djehuti. He was associated with wisdom, magic, music, astronomy, medicine, geometry, surveying and writing. In fact, he's accredited with being the inventor of writing - the original scribe, no less."
"Ahhhh," shouted Ginny, pointing at the headmaster and looking excitedly at Hermione. "Pontius's last message told us to seek out the original scribe, the inventor of writing and learning."
"But I thought that was Hermes," said Ron, looking confused.
Hermione had a big grin on her face. "It was, Ron. But don't forget that Pontius told us he'd gone back to a former existence as a spirit of the Light. Before he moved to Mount Olympus and became Hermes, he must have been Thoth! But of course!" she exclaimed suddenly. "That's what Hermes Trismegistus must mean! Hermes the thrice great - great as Mercury; great as Hermes; great as Thoth. It all fits now."
Harry smiled at his girlfriend. "Well done Hermione, and thank you Professor Dumbledore. Now we know where we have to go - to Egypt to find the secret chambers of Thoth."
"Uh Harry," said Remus who had followed the exchange with great interest, "Egypt's a big place. Do you know where in Egypt you have to go?"
Harry's face fell. "No Professor." But then he brightened. "But at least we've narrowed it down a bit, and we know what we've got to look for."
Dumbledore smiled - he'd loved getting an insight into the thought processes of the four youngsters, and Hermione's in particular. He rose from his chair and walked to his bookcase. "You're welcome to browse through my library, but if you come over here, Hermione, I can start you off in the right direction, I think, by giving you some books about Thoth and the religion of the ancient Egyptians."
After afternoon classes, the four rushed up to the library to begin reading the books that Dumbledore had given them.
"It's amazing," said Ginny. "All this stuff I'm reading about Thoth is almost the same as I read months ago about Hermes."
"Well not so amazing Ginny," said Hermione. "They are one and the same after all."
"There are quite a few differences though," said Harry. "It says here that he was sometimes depicted by the Egyptians with the body of a man and the head and neck of an Ibis, and at other times by a baboon."
"Before you ask Ron," said Hermione, "an ibis is a large exotic bird that lives on the banks of the Nile."
"I wasn't going to ask, Hermione," said a disgruntled Ron. "Everybody knows what an Ibis is." The other three couldn't suppress a grin as Ron looked back down at his book.
"Hey listen to this," said Ron. "It says here, 'It is said that Thoth wrote books in which he set forth a fabulous knowledge of magic and incantation, and then concealed them in a crypt.' That must be another reference to the secret chambers of Thoth."
"And there's another reference in my book," said Harry. "Listen - 'Thoth wrote down the mysteries of the heavens in sacred books, which he hid here on Earth, intending that they should be searched for by future generations, but found only by the worthy.'"
"But where are the secret chambers!" exclaimed Ginny. "There's nothing in the book I'm reading about where they may be."
"You don't seriously think it'll be that easy do you Ginny?" asked Ron. "Nothing's been easy up to now, so why should this be any different?"
"Hold on a minute Ron," said Hermione, who sat bolt upright in her chair. "I think I might have something here. Listen to this, 'Thoth's principal sanctuary was at Khmun. It is located by a small village called El Ashmunein and was also called Hermopolis. He was worshiped there at the great temple to Thoth, but little now remains of the structure. The main monuments are a ruined Roman agora and its early Christian basilica, along with a small museum.' This is the best lead we've had, and don't you think that the name Hermopolis is a bit too much of a coincidence with Thoth's sanctuary being named after Hermes? And of course! Wait a minute."
She delved into her robes and retrieved the little book about the Westcar Papyrus; opening it to the page she'd marked earlier. She scanned the text and then gasped, "Yes! I thought that's what it said. Listen, 'This Djedi knows the number of the secret chambers of the sanctuary of Thoth.' The sanctuary of Thoth! It must be in Hermopolis - the principal sanctuary of Thoth!"
"Come on," said Harry. "Let's go and see Dumbledore."
A few minutes later, the four sat at the headmaster's desk. "I take it you've found something interesting?" he asked, looking at Hermione.
"Yes Professor," she said. "We've found where the principal sanctuary of Thoth is."
"It's at Hermopolis," said Harry, "on the banks of the Nile. We think that Thoth's secret chambers are hidden there somewhere. Professor Dumbledore, we've got to go there."
Dumbledore thought for a few minutes. "Yes, I agree, but not just yet. You'll have a few days off for half term early next week, and in the mean time we can make the necessary arrangements for you and the protectors to Portkey to the site. Now let's see, who do we know in Egypt?" He looked slyly out of the corner of his eye at Ron and Ginny.
"Bill!" they both shouted together.
"Bill can set up the Portkey," said Ron, "and I'm sure he'll act as our guide as well. He told Charlie that he'd like to help with the quest."
"So I'll leave it to you and Ginny then," said Dumbledore. "If you go next Saturday, that gives you four days to make the arrangements. I'll let Sirius and the others know, and no doubt they'll want to speak to you all before you leave."
Down in the Slytherin common room, Draco Malfoy sat with his two goons, Crabbe and Goyle, and the atmosphere wasn't very cheerful.
"I haven't heard from my father for ages," said Draco gloomily. "He's off on some search for… well, let's just say he's on an important mission." Draco hadn't told his two friends that his father was with Voldemort, or that he was spying for them at Hogwarts. He didn't trust his dim-witted fellow Slytherins to keep their mouths firmly shut - not that they'd do it on purpose, of course, but there was always the chance that they'd blurt something during their many episodes of boasting about the Dark Side.
"That's funny," said Crabbe. "My father's been away for ages too, but Mum will only say that he's on some important business trip." Draco grinned - even Crabbe's mother didn't trust him to keep quiet.
"Are you coming up for dinner?" asked Goyle.
"No, you two go ahead," replied Draco. "I'll be up a bit later."
He watched the two large boys go out into the corridor, and then turned his mind back to more pressing matters. He hadn't been able to find out what Potter and his friends had been up to, and he knew that as soon as his father returned home he'd want some information. But it wasn't through any lack of activity on Draco's part. He'd followed the four around under his invisibility cloak, and he'd even spent hour after hour hidden in the library, trying to listen in on their conversations. But all they seemed to do was read. Always reading, but not talking very much. He'd looked at the books they were reading, but Hermetic Philosophy didn't seem a very likely subject to give any clue about their second quest.
He wracked his brains, trying to decide on the best course of action, but he couldn't think of anything better than he'd already been doing. He sighed and got up from the chair, and then walked up to the Great Hall for his dinner.
After breakfast the next morning, Harry and Ron waved to Hermione as she made her way up to her Arithmancy class, and then they went on their long trudge up to the Divinations classroom.
Hermione entered the classroom to find that all her fellow students were there - all 6 of them. Arithmancy was perceived to be so complicated and boring that few students opted to take the subject. Not so Hermione, however. She loved all the complex calculations, and Professor Vector even managed to make the odd lesson very entertaining. Almost all the other students, however, only opted for Arithmancy because they couldn't stomach Divination.
Hermione took her seat as Professor Vector came into the room carrying a large board, which he propped up against the front of his desk. On the board was a large drawing of a pyramid, below which were a number of very complicated calculations.
"Today," began the professor, "we shall study the mathematics of the Great Pyramid of Giza, which as you all know, or at least you should know, is the only one of the seven ancient wonders of the world still standing today."
Hermione rubbed her hands with eager anticipation, primarily because of the reading she'd already done about the structure, and also because they'd be going to Egypt in a few days time.
"Before we take a look at the very complicated mathematics involved," continued Professor Vector, "I'll tell you some facts about the Great Pyramid that you most probably haven't heard before, even you Hermione.
"First, let's get one of the great misconceptions out of the way. Whatever book you read on the subject, it always starts off by saying that it was the greatest tomb ever built by the Egyptians." He paused as he looked at each of the seven students. "But it was not a tomb. No body has ever been found in it, or in the other two pyramids on the Giza plateau if it comes to that, and there are no funerary objects or writings inside it."
One of the students stuck her hand in the air. "Professor Vector, wasn't it emptied by tomb robbers?"
"No, I've never heard of any tomb robber bothering to completely obliterate the funerary writings on the walls of a tomb, and they always leave something behind, even if they destroy it - but there were no signs of this at all. And what's more, the exit from the so called King's chamber is so small that only the smallest objects could have been removed." He again paused. "So if it's not a tomb, what is it? During this and the next several lessons, we hope to shed some light on the mystery, and the tool we'll use to unravel the puzzle is Arithmancy."
Hermione thrust her hand in the air. "Professor Vector, all the Egyptologists insist that Khufu built the Great Pyramid, even though their assertion is based on a fraud. Why do you think that is?"
The professor smiled. "For the same reason they insist on calling it a tomb, Hermione. You see, back in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it was a great mystery to everyone; no one could fathom out why such a monumental structure was ever built. So one day, an Egyptologist suggested it might have been a tomb, and ever since, because there wasn't a better guess forthcoming, that guess solidified into fact. It's fairly typical of the way Egyptologists think and act - if they can't supply an explanation for what they find, they either ignore it and hope it goes away, or cotton on to the best guess answer. And once established, the guess/fact is rarely challenged because of the ridicule they tend to pour on any alternative answer.
"Now a few more curious facts about the Great Pyramid. It is the most accurately aligned structure in existence and faces true north with only a minute degree of error. It is located exactly at the centre of the Earth's land mass - the east/west parallel that crosses the most land and the north/south meridian that crosses the most land intersect in only two places on Earth, one in the ocean and the other at the Great Pyramid.
"Now for the really interesting facts. The relationship of the base divided by twice the height equals Pi to five decimal places - this mathematical relationship was thought to have been discovered first by Archimedes in 300 B.C. - some 2,500 years after the Great Pyramid was built! The ratio of the face slant height to half the base side equals 1.618. Can anybody tell me what that is?"
Hermione's hand shot straight into the air. "Except you, Hermione. Your exploits in solving the route through the labyrinth are now well documented. No other takers? It's Phi, the golden ratio, and that ratio was not generally publicised until 1200 A.D. And what's more, there is evidence that the Egyptians had worked out a relationship between Pi and Phi; that is Pi equals six fifths of Phi squared. So you see, the ancient Egyptians did some pretty advanced mathematics, but of course the Egyptologists don't agree, they just ignore it and put it down to coincidence. Right, let's get down to the more complicated mathematical properties of the Great Pyramid…"
Hermione remained in a state of ecstasy for the rest of the lesson and couldn't wait for the next one to find out more about the amazing exploits of the ancient Egyptians.
Margot Denarnaud was smiling as she walked down the lane towards the church that only six months ago had been the scene of some momentous events. Some of the signs of the magical spells used that day still showed on many of the gravestones and on the front of the church, but no one knew how those marks had been caused. No one in the little village of Rennes-le-Chateau could remember, except for Margot and her family.
Margot had been talking to one of the young village boys, Serge Mercier, who never lost an opportunity to ask her to go out with him. He was a good-looking boy, and seemed quite sensitive, but she wondered how he'd react if he found out that Margot was a witch.
It was a beautiful morning, and there was only the smallest hint of a chill in the slight breeze that pointed to the imminent arrival of autumn. Margot had just been to the little shop in the centre of the village to buy a fresh loaf of bread, her mother having little time to bake as she normally did each morning. Margot's parents had just left to visit her aunt who lived on the outskirts of Carcassonne. Aunt Claire hadn't been well of late, and they were all a bit concerned. Margot wasn't allowed to go with them, however - she had her schoolwork to do.
She turned to the left as she reached the church and walked quickly towards the house where she lived with her parents and paternal grandfather - Jules Denarnaud. She loved the Villa Bethania; the house built by her great-great-grandfather, Berenger Sauniere, and ever since she could remember, loved to browse through the old priest's extensive library that had been moved to the house many years ago from the Magdala Tower at the other end of the garden.
She opened the front door and went into the kitchen, where she placed the loaf into the bread bin. Then she walked through the hallway and opened the door of the room that served as her classroom. Margot's parents and grandfather had decided not to send Margot to Beauxbatons; they felt that her development as a seer would not be properly nurtured there because of a lack of teaching talent in that field. So they'd decided that it was in her best interests if she stayed at home and received her magical education from her erudite grandfather, Jules.
Jules was well versed in the arts of teaching magical subjects, especially Divination. He had great hopes for his beautiful granddaughter, whose rapid progress in that very rare art was a continual source of pleasure to him. He hadn't yet told her about his dream that she'd one day take over the mantle of responsibility from his shoulders - a dream that looked increasingly unlikely. He'd tried to change the way things were done in the inner circle, tried to get them to accept that their ancient order should be open to witches as well as wizards, but he constantly felt that he was banging his head against a brick wall.
He sighed as he prepared the days lessons, doubtful that he'd ever change the long tradition of only a wizard holding the lofty position of Grand Master of the Priory of Sion.
He turned as he heard the classroom door open, and smiled as he saw Margot enter.
"Bon matin grand-père. Comment allez-vous aujourd'hui?" she said brightly, smiling fondly at him.
"Margot!" said Jules sternly. "In English please. I thought we'd agreed that we'd only speak English during your lessons. Don't forget that you were the one who wanted to become more fluent in the language."
"Sorry grandfather," she said. "I'll start again shall I? Good morning grandfather. How are you today?"
"That's better," he replied smiling. "And I'm very well, thank you Margot."
Margot smiled. She'd wanted to improve her English because of the dream she'd had when she returned home from The Burrow earlier that summer. In her dream, she'd been told that she would become more and more involved in the quests of the Anima Summas, and she didn't want her limited knowledge of English to get in the way of communicating with them. Her accent was now near perfect, thanks to her grandfather and the ancient spells he possessed, spells passed down to him from previous Grand Masters of the Priory of Sion. She was very proud that her grandfather was the head of the order that was the spiritual protectors of the secret of Rhedae.
"We'll start off this morning with more English vocabulary," said Jules. "You've got the grammar firmly fixed now, but we need to build up your range of words."
"Yes grandfather," she said as she stood and walked towards him. Jules placed his wand on the top of her head and said an ancient spell in the same unfamiliar language that Margot had heard him use before. A dim silvery light left his wand and covered Margot's head for a few moments before disappearing. She sat back down at the sole desk in the room and waited. She knew from past experience that the spell would take about two minutes to fully attune her brain to the condition that would render it ultra-receptive to the information it would soon be receiving. She never ceased to be amazed at the power of the ancient learning-enhancing spell and the sheer amount of knowledge that was placed permanently in her memory in such a short time. She listened as her grandfather quickly read from an English vocabulary textbook, and she was stunned to see that there were only a few pages left to read. She'd only started learning from that book a week or so ago.
In no time at all, Jules closed the book and looked up. "That's it Margot. You've now learned everything I can teach you about the language. We'll cover Defence Against the Dark Arts next, and before lunch, well practice Transfiguration techniques. We can concentrate on Divination this afternoon."
Margot felt tired at the end of the day's lessons. The learning-enhancing spell tended to wear her out, which was why her grandfather used it only intermittently, generally only once every three days. Margot lay on her bed before dinner thinking about the Anima Summas. She smiled as she tried to visualise what Hermione would think of the spell - she knew about her love of learning, but she couldn't decide whether Hermione would entirely approve of the method. On the one hand, she'd probably relish the thought of being able to absorb an enormous amount of knowledge very quickly, but on the other, she'd most likely miss the delights of working through things and coming to a full understanding at her own pace.
She gave up thinking about it and closed her eyes. A vision of Serge Mercier filled her mind and she smiled. She hadn't been out with a boy before, even though she'd just turned sixteen, and she wondered what it would be like. She'd seen people kissing before, of course, and being a very tactile family, was constantly kissing, and being kissed, by her parents. She wondered what it would feel like with Serge. Would it be very different?
She sometimes, inevitably, felt a bit left out of things and wondered what it would have been like if she'd gone to Beauxbatons and mixed with youngsters of her own kind.
'Perhaps Mum and Dad will let me go on to University when grandfather teaches me all he knows,' she thought. 'I really would like the company of people my own age, get to know how they think, what they do…'
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny walked out of the Great Hall after breakfast on Saturday morning, and went outside to meet their protectors, who were gathered on the lawn waiting for them. "Come on you four," said Sirius. "We've only got a few minutes before the Portkey is activated."
As they all stood waiting, Fred and George walked up the path to the school, holding their wands in front of them as they levitated a number of large sacks and boxes.
"You're early," said Remus. "Expecting a lot of custom today are you?"
"Yes Mooney," said George, "and we've got to cope all on our own - Lee, Angelina and Alicia are back at the shop trying to keep up with the orders from the ministry."
"Oh, before we forget," said Fred reaching into one of the sacks. "Compliments of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes - you might find these useful on your visit to Egypt."
Sirius and Remus took the box of Whammos from Fred. "Thanks Fred," said Ceri. "It'll make our job a lot easier."
"Heard anything from America yet?" asked Charlie
"Not yet Charlie," said George, "but when we do, we're going to need a lot more help. You and Nadine don't fancy a job do you?"
Nadine laughed. "We've already got our hands full with these four George. Why don't you ask some of the seventh year students if they want to earn a bit of cash on the weekends?"
"Hey, that's not a bad idea," said Fred looking thoughtful. "I'll have a chat with Dumbledore and see what he thinks about it."
"Come on," said Sirius, "it's nearly time. Grab hold of the broomstick."
"Say hello to Bill for us," shouted George as the group disappeared with a 'pop'.
The first thing they became aware of when they suddenly materialised behind a pile of ancient fallen columns in Hermopolis was the heat. The second thing was the grinning face of Bill Weasley standing just to one side of them.
"Bill!" shouted Ginny as she ran over and hugged her brother. She pulled back and looked at him appraisingly. "I must say I like the image Bill."
Bill did a twirl for his sister, showing off the white native robes he wore, and the red fez with a black tassel on his head.
"Gone native have you Bill?" asked Nadine as she kissed him on the cheek. Charlie shook his hand warmly and turned back to the others.
"Now let's see. You know Harry and Hermione of course, but I don't think you've met the others. Let me introduce you."
Bill looked towards Sirius, Remus and Ceri. "This is Sirius Black," said Charlie as they shook hands. "And this is Remus Lupin."
"And who is this lovely lady?" asked Bill after shaking Remus' hand, his admiration for the pretty American clear to see.
Charlie glanced nervously at Sirius, who stood scowling at Bill. No one else seemed to notice though. "Uh, this is Ceri Jones Bill. The American Magical Congress seconded her to the team some time ago, and she's been working with Sirius since the summer last year.
Bill took Ceri's hand and looked deeply into her eyes. Ceri, however, ignored the attention and just smiled. "Hello Bill, pleased to meet you," she said as she extricated her hand from Bill's rather over-intimate grip.
Bill dragged himself reluctantly away from Ceri and turned to the others. "Well this is Hermopolis, or what's left of it," he said as he pointed to the extensive ruins. "I've had a good scout around but I couldn't see any dark-cloaked foreigners about. It seems they've left you alone again."
"What are these ruins Bill?" asked Hermione looking at the huge columns, some still standing.
"These are the remains of the Roman basilica built in the third century," he replied.
"And what about those large stone statues over there?" asked Harry.
"That I don't know," said Bill. "Let's take a closer look."
They walked over to the two large statues, made of quartzite, and saw they were statues of animals. "They're baboons!" shouted Hermione. "They must have once guarded the entrance to the great temple of Thoth - the Egyptians sometimes depicted him as a baboon."
"But where's the temple?" asked Ron, who looked beyond the statues to see just a pile of rubble. There were no discernable structures there at all.
"It must have been completely destroyed or just fallen down over the last few thousand years," said Ginny gloomily. "So where do we go from here?"
"Let's see if there's anything magical here," said Harry. "Let's walk between the statues and see if we can feel anything."
As the four youngsters slowly walked between the two baboons, Sirius said, "We'll spread out around the site and make sure no one turns up unexpectedly. He turned back to the others to lead them away but then turned quickly back towards the statues as he felt, rather than heard, a strange sort of vibration in the air. Harry and the others were no longer standing between the baboons - they'd disappeared.
"There they go again," said Nadine resignedly.
"Come on," said Sirius. "Let's spread out and keep our eyes peeled for anything nasty."
They walked towards the perimeter of the site and started to spread out around it, Sirius, Remus and Nadine to the right and Ceri, Charlie and Bill to the left. As they went, Charlie put his arm on Bill's shoulder, speaking quietly, "Uh Bill. I ought to warn you that Sirius likes Ceri."
Bill turned to face his brother. "And does she like him back?"
"Uh, I'm not sure. But Nadine seems to think so."
"So there's nothing going on between them then," said Bill with a grin.
"Look I wouldn't want to see any… unpleasantness Bill."
"Well you know me Charlie. Remember my motto? All's fair in love and war."
Charlie groaned, knowing he'd have to keep an eye on his freewheeling brother and Sirius. He groaned even more when he saw Bill walk quickly in Ceri's direction.
Harry and the other three youngsters staggered slightly as they felt a slight disorientation. Then they looked about in surprise as a building suddenly materialised around them. They stood inside a covered courtyard, in front of some marble steps that led up to a small building, adorned with paintings of Ibises and baboons.
"This must be Thoth's temple," said Hermione. "But don't ask me how we got here."
"That could be the inner sanctum," said Harry pointing to the decorated building at the top of the steps. "I wonder if Thoth's there?"
"There's only one way to find out," said Ron as he started towards the stone steps. He'd only taken a few steps before he stopped dead in his tracks, staring at the entrance into the building. He quickly stepped back to join his friends as a figure appeared through the entrance and walked slowly to the top of the steps.
"Is that Thoth?" asked Ginny as she strained to make out the facial features of the figure.
"Not unless he's had a sex change," said Harry. "That's most definitely a woman."
"And what a woman," breathed Ron, his eyes nearly popping out of his head. The figure had now advanced to the top of the marble steps, and started to walk down them, her graceful movements bringing a gasp of admiration from Harry and Ron, and an admiring but envious stare from the girls.
The woman was dressed in the style of the ancient Egyptians, her leopard skin dress clinging tightly to her feminine curves. She wore coloured sandals, but her most striking adornment was the curious headdress that sat atop her flowing shiny black hair that curved delicately about her shoulders. It appeared to be a wand, rising from a jewelled crescent headband, and ending in a seven-pointed star.
"Close your mouths, you two," hissed Hermione as she glanced at the boys.
Ginny giggled but quickly took on a more serious look as the woman reached the bottom of the steps and stood in front of them, about ten feet away. She looked at the four appraisingly and smiled a smile that lit up her beautiful face.
"Welcome to the Sanctuary of Thoth," she said with a melodious and hypnotic voice. "I greet you, Anima Summas and brave helpers. It is pleasing that you have found your way to this place."
"We… we are searching for Thoth," said Harry nervously. "Have we come to the end of our quest?"
"Not so, Anima Summa," she replied. "My father is no longer here. He has gone to another place, to his secret chambers where he guards the wisdom of the ages. That is the place that you must find."
"Your father?" asked Hermione.
The woman turned to look directly at Hermione and smiled. "Yes wise one. Thoth is my father. I am called Seshat; I am known as the Queen of feminine spirits, the patron of libraries, all forms of writing, and the measurement of time. I was once known as the Mistress of the House of Books, the guardian of the sacred writings of my father."
Hermione stared at Seshat, overcome with joy that she was standing before the daughter of the original scribe - her kindred spirit. She wanted to ask her so much; she needed to know all about the origins of writing. But she stopped short of voicing her desires, wanting to know more about their quest.
Seshat smiled once more at Hermione. "Yes, we are indeed kindred spirits, wise one, and we both share a thirst that can only be quenched by knowing all. But your time is short, you must all proceed with your quest to search for my father - he is waiting for you, waiting to impart the knowledge that will send you on your way to the final quest and your destiny."
"Can you tell us where he is?" asked Harry.
"I have already told you Anima Summa. He is waiting for you in his secret chambers. You must find your own way to that place, but I will give you what assistance I can. Listen carefully."
Seshat paused for a few moments before continuing. "You must follow the path of the Hunter on his journey through the Duat beneath ancient Rostau. You must seek the place where he left his Earthly existence and rose to his destiny in the stars to look down in the company of his beloved consort on the affairs of man. At the start of your dread journey you will meet the spirits of the Hunter and his consort, who will instruct you."
Ginny quickly wrote Seshat's words onto a piece of parchment, then looked up as she spoke once more, her voice and face full of compassion. "Be aware that the way is dangerous and will fill you with fear. You will face ancient forces that will be beyond your comprehension. But armed with what you already have, and the spells that are writ in the tombs of the departed, you will have the protection you need to gain the sanctuary of my father."
"Where can we find these spells, Seshat?" asked Hermione.
"You must find your way to those yourselves," she replied. "But you can start at the tomb of the Hunter."
"We have found out that there were other Anima Summas before us, back in your time on Earth," said Ron. "Can you tell us who they were?"
Seshat smiled, this time at Ron. "No brave one, you will discover that for yourselves."
She turned and walked back up the marble steps, and when she reached the top she turned back to the four. "It is time for you to go. I wish you safe journey, and I hope to see you again when you meet my father."
And then she was gone. And so was the temple. They found themselves standing between the statues of the two baboons, gazing at the ruins that were once the magnificent temple of Thoth.
Oliver and Katie sat outside the large cabin in the middle of the New Forest in Hampshire. It served as the headquarters for their group of five teams of Aurors who provided a badly needed defence for that part of Southern England. Only Phil Brace's team were there at that particular time, the other four teams having gone on routine patrols around the county.
"So what are you going to do tonight Katie?" asked Oliver.
"I really need to write to my parents Oliver. I haven't spoken to them in ages, and I owe them a letter."
"Have you given any more thought to trying to find out about your real father?"
"Well yes. But the only thing I can think of is tackling my parents about it again, and from the way they reacted last time, I'm not really looking forward to it."
"There is another way, you know," said Oliver quietly.
Katie looked at him pointedly. "What other way?"
"Well you said that your real father was at Hogwarts when your mother was there, so you could think about asking Professor Dumbledore. I'm not sure if he was the headmaster back then, but he was certainly one of the professors, and he may well know all about it."
Katie stared at the ground deep in though for a minute or two, and then said, "I really hadn't thought of that, and I suppose there's a chance he'd know who my father is. But I don't know if he'd tell me even if he knew. And how am I going to find the time to go to Hogwarts with all this Death Eater activity going on?"
"That's a problem, I'll admit, but we'll get some leave eventually and we can go there then. You could be right that Dumbledore won't want to tell you anything, but knowing him, he'll want to do what he can to help. He may even speak to your parents and try to persuade them to tell you."
"Yes, he may well do. Uh Oliver, what do you mean we'll go to Hogwarts? Surely you've got better things to do than get involved in my problems."
"Well I haven't Katie, apart from paying a quick visit to my parents."
"Isn't there a girl you'd want to visit? Surely an up and coming Quidditch star like you would have plenty of girls after him?"
Oliver looked embarrassed and self-consciously plucked a piece of grass from the ground and started to twirl it around in his hand. "There's no one Katie. At least, no one I'd want to spend time with rather than help you with finding your father."
"That's sweet Oliver," she replied, reaching out to cover his hand with her own. Oliver looked into Katie's eyes, trying to look into her mind. Trying to see if she felt the same way about him as he did about her.
He took a deep breath. "Katie… I…"
They both jumped as Phil Brace came storming out of the cabin, followed by the rest of the team, now back to their full strength of twenty.
"Come on you two," he said hurriedly. "We've got to get to a little place outside Winchester. I've just had an urgent call about a group of Death Eaters massing in a wood not far from a Muggle village."
He waited until all his team gathered around him, and then gave the coordinates to Apparate to a spot at the edge of the woods. A few seconds later, they arrived and immediately dropped to the ground, looking around for any signs of activity, but there was nobody in sight.
"Come with me Oliver," said Phil quietly. "The rest of you stay here and spread out along the edge of the wood."
Phil and Oliver moved slowly into the wood, being careful not to step on any fallen twigs, and stopped every now and again to listen for any sounds of movement. They'd gone about a quarter of a mile when Phil grabbed Oliver's arm and dragged him to the ground. He pointed to their left, and started crawling slowly through a gap in the trees towards a rise in the ground. They reached it and looked cautiously over the top into a small expanse of open ground. They just had time to see a group of Death Eaters disappearing into the trees to their left, walking in the direction where the rest of Phil's team were waiting. They'd only seen the backs of about ten of the black-cloaked figures, but there was no way of telling their full strength.
"Come on, we've got to get back and warn the others," said Phil hurriedly, rising to his feet.
"Noooo…" shouted Oliver as he spotted movement from the opposite end of the clearing. Phil turned sharply around, but before he or Oliver could do anything, a sickly beam of green light snaked across the clearing and caught Phil in the chest. Too late, Oliver aimed his wand at the lone Death Eater and sent the spell that dropped him to the ground, stunned.
When he was sure there were no more Death Eaters lurking at the other end of the clearing, he quickly caught hold of Phil's shoulder and turned him over onto his back. He sucked in his breath sharply when he saw the blank stare, and cursed quietly to himself. Then he pulled himself together and stared at the spot where he'd last seen the Death Eaters. He let out a low anguished cry, "Katie…"
Oliver ran quickly back the way he'd come, all the while looking across to his right to make sure he wasn't spotted. He was about fifty yards from the edge of the wood when he heard the sound of spells and curses being thrown. He stooped low as he ran towards the place where the rest of the team were, and quickly took in the scene. The team were pinned down in an exposed position by two groups of black-cloaked figures to the left, each group containing about fifteen Death Eaters, who had the cover of the trees.
Oliver crawled over to a group of five Aurors closest to him and called for them to follow him back into the cover of the trees. He quickly told them what had happened to Phil, and then explained his plan of getting around the back of the nearest group of Death Eaters and exposing them to a crossfire. He led the group quietly, but swiftly, in an arc to their right and soon came to a spot where they could clearly see the first group. Oliver nodded and six Stupefy spells found their mark. Another three fell in the second volley of spells, and the remaining Death Eaters ran frantically over towards the second group, but only three made it under the concentrated fire of Oliver and the others.
Oliver then walked further back into the woods, quickly followed by his colleagues, and started to circle around towards the last enemy position. He suddenly dropped to the ground and waved for the others to follow. A few moments later, they saw three black-cloaked figures running back along a path towards the clearing, and they were quickly rendered unconscious as they passed the spot where the Aurors lay in wait. Oliver motioned to the others and they crossed the line of the path and moved quickly to the right, aiming to outflank the remainder of the enemy. Oliver cautiously walked to the edge of the wood and looked back along the line of trees and saw that the rest of the team were in a much better position, having gained the cover of a dip in the ground. He walked back into the woods and pointed towards the enemy position, stooped low, and led the other five slowly towards them. They were twenty yards away when Oliver directed the Aurors to fan out on either side of him, and then nodded to start their attack.
Surprised by the spells coming from their rear, the Death Eaters panicked and started to run back into the woods. Five of them fell to the ground, stunned by the fire from Oliver's group, and five more soon followed, caught in the crossfire when the rest of the team arrived. The remaining five Death Eaters dropped their wands and raised their arms in the air.
Oliver looked frantically around to see if he could see Katie, but he couldn't see her at first. He quickly moved among his colleagues asking them where she was and turned sharply as he heard a voice behind him. "Looking for me Oliver?"
Oliver let out a sigh of relief as he saw the grinning Katie standing before him. "Oh Katie, " he said, "I thought…."
"Never mind what you thought," she said as she reached out and held his hand for the second time that night. "You saved us. Saved us all." She stretched up and kissed him on the cheek, but stepped back quickly as she heard a chorus of catcalls and whistles from the rest of the team, her face glowing a bright pink.
Oliver stared at her, not believing that she'd kissed him, but turned when one of the Aurors, John Ballot, approached him. "What do you want us to do Oliver?"
Oliver blinked. "Me? Why me John?"
"Because you've got what it takes," he glanced around at the rest of the team. "We all think you should take charge here now that poor old Phil has gone."
Oliver thought frantically. "Ok. You five secure all the prisoners," he said pointing at the nearest five Aurors, "and the rest of you come with me. We've got to make sure there's no more of them around, like the one that killed Phil back at the clearing."
Oliver led the team, Katie close by his side, towards the clearing and searched the surrounding area. When it was clear that there were no more of the enemy in the vicinity, Oliver led the team to the place where Phil Brace lay. They all stared sadly down at their fallen team leader and waited until a white cloak was placed over his body.
"He was a good team leader. A good man - the best," said Oliver. "The reason he died was because he was too anxious to get back and make sure you weren't caught in a trap. He was always thinking of his team."
They carried Phil back out of the woods and laid him reverently on the ground, awaiting the arrival of the medics, and a relief team to take the prisoners back to divisional headquarters. Then they Apparated back to their camp in the New Forest for a well-earned rest.
The next morning, Oliver was called into the group commander's little office. He knocked and walked in to see Arnold Wise sitting at his desk, reading the report that Oliver had written late the previous night. The slightly balding, middle-aged man looked up and smiled, then gestured for Oliver to sit in the chair in front of his desk.
"I'm very sorry about Phil Brace," he said. "He was one of our best team leaders and we're all going to miss him, me in particular. Apart from being a good friend, I relied a lot on Phil to help with the running of the group, and to work out a lot of our tactical strategies. You haven't been here very long, but I know that you both got on very well. I don't know if Phil ever told you, Oliver, but he had a lot of respect for the way you conduct yourself, and he'd started to look on you as his second in command."
"I had a lot of respect for him too commander," Oliver replied. "And I know that Alastor Moody's going to miss him. They were friends from the old days."
The commander nodded sadly and then looked back down at the report on his desk. "This is a good report Oliver; concise and to the point. I'm looking for a new team leader now, and I can't think of anyone better than you. Will you take it on?"
Oliver looked stunned. "But… but I'm new here commander, surely there are more experienced Aurors that are better suited for it?"
"Don't talk yourself down Oliver. Only yesterday, 'Mad Eye' was telling me about the leadership qualities you showed in abundance at camp Merlin, and as I told you, Phil had a very high regard for your tactical awareness. I debriefed the other members of your team early this morning and they told me how you took the initiative after poor Phil was killed. You saved the team yesterday Oliver, and they all hold you in the highest esteem. I know you can handle this, so what do you say?"
"I… I'm flattered commander." Oliver thought for a few moments. "All right, I'll give it my best shot."
"Excellent. But there's one thing I want to warn you about, the thing that ages our field commanders way before their time. Oliver, you'll be responsible for the well being of your team and you're inevitably going to lose some of them. No one fully comes to terms with that; not even Phil. I spent many a long night trying to console him after some of his men were killed in action - he always thought it was his fault. He always thought that if he did things a little differently, they'd still be alive. But it never was his fault. You'll do well to follow his philosophy when you find yourself having to deploy the team in the field. His prime consideration was to use a tactical strategy in each situation that gave the best chances of victory, with the maximum safety for his team. Follow that and you won't go far wrong."
"Thank you commander. I know that Phil always worried about the safety of the team, but I didn't know that it affected him so much."
"Right Oliver. Come on, I'll introduce the team to their new leader."
It was the early hours of the morning and Margot tossed and turned in her bed, gripped by the terrible dream she was having. Then she woke with a start and gasped, looking fearfully around the room as she sat up, her face a bath of sweat.
As she started to calm down, she tried to remember the details of her dream and the message that she'd heard after the visions had stopped. She reached for some parchment and quill to write down the message - she could still hear it reverberating in her head - 'Tell the Anima Summas and their mentor. They will know what to do.'
'Who is their mentor?' she thought. 'I've got to go to Hogwarts first thing in the morning. Harry and Hermione have to be told about this straight away. Grandfather will be able to set up the Portkey for me.'
She shuddered as she replayed in her head the vision she'd seen in her dream…
It was a dark place lit only by the flickering light of four magical flames at the corner of a black altar. Strange pictures moved on the walls, pictures from a time long past. At the top of the marble steps leading up to the altar was a terrible figure. It was a man clad in black robes with a hideous face that reminded her of a snake. But it was what the figure was doing that filled her with dread. He held a large black book in both his hands, his arms stretched above his head. He was cackling with mad elation as he looked down on four other black-cloaked figures that knelt at the bottom of the altar, each looking up with an adoring but fearful gaze. There was a name on the spine of the book, but Margot couldn't see it clearly enough to read. She could just make out the first letter, which was written in gold - 'N'.
Confusion, wavering images, and then light. Now the terrible figure walked at the head of a number of other black-cloaked figures. He led them down… always down, until they came to a hot dry desolate place. There was nothing to say the name of that dreaded place… no landmark… no sign. But something behind the vision, beyond sight, revealed the nature of the place in her dream. In her inner being she knew she was looking at the bottom of the Earth.
Author's Note -Please take a few moments to leave a review - I really do need to know what you think of this chapter. Many thanks to those who've reviewed so far. There are a few images of a few things related to this chapter on my picture board - feel free to take a look.
The Westcar Papyrus - in its original form.
The Ruins of Hermopolis - where Harry and his friends met Seshat.
One of the Baboon statues guarding the now-ruined temple of Thoth at Hermopolis.
Seshat - how she is normally depicted.
Coming soon - Chapter 7 - The Bottom of the Earth.