Chapter 1: A Guy, A Girl, and a Tomb
The small hole in the wall bar in Casablanca, Morocco had seen better days. The door had been a vibrant red at one point, but years of neglect and harsh desert weather had left it dull and chipped. Whole swathes of paint had been torn away exposing the cracked and aged wood underneath, there were visible cracks in the wall around the hinges where it had been ripped up as the door was forcibly knocked down and replaced several times.
Inside the lighting was poor, even at three in the afternoon only a solitary beam of sunlight accompanied the light ocean breeze that drifted through the only window. Two old dirty lamps did little to help the lighting situation, seeming to only exist so the old, hunched bartender with a scarred face and bald head could read the labels on the liquor bottles. Not that he needed to, it was his bar and he knew where every bottle and dirty glass was, along with the old shotgun hidden under the register.
At this time of day the bar only had four customers, two shifty men, faces hidden under cloaks most likely discussing something illegal in their hushed voices. A patron from the previous night, curled up under a table, was still unconscious or dead, the owner would figure it out later. Finally, there was a young black haired man with alert emerald green eyes. The young man had entered the bar silently twenty minutes previously, ordered a bourbon on the rocks, and sat in a corner booth that gave him a view of the entire bar as he sipped quietly on his drink clearly waiting for someone.
The bartender had woken one of his girls, really the only reason people came to the bar still, but the young man had smiled politely and rebuffed the girls advances. She had returned to the bartender with an apologetic smile and a shrug of the shoulders before heading into the back room where the other three girls were just starting to wake up.
The young man had been waiting in the same spot for almost an hour and was on his second bourbon. To most people it would appear he was waiting patiently and relaxed for whoever he was expecting but the old bartender had spent decades learning to read people. The man, maybe twenty was definitely starting to get impatient. His leg would bounce nervously every once in a while before he made a conscious effort to stop it, his second drink remained untouched as one finger circled the rim of the glass, and his gaze would only leave the door to the bar to glance down at the watch on his wrist.
At four thirty two the door to the bar once again slammed open. The light streaming in around the figure in the entryway momentarily blinding the occupants of the bar. Once the man had closed the door behind him the bartender could make out a decently tall, good looking man with long black hair and bright grey eyes. A permanent smirk seemed glued to the man's face as his gaze took in the entire bar before finally settling on the young man in the corner booth. Upon seeing him the smirk turned into a full blown smile and the man crossed the small bar in five long strides, signaling to the bartender to bring him a drink and sliding into the seat across from the young man.
The bartender popped the cap off a beer bottle and poured it into a smudged glass before handing it to the girl and beckoning towards the table.
"You're late," Harry cut him off.
Sirius glanced at his watch and frowned, "I'm two minutes late, I don't think that's any reason to get angry."
Harry rolled his eyes, "You said to be here at two thirty. I was actually running ten minutes late, but I get here to find you no where to be seen," Harry said. "Did you forget to change your watch for the time zones?"
Sirius glanced at his watch sheepishly and started turning one of the knobs, "I, uh, I may have."
Before either could speak again the 'waitress' walked up to drop a pint of beer in front of Sirius, "Is there anything else I can do for you today?" she asked eyeing Harry wantonly.
"I'm good thanks," Harry answered not even looking at the woman. This time it was Sirius' turn to roll his eyes at his godson before putting on his most charming smile.
"Not right now luv, but maybe once this stick in the mud and I are done you and I can have a nice conversation."
The woman's eyes moved from Harry to Sirius looking him over from head to toe. Coming to a decision she nodded and sauntered back towards the bar, where the bartender gave her a short nod and she perched herself on a barstool to wait for Harry to leave.
"You know she's a prostitute right?" Harry asked incredulously.
"Of course. What better way to fritter away my parents money then on hookers and booze," Sirius answered with a lopsided smile. It was only because Harry had known him so long that he noticed the hint of anger and sadness in his eyes.
"You could find a nice woman, settle down and have kids. I'm sure that would also anger your parents, to know you're happy," Harry answered seriously.
Sirius barked a laugh and slapped his hand on the table. "I am happy Harry," he said genuinely. "Your dad and Remus were always the ones destined for families and settling down. Me? I need to be free to spread my oats and what not," he said with his trademark smile. "Besides, what about you? When are you gonna find a girl and settle down?" he asked trying to turn the tables on his godson.
Harry looked thoughtful for a moment and took a sip of his drink, "One day, when I find the right girl. But for now I'm still young and attractive, unlike some people."
Sirius scowled at him as Harry laughed quietly to himself, "I look exceptionally well for my age, and I'm not even that old! Forty is the new twenty after all." Sirius puffed himself up, turning to throw a wink at the woman still waiting at the bar for him, "Enough poking fun at me, do you want to hear the new lead I got?"
"Alright what is it? I hope it's something good I was on the verge of finding the final resting place of the Dark Wizard Onhomet," Harry said.
"Onhomet!?" Sirius said. "He's chump change compared to the lead I have," he paused for dramatic effect, obviously hoping Harry would ask what he had found. Harry simply continued to stare impassively at Sirius until he finally deflated a bit, "It's Merlin. I have a lead on Merlin's Tomb."
This finally got a reaction from Harry, who leaned forward, his eyes widening slightly and the corner of his lips tugging up in a small smile, "You're sure?"
"Our contact in Gringott's is mostly positive," Sirius answered. "Apparently the good work we did a few years back ending all those ancient and noble bloodlines left quite a few defunct vaults. Vaults filled with old family relics. Weapons, armor, jewelry, and books. Lots of books, and quite a few journals from ancestors who lived during exciting times."
"According to our contact the goblins have been backlogged inventorying all the vaults that found themselves without owners. On top of that many of the books required translation so it's been very time consuming to go through each book. One of their researchers translated a journal from a contemporary of Merlin who helped build Merlin's Tomb and very clearly notated the location of the Tomb," Sirius pulled out two pieces of parchment and slid them across the table to Harry.
Harry pulled the pages to himself and started reading quickly. "Normandy?" he mumbled quietly to himself. "No wonder no one ever found it, they've been tearing apart Scotland and England looking, no one thought to check France."
"I was surprised as well, but it's a good hiding spot, the areas a forest still, the muggles avoided tearing it down for houses, I guess it was because of the magical wards. It's also far enough outside of Paris and other magical settlements that a wizard wouldn't stumble upon it," Sirius explained sliding over a map of the area.
"But you said Gringott's found this info, and it's close enough to London they could apparate, they must have a team already on site," Harry said.
Sirius grinned deviously as he leaned over the table and lowered his voice, "That's the best part. After you beat them to the last four tombs and claimed the treasure they've become paranoid that there's a leak of some kind. Our contact says that until the site is verified they're only sending one Curse Breaker, some kid fresh out of their training. That way they know that only a few people know about the Tomb and no one can leak it to you and the ICW."
"So there's only one Curse Breaker, and they're a rookie?" Harry asked in disbelief.
"Yep and if you leave now, you might even beat them to the Tomb. Our contact said the poor guy wouldn't be leaving until tomorrow."
"It's already after five, plane will take about four hours, unless you managed to grab me an international portkey?" Harry asked already standing to leave.
"Sorry kiddo, you're stuck going the muggle way."
"Can't be helped I suppose," Harry said with a sigh. "Enjoy your night Sirius, I'll give you a call on your mirror once I find the Tomb."
"Cya kiddo," Sirius called as Harry passed the woman at the bar who started moving back towards where Sirius was sitting leering at her.
Harry had arrived in France late in the evening. After an uneventful stay in a small inn on the edge of the forest supposedly hiding Merlin's Tomb he got an early start. Morning fog still blanketed the forest floor as Harry picked his way through the woods, occasionally using the point me spell to make sure he was going the right way. About a mile into the forest though he stopped needing the spell as the ambient magic in the air grew thicker, making the very air seem more alive.
Any wizard could subconsciously feel ambient magic, especially in magical places like Hogwarts or Diagon Alley. However, Curse Breakers were trained to feel the magic in the air and follow it to it's source. It was a good way to find the entrance to a Tomb, but it could also be honed so that a veteran Curse Breaker could actually distinguish the various wards and charms being used allowing them to identify danger. It was this sense, honed over seven years of first avoiding and then hunting Voldemort that led Harry to the very edge of the wards hiding the Tomb.
Unfortunately he wasn't the first one there.
Knowing the Curse Breaker from Gringotts had a good chance of beating him there, or even arriving at the same time Harry had approached the wards with a silencing charm on his feet and wearing his invisibility cloak. With his precautions in place he was able to get within ten feet of the Gringott's Curse Breaker without drawing any attention.
It helped that the red haired woman was completely focused on the complex runic sequence hanging in the air before her. Harry was slightly surprised to see a woman as Sirius hadn't mentioned the rookie being female. Curse Breaking was known as a boys club, the women who would be ok spending much of their life living out of tents and in the wilderness were put off the job after meeting their first few Curse Breakers. The men were usually gruff, vulgar, and in most cases not afraid to torment their female co-workers. Harry knew of only four female Curse Breakers by reputation and had never actually met them.
Taking a moment to study the woman, Harry's eyes trailed over her bright red, almost orange hair which was pulled back into a tight ponytail. She was facing away from him and he couldn't make out her facial features, but her ponytail exposed a long pale neck covered in freckles that followed along the curve of her neck and disappeared under her collar. She was lithe, in the muggle world they would say she had a runner's build, but Harry could identify someone else who had spent their life on a broom. Her arms had taut wiry muscles, and below a shapely butt were two long well defined legs.
His silent approach gave him the opportunity to observe the complex runic pattern hanging in the air before the woman. He was mildly impressed by the complex way the different runes weaved together. Anyone without an in depth knowledge of runes and Curse Breaking would never be able to breach them. Harry caught on to the pattern the woman had been using the break through and was only mildly impressed that it was probably the same pattern he would have chosen.
Even as he watched the girl highlighted one rune with her wand and started to rotate it slowly, changing the very structure of the wards. Once she had finished turning the first Rune she began drawing in a new rune, earning a raised eyebrow from the unseen Harry. Trying to add a new Rune to an older runic pattern could be disastrous without careful consideration and a lot of raw magical power. As the girl finished drawing the new rune there was a flash from her wand as she began pouring her own magical power into it.
Now Harry was seriously impressed. Not only was the girl doing things a veteran Curse Breaker wouldn't try she was doing it successfully and the power radiating off of her as she fused the rune into the wards was intoxicating. Magic like any other sense a person possessed could be pleasant or offensive. Every magical couple in history had compatible magical signatures, just like most magical rivals had magical signatures that caused irritation when in close proximity.
Feeling this girl's magical signature as she channeled it to power the rune caused Harry to flush and his blood head south as his breath caught in his throat.
Shaking his head to clear the sudden haze of arousal, Harry watched as the Rune glowed brightly before melding perfectly with the rest of the runic display. After giving it a moment make sure the Rune wouldn't be rejected the girl reached out tentatively with her hand letting out a whoop of joy as it passed unharmed through where the wards should be.
Casting a few more detection spells the girl stepped through the hole she had just created in the wards and began moving across the seemingly empty field they had been standing on the edge of. Harry started to follow her only pausing a moment to take a closer look at the runic sequence. She had done exactly what he would have done to bypass the wards. By adding the Rune she had, where she had, it created an opening in the wards big enough for a person to walk through so long as they knew where to enter.
Looking at the runic sequence a stray thought tugged at the edge of Harry's consciousness. He didn't have time to contemplate what was off about the wards though and without another glance he stepped carefully through the Wards and followed the girl silently. He couldn't let her get too far ahead since he had to follow her path as closely as possible. Following another Curse Breaker into a tomb while hidden was extremely dangerous as he could not cast any detection charms without risking his own detection. So instead he had to rely on the girl and follow the safe path she made for herself to the Tomb.
It only took a few minutes to realize that something was off. In a Tomb this heavily protected there should be traps littering the ground for any would be thieves. Even though the girl cast the detection charms every few seconds it had so far detected nothing. Harry was glad to see the girl had also noticed this and begun to slow down, mixing a more powerful detection charm in with her normal ones. Yet even so when they had reached the entrance to the tomb itself, an indistinct looking cave, her charms had not detected any traps.
The entrance to the cave was clean of all protections as well. Harry's own brow was furrowed in confusion at the lack of protections and he was glad to see a tension growing in the girls back and posture. Entering the cave proved far too easy and soon Harry was following the bobbing glow of the girls wand as they moved into the Tomb itself.
The cave opening narrowed from being two people wide to only one wide after a few meters leaving very little room for people to maneuver. The girl continued casting detection spells but continued to find nothing. It was as they were coming to a turn in the path that Harry saw a rune engraved on the wall as the girls light illuminated it. The girl missed it since the magic in the rune had been burned out leaving it inert.
Harry paused to study the rune when several things happened at once. The girl yelped, the light from her wand went out, and then there was a thud and the cracking of bone. Harry froze, unsure of what had happened and not wanting to get caught in whatever the girl had triggered. The silence following the bone cracking was broken by the girl letting out a string of curses that would make a sailor blush.
'Well she's not dead at least,' Harry thought as he edged toward the corner the girl had disappeared around.
The sound of someone shuffling around on the ground preceded the light from the girls wand reappearing. Rounding the corner slowly Harry found the path ended abruptly in a ten foot drop into a pit. The pit was about four meters long with only a thin ledge along the right hand side allowing someone to pass around it. A dimly glowing green rune on the far side of the pit clued Harry into the illusion charm that had been in place to hide the pit. The same illusion that had tricked the girl now sitting against the wall of the pit cradling her clearly broken wrist.
The girl whimpered in pain as she tried to pick up her wand with her good hand. The broken wrist had apparently been her wand hand, so with her off hand she practiced the movements for healing her broken wrist, but she couldn't quite get the movement down.
'Now's your chance. just shuffle along the edge, get to the inner chamber and grab the loot. Even if she can't heal herself the goblins will send another team tomorrow when they don't hear from her,' the more rational part of Harry's mind tried to argue. But he had already made up his mind. Sighing he pulled off the cloak, going completely unnoticed by the girl as she examined her wrist.
"Uh, hello?" Harry called out.
The girl jumped slightly, tensing as the movement sent pain through her wrist. She looked up, her wide brown eyes meeting Harry's. Harry's breath caught in his throat as he took in her features for the first time. Brown eyes, a thin nose, pale skin, and freckles everywhere. Her red lips were parted in surprise, but quickly turned to a scowl.
"Who the hell are you!? Did my idiot brother send you?" she snapped, glaring at Harry.
Harry paused surprised by her anger, "I'm Harry, Harry Evans. I have no idea who your brother is and he didn't send me."
"Then what the hell are you doing here?" she snapped, aiming her wand with a shaking hand, Harry doubted she could hit anything the way her arm was moving.
"I came to find Merlin's Tomb but you were here first, so I figured I'd follow you and hope you messed up," Harry answered honestly.
The girl scowled at him, "You've been following me!" she demanded. Harry could almost see the gears moving in her brain as she processed everything he'd said, until her eyes widened and then narrowed angrily, "You're the treasure thief!"
"Treasure thief?" Harry asked. "Is that what the Goblin's have been calling me?"
"Yes the thief who has been breaking into tombs before the Curse Breakers and stealing all the treasure!"
"I haven't stolen anything, I got to those Tombs first and opened them. Since I opened them I had claim to all the treasure inside. You're the one working for those greedy gold hounds!" Harry retorted, not liking being referred to as a thief.
"I'm sure you're not making any profit off of your finds," she snapped sarcastically.
Harry took a deep breath not wanting to reveal too much of his work. Instead he cast a cushioning charm at the floor of the pit and dropped down next to her, "We can argue about my motives or I can heal your wrist and we can continue to the central chamber together."
The girl looked torn for a moment before glancing down at her wrist which had turned an alarming blue and black by this point. "It's my claim," she said angrily.
"We can split it evenly, you take half for the goblins and I'll take my half. Any goblin weaponry is yours, I know how ridiculous the knife-ears can get over their precious swords," Harry said amicably.
"I did all the work getting here," the girl said angrily. "Seventy-five / Twenty-five."
"You broke through one set of wards and then fell into the first active trap you came across. If you want I can just leave you here and claim all of it for myself," Harry responded.
The girl glared at him, before huffing and gingerly holding out her broken wrist, "Fine."
"Glad we could come to an agreement," Harry said before waving his wand a few times, healing her wrist and clearing up the bruises. "That will still be tender for a bit so be gentle."
The girl glared at him again as she grabbed her wand off the ground. Harry only smirked as she conjured a ladder and leaned it against the side of pit before climbing up it.
"Nice view," Harry muttered, but apparently the girl heard him.
"Pig!" she called out causing him to laugh.
"Sorry, but it's true," Harry said, in the faint wand light he couldn't be sure if the girl was turning red in anger or blushing at his comment.
"Arse," she muttered before turning and resuming her walk down the tunnel. This time Harry had his own wand out and was able to cast detection charms as well as provide his own light source.
"You know I never got your name," he said as he paused to study another inert rune carved into the wall.
"It's Ginny," she answered quickly casting another detection charm.
"A pleasure to meet you Ginny."
The central chamber of Merlins Tomb was circular with a diameter of ten meters. The exact center of the room was raised up to about waist height with three large steps leading up to the dais. A series of mirrors reflected sunlight from a hole at the top of the room so that the dais was illuminated in a beam of light. The only problem was that the chamber was completely empty.
Ginny and Harry could only look around the room in shocked disappointment.
"It's empty," Ginny stated.
Harry sighed, "I thought it would be."
"What!?" Ginny asked. "You thought it would be empty?"
"Someone else has clearly been here before us," Harry said and pointed to her foot. "You're standing on a booby trap that's been rendered inert. The tunnel down here had one every three meters or so."
Ginny lifted her foot and looked at the runic symbol that was engraved in the stone there. "I didn't even notice," she muttered quietly. "How come they didn't appear with the detection charms?"
"They're inert, the spell is only meant to detect active magic. These runes are just carvings on the stone," Harry said. "They've all been deactivated by someone else. I figured we'd either find a corpse or well… this."
"Well this is a great end to my first actual assignment," Ginny huffed before stepping further into the chamber. Harry gave her a sympathetic smile as he continued to study the writing engraved on the wall of the chamber.
"My celtic is pretty rusty, but I'm pretty sure these engravings are a biographical account of Merlin's life," Harry said as he traced one of the words with his finger. "Granted we already have a few such accounts but this one could be unique," he said trying to cheer Ginny up.
Ginny glanced at the engravings, but quickly returned to wandering the room. "Maybe, but the goblins were really hoping for some artifacts to study," she said as she started to circle the dais in the middle of the room. "My boss specifically mentioned Exca- sweet Merlin!" she said suddenly.
Harry looked over to her to find her on the opposite side of the dais staring at something on the floor, a mix of horror and disgust on her face. As he rounded the dais from the opposite side Harry found what had caused Ginny to cry out in surprise. Hidden from view by the dais was an emaciated corpse, dressed in blood red robes, thinning patches of brown hair on its head, and its hand clutching a wand. A patch on the front of the man's robes, right above his heart showed a golden circle within a triangle bisected by a straight line. The Deathly Hallows.
"Well that would explain where the treasure is," Harry stated sullenly.
"What?" Ginny asked finally snapping out of her shock.
"The symbol on his robes and the color or the robes," Harry said pointing them out. "He was a follower of Grindelwald. And if he's here if means that the person who beat us here was Grindelwald," he explained.
"So then why didn't anyone know about this tomb?" Ginny asked. "If Grindelwald found it wouldn't he have told people?"
"Grindelwald spent most of the forties searching Europe for magical artifacts. It's rumored he was looking for the Deathly Hallows, but they're just a myth. Instead he collected hundreds if not thousands of magical artifacts and hid them away in a secret Vault. Curse Breakers, Treasure Hunters, Collectors, and anyone looking to get rich have searched for Grindelwald's Vault for fifty years but no one ever found it," Harry explained.
"Anyone in Grindelwald's circle who knew the location of the Vault died during the final battles in 1945. Grindelwald himself took the secret to his grave," Harry said. "I'm surprised you didn't learn about this in your Curse Breaking classes, it's one of the biggest mysteries of the last century."
Ginny's face definitely colored red in embarrassment this time and she pointedly looked down at her feet. "I, uh, I wasn't very good at the historical part of Curse Breaking," she said. "I almost failed that part completely, a friend of mine helped me study and I just barely passed."
Harry nodded sympathetically, "I can understand that, it definitely wasn't my favorite subject in school. I only really started understanding it when I could put it into context with Curse Breaking." He smiled, "I still couldn't tell you anything about the Goblin Rebellions or why the witch burnings of the middle ages were important."
Ginny smiled, the blush on her cheeks fading. As silence once again descended on them she kneeled next to the corpse and gingerly began searching the dead man's pockets. After a moment of searching she pulled an old leather bound journal from the robes inner pocket. A name and some other words in German were inscribed on the front of the journal. Ginny stood up with her prize and took a step back onto a piece of floor that sunk down under her foot. A loud grinding noise filled the room as ancient stonework behind the walls began to move for the first time in centuries.
"GET DOWN!" Harry shouted as he sprinted forward and tackled Ginny to the floor. As they hit the ground a whistling filled the air followed by several pings as something bounced off the stone walls.
Harry lay on top of Ginny shielding her with his body as silence again descended on the Tomb. Not moving Harry started mentally checking himself for any injuries, aware that the adrenaline surge he just experienced may have dulled the pain. Finding no injuries he looked down at Ginny, realizing only now how close they were. Her brown eyes were wide as they stared up at him, a hint of a blush tinging her cheeks.
"A-Are you ok?" he asked, cringing slightly when his voice cracked. This seemed to break the tension as Ginny giggled.
"I bumped my head when you tackled me, but I think I'm fine," she answered. "Why did you tackle me?"
"When you stepped on that piece of floor it activated a trap," Harry said. "I'm guessing it was an old muggle one which is why the charm didn't detect it."
"Are we still in any danger?" Ginny asked, and Harry saw the same mischievous glint in her eye that Sirius always had.
"No. I think we should be fine, just don't touch that spot on the floor anymore," Harry answered, suddenly wary of the look in her eyes.
"Alright," she glanced pointedly down at the fact that he was still laying on top of her. "Do you think we can stand up then?"
Harry's eyes widened and he quickly rolled off of her and stood offering her hand. "R-Right sorry," he said quickly with a nervous laugh.
"It's alright Harry," she said, taking his hand as he pulled her up off the ground smoothly. "So what did the trap do?"
Harry pointed to the wall directly behind where she had been standing a moment before. Embedded in a crack in the stone wall was an arrow, while on the ground below it were the shattered fragments of several more arrows.
"The trigger you stepped on activated the crossbows hidden behind the wall. If you'd still been standing there you would have been skewered," he said. "It's an old trap muggles would add to their tombs, but I've never actually seen it in a magical tomb before."
Ginny gently picked up one of the broken arrows, touching the pointed arrowhead with her finger. "It's still sharp…" she muttered to herself. "Thank you Harry, it looks like you saved my life again," she said giving him a smile that left a warm feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"Anytime Ginny," he said, "So what's in that book you found?" he asked quickly, hoping to stave off an awkward silence.
"Oh right!" Ginny said picking up the journal from where she had dropped it and flipping it open. "It looks like it's all in German or one of those languages," she said after flipping through it for a moment. "Do you know how to read it?"
"I can get by in most European languages, but usually I have to use a translation spell..." Harry answered.
"And those don't work on written words," Ginny finished for him.
"Exactly. I have some contacts who can translate it, but it will take some time."
"I have a friend who can translate it…" Ginny said slowly, "she works for Gringotts as well, only in the research department."
"Can she meet us for lunch somewhere?" Harry asked. "I can't go in Gringotts," he explained at her questioning look.
"You don't trust me to get the book translated and meet you somewhere?" she questioned with a hint of anger.
"Would you trust me?" he answered.
She stared at him for a moment in silence, clearly weighing her options, "Fair point. But I'm only letting you tag along because you saved my life."
"Twice," Harry added.
"That pit doesn't count, I would have gotten out sooner or later," she rebutted as they headed back towards the entrance to the tomb.
"If you say so," Harry answered with an amused smile.
Thanks for reading, please review and let me know what you think.
Edited 11/6/2015: Mostly grammatical and me learning proper dialogue punctuation.