It's been a long two years since Voldemort was killed again, and Harry is still searching for a way to remove his spirit, plagued by bursts of memory that overtake him at their whim. His journey ha...
The map in his back-pocket showed traces of the same tainted magic as the destination was supposedly saturated within, and that alone proved to be the only reason he was still out here beneath the suns baking heat on the final ghost trail available any more.
Two years had passed him by since his final confrontation with Lord Voldemort in human guise, two years that were thus spent attempting to purge the immortal's remaining spirit from the earth.
Few enough spells existed that were capable of harming the human soul; of what little he had been able to research and track down it seemed that you could only harm it while still alive and housed in flesh and blood. A naked spirit was incapable of being burned, torn, pierced, or purged by any outside force that was not tied into such.
Thus his path to explore the one clue left unchecked from all of the research, and left until last because of how unlikely it was to even exist, little more than a black rumor in the abysmally minimal texts he had read through; the Book of Amun-Ra, lost to the Egyptian mystics over three thousand years before his own time.
If it's supposed prowess was as true as written than even Voldemort could not withstand the binding contracts inscribed within the pages.
The annotations mentioned that it had been unearthed in the earlier twentieth century by flat chance in acity of the dead, whose name was still bound by magic to remain unwritten and unspoken of.
Harry knew of many cities of the dead scattered throughout the very abundant Egyptian deserts, oh did he know this well.
He also knew that his scavenging had gathered the attention of several others, be them wizard or muggle alike, and despite his best efforts to avoid further notice their almost silent footfalls continued to creep along at a steady pace surrounding him.
He had no relief from their unnerving tracking skills even after donning his fathers cloak and levitating over the maddening sand; a fact he suspected was due to the same magical eye as Mad-eye Moody possessed to be among his followers, or at least the same charms and spells.
Regardless, he was running out of cities of the dead to investigate. Each time he finished with one the map was marked, and if further progress ground to a halt with the final known location... he was willing to take certain measures to ensure the time and effort was not wasted.
On the fourth night since he had entered this section of the Egyptian deserts, and after raiding the eighth city of the dead to no avail, Harry set up his usual precautionary wards and settled down for the night with his thoughts revolving around the map, the jumbled words of the retired treasure hunter Carnahan something or another, and the desperate plea not to venture there once the Imperius curse had been lifted from the muggle's mind.
That conversation hung in his mind even now quite clearly, be it from unconscious guilt or some other quality of his persona he could not place, and closing his eyes Harry allowed his memory to fully materialize once
"You do not know that which you seek! It.. it is a haunted place, the city of the dead, it.." the old and wrinkled man trailed off slowly, words tumbling out of his mouth as the curse urged him on, and yet something greater prevented him from saying all that he desired of the situation.
A prior binding would have made the most sense.
"There are those who wander the edges of that sacred place and will kill you a thousand different ways for daring to set foot there, to even wake the air slumbering for sixty years hence within the city!" The aged treasure hunter told him desperately.
Harry did not unduly care. He had been sought after by Death Eaters for all of his school years and even now, when the few remaining dared to seek retribution beneath Voldemort's waking spirit and avenge their mostly-deceased master.
Fear of death did not matter to him, it was an emotion beneath his notice at this point in his life. "I thank you for the warnings, Mr. Carnahan, but worse beasts and figures of far greater range have failed to slay me." That was not entirely true, if he felt like being honest, but his own darkest secret was tucked away beneath a treasure trove of dead-ends and memories.
"I will find the particular city of the dead you once laid eyes upon and collect the fabled Book of Amun Ra; I have all the time in eternity to seek it out. Now tell me what you remember of the surroundings, of the landmarks, and of the stars in the autumn night sky." He had demanded in a cool tone and subtle twitch of his holly and phoenix feather wand.
The truth- and more than just that, in fact, quite a bit more including the fact that a replication of the map to that place could be found in the Museum at Cairo, spilled from the other man's lips then and it was only the most dire of facts that he could not give at an unconscious level before the oaths sworn took effect.
He no doubt had no idea he had even sworn them; memory charm's had such a nifty ability in mending such things.
After ten minutes Carnahan gave him the whereabouts of the museum depository where the map of the dead rested, and at twelve since the conversation began Carnahan was once more sitting alone and nursing a headache with out ever realizing he had given so much to a dark haired youth.
When the map vanished a short while later, and unknown to Harry, Jonathon Carnahan was taken in and questioned by the local Unspeakables' until his mind had broken beneath so much strain and age, and they soon realized what had happened. Further unbeknownst to the young English wizard was that he had become their next rather hastily sought for target.
But if he had known? He would have stopped and invited them to try. The British Unspeakables' had done little enough to prevent Voldemort from seizing control of the Ministry four years ago at the height of his revival, and their secrets and wards failed to stop him as well when Harry invaded and murdered the half-blood bastard in the now infamous Atrium Duel.
It came as an unpleasant surprise, thus, to open his eyes again and fully emerge from the memory to find that he was surrounded by those who had haunted his footsteps day by day and night by night.
"I wondered when you would finally show the nerve to confront me," he began and reached for the aspect of magic deep inside of his chest that he often used when his wand was out of his reach.
He found nothing to grasp there. "Well. How pleasant." He said irritably and without undue concern; they would have probably murdered him already if they wanted that done.
One of them leaned forward and pressed a spear tip against his lips to silence him before rattling off something in a string of Arabic instead of the local dialect, something of which Harry took note of despite his precarious situation.
Another of them dug through his bags to little avail, and when they could not find whatever it was they sought the one with the spear slashed it out to the side in a sharp snap, leaving behind a thin triangular gap in the edge of his mouth and a further line down his cheek that leaked a dozen rivulets of blood.
"Ow, you stupid camelfucker!" Harry growled out of the other side of his lips as he drew one hand up and pressed the edge of his pillowcase against the wound to staunch the bleeding, one eye screwed up at the lance of pain mere touch sent surging through his torn flesh.
They let him do so and ignored the insult for the moment, and the one who had cut him spoke up again through a very rough English tone.
"How do you hold magic? Our efforts strip magic of you," he said strongly and looked toward one of the other men in the back of the tent for confirmation of something before adding, "we sense it and should not."
For a moment he considered wondering about that, but his temper flared and he gave another and more limited insulting retort.
"Piss off." Harry returned with as minimal lip movement as he could. That was not well received as the man with the spear stabbed it down and through his non-wand hand and successfully pinned him to the plateau of stone previously conjured that night.
Harry's eyes dilated and he clenched his teeth shut to swallow back the shout of pain and, beneath this, fury. The slightest vibration roared with agony so deep that he forgot about his mouth and gripped his injured hand about the wrist tightly, and his Occlumency training did little when he couldn't let go of his emotions long enough to concentrate.
"Tell us!" Urged the man as he gave the spear a slight twist against the stone beneath and further shredded muscle, grating against bone.
It took him a minute and another mind-numbing quarter-twist before he could isolate his thoughts enough to speak.
Harry looked past the one responsible for his misery and spoke through gritted teeth and in a very taut tone to the one sitting down on a pile of conjured rugs near the entrance of the tent, "Ancient magic, blood and soul magic, cast by others for and against me. I have no control over them, but I can promise you this; when I get this spear out of my hand, I'll be calling on one who can."
Spear-man twisted the blade back the way it had come and finally succeeded in drawing out a howl from the younger wizard, and then at a harsh command from his superior planted a foot over the wrist and hand around it for support before tearing the jagged metal tip free in a splatter of blood.
Two more short orders and a pair of lesser serfs rushed forward with strips of gauze and a bag of unpleasant smelling salves, one holding Harry down and shunting a block of wood between his snarling lips to bite down on as they staunched the blood loss and tended to his hand with soft and short chants.
They did so hastily and not with any gentleness or particular care, but when they had finished and completed whatever lesser spells that were required the rush of blood had ceased and he could move his fingers again without wanting to scream.
Once that was done they pulled the wood from his mouth and pressed a typically foul smelling salve into the bleeding line at the corner of his lips, and the burn of it as flesh was rapidly re-knitted together underneath their words left him feeling even more unhappy. Being drawn to his feet by them did not help his mood improve.
"Be that as it may, Harry Potter, your actions here have violated the sanctity of our accords within the ICW. The only reason you are still breathing is to your, if I may borrow the term of the deceased Mr. Carnahan, anal degree of caution and care as you tore through our cities." Spoke the eldest man in the back, he whom the others took their cues from.
Harry's first retort leaped to his tongue and he only just swallowed it back as he processed his name being spoken aloud. 'So these arseholes know more than they let on. Fine, lets get the rest of the unpleasantness dealt with!' he thought as he shrugged lose of the serfs' grip.
"Sounds great; Happen to know the name of the city I'm looking for? It would save us all a grand deal of trouble in the end!" Harry responded heatedly to the unexpected kink in his plans.
The elder man shook his head and gave a grim laugh, one which the others slowly gathered in for a long minute before they returned to solemn silence once more, and he answered.
"No, Harry Potter, I would not tell you that name even if I could. We have good reason to fear that which dwells there. I will tell you that we are returning to Cairo so that a trial may be held within our Ministries to determine if you will continue to live and, if so, to what degree of pain must be extracted in punishment for your thievery." He said.
During the short break as they had their laugh Harry had managed to clamp down on his temper and slink behind his mental shields at last, and he nodded once at their words.
"Yeah, alright. Mind if I say something in my defense here and now?" he questioned, and at the short if irritated nod said, "If you know my name than you know what I've had to struggle against these last years, and you know that Voldemort is still hanging around back in England." He paused to work out his words before continuing after a few moments.
"I can't figure out any other way to banish his spirit to whatever afterlife it deserves without that Book, and the longer I delay the more likely it is his followers will pull off the same black magic ritual to revive him as they did several years ago."
He took another breath and continued, "Prophecy dictates that one of us has to off it by the others hand, and as it stands if you do kill or maim me rather drastically than Voldemort will sweep across the world like a plague unchecked. Do you dare to take that risk?" he asked them flatly.
The grim expression on the leader's face did not change by a large margin as he responded to that, "Thank you for that piece of information. We will take it into account at the trial and consider how best to purge his earth-bound soul, if you perish in the process."
Harry nodded tiredly and resigned himself to a long and unpleasant trip. He was not disappointed.
They trekked far across the desert that night until the morning dawn began to appear on the edge of the horizon, a dusky gold and red hued line preparing to pierce the blue night with its brilliance.
Two of the men in front raised curled black wands and whispered out their intentions in more Arabic, and the sparse white clouds began to multiply and thicken until the whole sky was filled by them as far as the eye could make out, like a silent thunderstorm preparing to soak the land.
Harry contemplated their mysterious usage of magic and to what purpose it could serve, veiling them in further night for a time, but as the sun rose further over the next half an hour and its rays were reduced to a sickly gray twilight the answer began to come together.
'Whatever they did to me might crumble under direct sunlight, or at least morning sunlight. Not unlikely given certain wards. I'll find out if they let it clear or not over the next few hours.' He thought.
Fatigue was growing in his shoulders and beneath the ache in his soles as they walked unendingly through the thick desert sands, but he had suffered much the same in his tasks throughout the last of his school years. He let his body drift without allowing conscious thought to dictate the motions and forced his mind to focus.
'Used to be easier with Voldemort's magic to concentrate on,' he thought after a few minutes and still some degree of awareness of the swing of his arms, the stamp of each foot, and above all the grating feel of loose sand all throughout his boots and socks.
Eventually however he managed to succeed despite his fatigue, and he used that precious time to go over his situation and how best to evade it over the next few arduous hours.
When, at last, they descended along a mountainous pass the leader halted the lot of them and Harry's feet kept him walking for a few steps before he was drawn to a stop by one of the others, in turn alerting him to pay attention once more.
He found out why when they were all pushed together, one hand on the others shoulder, and with the distinct feeling of a hook latching into his naval both Harry and his unwelcome guides were Portkeyed to the next destination.
After arriving at the distant edges of a district he was dimly aware of as Coptic Cairo Harry was shuffled along through shadowed alleys, kept closely away from the morning rays and their radiant golden light. In the end they had to settle for wrapping him head to foot in the same heavyset black cloths as they were used to wearing, with a mask of cloth concealing even his eyes from the sun and wearing out gloves taken from one of the others.
He was further guided along until they reached the Babylon Fortress, and unseen or at the least undisturbed if anyone did notice, they sank inside the withered outer walls and emerged into a drastically altered inner realm.
He would have been impressed had he been able to see almost any of it properly.
Ten minutes thereafter and he was sinking into a stone seat at the heart of a small court room, his mask removed and the other borrowed clothing vanished in the process, with bright green torches illuminating everything.
The various men stood by the closed double doors of aged and blood scarred sandstone, while more still slipped inside from upper balconies to watch.
The eldest of those to capture him took a seat in the middle of the wall and began to explain for those gathered what had been done, what was intended to be done, and so on and so forth that would ultimately end in the foreign and younger wizards beheading in all probability.
Harry nodded whenever his name arose and silently smiled on the inside. Their mask of cloth had not been so thick as they had desired, and around the inner fingers the gloves that had accompanied it were too thin as well.
In short? With the clouds overhead shifting occasionally sunlight had reached his skin despite their best efforts, and like a leach drawn to fresh blood his flesh drank the weakened rays as greedily as it could.
He once more had a very minimal trickle of his old magic rekindling in his core, and that lone tendril was all he needed to nurture in order to escape from the situation that they were railroading him into given another minute or so to establish the connection.
He gained that minute by reiterating his earlier statements on his situation, in part to annoy the court and in part to make sure he was well and ready for the nonverbal spell, and at the end he added something he felt was very much needed, "As I told your spear-man at the time, I intended to call the one who could control the very magics your people couldn't do one whit about. I didn't lie."
And with a wide grin despite his fatigue, Harry vanished in a blinding flash of white and red flames coiling about his upper body. When they were able to see through the image scoured into their retinas the men along the upper balcony and their lesser contemporaries waited to hear the orders of the eldest man.
"Activate the measures. For the first time in over a thousand years, we will condemn a man to living mummification, but not that of the fallen priest. We have learned that lesson well from our ancestors!" he ordered in a nearly emotionless tone as they began to lock down the entrances and exits to their Ministry.
Harry reappeared elsewhere in the Egyptian Ministry of Magic, and now away from his captors he was able to reach into the mokeskin pouch bound to his neck and retrieve the Pepperup Potion in its unbreakable vial. He downed the burning fluid quickly and stood up straighter as his face flushed and steam leaked out of his ears.
The phoenix trilled cautiously as the walls began to thrum, distracting him from the burn marks along his robes and the slight oozing of blood from the front and back of his shoulders where Fawkes' talon's had gripped him tightly.
He shot the majestic creature a grateful smile and welcoming thoughts, which were returned in kind before the phoenix soared ahead some way and toward the sunlight streaming through a window up ahead.
Harry watched as the last of Dumbledore's gifts to him began to scout out the area until the red and gold plumage was no longer in sight, and it was about that point that he stepped through into another hall.
As he passed into it the navy black anubis statue within drew itself off of the pedestal of matching stone it had rested upon with a creak of unseen muscles jarring against one another for the first time in a long while, and then it drew the stone scimitar hanging from the left hip and attempted to behead him with a wide-mawed snarl.
Harry ducked and rolled to avoid decapitation and shoved his fingers back into the opening of the pouch, coming up with a slight curse as the object of his desire slipped out of reach.
'I'd very nearly forgotten what it felt like to have my life at stake,' he thought as his heart hammered against his pulse in full awareness of the danger, 'perhaps bearing an eternal link to Voldemort's magic so long as he wanders the living realms is more a curse than the gift I used to utilize it as...'
He was dragged from his thoughts as the scimitar whistled over his head, the anubis statue's slash missing only by what felt to be a millimeter, and at the moment he felt his fingertips come into contact with the hilt a three clawed foot kicked him with its far greater reach.
Harry soared through twenty feet of open air and only stopped moving when he hit the solid slab of gold at the end of the hall with a disheartening crunch. The pain of his shoulder coming free of the associated socket blinded him for a long second, and he rolled along the floor onto his back to try and shove it back into position to no avail
The living granite and ceramic mixture stalked across the distance in a span of roughly ten seconds, each click of the claws enunciated clearly through the air. With a harsher exclamation Harry dragged his feet up under him and slammed the loose joint back into position against the same slab that had dislodged it, and spittle flew from his lips as his head arched back in a silent scream while flickers of red bled over his vision and the tangy taste of metal crept over his tongue.
Nearly ill from the combination of pains and loss of magic he had suffered over the last night, his fingers finally drew that which he sought from the pouch as if in slow motion, and the silver gleam reflected the dim light in the hall as the air began to whistle in warning of the scimitars path.
A solid thunk rang out as the flat of Gryffindor's ruby-incrusted Sword caught the enchanted stone and halted the weightier weapons flight, even as Harry himself was pressed flat against the object at his back and the muscles in his chest were bruised by the motion.
For a moment the statue paused, and then it readjusted its aim and swung again. Harry grunted and twisted the still-half-drawn sword in his grip, pressing the edge toward his opponents weapon and then grimacing in satisfaction as the basilisk-venom in addition to the goblin-wrought steel cut through the stone sword as if it were nothing.
He made sure to clench his muscles and support the wrist with his other arm to avoid having the deadly edge slammed back into his chest as the flat of it had been just moments prior.
Once more the jackal-faced enemy paused to reconsider its choice of actions, and Harry finished drawing his weapon with a flourish that ended with the statues upper half of the torso to the tips of the ears being split down the middle cleanly.
Both halves leaned away from one another as the upper body leaned back precariously, the runic spells inscribed along the figure crumbling as it sank to the ground in a lifeless heap. Fawkes brilliant plumage roared back into the area as he pushed off to look at the golden inscribed Ancient Egyptian at his back.
Something akin to disbelief flickered into his emotions as he stared at the old runes. 'This is too easy...' he thought uneasily as his eyes digested the names of each city of the dead he had visited so far. One would lead into the other, and the respective constellations of the night sky were noted beside or beneath it if there was little enough room.
He found that which he sought at the very bottom of the slab; its name had been scoured free not very long ago, in terms of decades, and those of the guiding measures toward it were equally ill-removed. "I think our journey just became a lot shorter, Fawkes." He said tiredly as he brought up Gryffindor's Sword and cut into the gold with some effort.
Several minutes later and the lost name to the city of the dead sat within his mokeskin pouch. "If it's under a Fidelous charm as is probable given the hell its been to locate, I have the original directions right here. I think it's time we returned to our search, my friend."
End Chapter One.