Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or any of the characters in the Harry Potter books or movies. I do not own Tomb Raider or any of the characters in the franchise.
Author's Note: This story is set in an Alternate Universe and is a sequel to "Petunia Evans, Tomb Raider". Therefore, a number of canon events didn't happen. The society of Wizarding Britain and the rest of the magical world are a bit different and a number of characters will act differently as well. Squibs are able to see magic and are unaffected by Muggle-Repelling Charms.
I'd like to thank fredfred for beta-reading.
Chapter 1: Trouble in the Jungle
'The Amazon rainforest is home to one of the most isolationist people known to wizardkind - and also one of the most hostile. While not nearly as brutal as the Australian wizards, who have only recently started to deport wizards born to non-aboriginal muggles, and who still routinely kill any foreign wizard they catch within their borders, the magical tribes living in the largest jungle of the New World are responsible for the death of many wizarding explorers who, usually out of ignorance, rather than malice, happened to violate one of the tribes' taboos.
Unlike the Australian stance on immigration, however, the Amazon tribes' hostility can be explained - at least partially - by their history. Both the Spanish and Portuguese Conquistadors, seeking the treasures of Lost Atlantis, tried for almost two hundred years to conquer the area - without success. The ruins of dozens of forts and camps bear witness to the deadly resistance by the native tribes. This conflict even continued after the International Statute of Secrecy was instituted in 1692, separating the muggle and magical worlds - for Magical Spain and Magical Portugal didn't abandon their plans. Only after several expeditions not only survived their travels but found nothing save ruins bereft of any treasure or secrets did peace return to this part of the Magical New World as both nations focused on more lucrative ventures and later were embroiled in various wars of independence.
But even without hostile native wizards and witches, the Amazon rainforest would remain one of the deadliest areas of the magical world. Some of the most dangerous specimens yet discovered can be found among both the magical flora and fauna there. Few foreigners dare to venture into the area, and fewer still return.'
- Excerpt from 'Atlas of the Magical New World' by Melchior Steiner
Amazon Rainforest, July 30th, 2001
"...'most isolationist', 'most hostile' - yeah, right," Harry Potter muttered as he closed the atlas and put it on the table in the living room of their wizarding tent.
"Hm?" Hermione looked up from her own, substantially larger, tome. "What did you say?"
"I was just remarking on the quality of the information to be found in this book," he replied.
Instead of agreeing with him, she laughed. "You know Ron - he probably would have an affair with an Aboriginal witch in Australia, should we ever visit."
"Which we won't," Harry said. He was a Curse-Breaker, and danger was part of the job, as Bill always said, but there was a difference between braving cursed ruins and tombs full of traps and finding out first hand whether the Australians deserved their reputation or not. Besides, there was no treasure to be found there, as far as he knew. He sighed. "I'm just jealous."
"Jealous?" Hermione looked at him with narrowed eyes. "Of Ron?"
He winced. "Not like that!" he hastily assured his girlfriend. "But his girlfriend taught us about blood leeches and ghost frogs while so far all I've managed to find out on this expedition is how wrong our sources are." Of course, Harry had been the one to find the clue that led them to the ruins they were currently exploring, but that had been weeks ago. And it had been Hermione who had made the connection to an account by a Conquistador.
She didn't look mollified, though - quite the contrary. "You're jealous that his girlfriend is more useful in the jungle than yours?"
Meaning, her. "No, no. I didn't mean it like that. I love you."
Not even that helped. She scoffed. "But you'd prefer it if I went around in a loincloth and nothing else?"
He shook his head. Hermione's working clothes were styled after Aunt Petunia's, anyway.
"Or would you prefer it if I could change into a jaguar, like Ari?"
He jumped on the opportunity. "That wouldn't be very useful for exploring tombs," he said. "Now, a house cat, or rat, or another small animal, would be different, but, as we know, we cannot predict our forms should we learn how to become animagi like Ari…"
"She's not an animagus," Hermione replied.
"She certainly isn't a lycanthrope, despite her name," Harry said. He refrained from smiling - nothing defused Hermione's temper, frayed by their expedition's lack of progress, better than the opportunity to lecture.
She sniffed. "Of course she isn't a lycanthrope! But she's not an animagus - the animagus transformation includes your clothes."
"She could have learned a different variation," Harry pointed out.
"The basic principles of magic are the same across all magical traditions," she replied. "It is very unlikely that her tribe wouldn't have made any progress in that area either, if they had discovered a more limited version of the animagus transformation - the reports of 'jaguar shapeshifters' go back to the time of the Conquistadores, after all."
"Her people don't wear many clothes to start with," Harry said.
"But they learned to use wands after encountering the Spanish and Portuguese," Hermione countered. "They would have learned a more advanced form of the animagus transformation as well."
"There might be a cultural bias among her people that prevents them from adapting their transformations," Harry pointed out.
Hermione frowned, then nodded. "That is possible," she admitted. "Not very likely, but possible."
"We could ask Ari," Harry said. "Ron's taught her enough English."
Hermione snorted. "That isn't the only thing he's taught her."
Harry shrugged. As long as Ron's latest affair didn't cause any trouble for them - he really wanted to avoid another incident like the one in Tunis or the one in Constantinople - he didn't care about his friend's love life.
She sighed. "Ah, well. I'm a little frustrated myself - I'm certain that these ruins are an old Atlantean outpost, but until we can crack the protections, that cannot be verified."
And the protections had been proven to be among the strongest they had encountered so far in their careers. However… "Ari said that this was one of the Conquistadores' forts, destroyed by her ancestors."
She shook her head. "The spells on the foundations of the ruins are all wrong for that - none of the Spanish forts or outposts of which we're aware used such wards. And the ruins are too old for that as well."
"Perhaps the Spanish or Portuguese built a fort on top of the ruins," Harry said. "It would explain the remains we found."
"Or someone planted them here," Hermione replied. "They were a little too obvious, I think. But if that's true..."
Harry smiled. "... then that means there's something worth hiding - and protecting - here."
"Something protected by wards that were too powerful to let anyone destroy the ruins. Like what would be expected of old Atlantean wards?" Hermione smiled as well. And with good reason, of course - the Atlanteans hadn't left many magical artefacts, and none of their outposts discovered so far had had anything magical left in them at all. If they had found a still active Atlantean ward, then that would be the discovery of the decade. Perhaps even of the century.
"Exactly," Harry said. "If we can crack this…"
The tent's entrance being pushed open interrupted him. Ron stood there, panting.
"Harry! Hermione! We've got trouble!"
Harry muttered a curse and drew his wand.
"Ron! What happened?" Hermione asked as she left the tent and took up a position next to Harry. It was so dark that the cone of light that briefly shone through the tent's entrance didn't even reach the dense jungle surrounding their camp.
"It wasn't my fault!" Ron Weasley said quickly. It wasn't as if he expected his two best friends to hex him, but it never hurt to make sure, as Bill had taught him. His brother had been talking about curses, but both Harry and Hermione had their wands out and didn't look too happy or understanding. "Ari said that there's a Boiúna in the area that has taken offence at our presence."
Harry frowned. "A Boiúna?"
"Shapeshifting sapient snake," Hermione told him. Of course she'd know that. "Very territorial - but usually limited to rivers."
"And the closest river is a dozen miles away," Harry said.
Ari stepped up behind Ron - fortunately, she was in human form; after mistaking a real jaguar for her a week ago, Harry was a little jumpy around big cats. "Boiúna live in jungle, not just river."
Ron saw Hermione frown at that; his friend hated to be proven wrong. But she knew better than to start an argument with a local expert. "Well, I guess Pedro Teixeira did stick mainly to rivers, so it would make sense that he thought the creatures lived there."
"I don't think this is the time to discuss Magizoology," Harry said.
"Right." Hermione nodded. "How do we kill it?" she asked Ari.
"Kill it?" Ron's girlfriend gaped. "It's Boiúna! Strongest creature in jungle!"
Harry frowned, Ron noticed. "There's no need to kill it. I can talk to it."
"Boiúna don't talk," Ari said. "Must flee before arrive! Not much time left!"
"I can talk to any snake," Harry insisted.
"And we won't let a beast drive us away from a tomb," Hermione added. "Petunia wouldn't let that happen, either."
"Snakes aren't beasts," Harry replied.
Ron cut in before they could start another discussion about serpent sapience - his friends sometimes had rather impractical priorities. "How about we plan how to deal with this snake before it arrives? For a change?" he added with more than a little sarcasm; Bill always said a Curse-Breaker was either prepared or soon dead.
"I'll talk to it," Harry said.
"You need flee!" Ari insisted. "Cannot fight Boiúna!" For a witch who hadn't spoken a single word of English until two months ago, she had made great progress, in Ron's opinion.
"We won't let a snake drive us away no matter its size," Hermione said. "We've dealt with worse."
"Boiúna has powerful magic!" Ari insisted.
"So do jinns - and we dealt with them," Ron said. He smiled reassuringly at her. "Trust us, we know what we are doing." Most of the time. But he couldn't help feeling a little doubt as he saw just how nervous his girlfriend was - usually, she was brave enough for two Gryffindors.
She shook her head. "Need flee! Cannot fight Boiúna!"
"We certainly can fight it," Hermione retorted. "And I am quite certain that we can beat it, too - provided we can come up with a decent plan. According to Teixeira, Boiúnas rely on frightening their enemies with shapeshifting and possibly illusions as well."
"Like a Boggart?" Harry asked.
"I doubt they share the same vulnerabilities," Hermione replied.
"So a Boggart-Banishing Spell probably won't work," Ron said. "We should try it anyway."
"Need flee!" Ari insisted. "Cannot..."
A roar louder than a dragon's - Ron knew the difference from a visit to Charlie's workplace - interrupted her. "No, too late!" she yelled, her expression turning desperate.
"Stay back!" Ron snapped, pushing past her - he didn't know how good her Shield Charm was. "Lighting up!" he yelled as he pulled out a 'Noonball', as the twins called their invention. A flick of his wand lit the modified firework, and it shot up into the sky, bursting in a bright flare thirty yards up and illuminating the entire clearing.
Then he cursed - the biggest snake he had ever seen was slithering towards them. It had to measure thirty yards from its mouth to the tip of its tail, and the black scales seemed to swallow the light from the floating firework. It looked like a limbless dragon.
And Harry was walking towards it, hissing - talking in Parseltongue. Ron moved a little to the side - slowly, so as not to spook the creature - until he had a decent flanking position. On the other side of Harry, Hermione was doing the same, as expected - this wasn't the first time they had faced a monster, after all.
"What he doing?" Ari asked. She had followed him. "Boiúna don't talk!"
"Harry can talk to any snake," Ron replied as he kept his wand trained on the creature. Harry was far too close, damn him! That snake was large enough to swallow him whole!
"No," Ron said. "Magic." That was safer than joking about Harry being a tenth snake - as Tunis had proven, not everyone understood his jokes. And not many, other than Hagrid, shared Harry's rather rose-coloured views on snakes.
Now the snake was talking. Ron didn't relax - just because a creature could talk didn't mean it was not dangerous any more. But Harry looked less tense than when he had started hissing. That was a good sign - Ron's friend usually had good instincts. Usually - if Harry turned out to be wrong, it tended to be spectacular. And not in the good way.
But the snake was settling down. Ron checked the firework. Guaranteed to float for five minutes. That meant they had about two minutes of light left.
When there was a minute left, Ron yelled: "Harry, tell it that I'll be sending up another firework."
"She's not an it!" Harry yelled back - but he turned back to the snake and hissed again. They went back and forth, and the firework started to sputter out. But no sooner had they all been plunged into darkness - it was really dark out here in the jungle - when Harry yelled: "Alright, send one up!"
Ron sighed with relief and did so - then did a double-take. The snake was gone. And Harry was smiling.
"But… but…" Ari was shaking her head.
"Don't worry!" Harry said as they gathered in front of the tent's entrance again. "It was all a misunderstanding - Amana thought another of her people had taken up residence here." He frowned. "She did smell them, though, and since they aren't here, she's now looking for them." He smiled at Hermione. "You were right - they are very territorial. But this is not her territory - she said the ruins are taboo."
Hermione grinned. "Another sign that this could be an Atlantean outpost!"
"Indeed." Harry nodded.
Both were eyeing the ruins nearby. Ron shook his head - he knew what they were thinking. "Let's rest before we tackle possibly Atlantean wards, shall we?" he said. Impatient Curse-Breakers were dead Curse-Breakers, after all, as Bill had taught them, and both his friends looked far too excited right now to be cautious enough to deal with wards that had been laid down millennia ago.
Not to mention that Ron had to calm down his girlfriend - Ari was still trembling and gaping. There would be no 'watching the stars on your back' tonight, he was fairly certain. Just cuddling.
Amazon Rainforest, July 31st, 2001
Hermione Granger yawned as she sat up, the silk sheets sliding off her body, and stretched her arms over her head. Their wizarding tent wasn't as comfortable as Petunia and Sirius's enchanted Range Rover, but it was much better than a muggle tent - or even a muggle caravan. She still reminded herself that they really needed to take the time to enchant a car of their own one day, no matter what 'promising lead' Harry found next. Although if they had actually found an Atlantean ruin with active spells, then properly exploring their discovery would certainly take months, and, absent the need to rush their expedition so no one else could steal their thunder and claim it first, they could spare the time for such an undertaking afterwards.
And since Petunia would certainly come and help with the dig, Sirius might be pressed into helping with the enchanting. Harry's godfather and step-uncle might not be much of an archaeologist and only a fair Curse-Breaker, but he was certainly a very skilled wizard when it came to enchanting. And fighting, of course.
She felt Harry stir next to her, then heard him groan, and smiled. "Good morning, Harry. And happy birthday!"
He rolled on to his back, blinked, then turned his head towards her. "Good morning. And thank you." She saw his eyes flicker to the clock on the nightstand. "It's early, but we've got a long day ahead of us. An important day."
She knew what he meant. "Perhaps the most important day of our careers - so far," she agreed. "But, you know Ron - he won't be up for another hour at least." She grinned at him.
He returned her grin. "And it would be inconsiderate to start without him."
"Terribly." She nodded.
"But that leaves us with an hour to fill," he said.
Hermione pursed her lips as if she were considering this. "Well… it wouldn't hurt to read up on the latest Arithmancy discoveries and theories." He narrowed his eyes at her, and she chuckled. "But I take it you've got something else in mind?"
"Yes, I do." He nodded and reached out, pulling her on top of him, then kissed her.
"So, how's Ari doing?" Harry asked an hour later at breakfast.
"And why isn't she with us?" Hermione Granger asked. If the shapeshifter and Ron had had a break-up last night, and this caused trouble with Ari's tribe, then Hermione would be very cross. They were about to make the discovery that would make them famous! Even though Atlantis's existence was a historical fact, almost nothing was known about its actual culture and history - not even the exact reason for its sinking was known. They couldn't afford another Tunis.
Ron shrugged, frowning. "She went out hunting at dawn," he said. Which meant as a jaguar, Hermione knew. Ron sighed before continuing. "She's still upset. That encounter with the Boiúna must have shaken her worse than I thought."
Hermione frowned. The native witch hadn't been fazed when Harry had almost cursed her by mistake after his encounter with a real jaguar. "That creature didn't seem as dangerous or violent as would justify such a reaction," she said. She was tempted to blame the superstitions of the native tribe for that - but that would be foolish. Local witches and wizards tended to know far more about the wildlife of their homes than even accomplished Magizoologists like Luna and Ginny. It was possible, of course, that the Boiúnas were overrated due to cultural reasons. Possible, but not overly likely.
Harry shrugged. "She was very reasonable when we talked. More polite than Ari," he added with a glance at Ron.
"Ari didn't speak our language when we met her, and her tribe had had bad encounters with foreigners in the past." Ron frowned at Harry. "Threatening her with your wand wasn't exactly polite, either."
"How was I to know she wasn't a jaguar?" Harry defended himself. "Anyone would have made that mistake!"
"She was carrying her wand in her mouth," Ron pointed out before Hermione could.
"It looked like a twig!"
Ron coughed. "Anyway, Ari didn't know anything about Parselmouths, not even that there is such a talent. Her people can't communicate with the Boiúnas."
"Unless they transform into a woman," Hermione said.
"Probably not even then," Ron said. They might not speak each other's languages. "But she'll calm down."
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. That was what her friend had said after his row with the jinn in Tunis. And that jinn certainly hadn't calmed down - quite the contrary.
"Really - she wasn't angry," Ron insisted. "Upset, but not angry."
Hermione hoped that her friend was correct. Cracking millennia-old wards was difficult enough without having to deal with his romantic entanglements causing trouble.
Amazon Rainforest, August 2nd, 2001
Hermione Granger wiped sweat from her brow with her free hand while she kept her wand trained on the smooth face of the massive stone in front of her - or, rather, on the spells covering the stone. This stone was the key to disarming the wards, she was certain. Of all the stones forming the foundations of the ruins, this one didn't show any signs of weathering, And that was, as Petunia had taught her, a sign of strong magic.
She bit her lower lip as she twisted her wand, then stabbed it towards the left corner of the stone, taking a deep, shuddering breath as she saw the spells anchored on the stone shift. Another protection dealt with. The spells weren't particularly complex or difficult, once you had their measure - they were cast millennia ago, after all, and wards had advanced a great deal since - but they were exotic and backed by power accumulated over said millennia. One mistake would be fatal - though that was usually the case for a Curse-Breaker raiding tombs anyway.
She looked up and saw that Harry was holding a bottle out towards her. "Regular cola?" she asked as she took it.
"You can use the sugar," he answered.
She wasn't about to disagree. "Thanks," she said as she twisted the cap off, then took a large gulp. "Ah."
"How are you doing?" he asked.
She sighed. "As well as could be expected, I guess. The protections aren't particularly complex - probably on a par with late fourteenth dynasty wards, I guess. But the power…" She shook her head. Wards grew in power with age, and those protecting the ruins here were the oldest she had ever seen.
Harry nodded. He knew better than to tell her to be careful. "I've dismantled the traps on the northern wing."
She felt a little jealous, for a moment. She knew she was the better Curse-Breaker, and she was dealing with the core protection array, not the secondary arrays, but still… "Good," she said. "I should be through with this soon."
"We've got time," he said.
"I'm not rushing it." She wasn't - but she had taken long enough to analyse the spells. "Where's Ron?"
"He's standing guard," Harry said.
"You mean he's looking for Ari," Hermione said.
Harry didn't answer, but his expression told her enough.
She sighed. If she were honest, the apparent break-up made things easier - unless Ron planned to invite Ari to join their group, and the native witch agreed, then they'd have to separate anyway once they were done with the ruins. Curse-Breakers travelled a lot, after all, and the middle of the Amazon rainforest wasn't easy to reach even with magic. And - she tried not to frown at the thought - Ron would likely fall in love with another woman at their next location.
She finished the bottle, then vanished it. "Alright, let's get on with this!" History waited for them.
Amazon Rainforest, August 3rd, 2001
Finally! Hermione Granger bared her teeth in fierce satisfaction as the final spell that had been protecting the foundations of the ruins was disarmed at last! "Yes!" she exclaimed, then stabbed her wand at the stones next to the one which had frustrated her for so many days. She was tempted to blow a hole in them, but refrained from doing so - that might damage wall paintings or carvings.
Instead, she shrunk the stones - and revealed not packed earth, but a passage behind them.
"Yes!" She stood and started to approach the opening when someone suddenly grabbed her arm. Ron.
"Leave that to us," he told her. "You're in no shape to take point on entering the tomb."
"It's unlikely to be a tomb," she argued. "We've found no sign that anyone might be interred here."
"That doesn't mean that there won't be any traps," he retorted.
She clenched her teeth. He was correct, but…
"He's right. We'll take point here." Harry had joined them.
She frowned but nodded. They were correct, of course - she should have known better than to rush into a ruin. Especially after having just spent more than three days dealing with the wards on the place. Petunia would be so disappointed at her lapse, should the woman ever hear of this.
Harry Potter loved Hermione, and he would be the first to admit she was the best Curse-Breaker in their group, but sometimes she was too stubborn for her own good. Trying to tackle a new tomb - regardless of whether or not it was an actual tomb - when you weren't on top of your game was a recipe for disaster. Not to mention that while she was the best when it came to dealing with wards, Harry had her beaten when it came to traps. Especially traps that combined magic and mundane means.
As Auntie put it, dealing with traps was as much an art as it was a science. Hermione had the skills, and she certainly had the body, but she wasn't quite as good at thinking on her feet - or at reacting without thinking when a moment's hesitation would see you flattened beneath a ton of polished stone.
But that why they were a team. He smiled at her, squeezing her arm briefly, before approaching the opening she had created. He cast a Bubble-Head Charm, just in case - Auntie had almost died to poisoned air, once, and he still had to suppress a shiver when he thought about that fungal spore incident he'd heard about from Ulbrich during their visit to the Curse-Breaker Camp in Egypt a few months ago. Danger was part of a Curse-Breaker's job, but to die slowly as your body was consumed by mushrooms…
Well, they were prepared for that - Hermione had read all the expedition reports and explorer's accounts she could find while Ron had asked Ginny and Luna about dangerous animals native to the Amazon and Harry had talked to every Curse-Breaker they knew who had been to the area - small as that number had been. But Harry's spells didn't show any spores or Burrowing Wasp Nests in the vicinity. The air at the entrance actually felt rather dry - compared to the humidity of the jungle, of course.
He flicked his wand - no spells either. Which didn't mean that there were no traps, of course. He crouched down and studied the ground. No patterns in the dust. No tell-tales of triggers, magical or mechanical. The walls had inscriptions on them, unfamiliar ones. But he couldn't detect any spells other than preservation charms nor did he spot any minuscule gaps that might propel poisoned blades at anyone passing by.
Taking a deep breath, he entered the tunnel - or hallway, since this looked like part of a building. No traps went off for the first few yards. "Smooth stone," he reported. "Covered with runes and charms. No curses so far."
"Oh… those are entirely unknown runes. If we can call them runes - it might actually be a new language!"
Harry didn't have to turn around to know Hermione was gushing over the inscriptions. A moment later, she started taking pictures. "Watch the flash," he snapped. It wouldn't do to be blinded at an inopportune moment.
"If this was the entrance, then there should be a trap. There's always one at the entrance," Ron, bringing up the rear, commented.
"Not always," Harry corrected him.
"The wards would certainly qualify," Hermione added. "And this seems to be the entrance - there is only one way to go, and there's nothing here. Of course, the Atlanteans might have built dead ends for various purposes, but common sense would suggest that this was the entrance."
"Damned sloppy of them to forget the red carpet," Ron said.
"Not even a welcome mat." Harry wouldn't be outdone by his friend when it came to nonchalance.
"That would certainly be trapped," Ron replied. "Can you make anything of these runes?"
Hermione scoffed. "Nothing so far. There are some faint similarities to cuneiform, but that might merely be a shared ancestry." He heard her tap the wall with her wand. "But this… It looks very similar to an Ancient Greek symbol for curses."
"Great," Harry said, looking down the corridor. "Let's hope it means 'do not cast curses in the hallways'!"
Ron laughed, but Hermione merely snorted. "Unfortunately, I don't think that this was a school - I doubt that the Atlanteans built schools outside their island. They were said to be rather isolationist according to the Greek and Egyptian sources we have."
"They had an empire," Harry pointed out as he scanned the rest of the corridor for curses.
"Outposts, mostly. Or so we assume," Hermione replied. "Possibly colonies - but they might well have centralised magical education to better protect their secrets."
Harry nodded. For such an old and legendary culture, there was very little known about them. Which he considered rather suspicious. He shook his head and focused on his task. There was the slightest… He held up his hand.
His friends grew quiet at once.
"Trouble?" Ron asked.
"The dust here looks… different," Harry replied. He bent down. There was a line crossing the hallway where the dust was just a little elevated. Slightly off-colour, too. Pit trap. "Pig time," he said as he stood.
They retreated to the opening - or entrance - and Harry conjured a pig in the hallway, right behind the suspicious line. A moment later, the entire section of the floor there fell away, taking the pig with it. And then the animal's panicked squeals were abruptly cut off.
"Spike pit. A classic," Ron said, leaning back as the trap swung closed.
"They didn't add an enchantment to cover the trap with dust again," Hermione said, pointing at the now revealed trapdoor. "That might indicate that this wasn't meant to last after the Atlanteans left, but was meant to protect the area behind it in a manned outpost."
Harry nodded. He knew what that meant. "It's a vault." He grinned.
"Probably," Hermione amended. But Harry saw that she shared his optimism.
"A vault? Merlin's beard, that means even more traps," Ron said.
Harry nodded. The best things always had the most traps. "Now let's get past this one!"
He slowly approached it. They could easily jump past the trap - but the Atlanteans would have anticipated that. Cascading traps - get past the first and trigger the next - were not uncommon. Most also accounted for brooms and carpets. He looked up and smiled. Few, though, remembered to trap the ceiling.
Twenty minutes later, he was upside down, hanging from ropes stuck to hooks hammered into the ceiling - there were Anti-Sticking Charm spells on it - and staring at the floor behind the trap. As he had expected - there was another line a few yards back. And the walls had more spells on them, too - and less dust. Probably something to deal with brooms - if Atlanteans had had brooms.
Best not to chance it. "Time for pigs to fly," he said as he climbed back to his friends.
"The Atlanteans definitely knew about levitation charms," Hermione said a minute later.
"And they weren't playing around," Ron added.
Staring at the smear left on the ground and the stain on the ceiling - the floor hadn't fallen away, but had shot up, crushing the pig against the ceiling - Harry had to agree. He turned to Hermione. "Any chance you found the key to pass through the traps yet?"
She shook her head. "Without knowing the language or the exact spells used, it's pretty much impossible."
Harry nodded. He had expected that. "So now we'll have to test if climbing across the walls is safe." That would take a few more conjured animals.
"We'll have to skip that part when telling Ginny and Luna about this," Ron said, shaking his head. But he was already pulling out climbing gear.
This wasn't the first time they had to resort to muggle methods, after all. There was a reason why all of them wore muggle clothes for their work - well, other than Hermione following Auntie's example. Not that Harry was complaining about that - his girlfriend looked very attractive in a tank top and short-shorts.
It still took them longer than Harry liked to get past the trapped area since they had to hammer a lot of hooks into the stone - which was harder than granite - and the walls provided no hand- or footholds.
But they did reach the other end of the hallway, where stairs leading down awaited them.
Stairs that looked rather suspiciously clean, in Harry's opinion. He studied the ceiling. No spells, but… He narrowed his eyes, then used the enchantment on his glasses to zoom in. Yes. Another trapdoor - in the ceiling this time.
"Poison or rocks?" Ron asked, looking up as well. "What do you think?"
"The stairs are magically reinforced," Hermione told them. "Structurally - that wouldn't be needed if it were a liquid of some sort that would cover the stairs when the trap goes off."
"It's a spiral staircase," Harry said. "Giant boulder is my bet."
"That sounds overly complicated," Hermione remarked. "And not as effective as other methods."
"Probably backed up by magic," Harry said. "Let's stand back. I'll send another pig in."
"The ALF will come after us if they ever find out," Hermione muttered.
Harry sent the pig down the stairs. Half a minute later, a giant boulder did indeed fall from the ceiling and roll down the stairs. Once more, the pig's squeals were cut off by a squelching noise. Harry clenched his teeth. "Wait for it…" A moment later, he heard a crash - the boulder must have reached the bottom. And then fire filled the stairs, rushing up towards them. Cursing, he flung himself against Hermione, pushing her to the ground moments before the flames reached the top of the stairs. Most of the fire shot past them, scorching the ceiling, and their charms handled the rest. Mostly.
"Blimey! They're really not kidding around," Ron said as he put out a smouldering spot on his trousers.
"Almost got the ropes," Harry said, patting himself down.
"Almost got you," Hermione snapped as she pulled out her medkit. "Turn around!"
"I'm fine!" Harry retorted. He was, too - he was barely singed. Nothing more serious than a Floo travel mishap.
But, of course, Hermione wouldn't believe him until she had personally verified his state of health.
He sighed as her wand moved over his body. Just because he had been a little overly optimistic once or twice after a crash in a Quidditch match…
Ron Weasley shook his head, chuckling, as Hermione both treated Harry's minor burns and verbally tore him a new one. Harry probably would never learn not to downplay his injuries. Some girls were impressed by that; Hermione wasn't among them. Ari probably wasn't either.
He clenched his teeth. He hadn't seen her since the morning after Harry had talked to the snake. As far as break-ups went, this was far from the worst - she hadn't tried to kill him or curse him, after all - but he couldn't understand why she had run away. They had been good together.
Sighing, he studied the stairs while Harry got treated. The trapdoor in the ceiling had swung closed again - that could have been done by a counter-weight, but Ron would bet it was a spell. A quick detection spell confirmed it. Which meant that the boulder could easily be conjured. And that meant that the trap had probably already been reloaded, so to speak.
Ron shook his head. "Unless we want to climb down along the walls of the staircase, we'll have to disable the trap." He studied the ceiling. "Conjured pillars should do it, if we use enough of them. Probably a metal plate as well."
Hermione frowned as she finished treating Harry's wounds. "Unless they've got spells ready to deal with that. So far, the Atlanteans have been quite well prepared for magical workarounds."
"Conjured pigs worked well," Harry pointed out.
That made Hermione frown, of course - she hated being proven wrong. Ron spoke up before she could defend her thesis - they were in a tomb, or vault, not at school: "Let's just test it."
As it turned out, the Atlanteans hadn't prepared a counter to his idea. The pig they sent in reached the bottom of the stairs safely - or so it seemed. Ron still felt the urge to keep looking over his shoulder, wand ready to conjure enough stone to stop the boulder, as they descended the stairs.
But they reached the room at the bottom - a hallway - without trouble. And a massive door at the end of it. Ron would have cheered - if not for the fact that the pig they had sent ahead was nowhere to be seen. "Another trap."
"Another trap," Harry confirmed. "We've had trapdoors in the floor and trapdoors in the ceiling. Guess this time, it's the walls."
As yet another conjured pig proved a minute later, it wasn't the walls - it was magic. The pig had barely reached the middle of the hallway when it was hit by a green curse from the ceiling that killed it, followed by what looked like a Vanishing Charm. "Efficient," Ron commented to hide how much the sight had shaken him.
"Someone managed to use the Killing Curse in a trap?" Hermione voiced his thoughts. "But the emotional component needed to cast the curse can't be replicated like that…"
"The Atlanteans might not have been aware of that." Ron's quip earned him a glare from her.
"Let's focus on how we can bypass or disarm that trap," Harry said.
"If it's a Killing Curse, it can be blocked by a solid object - which will usually be destroyed by the curse, though," Ron said. "We'll have to disarm the trigger." He looked at Hermione. She was their expert for such things.
"It'll take some time to analyse it," Hermione said.
"And it's late already," Harry added. "We'd better rest so we can tackle the trap and the door tomorrow."
Hermione looked like she wanted to object, but nodded after a moment.
She had to be really tired, Ron thought.
Amazon Rainforest, August 5th, 2001
Ari hadn't returned. And, after five days, Ron Weasley doubted that she ever would. He sighed as he followed Harry and Hermione to the site. They hadn't spent the night apart but looked well-rested anyway.
He wasn't jealous - he simply missed Ari. And he had yet to understand why she had left - she wasn't a coward; he knew that well enough. So why had she run away?
He was still pondering this as they reached the vault door. Over the last two days, they had installed conjured catwalks to bypass the trapdoors in there, once they knew there were no special countermeasures waiting at the other end of the hallway. And, of course, they replaced the conjured pillars that blocked the boulder trap every day before taking the stairs - it was better to cast one more spell than you needed than one less, as Bill used to say.
He sighed, then told himself to focus on the job at hand - Hermione was almost done with the vault's protections. It had taken her close to two days - impressive, given her lack of familiarity with Atlantean magic.
He sighed again. Ron knew he was a good wizard - he had the N.E.W.T.s and the experience to prove it - but, sometimes, he felt a little superfluous. Hermione was the best Curse-Breaker among them, and Harry was the better wizard overall - and also knew more about muggle methods than Ron. Between the two of them, they made a perfect team. Like Petunia and Sirius, or Bill and Fleur.
They didn't need him. Of course, there had been moments - quite a lot, actually - where Ron had pulled his weight, and then some. He wasn't holding them back or weighing them down. But it would be nice to be the best at something.
He looked up. Hermione was standing, wiping some sweat from her face, and beaming as if Harry had proposed to her.
"It's still locked," Harry said.
Hermione snorted and flicked her wand. A moment later, the door started to slide into the wall, small specks of dust being shaken loose and falling to the floor as a circular opening was revealed.
And behind it, shelves loaded with…
"Scrolls! And tablets!" Hermione exclaimed. At least she managed to restrain herself from rushing into the vault until Harry had checked for traps and Ron had blocked the door from closing again.
"Ripclaw will be furious," Ron said as he followed them into the vault. "There's no treasure."
Hermione scoffed and glared at him as though Ron shared that view. "This is the greatest treasure of them all! Atlantean documents! Even the Library of Alexandria doesn't have as much written material from Atlantis as we've found here!"
Ron nodded. "I know." How could he not, with Hermione lecturing them for weeks about Atlantis? "But you know goblins - if it's not precious metal they don't care."
"Short-sighted," Harry said. "So this is a field library? Kind of small for that." The vault was about four by four yards. With a large pillar in its centre.
Hermione bit her lower lip. "I can't tell without further research. It could be an archive. These could be records. Or perhaps orders."
Ron narrowed his eyes. That pillar… It made no sense, structurally - he knew enough about construction thanks to having helped his parents with The Burrow. And it didn't look like it was part of the room either. He circled the pillar, then whistled. "Look at this! There's a crystal ball!"
"A crystal ball?" Hermione was frowning as she joined him, followed by Harry.
"Not the kind used for Divination, I think," Ron said. He had seen more crystal balls than he had ever wanted to during his short-lived relationship with Lavender at Hogwarts, and this didn't look like those.
"You're right," Hermione said. "There's a sort of mist inside. I wonder…"
Harry interrupted her. "Someone's coming. My Alarm Charm just went off."
Ron muttered a curse under his breath as he moved to the vault's entrance. "We need to get outside, or they can trap us here by vanishing the pillars."
"Yes," Harry agreed. "Hermione…"
But their friend was already summoning scrolls into her backpack. "Go ahead - I'll be right there."
Harry looked like he was about to argue, but Ron pulled him away. "Let's go!" In a lower voice, he added: "She won't be in the line of fire that way."
They sprinted up the stairs, wands out. If they reached the hallway above before the intruder, then they would be fine.
"If this is Lena Kraft…" Ron heard Harry mutter.
"Can't be her - she's usually bothering Petunia," Ron replied. Almost there...
His eyes widened. He knew that voice! "Ari?"
He reached the top of the stairs. There she was. "Ari!"
But she was staring at him, trembling. And panting. "Ron! You must flee!"
"What? Is there another Boiúna?" Harry asked. "We can deal with them."
Ari shook her head, almost violently. "No can deal! Must flee! My tribe coming!"
"What?" Ron asked.
She was crying. "My tribe guardians here. No one allowed. You no flee Boiúna, you enter, they know. Now they coming. To kill."
"How many are coming?" Harry asked.
Except her, Ron thought.