The sun was glaringly hot, scorching his skin and Scorpius tried in vain to shelter beneath his hands. The river stretched before him, glistening in the bright light, and he could hear the jungle at his back: all those insects and bugs and creepy crawlies. He shuddered, sighing, and wiped at the sweat on his brow; he could have taken refuge in the shade, but he didn’t like the thick cloud that clung to the edge of the jungle.
He blinked, realising that he’d been driven away from the cool of the trees and into the evil of the sun by a swarm of bugs. He frowned, chewing his lip. He was Man; he should be brave, powerful and not scared of a few soft-bodied winged creatures.
His new shirt was sticking to his skin and he had blisters from his boots, even though he’d only had to walk a short distance. A man with hardly enough understandable English for an incomplete sentence had collected him from the airport in Cuzco, and had brought him through the darkened wilderness and dumped him at dawn on a rotting wooden pier in the middle of nowhere, telling him to wait, someone would be coming for him.
“Fantastic,” Scorpius muttered. Something with multiple legs and antennae landed on his arm and he slapped it away frantically. He had had his travel potions, but he was still terrified of insect-borne disease. His parents thought him madder than usual for accepting the job, and he had tried to argue, saying it would be good for him, it would be character building and he would hopefully acquire new skills and knowledge. Now, as the sun slapped against his pale skin and the insistent whine of a mosquito tormented his ear, he wondered if his parents were correct.
He was certifiably insane.
“Lovely view, don’t you think?”
“Beautiful. Hold still; I’ll take a picture.”
“Oh, look at that! Is that a Bearded Butterfly? They are extremely rare.”
“Hold still I said!”
Scorpius closed his eyes. He hadn’t heard them approach, and he didn’t have to turn around to know who it was that shared his dilapidated pier. He hoped they wouldn’t see him; he hoped they’d have forgotten who he was, that they were so preoccupied with themselves that they would leave him alone, at least until someone came to collect them.
It was not to be, however, and he cringed as his name cut through the odd stillness surrounding them.
“Oh look, it’s Scorpius Malfoy.”
“Oh how exciting – I forgot he was coming.”
He felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck and he slowly turned, leaving the beauty of the Rio Madre De Dios and the glare of the sun. Two men stood in the broad shade of a nearby rubber tree, their trunks set by their feet. He had not seen them for years; they had been at Hogwarts when he was still a student, and it had been unnerving to see them standing side by side then, and it was even more so now.
They hadn’t changed a bit – they still looked fourteen. His name was repeated and he nodded, swallowing the heat that poured itself over his skin. “Lorcan. Lysander.”
“Still can’t tell which is which, can he?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“I thought he was smart, you know. I’ve heard so many things about him.”
“Well, wisdom and knowledge are two different things, as dad says.”
Scorpius cleared his throat, and two pairs of preternaturally pale eyes looked at him. Identical smiles spread across their faces and one stepped forward, hand extended.
Scorpius placed his palm in the so-called-Lorcan’s hand. “Right.”
Lysander offered his hand as well and Scorpius realised that they were telling the truth about their identities. Where Lysander’s palm was smooth, Lorcan’s was calloused and hard, proof of his oddly-chosen career, and on closer inspection, there was a small scar running the length of his cheek.
Scorpius cleared his throat again, peering down the wide space of the majestic river. “Who is coming to get us?”
“Perhaps they will send us a beautiful woman as an escort; a local girl to welcome us to the area,” Lysander said dreamily. “Like that girl we saw in that shop in Cuzco.”
Lorcan nodded in understanding. “She was something, like a goddess become flesh.”
“Ahem,” Scorpius said roughly, uncomfortable with their conversation. The last thing he wanted was to find out something completely creepy, like how the twins had once shared a girlfriend or something.
“Something in your throat, Scorpius? I have some water if you need it.”
“No, no, what he needs is a drop of Clarus Elixir.”
“What on earth is that?” Scorpius asked in disbelief.
Lorcan shrugged. “It’s a remedy for clearing the throat of foreign material.”
“It’s still purely experimental. You should try some though,” Lysander offered, fumbling around in his backpack. “I’ve got a bit right here.”
Scorpius backed away a step, until he was balancing precariously on the edge of the pier. There was a moment where he considered throwing himself in and making a swim for it. Even a dip with piranhas and whatever else lurked in the water would be preferable to another millisecond with the Scamanders.
The sound of an outboard motor cut through the damp silence of the morning and Scorpius noticed a small boat making its way down stream towards them. He relaxed, breathing a sigh of relief at the sign of his rescuer, deciding that if it wasn’t his rescuer it was at least someone and there was no way the twins could force experimental potions down his throat with witnesses present.
The man in the boat waved and Scorpius waved back enthusiastically, leaning forward without thought. The river rushed up to kiss his skin and he hit the water hard, knocking the breath from his lungs. The pier was higher than it looked and he floundered around in the water, an unmistakeable sense of panic rising up and threatening to engulf him. He had lost his glasses and the added blindness only increased his fear.
Scorpius gasped as his body tingled and he was slowly Levitated out of the water and plonked unceremoniously on the wooden pier. He blinked, glancing up as Lorcan tucked his wand away.
“If you wanted a swim, Malfoy, you probably should have waited until we reached camp. I’m not sure this section of the river is safe for swimming.”
Scorpius glared as best he could with his failing eyesight. “I did not want a swim, I...oh never mind. Accio glasses!” His glasses leapt from the river and into his hands and he crammed them on his face, climbing to his feet and snatching up his belongings. “Can we go, please?”
They passed their belongings into the boat, and Scorpius followed Lysander down nervously, taking extra care of where he put his feet. He did not want to end up in the river again; he could feel water in his ear and made a mental note to do something about that once they reached camp.
Scorpius took a seat in the middle of the boat, as far away from the edge as he could, and soon, the little craft was zooming away back up the river, whipping his hair into his eyes. He closed his mouth, not wanting to swallow anything with six legs, and sat back to wait. The trip took a little over twenty minutes; the Scamander’s talked amongst themselves, commenting on this and that, and tried to engage him in conversation but he was too busy fighting off waves of nausea. He had no idea he got sea-sick.
The boat slowed and pulled smoothly into a rough little beach, jolting gently as the hull scraped sand. Waiting on the shore were two men; they waved and Scorpius lifted a hand in return, grateful that the water journey had come to an end. He wished the heat would end though and wondered how long it was until night fell and it cooled down.
“There’s your beautiful women,” Lorcan whispered and Lysander sighed.
“Buenos días señores,” one of the men called. “I am Juan.” He was short and stocky, with dark skin and dark eyes and a friendly smile. The other was taller, and watched the newcomers with critical eyes. As he climbed awkwardly from the boat, Scorpius was surprised to hear Lysander answer the man in confident Spanish. He’d spent a little time studying the language in preparation for the trip, and was eager to try out his new found skill. Finding his feet on land once again, Scorpius smoothed his hands over the front of his shirt and adjusted his glasses.
“Es fantástico estar aquí,” he said, stumbling a little over the words. The two local men grinned, and then another voice joined them.
“I wonder if you’ll be saying that in a week, Malfoy.”
Scorpius looked up, watching Frank Longbottom unfold himself from the shade of the jungle. His hair was everywhere, his clothes were rumpled, his face unshaven and a cigarette dangled from his lips. There was an in-ground sweat stain around his collar and Scorpius could see a hole in his shirt. If a few weeks in the jungle did that to a man’s appearance, Scorpius was beginning to doubt his own statement.
Frank smiled, striding forward and extending a damp hand. “Good to see you, boys. Malfoy, managing okay?”
Scorpius scowled, wiping his hand on his trousers. “Why does everyone seem to think I’m not ‘managing’, or won’t manage?”
“No need to get huffy,” Frank laughed. “Just having a lend, yeah.”
“Yeah, well, have a lend of one of them, will you? They’ve given me a headache,” Scorpius muttered, indicating Lorcan and Lysander, who were retrieving their copious belongings from the boat. “What are they doing here anyway?”
“Louis didn’t say? No I guess he didn’t. Lysander is here for the ride, and Lorcan is our dragon man.”
“D-d-dragon? As in...”
Frank cocked an eyebrow. “As in fiery breath, deafening roars, sharp talons and scaly skin? Yep, dragon.”
“Oh god,” Scorpius breathed.
“Peruvian Vipertooth just over there somewhere,” Frank said calmly, lifting a long arm and pointing across the river. “We don’t bother it, it doesn’t bother us.”
“She,” Lorcan corrected, hearing the end of their conversation. “She, Frank. Treat her with respect, poor girl. She’s probably just lonely. Not a lot of dragons left in these parts.”
“Aww you going to find the ‘poor girl’ a boyfriend, Lorcan?” Frank grinned.
Lorcan nodded seriously. “If I can. It will make her happier.”
“And how does one find a lonely dragon a partner?” Scorpius asked faintly.
Lorcan fingered his smooth chin. “I’ll have to observe her first; she might be doing something wrong in trying to attract a mate, especially if she is a young dragon.”
“Going to sit her down and have a nice chat about the birds and the bees?” Frank laughed, hauling a bag onto his shoulder. One of the men laughed and said something in Spanish, making Frank’s grin broaden. “Yeah, Juan, I reckon you might be right. You’d have more luck teaching our wild Rose to chew with her mouth closed.”
Scorpius grimaced. In all the Scamander-induced excitement he had forgotten about Rose Weasley.
“Come on then,” Frank said, picking up another bag and heading towards the jungle. Scorpius stared at the rows of trees, lined up like soldiers, and shivered.
“We’re walking? Through there?”
“Can’t have you lot Apparating blind,” Frank answered. “You don’t want to be splinched do you, Malfoy? Didn’t think so, so yes, we are walking and the sooner we get moving the sooner we will be there.”
Frank sighed, turning to the two local men. They had a hurried conversation in mumbled voices. “Anyone got a magic bag?”
“Oh, I think I do,” Lysander answered, and they waited while he crouched on the beach and rummaged through his trunks, eventually holding out a small ratty lump of blue cloth.
“Put everything in here,” Frank instructed. They loaded up the tiny bag, Scorpius biting his lip as his trunk disappeared inside. Once everyone’s belonging were encased in the bag, Frank picked it up and crammed it into his pocket. “Right, Juan and Pedro will take Lorcan and Lysander. You,” he said, turning to Scorpius, “are coming with me.”
Scorpius blushed. “We could have walked...”
“Too late, Malfoy. You don’t have to worry about messing up your boots or getting bugs in your hair.” Before Scorpius had a moment to prepare, Frank had grabbed his upper arm and spun them around, and seconds later, Scorpius was sitting on his backside in the middle of what looked like a shanty town of tents. “Here, Princess,” Frank said, offering his hand. Scorpius scowled and allowed himself to be pulled onto his feet. He dusted off his clothes and looked around at the place that was to be his home for the next few weeks at least.
There were eight tents; all looked like common Muggle tents from the outside and Scorpius swallowed a rising feeling of dread that they were actually Muggle tents. It wouldn’t surprise him really – Louis seemed to enjoy a laugh and Frank had an odd sense of humour. Shielding his eyes from the midday sun, he looked around. The jungle crept to the edge of the camp in every direction, the thick greenery reaching out to touch everything in its path. Mud was everywhere under foot – it was already coated on the soles of his shoes and he’d barely taken a step. The air was so thick with insects it was as if it breathed; something buzzed near his ear and Scorpius swallowed, slapping it away hastily trying not to inhale the stench of rotting vegetation.
The camp was, in a word, ghastly.
Behind him, Frank had opened the bag and was sorting through belongings. Lorcan and Lysander appeared, collecting their things and seeming completely nonplussed about the abject squalor they found themselves in.
“You boys are over there,” Frank said, pointing across the camp to two small tents. “Louis is next to you, Luis on the other side of him, and Juan and Pedro just there,” he added, indicating the other tents. “Malfoy, you’re over here. I’m next to you and Rose is in the other one.”
“We’ve brought our own tents,” Lorcan announced, tapping his trunk with his foot.
Scorpius watched as Frank took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers, slowly counting under his breath. He got to five before he lifted his head and slipped his glasses back on.
“The thing is boys; these tents are specially approved by the South American Ministry. You’d have to get a permit for yours and that could take weeks.”
“Oh right then, never mind,” Lysander said with a shrug, and the Scamanders picked up their things and headed off in the direction Frank had pointed.
“That was a complete lie, wasn’t it?” Scorpius asked.
Frank smiled. “I’m the media, mate. I lie all the time. Come on.”
Scorpius levitated his trunk and followed Frank, taking care not to trip on tent poles or ropes or the odd pair of boots lying around. He also made sure not to step on anything oozing. They passed Rose’s tent – the flaps were open and Scorpius glanced inside, but she was not there. He caught a glimpse of a bed and writing desk, and a floor covered in what he assumed was clothing. Frank’s tent was not much neater but Scorpius was amazed to see a hammock strung between the main poles, swinging gently in the hot breeze that sauntered through the jungle.
“Make yourself at home. We eat in the big tent over there,” Frank said, sounding bored. He waved his arm in a vague direction and set about lighting himself a cigarette. A bloom of smoke hit Scorpius’ face and he coughed. “You’ll be on kitchen duty -”
“You can cook can’t you?” Frank said simply, peering at Scorpius over the top of his black-rimmed glasses. “Good. We all cook at least once a week. Word of advice – I hope you brought something from home because Rose, she can’t cook. She stinks actually, but no one wants to tell her. We value our existence.”
“Right,” Scorpius said faintly, trying to remember if he did indeed bring anything from home.
“Get unpacked and go find Louis.” Frank started walking towards his tent, stretching his arms above his head as he went. “I need a nap.”
Scorpius sighed, pushing open the flap to his tent. He was delighted to discover it was a magical tent, and was rather nice. Bigger than his room at Hogwarts, the tent had a large bed, a table and two chairs, a writing desk with a lamp and a small bathroom. Setting his trunk down by the bed, Scorpius dug to the bottom and carefully unpacked his books. These he lay gently on the writing desk, along with the pile of parchment and quill he had brought along. His clothing he left in his trunk, there being no wardrobe or dresser to put them in.
He could feel sweat settling on his skin and quickly shed his shirt, going into the bathroom and washing his face and neck. In a fresh shirt and with his hair suitably combed, he left the tent to search for Louis.
Avoiding the Scamander’s tents, Scorpius followed voices and found Louis and a small Peruvian man sitting inside what he assumed Frank meant by the dining tent.
“Glad you could make it, Malfoy,” Louis said by way of greeting. He stood up and shook Scorpius’ hand in his rather large and dirty one, and then introduced the other wizard as Luis Fernandez, the South American Ministry’s representative and the dig supervisor. Luis smiled and shook Scorpius’ hand firmly.
“I am glad you could come, Mr. Malfoy. We are in urgent need of your assistance.”
Scorpius nodded. “It’s my pleasure, really; anything I can do to help.”
“We can discuss your pleasure later. Come on, let’s find Rose,” Louis said, and Scorpius blushed and followed the other man from the tent, back into the blaring sunlight. Luis stayed where he was and when Scorpius looked back, he was watching them go, an unreadable expression on his face.
Louis did not talk and Scorpius did not bother trying to make conversation, occupied with keeping his mouth firmly closed. He was certain he’d swallowed more than a dozen different species of insect since he arrived, and he hated to think of what that would do to his digestion.
Scorpius looked across the clearing and saw her, a lithe pale thing in this world of damp shadows and caressing heat. She had her hands on her hips and as he watched, she lifted a long hand and brushed the hair from her forehead. Seeing them, she beckoned impatiently, and turned and disappeared from view, her body sliding between moss-covered stones.
“Hurry up,” Louis said, leading the way across the dig, telling Scorpius to put walk where he did and that if he contaminated anything, Rose would likely kill him. “She’s rather protective of her work,” he added. “As am I.”
Scorpius didn’t answer, too busy making sure his feet fell in the exact same pattern as Louis’. Rose had not reappeared by the time they stopped, so Louis told Scorpius to wait.
“I’ll just get her,” he said, and Scorpius watched absently as he vanished into the dark hole between the stones. Moments later, he heard voices and Louis reappeared, scowling. “She says you can either go in,” he indicated the gaping black space, “Or go back to camp. She’s busy.”
“I see,” Scorpius frowned.
Louis grinned. “One thing you will learn about Rose is not to piss her off. And anyway, if you’re here to offer your expertise you will need to get up close and personal with the site.”
“What about the artefacts?”
“Malfoy, the artefacts are still in their hole.”
“Then why am I here if there is nothing -”
Louis rolled his eyes. “We can’t get them out safely until you come up with some way of circumventing the magic surrounding them. Luis believes this part of the temple was where the Priest would prepare for ceremonies – the entrance was likely sealed in the last moments before the city fell, or was abandoned. It is possible that the magic was performed hastily, and is therefore highly dangerous.”
Scorpius nodded. “You’re sure that the artefacts are cursed?”
“We believe so but we cannot be sure.”
Scorpius could not help the sneer that crept onto his face. Years of resentment bubbled inside of him and despite the vow he made in his bedroom at Hogwarts, the words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. “You’re telling me that a Weasley is not sure about something?”
Louis’ face darkened. “Malfoy, get down there and do your thing before I throw you in there myself!”
“That’s hardly necessary.”
Louis raised an eyebrow and wandered away.
“Hey!” Scorpius called. “What about me?”
“You’re boring me and I have work to do,” Louis called back.
Scorpius stared at Louis’ retreating back in disbelief, before he swallowed, bending slightly so he could peer into the darkness. He could make out a soft glow at the end of the passageway, and, swallowing, he eased his feet down the slippery path.
Rose was on her knees, her back to him, her hair twisted into a muddled knot at the base of her neck. She leant forward, and then back, sighing. Scorpius shifted uncomfortably, making her aware of his presence.
“Finally,” she huffed, glancing at him over her shoulder and he stared, momentarily mesmerised. Her resemblance to Lily was profound in the semi-darkness: they both had the same proud face, except Rose’s features were more pronounced and her hair was darker than Lily’s, although he was aware of that already. Rose’s eyes glowed golden in the light, but he knew from memory that they were a deep blue, as opposed to Lily’s soft green. She pushed some stray curls from her neck, the muscles in her arms shifting fluidly beneath her skin. That was a trait all her own – Lily did not have muscles like that. Lily was pale and fine like a China Doll, and he always held her gently, afraid he would break her.
Rose gave him a glare that said she would break him if he didn’t demonstrate why he was there.
He cleared his throat of insects and nerves. “So what is the problem exactly?”
“The problem is the artefacts – I want them out!”
Scorpius knelt in the dirt, feeling his face crease. “Could be a charm?” he suggested.
“A charm? Why didn’t I think of that? Oh right, I did,” she answered, casting him a baleful glare.
“It was only an idea,” he muttered, face burning.
“We did not fly you across the Atlantic for an idea, Malfoy,” Rose snapped, leaning forward to stab him in the chest with her index finger.
He pushed her hand away, scowling. “Do you want my help or not?”
She scowled in return, her eyes sharp. “Not particularly, but apparently you know what you’re doing.”
He gave her a long look. “You don’t like not being able to do something for yourself, do you?”
“What I do and don’t like is none of your business, Malfoy.”
He held up his hands defensively. “Fine. Look, I need more time to determine what magic has been used here. I can’t do this instantly, Rose. This will take time.”
He smiled slightly. “I don’t know. You will have to be patient.”
She gave him an angry look, and then her face relaxed into a grin, a tiny giggle escaping her lips. “Everyone always says I’m too impatient.”
He nodded faintly, reaching up to rub at his temples. His headache was back.
Buenos días señores: good morning sirs
Es fantástico estar aquí: it’s great to be here
edited 2.3: thanks for Aderyn for fixing my Spanish!!
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