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Chapter 3 : Chapter 3: Hiking in Peru
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The idea of sunshine, beaches, and being on the opposite side of the world to Harry had seemed like too good an opportunity for the Dursleys to miss. Particularly when Eagleby assured them that he could arrange Uncle Vernon a prestigious new job with the Kangaroo Sprocket Company. Harry stifled a snigger as he remembered that what Uncle Vernon hadn’t known and Eagleby had only later told Harry, was that this company was owned by the Australian Pacific Ministry for Magic, and Uncle Vernon would now be working with a team comprised of equal parts Muggle and Magical members.
Harry accompanied the Dursleys to the International Airport, where Dudley had stretched out his hand. In the space of the twelve hours since he had been told of his freedom, the sunken hollow look had seemed to fade from his eyes, although he was still a shadow of his former hulk. He no longer looked like a beady-eyed, pig-faced whale though, thought Harry.
“Bye Harry.” said Dudley. He struggled for something else to say. Harry worried for a moment that Dudley might be tempted to try and hug him again, but fortunately the moment seemed to pass. Dudley stuffed his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “Well, bye” he repeated, then added “You will visit won’t you?”
Harry startled. It had never occurred to him to visit the Dursleys. Uncle Vernon seemed to be swelling with indignation, but to Harry’s surprise, Aunt Petunia lay a hand on his arm and pulled him aside, affecting not to hear what Dudley was saying.
“Uhh. I guess. I’ll try” he said, shrugging uncomfortably. “Sure”
Dudley had stuffed his large hands into his baggy pockets and nodded once before turning away
“See ya Big D” Harry had called, and actually found himself waving.
Now, trekking through the jungle, Harry pondered the idea that perhaps Hagrid was right. Perhaps family was important. Harry snorted out loud, causing Bill to turn around with an enquiring look.
“Just admiring the stench” Harry said by way of explanation. The mud they were trekking through certainly did stink. Rotting vegetation and, Harry suspected, the occasional rotting animal was decomposing in the wet ground to form oozing goo underfoot. The mosquitos buzzed in a dense cloud at the edge of Bills’ Repellexa charm, forming an irritating drone in background.
“Just you wait” said Bill with a grin. “What do you think a mouldering old tomb smells like once you are in there?”
“Seriously?” asked Harry, “I would have thought anything rotting would have stopped smelling centuries ago?”
“Well yeah” said Bill, swiping at a vine with his wand “but you’re forgetting about the multitude of attempted break-ins that follow. We are talking mounds of rotting thieves Harry, piling up on either side of the entrance-ways. Particularly in some of the more popular Egyptian tombs. I doubt this one will have had too many recent visitors though.”
Harry shot a sceptical look at Bills back as they continued to forge through, unsure whether he was being taken in by yet another Weasley practical joke. He cursed as he stumbled over a tree root and accidentally kicked a large tree stump camouflaged in the dense undergrowth.
“Tell me again” Harry said through gritted teeth as he hobbled on his other foot waiting for the throbbing in his big toe to ease, “Why we couldn’t take magical transport all the way there?”
Bill stopped, “That reminds me” he said, and with a wave of his wand, the Repellexa charm vanished.
Harry cursed out loud again as the horde of mosquitos converged around them “Why?!” he cried swatting at a large, blood-thirsty insect on his neck.
“Here you’ll need this” said Bill, stopping to pull a bottle of muggle insect repellent out of his bag, and tossing it to Harry.
“Bit late now” Harry mumbled, as he took the lotion and rubbed it around his exposed neck anyway.
“Remember the magical defences we talked about that these places tend to have?
“Yes,” muttered Harry, still irritated as he tossed the bottle back to Bill.
“Tell me again why we haven’t found this place before” Bill prodded, as he applied the insect repellent to himself, placed it back in his bag, then continued their trudge up the steep hillside
“It had a such a powerful repelling jinx that no one has been able to get near it” Bill had been through this with Harry during their preparation.
“Right” said Bill “And up till now, anyone who has tried to locate this site, Wizard or muggle, has been repelled away. For any repellent spell to have lasted this long – “
“It must have been really powerful” finished Harry.
Bill glanced at him. “Well, yeah, or just cast on an object that retains magical properties for a long time. Either way we need to assume that all the defensive hexes, curses and jinxes will be just as powerful. Most tombs have magic detection spells as well which are usually designed to pick up magical interference – sort of like the trace the ministry uses on under age wizards.”
“Didn’t they worry about detecting muggles?” asked Harry
“Well no,” said Bill, raising his eyebrows. “With all the rest of the defensive spells they are loaded with, would you?” Harry grunted briefly as Bill continued. “Anyway, the detection spells are usually localised to the site directly around the tomb – but with a tomb this powerful, it could extend into the wider area around it. That is why we used a port-key to arrive nearby, but my supervisor at Gringotts felt it would be much safer for us to make the final approach using non-magical methods. This gives us as much of a chance as possible to assess the site before the activation level of spells kick in. No-one knows exactly how powerful these spells are till we trigger them”
“Right” said Harry, in an unconvinced tone “Still, we are going to have to use Magic aren’t we? To break the curses?”
Bill seemed immune to the mosquitos lying thick on his neck. “Yes. We just want a chance to find out what they are before we do.”
Harry thought that probably made sense. “So how far are we exactly?”
Bill glanced around, as if looking for some kind of indicator “According to the muggle reports we have from the people who found it, it was about a five day hike along this river from the spot where we left the port key.”
Harry groaned inwardly. They had only been hiking for a couple of hours. Sighing, he put his head down and plodded onwards.
The ground grew less sticky as the week wore on, and their path gradually changed to an uphill climb. At night, they camped in a muggle tent with the mosquitos buzzing angrily around them. Harry wondered about other animals, but Bill had just laughed. “Our biggest issue here is snakes Harry, and you seem to have that part under control.”
Harry nodded. Earlier in the day they had found a bright green boa constrictor with pale white markings lying across their path. When it raised its head and asked “Whatss are you doingss here?” in its’ strange hissing language, Harry had answered in Parseltongue without thinking about it.
“We need to passss by to go to the temple”
The snake had been surprised that Harry had answered. Most humans tried to either kill it or run from it.
“That’ssss a bad placsssse.” The boa constrictor had nodded as it lazily uncoiled its great body and moved out of the way. “Farewell sssnake ssspeaker”
Harry didn’t like the finality of the snakes’ last words.
The vegetation around them gradually thinned, and Harry noticed that the river was now cutting through stone as opposed to soaking across stinking mud. The smell had vanished hours ago, and now instead of rotting vegetation underfoot, Harry found himself stepping through vines that crept over the rock surface.
“There Harry” whispered Bill. “See that stone pillar? Up on the top of this hill there? This is it. Temple of Itis, the Incan Sun God”
“Sun God?” asked Harry dubiously, squinting at a crumbling column of rock above them.
Bill chuckled softly. “Most of the gods of the ancient times were wizards on power trips. From what I’ve seen, when surrounded by so many muggles, the wizards sometimes even believed it themselves. Particularly in Egypt, where bloodlines were kept so pure that it was easy to trace through families. They set themselves up as gods”
Harry grunted in disgust , too tired from the hike to say much more. He and Bill plunged onwards, until they both stood panting at the entrance to the ancient Incan Temple. Harry looked about at the ruins that surrounded him. There appeared to have been a courtyard in front of the large pyramidal shaped temple in front of him. Once there would have been stone walls and pillars surrounding the paved area in front of the pyramid. The pyramid had a square base, and went up in steps, one level at a time. Down the middle of each side was a steep ramp that led up to a doorway. Above the front doorway was what looked like a blazing sun – the symbol for Itis, Harry assumed. Once, this would have been an astounding sight, a temple set above the tomb of an ancient wizard masquerading as a god.
Now, Harry looked and saw a crumbling mass of stone, along with chunks missing from the pyramid. Hunks of rock had tumbled down, and leafy green vines had started to force their way between the stone, forming cracks. The walls around the courtyard had for the most part been pulled down by the relentless invasion of the jungle, with only a small portion of stone wall remaining. There were only three pillars still remaining standing at the entrance to the courtyard, but Harry could see the remains of other pillars marking out the entrance way. Bill was bending to the ground, tracing his hand gently over the rock.
“What are you doing?” Harry asked as Bill closed his eyes, his hand still tracing over the uneven surface of the stone.
“Trying to feel where the entrance to the tomb is. It seems that the pyramid in front of us is largely unprotected by magic. Possibly it is just that – a monument and nothing more. The ground beneath us though Harry is loaded with the feel of ancient magic.” Bill continued to focus on the magical traces he was trying to sense. “We are looking for the entrance to the cave. This type of thing is usually within the central chamber and concealed well. Put your hand to the ground Harry, what do you feel?”
Mystified, Harry put his hand on the ground and tried to feel something. He had seen Dumbledore do something like this once, and marvelled to see Bill bending down, tracing his hand across the rock.
“Yes, it has been powerfully protected this cave.” Bill murmured to himself.
Harry pressed his hand down harder, trying to concentrate on feeling something. “How do I feel it?” he asked, trying to mask his frustration
Bills hands traced again. “Relax Harry, stop trying so hard. All magic leaves a trace, but it takes years to be able to sense it. There are a several concentrated areas of magic, deep under the ground. There is been powerful magic here – just lying dormant.
Harry closed his eyes and relaxed. He thought about the pain from his scar. That was probably the only “trace” left behind by magic that he had ever actually felt, he thought grimly. Unconsciously he traced his fingers over the ground and to his surprise, felt the tingle of magic. It really was a lot like trace of magic associated with his scar, Harry thought to himself, just without the pain. Harry decided he much preferred sensing magic with his fingers than with his forehead.
He relaxed some more, trying to get a sense of the shape of it. It seemed like the magic was concentrating in several specific points. As he dragged his fingers across the ground the fibres within the magic began to unravel, and he felt a distinct difference between the traces of magic.
“Bill, why are there different traces?” Harry asked, frowning.
“Mmm –what Harry?”
“Why are the magical traces different - uh” Harry trailed off. What was different about them exactly? “Why are they different colours?”
Bill chuckled, low and soft. “I think you are talking about the light glinting off the river below us, Harry, not magic traces. Don’t worry. It takes years of practice to get the feel for this type of thing. Come on, I can feel where the first barrier is.”
I can feel where it is too, thought Harry, a little stung. It’s directly below that first column. Whats more, Harry thought; there are three different coloured traces there. What that meant though, Harry had no idea. Neither did Bill, apparently. Harry followed Bill up unto the entrance way of the temple, knowing that it wouldn’t be long till he had the opportunity to see for himself.
The courtyard at the entrance to the temple was only partially encircled by crumbling stone pillars. The others had long since crumbled or fallen over. Vines crept through the stones, prying them apart and crumbling them to ancient dust. Harry, following the traces of the magic, walked to the centre of the courtyard. Directly below the first pillar was the first big knot of magic traces. He watched as Bill carefully explored the courtyard, searching for hidden entrances. Harry tried to sense the opening with no success. He could tell where the magical knot was, but not how to get there.
Bill gave a shout. “Over here Harry, give me a hand!”
Harry rushed over to a tangle of vines to the left of the entrance hall. A stone pillar had mostly crumbled away but there was no mound of rubble on the ground below it – it was flat. Harry realised this was because the pillar had not fallen on the ground, but into it. The rubble from the pillar had filled the opening to the underground stairwell, concealing it.
“Help me clear it out!” huffed Bill, as he started hauling stones one by one out of the opening. “This is it Harry!” Harry reached in to tug on a large rock, wishing they were able to use magic. Together he and Bill worked to uncover a narrow stone staircase, descending into the darkness below.
Finally the opening was clear.
“Ready?” asked Bill, with an excited gleam in his eyes that somehow made Harry nervous.
“Er-” said Harry, unwilling to admit to the squirming inside him, but suddenly unsure of the idea of descending into the dark opening. Bill didn’t notice.
“I’ll go first so we don’t run into any magical problems, you take up the rear. Your job is to make sure we have a clear space to run. Alright?”
Harry nodded. He might understand, but it didn’t make it feel sensible or right to wander into a centuries old tomb laced with magical protection - particularly as unarmed and wandless as they were. He didn’t want Bill to think he was a coward, but he couldn’t seem to help himself blurting “Er - wands out?” just as Bill turned to head into the darkness.
Bill glanced back and smiled sympathetically. “Not yet, Harry. But soon.”
Harry gritted his teeth, and gathering his nerve, followed Bill into the darkness. The first few steps were ok, Harry thought. It was after about the ninth step, when the darkness became so thick it felt like it was pressing on his eyes, that he started to panic. If he turned around, he knew he would see the light from above. But if he did that, he would not make out anything in the darkness in front of him. And there could be anything there. He forced himself to take regular slow breaths as the heat from above vanished into a musty chill.
“Oomf!” Harry said, as he ran into the back of Bill in the darkness. Bill had come to an abrupt halt.
“Easy Harry” said Bill, making rustling noises in his pack. A moment later there was a click, and the uneven staircase seemed flooded with the light of a battery powered muggle torch. Harry felt sure that if he could see Bill's expression right now, Bill would again have a gleam in his eyes – the one that made him look like he lived for adventure. He wondered briefly if this was a type of grief-coping mechanism, or just Bill normally. Something made him suspect the latter. It was not a reassuring thought.
Harry nearly ran into Bill a second time as Bill came to another abrupt halt on the staircase. “Careful now,” he said, “we are at the first spell. Triggering or disarming this one will activate the whole temple defence!”
Harry froze, wondering exactly how you triggered a spell you couldn’t see. He relaxed again, feeling the trace of magic around him. There was a clump of it knotted in front of him. Harry frowned. This was all one ‘colour’ but barely one step further behind that was a second knot. Comparing the colours of the traces, Harry decided the first one was blue, but the second seemed to pulsate with a menace that made Harry decide it would probably be red in colour, if only he could see it.
Bill finally turned to Harry and said, “Ok, I’m going to have try and disarm this. From now on, be prepared for anything: hexes, curses, ghosts, Inferi, crumbling floors, poison spears, ANYTHING! What would Moody say?”
“Er...” Harry stalled, trying to remember where in his pack his bezoar was in case they were shot with poison spears, while at the same time trying to decide if Bill was yet again having him on. So far there was no stench from rotting corpses, so there was a high likelihood Bill just enjoyed trying to get a reaction from him.
“CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” whispered Bill fiercely, and in the dim light of the torch his face looked half crazed. “Now you can take your wand out Harry!” said Bill, pulling out is own, and with a sharp flick aiming it at the very centre of the blue knot.
“Incantatum Nullato!” he said, sending a force from the tip of his wand that collided with the space where Harry could feel the blue traces. The blue traces of magic shrivelled as a tremor ran along them. The knot disappeared, sending the tremors outwards. The tremor vibrated against the knot of menacing red traces, which caused them to swell in a threatening manner.
Bill took a step forward. “Come on Harry!” he said.
As Bill moved forward, Harry cried “No!” and reached to grab Bill by the back of his robes.
As Harry pulled Bill backwards, the space where Bill had been filled with what looked like winged darts, shooting out from the walls criss-crossing in each-others paths. Bill blinked in surprise and looked at Harry.
For a moment neither of them moved, and then Bill let out a shaky breath. “Thanks Harry, that was close.” He bent to pick up a dart that had landed on the ground in front of his feet. “This has been coated in poison.”
The odd, wispy wings on the dart fluttered in an uncoordinated staccato beat as Bill rolled the dart between his fingers, showing Harry the deep red coating on the darts’ tip.
“I think you just saved my life Harry. Both our lives.” Bill dropped the arrow and frowned. “ How many Weasley lives have you saved now? Three? Four?”
Harry felt slightly sick looking at the poison tip on the dart. It looked like it was coated in crimson blood.
“I didn’t do anything,” he muttered. “The red magic trace behind the blue one expanded when the blue -” Harry noticed Bill looking at him strangely and trailed off.
He couldn’t help but think that Bill’s family was at home, already grieving one lost Weasley member, while Bill was here risking his neck. Yet another stab of guilt flashed through Harry. He had enabled Bill to do the very thing he had once shouted at Lupin for doing - abandoning his family. Harry was so desperate to escape himself; he hadn’t stopped to think what it would actually mean. Bills’ job was dangerous! Life-threatening, although Bill didn’t seem to think that was much of a concern. Harry wondered why it was that he was the one who was so shaken while Bill stood so calmly. “
“Er yeah… well, uh, thanks again Harry!” said Bill with a frown as he cast a dubious glance at Harry. “I’ve been at my desk job for so long I’m forgetting basic precautions” He turned away and cast the “Specialis Revelio!” spell.
Harry decided it was best not to mention the coloured spells again. Clearly Bill thought he was imagining things. He watched Bill work as a humming noise started from the rocks at neck height a just beyond further down the stairs. Bill approached it carefully, wand out.
“Hmm,” he muttered. “Ok, Harry, take every second step down this staircase, starting on this one!” Bill started to walk cautiously down the stairs.
After seeing the flying darts, Harry was starting to think maybe Bill hadn’t been joking about the corpses, or the Inferi, quicksand and other things. But still, stepping on every second step seemed a little far-fetched. On the other hand, Bill seemed able to do and detect magic that Harry had only ever seen one person do before – Dumbledore. Dumbledore was the only person Harry had met who was able to detect, identify and undo magic left by other people
Harry tore his thoughts away from the painful, tangled memories that were attached to the thought of the former headmaster of Hogwarts and instead asked Bill “So, er- wouldn’t it just be easier to break the curse - if you already know what it is?”
“Of course!” called Bill without turning around. "Do you know the counter to remove the guillotine curse when it is embedded in stone?”
“Er- no” said Harry, skipping every second step.
“Me neither!” called out Bill cheerfully. “I’m sure we would work it out though, if we were willing to stand there for a few days. Personally, I’d rather continue on.”
Harry had to agree. He relaxed again, feeling for the traces of magic. Sure enough, there was a trace connecting every second step. Green, Harry thought, mentally choosing a colour for this particular trace. That was the third colour he had felt when he was still above ground.
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