The Monastery

The Cloister

Ginny reached the top with relief. She hoisted a leg up, then pulled herself over the guardrail, and stood on the terrace of the cloister. The columns of white stone made a perfect square at the center of which a fountain gurgled peacefully, and two of the cloister's sides were open to the elements. Ginny admired the view that sprawled before her, the high and green mountains like teeth in the mouth of the clear, blue sky. Though she knew that the peninsula was surrounded by the sea, the young woman could only see mountain ranges and the clouds that huddled around them. A river snaked through the grassy slopes, connecting the Muggle monasteries of Karakalou and Megistis Lavra.

"Will you stop admiring the landscape and give me a hand?"

Ginny bit back a groan. Obligingly, she bent over the massive guardrail, and helped her partner safely reach the terrace suspended from the cliff.

"Took you a while," Draco muttered, running a hand through his hair and glaring at her.

"You're welcome," Ginny snapped back.

He ignored her and took a few minutes to regain his composure. He had impeccably dominated his fear of heights during their climb of one thousand nine hundred and sixty four meters. Though they had been heavily helped by various spells and enchanted climbing items, it had taken them several hours to reach the monastery of Kalyptein by this somewhat unconventional road. As a woman, Ginny would not have been allowed on the Holy Mountain, and Draco did not want to inform anyone of his presence just yet. Neither had any idea what to expect, but with the nature of the scroll they had come to fetch, they could take no chances.

Two days prior.

Draco Malfoy strolled purposefully into the office, his countenance the epitome of elegance and professionalism. He saw her. He turned around. He was outside of the room before Ginny Weasley could even utter a halfway polite greeting.

"What in the name of bloody Merlin possessed you to send me a woman? And a Weasley at that! Have I not been clear about the importance of this mission? I need someone competent - competent, you hear me? Not some incapable girl who-"

"But sir," came the feeble reply of Ginny's supervisor, "Miss. Weasley is our most qualified-"

"There is absolutely no way in Hell that I..."

Ginny had gotten up and slammed the door shut. At least she would no longer have to deal with his incendiary vituperations.

The Chapel

"The chapel is that way," Ginny said confidently, pointing to a door at one side of the cloister.

Draco took a deep breath and pulled out his wand, then hurried after his partner. Though she clearly had a better memory of the place from the maps they had studied, he couldn't just let her wander into danger like a little girl on a risky treasure hunt. He reached the door to the chapel a fraction of a second before her and slipped through the door, his body tense, his senses alert. He had rarely been caught unaware during his missions, but he kept an impressive scar to remind him of the one time when he had. The thought of Weasley's soft, lightly freckled skin ripping from a spell cast at her unsuspecting little body made him particularly reluctant to let her walk in front.

As his eyes searched every corner of the chapel for the presence of an attacker, Ginny admired the architecture of the room. Its high vaults were supported by thin and elegant columns. They seemed to grow straight from the marble floors, where Byzantine mosaics retraced the existence of Jesus and his apostles. Similar scenes adorned the stained glass windows, so bright and colourful that the light that shone through cast red, yellow and blue shapes on the rows of wooden benches. The altar, a splendid piece of marble inlaid with precious stones, still bore the golden chalice used during mass. It had toppled over and purple wine stained the altar cloth.

"Look," Draco said, pointing to several wafers strewn across the floor.

"He got here before us," she said, an edge of fear creeping into her voice.

Draco nodded briefly, his stance growing deceptively like that of a tiger ready to pounce. The odd silence that reigned should have warned him of that fact, but he was not accustomed to monasteries and had heard that they were silent even without escaped psychopaths on the loose.

"I'll check the altarpiece," Ginny whispered.

Behind the altar, a beautiful dome of tessellated glass sheltered the altarpiece. The mosaic represented the Virgin Mary, her round eyelids and thin lips typical of Byzantine art, the blue and gold of her mantle a soothing cradle for the baby Jesus in her arms. At the back of the chapel, below the stunning mosaic, rose the altarpiece of carved wood and gold. Ginny approached it with a mixed feeling of deference and urgency. She opened the central door and quickly leafed through the books she found there.

"Bibles," she said as she opened a side-door of the altarpiece.

Her fingers flew across the pages, wrapping around scrolls and unrolling them with care and precision, folding back creased parchment and putting everything back in its place. She caught Draco's wary eye and shook her head, having completed her examination.

"The scroll isn't here."

"The man we're looking for is called Damian Ferhtorn," Draco spat as though Ginny herself were responsible for his escape from the Aurors' headquarters. "He is suspected of having killed several wizards and is internationally recognized as a very dangerous man. That is the reason why I was appointed to catch him. These are the documents we found in his cell. Our experts couldn't decipher what they say, nor could they identify the maps. That's where you come in, apparently, Weasley," he added scornfully, giving her a glance that left no illusion as to how little he trusted her.

Ginny took one deep breath. She cleared her ideas. Then she rose, walked up to Draco and stood a few inches from him, her pretty face impassive but her entire body radiating cold anger.

"Look, Malfoy, I'm about as pleased about this assignment as you are, so the sooner we get it over, the happier both of us will be. You said they assigned you this mission because Damian Ferthorn is very dangerous. The reason why they assigned me to this mission is because what he's looking for is equally dangerous, and it so happens that I am the best in what I do," she snapped back.

"How do you know what Ferthorn is looking for?" Draco growled, somewhat unsettled by her retort.

Ginny lifted her chin and looked defiantly at him. She nodded to the table, where lay the documents recuperated from Ferthorn's cell.

"That map is of the Kalyptein monastery in Mount Athos, a peninsula in Greece. The documents are in Coptic, which is why the Translation Glasses you Aurors usually use couldn't help you: the language isn't part of the spells typically embedded in them."

Draco scowled but had the intelligence not to dispute her words.

"A few weeks ago, an abandoned crypt was discovered in that monastery. The monks were still busy breaking the spells that surrounded the crypt's contents, but the mural paintings and documentation of the time suggest that the crypt may shelter a scroll dating back to the time of Jesus Christ, a scroll of capital importance and potentially devastating significance."

"Why is that?" Draco asked, increasingly curious as a chilling fear settled upon him.

The Scriptorium

Ginny quickly paced through the church, on the lookout for cabinets or cupboards that could house additional documents, but she knew she would not find anything there. She pulled out her wand.

"We need to keep looking," she said.

Draco was immediately besides her, his steps resonating lightly on the mosaic floor. They exited the chapel through the cloister in which they had first set foot, now more concerned about any noise they might make than about their breath-taking surroundings. Taking the lead, Draco pushed the only other door with his shoulder; it opened without offering any resistance. He walked into the scriptorium, a two-story room of impressive proportions, lit by daylight and candles scattered across both floors. The room's four walls were covered with books of all ages, some so brown and dusty they seemed made of tree bark, others red like blood and lined with threads of gold that gleamed brightly. Ginny watched in awe, as even the Institute, for which she worked, did not boast such an impressive reading room.

Meanwhile, Draco cast a look at the room below them. They stood on a wooden balcony that followed the upper part of the room, probably so that the monks could retrieve whatever books they needed without climbing onto ladders several meters high. From where they stood, they could see the scriptorium below, where several wooden tables still bore open books and unrolled manuscripts. Quills, inkwells, fine paintbrushes and large magnifying glasses were strewn across these tables, indicating that the monks had been hard at work a few hours prior. Draco did not like the unnatural stillness that reigned.

"Stay behind me," he whispered, and headed down the spiral staircase that joined the scriptorium and the balcony.

Their footsteps were muffled by the thick carpet that covered the scriptorium's otherwise paved floor. They treaded cautiously through the rows of copy tables, glancing about frenetically, hoping to catch a glimpse of danger before it reached them. The silence was deafening, the absence of movement even more so. Ginny, who allowed herself to gaze at the various documents on the copy tables and had already recognized several priceless documents, was the first to find one of the monastery's inhabitants. Cautiously, she walked closer to where he sat, hunched over a copy table. She tapped on his shoulder, but he did not respond.

Afraid that he might be hurt, Ginny gently pushed him in an upright position. His head fell back, his face directed toward the ceiling. Ginny dropped him as if burnt and back-pedalled desperately, but it was too late. She bumped into the copy table behind her, tripped, and fell on the ground with a small cry. Draco was next to her in a heartbeat, his wand trained on the monk's cadaver.

"What is it? Are you hurt?" he asked urgently.

The redhead stared at the dark shape with horror, her mouth forming shapes but no words coming out. Draco shook her.

"Weasley, what's wrong?"

She babbled incoherently, but he couldn't understand. Not noticing how pale she had become, Draco marched to the corpse. Upon seeing its face, he bit back a hiss and tried not to vomit. The man's eyes had been plucked out. Rivulets of blood had dried in the creases of his face, forever distorted in a grimace of suffering. The empty orbits looked black from the blood and shadow, and were so spectacular that it took Draco a few additional seconds to notice that the man's throat had been slit rather brutally. He hurried back to Ginny.

"It's okay," he murmured firmly.

He took her in his arms and she did not try to push him away. She was shaking now and held on to him desperately. Draco had never been on a mission with a civilian and was not accustomed to dealing with a woman in a state of shock, but the right gestures came to him naturally.

"Look, Ginny," he said, letting his voice get soft without losing its steadfastness, "I'm sorry you saw this. Believe me, you will learn to deal with what you have just seen. It won't be easy, and it won't be pleasant, but you're a strong woman and you will get over it." He caressed her hair and spoke against her ear. "But the thing is, Ginny, I need you now. The man who did this is on the loose. He's in this monastery. And we need to stop him from committing more crimes. Ginny." He shook her gently. "Ginny, do you understand me?"

She trembled, still, but her breathing had calmed and she was no longer clinging her hands in an unsuccessful attempt to rub death from them. She nodded slowly.

"Good. We'll leave when you are ready. Take your time. Breathe slowly. You can do this."

Ginny let Draco's reassuring presence soothe her for a few additional minutes as she tried to clear her mind. She was the best in her field, but deciphering Coptic manuscripts and analyzing ancestral pieces of parchments did not usually involve dealing with slaughtered monks. She focused at last. Clinging on to Draco for support, she managed to study. She was surprised to find that she could stand, that she could walk, and that, provided she did not gaze toward the corpse, she would be fine.

Draco kept his arm around her waist as they exited the scriptorium through the only door at that level. Ginny stared straight ahead with a mixture of determination and despair, and thankfully did not see the other bodies that littered the scriptorium's floor. They found themselves in a dimly lit corridor, where torches hung from the stonewalls. A trail of blood marked the way, so Draco stepped in front of Ginny and followed it.

"You know," Draco said as casually as he could, "you never did explain why that scroll is so dangerous."

Using levitation spells and enchanted climbing gear, Ginny and Draco were slowly escalating the cliff of Mount Athos' second highest mountain. The perfectly vertical cliff stretched far below them and far enough above them that Draco did not want to think of the time it would take them to reach the summit. He concentrated on hoisting himself upwards centimetre by centimetre, and sorely needed some distraction from the abyss above which he currently hung.

"Assuming the scroll is what we expect it to be, it was written by Judas a few years before Jesus died," Ginny answered, her voice floating down toward him. She was about a meter above him, and seemed significantly more comfortable with the situation than he did. "Aside from the fact that it was written by the thirteenth and most despised apostle, this document is supposed to reveal something about Jesus that most people in the know want to keep a secret."

"What? He had a child out of wedlock?" Draco's voice was much more breathless than he would have liked.

"Jesus was never married, Malfoy. Try to get your facts straight, will you?" she responded without much venom. Then, her voice expressing some concern, she continued. "No, the scroll reveals something much more troubling about Christ. It explains how and why, when he was about twenty, Jesus killed a man."

Draco laughed darkly.

"So you're telling me that Ferthorn is after a piece of paper proving that some guy killed another guy? "

"I'm telling you that this document, written by the greatest traitor of all times, is the account of how the saviour of mankind, and the cornerstone of most of the Western world as we know it, committed an act of unspeakable evil by murdering a man, yes. What happens when the Messiah, supposed to be irreproachable, is shown to have taken a life? What happens when the all powerful, all knowing god of good and forgiveness has a son who has committed a capital crime?"

If Draco could have shrugged without risking a fall, he would have done so.

"It means that the entire doctrine is a fallacy. It means that centuries of good, of forgiveness, of sacrifice, are based on a monumental lie. That very possibility - that lie - is of tremendous power. Not only could it tear apart the Christian world, but the account that a man of God is instead a sinner, written by the very traitor who sentenced that man to death, is an evil object. And an item like that, in the hands of someone like Ferthorn, can pave the way for atrocities never seen before."

"Are you sure you aren't making too much of a fuss for that scroll?" Draco managed to ask.

He saw how quickly her head snapped, her entire body twisting so that she could face him, and worried that she might fall. She appeared, however, to have the grace and balance of an acrobat.

"I have dealt with manuscripts written by regular men about lesser acts," she snapped. "I tracked them down, I broke the spells that surrounded them, I translated them, and I categorized them. Let me tell you right now, Draco Malfoy: if this scroll is indeed Judas' testament, we had better hope that we get to it first and manage to neutralize it, or Ferthorn will have a field day feeding on our corpses and those of any who oppose him."

Draco shot her a shocked look.

"Yes. I know what he did in the past. I also know that it'll be like child's play compared to what he will do if the scroll is ever in his possession."

Draco did not bother to ask how she was privy to the top secret details of Ferthorn's crimes, and urged himself to climb faster.

The crypt

"Bloody psychopath," Ginny murmured as they walked through yet another corridor.

"I beg your pardon?"

Draco was glad to hear that she was once again coherent, but those were not the words he had expected to hear. Nonetheless, he had to agree with her.

"Look at this," she said, pointing to an icon hung on the wall.

He had been following the trail of blood, staring alternately at his feet and at the ends of the various corridors they had taken, but never at the actual wall. In other circumstances, he might have admired the delicate painting on the wood, the gold leaves and the rich purple of the saint's mantel. Unfortunately, the saint depicted in the icon had had its eyes scratched out; two thick marks, emerging from the eyes, had been made with blood. Ginny was fuming, and Draco could tell this was the after-effect of her earlier panic attack. They walked on, until hey reached an opening in one of the walls that had clearly not been meant as such, Indeed, the stone had bee and attacked and removed to create a passageway, probably with the help of spells. Rubble scattered along the make-shift door, and streaks of blood could be seen across the stones and dust, delving into the passageway. This was obviously the entrance to the crypt.

Draco stepped first into the passageway, where no torch would guide their path.

"Lumos," Draco murmured, staying in front of Ginny. They walked down a series of coarsely made steps, some of which crumpled beneath their feet, others marked by blood and the weight of a body that had probably been dragged. Ginny stilled her heart, coldresolution overcoming her senses as it had during the previous times of danger, at the Ministry or during the final battle. At the end of the tunnel, a feeble light illuminated the crypt.

"Protego" Draco said, generating a shield in front of Ginny and himself.

She responded by casting a Lumos charm so that they would have both light and protection. They reached the crypt at last, whose ceiling rose far above what they had expected. Chains still hung above them, but a few of them had been severed to lower a medium sized chest to the ground. It was made entirely of metal and lay on the floor amidst broken chains, unadorned save for primitive carvings that decorated its sides. Behind it, the dark, robed body of a monk cast a sordid shadow: there, the trail of blood stopped. Ginny cast one look at the chest and knew.

"He wasn't able to open it," she said with some relief. "The protective charms were probably too-"

She was violently pulled back and a wand was jabbed into her throat.

"Strong, yes," a sinister voice murmured into her ear. "Not even a human sacrifice could lift the spells, unfortunately for that poor monk, so I hope you'll have better ideas, Curse-Breaker."

"I am no Curse-Breaker," Ginny grit out.

Draco had turned around the minute her frightened gasp indicated the presence of the murderer. He knew they had been careless and that there was nothing he could do at the moment. He eyed Ferthorn calculatingly, waiting for the mistake that would allow Draco to remove Ginny from his grasp.

"I think you are lying," Ferthorn cooed.

Though he did not whisper a single spell, a ribbon of blood trickled from the cut made in her throat.

"I'm a scholar," she said with some difficulty. "I can translate and analyze documents, not-"

"Look, Curse-Breaker, don't play games with me or I will do to you as I did to those monks." Ginny winced as Ferthorn pressed his wand harder into her throat. "And everybody knows you don't need eyes to perform a spell."

He felt her shudder against him but she said nothing. Slowly, Ferthorn raised his arm, trailing his wand against her chin, her cheek, then finding a recess at the corner of her eye.

"That's enough," Draco snapped. "Ginny, cast the counter spells, will you? Your life isn't worth this."

All three knew full well that neither Draco nor Ginny would live to see the day if Ferthorn got what he wanted, but any time gained had to be clung to.

"Listen to the Auror, Ginny," Ferthorn purred, "and maybe I will wait for you to be dead before I remove your eyeballs."

A cold sweat trickled down Ginny's spine and she stared desperately at Draco. He was livid, his heart beating like war drums, despising himself for his helplessness but unable to do anything about it.

"And no funny tricks, eh, Curse-Breaker? Or I will break every bone in the Auror's body."

Ginny nodded slightly and Ferthorn lowered his wand, pressing it against her back instead. The young woman neared the metallic chest and cast a few spells toward it, in response to which it glowed different colours. Draco recognized the words of reconnaissance spells, usually employed to identify the type and strength of spells surrounding an object. In a strong and limpid voice, the redhead began a slow and complex incantation. As she progressed through the interminable syllables, a black aura formed around the chest, then escaped from it as a bird of black smoke. Her eyes still boring into the chest, Ginny went on, sweat forming on her brow as white hands emerged from the cest, threatened to close around her, but vanished under the force of her spell.

She kept going, until ripples of blood had poured from the box and sunk into the floor of the crypt, until blue lightning had crackled through the room, until a thick, green mist had filled the space and seeped away, taking with it the flesh and bones of the dead monk. Draco watched, aghast, as she summoned and banished forces that made even Voldemort's spells seem like child's play. He saw how her shoulders sagged and her gestures grew increasingly slow with each new spell, and hoped it would end before the chest claimed all of her energy. Ferthorn also notice this, rewarding Ginny with a vicious jab of his wand each time she seemed to falter. He did not realize that she was now dealing with powers that by far surpassed his own, and that he only remained alive because she feared hitting Draco if she redirected one of the chest's spells toward the other wizards in the crypt.

At last, Ginny was silent. She turned to Ferthorn, her eyes surrounded by dark shadows, the hollows below her cheeks more pronounced. Draco did not understand how she could now look as though she hadn't eaten or slept in days, but she very much seemed on the brink of collapse. Ferthorn greedily reached for the chest, his wand still pointed at Ginny. A sudden thought stopped him.

"Open the chest," he barked, impatience accelerating his diction.

Without a second's hesitation, Ginny kneeled in front of the chest. A few deft movements and she had unlocked the seals. She opened the chest, revealing the dusty scroll of Judas. Ferthorn shoved Ginny away with force and rushed to kneel where she had sat. The soft crack made by the redhead's skull as it hit the ground did not register with him, but Draco felt renewed blast of anger surge inside him. Ferthorn stared at the scroll with voracious reverence, folly taking over as he envisioned the twisted ways in which he would employ the scroll. Eagerly, he reached for it and clutched it with both hands. A bright red light shone trough his eyes. He fell back, knocked unconscious, and the few seconds it took his inert body to reach the ground were enough for Draco to pounce on him.

So quickly that Ginny, dazed by her fall, could not perceive his motion, Draco was on top of the killer, his hands around his neck and face, his knuckles crunching painfully against the man's cheekbones. Ginny heard the sound of bone hitting one and willed herself awake. Draco was crouching above Ferthorn, his eyes wild with fury. His fists seemed determined to drive Ferthorn's face into the ground. He punched the man with unrestrained violence, alternately hitting him and smashing his skull against the pavement.

"Stop!" Ginny screamed, throwing herself at Draco.

His movements were barely impeded by the young woman's gesture. With an undeniable satifsaction, Draco heard Ferthorn' skull cave against the ground.

"Stop it, Draco, stop it!" Ginny repeated. She pushed him away feebly, and only his willingness to be stopped allowed her to have any impact. He let go of the man's bloodied misshapen face.

"It's okay," Ginny whispered, holding Draco's wrists as though she had any power to keep him in check. "I left the spells protecting the scrolls. He won't be conscious for a few days. It's okay," she said again. Draco stopped struggling and her hands naturally wrapped around his neck. She stared at him and brought his forehead against hers. "Everything is going to be okay."

Then she kissed him. Her lips found his with the care and gentleness of a prayer, fervent, soothing, and uplifting at once. Draco kissed her back without hesitation, hoping to forget everything he had seen and everything he had done, willing to be lost in the moment afforded to them by Ginny's trickery. He kissed her tenderly, with as much caution as he could muster for her tired limbs. Together, they waited for reinforcements. They knew that the worst was past them, though so much more lay ahead. Together, they rested, as the light in the crypt dimmed and the noxious influence of the scroll faded.


Several years and many assignments later...

Draco Malfoy strolled purposefully into the office, his countenance the epitome of elegance and professionalism. He saw her. He did not turn around or leave the room.

"Weasley," he said coldly.

"It's Malfoy now, haven't you heard?" Ginny replied, smiling wickedly at him.

Draco sat down across the table from her and leaned forward.

"So they've assigned you to me. Again."

"Think I can handle it?" she teased.

"You have for the past seven years," he replied, shrugging.

"But I'm a woman..."

"The woman who can raise Cepheus Malfoy can definitely help his father track down a bibliophilic maniac."

Ginny beamed at her husband. She kissed him hard, then looked down at the documents he had brought.

"So who did you Aurors allow to escape this time?"

Author notes: Feel free to Review! :)

The End.
ogygiasylph is the author of 3 other stories.
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