PART TWO: THE SANDS OF TIME
CHAPTER ELEVEN: MISTY WATERS
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all associated characters and situations are the property of J.K. Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.
A huge thank you to Wakefan for providing me with an early review to the chapter from a reader's perspective. Their feedback has been absolutely wonderful, and so has his assistance in general.
"Why are we at a port?" Harry asked, his neck craning forward, trying to absorb everything happening below him as he held onto the nearby railing. "We're not taking a ship to Egypt, are we?"
Alicia nodded, and Harry shook his head, reaching into his robes and procuring his mokeskin pouch. He slipped his arm inside and fumbled around, before returning with a 32-inch roll of parchment. He sat down on the ground, legs crossed, and scooted away from the railing, putting some space between himself and the edge. He then unfurled the parchment, flattening it out against the stone floor.
After a minute of gazing at the world map in front of him, he sighed, looking up at his mother, who was staring proudly at him. He ignored that, in favour of pointing out towards the horizon. "This is the Wadden Sea, right?" Seeing his mother's nod, he refocused onto the map, setting his finger onto a point near Germany. "I don't see how this is practical at all, mum. We'd be taking one hell of a detour." He started sliding his finger across a designated path. "We'd have to pass through the Strait of Dover, then continue through the English Channel, cut down through the Bay of Biscay, and follow the coastline 'till we get to the Strait of Gibraltar." Harry paused, frowning. "After that, it's the Alboran Sea, then the Mediterranean. Only then do we get to Egypt; either Alexandria or Port Said."
Harry looked up at his mother again, who was smiling amusedly at him. "It's not funny, mum. That'd take months! Why don't we just take several Portkeys?"
"While I'm glad that you're putting our lessons to good use, Harry," Alicia tittered softly, and Harry blushed, "this is what we arranged." She paused, looking out towards the sea. "To answer your question, Egypt hasn't allowed Portkey travel in years, so people have to make due. Besides, it's smoother this way. Less travel sickness.
Harry shot her an incredulous look. "Less travel sickness?" Alicia ignored him.
Seeing his mother was done talking, Harry sighed and nodded, though he didn't really see how this trip would work out. They hadn't packed (or prepared) for what would undoubtedly be months at sea. Harry thumped his foot impatiently and glanced around.
The Fisherman's Plaza, also known as Der Fischerplatz to the locals, was a small section of Harlesiel, Wittmund, which bore a similar resemblance to a marketplace. Stalls were littered at the edges of the space, and the tiled floor saw much movement as wizards and witches milled about, either spending the time purchasing something or making their way to their designated vessels. It was a popular tourist attraction, and one of the very few magical centres of commerce not associated with Bremen or Hamburg. It wasn't large by any means, but it was completely magical, hidden with a variety of charms and wards that constantly repelled the muggles surrounding the small wizarding port.
A little way down the elevated courtyard, and past the railing, Harry could spot a grand flight of stone steps, ones that cascaded down the hill before plunging into the sea, the edges of the stone stained a darker tone, tinted with the stormy grey of the Wadden Sea, and littered with the many rocks and assorted shells that had been collected from the steps with the high tide. Harry took a deep breath as he admired everything, the tint of salt burning his nostrils.
Around four to five large wooden docks spread out directly from the stone staircase beneath him, running parallel to the face of the sea. Large, thick, wooden beams supported their weight, with some beams ending visibly onto the submerged steps, while others reached farther below until they too, disappeared from sight.
The docks were, apparently, a newer addition - one that had been implemented after Grindelwald's War, sometime in the past century or so. The public square he was in had existed much earlier than that, according to his mother; along with the stone staircase, they were both some of the oldest wizarding structures on this side of Germany. From what he understood, though, they dated back to the times when the land was still called Germania by the Romans.
Harry had stood up by now, and was currently leaning on the edge of the railing, the map already returned to his pouch. The beams supporting him were narrow, and mostly served as decor, but Harry was light, so no groan of protest was heard. His mother kept a careful eye on him as he did. While her son was generally well-behaved, he was prone to inflicting flights of heart-wrenching terror into her weary motherly soul. It went unsaid that many had injured themselves here: before the railing had been added, wizards had come close to death from simply slipping off the elevated courtyard and falling down onto the stairs, where they would tumble down all the way into the welcoming lap of the Wadden Sea. Needless to say, Alicia did not want her son to suffer the same mishaps.
Thankfully, nothing untoward happened. The sun was beaming overhead; having yet to reach midday, and Harry sighed. His father was off trying to find a restroom to relieve himself, claiming that he didn't really want to brave whatever accommodations the ship would be having. Harry dearly wished his father would hurry up. He wanted to sit down and rest (away from the glaring sun), but his mother's pursed lips dissuaded him from simply walking off towards the many patches of shade created by the stalls. It was clear that she disapproved of something. Whether that was the waiting they were doing, or the location they were currently in, Harry didn't know. Maybe a little bit of both.
"How long will the trip last, Mum?" Harry asked, more out of pure boredom than any real curiosity. He stared out towards the docks, trying to ascertain which ship they would be taking. He was currently debating between a Bilander and a Galleon. Both seemed like good options (at a glance) for long periods at sea. He didn't really know anything about sea-travel, but they looked cool, at least.
"Three hours at most, I believe," Alicia muttered. Harry nodded for a moment before he swivelled his head to look at her, gawking.
"What do you mean, three hours?" he hissed. "How?"
Alicia smirked at him, before uttering a word that made him want to groan and snort all at once.
"Magic," was all she said.
Harry huffed, and went back to looking down towards the many stone steps, watching fellow wizards huff and puff down and up the stairs. He smiled for a minute at one man's expression, before souring as he realised he would be doing the same in a couple of minutes. He sagged in place, already annoyed at the wait.
"Where's Dad, Mum?" Harry whined, already tired of standing around idly. He was very close to sauntering off towards the beckoning shade of the stalls, his mother's ire be damned. It seemed his mother knew that, too, because she grabbed his hand and gave it a tight squeeze before searching the crowds around them once more.
"I… I do not know." She pursed her lips. "He should be back here anytime—Aha!"
Harry immediately shot up and peered over towards the same location she was pointing. It was a slightly thick crowd surrounding a collection of food-bearing - mostly Steckerlfisch, he noted - stalls, with a single narrow street jutting down the centre. It was down this narrow street that Harry caught sight of him.
William was walking briskly towards them, pacing himself according to the rest of the crowd so as to not knock anyone over. He caught sight of his wife and son and waved, an easy grin planting itself on his face as he made his way over.
As he was nearing, Harry nearly toppled into his mother dramatically. She held firm, and the little boy exclaimed "Finally!", his shoulders drooping and eyes darting towards the heavens as he clasped his hands together in 'prayer'; like he was searching for guidance, or possibly thanks.
William simply raised an eyebrow at his son's mopey dramatics before ignoring it in stride. He turned towards his wife, who appeared to be sympathetic to her son's plight, though she did not show it much, if at all.
"Are we all ready?" William grinned, looking between Harry and Alicia expectantly.
Harry watched his mother visibly restrain herself from lashing out at William in indignation. It was good that they were still in public view, Harry decided. Maybe tonight he would be able to fall asleep with his eardrums still reasonably intact.
"Yes, dear," Alicia forced out instead, her voice gaining that sickly sweet tone Harry knew was a sign of promised pain - and danger. Lots of danger. "We've been ready for the past twenty minutes."
William rubbed the back of his head, gaining a sheepy expression. "Good, good…" he muttered. Harry had to muffle his snort.
Alicia huffed. "Where were you, William? You didn't get lost, did you?" She eyed him suspiciously.
"No, no, of course, I didn't!" William dissuaded her with a quick wave of his hands. He paused for (most likely) dramatic effect. "It's just… I saw this lovely pendant in one of the stalls," William slowly reached into one of his robe pockets and grasped something, "and, well… it reminded me of your eyes. I thought it would look rather stunning on you." William grinned unrepentantly at Alicia's wide eyes.
William then pulled his wife closer to hip, slipping the pendant onto her neck and clasping it shut in one fluid movement. Harry glanced at the piece of jewellery. He was right, it did fit her. A soft, shining silver thread snaked around her neck loosely, rounding off at a small encased bright emerald-green stone as the centrepiece. The new jewellery joined Harry's own gift to his mother (from the Grimm's tomb), and the emerald pendant rested above the longer necklace just ever so slightly, barely touching one another.
William and Alicia's eyes locked as he adjusted the necklaces on her neck. He held both in his fingers for a moment, his eyes never leaving hers, before lowering the two pieces back down around her neck. William settled everything and gave his wife a cheeky grin, muttering 'beautiful' and planting a kiss on her cheek. Alicia blushed and her smile grew, all previous issues with her husband forgotten for the moment.
Harry did some quick mental math, and by his calculations, the only way to make them hurry up was to:
"Bleurgh! Yuck! Really, mum? Really, dad?" Harry continued making retching noises, glancing up every so often which only seemed to further fuel his capacity to attract attention. After a good ten seconds of faux-puking, he had two pairs of eyes on him. One, a vibrant green, the other a soft brown. Alicia and William both looked at each other again before they turned to Harry.
The nine-year-old, in response, simply huffed, tapping his dragonhide boot against the worn stone of the courtyard and giving the two lovebirds the fiercest scowl he could. When all he got was twin amused looks; one a smirk; the other a snort, he glared.
Fed up with dealing with his parents' lovey-dovey attitude and disgusting face-maiming, Harry shook his head with a sigh and turned around, carrying the Grimm Anthology under his left arm, grasping his trunk in his right hand, he started making his way down the stone steps, not taking a second look at his parents.
"Honestly…" Harry muttered. "Better things to do than wasting time," he grumbled. "Like getting on the bloody boat, for once."
Harry heard a faint "Language, Harry!" and blushed, turning around to find his mother smirking at him, one eyebrow raised challengingly. The boy stuck his tongue out at her and turned around, returning to his journey down the stone steps. A small grin spread across his face. It was both exhilarating and terrifying how much time had passed since his family had left Tutshill behind. From October to April.
"Six bloody months," he whispered, with a shake of his head and a smile on his lips.
The almost nine-year-old wizard ("Only six more months!") knew it was a boat, but he didn't trust its structural integrity. It didn't look sturdy at all. In fact, it looked like it might sink as soon as he set foot in it. He softly voiced his concern to the two adults behind him.
"Are you sure that's safe, Dad?"
William nodded; he too was staring at the boat. Alicia was the only one who didn't seem unfazed, though that might've been because she was the one to organize the transportation. Either way, Harry knew his mother was acting. She too was off-put by the boat they were going to take.
"I know that we're going to Egypt, but isn't this a bit overboard?" Harry smiled at his own joke. It was rather funny, all things considered. Too bad no one laughed.
It was a boat, yes, but not a regular boat, mind you. It looked strikingly different from the other ships harboured nearby, and that was considering that this was a magical port.
It was an Egyptian reed boat: A skiff with two torches burning in the front, and a big rudder in the back. A small hut with an entrance flap was positioned in the centre of the vessel, and a figure in a black trench coat and hat—and not much else, Harry noticed—stood at the tiller.
The ship was basically woven together from coils of plant fibre—like a giant floating rug. Harry reasoned that the torches at the front couldn't be a good idea on a ship this flimsy, because if they didn't skink, they'd burn. This train of thought was only abated by the knowledge that the flames were probably (hopefully) magical, and wouldn't pose much threat to the integrity of the vessel. At the back, the tiller was manned by a stout form wearing a dusty black trench coat and hat. The hat was shoved down on his head firmly, casting a shadow in the broad German daylight. Harry couldn't see his face, and the figure's hands and feet were lost in the folds of the coat.
"How does that thing move?" Harry asked his mother, curiously tugging on her robes. He pointed at the ship expectantly. "There's no sail."
Harry knew that it could move - it was magical, after all - but he was very much intrigued as to the nature of the magic on the boat. Would it simply increase in speed when travelling?
"Trust me, it works," his father said, having misinterpreted the reason behind his son's question. William took a brave step forward onto the Egyptian ship. Harry wanted to explain himself (he was not worried) but decided to cull his questions for later. Nodding, he followed his father onto the boat.
The day was hot, but when Harry stepped onboard he suddenly felt cooled, as if the ship itself abated any unpleasant sensations from his person. He shifted around and watched his mother join them on the ship. As soon as she placed both feet onto the boat, it lurched, moving away from the stone steps of the Fisherman's Plaza.
Harry waited in place a bit, slightly uncertain, as the ship drifted off. Then, his father cleared his throat, and with a clasp of his hands, guided everyone towards the centre of the boat, pointing towards the medium-sized hut made from woven mats.
Inside, Harry settled down on the floor, which was covered in soft rugs. He set his book and trunk to the side, and sat idly for a minute, before deferring to his mother, who was seated beside him and already rummaging through her things.
"Mum, what do I do?"
Alicia looked up at him, and blinked, before exchanging a glance with his father, who was seated to the side. She sighed. "It's going to take at least two hours, maybe more, to get to Egypt, Harry. Maybe you should catch up on your studies until then." She considered him for a moment, nodding at the Grimm Anthology. "Just remember to stop if you're feeling sick, alright?"
Harry nodded once, before reaching over to his side and grabbing the first volume (and the only one in his possession) of the Grimm Anthology. Harry then readjusted himself on the carpet with the book in hand, settling down to read. He idly noted his father standing up and walking out of the hut as he did.
"Out of the two of us, Jacob has always leaned towards the more abstract, otherworldly, or the metaphysical things in his research, and try as I might dissuade him from these often fruitless endeavours, he continues to search for signs of things beyond human perception."
"While we are both qualified magizoologists, Jacob tends to deviate into the fields surrounding the supernatural and the mysteries of magic. Instead of focusing on what we defined as 'beasts' and 'beings', Jacob chose instead to direct his attention towards the waning topic of ghosts, spirits, and occasionally, the powers-that-may-be, those we lumped together as Others, for they had many varying traits that didn't seem to fit in anywhere else. The only thing that seemed to connect these under one umbrella term was the recurring reassurance that they were all beyond the perception of the common wizard, and certainly beyond that of most mortals."
"With this in mind, while the topics he delved into were never as prominent as my own two preferred fields, Jacob always seemed to have a large mountain of information to shift through during research."
Harry's eyes widened as he read over the introduction to the fourth and final section of the book: 'Others'. Unlike the first and second sections (and the third, to an extent), this one carried a semblance of informality. The introduction itself could attest to that.
If what he read was true, then the Brothers Grimm (or at least, Jacob) believed there to be the existence, or at least the plausibility of, higher beings, if only for the sake of possibility. Harry had not initially bothered to read through the introductory pages of sections III and IV, but he was glad he now had the time to do so, without the anxiety of a possessed uncle and a bewitched father looming on his shoulder. He read sedately, though his mind whizzed with possible questions and lines of thought to explore. It was a shame he wouldn't have access to Melia anytime soon. Perhaps his parents would decide to return to Randolph's for Yule, or something. He hoped they would.
Harry returned his attention to the pages silently, but he was internally comparing Jacob Grimm's writings against Melia's teachings. While it initially seemed like both versions disagreed on many things, both seemed to reluctantly imply that there were many ways in which the world (and magic, thusly) worked and that none appeared to have absolute control over nature.
Nevertheless, Harry appreciated the academic insight into the topic provided by Jacob, just as much as he did the hours he spent under the stars surrounding a fireplace, listening and recording the tales and stories provided by Melia. It saddened him that he would be missing those in the months to come. Harry flipped a page quickly, idly fingering the leather cover of the book as he plunged himself into thought. By the end of the month he shared with the ash-tree nymph, he had gained a complex mixture of admiration, fear, and disgust with the figures and deities in Melia's tales. While he was loath to fully believe in their existence, he didn't disregard anything his starlit tutor would pass on. His belief was helped along by the sheer presence he had felt during the Greek rituals, along with Melia's constant companionship.
All this amounted to him reluctantly delving into the stories and customs of the Ancient Greeks. While he wasn't devout by any means, he did enjoy listening to the fantastic stories of heroes, gods, and monsters. At first, he had simply sat on Melia's lap as she recounted the Twelve Labours of Hercules or the tragedy of Helen and Paris. After a while, he had begun to realise the importance behind the pseudo-lessons. Melia was preparing him, for some reason.
The nymph seemed to genuinely believe he would need the information. Harry gave a chuckle, drawing the attention of his mother, but he ignored her look.
Once he had come to the conclusion that his lessons on Greek Mythology might actually matter, he had brought a quill and parchment to all of the nighttime rendezvous. He still remembered her bright smile the first time he had done so. Harry smiled dreamily at the memory. They had been meeting for a few nights already, so he was well-accustomed to walking around the forest at night.
A week before the departure to Egypt;
Harry stumbled into the small clearing that held his tutor's camp. He spotted the ash-tree nymph over by the side of the fire, poking the coals with a small stick. He coughed lightly, drawing her attention. She looked up, and her eyes glittered in the moonlight. Harry felt his face heat up at her look. She was very pretty, he decided.
When he realised he had been staring, he quickly averted his eyes, drawing a small laugh from the nymph. He shifted in place, still not comfortable enough to sit down without permission. Thankfully, Melia noticed this, because she stood up to greet him.
Hello, little one, was all she said, drawing closer to him. Harry felt the magic reach out to his mind and reverberate around his skull, but he shrugged it off, giving the nymph a shy smile instead.
"Hello, Miss Melia," he whispered, still somewhat entranced by her beauty.
The nymph laughed and leaned in, trapping the small wizard in a gentle hug. She laughed musically when he went bright red at the contact. Harry squirmed. His arms were still closed around his writing materials, so he couldn't very well return the sign of affection, making everything a bit awkward for him. The hug lasted a few seconds before she pulled away, though her hands instead rested on his shoulders as she looked mirthfully at him.
Oh, Melia said. What have you got there, little one? The nymph pointed towards his arms. Harry mumbled something, and she leaned further back, trying to peek at whatever he was carrying. When he didn't make any sign of clarifying, she nodded, before grabbing his hand and tugging him towards her seat. She sat down gently, before patting her lap with a smile. Sit, she prompted.
Harry shook his head, and she frowned. Why not, little one?
Harry actually looked determined, and the nymph smiled at his expression. Harry let out a sigh, before he unfurled his arms, displaying the writing materials.
"I'm going to learn," the small wizard said, his eyebrows furrowed. "I don't know why you think I need these lessons, but I will make use of them. I'll work hard. I can promise you that much, Miss Melia."
The beaming smile - and subsequent peck on the cheek - she gave him made the entire trip to the camp (and everything else) worth it. He blushed tomato red and she laughed, a glittering musical note in the night air.
Harry closed the Grimm Anthology with a snap and set it aside. He wasn't getting anything productive done with his thoughts scattered. He scowled and closed his eyes, leaning back until his head rested on a nearby cushion. He could hardly focus on the words in front of him. Harry's mind wandered back towards the time he spent with the ash-tree nymph.
Though initially, Harry had been loath to spend too much time with Melia alone because of the absurd amount of effort required to keep his mind intact, he had quickly realised that constant exposure to her magic was ensuring that he slowly but surely built a natural resistance to the effect her magic had on his mind.
Beyond retelling the myths, Melia had taken a few minutes out of their nightly-meetings to make him learn Greek customs and propriety. He had initially thought that it wouldn't be too hard to adapt to, considering he had been suffering through British Wizarding 'etiquette' lessons under his mother for the past few years.
Harry sighed at the memory wistfully. He had been so, utterly, terribly wrong. Greek traditions and customs were completely different from the modern British wizard's. The lessons he had gone through weren't even modern, at that. They wouldn't hold up in any modern part of Greece, but then again, they were to be applied if he ever encountered another being from the Grecian Mythos. That way, if he ever did, he would know how to behave in their presence.
Sadly, he hadn't had enough time to fully learn Ancient Greek (or any kind of Greek, for that matter), but he reasoned he could get by well enough. He would have to return to it eventually, though.
The days had passed quickly with his newfound interest and partial tutor, and he had found himself enjoying his stay at Spudmore Cottage much more than before. He almost managed to forget completely about his scar, until his father awoke from his near-coma-like state and frantically began trying to make up for the lost time. Then, Harry was swiftly reminded of his situation, and he threw himself almost viciously into studying. He had first brushed up on section III, considering it was next-in-line in the progression of the book. The first chapter had covered ghosts, and by extension, souls.
"A Ghost can be considered, not as the soul of a witch or wizard, but instead a simple imprint, a memory of the being that has been created by magic. It is akin to the 'peel' of the apple. Not necessary for the fruit to be enjoyed, for the soul to move on, but it leaves the soul not-quite complete. Usually, the soul of a wizard or witch who maintains a fear of death or a strong connection to someplace becomes a ghost, as their magic doesn't truly accept that they have moved on."
Harry noted that while Jacob seemed to believe that the 'essence' of a person lived in their soul and that it could be damaged or manipulated, Melia had other ideas regarding the concept.
Whenever he would ask the ash-tree nymph for her opinion on the matter, she would always give him the same response:'The soul is, on one hand, something that a human being risks in battle and loses in death. However, it is also what departs at the time of death from the person's limbs and travels to the underworld, where it has a more or less pitiful afterlife as a shade or image of the deceased person.'
Even though she had been plenty clear on the subject, Melia fully admitted that she had limited experiences with souls and that those she knew of did not involve 'mortal' magic. Either way, she seemed horrified at the idea of tampering with your own soul. Retrieving a soul from Hades was fine, even though it rarely happened. You simply needed approval. However, if you tried to twist and manipulate it? According to her, that was unnatural, anathema.
Harry agreed full-heartedly, even though the prompt of his scar's existence nagged at him constantly during those conversations.
Harry smiled at the pages in front of him, noting Jacob's distinct scrawl. In contrast to Jacob's work with sections II and IV, Wilhem had always been centred around the more popular or 'real' creatures and beasts; he'd focused most of his attention on the more central part of magizoology (I and II), and the shift in perspective and writing from the two halves of the book was very noticeable.
Wilhelm generally worked with concrete and proven examples as a building block, taking a very methodical and distinct approach to his chapters, while Jacob moved through mythology, lore, and hearsay with ease when researching his own sections of magizoology.
Harry gave a good-natured smile as he flipped the page, and wondered if the Brothers Grimm were currently watching him, from wherever their souls lay in rest. It was a plausible idea, and Harry wondered if they would have approved of him reading their work. He dearly hoped so.
Harry heard his father walk back in, though he didn't look up, as he was too enthralled by the book to consider it. He heard muttered whispers being exchanged but ignored those too. It was only when his mother addressed him that he did look up.
Alicia gave him a stern look. "You are not to leave the hut for the next few minutes, understand?"
He hadn't been planning to in the first place, but now his curiosity had peaked. "Why?" he asked, leaning forward, presenting the image of the innocent child he was. William sighed, and Harry swore he saw his mother's eyes twitch. Noticing that, he shook his head. "Nevermind, mum. I'll stay put."
Both his parents seemed relieved, so Harry returned to his book. He watched his father peek his head out the cover of the flap once more for a second, before he came back in.
It was only then, in the brief moment between focusing on his father's entering form and focusing on his book did Harry notice the feeling.
The feeling was hard to describe, though it was rather familiar. Harry thought it was rather similar to the effect of a Portkey, with the strange tug at the base of his sternum and the queasy tingle in his stomach as he was picked up from one place and dropped in another. But it wasn't that, if only for the fact that he wasn't falling and landing on solid ground, and that the feeling didn't go away.
He could feel the boat moving at an astounding speed. The light peering in through the flap of the hut dimmed, instantly becoming a deep, dark hue. The flames inside the hut flickered madly, nearly sputtering out, and everything blurred. Harry felt a thick fog settle onto his mind, and strange sounds echoed in the silence of the trip; slithering and hissing, distant screams, voices whispering in raspy, inhuman tongues.
The tingling in his stomach spread, quickly turning into nausea. The sounds, the beckons turned louder, clawing at him, reaching. He heard screams, only to shut his mouth when he realised they were his own. Suddenly, the boat slowed, and Harry lurched forward, crumpling to the ground in a messy heap. He groaned once, blinking blearily at the soles of some shoes before he closed his eyes and let out a shuddering breath, his brain harshly debating between passing out and staying awake.
Thankfully, he was picked up gently and propped up. He stood with uncertainty, supported by delicate hands. His mother? Harry didn't know. His eyes weren't cooperating right now.
"Mum?" he whispered, as a shimmering mess of blonde hair came into view. "Why are there two of you?" he slurred, his knees buckling weakly. Harry collapsed forward, only to fall into outstretched arms. He was then picked up and propped against a warm chest. He snuggled into it constantly before blinking. He caught two concerned green eyes looking back at him and he smiled, knowing that his mother was there. He was shifted again, and he rested his head on her shoulder, as she ran a hand through his hair. He felt queasy at the jarring movement, but crushed the feeling rising in his stomach ruthlessly. He would not be throwing up all over his mother, that much was certain.
"Sleep, little one," she murmured, running her hand through his hair and kissing his head. Harry nodded, closing his eyes with a content sigh.
He slept like a bloody log, all things considered.
Harry silently watched the scene in front of him unfold with a shit-eating grin. His father was attempting to bargain with the muggle salesman over some old book, but neither understood each other properly, so nothing came of the deal.
"Don't worry dad, you'll get him next time," he teased, knowing that William had argued with this same vendor not three days ago.
Harry laughed vindictively, feeling no inclination to help his father with the translation process. Not after he had been forced to use sunscreen. Harry hated sunscreen.
William, in his loose cotton shirt and pants, scowled at his son, but otherwise decided to ignore the slightly bitter provocation.
Alicia, on the other hand, stood a few feet away, dressed in a long, brown skirt and a plain, loose white shirt, with a patterned shawl wrapped around her shoulders and a scarf covering her neck. She had been adamant on adapting to the nature of Cairo, and considering they couldn't very well wear wizarding robes in the streets of muggle Egypt, they had adapted their muggle wear into lighter clothing.
Harry was currently dressed in a dark linen shirt and pants, similarly to his father. The only difference was the brown muggle coat he had chosen to wear. It made him stick out like a sore thumb, but it wasn't offensive, so his mother allowed it after placing a couple of cooling charms on it for the day.
Harry made his way over to his mother, who was currently decidedly interested in some trinkets that lay on a velvet carpet for display. An elderly woman dressed in traditional clothes sat behind the carpet, her sharp eyes peering up at Alicia with interest as the witch surveyed the mountains of wares cluttered around her, placed on boxes and tables.
Harry caught a sharp pang of something bitter as he arrived at his mother's side, and turned around in interest, but nothing caught his eye. He looked up the street. It was probably a spice cart or something, he reasoned. After a minute of idle standing, Alicia spoke.
"This one," his mother decided, picking up a small necklace that continued a red polished stone as the centrepiece. It was made with some kind of dark black twine, and very simple in comparison to some of the other necklaces on display. Harry idly nodded in approval even as he scrunched his nose and grimaced at the stench of urine that had just attacked him.
"Harry dear, come here," Alicia called, not realising that he was standing right behind her. She turned around and jumped slightly in shock when she saw him standing beside her, before smiling at him. "Would you mind asking how much this one is? I do love the patterns on the stone."
Harry's eyes drifted towards the wicker baskets on the stall to the left before turning back to his mother with an exasperated look. He rolled his eyes at her spending urges before turning back to the vendor and smiling easily.
"Min faḍlak," Harry said, in greeting. Excuse me. He then removed his hand from his pocket and pointed towards the necklace in his mother's hand.
"Bikam hādhā?" he asked, in heavily accented Arabic. How much is this? Harry crossed his fingers behind his back, hoping that he hadn't butchered the language.
The elderly woman peered at the necklace and coughed slightly, before relaying the price in a croaky voice.
Harry nodded at her, hoping that he had understood correctly.
"She says it's one-hundred Egyptian pounds, Mum."
Alicia raised her eyebrows. "Oh, alright then." She then reached into her purse and counted the bills. Harry caught her muttering, "Not even a Galleon!" and he smiled at her. True, the conversion rate to muggle currencies were almost laughable, but Galleons were pure gold, so it made sense.
Alicia handed the money to the old lady before saying "Thank you". Harry smiled, and dutifully repeated it in Arabic like the good translator he was. Shukran.
As the one more prone to learning languages, he continued with his English and German studies as per norm. He had moved past grammar and technical work, instead choosing to continue with his studies through literature and practised speech (when possible). He had also recently been tasked with learning Arabic, but he was progressing quickly enough with the help of the Language Charm that it didn't cut too much into his free time.
Of course, he could've simply dropped his self-study sessions: Ancient Greek, both the language itself, and his studies of its culture, literature and mythology, but the thought never crossed his mind. He had made a promise to Melia, and he intended on following through with it. Plus, he enjoyed reading the myths enough that it didn't feel too much like a 'study' session, and the promise was easy enough to keep.
The only times it became annoying was when his mother gave him strange looks after applying the Language Charm, only to find him reading in Greek. He avoided those questions best he could, because he didn't know how well the memory magic placed on his parents would hold under self-scrutiny.
In addition to his social studies - magical and muggle - and his theory sessions and Potion's lessons, he was slowly becoming a polyglot. Harry snorted at the thought. It was a shame that there weren't any reliable magical means for translation. Why no one had thought of creating one was beyond Harry.
'Maybe it's because languages change so often?' he wondered, following his mother down the cobbled streets of the Egyptian flea market. Anyhow, it seemed to amuse the locals immensely when the child addressed them in their native tongue, and the adults did not. Harry swore quietly as a passerby jostled him around and he stumbled slightly, jarred from his thoughts.
Regardless, Harry no longer felt too bitter about the subject. He'd come to enjoy studying languages. Something about it being a doorway to another vision of life.
Harry picked himself up and trotted over to his mother, and then they quickly caught up to William. Harry admired the exquisite textiles and shimmering drapes surrounding him, even as the soft scent of baked bread gnawed at his hunger. He held off from asking for some because they'd soon be stopping for an afternoon meal, and he didn't want to spoil his appetite.
The three Portwoods continued down the winding passageway, stopping occasionally to look at shiny jewellery (Alicia); admire interesting antiques; (William) or stare at mouth-watering street food (Harry). It was past noon, and the glaringly bright sun was glaring at them, seemingly taking pride in heating the stone under their feet to absurdly hot levels. The sensation made him think of Apollo in the Greek myths, which brought his thoughts to the Egyptian myths.
Melia, the ash-tree nymph, was convinced of the existence of the Greek Pantheon. But if they were real, surely the Egyptian deities were too? Harry decided it warranted investigation. If anything, a brief study. He didn't want to be caught unawares.
'Not like last time,' he thought, grimly. 'Even if it worked out in the end.'
Harry stumbled again, jarring his focus back to the real world. He caught himself again and turned around to glare at the retreating back of a middle-aged man covered in expensive garbs. Not wanting to risk publicly cussing out some (possibly) important figure in Cairo's society, he restrained himself, choosing instead to whisper assorted curses in Ancient Greek.
Melia had initially disapproved of his interest, but she never turned him away from learning; thus, his favourites to use included "Erre es korakas!" and "Oinopìpes!", both of which were warranted in this instance.
Not that anyone heard him, of course. Even if they did, he doubted they'd understand. Or care.
Harry reached his parents again, having to duck and weave through the crowd of people milling about. He grabbed his mother's hand tightly, not particularly caring if he looked the part of a small child; he was tired of getting knocked around and falling behind. Alicia looked down at him as he did, and he grinned up at her. She tittered softly but made no complaint.
They had been in Egypt for almost a week now, Harry realised, and they still hadn't been able to visit the ancient tombs yet. Tomorrow marked the seventh day of the month of May, which usually meant something magically, even though the meaning escaped him currently. He hadn't had time to focus on that branch of Divination yet.
Harry tucked behind his mother for a moment - to avoid crashing into a rich-looking couple holding hands - before popping back to her side. He really wanted to visit the tombs: besides the magical side of Egypt, it was one of the only reasons he had looked forward to coming here. Everything else in the muggle half was somewhat ruined by the blistering heat (or the searing cold), but not the tombs. They were deep underground and thus protected from the hot sun.
The only reason they hadn't gone to one yet was that there existed a scheduling system. No respectable wizard wanted to visit the ones that were open to everyone (muggles), so they had to wait for an open touring slot for one of the magical ones that had been opened for visitation: either by Gringotts or the Egyptian Ministry.
Private digs did exist, but they were rarely open to the general wizarding public, instead only hosting tours for the wealthy or well-connected. William had explained that when Harry had asked, and unfortunately, the Portwoods weren't enough of either to gain an invitation to one of the private tours. Thus, they had to schedule a visit to one of the others. Thankfully, Gringotts Bank had recently wrapped up a dig and had begun hosting tours for the next few months before they handed it over to the Egyptian Ministry. William had eagerly signed up for a slot later in the month, so Harry was content to wait till then.
At least, in regards to tomb-exploring.
Harry tugged on his mother's skirt, trying to grab her attention. "Mum, when are we going to visit the other market?" he asked, looking up at her with large imploring eyes.
Alicia looked down at him, rolling her own. "Soon, Harry. Be patient. We are enjoying Muggle Egypt first, and we will have time to visit all the magical attractions later. We're staying for at least six months, remember? So be patient."
She finished her short speech with a stern look that basically screamed, 'stop whinging or else!'
Harry grumbled to himself but didn't say anything else. He didn't want to suffer the consequences of an irritated mother. Terrible thing, that.
The Portwoods then took a right, turning into a secluded section of the market that seemed to specialise in live animals. The very few market-goers that seemed to be making their way through here, along with the harsh-looking vendors, cemented the idea that this setup wasn't entirely legal.
Surprisingly, Harry didn't voice his concern, even though he did take notice. He was much too focused on not gagging from the stench that came from the cages and boxes. The reek of faecal matter, urine and general filth - possibly a corpse somewhere too - pounded against his nostrils, making him cough violently and plug his nose.
His mother noticed the smell too and quickly cast a look around. When she was sure no-one was watching, she cast three quick Bubble-Head Charms, which in reality functioned more like face-masks. Harry cast her an alarmed look at the movement, but she simply shook her head at a smile and pointed at her own face. Harry raised his eyebrows but continued looking, perplexed.
"What?" he muttered when he didn't notice anything.
Alicia pulled him in closer before whispering in his ear. "The charm is only visible underwater, Harry. Regular air plus clean air doesn't do much for the eyes, does it?" She smirked at him.
Harry nodded, his mouth forming a small 'o' shape before he stuck out his tongue and pulled away to look around.
Now that the stench no longer made him want to kneel over and empty his stomach, he managed to inspect the animals without a problem. Physical, that is. Morally, he was on the edge about the scene around him.
He was about to ask his mother about the topic when instead, a small snake at the far end of the alley caught his eye, and he tugged both his parents over to look at it.
Its surface was midnight black, and Harry guessed that it must've just shed its skin, due to the shining state of its scales. He stared at the snake intently, mesmerised by the animal's smooth movements and regal poise.
After a moment of shifting around, the snake finally noticed him, locking eyes with the young wizard. They continued to stare at each other; one in awe, the other in (unknown to the other party) growing irritation. This was partially why the following came to a great shock to Harry:
"What do you want, silly creature?"
That, and the fact that snakes could, apparently, speak.
Harry recoiled quickly. The snake had just spoken. He turned around towards his father and stared at him, alarmed. The snake had just spoken.
William noticed his son's stunned expression and sent back a quizzical look. "Yes, Harry?"
"The snake just spoke. How are you not freaking out?" Harry asked. "Snakes don't speak," he added, though it seemed more like an effort to convince himself rather than a fact.
"And what did the snake say?" his father ventured, as though the situation were entirely commonplace.
"I...I don't remember," Harry frowned. Something about creatures?
"Then ask it," William said, seemingly completely serious.
Harry looked at his father as though he'd gone mad. William gave Harry an expectant look. Harry shook his head; maybe he had.
Harry then turned towards the reptile in the cage slowly.
"Could you repeat that?" he asked, unsurely.
William's eyes widened, and he took a couple of steps back towards Alicia, pulling her away from the cages she had been inspecting and bringing her over towards their son.
The snake slithered closer to the edge of its cage."I asked you what you wanted, you little—" the snake faltered, then it shook itself, as though it was trying to rid itself of something that had landed on its head.
Harry stood in shock at the snake, who regally straightened itself and gave what seemed to be the serpentine version of a bow.
"It is an honour to meet you, Speaker."
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A/N: *Sigh*, I am still in need of a Beta Reader, apparently. This sucks.
Also, feel free to check out my other posted fic. It's not my priority right now, just something more casual.