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A/N: I just want to give a really big thanks to WeasleyTwinMom (momotwins) for helping me out with the archaeology stuff, for the numerous plot bunnies and for listening to my rambling. I couldn’t have done it without her help. This thanks extends beyond this chapter, right until the end of the story.

THANK YOU!!





two

one week earlier



A gentle breeze planted feather-light kisses on Rose’s skin, teasing goose-bumps into life despite the heat of the day. She sighed, sitting back and wiping the sweat from her eyes and stretching the tightness from her back. Her hair hung damp around her neck and she bundled it up, securing it with a band. She had gotten off lightly when it came to hair. Hers was thick and relatively straight, slightly bushy on humid days, and instead of the typical red, was a deep brown.

It had made life easier at times, being unrecognisable as a Weasley.

“Rose!” A voice called and she glanced over her shoulders to see Frank picking his way across the dig site, dodging shovels, ranging poles and dust pans. He stumbled, almost landing in a test pit and Rose winced as he stepped on the end of a hand pick and put his foot in a bucket.

“Get out of here, you idiot,” she shouted, leaping up and waving her trowel at him. “If you step on anything important, Longbottom, I will curse you, you understand?”

“Yeah, sorry,” the dark-haired man grinned, and Rose rolled her eyes as he very delicately tip-toed his way outside the perimeter of the dig. “Louis sent me to find you.”

“What for?”

“Lunch; you need to eat, Rose,” Frank chided and she sighed, knowing he was right. Her eyes moved past Frank into the dense jungle beyond, a pocket of dark green and mystery. The sun was hot on her face and she shielded her eyes, wondering if it would rain today. Luis said the rains should not come for another month; it was the end of October and each day was more humid than the next, with clouds bubbling up and then fading away to nothing. When the wet began, they could be drenched at any time of the day. Rose was not looking forward to that – she didn’t mind the occasional light shower, but torrential tropical storms were not high on her list of things to enjoy.

She nibbled her lip, glancing over her shoulder. Her work would have to wait – if she didn’t follow Frank now, Louis would just come and drag her away with force. Her older cousin was constantly hovering, like a bushy-haired, bushy-bearded mother hen; he was acting, Rose knew, on her parents’ behalf. They hadn’t wanted her to spend the summer in the jungle – finishing her apprenticeship with Uncle Bill was much more lucrative, much safer, they said, and they were right about the lucrative part. There was a job waiting for her at Gringotts when she was ready to take it, but it meant completing her training first.

Her parents concern about her safety hung over Rose like a net – they were always worrying; they hadn’t stopped since the first time she had fallen and skinned her knees as a child. The accident several years ago hadn’t helped. Her body tingled in remembrance and she resisted the urge to rub at her skin, to reassure herself that everything was alright.

Frank told her to hurry up and Rose glanced across the site, noticing Louis standing beneath the shade of the canvas tent where they ate all their meals. His arms were folded across his chest and despite the distance Rose could see the look on his face. Louis reminded her of her father at times – their faces would crease into similar expressions, their bodies into the same stance. Must be a Weasley thing, she thought, moving quickly towards the tent and lunch, thinking how much her cousin resembled her Uncle Bill recently, especially with his hair everywhere and his face half-hidden by his beard.

Luis Fernandez, the South American Ministry’s local representative, was sitting inside the tent, as he usually was. He liked to supervise from a distance, he said, until they unearthed something mildly interesting. Rose liked Luis – he was level-headed and witty, softly spoken and charming. Unlike her cousin: that Louis was annoying, aloof, arrogant and, Rose smirked to herself, an arse. She delighted in sharing her opinion of him at every occasion.

“Found anything useful yet?” said cousin asked her as she ducked under the shade of the tent. Juan and Pedro, the two Peruvian wizards Luis had brought with him, were talking between themselves over their meal but they gave Rose a smile and a nod. She liked them – they were good workers and their magical skill plus their knowledge of the area and the local flora had been invaluable, and she in turn had earned their respect with hard work.

“You know, you could help, instead of sitting around keeping cool all day,” she remarked, giving her cousin a glare.

“You need the experience, Rose; this is completely for your benefit.”

She scowled at his tone, turning to Luis instead. “As it happens, I think we have found something. Would you take a look?”

“After lunch, Rosa,” he answered, his smooth accent washing over her. Luis was almost sixty years old; his hair was still dark and his face relatively unlined, and she’d been surprised to discover the slightly built wizard was older than her father. Rose respected Luis and his knowledge deeply – he had been an invaluable asset to her in the few scant weeks they had been in the jungle.

She took a seat next to her mentor and obediently reached for the food he pushed before her, swallowing a glass of water before shoving a sandwich into her mouth. Louis shuddered.

“You could at least pretend you were in more esteemed company, Rose,” he shook his head. “How anyone finds anything attractive about you I do not know.”

“You’re not supposed to find me attractive, Louis,” she replied, brushing off his insult. “That would just be weird, and illegal.”

Frank laughed, reaching across Rose for a sandwich. His hand brushed her neck and she jumped, a shiver passing through her at his touch. He took a seat beside her, polishing off his food and leaning back in his chair casually. Everything about Frank was casual, and he was usually slouched in a chair somewhere, smoking and reading, or scribbling in his notepad. He slept a lot, something Louis complained about, but Rose knew he had to sleep. Frank was hyper-manic at the best of times – he needed to “recharge his batteries,” as he put it.

After lunch, Rose led the way back across the site, Luis close behind. Juan and Pedro followed their countryman, with Louis bringing up the rear. Frank bounced along beside Rose, like an over-excited puppy, his camera dangling from his neck, and she couldn’t help but smile at his energy. Rose had been working on a section of what they believed was the outer wall of a building. The stone had all but worn away, crumbling in parts as the jungle reclaimed its territory. The wall poked through the jungle in sections, like jagged, decayed teeth. She had spent the last day and a half deftly removing tree roots and plant matter and scraping away layers of dirt, eventually clearing enough vegetation and rock to reveal the faint outline of what she hoped was something important.

Excited now, she dropped to her knees, reaching out to smooth away a stray leaf. “Here,” she said, glancing up at Luis. The small man frowned thoughtfully, positioning himself beside her. In the stone before them was a distinct right-angle; what Rose hoped was the edge of a door or entrance to a passageway.

“I believe you might have something here, Rosa,” Luis said quietly, and Rose beamed at him.

“What is it?” Louis asked, excited despite himself. Rose often wondered why he did this job – he always seemed to want to be somewhere else, doing something else: sunbaking on a tropical island perhaps. Juan answered in soft Spanish, and Luis smiled.

“Juan says this is a doorway. The pillow-face architecture of the remains of the wall tells us this must have been a temple. This is adobe brick,” Luis said, running his finger along the exposed material. “There will be no actual door; this earth will have to be cleared before we can see what lies beyond.”

Without direction, Juan and Pedro set to work, using both wand and tool to gently move the block of earth away from the temple. Rose sat back and watched them eagerly, taking note of everything they did as slowly, nature released her hold on the ruin. The process took well over three hours and afterwards, they leant forward, keen to see what lay beneath, Rose peering around their strong shoulders.

They were confronted with a darkened space, a tunnel disappearing into the earth. Wide enough for two people to walk side by side, and taller than Louis, the blackness seemed to go on forever. There were stone steps hewn into the ground and Luis suspected that past the entrance would be stone walls. Rose frowned, conjuring a ball of blue light and sending it floating away. She could see the intricate jigsaw of brick that was common in Incan architecture and beyond that, was more blackness.

“I want to go in,” she announced, glancing over her shoulder, her eyes finding her cousin. “Louis?”

He nodded, withdrawing his wand. “I’ll come.”

Juan and Pedro wished to accompany them, and Rose let them lead the way. This was, after all, their history, not hers, and this moment meant more to them than she could ever understand. They went single file, the darkness closing in around them. The air was cool and crisp and Rose’s witch-light hovered above them, casting blue-tinged shadows on the walls. The tunnel was short, and they came to a halt, glancing at each other in the dark.

“It went here,” Juan said softly, reaching out to touch a section of crumbled wall to his left. “And there,” he added, pointing to the wall opposite. “It split in two, see?”

Rose nodded. “Can we go any further?”

Juan shook his head. “No. It is collapsed here, but over there,” he moved past Louis to touch the other wall. “This is a door. See the outline?”

Rose moved closer, squinting in the meagre light. There, in the stone, was the distinct outline of a narrow door. She ran her hand over the brickwork, feeling the pattern and texture of the material. “Will it open?”

“Perhaps,” Pedro said in his deep voice. “But we do not know what will be behind there, or what this place was used for. Better to wait. I will get Luis.”

He disappeared back down the tunnel and minutes later, Luis’ smooth face appeared, his expression thoughtful as he ran his fingers around the entire edge of the door. “We should test for curses. If this is indeed a remnant of Paititi, it will have been protected.”

Louis nodded. “Rose?”

Everyone moved back as Rose contemplated which spell would be best suited to this task. She wished Uncle Bill was with her and she chewed her lip, thinking hard and choosing a Revealing Spell. Using her wand, she drew an arc in the dirt at her feet, waiting for the spell to settle. When the light faded, leaving a bright green mark that indicated the ground and the stone around it was free of magic, she pushed gently on the stone door.

Nothing happened. Rose growled and pushed again, but it would not budge.

“Permanent sticking charm?” Louis suggested and she sighed, stepping back and wiping at her face.

“Perhaps, but I doubt it. I’d say it’s just jammed. Let me go and get some heavier tools.”

Luis touched her arm. “Do not rush this job, Rosa. You must be delicate, you know this. If these artefacts are indeed behind this door, we will have to be patient. We do not want to damage anything.”

Rose sighed, knowing he was right.

It took three days to get the door to move; three days of hard work, of sweat and frustration. Once the stone door had been carefully prised away from the wall that embraced it, another dark, black space welcomed them. After checking for curses, Rose stepped eagerly into the blackness, her ball of light bouncing above her head. She looked around, turning a full 360 degrees, her eyes taking in what no living person had seen in almost six hundred years.

On the far side of the circular cavern was a series of niches in the wall, about a foot high and half a foot wide. Rose counted eight, and even in the darkness she could see the glimmer of gold. No one spoke as she moved forward and performed the Dark Magic detection spell. Green light washed over the wall and its treasure and Rose groaned as it turned quickly to red, and then faded into the stone.

“Rose?” Louis asked.

“Cursed,” she sighed.

Her cousin moved past her and Rose rolled her eyes as he performed the exact spell she had uttered less than two minutes ago. He glanced at her over his shoulder, his expression annoyed. She felt an ‘I told you so’ dance to the tip of her tongue but swallowed it away. Louis in a foul mood was not pleasant and after days of waiting and hard work, she was not in the frame of mind to nurse his wounded ego.

“Can you break it?” she asked quietly, her voice dull in the small, dark space.

“No.” He sat back beside her, and they endured a silent moment, both staring mutinously at the cavities in the wall. Louis sighed, his fingers rising to stroke his ginger chin. “Can you?”

“No.”

“I better get us some help.”

Rose nodded, her sigh joining the echo of his.



present day



Dawn was always a misty affair in the jungle, and Rose lay content in her bed, not willing to face the day just yet. There was nothing more they could do underground, not until the Dark Magic expert, whomever that was, arrived. Whatever magic surrounded the cavern was more than Rose could handle, as loathe as she was to admit it.

Beside her, Frank groaned, rolling over as the early morning light touched his face. “Whadtimeisi’?”

“Six,” Rose answered, slipping out of bed before his arm could close around her middle. She reached for her clothes, hearing him sigh.

“Such a cruel mistress, Rose Weasley.”

She felt his eyes as she dressed and made herself give him a small smile. “Get up, Frank. You’ll miss breakfast.”

“I don’t know how you expect me to eat with such a broken heart.”

“Have you always been this dramatic?”

“Only since I met you,” he replied, sitting up. She tossed him his clothing, smirking when his trousers wrapped themselves around his face.

“An improvement, I think.” She slipped her boots on and left the tent before he could speak again, tying her hair as she went and ignoring the tiny twinge of guilt that rested in her stomach. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Frank – they had so much history together it would be ridiculous of her not to – it was more that she didn’t want what he wanted. It wasn’t a commitment issue, she had explained that to him more than once; she needed time to be herself, to be by herself and work out what it was she really needed.

She knew that sleeping with him whenever it suited her was probably not a profitable idea, and probably not the best for Frank, but he could always say no. Which he never did.

Louis was at breakfast already, as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as per usual, another thing that annoyed Rose. It didn’t matter how little sleep her cousin got, he was always alert and ready to notice everything.

“Frank awake?”

“How would I know?”

“I hope you didn’t wear him out, Rose,” Louis said simply, turning the page in his newspaper. “I need him today.”

“Since when can you read Spanish?” Rose snapped, indicating the paper. Louis merely rolled his eyes, ignoring her. “What do you need him for anyway?”

“I need him to go down river and collect our expert,” Louis answered, sipping at his coffee. “And the Scamander’s are arriving today as well; early, I know, but that dragon across the river is getting a little too restless, and Lysander volunteered to come along.”

“Lysander? I didn’t know he worked with dragons as well.” Rose poured herself coffee, passing over the toast and fruit. She would eat later.

“He doesn’t; he just wants to come along, and you know we can always do with an extra pair of hands,” Louis added. “Plus, he studying to be a cartographer, or so he says, but you know Lysander. Next week he’ll be an actor, or a playwright or something as uselessly creative.”

Rose nodded, smiling. She was vague friends with the Scamander twins; it was difficult to be anything but vague friends with people so obscure. Identical down to their eyelashes, the twins floated through life seeming to need nothing but each other. They existed in that strange little world twins seemed to, and the way they finished each others sentences had always unnerved Rose. Still, they were nice enough people and she found herself looking forward to seeing them again, although she was still in a state of disbelief over Lorcan’s career choice. Dragon handling was not something she ever expected him to do – trailing around the world in search of some mythical creature was more his style.

“So who did you get anyway?” she asked, remembering the Dark Magic expert.

“Malfoy.”

Rose spluttered into her drink, inhaling scalding coffee. Louis merely watched while she choked, and once recovered, she gave him her nastiest glare. “You have got to be kidding me? Him? Mr. OCD? Did you know he used to wash his hands about one hundred times a day?”

Louis raised his eyebrows. “According to my father, he’s the best man for the job, Rose.”

She coughed, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. “He’s going to get his pretty-boy fingers all over my site. He’s a scholar, not a field worker.”

Your site?”

“Whatever. Ugh. I was just beginning to really enjoy myself,” she growled, snatching up a piece of fruit and cramming it into her mouth. “Thanks a lot.”

Louis laughed. “Just try and get along, okay?”

Rose sighed, pushing hair from her eyes. “Fine, but maybe we’ll be lucky and he’ll get dengue fever and die.”

“You don’t want that,” Louis smiled. “Wouldn’t you rather see him squirming about bugs and dirt, not to mention our little friend on the other side of the river?”

She grinned. “Now that you mention it, this could be a barrel of laughs.”

“I didn’t think he’d come, you know, being Malfoy,” Louis responded, sitting back and stretching his arms over his head until Rose heard a joint pop. “I’ll get Frank to bring back a batch of supplies. Do you need anything?”

“Chocolate, vodka, lemon meringue pie,” she said automatically. “And I wouldn’t say no to some hot chips.”

Her cousin sighed, standing up. “And why should you get treated like a princess? I need to go and see Luis. I might write to my father, see if he can give us any information that might help, just in case Malfoy isn’t up to the task.”

Rose nodded, watching him go. A trickle of sweat worked its way down her neck and she wiped it away absently. The air was thick, the humidity dense but she liked it. It was such a change from England, this tropical paradise and she glanced around, her eyes taking in the colour and shapes of the landscape. Through the jungle, the Rio Madre de Dios sliced across the land. The river was the lifeblood of the region and when they had first arrived, Rose had trekked through the lush green wilderness to see it.

To the west, behind them, was the province of Cuzco, the heart of the once-great Incan civilisation. It was this that led Louis, Rose and their small team into the belly of the jungle. Word had leaked through various channels that the ruins of the lost city of Paititi had been discovered in the Pantiacolla Jungles and rumour had it that there was Incan gold to be found. There was also some suspicion that the treasures had been cursed by ancient sorcery as the conquering Spanish closed in on the last of the Empires defences.

Rose had been itching for a job and itching to get out of London when Louis had contacted her, saying he was going to Peru. He had been in touch with friends in the South American Ministry and had approval to help on the dig. On their arrival, Rose had been expecting to join with the local team, and they had met Luis. He had arranged it so they would have their own site a few hundred metres down river, where the ruins of a temple were believed to be hidden.

Luis, it turned out, had his own agenda. The leader of the local team was a beautiful woman with a fierce tongue whom Luis had once had a passionate affair with. Even years later, he told Rose, he and Selma could not be in the same space together such was their love, and now that she was married, he could bear to think of her. It was better, he said, to stay away and not be tempted.

Rose smiled, remembering that conversation. She knew that, when she finally found the right man, it would be just like – filled with passion and conviction and be so powerful that it would sweep her away.

No one knew she felt like that, of course. When she had confided in Lily once, as girls often do, about the sort of man she wanted to marry, her cousin had laughed and called her a goose.

Luis had told her that Paititi, the ‘home of the jaguar father,’ had been one of the first all-wizard settlements in the Empire, and Rose knew that unearthing such a place would be extremely important, not just for South America, but for the wizarding world. The ancient settlements in Greece and Egypt had been uncovered long ago, and the knowledge gained from such places was significant.

On meeting Luis, he had also told them ancient stories: men who could change their shape and who would roam the jungle as great cats; men who could talk to the stars; and women with the gift of prophecy. He spoke of the coming of the Europeans with the knowledge of one who had been witnessed such events, and said his mother had been a powerful Seer, able to visualise both past and future. The gift had not been passed to her son, but her knowledge of such things had.

Due to the importance of Paititi’s possible discovery and the probability of gold, the British Ministry had wanted a member of the press to go with them, and Rose had begged Louis to take Frank. If she was going to be stuck in the jungle with a nosey reporter, it may as well be someone she knew and could control. Her cousin had agreed, and Frank had been packed in thirty minutes.

Within their first week in the jungle, they had discovered the dragon. A nesting female, Luis told them simply, not seemingly bothered by the great roars that split the fabric of the night in half. Frank had wanted pictures; Rose had gotten him so drunk he couldn’t stand she was so concerned he would race off into the darkness. Frank was the most enthusiastically accident-prone person she knew and if he went in search of a territorial breeding dragon, he would most likely be eaten.

She sighed, reaching for some fruit before nestling into the comfy camp chair to wait.




17.2.11: edited cause i messed up my Latin :P

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