Chapter 1 : Ancient Wonder
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The sun had been relentless all morning as they strolled along the streets of the city. It was a welcome change from the dreary English weather, but she could only hope the amount of Muggle sun cream she had used was enough. She hadn't wanted to use the Sun Reflecting Charm she'd assured her mum that she'd been practising to stop her burning, as she knew that it would stop her going that darker shade of pale colour she liked to call a tan. Instead she’d had a quiet word with her grandpa who had secretly passed her a few bottles of sun cream from his stash in the garage. There were very few Muggle products he didn't have these days.
"Come on guys!" Lily called back to her two friends who were lagging behind. "We're close now!"
From the distance they were at Lily could see they looked very hot and bothered. Had she been in this heat on any other day, she would have totally sympathised with them, but the excitement she felt bubbling up within her was dispelling any discomfort she might have been in.
As the two girls reached her they both took advantage of her temporary pause and dived into the shade she had just been occupying. They leant against the wall, gasping for breath, and Lily couldn't help but want to giggle at the pair of them. There was a slick layer of sweat on Ivy's brow as she let her wavy hair loose from the bobble that was holding it off of her face and neck so that she could put it up in a more secure bun. Alice on the other hand was furiously waving her hat back and forth in front of her face in an attempt to cool down. Her cheeks had turned a blotchy red colour from the heat.
“Well you pair look good,” she joked.
Alice shot her a sarcastic look over the top of her sunglasses but chose to ignore her last comment. "You said we were close ages ago, then you marched us around half the bloody city!" She groaned.
"Well, I lied the first time as you both seemed to be losing focus. You loved taking photos of the Trevi Fountain though Alice, so it's a good job I did that little detour," Lily grinned at them both.
"I told you we shouldn't have given her the map," Ivy muttered under her breath to Alice.
"We shouldn't have let her sort out the bloody travel plans!" Alice sighed. Although Lily couldn't see because of the dark sunglasses her friend had perched on her nose, she knew without a doubt she was rolling her eyes.
"Look, can you see that road going across just there?" Lily asked pointing to the crossroads she had just checked on her map. The two girls looked wearily in the direction she was pointing and grunted. "Once we get to that we should be able to see it." Lily finished, the excitement making her voice squeak slightly. It clearly didn't have the same effect on the other two though as Ivy raised her eyebrows and turned to Alice.
"Do you believe her?" she asked.
"I think we're going to need proof," Alice answered, turning back to Lily expectantly.
Lily sighed impatiently but got the map out to show them, knowing they wouldn't budge until she showed them where they were. A few minutes later and they were making the last stretch of their journey, ready to take a tour around the Colosseum.
As they crossed the road the enormous structure came into view giving all three girls the boost they needed to make it to the end of the final street. Standing mere metres away, Lily couldn't help but pause to take in the sheer size of thing, as well as its beautiful architecture. She could feel her mouth gaping slightly but she didn't care. The elliptical arena rose up majestically in the middle of a large plaza buzzing with tourists. Its slightly crumbling exterior kept the secrets it was hiding well, but didn't take away from the perfectly crafted arches that made up the rounded wall at all. It was moments like this that Lily truly appreciated her Grandpa’s love of everything the Muggles did. Sure, she had seen pictures of it but nothing came close to being stood on this spot, seeing it in person. How had they lifted the humongous and obviously heavy stones to the top without magic? How had they made such a perfect shape and measured everything so accurately? Just, how?
As she continued to marvel at the wonder in front of her, she saw her friends out of the corner of her eye looking at the building in awe too. Ivy had even taken off her glasses to view it and the rummaging she could hear meant Alice was getting her camera. A few seconds later the clicking of the shutter opening and closing frantically told her the blonde was snapping away. She gave her a few moments before suggesting they make their way to the entrance.
They made their way slowly through the crowds, avoiding the locals selling freezing cold bottles of water and parasols as well as many trinkets of the Colosseum itself amongst other things. As they moved closer they heard snippets of excited conversations, people fact sharing and talking animatedly about the things they had seen.
“Can you see the Roman numerals above the archways?” Lily asked her friends eagerly, wanting to share everything she had been reading herself over the last few weeks. “They go around from one to eighty. Everyone in Rome had a season ticket with a number on that told them which arch to go through. They built the passages so it took only around fifteen to twenty minutes to fill and just five minutes to empty.” She explained excitedly.
“Impressive,” Ivy commented. “Couldn’t it hold like thirty thousand people?” she asked as Alice adjusted the zoom on her camera and focused on the archways Lily had just pointed out.
“Fifty thousand, according to my guide. The tickets were free too, everyone in Rome got one. You just had to sit with your own class of people.”
"Fifty thousand?" Alice asked disbelievingly lowering her camera and looking at Lily. "How on earth do you get fifty thousand people organised in fifteen minutes?"
"I don't know, Alice, I wasn't there," Lily joked, to which Alice blobbed out her tongue in response.
They continued to walk toward the large crowd that was gathered at what they presumed was the entrance and from there, it didn't take long for them to find their fast pass gateway. The dark and almost cool passageway was a welcome relief from the sun, but they were instantly pulled along with the crowd, up the steep stairs and out into the middle of the arena.
If Lily thought seeing the outside of the place was impressive, it was nothing compared to seeing the inside. The brightness in the enclosed space hurt her eyes but she ignored it and replaced the sunglasses she had placed on her head temporarily. Walking into the arena, she felt like she could almost hear a roaring crowd, shouting and jeering, wanting to see a good show. Although the stage was mostly missing it wasn't hard to imagine what it would have looked like with the gladiators fighting gruesome battles to their death. Instead though, they got a birds-eye view of the intricate passageways and rooms that were below the arena and Lily was itching to Apparate down there to take a closer look. The whole atmosphere just took her breath away.
They turned left and made their way around the edge of the arena as Lily pulled out the guide book she had purchased in the small Travel Guide shop in Diagon Alley. It had only been open a few years but had quickly become popular with witches and wizards keen to see the Muggle world outside of Britain, but who were pretty helpless when it came to organising. They had a section for booking Muggle transportation and hotels if that's how you wanted to travel, but also had contacts within the ministry to set up portkeys if that's what you preferred. They had every possible travel essential you could ever need and helped out with currency, language and anything else you required. Lily's favourite part though was the shelves of books they had upstairs on all the things to see and do. They had charmed the photos to not move which always felt quite odd but it meant they could use them in the Muggle community without raising suspicion.
"When the Colosseum first opened," she read to the girls. "An opening ceremony was organised which lasted one hundred days. The show was said to be very extravagant and included many great fights, shows and hunts involving the killing of approximately five thousand animals according Suetonius, a historian at the time."
"That's so barbaric," Ivy said, wrinkling her nose up in disgust. "I don't understand how people could enjoy that kind of thing."
"It was a different time though," Alice reasoned. "Not that I agree with it at all," she added quickly when Ivy gave her an alarmed look.
"Ooh, and listen to this!" Lily quickly continued. "For one of the scenes in the opening, the arena space was filled with water for one of the most fantastic events held in Roman times, naumachias. These were re-enactments of real sea battles, showing the great battles of the past."
"They filled this place with water?" Alice asked disbelievingly. "How?"
"Yes," Lily answered, still reading on although she had started to feel light-headed. "More than once actually. According to the Muggles, the water was transported using some timber structures into the arena. However, halfway through building the architects found one or two big problems but were too afraid to tell the Emperor of the time.”
“Off with their heads!” Alice joked.
“Something like that, yeah.” Lily agreed grimly. She was finding it harder and harder to concentrate as a queasy feeling was taking over. “Anyway, a guy called Idrico Lacrimare came to the rescue though, finding a solution to the seemingly impossible problems. What the Muggles didn't know though was that Lacrimare was actually a wizard who cast some charms to keep the arena watertight, as well as helping to fill it up."
Alice laughed, "Oh bless them! They haven't got a clue at times."
"Surely that was pretty dangerous of him though," Ivy countered, ever the sensible one. "He must have risked exposing himself as a wizard."
"Maybe that's how they got their kicks in the Roman times," Lily said dryly. "Can we move into some shade please? This heat is really starting to get to me."
The girls moved around and found a small piece of shade to sit down in. Lily was more thankful for it than she let on; the arena was a bit of a sun trap and she could see she wasn't the only one suffering.
She closed her eyes for a few minutes while rummaging around in her small satchel until her fingers felt the cool metal of the container she was looking for. Her Aunt Hermione had given her the water flask as a present, purposely buying a metal container so that the Muggles couldn't see the water refilling once it got below a certain point. She'd then gone on to add a number of other nifty little tricks including a spell to keep the water ice cold, even in this temperature, something Lily couldn't have been more grateful for right now. She took a few large gulps then pressed the container to her forehead for a few seconds, waiting for it to refill, then passed it to the girls to drink.
"Feeling better?" Alice asked, looking concerned for her friend as she wiped her mouth on the back of her hand after taking a large swallow.
"Much, thanks," Lily answered with a small smile. "The heat just got to me a bit."
"I'm not surprised," Ivy said sympathetically taking a gulp from the flask herself. "It's enough to get to anyone."
Lily smiled gratefully at the two of them then closed her eyes for a few more minutes until the nausea had passed.
"Do you want to walk around a bit further?" she asked, once she felt her shaky knees would support her again. She was still as keen as ever to not miss anything.
"If you're ready," Ivy replied, making sure Lily knew they were in no rush. Pulling herself to her feet slowly, Lily still felt herself sway slightly but she stayed upright, holding onto the rough stone wall to steady herself.
"Come on, let’s go," she said to the other two.
"Hang on," Ivy said, now searching through her own small purse. "Here, drink a sip of this." She had pulled out a small bottle of orangey looking potion. Lily took the bottle and squinted to read the label.
"Essence of Twinspur," she read. "What's this?"
"Helps with travel sickness," Ivy replied calmly. "It should help with the dizziness."
"Thanks," Lily smiled, and then took a sip of the swirling liquid. The effect was almost immediate; she felt herself refocus and the throbbing in her temple subsided.
"That's brilliant," Lily said excitedly, the enthusiasm she'd lost returning tenfold. "Come on, we have tonnes more to see!" She started bounding off, moving round to the far side of the arena.
"Why on earth did you do that? She had too much energy as it was," she heard Alice grumble to Ivy who just laughed. Lily turned back around to face her friends.
"Cheer up, Alice," she grinned mischievously. "You've got a march around Pompeii to enjoy tomorrow, as well as walking up Mount Vesuvius. Then we have plenty of other fun activities in store." Both Lily and Ivy laughed at their friend as her face fell with a groan before she joined in with a small giggle.
"Bring it on," she said with a sigh.
AN: Thank you guys so much for reading! If you get the chance it would mean the world to me if you could leave a small review with your thoughts!
I would like to thank nott theodore for reading this for me and helping me out so much! I really appreciate it.
I would also like to say that most of the facts here are true as far as I'm aware, I got them from tours I have been on and also google. However, the Romans were clever enough to fill the Colossum with water without the help of wizards (as far as we know!)
'Off with their heads' is the Queen of Heart's favourite saying from Lewis Carrolls 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'. Anything else you recognise will be from the amazing JK.