Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling. I am merely telling a story in her world for the fun of it.
AN: Thanks as always go to my beta team, Velvet Mouse, who does the hard work of keeping me in line and Sovran who has the arduous task of proofreading this.
Rolling up one scroll, Ginny grabbed yet another piece of parchment and unrolled it, her finger following the intricate columns of glyphs and pictograms that made up the Mayan language. There were several dozen books and scrolls spread over her desk. A map of the wards that had been recorded around Dzibilchaltun hung off one edge. She had been buried in research about Dzibilchaltun since she had returned to Central America the previous day.
There was little known about Dzibilchaltun and a great deal of myth surrounding it. According the Muggle archeologists, the city had been inhabited from about 200 B.C. until 1000 A.D. To Muggles, Dzibilchaltun was a sprawling collection of ruined temples only fifteen kilometers from the modern city of Merida. Powerful protective charms and wards guarded the site and had kept most Muggles from settling in the area. Instead, the Spanish had built Merida over the nearby ruins of T’ho, one of the oldest centers of the Maya in the Yucatan.
However, wizards could see past the Muggle repelling charms and had discovered that the city was a millennium older than the Muggle scientists believed. To the Muggles, or so Ginny assumed from their photographs and descriptions, the temples appeared to be no more than crumbled ruins beaten down by the weather. Ancient magic, however, snaked through Dzibilchaltun like an infestation of kudzu. Although not pristine, Dzibilchaltun had resisted natural decay and held a plethora of information about the Mayan wizards among the hieroglyphs on the ruins.
From the rubbings and recordings of the glyphs Ginny had been perusing all morning, the city was one of the original sources of Mayan culture and religion. All of the carved pictograms in the city used early classical forms, unlike those at Itzamna, which had been a Late Classical Period tomb and therefore used a more modern mythology. It was because of this that most wizards, Ginny included, believed that Dzibilchaltun had been the first city of the Maya and held the tomb of the Mayan equivalent of Merlin.
Dzibilchaltun was built to glorify Wak-Chan-Awah, Six-Sky-Lord, who was later called the Maize God, and the God Seven, as well as appearing in numerous other incarnations. Along the stele, a large stone obelisk at the site, the story of Wak-Chan-Awah was written differently than in any other telling Ginny had read or heard. In this one, Six-Sky-Lord gave the power of the gods to his chosen seven priests and taught them the secrets of creation.
The legends of the area led many to believe that the secrets to the power of the Maya were hidden within the tomb of Six-Sky-Lord. So the ruin was like a veela’s dance to dozens of curse breaking teams. What Ginny could not understand was why Harry was so interested in the abandoned city.
Despite what the press reported, Harry was not a treasure hunter or a celebrity enjoying his fame. In truth, Ginny knew little about what he did except that he consulted for the British Ministry as a diplomat, and he obsessed over stamping out dark wizards. There was no dark magic in Dzibilchaltun, dangerous yes, but not dark. And the Ministry would have no interest in the ruin, so that only left a third option. But for the life of her, Ginny could not see how a Mayan ruin a millennium old could be related to Voldemort’s defeat. And the research in front of her was not helping.
Leaning back in her chair, Ginny stretched upwards, enjoying the burning pain of loosening taut muscles. The pages of parchment were beginning to run together into a mass of ink. She had slept fitfully the previous night when her dreams had left her tossing and turning. She remembered little except for brief flashes of stone temples and the rhythmic pounding of drums. Ginny passed it off as stress, but part of her was worried that she was having nightmares at all. She was usually much more in control, but the previous day had been a wretched one.
After the meeting with Bill, she had returned to the Burrow and enjoyed an early supper with her mother, Penelope, and her nieces and nephews. Unfortunately, she had not been able to stay longer. Instead, she had taken a Portkey back to Merida. Returning around lunch time, she had entered a camp swarming like a kicked-apart bee’s nest. Satterfield and his team had returned that morning, and with Ginny in London, they had taken the opportunity to pressure her administrative staff to file several grievances against her.
Ginny could deal with the grievances. New teams and curse breakers generated them as if they were maggots on rotten meat. The rumors they were tossing about were another issue. In a matter of hours, Satterfield had somehow half convinced the camp that she was revoking percentage rights to the finds in favor of equal shares among all. Although exhausted and irritable, Ginny had run around for several hours reassuring the curse breakers in camp that there had been no change in policy and that Satterfield’s team was being punished for reckless behavior.
Now, four hours of sleep later and three Pepper-Up potions into the day, Ginny was back in control. Satterfield and his team had been bundled off on paid leave until a board of inquiry could be assembled. Unfortunately, Lord Satterfield himself had opted to remain at the camp to ensure that his interests were being upheld, but it was the best she could hope for the situation. However, the moment she left camp to guide Harry into Dzibilchaltun, she knew Satterfield would begin undermining her position.
Ginny cleared her mind. She did not have time to worry about events she had little control over. Returning to her work, she pulled out a scroll on the Templo de las Siete Munecas, one of the temples at Dzibilchaltun. Most treasure hunters went after the Temple of Six-Sky-Lord at the western end of the site. The concealment charms on the Temple of Six-Sky-Lord kept Muggles away. However, several hexologists had linked the eastern Templo de las Siete Munecas to the seven priests that had been taught by Six-Sky-Lord. It had been named after seven doll-like effigies that had been unearthed there and appeared to be nothing more than a normal temple, Ginny had a hunch about it, however, and that was enough for her.
A knock on her door pulled Ginny away from the scroll. For a moment she thought to ignore it, but then there was a second, louder knocking. “Who is it?”
The door cracked open, and Sarah stuck her head inside. Her short brown hair was held in place by several silver hair pins, and her dark eyes were moving uneasily about the room. “I’m sorry for bothering you, Curator, but Hexologist Satterfield insists on seeing you.”
Grinding her teeth, Ginny shook her head. “I’m too busy for him at the moment.” Picking up a quill, she returned to her paperwork as Sarah ducked back into the hallway and closed the door. After a few moments, muffled, angry voices filtered through the closed door. As they rose in volume, Ginny slammed her hand on the desk, snapping her quill in two. Storming from her chair, she flung the door open.
Satterfield towered over the shorter Sarah, yelling at her. “It’s my right to speak with her, now get out of my way!” He grabbed Sarah’s upper arm, but Ginny stepped in.
“What are you doing with my assistant? Unhand her this instant, Hexologist!” Ginny was angry, and she knew she looked like her mother in a full rage, her face red and her eyes burning with emotion.
“Ah, Curator Weasley,” Satterfield said in a calm voice as he released Sarah’s arm, “I was hoping to speak with you.”
Ginny berated herself. She should have realized he was making a scene to get her attention. “What can I do for you?” Ginny asked with exaggerated patience.
“As a hexologist, it’s my right to speak privately with a curator at any point in regards to the punishment of my team.”
Ginny nodded her head in response. Hexologists were the modern equivalent of the treasure hunters Gringotts had employed well before the time of Merlin. Like landed Muggles, the original treasure hunters were given charters over areas of Europe where they could explore. A percentage of their findings were returned to Gringotts, and they retained the rest. There was not a wealthy pureblood family in existence whose land was not a direct inheritance from the titular head of a group of treasure hunters. As the centuries passed, the pureblood families turned their wealth toward more civilized pursuits and the treasure hunting contracts were sold off and eventually bought by the goblins of Gringotts, who then created the first curse breaking teams.
Over the years the teams had evolved and changed. Curators had been added to the mix a few centuries ago to oversee multiple teams as more exploration opened up, but hexologists still reserved the right to protect their teams by negotiating directly with the curator. Satterfield knew this, and Ginny had little choice but to step back and allow him into her office.
“Curator Weasley, do you need me to stay?” Sarah asked.
“No,” Ginny said with a sigh. She would have preferred her assistant to stay, but Satterfield had the right to a private conversation, and if she interfered with that right, her case against him would be hurt. “Hexologist Satterfield and I will speak privately for a few minutes.”
Frowning, Sarah slowly turned around and walked down the corridor. Ginny motioned Satterfield to a seat, and then walked in behind him, leaving her door open. Taking a seat behind her desk, she placed her wand on her desk and glared at Satterfield.
With a wry smile, he removed his wand and placed it on her desk as well. The wards on a curator’s office meant that anyone who entered and placed their wand upon her desk could not be harmed or cause harm while in that office. So, if she had to listen to him, Ginny knew she was safe because of the goblin’s paranoia.
“You do realize that nothing you could say will make me change my mind,” Ginny said in an effort to cut the conversation short. She was tired and felt like she was wringing stones to find a few more drops of patience.
“A simple misunderstanding, Curator,” Satterfield relied, leaning back in his chair and resting his foot on his knee.
“You tried to kill me,” Ginny said. It was normally easy to remain calm in her office, but the man infuriated her. Every time they spoke, she ended up feeling flustered and off her guard. He was slippery and debonair, and it rankled every inch of her resolve. “And you would’ve if you weren’t scared of goblin interference.”
Satterfield shrugged his broad shoulders, picked up a small sculpted turtle from her desk, and turned it over in his hands as if admiring it. Ginny did not expect Satterfield to rise to her bait. Goblins had a hands-off policy about curse breakers. Even though she was a curator, Ginny was still a curse breaker and worked for a percentage. Within the tombs, the goblins accepted that accidents happened, and they were content to let the curse breakers settle their differences as they saw fit as long as nothing happened to their treasure.
Goblin leniency ended with those employed by Gringotts directly. Sarah and Ginny’s other three assistants were employees of Gringotts and worked for the goblins on site. They followed Ginny’s instructions and helped her maintain the region, but Ginny merely harnessed their energy and effort. At the end of the day, her assistants answered to the goblins, not to her. As far as Ginny was concerned, her assistants were as controllable as the weather. So, when Sarah had entered the tomb, the equation had changed for Satterfield and his men. Compared to facing the dragon-like wrath of a goblin inquisitor, a board of inquiry for attempted murder was as harmless as a flobberworm.
“Let’s stop dancing with each other, Hexologist,” Ginny said before waving her hand. The door closed to the office and then sealed with a squelching sound. She held her face impassive, refusing to allow the strain of doing both wandless and non-verbal magic to show on her face. For a moment there was fear in his eyes and he glanced longingly at his wand before licking his lips and turning back to her. Ginny shivered with the thrill of power her display had induced within her.
“Dancing?” His expression shifted from fear to feigned innocence. “I’m simply here as a courtesy to you. You’ve done wonders in this swamp of yours, and it’s not good business for the goblins to have you go risking that on some foolish venture.”
“I’m not sure I understand what you’re talking about.” Ginny leaned back in her chair and eyed the smiling man as if he were a sun-bathing crocodile. “As a curator, I’m involved in many things.”
Laughing as if she had made some grand jest, he replaced the turtle, stood, and walked over to one of her bookshelves. He began fingering the spines of the hundreds of books as he watched her from across the room. “It’s a wonder you’ve lasted this long, Weasley.” Ginny narrowed her eyes and tried to discern his intentions through the headache that had been developing since Satterfield entered her office. “You know, I’ve had letters from many of my friends in the past few days. They are all greatly concerned about the situation here in the Yucatan.”
“I’m certain that concern is well paid for,” Ginny said, finally understanding what he was here for. “Should I expect an owl from Senior Curator Smythe?”
Satterfield’s bored expression morphed into a predatory grin. “Oh, I doubt things will go that far, dear Curator. I just don’t like all these he-said she-said games. Why waste our time fighting?” Ginny rolled her eyes. “I was obviously wrong about you. Just look at these treasures you’ve accumulated.” He gestured at the dozens of artifacts and relics she had claimed as first rights over the years. “You and I would make a great team, don’t you think?”
“I’m not much of a treasure hunter.” Satterfield’s eyes darkened at the insult, but Ginny pressed onward, desperately wishing for this meeting to be over. “I doubt I’d be more than a burdensome conscience to your team.”
Satterfield cocked his head to the side and then sat down on the edge of her desk. “You’re behind in your schedule. Months behind from what I’ve heard around camp. You just suspended a very experienced team and deprived them of their percentage. Do you really wish to slip further behind?” He reached down and lifted a necklace off her desk, and Ginny was surprised to see that it was the one she had claimed at Itzamna. She was certain she had left it in her tent that morning before she came to her office.
“Is that a threat?” Ginny asked as she reached out and plucked the amulet from Satterfield. He shrugged as she slipped it into her shirt pocket.
His confidence was galling. She was well aware that Satterfield had been spreading rumors among the teams and that several of her curse breakers were more enamored of the Egyptian curse breaker’s fame than they were respectful of her ability.
“No, not at all,” Satterfield said in a consoling voice. “I’m simply worried. Five teams are not nearly as productive as six, and boards of inquiry are very finicky. I doubt I can keep my friends at bay for long.”
Ginny frowned. He was worried, but also confident. Satterfield had been a curse breaker for more than a quarter of a century. He was successful, flashy, and well connected. Some of Bill’s early letters about his apprenticeship had mentioned how awed he had been to work on a tomb with Alfred Satterfield.
His fame and connections made a board of inquiry fraught with difficulties for Ginny. Because curse breakers worked in tombs that were owned by Gringotts, they were not answerable to the local magical governments when in the tombs. So crimes committed in a tomb were tried by the curse breakers themselves. A hexologist or a curator could petition for a board of inquiry. The presiding senior curator of the curse breakers involved would appoint five curse breakers to the board, and Gringotts would provide two goblin adjudicates.
As with most self-policed groups, it was customary to have boards that were biased toward either the accused or the accuser. In the end, most boards of inquiry that involved curators and hexologists became a political battle. In her rage at the situation, Ginny had made a mistake. She should have just pulled Satterfield from the tomb and sent him to a different region. Instead, she had enacted a harsh punishment, and seeing it through was going to be a fight for her.
The goblin adjudicates would be on her side. After her meeting in London, Ginny had made a detour to see Director Forgelaw. Although disappointed in what had happened, he promised that the goblin adjudicates would be sympathetic to her. It was a start, but she had a long way to go. It took four guilty votes to convict a curse breaker. The goblin adjudicates would only cast a vote if the five curse breakers could not come to a decision. For Ginny to win, she had to place two curse breakers on the Board that would vote against Satterfield. It would be difficult, but she had many contacts in the Americas, and Senior Curator Nixkamich was a close friend and mentor.
For a minute, Ginny remained silent and considered her options, gently rubbing her temple to ease her headache. The last Pepper-Up Potion was wearing off, and she was having trouble keeping focused. At this point she had little to lose, so she upped the ante. “Yes, it would be a pity if we had to bring our friends into this, wouldn’t it?”
“I am not sure what you’re talking about.” Satterfield remained at ease on the edge of her desk, but Ginny saw the skin around his eyes tighten.
“You know exactly who I’m talking about, Hexologist,” Ginny said, leaning forward and partially coming out her chair. “I don’t need a board of inquiry to make you regret your actions.” Ginny was tired of his presence. His games and his insinuations were done as far as she was concerned. “Voldemort was the last person who tried to kill me, and you know what happened to him!”
Satterfield flinched at the name. It still surprised Ginny that Voldemort’s name inspired fear seven years after his death. She thought that maybe it was due to years of ingrained behavior. Whatever the reason, Satterfield composed himself and sneered at her as he dismissed her threat with a wave of his elegant hand. “Potter’s Companions have scattered to the winds, and the Chosen One is rooting through second-rate tombs in his delusions.”
“Do not be so sure,” Ginny hissed, standing up at her desk. “You might be surprised where Potter can be found.”
Satterfield’s eyes widened and then narrowed as he leaned in toward her. Ginny flinched as a sharp pain burrowed into her temples. “If it were seven years ago, I might be worried, Curator. But everyone knows you’re nothing but some cast off slag who spread her legs to get into the Final Battle.”
Ginny saw white and jumped to her feet. “Get out!” The door flung itself open with an abrupt slash of Ginny’s hand and slammed against the stone, nearly coming free from its hinges. “I don’t have time to be insulted by filth like you!”
Satterfield grinned. Ginny was well aware that he had won this round, but she did not care. “As you wish. I got what I came for.” With that, he picked up his wand, turned, and left the room. The moment he was out of sight, her headache disappeared, and Ginny’s eyes widened in realization.
“Bastard!” she screamed, but the only answer was the echo of laughter down the hall. In a rage, Ginny grabbed her wand, sealed her office door, and sank into her chair before burying her head in her arms. How could she be so stupid? She should have seen it. The headache and the incessant eye contact should have been a dead give away, but no, she was too wrapped up in her other problems. And now, now she had no idea what he had found in her thoughts.
Turning inward, she checked her defenses and found the normal calm sea of her mind tossing and turning with the storm surge of her stress and exhaustion. She needed to calm herself, but she did not even know where to start. She felt like she was being torn apart, a small boat tossed in the raging storm in her mind. Satterfield was bad enough, but she still was not certain how she felt about Harry returning. She could lie to Bill and her mother and even herself as long as she wanted, but she was scared. Being around Harry made things both crystal clear and dangerously muddy. He would be here in a few hours, and she needed fewer problems and more sleep. Mainly sleep. Her occlumency could wait for the morning.
In the comfort of her chair, Ginny tried to relax and ride out the storm of doubts swirling in her head. Idly, she let her thoughts wander as her weariness crept up on her. Maybe Satterfield was not as much of an issue as she thought. If she was worried about him going behind her back and using whatever information he had found, she could rescind his team’s suspension. There were dozens of sites available that could keep him occupied for months, which would give her more than enough time to work through Dzibilchaltun with Harry and to organize a tough board of inquiry.
The goblins were pressing her about Buluk Chabtan. She had not made a decision on which team to send there because the advance scouting report had described the site as hostile and ingenious. She wanted to check it out first, but Lord Satterfield claimed to have the best team in the world. A soft smile played across her lips as she allowed her worries to be soothed away. If she sent him there, he would either be embroiled in the tomb for months, if not years, or he would be dead. She smiled dreamily. It was almost appropriate in some ways. Buluk Chabtan was the Mayan god of sacrifice.
It’s only a small sacrifice, and then we can worry about more important things. Things that have been left unfinished for too long…
Bolting upright in her chair, Ginny scrambled with the collar of her shirt. “I’m not like that. I’m not like that at all!” she screamed as her hands fumbled with the leather cord about her neck.
Of course you are. Don’t you remember? Ginny shook her head and struggled for control, but she was already falling.
The hallway was quiet, but it would only be a matter of minutes until someone arrived. And then she heard it, the click of shoes on stone, and she smiled. This time it would work. This time she would not fail. “Kill,” she whispered, and the shadows moved beside her and then she was alone, and she was waiting…
Her hand touched the crystal, and her office snapped into focus. Clutching it tightly, she pushed at the dark thoughts, the turmoil and anger and rage that circled like a hurricane in the back of her mind. She focused on closing the door in her mind that kept the tempest at bay. She tried to find the calm center of her being, but she was exhausted and stressed. The office began to fade again, the dark memories surfacing. “Please help me!” Ginny cried out.
Something brushed across her face, and a weight settled on her shoulder. With a surge of white behind her closed eyes, soothing power filled her. She sobbed in relief as the door slammed shut with a clanging gong and the crashing waves in her mind eased themselves until her mind was a calm endless sea. Shuddering, Ginny collapsed across her desk, gulping in air as her heart slowed.
The weight left her shoulder as she fell across her desk, and a few moments later, a feathered body rubbed against her face before her ear was nipped affectionately. Opening her eyes, Ginny turned her face to stare into the amber eyes of Harry’s snow white owl, Hedwig. She could feel the concern and worry in the owl’s ancient eyes. With a shaking hand, she reached out and stroked Hedwig’s feathers. “Thank you. I really needed you.”
Hedwig hooted and nipped at her fingers before holding out her leg. A scroll of parchment was tied to it. “I should’ve known.” Ginny chuckled and composed herself. It had been four years since she had lost control so dramatically. Being in the Yucatan made it easier to stave off the inevitable effects of Voldemort’s last curse, and Ginny was grateful for that. Her work kept her focused, and her occlumency allowed her to lock her emotions and desires away with little day-to-day consequence beyond her own loneliness.
Absently rubbing the burn scar on her upper arm through her shirt, she sat up and reached for the message Hedwig was carrying. “So what does Harry want, girl?” Ginny asked as she unrolled and read the scroll.
Something’s come up, and I’ve been delayed. Can we meet tomorrow morning? There is a pub off Paseo de Montejo in the Santa Ana Market called Eladios. I’ll be there around noon.
Sighing, Ginny turned toward Hedwig. “Can you tell him yes?” Hedwig blinked and hooted before taking flight and then disappearing with a small pop, leaving a single feather floating in the air. Ruefully, Ginny contemplated the floating feather. During the war, Hedwig had picked up the ability to Apparate. Ginny was not certain that was what Hedwig was actually doing, as the owl only seemed to be able to do it between Harry and those he considered family, but it had allowed Harry to communicate without the worry of intercepted post. Plucking the feather from the air, Ginny placed it among the quills on her desk.
Shaking her head, Ginny stood up on weak legs and contemplated the long walk to her tent. She doubted she could make it without calling for help, and she would not do that. With only one option left and twelve hours to sleep it off, she gritted her teeth and concentrated on her sleeping quarters. With a turn and a step, she was squeezed tightly as she Disapparated. Fire burned down her chest and across her abdomen as she appeared in her tent. Biting her lip to keep from screaming, Ginny collapsed against her bed.
Pulling herself into bed, she summoned a potion to reduce her pain and a dreamless sleep potion to put her to sleep. Gulping the two vile concoctions down, Ginny closed her eyes and curled protectively around her stomach, a pillow clutched tightly in her arms. As the pain receded, she drifted to sleep, sobbing into her pillow.
The hot and humid night air wrapped about her like a blanket as she climbed the steep steps. Overhead the lush forest canopy blotted out the night sky, and shadowed forms lined the ascending path – people, animals, strange amalgams of both. They were chanting in low voices that thrummed through her bones like distant thunder. As she climbed higher, the jungle canopy broke, and the Wakah-Chan World Tree blazed forth in the clear sky. The uncounted path of stars ran from the northern horizon to the south where the dead traveled.
This night was special. She had been honored above all others, and tonight she was ready to fulfill that honor. At the summit, seven figures gathered about her. Their ceremonial raiment was frightening in the darkness. The leering jaguars and serpents and birds flickered and danced in the scattered torchlight. As she passed each one, an object was pressed into her hands or placed about her crown and neck.
The rolling thunder of chanting voices was suddenly punctuated by the sharp beat of drums and the shrill whistle of bone flutes. The seven surrounded her and heavy hands grabbed her, chanting and imploring. Terrified, she began to struggle, but the chanting grew louder, and their bodies seemed to waver and glow. Pain erupted in her legs as something heavy struck her. Then another blow and another. Her voice was ragged with her screams as they shoved her backwards against the altar and raised an obsidian dagger high above her and then drove it downwards into her…
With a startled gasp, Ginny bolted upright in her bed, the sheets tangled about her. Wildly, she glanced about and sought the clock on her wall. It was nearly sunrise. Burying her head in her hands, Ginny took several calming breaths before sinking back into her pillows. Although she occasionally had nightmares about the tombs she raided, she had never before remembered one in such detail. Part of her was not even sure it had been herself in the dream.
Gingerly touching her legs and chest, she was surprised that there was no pain or tenderness. Everything had felt so real, like her dreams about the Second War. Merlin, she wished she knew what was going on. She could accept it if she was going crazy. She could deal with nightmares, but for the last several months her life had almost been out of control. Nightmares, bad judgment calls, and doubts about where she was in her life had all begun to erode her confidence. She wanted to lay all the blame in a heap at Satterfield’s feet, as it had all started weeks after he had arrived. But, as enraged as she was at Satterfield for performing legilimency on her, she knew the fault lay ultimately on her shoulders. She had been accessible to his probes and thus to these nightmares.
She was an accomplished occlumens, and so she was able to magically occlude and segment her mind from foreign invasion, such as the mental probing power of legilimency. She had mastered the obscure form of mental defense six years ago. However, her occlumency was fundamentally flawed because she had mastered it hastily to keep her sanity.
Without the ability to magically occlude and calm her mind, her sanity would have been stripped away years ago by the effects of Voldemort’s final act. Harry had taught her occlumency late in the war after they had rekindled their relationship. Unfortunately, the war had enforced a sporadic training regime on her, and two years later, she had faced Voldemort with an imperfectly protected mind. With all her might she had fought his intrusions into her mind. She had kept him from finding Harry’s weakness for what seemed like hours until Hermione was killed. In her grief, her control had shattered, and Voldemort had won access to her mind.
Seven and a half years had passed since that day, and Ginny still struggled to understand what had happened. Pensieves, memory enhancing potions, and even a Muggle hypnotist she had been forced to obliviate had netted nothing. Voldemort had found what he was looking for the moment he had entered her mind. And she remembered his insane laughter as Harry struggled to get her back in the fight and Voldemort descended on them and touched them both. In her mind, Voldemort had found the way to destroy Harry and her, but when Voldemort acted on that knowledge something had gone wrong, and he had died. For Ginny, the world had exploded in a blinding white, and she remembered endless pain like that of the Cruciatus curse. Then there was nothing until she woke up in St. Mungo’s two weeks later.
Perhaps if she had mastered occlumency, perhaps if she had used a stronger petrification charm on Hermione, perhaps if she had just patched Harry up and sent him on his way all those years ago, her life would be better. Perhaps if she could just stop living in the past things would get easier. But Harry was returning today, and if he remained true to form, it would be much the same as when he had returned to her in Egypt…
Hissing in pain, Ginny cursed and sat down on a nearby rock. Unlacing her dragonhide boots, she pulled them off and upended one after the other. A small shower of sharp stone and sand tumbled out of both. She hated the rocky desert of Upper Egypt. At least in the north, she only had to worry about sand in everything she owned. Several cleaning charms kept her clothes only dusty, but nothing she did kept the rocks out of her boots in this desolate country.
“I think the rocks like you, Squirt.”
Ginny glared up at her oldest brother, Bill. “Well some of us aren’t so bloody perfect that rocks avoid them, Hexologist Weasley.” She was being harsh, but hexing rocks into rubble had not tamed her frustration.
“It’s not really perfection, just experience,” Bill said, as Ginny pulled her boots back on and laced them up. “I would’ve thought you’d pick up the trick by now.”
“What trick?” Ginny asked.
“For someone who makes curse breaking look like tour guiding, you need to pay attention to the rest of the job.” With that, he leaned down and tapped his wand to the top of her right boot and said, “Colloportus.”With a squelching sound, the top of her boot sealed snuggly against her socks.
Genuinely surprised, Ginny tugged on her boot. It refused to budge. She tried to worm her finger between the dragonhide and her sock, but she was rebuffed at every attempt. Even untying the boots had no effect. She turned to her brother. “How did you do that? That spell only works on doors and windows.”
Bill flashed a cocky grin. It was the one he used when he had pulled one over on her, and she hated it and suspected that he knew she did. “That’s what the books say, but it’ll seal anything you want it to seal. There are stories that Roman wizards used the spell to seal their harbors against pirates. Like all magic, it’s all in the intent, Ginny.”
Ginny nodded. She could slice cheese with a cutting curse if she concentrated and controlled her power. A great deal of magic worked in that manner. Her frustration forgotten for the moment, she tapped her wand against her other boot and concentrated on creating a seal to keep out the dirt and rocks. “Colloportus.” Her left boot sealed with a squelching sound, and Ginny gifted her brother with a thankful smile.
“That’s a rare sight.” Bill said. “If you’re that amused by fourth-year spells, I’ll summon things all day for you.”
“Bugger off,” Ginny snapped and turned her back on him, but a part of her was still smiling. It was a beautiful view from the rocky ridge they had been hiking along for the past two hours. Below them the glutted Nile wound through the green farmland that hugged its banks while vast expanses of arid land encroached in on it. It was a strange dichotomy of hope and hopelessness, and it mirrored Ginny’s mood.
Bill squatted next to her and placed a large hand on her shoulder. “Do you want to talk about it?”
Ginny sighed. Unless she wanted to deal with the pain, she could not Disapparate, and she had been the one to drag him out to the border of Sudan and Egypt looking for an obscure trace of Voldemort. “I’m frustrated and just plain sick of dead ends.”
“Harry warned us this would be difficult.”
“I know,” Ginny said. Following the forty-year-old trail of a man who was an expert on remaining in the shadows was vexing at best and like trying to catch a Snitch while blindfolded the rest of the time. “But I’m certain that this is a dead end. We’ve been here for two months and every effing lead we’ve tried has dried up.”
“We still have a few leads,” Bill said. “Why don’t we Portkey back to Abu Simbel and start again in the morning?”
Ginny nodded, but she made no effort to move. Instead she squinted at the northern horizon where she could just make out the distant cluster of stone buildings near one of the bends of the Nile. The site was a posh assignment for a team. Abu Simbel was under the influence of Muggle research teams, and as such, the Gringotts’ curse breakers were posing as a group of students and experts from the Alexandria Institute of Antiquities. The Institute was a Gringotts-backed cover story that allowed a curse breaking team access to protected sites. With the raised awareness among Muggle governments about cultural preservation that had existed since the 1960’s, Gringotts frequently used the Institute to put their teams alongside more notable archaeological groups without government hassle.
More often than not, teams assigned under the Institute were in place to prevent the Muggles from tampering with magical sites and traps. Such was the case with Abu Simbel. The University of Cairo had decided to make another foray into the site for a field program, but the site was considered dangerous to non-wizards because of several latent curses that had never been removed. So Bill’s team had been shuffled off to the site to supervise the Muggles.
Other than the rocky ground and colder nights, the job was more of a vacation for the team than work. It also allowed Ginny and Bill to continue their work for the Order of the Phoenix.
The previous year, during the early summer, Hermione, Ron, and Harry had slipped into Egypt on their quest to find and destroy the horcruxes. Ostensibly, the trip had been for Ron and Hermione’s wedding. The entire Weasley family had descended on Egypt like locusts for a month that summer.
In the background of the flurry of preparations, Hermione and Harry had spoken to her about their suspicions about the horcruxes. Although they had obtained all of them except for Ravenclaw’s Staff and Voldemort’s blasted snake Nagini, they had found no way to destroy any of them that would not be disastrous, or even fatal, to the person who destroyed it. In their travels, they had uncovered rumors that Voldemort had spent nearly a decade in Egypt in the late fifties and early sixties.
Despite being buried in her apprenticeship, Ginny helped where she could. Her confidence had returned in full force after the attempt to claim Ravenclaw’s Staff, and her instincts were never wrong. At the end of the month, Harry, Ron, and Hermione disappeared again, even though they had made progress in their search in Egypt. Harry had come to her one night and left a knapsack full of scrolls on her cot.
“It’s bad out there, Gin,” he had said. “We’re barely keeping ahead of Tom, and I can’t afford any more time here.”
“No, you can’t come,” he said, silencing her by pressing his warm, calloused fingers against her lips. “But you can help. I’m not going to protect you by shutting you out anymore. I need to get that staff, and I can’t do it in Egypt. But I need to know what he did here. I need you to figure that out for me. Can you do that?”
Grasping his wrist, she kissed his fingers and nodded. “I can do that.”
He had been gone the next day, and she had taken up the task with her brother’s help. Bill had allowed her to follow the path Tom had taken in Egypt by using their success as a team to request tombs rather than having assignments given to them. Sometimes the tombs paid off well, and other times they were dead ends, but with Ginny working with him, Bill was able to crack more tombs than any other team.
Ginny just wished her luck on tombs would translate into success with Tom’s time in Egypt. She had read the notes Harry and Hermione had compiled, and they were certain Voldemort had uncovered secrets about his horcruxes in Egypt that could mean his undoing. One charred slip of paper in particular was the basis for all their suppositions.
… searched the Imperial Archives in Rome, and they translated the text wrong. The hor… but still, the answers lie in Egypt. If I can find the Sanctuary… bodes ill for the plans I have in place. Still, I am Slytherin’s Heir. There may be a way to lock away this key to undoing all I have done.
The trail Harry and Ginny had unearthed that first month led from the hidden ruins of the Alexandrian Library, where the Keeper of the Scrolls had remembered the dark traveler who had visited him during the winter of 1959. He had stayed at the Library for two days and then disappeared along with an excerpt from the Book of the Dead and a map of ancient Busiris, one of the cult centers for Osiris, the God of the Dead. That first lead had been easy. The ones that followed had been muddied by time and often led in many directions. It had taken Ginny and Bill months to track through all of them until they had arrived at Abu Simbel.
Standing up, Ginny placed a hand on her brother’s shoulder. “I know we have leads. That snake cult that popped up in the sixties is what I want to look at next.”
“It’s the best we have so far,” Bill said. “Although I’ll warn you that snake cults are common around here.”
“I know, but the way he described it,” Ginny shivered in the warm air, “gave me the chills. There is more there than misguided mythology. Real magic was going on.”
Patting her hand on his shoulder, Bill stood up until he towered over her by a good foot. “Let’s head back and get some supper. You wanna do the honors?”
Ginny nodded and picked up a rock. “Portus,” she said. The rock glowed blue for a moment, and then Bill touched it as they counted to three. With a rush of color, they were lifted from the ground and deposited in her tent back at the camp.
Bill shook his head. “I’ve no clue how you can be so accurate with those things. I’m lucky if I get within twenty feet of where I wanted to go.”
“Talent, I s’pose.” Ginny grinned and then stretched. “Do you mind? I think I’m going to get cleaned up before dinner.” She nodded at the brass tub that peaked out from behind one of the partition screens in her tent. It was the one thing she did like about Abu Simbel and Muggle sites in Egypt in general. The Islamic customs kept her from having to share a tent with her brother and four randy wizards.
Bill nodded and gave her a brief hug. “We’ll start up after breakfast. There’s a tomb near our destination that I went to as an apprentice, so I can portkey us over there easily. I’ll see you at dinner?”
“Probably not, Bill. I think I need some time to sort stuff out.”
“Alright, Squirt. You know where to find me if you need anything.” He knuckled her chin and walked out of the tent leaving her alone. Sealing her tent with a wave of her wand, Ginny quickly conjured up a hot bath, stripped off her dusty clothing, and slipped into the steaming water with an audible sigh of relief.
She relaxed for more than an hour before dragging herself out of the tub and pulling on her nightclothes. Wandering into the kitchen, she prepared herself a small repast of smoked meat, dates, bread, and wine, and then she curled up in one of the chairs with a book on wards while she ate.
While reading through a rather questionable thesis on how improper ward construction had led to the sinking of Atlantis, a scraping sound like finger nails on taut fabric interrupted her. Frowning, Ginny glanced around her tent and then glanced at her ward stone on the table next to her. The granite stone was still gray, which meant no one was messing with her wards. Shrugging, she went back to her reading, but a few minutes later there was another scraping sound, much more frantic than the first.
Putting down her book and standing up, Ginny grabbed her wand. If Peterson was playing pranks again she would transfigure him into the ass he was. Walking toward the tent flap, the scratching became louder and then she heard a frantic hooting. Confused, Ginny canceled the locking charm on her tent. The door flap flew inwards and blur of white fluttered about her head, hooting incessantly.
“Hedwig?” Ginny asked. What was Harry’s owl doing in Egypt? She held out her arm, and Hedwig landed on it but kept bouncing from foot to foot, clicking her beak anxiously and then swiveling and glancing out into the night. Concerned, Ginny searched for a letter, but Hedwig was not carrying one. Actually, as she looked closer, she could see that Hedwig was caked with dust, and there was what looked like dried blood on her breast.
“Hedwig, what’s going on? Why’re you here? Is Harry okay?”
Instead of answering her, Hedwig painfully nipped her finger and took off toward the entrance to her tent. Ginny stood rooted in place, trying to figure out what the owl wanted. Hedwig apparently had other ideas, as she swooped back toward Ginny, landed on her arm, and then nipped her very hard on the back of her hand.
“Ow!” Ginny shook her hand, and Hedwig took flight once more and circled near the tent entrance.
“Oh!” Ginny said as she figured it out. “You want me to follow you? Just a minute. Let me get changed and then we can go get Bill and…” With an indignant hoot Hedwig dove toward Ginny and cuffed Ginny about the head and shoulders as she circled, hooting all the time.
Trying to get away from the crazed owl, Ginny finally threw up her hands and said, “Fine! You win. I’ll follow.” With a wave of her wand, her nightclothes were transfigured into clothing more suitable for traveling in the cold desert night. Hedwig ducked out of the tent, and Ginny pursued the owl into the night.
For three hours, Ginny trudged after Hedwig, who often had to circle back and wait for Ginny to catch up. They were headed northwest and had left the irrigated lands around the Nile nearly two hours ago. Despite her exhaustion, Ginny was panicking at the visions swimming through her imagination of what lay at the end of this journey. Hedwig was not one to get upset easily, and Ginny was certain that Harry was involved in something dangerous. They were in the desert, and Ginny was climbing up a steep rock embankment when she saw Hedwig disappear over the next ridge.
Scrambling up the loose scree near the top, Ginny pulled herself up onto the top of the rise and found herself on a narrow path that led to a dark fissure in the rock face. Hedwig was perched on a rock next to the fissure. Ginny got her feet under her and walked toward the white owl. “Is this it?” she asked.
Hedwig hooted and flew into the narrow fissure. Coming up next to it, Ginny saw that it was large enough to easily fit a large man. Holding her lit wand low to the ground so that her night vision remained, Ginny stepped inside and gasped in shock.
Just around the corner from the entrance, a small bluebell flame was sputtering on top of a small rock. Huddled next the flame, the torn and bloody figure of Harry Potter was watching her with wide green eyes. His wand was clutched tightly in his left hand. His right arm was hanging limply at his side, and his breathing was ragged.
He looked half feral and in so much pain that Ginny’s heart broke. “Harry?” She could hear the waver of her voice and the fear underneath it.
“No!” His voice was like the dry scratching of a tumbling sheet of sand and rock. “Tell me… tell me some… something… only Gin… Gin kn-knows.”
Swallowing, Ginny nodded and searched her memory for something that only she and Harry would know. It was difficult as she wanted only to rush to him and get him to a healer. Finally the memory of why she was in Abu Simbel filtered through her exhausted mind. “You gave me the scrap of paper from Tom’s diary that spoke about the library and Egypt.”
His body crumpled at her answer, his wand falling from nerveless fingers and his head sinking into his chest as a wrenching sob tore through his body. Ginny was beside him an instant later, casting a cushioning charm underneath him and cradling him against her chest.
That had been a bad night, but it had brought Harry back into her life. She hoped that the circumstances would be better when she met him at noon. Making a face at the cottony taste in her mouth, she yawned and rolled into a sitting position before pulling herself out of bed and heading towards the lavatory. Half an hour later, she was showered. Padding back to her room, she pulled out her clothing and began to dress in front of the mirror. She had to head out to Merida to meet Harry in just a few minutes. That was when she noticed it. Lying between her breasts, next to the quartz pendant, was the amulet from Itzamna.
Merida was Ginny’s ideal city. It was the bustling capital of the Yucatan state of Mexico. More than three quarters of a million Muggles lived and worked in the city, and hundreds of thousands of others lived on the surrounding rolling scrub plains which dove downwards into the Gulf of Mexico. A booming tourist industry and a rich cultural heritage had modernized the city while keeping its historic charm. Most of the city consisted of two story white-faced buildings. Only in the outer sprawl areas did buildings get a few stories higher and became more steel and glass. Despite the developing commercial center, Merida remained true to its past, which pleased Ginny.
Walking through the old district of town, Ginny could see the evidence of the Maya in the buildings around her. Many of the original stone foundations and walls had been built from the quarried Mayan limestone and granite. Muggle Catholic churches had Mayan script and carvings showing through the worn limestone stucco facades. As much as the Spanish missionaries and conquistadores had tried to stamp out the remnants of the Maya, it had proved to be too tenacious for them. Instead, the two cultures had merged into a distinctive religious and cultural identity for the indigenous descendants of the Maya and the Spaniards.
Ginny stepped aside to allow a group of American tourists to barrel past her. With the rainy season ending, tourism was picking up again, not that it ever really diminished, and the Paseo de Montejo was one of the most popular locations in a trip to Merida. The street was named after the Spanish conquistador, Francisco De Montejo. When the man had stumbled across the Mayan ruins of T’ho, he was reminded of an ancient Roman site in Spain, and so T’ho became Merida.
The Paseo de Montejo was a tree lined boulevard that many considered to be the Champ Elysees of Merida. For witches and wizards, the street offered the only secure locale for arriving by magical transportation. At the north end of the street was the Merida Mission, which was run by an aging Mexican wizard. He had worked for Gringotts during the 1940s and 1950s, and most curse breakers coming into the area, before Ginny had established the camp outside of Merida, had arrived at Merida Mission. Unfortunately, the Mission was an hour’s walk from the Santa Ana Market, but Ginny was thankful for the distance as it allowed her to clear her head.
She had been searching her memory for the entire hour long walk and could not remember putting the amulet on. Of course, she remembered grabbing it from Satterfield, but she swore she put it in her pocket. However, with all that had happened the previous day in her office, she admitted to herself that she may have put the amulet on in her confused state. Still, that thought was far from comforting. She had made another mistake, and she just hoped that it was not going to rear up and strike at her.
At least she had rectified that problem. The amulet was now in the lock box in her office. She had dropped it off before heading to Merida and charmed the box closed. Even if she wanted to get it now, the complex locking wards and charms would take nearly an hour to break, and Ginny was comforted by the fact that she would never be able to forget about such a complex task.
Turning west onto Calle 47, Ginny made her way down the bustling street to the Santa Ana Market. The Market was a traditional outdoor market and food court. Farmers set up stalls to sell fruit and vegetables every morning, and although it was nearing noon, there were still several farmers selling what remained of their goods. The air was alive with voices and music. The smells of spicy tamales and roasting pork and chicken made Ginny’s stomach growl in appreciation. She shopped at the market regularly. It was a habit developed in her childhood when her mother would take her shopping in Ottery St. Catchpole every morning. Walking behind her mother, she learned to choose the best foods and barter with the local shopkeepers.
When she had first arrived in Merida, she had found her way to the market during a short rest period between tombs. After that, she had returned to Merida often to shop for food and enjoy the company of the vendors. She had taken a portkey to the Mission from as far away as Mexico City just to feel like she belonged somewhere. After six years of regular visits, she was well known among the vendors, and as she traversed the Market, on her way to Eladios, she often stopped to speak with friends and to catch up on their lives. It took nearly half an hour to make her way across the Market to Eladios, and by then she was carrying a small bag full of her purchases.
As she was walking past the last booth, a voice as harsh as a macaw called out to her in the lyrical Mayan language. “Child! Won’t you stop for your grandmother?”
Smiling, Ginny turned around and found an old woman with white hair and leather-like skin seated behind a blanket beneath the spreading branches of a ceiba tree. She was dressed in a simple long dress with a hand spun shawl about her shoulders. Baskets of breads and sweets were spread out along the blanket, most of them half empty from a busy morning of selling. Threading her way through the crowd, Ginny stepped around the blanket, knelt down beside the old woman, took her hands, and kissed her cheek. “Grandma Sacnite, you have moved.”
“I’m too old to sit in the sun all day, Child,” Sacnite said and patted the ground next to her. “Is your work done yet?”
“No, Grandmother. I am still very busy. I miss our talks,” Ginny said. During her first foray into Santa Ana, Ginny had meet Sacnite. She was of Mayan decent, and her grandsons dropped her off every day on their way to work. She would sell baked goods all day and then return home to begin preparing for the next day. They had struck up an easy conversation that first day even as Ginny struggled to understand the local Spanish dialect the woman spoke. Ginny had persevered because Sacnite had many myths to tell of the Maya and their region. Over the years, Ginny had spent many hours with Sacnite, listening, talking, and eventually learning the lyrical, Yucatec Mayan dialect.
“I had a dream about you, Child.”
Ginny nodded. She had expected it, as Sacnite rarely called out to her unless she had a dream. Sacnite often told her of visions she had seen or omens that she saw in her daily life. The old woman was not magical, and even though her dreams were often vague, Ginny invariably found some truth in them after the fact. She was still skeptical, but she never questioned Sacnite’s belief in what she saw. “What did you dream, Grandmother?”
“I was walking in the field, seeding the maize, when I saw splashing in the river. Two catfish were caught in a net, struggling to get free. Rat was gnawing on the net, trying to free the catfish, telling them to remain calm. I reached down to free them, but I was startled when an owl swooped down and caught a catfish in each claw. As it caught them, the net broke, and they were taken away. Rat and I watched the owl disappear into the south. I cried then, for I knew they were gone, but Rat scampered to the river and retrieved the net. Rat gnawed on the net until it released a kernel of maize. Returning to me, Rat nudged my arm, and then Rat dug a hole on the bank of the stream. From my pouch he took seven more kernels of maize and planted them with the eighth before scurrying away. I woke this morning, and on my table there were seven kernels of maize.” Sacnite pulled a small pouch from one of her baskets and pressed it into Ginny’s hand.
Swallowing nervously, Ginny slipped the pouch into her pockets and took Sacnite’s hand. “What does the dream mean, Grandmother?”
“Do you remember the first time we met?”
“Of course. You walked half way across the market to speak with me, and I had to chase down those young men who stole your pesos.”
Sacnite cackled, her dark eyes young and alive. “Yes, always the feisty one, Child. But I told you of a dream I had.”
Ginny frowned. “Something about a red catfish and a necklace, I think.”
“Yes, I dreamed of a red catfish that found my lost necklace, and then you came and returned my money to me.”
“So, I’m the catfish? Am I both, or just one of them?”
Sacnite shrugged and reached out and smacked the hand of a small boy who was reaching for one of her loaves. “Maybe. You could be the rat, or the owl, or maybe the net. Just because you were a catfish once, doesn’t mean you always will be. I can only tell you this. Where you go, Child, there is nothing but death. Be wary. If you let them trick you, there is no hope.”
“I will be careful, Grandmother.” Ginny was uncertain how to take the dream. Symbolically, it both foretold her death and her survival. But how would she know which choices led to which end? Setting her shoulders, Ginny stood up. She would just take it for what it was, a warning. “Thank you, Grandmother.”
“Take these, Child,” Sacnite said, wrapping up several honey and nut sweets in a cloth. “They will keep you well. Good luck, Child. May Mosquito guide you.”
Kissing Sacnite’s cheek once more, Ginny stood and left. As much as she wanted to dismiss Sacnite’s warning, it bothered Ginny. No one knew that she was heading off to a tomb. She had not told anyone what the meeting in London had been about. If nothing else, that gave Sacnite’s warning weight. Not that Ginny would have ignored Sacnite’s advice about any event in her life.
The dream was unsettling. Ginny could parse each symbol on its own. The owl was a messenger of death. The two catfish was the form the Hero Twins took after their death, and the Rat was a helper. Together, in the order they appeared and with the kernels of maize and the net, the images offered her nothing except a hollow feeling in her stomach. Something was waiting for her at Dzibilchaltun, and Ginny was trying to ignore the kernel of fear growing in the pit of her stomach.
Lost in thought, Ginny almost walked past her destination. Eladios was a well known pub among the curse breakers and most of the residents of Merida. The pub served excellent beer, even if it was expensive. The establishment made up for it by providing free food to anyone who was drinking there. And as most curse breakers would rather spend their money on good beer than good food, it had become very popular.
Harry Potter and Nymphadora Tonks Lupin were waiting for her at one of the streetside tables. Tonks was chatting while Harry absently perused a local paper. They were drinking beer and sharing a plate of poc chuc, a marinated pork dish. There were several empty glasses on the table, but they were not watching the street for her arrival.
As she walked up, Harry threw his head back and laughed. Ginny smiled. Since the war, Harry rarely laughed. In one of his letters, he had told her that it was difficult to feel anything because it invariably led to guilt or anger. He felt guilty because his failures had dragged the war on for seven years. And he was angry that those who died seemed, at times, to have died in vain.
Ginny understood that anger. Augustus Rookwood had led a small group of Death Eaters for several months after Voldemort’s fall, terrorizing Muggles and killing several Muggleborn wizards before Harry and her brother Ron, along with several Aurors, had cornered them. Rookwood and his followers died in that standoff rather than be captured. They had all thought things would calm down afterwards, but the very next year twelve Muggleborn witches and wizards were killed at Durmstrang on Remembrance Day, and similar stories followed almost every year. Harry had pursued all of those atrocities with a vengeance.
He never removed his stoic mask in public, but in his letters, and when she saw him at the Burrow, she knew he was suffering. For that reason, she was glad that Tonks and Harry had each other. Tonks had been devastated when Remus finally succumbed to the curse he had taken in the Chamber of Secrets. The curse had been one Voldemort had used to control the werewolves. It forced the skin follicles to produce an enzyme that attacked the lycanthropy in the werewolf. It could be controlled with spells, but not during the full moon. Remus had lived with it for years, and he had died from it five years ago. Still, some good had come out of it. Because Remus had submitted to research study at St. Mungo’s, the Healers were certain the curse could be modified to cure lycanthropy.
However, that had not helped Tonks and her son Sirius. Harry had been there to care for Sirius and make sure Tonks had someone that she could depend on. Now Tonks was often seen with Harry during his travels across the globe. The tabloids had long ago declared Tonks his lover and hounded them relentlessly, demanding to know if Sirius really was the son of the Great Harry Potter, Savior of the Wizarding World.
When the first article appeared, Harry had the decency to write Ginny and tell her the truth. Tonks was only a close friend. He felt an obligation to young Sirius, and Tonks reminded him of both his deceased godfather Sirius Black and his best friend Hermione. She makes me laugh and think and forces me to talk about what is bothering me, his letter said. There is nothing else, and there never will be. I promise.
Even with the assurances, her jealousy remained. She should be the one to comfort him and make him laugh and to give him a child to dote on. If she had written back to him and demanded that he distance himself from Tonks, Ginny knew that he would have. But he was happier than he was before, and she was grateful for that and would sooner give up her career than steal that from him.
If Harry had been with anyone besides Tonks, Ginny knew she would not have been as forgiving. But Ginny understood their relationship. She had often spent time talking with the amiable Auror during the war, and Tonks was one of the people who had kept Ginny connected to Harry during those troubled times. So, in appreciation, she had given Harry her blessing, and in return they had begun writing to each other again. Not a torrent of owls back and forth, but regular letters every few months until two years ago, when he began asking her about the Maya and the Yucatan.
Ginny stopped to drink in the sight of Harry. The crowd eddied about her like a stream around a rock until she was uncertain how long she had been standing and watching and admiring. His green eyes were lit with mirth and vibrant without his glasses. He had discarded his glasses during the war in favor of a daily charm that corrected his eyesight. His black hair, which hung about his shoulders, was as roguishly unkempt as ever. She smiled a bit. He had grown his hair out for her in Egypt, jokingly telling her that if she liked running her hands through it then she should have enough to run her hands through.
The years of traveling had toned his body and tanned his skin to a golden brown. On his cheek, the hand shaped burn was barely noticeable. Probably a glamour charm, Ginny decided. It was only one of many scars he carried. Under his clothes, Ginny knew his body was crisscrossed with scars and injuries from the war. Harry had always thought they made him ugly, but she had disagreed with him on the many nights she had lain next to him, idly tracing them as his fingers caressed her skin. Ginny shuddered as a wild desire filled her body and mind. Part of her wanted to run and beg off the meeting, the entire contract, but then, as if he knew she was there, Harry suddenly stopped speaking and looked directly at her.
Her world stilled.
His lips were turned upwards in a smile, but beneath his jovial appearance Ginny saw the rock hard control of a master occlumens. It was the same rigid resolve with which she lived her own life, and as she meet his eyes, her control shuddered. His eyes deepened from hard emeralds to deep pools, and she saw the desire and love and anguish in his eyes. His brow furrowed, and she watched him struggle for mastery of himself as her own desire roared forth like a raging typhoon from the depths of her stomach, churning her insides into a seething storm that threatened to sweep over the calm waters of her mind. Redoubling her resolve, the storm crashed against her magic, broke, and receded as a small voice wailed its despair in the back of her mind.
Relieved that the moment had passed, Ginny walked toward the table. It was the same every time she and Harry met after a separation of more than a few days. However, once the initial storm passed, it was much easier to deal with being around him. A genuine smile crossed Harry’s face as Ginny took the last dozen steps to the table. She stopped next to Harry. “Harry,” she said.
“Ginny. It’s good to see you.”
“You as well. You look… nice,” Ginny said. Harry was dressed in Muggle khakis and an olive button-up shirt. “Tonks pick them out for you?” Ginny teased and then turned to Tonks.
Tonks was a former Auror and a metamorphmagus, and so she had the ability to change her appearance with a little concentration. Today, she looked like an ordinary tourist. Her hair was dark and her face was tan. Standing up, she wrapped Ginny in a hug and kissed her cheeks. “Nah, I’d never let him buy swill like that. Not enough color for my tastes.”
Ginny grinned as she kissed Tonks’ cheek. “Well, I could hope,” Ginny said. “Of course, you let him drag you out here to go digging through the deadliest tomb in the Yucatan. I’m thinking he’s got you under a confundus charm.”
“I should’ve hit her with one,” Harry said. “Maybe then she would’ve stayed in England.”
Tonks snorted and glared at Harry. “Just so you can snuff it to prove some barmy theory of yours? Not likely.”
Pulling out a seat, Ginny sat down at the table and watched the two go at it. She had heard about the rows that Tonks and Harry got into over his adventures, but she had never been present for one. Despite their angry tone, their eyes were both alight, and she knew they were enjoying the fight.
“This isn’t some diplomatic mission, Tonks. That bloody tomb’s killed dozens, and I’m not going to orphan your son for my personal business.” Ginny’s breath hitched and she shot a glance at Harry, who was focused on Tonks. ‘Personal business’ was how they referred to the effects of Tom’s defeat. He had not mentioned that in any of his letters. She had assumed that he was following a hunch instead of some actual proof. Desperately, she tried to catch his eye, but the fight with Tonks was distracting him.
“Playing the mum card already?” Tonks said. “Well, you’re the only father he remembers, so I’m not going to let you get killed.”
“Fine, we’re both going to live this time,” Harry said with a small smile. “Still, it’s a dangerous tomb, Tonks, and I’m sure Curator Weasley here will agree with me that this isn’t a place for tourists.”
“Hey, don’t bring me into this, Harry,” Ginny said, taking the opportunity to derail the conversation.
“Too late for that,” Tonks said, slapping Ginny’s arm. “How did he get you to agree to this?”
“He requested me,” Ginny said. “And Gringotts assigned me to lead this expedition for, what did you say Harry? Personal business was it?” Ginny turned to Harry and watched him like a predator as she spoke. Although he shrugged nonchalantly in answer, his gaze never wavered from hers, and he nodded slightly. A thrill of hope pulsed through her, but a large burden also seemed to settle on her shoulders.
“Well, I thought about an entrapment charm,” Harry said to Tonks. “But it seems that a Gringotts contract is a little harder to get out of.”
Tonks snorted in laughter as Ginny shook her head. “Don’t tempt me, Potter. I just have to lead you into Dzibilchaltun, not back out.” Ginny could not keep some of the frustration she felt at the situation from showing in her voice.
For a moment, Harry’s eyes softened in hurt and then in silent apology. “Have you eaten, Gin?”
“I-uh, well, no,” Ginny said
“Tonks? Could you?” Harry motioned toward the pub.
“Sure. Might take a few though. Looks like the Three Broomsticks on a Hogsmeade weekend in there.”
“Thanks, Tonks,” Harry said. Tonks nodded and slipped into the pub.
Ginny watched Tonks disappear from sight. “You’ve never told her, have you?”
“Muffliato,” Harry said as he waved his hand about the table. Ginny could just see the tip of his wand sticking out of his sleeve. “No, but Tonks is sharp, Ginny. She knows what I’m doing has a lot to do with us.”
“And Dzibilchaltun? What does that place have to do with us?” Ginny asked.
Glancing around, Harry reached into his pocket and pulled out a small book. Tapping it with his finger, it grew to the size of a diary. Dozens of colored strings stuck out of various pages. Ginny could sense the evil of the thing, but Harry seemed unconcerned. “I marked the page with the red string.”
Gingerly picking up the diary, Ginny found the red string and opened the diary to a page near the end. Precise, flowing handwriting filled the page, written in an unfamiliar, brownish-red ink. Gasping, Ginny traced a few words with her finger. She recognized the handwriting. She had read it for nearly ten months when she was eleven. As if it had burned her, she dropped it to the table. “This is Tom’s! Where did you find it?”
“Albania. It was in those ruins where we tracked down the Staff.”
“But we checked that place over completely,” Ginny said. “And he had already captured Azkaban by then. How could he have got back there?”
“He didn’t,” Harry said. “I went back on a hunch two years ago and found a room beneath the floor. It was well hidden, some variant of the fidelius charm. There were a lot of… things there. But this is his diary. It stops sometime after Snape told him the prophecy, but…” Harry’s face blanched, and then the hard look of the war settled in his eyes.
“But what?” Ginny asked, eyeing the diary like it was a coiled serpent.
“I read it, Gin. Every last page. The things he did… the depths he sunk to find his immortality… it makes the atrocities he committed in the war seem almost merciful.” There was a haunted quality to Harry’s voice, and Ginny reached out for his hand before stopping herself. “If you ever doubt why we keep this geas we swore to, read it.”
Tracing the edge of the diary, Ginny nodded. She did not need additional incentive to insure that Tom remained dead. She knew him better than any living person, even Harry Potter. “So why did his diary bring you here?”
“Look at the bottom of that page.”
Ginny opened the diary back up and found the page. She scanned it for a moment before stopping on an intricate sketch of a Mayan fresco. Scanning Tom’s notes about it and translating the Mayan pictograms in her head, she glanced up at Harry before returning to the diary. Conjuring a quill and parchment, she quickly sketched out her translation and double checked it. “Why didn’t he tear this page out? If this is true, we would have only needed one horcrux.”
“So, I’m right,” Harry said, leaning back in his chair, his shoulders slackening in relief.
“You mean you didn’t know?” Ginny glared at him.
“I had a good guess, but…” He waved his hand and smirked. “I didn’t want to get your hopes up, Gin. I wanted you to see it first hand without my bias.”
“This is mostly myth, Harry,” Ginny said after a few moments. “The Mayan concept of the soul is utterly different from ours. None of the modern ceremonies work, even when performed by a wizard. Almost none of their magic works anymore.”
“But it does at some of their temples,” Harry said. “You told me so yourself.”
“Some of it does, but… Merlin, Harry. Even if this is true. Even if we can find it and get to it, we might die.” She shuddered at the thought of Sacnite’s dream. Two catfish carried off to the underworld. Her stomach churned, and she closed the diary. “How do you know it is Dzibilichaltun?”
“The stone fresco that was copied from was in the same room, and, if you flip a few pages earlier, you’ll see that Tom mentioned he had stolen it from a curse breaker by the name of Sid Towne. I tracked down the man’s surviving daughter. He had taken it from the Temple of the Seven Dolls in 1971. He and another wizard were the only survivors.” Harry picked up the diary and slipped it back into his pocket.
“Who is the other survivor?” Ginny asked. “Is he still alive?”
“No idea,” Harry said. “I’ve tried to track him down, but I’ve had no luck. He disappeared right after Sid was murdered. I just have his name. Edgar Talon.”
Ginny shook her head. “That’s too bad.” Over Harry’s head, Ginny saw Tonks returning and realized their private time was over. She nodded her head toward Tonks, and Harry canceled the privacy charm.
“So why me? Why now?” Ginny asked. It was a valid question. Harry seemed to have figured it out without her help.
Harry tapped his fingers against the table nervously for a few moments before drinking the last of his beer. “I know Egypt and the Mediterranean, and every haunt Voldemort ever spent a day at, but this is your place. Half that stuff you sent to me went right over my head. I don’t know how you keep it straight, and I need your help.” He paused and looked her in the eyes. “Besides, if this is real, Ginny, you deserve to be there with me. Especially if we only get one shot at it.”
Ginny remained quiet and contemplated what she wanted to say as Tonks set a glass of beer and a plate of rice and roasted pork in front of her. Part of her was angry that Harry was here, begging for her help now when she had offered it time and time again over the last years. If he was simply using her to get what he wanted, she could walk away, but she knew that was miles from the truth. Living a lie sometimes made her believe the lie. In some ways, she had forced herself to hate Harry just to be able to live out the lie with people. It showed in how her brothers treated him and how everyone considered them enemies. The other part of her was crowing in joy at the thought of being asked to help. It was the part of her that had always felt left out and alone and that would always love Harry.
Finally, she nodded and kept her tone professional. “I’ll do it.”
“So what’s the next step?” Tonks asked.
Ginny tapped the edge of her plate with her fork. What was the next step? She was uncertain and had been debating the correct course. Unfortunately, it was a direction Harry would not like. “We need help.”
“No teams,” Harry said in a low growl.
Ginny glared at him. “Three people are not enough in any tomb, you know that. We need help, and I know the perfect people.”
“Who?” Harry asked.
“Alexander Bashir,” Ginny said. “He’s been breaking into tombs since before I was born. He’s also an expert on magical creatures.”
Harry nodded. “I’ve heard of him. Who else?”
“Wendal Coombs,” Ginny said. “He’s smart, and I trust him.”
“You’ve never mentioned him in your letters,” Harry replied.
“I don’t tell you everything, Harry,” Ginny snapped. “And I’ve only recently come to know him. He saved my life, and he’s a damn good researcher.”
Harry stared at her, his jaw tight. “I’ll meet him. But no guarantees, Ginny. This is too important for one of your charity cases.”
“He is not a charity case!” Fuming, Ginny turned away. Harry could always see her faults. Wendal was not her first choice to go with them, but she saw potential in him. Besides, in a place like Dzibilchaltun, she wanted someone she trusted more than a showboat. “Harry, I’m not going to jeopardize this over my charity case. He is qualified. I promise.”
“Simon Caldwell,” Ginny said.
Harry frowned, and his gaze went far away as if looking for some half-remembered memory. “I’ve heard that name before, but I can’t place it.”
“He was the last wizard to make it out of Dzibilchaltun alive, and he got farther than anyone else.”
There was no point in telling Harry that Simon only worked for Galleons or glory. Not that Harry would worry about the gold, but Ginny doubted Harry would like Simon’s love of fame. The man was a playboy and cocksure. And he had taken Ginny’s consistent refusals to date him as a challenge. “It’s going to take some convincing to get him to join us,” Ginny said. “But he loves a challenge. And to work beside Harry Potter…” Ginny left the thought unfinished, but Harry glowered.
“I don’t like him already,” Harry muttered. “Is he worth the trouble?”
“I think he is,” Ginny said, “but you can find out tonight when we go see him at the Cracked Wand. He should be there for the thestral races.”
Tonks whistled. “I’m amazed you even know that place exists, Ginny. It’s a bit dodgy.”
Ginny smirked. “It’s a bit more than dodgy. But I’ll make sure you come out as innocent as you went in.”
Harry snorted. “One of these days your mum’s going to find out what you’re really like, Gin. “
“And I’ll blame it all on you, Potter.” Ginny winked at Tonks. “I’d suggest you get some money. The Cracked Wand isn’t cheap.”
“Where’re we meeting?” Harry asked as he stood up and dropped some pesos on the table.
“Do you know where the camp is?” Ginny asked. Tonks and Harry nodded. “Meet me there around sunset. Alright?”
“See you tonight then,” Tonks said as she stood up. “This’ll be fun.” Laughing, Tonks waved goodbye, and Harry and Tonks turned and walked away into the crowd.
After they disappeared Ginny finished her food, dropped a few extra pesos for the tip, and stood up. As she did, a headline in one of the local Muggle papers, the Diario de Yucutan, that Harry had been reading jumped out at her. The translation spell Harry must have cast on it was still active, and the upside down headline declared: Theft at Museum of History and Anthropology. Grabbing the paper, Ginny sank back into her seat and read the article.
Theft at Museum of History and Anthropology
Police were called to the Museum of History and Anthropology on the Paseo de Montejo early this morning. Spokesmen for the museum said that officers were called to deal with a disturbance in the restoration labs. However, an inside source has informed this reporter that the disturbance was actually the disappearance of several ancient artifacts.
Seven small effigies, which were found beneath the Temple of the Seven Dolls in the mid 1900’s, and for which the temple was named, were taken out of the restoration lab, where they had been moved only a few days previous for cleaning before being placed with a traveling display that was leaving for a tour of Europe.
Apparently, at 3 in the morning, the security cameras in the restoration labs flickered for several minutes, and when they came back on the effigies had disappeared. Police are unwilling to comment … (cont on pg 2)
Ginny flipped through the paper and scanned the rest of the article, but there was no additional information. Putting the paper down, she glanced up the street where Harry and Tonks had disappeared. Her instincts told her that there was more than coincidence between the stolen effigies and Harry’s desire to enter the Temple of the Seven Dolls. However, that connection was a thin wisp of smoke. She could see beyond the coincidence, but not grasp the truth.
If there was a connection, it was impossibly abstract. The seven effigies were a Muggle discovery. Ginny had studied them briefly when one of her teams attempted to crack Dzibilchaltun against her recommendations. They were no more than offerings to the Maize God, their iconic markings long since decayed beneath the rubble of the temple they had been found under. And, as with most items associated with Dzibilchaltun, they had little relation to the magic that flowed through the city like eddying rivers.
Folding the paper, Ginny picked up the parchment and read the pictograms again. It was an instructional story on how to heal the damaged soul of a sick person. A great deal of information was missing, but maybe, just maybe, she and Harry could be healed if they uncovered the rest.
Standing up, Ginny cleared her head of the annoying cobwebs of what could be. She was becoming embroiled in peripheral details that would not help her get into Dzibilchaltun. The second rule of curse breaking was to look for the simple solution first. In most cases, a tomb was guarded by more misdirection and logic than magic. Getting wound up in breaking curses and charms led to wasted time, when a simple trick would have bypassed it all. The difficulty was that Harry Potter never walked anywhere near simple solutions. Every time he returned to her life, it complicated everything she was involved in. As long as it was not like the last time he had returned to her life unexpectedly, she would be able to handle it.
Cradling his injured body in the fissure Hedwig had led her to, she conjured a damp cloth and began cleaning his face. The cloth was soaked with blood and dirt within moments, and she discarded it and conjured another. “Harry. My poor Harry. What happened?”
In the dying light of the bluebell flame, she watched his eyes crack open. They were blood-shot and haunted, but she could still see his strength behind them, and she knew that he would be okay. “Vol-vol… Tom.” His voice was raspy and raw from dehydration, so Ginny conjured a clean cloth and then soaked it with a stream of water from her wand. She pressed it against his lips and dribbled some into his mouth.
He swallowed it, but winced with each swallow. Ginny took the cloth away after a moment. “Better?” she asked.
“I need to move you,” Ginny said, taking her wand out and searching for something to turn into a Portkey. “You need a Healer. There’s one back at the camp, and Bill can…”
“No!” Even in his weakness, he snatched her wand out of her hand. Startled, Ginny almost dropped him, but instead she glared at him.
“You need help, Harry. I’m not going to believe you’re fine when Hedwig dragged me halfway across the Sahara to find you.” Her anger and worry and exhaustion were fueling her words, and she attempted to grab her wand but was blocked by Harry’s arm.
For a moment she glared at him, but her anger melted as he closed his eyes and turned away from her. He swallowed nervously and gritted his teeth before turning back to regard her with an expression that begged for forgiveness. Ginny tried to talk around the lump that suddenly formed in her throat. She knew that look. It was the same look he had given her when he had broken up with her at the end of her fifth year, and then again after the incident with Ravenclaw’s Staff.
“Voldemort thinks I’m dying.” His voice was still small. “He can’t know where I am.”
“Why me? Where’s Hermione or Ron?”
Harry shrugged. “I have to figure out how to destroy the horcruxes. You have all the clues, and this war needs to end.”
“At least let me get Bill…”
“No. I trust you, Gin.” Ginny was surprised when Harry lifted his left arm and touched her cheek. “You can get me fixed up. Just enough to finish this.”
Her heart stilled and she looked at him. “You’re hiding something.”
He nodded. “Tom’s right, Gin. I’m dying, but I’m taking him with me.”