Chapter 1 : Cursebreaking in Barcelona
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Teddy Lupin was running late.
This was very unusual. Teddy was generally a reliable person who could always be counted on to be on time.
However, the night before had marked the last time Teddy was likely to see his girlfriend in several weeks. They'd gotten to sleep on time without much trouble - he insisted on that. Passionate goodbyes were all very well and good, but showing up to work sleepy was a very poor idea when you were a Cursebreaker. Dulled reflexes could be the difference between a teary "I'll miss you" and a funeral.
He did not want a funeral.
He'd even gotten up on time. Unfortunately, the sight of the semi-clad redhead next to him had distracted him long enough that he'd been late getting in the shower, and when he'd gone back into his room to get dressed she'd distracted him again.
So though he was well-rested, which was a plus, he was also late, which was not.
As he emerged from one of the Floo stations in Diagon Alley, he broke into a run. He could hear Big Ben ringing in the distance, and he didn't have to count the chimes to know that there were nine.
Now he was officially late.
He did not stop to admire the bank as it loomed near, instead hurrying around the side and descending the white marble steps that led to the employee-only part of Gringotts two at a time. He paused just in front of the door to catch his breath, and then pushed it open to step into the lower atrium of the building.
"You're late," informed the goblin sitting at the front desk.
"I know." He knew better than to make excuses; the goblins didn't care why you were late, only that you were. They took their gold very seriously.
The goblin surveyed him for a moment before tapping its fingers. The glittering magical barrier barring him from stepping further into the room rippled and then vanished, and he gave the goblin a quick nod before continuing on his way.
Now that he was inside, he slowed to a brisk walk. Running would be unseemly.
The normal hustle and bustle of the day had not started yet, but it was still busy enough for little snatches of conversation here and there to make their way to him as he strode across the gold-inlayed marble floor.
" - brought back more gold than we'd expected, and a valuable necklace; cursed, of course, but - "
" - won't pay their debts, you know what that means - "
" - coming in today, so extra security measures will be in place - "
" - still don't like this subcontracting to the Ministry - "
He reached the large arch emblazoned with the word "Cursebreakers." He pressed his hand into the smooth limestone to the right of the entrance. After a moment, it sank into the rock until all he could see was the back of his hand. He waited patiently as the tendrils of ancient magic to wind around his fingers, and as soon as the wall released him and the air barring him from entry shimmered, he walked into the room.
Unlike the atrium, the sounds in this room were largely muted; at any given time, more Cursebreakers were out on assignment than not, and those that were there were taking the time to take care of the large piles of paperwork that never seemed to get any smaller.
He spotted Renata Sykes sitting behind her desk and immediately made his way over to her. She must have only just sat down, because her desk was still covered with a thick layer of dust; she'd been in China for the past four months searching abandoned wizarding monasteries for treasure.
She glanced up as he approached. "Oh, hi, Teddy." Renata had been in his year while they were at Hogwarts, though in Hufflepuff rather than Gryffindor, and they'd been close. He'd missed her.
"Glad to be home?"
"Ask me again tomorrow."
He leaned against her desk. "I heard someone talking about subcontracting on my way through. Don't tell me it's us."
He made a face and continued on toward his desk.
Gringotts had started to make a habit of subcontracting out to the Auror office in certain cases, particularly those involving other European countries, which the Auror Department had much more experience dealing with than the Cursebreakers.
Historically, the bank had operated largely in Africa and Asia. However, political climates were changing, and several major European Ministries owed Gringotts a sizable sum of gold. They were perfectly happy to have the Gringotts Cursebreakers risk their necks to retrieve old treasure, much of which was subtracted from their debt, and the Auror office had proved quite happy to pitch in when it meant taking a share of the profit.
Unfortunately, the Aurors were often stubborn and a little old-fashioned. Worse, Teddy's godfather tended to send middle aged ones who insisted on being difficult. Teddy had been paired with two so far, and both had spent far too much time telling him about how they remembered his mother and how he looked so much like her. Occasionally, they pulled out a baby picture.
He tossed his jacket across his chair, and was about to sink into it when he saw a memo on his desk telling him to report to the main office at 9:00.
He glanced over at the clock. 9:15. "Damnit."
As he headed toward the large glass door marked 'Harold Tinnell, Head,' he tried not to dwell on which obnoxious Auror would be hiding behind it this time.
However, when he walked into the office, the Auror sitting there was decidedly not middle-aged. In fact, she'd been just a year above him in school, and he knew her very, very well.
He was not sure whether to curse or feel relieved.
"Sorry I'm late," he said, sinking into the free chair next to her. "I overslept."
"Is that what they're calling it these days?" the woman muttered. He was pretty sure Tinnell couldn't hear her, but he felt his face start to go red anyway.
Tinnell glanced pointedly at the clock, but refrained from commenting. Instead, he launched into a brief overview of the assignment, which they were to leave on early the next morning.
Catalonia. One week. Apparently, Gringotts had requested this specific Auror because she spoke Catalan, which was fairly uncommon. A lot of Cursebreakers and Aurors alike spoke Spanish, which would serve in Catalonia, but when you were dealing with curses and riddles, it was always best to be careful.
The Catalans as a whole also tended not to like Spanish, so that made communicating with them slightly more difficult.
"Keeping it classy, then?" he asked as soon as the door had clicked shut behind his supervisor.
Johanna Greengrass rose to her feet. "They don't pay me to be classy. You have sex hair, by the way. What, did the lovely Ms. Weasley seduce you before and after your shower this morning?"
Teddy winced. He had a feeling that he might be in for a long week.
He met her the next day in one of the satellite Portkey Offices Gringotts employees typically used at an hour that could neither properly be called 'late night' or 'early morning.'
The clerk behind the desk looked very bored but reasonably awake. "Papers?"
Johanna produced them, and after a quick glance at the official documents clearing them for a roundtrip Portkey to Barcelona and their respective badges, they were waved through the checkpoint toward one of the nondescript numbered doors.
"So, Teddy." He glanced over at her as she turned the doorknob. "Do you think you'll manage to make it a week without your girlfriend's… ah… charms?"
"Jo, for the love of - "
She threw him a smirk, and he gave up. Johanna liked to needle at people, and he was probably better off if he just didn't respond at all. Instead, he turned his attention to the bracelet laying on the table in the middle of the room.
"Barcelona, here we come."
The bracelet began to glow, and Johanna's hand snapped out to grab hold of it. He followed suit and closed his eyes just before he felt a strange lurch in his stomach. He kept them closed until he felt his feet touch the ground again.
Johanna slipped the bracelet over her slim wrist and tapped it with her wand. It constricted slightly, and once she was sure it wouldn't fall off, she looked up at Teddy. "Ready?"
They stepped out from behind the shadows of the building and surveyed the long flights of stairs in front of them. The sky had lightened enough on the cool autumn day that they could see that it was a long, long way up.
"They never mentioned stairs."
Teddy made a face. "They never mention a lot of things."
There were Muggle escalators on one side, which he was pleased to see. When he stepped on them, however, nothing happened.
"I thought these things moved once you step on them."
Johanna shrugged. "Apparently not." He fingered his wand, and she cleared her throat. "Ah - poor idea. We don't have clearance to start mucking around with Muggle machines."
He sighed and let go of his wand. She was right, which annoyed him both on principle and because it meant that he actually had to climb all these stairs..
"Anyway," she said as they started up the first of several long flights of stairs. "Exercise is good for you. You wouldn't want to start to lose your stamina when - "
He reached out and shoved her playfully. "Shut up."
By the third flight, not even Johanna could muster up the energy to tease him. "Hell, these are endless." She wasn't out of breath - they were both in good physical shape - but the stairs were relentless, and it seemed to Teddy that they were taking a lot more out of him than they should.
He put his hand on his wand again. Something strange was at work here, something that even a year ago he probably wouldn't have recognised.
He flashed back to an assignment he'd had to Rome three months before. There had been a lot of strange magics in the city: layers upon layers of half-unravelled spells, some so ancient he couldn't even place them. It was his only trip to Italy to date, and had convinced him that there was a reason the Italian Ministry was happy to let Gringotts come in and claim some of their treasure. The Italians had something far more valuable to focus on: ancient knowledge lost to the rest of the world.
The prickling sensation on the back of his neck was not as strong as it had been in Rome, nor quite as strange, but there was something about it that made him shudder involuntarily, despite the relative warmth of the day.
Johanna stopped once they reached one of the small landings in between the long, stone flights. "I don't like this."
"Don't like what?"
She frowned, though not at him. "Don't you feel it? It's like - like worms trying to wriggle under my skin."
She certainly got points for imagery - Teddy had never thought to put it that way - but she wasn't wrong. "Yeah. It was like this in Rome, too."
She breathed deeply. "It doesn't feel… unfriendly, exactly. Just - "
She nodded and glanced at the remaining steps. "We'd better keep going. I think I can see the top."
By the time they'd reached the entrance of Parc Güell, the sun had begun to peek over the horizon.
"There's one thing I don't understand," Johanna said as she tapped the locked gate with her wand. It swung open noiselessly. As soon as they'd stepped through, it closed behind them.
"Well, this is a very pretty park - I'm not saying that it isn't - but it's not a very old park. Why would there be ancient treasure hidden here, and why wouldn't the government know how to retrieve it?"
Teddy made a face. He did know the answer to that - this had been in the works for awhile, and he'd had more than enough time to read up on it. The answer, however, was depressing enough that he rather wished he didn't.
"During the Spanish Civil War, the Catalonian wizards were worried their opposition would prevail and seize control of their treasure, so they hid it in places they didn't think anyone would look." He glanced around the park: the low tiled walls and beautiful gardens were almost imposing in the sense of peace they bestowed. He could imagine that anyone who walked in with a heavy heart and ambitions that were less-than-pure would soon forget about them in favor of a good nap.
There was something mystical about that, too.
Johanna glanced around. "Well, I probably wouldn't think to look here. It's too… peaceful." She yawned widely. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm suddenly so sleepy."
The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. "Yeah. Me, too."
She yawned again and followed him into the an open room filled with thick, sturdy columns. "So why didn't they just reclaim it after the war?"
"Because the opposition prevailed, and everyone who knew what had been put here was dead." He stopped.
"Then how do we know anything has been put here?"
That was a very good question, and one his supervisor had been very unwilling to answer for him. "I have no idea."
He glanced around one last time to make sure there were no Muggles around, and then pointed his wand straight up at the circular sun mosaic on the ceiling. He spoke three words, making sure he got the inflection and pronunciation just right, and then stepped back.
For a moment, it seemed that nothing happened, but then a strange mist began to float down from the ceiling. As it reached the floor, it began to thicken and glow a bright blue that could only be supernatural in origin. There was a soft clink that strangely did not echo through the room as his and Johanna's voices had done, and the mist lifted enough for him to see a dark hole where the floor had been.
He exchanged a look with Johanna.
"There's no way to tell what's down there."
She grinned. "That's what we came for, though, isn't it?" She strode past him, sat down on the edge of the hole, and let herself drop in. There was another soft clink, and the hole began to shrink.
Teddy hurried to it and mimicked what the Auror had done moments before. His feet hit the bottom and he looked up just in time to see the lingering light from the sun that had finally begun to permeate the open chamber disappear as the hole sealed shut again.
His heart was hammering. "Jo?"
"I'm here." She sounded a little shaken. "Lumos."
He saw a small light to his left flickering. Just as it was beginning to properly glow, however, it was extinguished.
"It keeps doing that," she said. "It's the third time I've tried."
That was Teddy's first inkling that they might be in trouble.
He tried the spell, too, but like Johanna's, it didn't work. That didn't really surprise him, but it had been worth a try.
As he tried any other spell he could think of, he heard Johanna groping around in the dark. Suddenly, there was a loud crack, and he whirled around just as light flared through the room.
When his eyes stopped spotting, he saw Johanna standing next to a lit torch tucked in a recess in the wall. "I stumbled across it, and thought maybe fire was a good bet."
"You thought right." He looked back up at the ceiling, and surprised to find that it was much higher than he'd originally thought. He had no idea how he'd managed to land on his feet so easily. He shook his head to clear it - the sense of peace that had pervaded the park was gone, and in its place was the same foggy sensation he'd felt when they'd been climbing the steps.
Johanna was standing in front of one of the walls. Her arms were crossed, and she was biting her lip as she stared at the phrase etched into the stone.
"What does it say?"
"Give me a moment to figure it out," she snapped.
He closed his mouth. Johanna was not a good person to get into a temper, especially not when you couldn't escape from her.
"Okay," she said after a few minutes. "It says, 'To move forward, you must find the key in our most ancient, sacred place.' It also gives us the spell to open the hole again."
He sighed. He hated scavenger hunts. He was halfway to the center of the room when he realised that she wasn't following him. "Jo?"
"Oh, we're not leaving." She began to circle the room, lighting the remaining torches as she went. "Help me, will you?"
As it transpired, there were similar messages on every section of wall that stood just to the left of a torch.
Johanna, however, was not dissuaded. "The answer has to be here somewhere," she told him as she knelt to scrutinise the base of one wall. She apparently did not find what she was looking for, because when she straightened and brushed the dust from her hands, she looked disgusted. "Riddles are meant to be solvable, and clues are supposed to mean something to someone. I don't see how this fits into either."
Teddy decided to take her word for it rather than question her translation, and began to search for hidden writing on the wall.
To his credit, he found it first. He had been beginning to feel upstaged.
His mood was further lifted when Johanna's face broke into a beam after she saw them. "Right," she said, straightening up. "So - "
She gave her wand a quick flick, and the letters began to glow. She turned to smirk at Teddy, but he was not entirely sure they should be celebrating yet; the letters were beginning to go from yellow to red. In the time it took Johanna to turn back around, steam began to rise from them.
Teddy threw himself at his friend, and together they tumbled to the ground just as a jet of white-hot fire shot over their heads. "Aguamenti!" he bellowed as another flame shot past them.
"No, Teddy!" he heard Johanna say through the sound of the cracking of the rock. "Nonverbal! They have to be nonverbal!"
"Now you tell me." He pointed his wand at the opening, and at the same time, he and Johanna both sent a large spout of water at the opening just as another flame was making its way through.
The water immediately turned to steam.
He groaned as the flame crashed into the opposing wall. Thankfully, the fire didn't seem to be capable of redirecting itself toward them, but while that was some comfort, the room was rapidly turning into a sauna. As another fireball hit the wall, he heard a soft creak just over the impact.
"The wall's going to break," Johanna said in his ear.
"Yeah, I know." He stared at the crack. He wasn't sure whether it was his imagination or not, but it seemed like there was steam rising from the rock embedded in the wall. Could rock melt? He wasn't sure. "How do you open the top?"
"It doesn't work. I tried. Maybe it stops working once you trigger this." She stopped to cough into her arm as smoke filled the chamber again.
Teddy stared at the break in the wall. He'd faced a lot in his time as a Cursebreaker, but what he was about to do would probably be a first. "Jo," he shouted.
"I think we have to go through the hole."
She stared at him incredulously. "Teddy, are you insane? We are not going through that hole! There's fire coming through it! I am not a bloody Gryffindor!"
Another flame hit the wall to punctuate her sentence.
"Yeah," he said as the smoke began to settle. The wall was definitely leaking something, and he was not expecting it to be good. "I know. But I've been counting, and I think it comes in a pattern."
He nodded and edged closer to the opening. As soon as another fireball had emerged into the room, he peered cautiously inside. There was a very, very short corridor that looked like it opened into another chamber.
He jerked his head back just in time.
"It's really short. The fireballs come every 20 seconds, we should be able to run it."
She rubbed her face with one hand and glanced worriedly at the opposite wall. Water was beginning to seep through it.
"Fine." She looked at the hole, steeled herself, and said, "I'll go first."
"No, I will. It's my idea." She looked about to object, so he edged closer to the hole and flattened himself against the stone next to it. Another jet of fire exploded out. As soon as it cleared him, he scrambled into the corridor.
It was immediately apparent to him that 20 seconds in between blasts in the chamber did not mean that he would have 20 seconds to get down the corridor. He could already see another flame forming at the end of it.
He ran for all he was worth toward it, ignoring every instinct that was telling him that running toward fire was a very, very poor idea. He tumbled into the cavern and managed to tumble to the side just before it was released from the impress in the wall.
"Run fast!" he yelled as loudly as he could, hoping Johanna would hear him.
This room was even hotter than the other one had been, and there was a layer of smoke that made it difficult to see much.
Another ball of flame was released, and he realised that Johanna hadn't appeared yet.
His heart was starting to hammer, but he gave her another round. Just as he was beginning to worry that she hadn't made it, she emerged from the passage. He lunged forward and grabbed her.
On the way down, her elbow caught him in the stomach.
"Why'd it take you so long?" he croaked.
She blinked a few times. "I stopped in that little tunnel." He shook his head. "Halfway down the passageway?" He shook his head again. "You mean you ran the whole thing in one go?"
"Wow." Johanna sighed. "Yeah, there's a little tunnel. I think it probably leads out."
"Women's intuition. Let's see what's in here first, but quickly - the wall's beginning to go, and I'm pretty sure we'll get flooded when it does."
She waved her wand before he could stop her, and the smoke dissipated. Suddenly, the growing ball of flame flickered, and then died.
"What did you do?"
She opened her mouth, but ended up turning away to cough into her arm at the last minute. "In the passage. It told me to light a candle, so I used Lumos."
Teddy glanced toward the impress. "And that made it go away?"
She shrugged and slowly approached the pedestal the fireballs had been forming on. Nothing happened, and with a quick glance back down the corridor, she tentatively put a fingertip on it.
She pulled away immediately, looking puzzled. "It's cool."
He moved up and mimicked her. Sure enough, the stone was cool to touch. Rather than pull away, however, he inspected it a bit more closely. Logic said that drawing his wand around the circle on the top would bring the fireballs back, but from what he knew of rebels - particularly these rebels - things would probably be a little more tricky than that.
"Top or side?"
Johanna peered closely at both. The side had a long lightening bolt etched into it. "Top. They were tricky."
He swallowed hard and drew his wand in a circle around the top, thinking, "Alohomora," as he did so.
There were a very tense few seconds when he'd stepped back, but then the pedestal rose, revealing a small chest behind it. Johanna grabbed it just before the pedestal crashed back down.
They both heard a loud crack from the other chamber, and looked back just in time to see the water begin to pour in.
"Oh, hell," they said simultaneously.
Teddy looked at the pedestal. "Go. Take the chest."
To Johanna's credit, she knew when not to be argumentative. She gripped the chest tightly to her chest and went, splashing through the water already beginning to pool on the floor.
It wouldn't do to be drowned before they could get out, and there was no way of knowing how far the passage Johanna had found would take them before it let them out. Praying that she was right and that he wouldn't regret this, Teddy readied himself to trace the lightning bolt. If Lumos had made the fire disappear, then maybe Lumos would bring it back.
An impulse grabbed him, and just before he traced it, he reached around to the back of the pedestal. He found something hanging there, and before he could thinking about what he was doing, he pulled it off and pocketed it without examining what he'd found. The water was sloshing around his ankles; there was no time.
"Teddy, come on!" he heard Johanna scream.
He traced the lightning bolt with his wand, saw the pedestal start to glow, and made a break for it.
Johanna pulled him into the passage as he approached it, and once again, he tumbled to the ground. As he caught his breath, he heard rather than saw the sizzle of the fireball, and the water in the passage stopped rising momentarily.
"I hope you're right about this leading us out," he muttered.
As it transpired, she was right. They made their way down the dark and dank passage without delay; though the water was not rising as quickly anymore, it was still rising, and neither Teddy nor Johanna had ever decided that drowning was the way they wanted to die.
He was the one who saw the ladder and the trapdoor on the ceiling. They found themselves in an old, dust-covered room once they'd closed the trap door behind them. He immediately dug what he'd found out of his pocket; it was a leather pouch, and when he carefully opened it, he saw a very old gold locket nestled inside.
He had more sense than to touch it.
When Teddy peered outside one of the windows, he saw a familiar bed of flowers. "I think we're in a secret room in one of those houses in the park," he said.
Johanna dragged herself up and joined him at the window. "I think you're right."
He looked at her. Her clothing was splattered with both mud and water, her skin was speckled with spots of soot and ash, several locks of her chin-length brown hair were covered in slime, and there was a large bruise forming on one of her cheekbones. When she reached up to scratch her nose, he saw a long, shallow cut along her forearm.
He suspected that he looked at least as bad. Probably worse.
She wrinkled her nose at him. "So this is Cursebreaking, huh?"
"This is Cursebreaking."
Some of the slime from her hair dripped down onto her neck and shoulder. To her credit, she didn't shriek as some of it trickled into her shirt, though she did give it a look that probably would have killed, had slime from Catalonian curses been something that one could kill.
"It feels a lot like being an Auror, except you get gold at the end rather than dark wizards."
Something about her expression made him laugh, and once he started laughing, he couldn't seem to find it in him to stop. She patted his shoulder a few times in what he supposed was probably supposed to be a comforting sort of way, and then jerked her head toward the city. "Where are we staying tonight? I would kind of like to clean the slime out of my hair."
A/N: Thank you so much for reading! I know that this was a rather long one-shot, but I was inspired. :P It was written for the House Cup 2013, with the theme travel - hopefully I succeeded and wrote a good story at the same time. :P
I would really appreciate a review, if you wouldn't mind taking the time to leave one.
Some historical context, for those who are interested:
Park Güell is a real place in Barcelona, and was built in the early 1900s. It does indeed have some very interesting houses attached to it. The main entrance is not nearly as difficult to get into, but Teddy and Johanna had the bad luck to approach it from a side entrance. The climb really is that long. It's a lovely park, though, and if you're ever in Barcelona I highly recommend it. As far as I know, however, there are no secret underground caverns. :P
The Civil War is also a real part of Spanish history, and happened in the mid-late 1930s. JKR has mentioned in the past that often Muggle wars and Wizarding wars coincide with each other and are even sometimes connected, and I can't imagine wizards not getting drawn into something as serious as a civil war, especially not that civil war. Catalonia - the region Barcelona is in - were on the losing side in the war, which is why (in my mind) the treasure sat there untouched for almost a hundred years.
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