The Seers' Curse
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.
After lunch, the four were called to Dumbledore's office, where Margot and her grandfather sat waiting. They rushed over and greeted them warmly, especially Ron, who entered his usual state of captivated distraction as soon as he laid eyes on the beautiful Margot.
"Sit down, all of you," said Dumbledore from the other side of his desk, "We have to work out how we're going to approach the accelerated learning process. Have you got any firm ideas on how to proceed Jules?"
"Well I thought that the best way to start is for me to speak to all the professors to see exactly where these four are with their studies, and what topics will be covered for the rest of this term. Then I'll be able to work out a schedule for them."
"That sounds good Jules," said the headmaster, "I'll set up a meeting when afternoon classes are over. How soon do you think you'll be able to make a start?"
"If everything goes to plan," replied Jules, "We should be able to hold the first session tomorrow afternoon. I anticipate that one afternoon session should cover a normal week's tuition."
Dumbledore fiddled with his beard, deep in thought, "They'll still need to attend some classes to cover the practical aspects of certain subjects. Let's see… they'll need to cover Potions, Transfigurations, Charms and DADA I think. That should take a full day, so that leaves five and a half days a week for research and any trips they'll need to make. How does that sound to you four?"
"Fine Professor," answered Harry.
"Uh, are you sure we have to do Potions Professor?" asked Ron with a pained expression on his face.
Dumbledore chuckled, "I'm afraid so Ron. You know as well as I that a large part of the Potions class is devoted to the brewing process. Tell me Jules, what about Margot? It might be a good idea, if you agree of course, to have her attend these classes with the other four. What do you think?"
"Oh please grandfather," urged Margot, "I'd love to get involved."
"You might change your mind after your first Potions lesson Margot," whispered Ron.
Jules thought for a few moments, "Yes, I think that might be a very good idea Albus. It'll give her an insight into how things work in a normal school, and the practical aspects will most probably be better than I'm able to give her - I hear that Professor Snape is the top Potions professor in Europe. Yes, I agree."
"Will she have to be sorted into a house Headmaster?" asked Harry.
"Oh I don't think that's necessary Harry," he replied, "After all, she's not here permanently."
The four grinned, happy that Margot wouldn't have to spend her time at Hogwarts in Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff - they didn't even contemplate that she'd have been placed in Slytherin.
"There is one thing that bothers me about all this Jules," said Dumbledore, "In my experience, there's no gain without pain so to speak. Will there be any adverse side effects to your learning process?"
"Well yes," Jules answered, "Margot becomes very tired after one of our sessions, and I fully expect the same reaction from these four. But that's only to be expected - after all, a full week's learning will be crammed into one afternoon's session."
"That's not a very high price to pay," said Hermione, hoping that the headmaster wouldn't change his mind about the arrangement.
Dumbledore smiled, "No, I don't suppose it is."
"What about this afternoon's classes Professor?" asked Hermione, "We've had a breakthrough with the Hunter, thanks to Professor Sinistra, and we want to follow it through as soon as we can."
"I think you can be excused from classes this afternoon and tomorrow morning," he replied, "The sooner you find a solution to this quest the better as far as I'm concerned."
The four grinned excitedly at each other, and started to get up from their seats to rush up to the common room. They stopped, however, when Margot, looking very downcast, whispered, "What about me? What shall I do this afternoon?" She'd caught the excitement of her friends and felt that she'd be left out of it all.
Ron looked stricken at the sad expression on Margot's face, "Do you think she can help us with the research?" he asked, looking from his friends to the headmaster.
"Hmm. Well she's already involved in your quest," said Dumbledore thoughtfully, "So I can't see any reason why she can't be involved in your research. But be warned, there's absolutely no way that she can go with you when you leave the confines of Hogwarts. You know that it must only be you four who witness the result of your second quest. Do you understand?"
"We understand that Professor," Ron answered for all four, "And it would be much too dangerous for her anyway."
Margot bristled slightly at that, but decided not to press the matter at this stage.
"I think it would be a good thing for you to get involved with the research Margot," said Jules, "It might give you a better insight into what they're looking for, and that may trigger more dreams and visions. It could help more than we think."
"Welcome to the team then Margot," said Ron, a big smile on his face.
"Uh, just one thing," said Ginny, a smirk playing around her lips, "We'll all be glad of Margot's help, but what about you Ron? Are you going to be fully involved in the research or are you going to be researching Margot's pretty face the whole time?"
"Ginny!" shouted Ron. Margot put her head down and smiled weakly, a pink flush rising up her face. Harry and Hermione just grinned at each other, and Jules and Dumbledore exchanged amused, but knowing, glances.
That afternoon, the five friends sat in Gryffindor common room looking through the piles of books on Egypt that were stacked on the table over by the window. They'd found many references to Osiris and Isis, but they hadn't found where his tomb was yet.
Harry looked up at the window and thought for a few moments, "Margot, I've been meaning to ask you. Why did you come to Hogwarts looking up at my window back last spring? I know you had to deliver a message when the time was right, but why didn't you stay in France until then?"
"I was told to come, Harry. In my vision, there was a powerful voice urging me to make sure I showed myself to you from a distance, but not to speak to you until you'd joined with your Anima Summa. I don't think I was meant to speak to you either, Hermione, that's why I appeared a bit vague and confused when you spoke to me at the edge of the forest."
"I think I know what that was about," said Hermione, "It was meant to throw Harry off the scent, in case he started to see me as his Anima Summa before he was meant to."
"Hey!" shouted Ginny, looking up from the book she was reading, I've found a passage in this book that explains the legend of Osiris and Isis."
"Read it out to us Ginny," said Harry.
"Right - are you listening Ron?" She'd spotted Ron casting long glances at Margot as she spoke to Harry and Hermione.
"Ok, I'll read it out as it is, I haven't got Hermi's talent for instant summaries. 'Isis and Osiris were two of the children born to the sun god Ra and his wife, the sky goddess Nut. They had two other children, Seth and Nephtys. Osiris married Isis and they became the first rulers of Egypt.'"
"What?" shouted Ron looking strangely at Ginny, "He married his sister? Yuk!"
"Ron," said Hermione patiently, "I've read about that, and back in those times it wasn't considered bad. In fact, a lot of Pharaohs married their sister. You see, it was a matrilineal society back then - that is, the royal line was perceived to flow through the blood of the females, so if a son wanted to become the new Pharaoh after his father died, he had to marry his sister. See?"
"Well no, but carry on Ginny," said Ron.
"Right, 'When he was 28, Osiris was brutally murdered by his brother Seth, who'd become jealous of him, and Seth cut his body into fourteen pieces and cast them adrift in a wooden box on the river Nile. Devastated, Isis went in search of the remains of her husband and recovered all the pieces of Osiris' body except for…'" Ginny became very quiet and just stared at the book, her face slowly turning pink, "I can't say the next bit," she said quietly.
"Give it here, Ginny," said Hermione, "I'll carry on. Now let's see, oh yes, 'Except for his…' Oh I see what you mean Ginny," Hermione also coloured up, but was determined to continue, "Let's just say 'except for his naughty bit'."
"His what Hermi?" shouted Harry, grinning.
"His naughty bit Harry. You know!" she replied.
"I think we do Hermi," said Harry, looking at Ron and Margot who stared fixedly at the floor.
"Anyway, let me carry on. '…Which she couldn't find.' Ginny! What did you say?"
Ginny managed to speak through the fit of giggles that had overtaken her, "I said perhaps it was too small for her to find."
"Ginny! Honestly," breathed Hermione, looking askance at her giggling friend, "Anyway, to continue, 'Isis managed to fashion an artificial… naughty bit… for Osiris, placed herself… Oh I'm skipping this part, just use your imaginations… and became pregnant. Then she went into hiding in the marshes of the Nile and gave birth to her son, Horus. His sisters, Isis and Nephtys, then attended Osiris and he entered the hidden portals on his journey to the stars in the constellation of Orion. When he grew up, Horus took revenge on Seth and fought him in a mighty battle. Seth cut out Horus' eye and in return, Horus cut off Seth's left…' Oh I've had enough of this. If you want to know more, read it yourselves!"
Harry grinned at his girlfriend, whose face was now as red as Ginny's hair, "Well the legend seems to confirm what Seshat told us - we've got to follow Osiris on his journey to the stars."
"I hope you won't have to go through what Osiris did though Harry," said Ginny, again lapsing into a fit of giggles.
"This is all very well," said Ron, looking embarrassed, "But it doesn't say where his tomb is."
"We'll just keep looking then," said Hermione.
That evening after dinner, the five took a break from reading their books and sat in their usual corner of the common room, talking about what they'd found so far.
"We've learned a lot about Isis and Osiris, but we still haven't found where Osiris' tomb is," said Hermione, "But I'm sure it's just a matter of time before we come across it."
"Well there's still a load of books to go through," said Harry. The three waited for Ron to groan and make his usual complaint about more reading, but looked at each other in surprise when he said nothing. Ginny could see that Ron probably hadn't heard a word that was said - his eyes had a far-away look as he stared at Margot.
"Uh, Harry, Hermione - could you help me with something I can't quite grasp in my DADA class? If you come up to my dormitory for a few minutes, I'll show you the entry in my textbook. We shan't be long Margot."
Hermione and Harry looked puzzled, knowing that Ginny was very good in DADA, but followed her up the spiral staircase. Margot watched them go, but Ron only had eyes for the pretty French girl. He wasn't even aware that they were alone until she snapped her fingers in front of his eyes.
"Uh, sorry Margot, I was daydreaming then," said Ron, looking around, "Where did the others go?"
Margot grinned, "They've just gone upstairs for a few minutes."
Ginny led Harry and Hermione into her dormitory, and quickly closed the door, "Did you see the way Ron was looking at Margot?"
"So that's what this is all about," said Hermione, "You wanted to get them on their own."
Ginny grinned, "Do you think anything will happen?"
"No way," said Harry, "Ron's probably having kittens, or at least he will when he realises we're not there any more."
"Don't be cruel Harry," said Hermione, "I don't remember you having kittens when you led me out of the common room and out into the grounds."
"That was different Hermi," he said softly, "I'd just realised that I'd been in love with you without even knowing it, and I knew that you loved me - the telepathy thing."
Hermione moved close to Harry and hugged him tightly, then lifted her face to his, smiling, "And do you still love me Harry?"
"You know the answer to that."
"Uh, don't mind me you two," said Ginny, "but I'm running out of rooms to hide in."
"Sorry Ginny," said Harry as he planted a quick kiss on Hermione's lips, "We'll try to behave."
Back in the common room, Ron was far from having kittens. He felt a glow deep inside as he sat talking to Margot.
"What are you going to do when your schooling's over Margot?"
"I don't really know, Ron. My grandfather wants me to become involved with the Priory of Sion I think, but I know they don't allow girls into their organisation."
"You could teach Divination. They're crying out for seers who know what they're talking about."
"Perhaps Ron, but I really don't know yet. What are you going to do?"
"Me? I haven't got the foggiest idea. I can't think beyond helping Harry and Hermione with their quests."
"Why did you say you didn't want me with you when you go on the quests?"
"I told you Margot, it's too dangerous."
"But your sister's with you, aren't you afraid for her too?"
"Of course I am, but that's different. We've been told that we both have to be with Harry and Hermione, but you don't."
"So it's because you don't want to see me get hurt?"
"That's right Margot. If anything happened to you, I wouldn't be able to forgive myself."
"That's very sweet Ron, but haven't you thought that I can look after myself?"
"I'm sure you can Margot, but you haven't found yourself in the sorts of dangerous situations we've been placed in. It's very scary, I can tell you."
"I'm sure it is."
They both looked at each other a bit self-consciously, wondering where their conversation would lead, and both a little shy to take it to a more intimate level. Margot felt strangely elated. Since meeting the four friends, her world had turned upside down, from being mostly alone to suddenly being thrust into the middle of the Anima Summas' quest was exciting - more exciting than anything she'd experienced before. And the attention she'd received from the young male population of the school was also exciting. She looked at Ron and started to compare him to Serge, the boy she sometimes spoke to in Rennes-le-Chateau.
Serge was very forthright, always trying to get Margot to go out with him, but Ron was shy around girls. But he was brave and true. As she sat looking at him, she came to understand that Ron was very exceptional for one so young. He wouldn't just ask a girl out for a good time, he'd only ask her out if he cared about her a lot.
"What are you thinking Ron?" Margot broke the silence.
"I'm thinking that I'm very comfortable talking to you Margot. Normally, I'm all fingers and thumbs and tongue-tied when I get close to a beautiful girl, but when I'm with you it seems different somehow."
"You still think I'm beautiful then?"
"You're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen Margot," said Ron quietly, "And your beauty isn't only on the outside. To me, you're like Hermione and Ginny rolled into one, and up till now, they're the two girls I've loved and respected more than anyone."
Margot smiled as she looked shyly down at the floor. No one had ever said anything like that to her before. They continued to look silently at each other, each trying to see into the other's mind and savouring their nearness.
"Come on you two," shouted Harry from the top of the spiral staircase, "Do you know what time it is? We've got a heavy day tomorrow."
Ron and Margot walked up the staircase side by side and stopped when they reached the top, "Goodnight Ron," she said softly, looking into his eyes.
"See you in the morning Margot," said Ron shyly. They stood close for a few moments, each knowing that they should do something, but both too shy to do it. Finally, Margot sighed and walked up to Ginny's dormitory.
Ron opened the door to his dormitory and walked inside as if in a dream. He had a permanent smile on his face as he undressed and sat on his bed.
Ron shook himself from his thoughts and looked up to see Harry standing by his bedside, "Well what?"
"Did you… you know?" asked Harry, grinning.
"Did I what Harry?"
"Come on Ron, give!"
"There's nothing to tell Harry. We talked a lot, that's all."
"You mean you were sitting alone with Margot all this time and all you did was talk?"
Ron's grin changed to a pained look, "Harry. Can I ask you something?"
"'Course you can Ron. What is it?"
"How… I mean, how do you go about kissing a girl?"
Harry burst out laughing, "Come on Ron, you just put your lips in this sort of position and…"
"Harry! I know how to kiss a girl, but I don't know how to go about it."
"You mean, you're not sure whether to make the first move or not?"
"Well yes! I don't want to seem too pushy or anything, and risk scaring her off."
"The only thing I can tell you, Ron, is what I've experienced myself, and you know I haven't had much of that. What I've found is that it just sort of happens naturally. You don't need to force anything, just wait for the right time - and the way you two are acting, I don't think that time is very far away."
"But Harry, how will I know it's the right time?"
"Believe me Ron, you just will."
Ron rolled his eyes and slammed his body back onto the bed, feeling even more confused.
Margot walked into Ginny's dorm to find Hermione and the redhead waiting for her. They looked at her expectantly, waiting for her to say something.
"Come on Margot!" said Ginny urgently, "What did he do, what did he say?"
"He didn't do anything Ginny. He said a lot, but we mostly sat looking at each other."
"You did?" asked Hermione, a grin spreading over her beautiful face.
"Yes. It was… interesting."
"Interesting!" gasped Ginny, "My brother has never been interesting in his life! What did he say to you?"
"He's a very nice and thoughtful boy Ginny, and he is very interesting. He seemed so mature tonight - he said things that I hadn't really expected him to say. You should get to know your brother a bit better Ginny, you'll be surprised."
"Hah! Come on Margot," said Ginny, trying without much success to keep her excitement in check, "get to the interesting bits - did he kiss you?"
Margot looked down at her hands a little sadly, "No. When we stood at the top of the stairs, I thought he wanted to, but I think he was too shy."
"Oh that… that…" gasped Ginny.
"Do you like him Margot? I mean, like him THAT way?" asked Hermione gently.
"Yes Hermi," she replied quietly, "I think I do."
Ginny loudly let out the breath she'd been holding while she waited for Margot's answer, "Well thank god for that! Do you want me to prod him into some action Margot? You know he's absolutely smitten by you don't you?"
Margot smiled, "I think he's made his feelings pretty obvious Ginny, but please don't do anything. If anything happens, I want Ron to do it because he really wants to, not that he feels he should because he's been badgered into it. Can you understand what I'm trying to say? I've never been in this position before, and it's all a bit strange and scary - but it's exciting too."
"We understand," said Hermione, looking daggers at Ginny, "And Ginny won't go on her usual match-making crusade. We'll just let things take their course, won't we Ginny?"
"If you say so Hermi," said Ginny sullenly.
The next afternoon, the five teens walked into the spare classroom that would be their place of accelerated learning for the foreseeable future. Jules had decided that Margot would be learning the same things as the other four, since their level of tuition was at roughly the same stage. He had a pile of books on the desk at the front of the classroom covering all the subjects he would be teaching them.
"I've worked out a schedule with your professors," he said after the five had taken their seats, "And this afternoon, I'll give you everything they'll be teaching the other fifth and six years this week. Ginny, of course, will only be covering fifth year topics. Now after I've placed the spell on you, I'll give you your textbooks to read. You'll find that you'll be able to read the books at an incredibly fast rate, and everything you read will remain in your memory. Now we'll have three one-hour sessions this afternoon, three-quarters of the time will be spent reading, and the rest I'll answer any questions you may have, because although you'll retain all the facts, you may need clarification on some of the more difficult concepts. Ready?"
Jules walked over to the five and placed his wand on the top of each of their heads as he said the ancient spell. Each time, a dim silvery light left his wand and covered his or her head for a few moments before disappearing. Then he waited for two minutes until the spell became fully active.
Although Margot was familiar with the procedure, the other four were amazed and excited by the whole experience. At the end of the afternoon, Hermione in particular couldn't curb her excitement as she spoke to Jules Denarnaud. Although very tired, the adrenalin coursed through her body as she spoke animatedly to the grand master.
"Professor Denarnaud, that was the most incredible experience. Just think, if we could do this more often we'd be able to accumulate more knowledge that we could during the rest of our lives! We could cover subjects that we'd never be able to do in a lifetime of study."
Jules smiled at Hermione's infectious manner, "Don't forget what I said Hermione, it comes with a price, and I predict you'll all be sleeping in about one hour, once the spell wears off. And you won't wake up until quite late in the morning. I'm not doing this lightly you know; I know that it will drain you more than you can understand at the moment - that's why I'm restricting the sessions to once a week."
"I understand Professor, but it's so exciting!"
"I suggest you all get something to eat now, while you're still conscious."
Jules' prediction proved right, and after eating a pile of sandwiches the five slowly trudged up to their dorms, their minds aching with tiredness.
The next morning, they woke quite late and just managed to catch a late breakfast in the Great Hall. Then they walked up to the library to resume their research. They still felt a bit tired after the previous days' study, and came to realise the truth of what Jules had told them about there being a price to pay. They only entered into the spirit of the research when it was close to lunchtime and decided, with Madam Pince's grudging approval, to ask Dobby to bring them a plate of sandwiches to eat while they continued to read their books.
Half an hour into the lunch break, the library began to fill up with the students who wanted to get some work done before afternoon classes. One student, however, was there not for the purpose of studying. In fact, no one knew he was there at all.
Draco Malfoy sat under the cover of his Invisibility Cloak at the end of the table occupied by the five friends, listening to everything they said. He also noticed the way Ron and Margot cast long sideways glances at each other, usually when the other had their head buried in one of the books.
Margot's concentration was constantly interrupted that lunchtime by a stream of fifth, sixth and seventh year boys, the ones with a more confident approach to life, as they walked up to her and asked her to go out on dates with them. She refused them all, and kept glancing at Ron, who seemed to become more and more sad with each solicitous approach.
Ron had that terrible sinking feeling in his stomach as he watched the boys' advances. His mind was in turmoil and he felt he'd have to do something soon or he'd lose Margot. But what could he do? At least, he thought, Margot hadn't accepted any offers yet.
"There's more here about the legend of Isis and Osiris," said Ginny suddenly, "Do you want to hear it?"
"Not if it's anything like the one you tried to read the other day Ginny," said Harry, grinning.
"It's not Harry. Don't worry I won't embarrass you. Listen, it says here that Thoth helped Isis put Osiris back together again after she found the scattered bits of his body, and Thoth also healed Horus after he'd fought the battle with Seth. That means that Thoth was around at the same time as Osiris and Isis."
"Hmm, yes," said Hermione. She'd been engrossed in the book she was reading.
"I've found something!" Margot suddenly exclaimed, "It's here - where the tomb of Osiris is!"
The others looked up, waiting for Margot to continue.
"The chapter I'm reading is about the temple of Seti the first, one of the Pharaohs. It says here that while the archaeologists were excavating the temple, they accidentally came across another building constructed at a much lower level than the foundations of the temple. I'll read out the next bit, 'although orthodox Egyptologists regard the two structures as contemporary, there is ample evidence that this is definitely NOT the case. The style is much older than the temple of Seti and resembles the structures on the Giza plateau known as the temple of the Sphinx and the Valley temple, both of which use huge monoliths in their construction, and are thought to have been built during the Old Kingdom or even in pre-dynastic times. The Osireion is also known as the Tomb of Osiris. Abydos was the chief seat of worship of Osiris, Lord of the Underworld. Osiris, his sister Isis, and their son Horus were fundamental figures in the religion of ancient Egypt - they were Neterw, a race of divine beings that ruled Egypt from way before the 1st Dynasty, from a period known as Zep Tepi, the "First Time".'"
Margot paused before reading the next section, "I… I… the next piece reads, 'A long dark corridor leads from a spot a few hundred yards to the west of Seti's temple down into the Osireion. Excavations on the South side passage revealed funerary texts from the Book of the Gates and the Book of What is in the Duat, which depict the dangers of the Underworld, which the deceased has to overcome on his journey to the Hall of Ma'at. The serpent Apep, lakes of pitch and fire and gates guarded by dangerous monsters are depicted on the walls.'"
Margot read the final passage very quietly, and looked up at her newfound friends with a stricken look in her eyes.
"That's it!" said Harry, grinning at Margot, "The Hunter's tomb is in Abydos. That's where we have to go next. And it says that there are funerary texts on the walls - Seshat told us we have to look at the tomb to find our way to the spells," Harry paused as he saw the look on Margot's face, ""What's wrong Margot?"
"I… I can't help feeling scared for you all. You heard what it said about serpents, monsters and all manner of awful things you'll have to face on your quest."
Ron reached over and placed his hand over Margot's, "Don't worry Margot. We'll be all right - we faced just as bad in the labyrinth and we came through it safely."
"I think this will be much worse Ron," she said turning her tortured eyes towards him, "I get the feeling that this will be so much worse." She looked down at her hands feeling very miserable.
Her four friends looked at each other helplessly, not sure what to do to ease Margot's feelings of impending doom.
"We'll do some more reading about Abydos and the Osireion later," said Hermione, "But we'd better go up to see the Headmaster and the others first. We've got to tell them about this and that we want to go to Abydos as soon as possible. Where is Abydos anyway?"
Ginny flicked through her book to the place where she'd seen a map of ancient Egypt. She looked at it for a few moments, "Here it is. It's on the west bank of the Nile, between Hermopolis and Luxor."
"We'll get Bill to arrange a Portkey there," said Ron.
Draco Malfoy remained sitting at the table after the five friends had left. He smiled, elated that he'd found something out at last, and wrote a note to his father, still under the cover of his Invisibility Cloak. But Draco's smile was tinged with an odd sort of expression. While he sat listening to the five friends, something had started to creep, unbidden, into his mind and he started to feel an uncharacteristic jealousy at the way the five had interacted.
His mind strayed to his two friends, Crabbe and Goyle, and couldn't help thinking that he'd get a more sophisticated response from two lizards than he would from those two ignoramuses. He tried to put the thoughts out of his head - after all, he still hated goody-goody Potter, the self-styled saviour of the world, and the Granger girl was only a Mudblood. The pretty French girl was a stunner, but she couldn't really be up to much if she hung around with Potter and friends, and as for the Weasleys, well, they were from the lowest of the low, and would always remain so - always poor.
But still the feelings of jealousy persisted. But why should he be jealous? He had everything, and he knew he was destined for great things in the future. True, he was scared of Lord Voldemort, but wasn't everybody? He couldn't help feeling, however, that the Weasley girl seemed too spirited, too full of life to be a mere Weasley.
Draco headed slowly up to the owlery, his thoughts more confused than they'd ever been in the past.
"I'm glad the headmaster agreed to let us go to Abydos tomorrow," said Harry, "We haven't got any time to lose."
"Until then, we can spend the time reading up on the Osireion," said Hermione, "When do you think Bill will have the Portkey ready Ron?"
"He should be able to get it in place by tomorrow afternoon," he replied.
"As soon as we get his ok," said Ginny, "We can go."
"I'm going to miss one thing though," said Hermione, "Professor Dumbledore's going to cover Remus' DADA classes while he's away looking after us. I'd really like to see him in action."
"What are you going to do Margot?" asked Ron.
Ever since she'd voiced her earlier misgivings, Margot had become very quiet and deep in thought. She raised her head slowly and answered, "Grandfather and I'll be going back to France until you come back from Abydos."
Ron glanced at the other three before going over to sit beside Margot. He put his hand around her shoulder and squeezed gently, "What's bothering you Margot? You've been very quiet since lunch time."
A stricken look came into the girls' eyes, and she jerked away from Ron suddenly, leaving him staring in shock, "Nothing Ron."
Ginny and Hermione walked up to her, looking with concern into her eyes, "Margot?" whispered Hermione, "Tell us what's wrong… please."
"Nothing!" she shouted, getting to her feet, "Leave me alone! I'll be going home soon, and I don't know if I'll be back."
The four friends stared in shock as Margot raced up the spiral staircase and into Ginny's dormitory.
"What the hell was that all about?" asked an astonished Harry, "Did you do something to upset her Ron?"
"No Harry," said Ron, looking thoroughly miserable, "Nothing. I only tried to help her with whatever's on her mind. Did you hear what she said? She said she might not be coming back here."
"She's only been like this since she read that piece about the Underworld," said Hermione thoughtfully, "I wonder if it's anything to do with that?"
"What, because she's fearful of what might happen to us?" asked Ginny, "But that's an odd way to react if she's worried about us."
"I've got a funny feeling about this," said Ron, "I wonder if she's said anything to her grandfather about it?"
"Well there's only one way to find out," said Harry, "Let's try the headmaster's office, he's probably still there."
"So you see, Professor Denarnaud, we're worried about the way she reacted," said Ron as he finished explaining about Margot to Jules and Dumbledore.
"Has she said anything to you about it Professor?" asked Hermione.
Jules slumped into his seat, looking as if a great weight had suddenly fallen onto his body, "Jules? Are you all right?" asked Dumbledore, getting up from his chair.
"Yes I'm all right Albus," he sighed, "I was afraid this might happen. I've hoped against hope that she'd be immune to it, but it seems I was wrong."
Professor Dumbledore nodded knowingly and he sat sadly back into his chair.
"What's the matter with her?" asked Ron a hint of panic in his voice.
"I'd better explain," said Jules with a sigh, "There was more than one reason for not sending Margot to Beauxbatons. Apart from the lack of good Divination teaching there, we wanted to shield her from forming any close relationships with students of her own age. We hoped that by waiting longer, any close friendships she'd make would be normal ones. But it seems the Seers' Curse has struck again."
Dumbledore nodded grimly as he listened to Jules' tortured explanation.
"The Seers' Curse?" whispered Ron fearfully, "What's that Professor?"
"I don't know how many seers you four know, but I suspect it's only your own Divination professor here at Hogwarts?"
The four nodded glumly, thinking about how odd Professor Trelawney was.
"Well I've met quite a few, as I'm sure that Professor Dumbledore has," again Dumbledore nodded, "And there's not one that's been able to form a normal stable relationship with people of their own age. None of those I know are married. Normally, the curse strikes quite early in a seer's development, that's why we tried to shield Margot from it until she was much older, and, we hoped, better equipped to handle it. You see, if a seer starts to get very close to a group of people her own age, and especially to someone in particular," he nodded at Ron, "she will eventually be stricken with great feelings of foreboding. What Margot is feeling now, is a deep-rooted fear that she'll begin to have dreams and visions concerning the people she's grown to love - that's you. She's being torn apart that she'll eventually see something bad in your futures - even your deaths - and to someone as caring as Margot, that's a devastating thing to live with. So she's reacted in the only way she knows how - she thinks that by keeping her distance from you four, she won't start to see your futures, and in particular, anything bad that may lie ahead for you. In her confused state, she thinks that by not dreaming anything bad about you then nothing bad will come to you." he smiled, "Don't take this unkindly, but what you four are facing doesn't help with her condition. The only thing I can do now is to take her back to France and try a few things I've picked up during my researches into the Seers' Curse problem, the research I've been doing ever since I found out that Margot is a seer. I can only hope that they'll be able to help her through what will be a very difficult time for her."
He looked at the stricken expressions on the faces of the four friends, "So don't think for one minute that Margot has suddenly come to dislike you; on the contrary, it's because she loves you so much that has pushed her over the edge."
"Poor Margot," whispered Ginny, a tear running down her cheek as she saw the tortured look on her brother's face.
"Can we do anything to help Professor? Anything at all?" the panic in Ron's voice was now clear to see.
Jules smiled at Ron, "I'm afraid not Ron. I know it's difficult for you, but the best thing you can do now is to leave her well alone. I'll do what I can to help her, and we can only hope that she'll somehow get through it and come back to Hogwarts. And I can't promise that I'll be successful, but I'll try my damnedest to get her over this. I don't want her to lose the close friendship she's built up with you four, and especially with you Ron."
He turned to the headmaster, "I'd better get her back to France as soon as I can Albus. Let me know when these four get back from Egypt, and I'll continue with their accelerated learning." He turned back to the four friends; "I think it will be best if she doesn't see you now. Perhaps you'd better wait here until we leave."
They watched as Jules Denarnaud walked slowly out of the headmaster's office, feeling quite devastated at what they'd heard. Hermione put her hand in Harry's and squeezed, sending her thoughts, and they glanced at Ron, seeing the look on his face and knowing that they'd have to give him all the support they could in the days and weeks ahead.
"What are the reports from around the country?" hissed Voldemort as he sat on his stone throne in his cave. Each of his inner circle gave their report, each bearing news of great fear and anxiety from the magical community.
Voldemort hissed with satisfaction, "And how are you progressing with the plan to retrieve the spells at Qumran?"
Lucius cleared his throat, "My Lord, we've sent several teams to the canyon and the surrounding area, each one given the task of mapping the defences and the positions of those security devices they use. I've told them not to return until they've properly surveyed and charted everything, but when they do we'll be able to formulate our plan."
"Hmm," grunted Voldemort, "Send them a message that I won't be kept waiting much longer. What of our spy at Hogwarts - we haven't heard from him lately."
"I received an owl from him only today my Lord, and I haven't had a chance to tell you his news yet. It seems that the Anima Summas are closing in on their second quest, and they'll soon be going to Egypt - to a place called Abydos."
Voldemort thought for a few moments, "I want you there, Lucius. Take Wormtail and Travis with you, together with fifty of our best men. I want you to try to capture them if possible but if you can't, make sure their bodies drift down the Nile for the fish to eat. But kill them only as a last resort - I want to extract their powers for myself. Go immediately, and send me a message when you have them."
"Yes my Lord." Replied Lucius as he nodded to Wormtail and Travis.
Sirius walked into the school library the following afternoon and motioned for Harry to come to him, "How's Ron taking it Harry?"
"He's in a terrible state Sirius," he replied worriedly, "The three of us are making sure he's not out of sight for an instant, and we're trying to talk to him, but I don't think we're helping very much."
"I'm sure you are helping Harry, it'll take time for him to come to grips with it. I spoke to Professor Dumbledore a little earlier, and suggested that it may be a good idea if he stays behind while we go to Abydos. I'm worried that if any Death Eaters turn up, and in his distracted state, he'll be too vulnerable."
"I've thought the same thing Sirius," Harry replied, "And I mentioned it to him this morning. I though he was going to knock my head off; he said that he hopes that the Death Eaters turn up so that he can take his bang out on them!"
"Just like Ron," said Sirius grinning wryly, "Look, we've just had a message from Bill. The Portkey is set up and we're all ready to go. Meet us outside the main entrance in fifteen minutes."
Twenty minutes later, they materialised in the afternoon desert sunshine, just outside the temple of Seti the first at Abydos. Bill was waiting to greet them, dressed in his native garb and wearing a broad grin as he spotted Ceri. Sirius shook his hand and gruffly muttered a terse greeting, and then walked up to look at the impressive temple ruins.
Bill made a beeline for Ceri, and gallantly kissed the back of her hand. Ceri grinned and glanced over at Sirius, who made an obvious show of not looking in their direction. Charlie and Nadine both raised their eyes to the sky and hoped that they wouldn't have to take on the roles of referee this trip.
Bill led them up the long stone staircase and past a large number of huge stone blocks towards the entrance to the impressive-looking temple. As he led them into the gloom, he gave a running commentary on the history of the place, but although interested, Hermione had eyes only for one place.
"Uh Bill, where's the Osireion?" she asked, interrupting him in full flow.
"Just through the back of the temple Hermione. Follow me."
They walked through the various halls and chapels of the temple for about two hundred yards and finally came to the back section, "Here it is," said Bill pointing to a structure below the level of the temple floor.
They stood looking down at the impressive courtyard, open to the sky and flanked by huge stone blocks, not unlike the trilithons they'd seen at Stonehenge. They could see dark entranceways leading off under the ground to a number of mysterious places.
"How do we get down there?" asked Harry.
"The best entrance is to the north of the temple," replied Bill, looking at his tourist map of the complex, "We can go down a long corridor that slopes towards the Osireion. Come on."
They walked out of the corridor and stood looking up at the huge stones, marvelling at how the ancient Egyptians could have lifted them into place. "Where's the tomb of Osiris?" asked Ginny.
"There isn't one," Bill replied, "At least, no ones been able to find it yet. It's thought that it was built as a symbolic tomb so that the many worshipers of Osiris and Isis could come here to pay their respects. There're quite a few annexes leading off the central area though, if you want to explore further."
"Come on," said Hermione, feeling a bit downcast, "Let's check them out."
"We'd better stay here and keep watch," said Sirius, "Remus, would you, Ceri and Charlie go back up to the main temple and keep a look out from there?"
They nodded and walked back up the long corridor, leaving Sirius, Bill and Nadine to patrol the Osireion itself. No one saw Lucius Malfoy and his men, who watched from a sandy knoll about half a mile away.
The four friends raised their illuminated wands as they entered the first chamber and looked around the dark and empty space, "Nothing much here," said Ron.
They moved from room to room, but could find nothing of any significance to their search. The next room they entered was different. None of the four could quite put their finger on why it was any different from the other rooms, but there was definitely something different about the place.
"What the hell is it?" asked Ron, looking around the room.
"I don't know Ron," Hermione replied.
"There's something here," said Ginny from the far right corner of the room. She stood holding her wand up towards the ceiling, where there were a number of pieces of crumbly plaster still adhering to the wall. The others stood next to her and looked up at it, the wands now clearly showing the ancient plaster work.
"What do you think?" asked Harry.
"I think I'm going to do something very naughty," said Hermione, "Help lift me up to the ceiling you boys."
Harry and Ron bent down for Hermione to scramble onto their backs and then stood so that Hermione's face was right in front of the plaster. She examined it from all angles and then whispered, "I think there's something underneath all this old plaster. Ginny, keep a look out in case anybody comes in."
Reaching out, Hermione caught hold of one edge of the plaster and pulled, closing her eyes and praying for forgiveness at what she was doing, 'If the Egyptians see me doing this, I'll spend the rest of my life in a Cairo prison!' she thought.
Hermione shrieked as the bit of plaster fell, pulling the rest of the plaster along with it, showering Harry and Ron in a fine powder. "Sorry boys," she whispered.
She looked back at the exposed section of wall and gasped at what she saw. There, as vibrant and colourful as the day they were written, were a number of columns of hieroglyphic writing. She examined the writing closely, but the only things she recognised were a number of cartouches, writing surrounded by a sort of enclosure that normally represented the name of a Pharaoh or God.
"Ginny," she shouted to the redhead standing by the entrance, "You're good at drawing. Come and copy these hieroglyphics."
She jumped back down to the floor, and Ginny climbed up in her place, clutching parchment and quill. "Exactly as you see them please Ginny. I don't know if they're important, but something tells me they are and I want Professor Dumbledore to translate them."
After half an hour, Harry and Ron started to protest at the way Ginny kept shifting her position on their backs. "Well I can't help it," she shouted, "Some of these shapes are bloody awkward to draw from where I'm standing - keep still and keep quiet."
Harry and Ron groaned but resigned themselves to a little bit more suffering from Ginny as she moved from side to side to get the full perspective of the illustrations on the wall. They heaved a sigh of relief when Ginny finally jumped down, and smiled at Hermione, "Got it all Hermi," she said, "But I hope the colours aren't significant."
"I don't think so Ginny," she replied as she admired her friend's handiwork, "This'll do fine."
They walked back out into the central area of the Osireion and were astonished to find the place in pitch darkness.
Bill grinned at them, "The night falls very quickly in the desert. I think we'd better get back up to the main temple, it's too dangerous to go walking about down here at night."
"But I want to see if there's anything more here Bill," said Hermione.
"Well have to stay overnight up at the temple then," said Sirius, "And you can resume your explorations in the morning."
A little later, they met back up with the three up at the main temple and started looking around for a good place to camp, "I think the best place is that large concourse just inside the main entrance," said Remus, "There's plenty of room to pitch some tents there and we can use the cracks in the stone blocks on the floor to anchor the tent pegs."
"It's a good job you come prepared for every eventuality," said Bill, "What about watching out for any lurking Death Eaters that may be around here?"
"We'll place a load of Whammos around the place," said Ceri, "Come on, we'd better do that first."
The adults walked out of the main entrance and down the long stone staircase, placing Whammos at thirty-yard intervals in a circle around the site, using their illuminated wands to guide them. Then they walked back into the temple and placed some inside towards the back.
"That should do it," said Ceri with a satisfied grin. But she wouldn't have grinned had she known that Lucius Malfoy was noting the positions of the Whammos as they were placed on the ground. Nor would she have grinned as he called his Death Eaters around him to formulate the plan to capture the Anima Summas.
"We'll destroy the ones at the far end of the temple," said Lucius, pointing to their positions on his parchment, "But we'll leave the ones on this side, in case we need to trigger a diversion."
"How are we going to get at Potter and Granger though?" asked Wormtail.
Lucius thought for a few moments, "We could get five of the men to trigger some of the Whammos, and when Black and the others come running out, we'll approach from the far side with the rest of the men. They won't stand a chance against us all in the dark. But don't forget, only stun Potter and Granger - I want them taken alive. I don't care what you do with the others, but just make sure about those two."
"When shall we attack?" asked Travis.
"We'll wait a few hours longer until we're sure they're asleep. Then we strike!"
Back in the temple, Nadine, Ceri, Hermione and Ginny prepared their usual fare of beans on toast over the campfire. Nadine leaned close to Hermione, "How's Ron doing?"
"He was fine this afternoon," she whispered back, "when he had something to do, but look at him now, as soon as he gets time to think, he lapses back into that awful melancholy mood." They looked over to see Ron sitting between Charlie and Harry, and Charlie was speaking quietly to him, but Ron didn't seem to be answering.
"It must be terrible for him," whispered Ceri, "To be on the verge of love and then to have it snatched away like that…"
Ginny sighed, "I've never seen him like this before. I feel so sorry for both him and Margot. I do hope her grandfather can do something."
Ron only picked at his food that night, and everyone looked at each other grimly, knowing that Ron was suffering badly. He did, however, manage to fall into a deep sleep later on in the night, but Harry and Hermione couldn't get settled. They'd spoken silently together for most of the night about Ron, using their telepathic connection, and were just too worried about him to get to sleep.
Hermione sighed and sent her thoughts to Harry, 'I can't sleep Harry. I'm too worried about Ron.'
'I know Hermi; I can't sleep either. Come on, let's go out and get some fresh air, I could do with a cuddle.'
They silently crept past their sleeping friends and picked a spot at the back of one of the huge stones in front of the temple entrance. They sat on the ground and wrapped their arms around each other, looking up at the clear night sky, which clearly showed the constellation of Orion low down in the south.
"I wonder if Osiris and Isis are looking down on us," said Hermione grinning.
"I hope not," said Harry as he pulled Hermione close and kissed her tenderly on the lips, "I don't like an audience when I'm kissing my girlfriend."
Hermione smiled and put her hands around Harry's neck, pulling his face back down to hers. They didn't manage to complete the kiss, however. Over to their right, they heard a loud explosion, and looked up to see five glowing yellow figures in the distance.
"Death Ea…" Hermione started to shout, but her words were cut off when a calloused hand came from behind and clamped her mouth shut. Harry stared in horror, and started to rise, reaching into his robes for his wand. But that was the last thing he remembered that night. Travis, lurking behind the huge stone, brought his rock-filled hand down onto the back of Harry's head and knocked him senseless. Hermione squealed in horror through the hand that was over her mouth, but she could do nothing to help, three other pairs of arms held her immobile as they lifted her from the ground and carried her, struggling, out into the darkness.
Sirius was the first out of the temple, quickly followed by the others. They saw the glowing yellow figures over to their right and started to run in their direction. Sirius shouted back over his shoulder, "Ceri, you and Remus stay with Harry and the others, we'll see what's over there."
They stopped in their tracks when they heard Ginny shouting from the temple entrance, "Sirius, Harry and Hermi aren't here. Are they outside with you?"
Sirius and the others quickly looked around, their wand held high, but they could see no sign of the pair. "Bloody hell!" shouted Sirius, "Spread out quick, they've got to be here somewhere!"
"Sirius!" shouted Ron suddenly, looking down at the ground where Harry and Hermione had earlier sat. They all gathered round Ron and their worst fears were realised as he stooped and picked up two wands, "Their Harry's and Hermione's," he said quietly, looking out into the dark night, "The Death Eaters must have got them."
"Quick, spread out and look for any traces," shouted Sirius.
Ceri knew, of course, that it was too late. She knew that the Death Eaters would have Apparated the pair away as soon as they'd captured them, but she didn't say anything to Sirius. Deep down Sirius knew that too, but he couldn't bring himself to face the unpalatable truth of it.
After three hours of searching in the darkness, and scouring the ground for any signs of the Death Eaters' direction of flight, Sirius was finally forced to accept that the pair was gone, taken to some terrible place of torment by the Death Eaters. He sat on the stone steps leading up to the temple, slumped, holding his head in his hands.
The others looked on, full of despair, as Ceri sat down beside him and put her arm around his shoulders, "I've failed them Ceri," he said quietly, "They counted on me to keep them safe, but I've failed."
"It's not your fault alone Sirius," she said gently, "It's all our fault. We should all have been more aware of the threat. We've been lulled into a false sense of security because there hasn't been an attack on us for a long time, but now isn't the time for self-recrimination. We've got to work out what we can do, where we can look for them."
Sirius raised his head and smiled at Ceri, "You're right Ceri. We've got to do something. Let's get everybody together and talk it through."
They both got up and walked over to the others just as the first faint light of dawn filtered over the distant horizon. They hadn't even begun to formulate a plan of action when they turned at the sound of shouting from inside the temple. Ginny suddenly burst into view running towards them, her eyes wide with some hidden terror.
"He's not there!" she shouted, "I've looked everywhere inside the temple, but I can't find him!"
"Calm down Ginny," Nadine rushed over and put her hands on her shoulders, "Who's not there? Who can't you find?"
"Ron!" she said in an agonised voice, "He's gone!"
Harry regained consciousness only very slowly as he lay on the hard and dusty floor. He groaned and held his hand to the back of his head, feeling the large bump and the dull ache that seemed to fill his mind. He slowly opened his eyes, but could see only blackness. He lifted himself to a sitting position and reached for his wand, but he couldn't find it. Then a far worse pain filled his tortured head.
He cried out as his scar suddenly erupted into a blinding wall of pain. He doubled over in agony, all coherent thought driven from his mind, as he heard the low squeal of a rusty iron door being pushed open.
He opened his eyes once more and looked up. He could now see from the light of an illuminated wand at the open doorway. The figure holding it stepped quickly inside to allow someone else to enter - and the second figure filled him with dread. He looked up at Voldemort through squinting eyes as the pain from his scar started to get worse.
Voldemort lifted his head to the ceiling and laughed loudly, "At last Potter, we meet again. Pity I couldn't provide you with more comfortable surroundings, but they didn't go in for that sort of thing when the ancient Egyptians built these tombs, so I'm afraid you'll just have to put up with it. And in case you're wondering, we've got your girlfriend locked safely away down the corridor, we know what you're capable of when you join together, so don't bank on seeing her any time soon."
Voldemort walked around to Harry's side and looked down at the boy with disdain, "I thought I'd pay you a little visit just to tell you what's going to happen here tonight -I'm sure that you'll be very interestedE
. Right this minute, there's a ritual being prepared in your honour. But I don't for one minute think that you'll appreciate the archaic beauty of it. It will be similar to the one in the graveyard back two years ago, when you kindly provided some of your blood to make my new body. This time, you'll provide me with your mind! I want everything you took from me all those years ago, and I want the ancient knowledge you now have."
He once again moved his position, walking around to Harry's other side, "But before that, I've got a little entertainment laid on for you. You should find it quite interesting, since the star of the show will be your girlfriend! Yes Potter, I'm going to extract every last drop of knowledge from her - suck her mind dry while you watch her agony. Then you'll get the same treatment. I'm told it's very painful Potter, and when it's all over you'll just be an empty shell, just like your girlfriend. When we're long gone, you'll both be left to roam these ancient tombs until you die of thirst, but don't think you'll be found - no one has come down here for thousands of years. The muggles don't even know it exists. Your girlfriend doesn't know what lies ahead for her yet Potter; I wanted you to be the first to know. I want you to think long and hard about what's going to happen to you. I want you to suffer like you made me suffer for all those years."
Voldemort stormed out of the rocky cell, cackling quietly, quickly followed by the Death Eater, who shut the door with a loud clang and locked it, plunging Harry back into the pitch darkness. He sat up once again as the pain in his scar eased.
Further down the ancient corridor, Hermione was in an agony of doubt and fear, not knowing if Harry was still alive and not knowing that he was just up the corridor in another cell. All through the long and terrifying night, she'd called to him with her mind, but she'd had no response.
She wrung her hands in frustration as she again opened her mind and sent her desperate call to Harry. She stood still and a great sigh of relief escaped her lips as she heard him answer, 'Are you all right Hermi? Have they hurt you?'
'Oh Harry, I didn't know if you were still alive! You don't know how happy I am to hear your mind again.'
'Don't get too happy Hermi. I've just had a visit from Voldemort. He's preparing a ritual to extract all our knowledge from our brains. And they've taken my wand - I suppose yours is gone too?'
'Yes Harry; look, lets try to do wand-less magic. Try to unlock the door with Alohomora.'
After a few minutes, Harry gave up, 'It's no use. I can't do it without you.'
'Can you hear that Harry?' asked Hermione, unable to mask the deep fear she felt. In the distance, from somewhere deep within the rock tombs, they could both hear the deep ritual chanting echoing through the corridors.
'I don't think we've got much time,' Harry sent his thoughts, 'Can you see if there're any windows in your cell?'
'It's pitch dark in here, Harry, but I managed to take a quick look around when some people passed the cell with an illuminated wand a few minutes ago. There's an old rusty iron door, but no windows, the walls and ceiling are just bare rock.'
'Voldemort and a Death Eater came into my cell a few minutes ago; it must have been their light you saw.'
'But that means you're only about twenty yards further along the corridor to my left. I heard them stop and open a creaky door just after they passed me.'
'So near and yet so far,' Harry mused.
'Harry! Let's try something. Go to the back of the tomb and hold your right hand, the one with the ring, out in my direction and I'll do the same with my left hand. Concentrate hard on us joining together.'
Harry did as he was asked and stretched out his right arm, making sure that the ring pointed at the right-hand rock wall. He closed his eyes as he visualised Hermione, and put all his ample powers of concentration into the thought of joining with her. He felt the power surge through his arm, and felt a dragging sensation as a silvery blue beam of light hit the rock. He felt as if he was being pulled right into the rock, and he opened his eyes.
He could clearly see the tomb wall in the light of the beam coming from the ring. The rock wall seemed to shimmer, and then it started to crumble and disintegrate. He walked forward, dragged by the power of the ancient mind spell, into the rock wall, a roughly hewn corridor forming in front of him. After about ten minutes, and ten yards into the rock, he stood facing Hermione, who had walked through the corridor created by her own ring, to meet him half way.
They dropped their hands and the light faded, but they knew exactly where each other stood. They flung themselves forward and held each other tightly, again feeling the emotions of joy and love flow through their minds. They didn't have any time to savour the moment however, as they heard the screech of the rusty hinges on their tomb doors swing open.
They heard the startled voices of the Death Eaters at both ends of the newly constructed tunnel, and saw their shocked faces in the light from their wands. Hermione looked at Harry and nodded. They grasped their ring hands tightly and concentrated, feeling the urgent need to be outside the rocky tombs and away from the Death Eaters. They didn't have time to think that they'd only managed to Zapparate if their target was a person, but they were both aware of the urgent need to be out of there.
The next instant, they stood in the corridor outside the row of rock tombs. They could hear the shouts of the Death Eaters inside as they searched along the newly formed corridor between their two cells.
"There's a light down the end of this tunnel," said Harry, pointing to a flaming torch about a hundred yards along the rocky corridor. They sprinted towards it and pulled to a stop when they saw a short, narrow tunnel leading into a large underground gallery, the walls awash with flickering torchlight.
They cautiously crept down the tunnel and looked out onto a terrifying scene. At the centre of the gallery was a large cauldron suspended over a large fire, with twelve black-cloaked figures standing around it, chanting a repetitive but unintelligible ritualised mantra. At the side of the cauldron stood Voldemort and a Death Eater who looked very like a larger version of Vincent Crabbe.
Harry pointed to an illuminated arched exit at the far side of the gallery He could see stone steps leading upwards, "That must be the way out of this place," he whispered.
"But how are we going to get past all these Death Eaters?" asked Hermione.
Harry looked around the gallery, and pointed to the back of the cave about fifteen yards to their left, "Let's try to get over behind those rocks," he whispered. They stooped low to the ground as they slowly moved across the gallery and dropped to the floor behind the cover of the rocky outcrop.
Hermione looked at Harry with concern as he screwed up his eyes in pain, "It's my scar," he whispered. Hermione held his hand and tried to send soothing thoughts into his tortured mind, trying to ease his pain.
They moved further around behind the rocks at the sound of running feet. The Death Eaters they'd escaped earlier came running into the gallery, and one of them approached Voldemort, "My Lord, they've escaped. Potter and Granger have gone."
Voldemort roared in anguish, "No! That's not possible!" and motioned for his men to follow him towards the rock tombs, but telling six of them to keep guard in the gallery. The pain from Harry's scar immediately started to ease, and he sent his thoughts to Hermione. They joined hands and stood up, stepping around the outcrop of rock and looked towards the six guarding Death Eaters.
They raised their hands towards the astonished men and yelled, "SPI SAEW". Their astonishment turned to confusion and then to fear as an unseen force suddenly threw them together and held them immobile.
"Come on Hermi, quick - let's get up those stairs." Harry dragged Hermione to the opposite side of the gallery and they dashed up the steps for what seemed an age before they levelled off into a rocky tunnel leading to their left. They walked slowly, listening for any sounds that would reveal the presence of more Death Eaters ahead of them. They spotted daylight seeping through a fissure in the rock in a tall but narrow cave over to their right and they grinned at each other, realising that they'd come up to ground level, and walked further along the tunnel towards what they hoped would be the exit from the complex of underground tombs. Around the next bend in the tunnel, they saw it - a circle of light leading out into the desert beyond. But they also saw a large group of black-cloaked figures lounging both inside and outside the cave exit. They quickly backtracked towards the fissure in the rock they'd seen earlier, and eased their way into the narrow cave.
"We should be able to squeeze through if we can climb up to that fissure," said Hermione, looking at Harry hopefully.
"I'll lift you up first," he said, whipping his head around to look into the main tunnel, hearing the sounds of running feet coming up the stone steps from below, "Quick!" he whispered.
Hermione put her left foot onto a ledge about three feet above the ground and Harry heaved her up towards the fissure. She gripped the sides of the rock wall and quickly eased her body sideways into the fissure, "It's only about four feet to the outside," she whispered as she moved into the gap, "Hurry up!"
Harry scrambled up to the fissure and followed his girlfriend. They were relieved to see the desert floor just a few feet below them, but before jumping down, they looked into the distance to see a landscape of dunes and desolate rocky outcroppings, and about two miles to their left the fast-moving waters of the river Nile. They jumped down and ran, hand in hand, as fast as they could away from the entrance to the tombs.
"Phew!" Gasped Hermione as they dropped to the sand behind a large and crumbling rock that protruded from the desert floor.
They panted heavily as they fought to regain their breath, and peeked around the rock to check for any signs of pursuit - it was not long in coming. They saw four groups of Death Eaters, each one heading in a different direction as they searched for the escaped teens. One group headed in their direction, about ten black-cloaked figures still about seventy yards away from where they lay, searching among the many hiding places that they passed. Harry looked around desperately, trying to find a better place to hide, and spotted a larger group of rocks directly behind, about thirty yards away.
"Over there," he said pointing. Harry pulled Hermione to her feet and they ran low to the ground, using their earlier hiding place as cover, towards the group of rocks. They sighed with relief as they flopped onto the floor behind their new cover and Harry pointed to a gap low to the ground that led to a dark space beneath one of the larger rocks.
"Let's try to get in there," he said. They crawled into the gap as far as they could, and were relieved that it branched to the left slightly, providing more cover from anyone who looked into the gap. Hermione squeaked and moved closer to Harry, clinging to his arm, when she saw three scorpions crawling close to her left side, but she breathed more easily when they scrambled away from her and into a small crack in the rock.
They waited for about ten minutes before they heard the sounds of the Death Eaters, calling out to each other as they searched through the rocks. They held their breath when they saw a dark shadow fall over the entrance to their hiding place, but it was soon replaced with daylight as the man moved away. They stayed in their rocky hideaway for another hour before they cautiously crept back out onto the desert floor. They looked around the barren wilderness but there were no Death Eaters in sight. They stood for a few moments, stretching their cramped muscles, before sitting back down on the sand to discuss their next move.
"Should we try to Zapparate back to the others?" asked Harry.
Hermione shook her head, "It won't work Harry. There isn't any urgent need to get back to the others - I mean, no immediate danger that would make it work," she looked sheepishly at her boyfriend, "We should have tried it when they were close on our heels, but it's too late now, we'll have to find another way."
"Any idea where we are? How far Abydos is from here?"
Again Hermione shook her head.
"Hermi, what if we fly out of here? I can change into my eagle form and fly high above the Nile. Maybe we'll be able to recognise this stretch of the Nile from way up above it."
Hermione pulled a face, "Do we have to?"
Harry grinned, "There's no other way, and don't worry, you hang on tight and I'll fly as smoothly as I can."
"Can't you fly up and then come back for me when you find which way to go?"
"No Hermi. You know what happened the last time we split up. We've got to stay together. And anyway, I wouldn't have a clue about the bends in the Nile, you're much better at geography that I am."
"All right Harry, but be careful!"
"I've been thinking - I want to try out our telepathy when I'm in my eagle form."
"But you can't speak to me when you're an eagle Harry, so what makes you think you can transfer your thoughts to me?"
"I can't speak to you because my eagle's vocal chords are so different, but I still think like me. So I can't see any reason why not."
Harry transformed and bent his legs for Hermione to climb onto his back. When she was settled, he lifted off from the ground and soared into the clear blue sky, circling to gain height, 'Are you ok?' he sent his thought to the girl on his back.
'It works Harry! I can hear you.'
'Great! Hang on tight, I'm going up as high as I can.' Harry rode the thermals as he soared higher and higher into the air, so high that the Nile appeared to be a narrow band of blue snaking across the barren land.
'That's high enough Harry,' Hermione's thoughts were as shaky as her voice would have been as she gripped tightly onto the feathers behind Harry's head, 'I think I recognise that long loop in the river to the north, and hang on a minute, I think I can see the ruins of Abydos way up there in the distance.'
'North it is then, fair maiden,' Harry tried to reassure her as he banked into a shallow glide towards the north. He levelled off and flew about a thousand feet above the west bank of the river, heading towards the distant ruins that Hermione had spotted. They were still quite a way from the ruins when Harry's sharp eyesight spotted something in the desert below.
'Hermione, I just saw a flash of red down below. I'm going to go a bit lower and circle round. Keep your eyes skinned for anything unusual.'
"There," shouted Hermione, daring to lift her left hand from her tight grip and pointing to a cluster of sand dunes below. Harry looked in the direction she was pointing and his stomach lurched as it was caught in a grip of fear.
'That's Ron! And he's heading smack into the middle of a pile of trouble!'
Hermione gasped as she saw five black-cloaked figures crouching behind one of the dunes, and about fifty yards away, striding purposefully across the desert and straight into an ambush, was Ron.
They watched in horror as the five Death Eaters, left behind by Lucius to keep tabs on the group still at Abydos, jumped from behind the dunes and started to fling curses at Ron. Ron, however, had his wits about him and he dropped flat onto the ground as the deadly green beams sailed harmlessly above his head. He pulled his wand from his robes and sent a spell of his own at his attackers, sending one of them to the sandy ground, stunned. But it was only a matter of time before he'd be overcome.
'Hang on Hermi,' thought Harry as he pulled his wings tight against his body and went into a screaming dive towards the Death Eaters. He screeched loudly to attract their attention away from Ron, but not as loudly as Hermione as she saw the ground hurtling towards her at an ever-increasing rate.
The Death Eaters stopped and looked up in horror as they saw the huge eagle with a screaming banshee on its back heading straight for them. It was now their turn to tumble to the ground as Harry pulled out of the dive and crashed straight into them, sending them sprawling in every direction. He gained height and turned ready to attack once more, this time with his lethal talons extended, but his targets had disappeared, Apparated back in terror to the rock tombs and the safety of a calm blue sky, taking their stunned colleague with them.
Harry landed on the desert floor beside the grinning Ron, and waited for Hermione to dismount before transforming. Hermione didn't need any prompting to get off Harry's back; she flung herself onto the floor and staggered quickly behind the cover of the nearest dune. The two boys stared worriedly at the dune, hearing Hermione's terrible retching as she lost the contents of her stomach.
They continued to stare when Hermione stormed back into sight, her face red and tears streaming down her cheeks, striding with great purpose towards Harry, "You bloody idiot!" she raged as she poked him in the chest, "All you had to do was hover while I stunned them with my wand. You didn't have to do an impression of a bloody meteorite!"
"Sorry Hermi," said Harry, looking abashed, "When I saw Ron in so much danger, there was only one thing on my mind - getting to those plonkers as quickly as I could."
"Well stop and think next time it happens," she said angrily. Then her features softened as she looked at Ron, "What are you doing out here all on your own?"
"Looking for you two," he said, "I couldn't stand it just sitting around back at the temple - I had to do something. What the bloody hell happened to you anyway?"
"Later Ron. I suppose that Sirius and the others know where you are?" asked Harry.
Ron looked sheepishly at the pair, "I didn't think. They were busy looking all around the ruins, so I thought I'd look a bit further afield."
"Ron!" Hermione gasped, "They're going to be frantic back there. First they lose Harry and me, and then you."
"You're going to get one hell of a rollicking from Sirius Ron. And I can't even imagine what Charlie and Bill are going to say to you."
"And don't forget Ginny," said Hermione, "She can be lethal when she's upset."
Ron looked horrified at his two friends, "They're going to murder me aren't they?"
"Quite possibly Ron," said Hermione, rubbing her friend's shoulder, "I know you've been distracted these last few days, and with good reason, but you really should have thought of the consequences before rushing off into the desert like that."
"I know Hermi. I've been a bit stupid haven't I? I know I can't do anything to help Margot, but it hasn't stopped me wracking my brains for a solution to the whole sorry mess."
"Come on," said Harry, "We'd better get back. I think I can carry the two of you on my back."
"Oh no Harry!" exclaimed Hermione with determination, "If you think you can get me back up in the air again you've got another think coming!"
"Come on Hermi," said Ron, grinning, "I'll ride behind you and make sure you don't fall."
It took all their powers of persuasion to get Hermione to agree to hitch a ride on the eagle, but persuade her they did. After all, the only alternative was a long trudge across the desert, and they didn't know how long it would be before Voldemort came calling!
Sirius and the others were in a desperate state back at the temple ruins. They'd searched frantically around the site but could find no trace of Ron. Sirius agitatedly brushed his hair out of his eyes as he stared into the desert, "I think we'd better split into two groups. One can go north and the other south - he can't have gone very far."
"Bill, Remus, Ginny - you come with me," said Ceri, "Charlie, and Nadine - you go with Sirius. I'll go north Sirius, you take your group and look to the south."
They walked down the stone steps and out of the temple complex into the desert, but they hadn't gone more than a hundred yards before Ginny shouted, pointing up into the air, "There they are! It's Harry's eagle, and he's got Hermione and Ron on his back!"
They waited until Harry circled around and landed lightly in front of them, and transformed after Ron and Hermione had stepped from his back.
Harry held up his hand to ward off the questions that were hurled at the three, "We'll tell you all about it later, but right now, we haven't got much time. I think Voldemort and his minions will be here before long."
The sound of the dreaded name effectively cut off any further questions, and Harry quickly explained what had happened to them, and how they'd found Ron wandering in the desert.
"Bloody idiot," Ginny muttered under her breath as she clung to her brother's arm.
"You wait until Mum and Dad hear about this Ron!" said Bill angrily, but Charlie said nothing, feeling too relieved to see his brother safe and well.
"We'd better get out of here fast," said Sirius, "I don't want 'You Know Who' to catch us out in the open like this."
Two hundred yards away, Voldemort stood on a tall sand dune looking down at the group below. Lucius, Wormtail, Travis and Crabbe stood just behind, with the remaining Death Eaters waiting hidden at the base of the dune. The anger that blazed in the Dark Lord's eyes was a fearsome sight, and Lucius asked tentatively, "Shall we attack, my Lord?"
"No Lucius! I've got something special up my sleeve for them." All thoughts of extracting the knowledge and power from the minds of Harry and Hermione were lost amid his terrible rage, "I'll finish them here once and for all!"
He pulled the black Necronomicon from under his robes and turned to a page that he'd earlier marked. He looked at the dreaded spell that had so piqued his interest and sense of evil during his studies of the book back in his cave.
"Make sure you all Apparate back to the rock tombs before I say this spell Lucius," he hissed, "I'll follow you shortly. We don't want to be anywhere near after I unleash it. And make sure you're all hidden safely away in the tombs."
Voldemort waited until all his men had disappeared, then looked back down at the Necronomicon. He breathed deeply as he summoned all his powers, waiting until he felt them peak before pointing his wand at the sky and loudly enunciating the dreaded words.
"GEN. GEN KU-KUGA DINGIR. GEN LAMMASHTA."
The air surrounding Voldemort heaved and crackled with the terrifying power of the spell. A black beam of light burst from the tip of his wand and shot into the sky where it seemed to disappear into an invisible place. He watched in fascination at the swirling darkness that opened high above his head and spread across the desert. Then he disappeared with a 'pop', not wanting to stay any longer in case he became caught up in the horror that would soon be unleashed on the land.
The group below looked up at the sound of thunder, and saw the swirling darkness and the flashes of lightening that permeated its inky depths.
"There's something very wrong here," said Bill fearfully, struggling to keep upright in the strong wind that suddenly ripped at their robes, "This sort of thing just doesn't happen in Egypt - they haven't had a storm in the desert region for thousands of years."
The blackness spread out above them, and dark swirling clouds began to form within it. The wind became stronger, tugging at them. Then they heard a loud but strangely soft and sibilant voice. It was not like any voice they'd heard before, and it said just one word that started loudly but then faded into the distance, a word that spread over the desert like a blanket, filling all that heard it with dread.
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. To answer a couple of points on the review board :
- Do I believe the philosophical points in the fic? - Some I do, but others - like the Charlie/sex drive thing - are just a bit of fun.
- Professor Sinistra a girl? - When I wrote that chapter I couldn't find out if it was male or female. You're probably right though.
There's a few images related to this chapter on the review board :
- Temple of Set 1 at Abydos - Harry and Hermione were captured while they were sitting against the large stone block on the right.
- The Osireion at Abydos
- Image of Osiris and Isis on the temple wall at Abydos.
uk.photos.yahoo.com/bc/animasumma/lst?&.dir=/Book2/Chap+9+The+Seers%27+Curse&.src=ph&.view=t Just copy and paste into your browser and type http:// in front of it.
Coming soon - Chapter 10 - The Stealer of Souls.