The Sugar Quill
Author: Zephyrus Prolixity  Story: Job Interview  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Job Interview by Zephyrus Prolixity  

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, and all of the various Publishers and Movie Producers. Their Lawyers know who they are. I am not doing this for money. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. This story of Bill Weasley 'Curse Breaker' is set in a universe that sprang from the mind of Jedi Boadicea while at play in JKR's universe.

Author's Note: In this tale we find our stalwart hero becoming a Curse Breaker and we see how he got those handy Dragon hide Boots. I would like to express my gratitude to JKR,for being the originator of such an awesome universe in which to play. To Jedi Boadicea, for allowing me to play-off of her interpretation of Bill Weasley. I hope he hasn't suffered too much for the mistreatment.
Thanks also to Honeychurch for being a most excellent Beta-reader. Enough of me, now... On with Bill.

Bill Weasley couldn't remember a time when he had been more nervous. His appointment was in just ten minutes' time. He had received a prompt response to the application he'd submitted to Gringotts Wizarding Bank for a position as a prospective curse breaker.

A tall and somewhat gangling young man, with typical flame red 'Weasley' hair, brown eyes and a bit of a devil-may-care aura about him, Bill had cut a grand figure as Head Boy of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At least the Fat Lady's friend Vi had certainly seemed to think so. However, that was almost a year behind him now. He had spent the last eleven months working for the Ministry of Magic in the Goblin Liaison Office.

It was through his work in the G.L.O., that he learned of the open positions with Gringotts. Seemed there'd recently been a mishap involving the mysterious mountain-retreat of a barmy old Welsh warlock, Jenkin ap Madoc, who was known by the name of Mad John. Bill did not have any details about what had happened to the team of curse- breakers sent to evaluate the site; except there were now openings with the goblins. He glanced at his watch, and saw it was just a couple of minutes until the Portkey he'd be using would be active. The Portkey had been delivered by special owl earlier that morning. Attached was a brief but pointed note.

As was customary for goblins, there were no idle words. Bill often thought gobs prized words nearly as much as they did gold, since they were so miserly in the spending of them.

He once more examined what was to be the Portkey to take him-- wherever it was he was supposed to meet this Clawsblock gob. It was a curious thing to be used as a Portkey, a blade-less sword...actually just the handle-- intricately wrought with runes and what could only be jewel stones of various colors.

One minute until time...Bill took a deep breath and firmly grasped the one-time hilt, as if preparing for battle. Thirty seconds later Bill remembered to exhale. Suddenly, he felt the powerful jerk behind his navel pulling him forward to his interview.

His feet slammed hard on the paving stones of an ancient courtyard, and Bill found himself taken aback by the formidable sight he beheld. It was a castle to almost rival Hogwarts. There was a pair of goblins standing not far away eyeing him suspiciously.

"Hello there," Bill spoke in a cheery tone, trying not to let his uneasiness show. 
"Is one of you named Clawsblock?"

The older of the pair (at least Bill thought he was older but with gobs you couldn't be sure) gestured for him to approach them.

"Portkey, please." The goblin growled; but in an almost polite manner.

"Certainly. Here you are, quite a unique item, that." Bill replied, holding out the would be hilt.

The 'junior partner' as Bill thought of him took the hilt and tucked it into his belt.

"Follow. Please," rasped Clawsblock.

The three of them turned to enter the huge entrance to the castle and the two goblins began to converse in Gobbledegook. Due to his work in the G.L.O., Bill was able to grasp a word once in a while,  but couldn't fully follow the gist of the conversation.

When they reached the massive doors to the entry hall the goblins turned expectantly to Bill.

"Open. Please." Prompted Clawsblock  his gruff tones that booked no room for resistance.

"Err... I beg your pardon, sir but...." Bill attempted.

"Test begins here," offered the junior goblin.

Bill, now understanding he was to open the doors, began to examine them with closer scrutiny. They were tall and thick; wood bound with iron, having runes and symbols carved in strange patterns across their surface. Bill subconsciously grasped his wand and began to slowly twirl it between his fingers. This was a habit he'd had since his first year at Hogwarts; he twirled his wand whenever he was working out a solution to whatever puzzled him.

Mostly the spells he was seeing were unremarkable... things most wizards might put on their front doors to protect their property from those who would enter with malevolent intention. Bill started muttering the counter-wards to the charms and curses on the doors as he waved his wand before them. Hmm... What have we here? Very curious... those are a couple of very obscure rune patterns there. Ah, that is a nasty curse indeed, but luckily I read about that in the restricted section while studying for my N.E.W.T.S.

Bill stopped his wand work and stepped to the left side of the doorway. He looked closely at the finely wrought decorative stonework surrounding the doors. Kneeling down onto one knee to better see the runes he found near the ground, Bill caught the goblins staring intently at what he was doing. Bill conjured a small fine bristled brush and magically cleared the layers of grit and dust from the face of the carving. It was ancient Greek of all things....

Bill began to work out the meaning of what was carved into the stone.

Ereunao (Search) aneu (without) phobeo (fear) hos (what) grapho (I have written).
Apostrepho (Put back) ho (the) machaira (sword) kleis (key) eis (into) autos (its) topos (place).
Hoti (That) pur (fire) aneu (without) phos (light) ou (not) apokteino (kill) Psuche (your soul).
Zues (Zeus) apoollumi (destroy) ho (the) Romaios (Romans).

Search without fear what I have written.
Put back or up Replace maybe? the sword key into its place.
[So] That fire without light [does] not kill your soul.
Zeus, destroy the Romans.

Bill was glad he'd been paying attention in Ancient Runes, when they'd asked for volunteers for a special summer exchange study. He recalled being allowed to spend the entire summer between fifth and sixth years in Greece, studying under Professor Aristotle Stephanitos. Two other students, one from Beauxbatons and one from Brazil had joined him in the work and studies. Bill had got on well with the boy from Brazil and had carried on a pen-friendship for a time...until Bill had been unable to visit South America at the end of his sixth year at Hogwarts. Dirty blighter, sent me a cursed hat... Mum like to've never got my ears enlarged back to normal. They still look strange to me; but now that I'm not working at the G.L.O., I can let my hair grow out and cover over the tops of them. They won't show that way. Don't have to wear those goofy robes any more either.

Bill sat back on his heels and considered the translated message. There were several things here he didn't particularly like. Search without fear? Search for what, the sword key...or instructions for finding the sword key? Note to self: I must be certain to put the sword key in the correct place, else I'll trigger the dark fire that will kill my soul.

"Right, then." Bill stood and turned to the goblins who were eyeing him in an intense and speculative way. "It's really quite simple you see, all one must do to enter the doors, is find the curse key, which will not only break the protective wards, but will, I believe, reveal what other curses there may be waiting within." 

Bill gave what he hoped was a roguish grin. "Shall I have a go, then?"

Clawsblock inclined his head slightly, while looking at his associate out of the corner of his eyes. Both goblins promptly began to slowly back away from the entranceway.

Bill chuckled quietly, although he was slightly alarmed at the prospect of failure. He was after all, still a Gryffindor.

Again he approached the doors and carefully reread the symbols and runes. Just take your time Mr Weasley, Professor McGonagall's voice sounded faintly in his head, then her voice was joined by tiny Professor Flitwick's, Concentrate my boy, and, I dare say, there's not a charm or a curse you cannot beat. Bill nodded his head slightly as if his professors could see him, naturally, wanting them to know he understood their words. All the while, he continued to trace the carvings on the doors and walls with his eyes. Suddenly, Bill began to pace along the wall to the left of the doorway, examining the stonework cautiously. There...there, was one, and there, another. Tricky blighter, old Mad John. Bill finally found yet a third of the curious slots in the midst of solid stones. He then retraced his steps to the doorway, and began to examine the wall to the right of the doors. Yet again there were three slots in the stones.

"But, what do I put into them?" Bill mused.

"Definitely not your finger eh, Mr Weasley." The Charms professor's voice chided with him.

Bill cast a furtive glance at the goblins; he hadn't a hint of an idea if there was a time limit on this test, but it did not appear the goblins were getting restless. In fact Bill couldn't tell what they were feeling or thinking at all; that wasn't unusual, he knew from past experience in the G.L.O..

As he was contemplating the way to beat the main security curse, his mind reflected on the months he had spent working in the Ministry.

It had been the longest almost-year Bill had ever experienced.

He had been hired on the spot when he had shown up just days after leaving Hogwarts. He had thought at first he might be placed in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement or mayhap into the department of Mysteries. After all, his N.E.W.T.S. in Charms and Transfiguration were in the top fifth of the first percentile of all time. A record that rivaled even the work of Godric Gryffindor and Rowena Ravenclaw themselves. But sadly the Ministry in its abundant wisdom had placed him in the G.L.O..
Instead of making use of his prodigious skills, they had made him an almost secretary, filling out and filing forms covering everything from complaints by wizards about unfair currency exchange rates, to disputes over treasure being claimed by Gringotts goblins. Some of the latter involved treasure that had been placed in Gringotts' vaults by wizards who did not realize that if they didn't check back on their account within a century's time their valuables would be declared abandoned, and then claimed by the Bank. Bill was absolutely bored within a fortnight of starting that job. One bright spot in the tedium was finding out about the open positions with Gringotts. Bill had already had more fun today than he'd had since leaving school.

For these last several minutes, Bill had been looking for something that could be the 'sword key' and had found nothing. Then he had a glimmer of an idea...

"Excuse me, gent... um, fell.... err... Sirs?" Bill addressed the goblins as he approached them. "But could I have another look at the Portkey?"

Clawsblock gave Bill a calculating look, before turning to his associate and nodding his head. The younger goblin gave a most toothy sneer, and, extracting the hilt from his belt, handed it to Bill. As he examined the runes on the handle, Bill found his excitement growing. "This is it!" He exclaimed. Now if I just knew where to put it....

Bill carefully read the rune inscription on the presumed sword key.

His curiosity piqued, Bill began again to twirl his wand, as he stepped back in to 
the midst of the courtyard. It proved to be a large enclosed space paved with cobblestones, the walls were a good thirty feet high at a guess and there were watch towers at the corners. Bill held out his wand in the flat palm of his hand. "Point me!" he said firmly. The twelve inches of whomping willow and dragon heartstring  spun around clockwise and came to rest pointing toward Bill's right. He faced in that direction and saw the entryway for the bailey. Off to his left there appeared to be large pile of broken stone.

"That is North." Bill mused, "So... a quarter turn to the left is Northwest.... Hmmm, 'The Fountain of Revelation' I wonder...." Bill quickly trotted to the heap of broken stone and began to examine it thoroughly. "Heh, this cairn seems quite recent," He muttered. "Acervus Aperio!" Bill called as he pointed his wand at the pile of rubble. The pile of stones shimmered and became transparent. There, still covered by the mass of stone, a well coping lay revealed.

"Finite incantatem!" The piled stones returned to their impenetrable appearance.

"Acervus patesco!" Bill cried. And with a flourish of his wand, the entire mound of stones rolled themselves into a new and more neatly arranged stack, several feet from the now accessible Well.

The goblins, who to this point had been following Bill's every move with just their eyes, joined him near the Well-side.

Bill glanced at Clawsblock with a raised eyebrow. It did not appear, however, that the goblin would be forthcoming about Bill's progress. Nor did the younger gob offer to speak. Bill again checked the message on the blade-less hilt.

"Wisdom Will Carry The Light. Journey By The Fountain of Revelation, Placing North of West into South of East." Bill aligned himself facing Southeast to look across the top of the uncovered Well. He was facing the wall of the castle to the Western side of the main doors. He could see just the very top of the watchtower at the Southeast corner of the barbican. He had yet to approach the Well itself, and now he hesitated... He knew he was close, but something was missing...."Haste Will Bring Death to Those Who Heed Not Their Guide" the words of warning drifted across Bill's mind sounding strangely enough as though professor McGonagall were standing at his shoulder.

"Right." Bill began to twirl his wand as he examined his position in the courtyard. "I have the Well-- 'The Fountain of Revelation,' I am aligned on a 'Northwest to Southeast' axis. What don't I have?" Tut, Tut, Mr Weasley, where is your guide? And by the way, what does 'wisdom will carry the light' mean? The voice in his head was sounding frighteningly like Professor McGonagall, now. "So, I lack two pieces to this puzzle. I have to 'follow my guide'- I'm guessing that's not either of the gobs.... Come on Weasley, use your brain, eleven months in the G.L.O. hasn't turned it all to mush has it? I've been at this for, what now? Almost two hours already. Surely I'm close to the solution by this time." Absentmindedly, Bill began to toss up the 'sword-key' hilt and catch it, all the while twirling away with his wand. Suddenly, Bill stamped his foot, snatched the hilt from the air, and focused on the inscription once more. 'Haste Will Bring Death to Those Who Heed Not Their Guide'

"Whew...!" Bill sighed "Weasley you git, what is the first thing the inscription says? Hmmm....? Wisdom! You ninny! And what would Wisdom be carrying, then...? LIGHT! Are you carrying a light with you? I thought not.... You're wholly into your; 'I'm Bill Weasley--Best, Head Boy Hogwarts has seen since Albus Dumbledore himself '--routine aren't you? Sheesh!"

Bill stopped twirling his wand and held it aloft "Lumos!" he called. "Now, I've got all the pieces." Bill said with conviction.

As he stood looking at the 'fountain of revelation', Bill noticed an odd scorch mark near the well coping. It appeared something had been set on fire there, just where a person might stand to look down into the well. He found himself edging closer and closer, to look at the spot. When he got close enough to the place, Bill could see clearly, the blackened outlines of a pair of shoe prints.

"I have a bad feeling about this," He muttered; but quietly enough that the goblins didn't hear it.

"A former Curse-breaker of yours, I presume?" Bill inquired of Clawsblock and friend, with a raised eyebrow. He could have imagined it, but it appeared the old goblin might have, ever so slightly, inclined his head. Bill wasn't sure. It was certain, though, that he didn't want to take the final step that would allow him to look down within the well. Because if he did, he would then be standing in the exact spot where his poor departed predecessor had met his fate.

Bill took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. He slowly turned, looking back over the courtyard, mentally retracing his steps; reviewing the curses he'd encountered, and the charms he'd performed. So far, there had not been any especially dangerous curses to break. Bill had a feeling however, that now the situation had changed. Well Mr Weasley, it appears we'll soon see if you've any real talent for this sort of work, won't we? Do try and not get yourself completely cremated, won't you? Professor McGonagall's voice nearly sent a chill up Bill's spine that time. With another deep breath, he re-faced the well.

"Point me, Southeast." Bill snapped, to double-check that he was aligned properly.

When he was sure that he was oriented as spot-on as he could be, Bill raised his wand and said "Lumos". With his re-lit wand raised, Bill considered a moment and also raised the "sword-key", as if it actually had a blade extending ahead from its guard. In this manner, and with a final deep breath, Bill stepped quickly up to the well-coping. There, with a sudden ringing 'SHHHING', a brilliantly gleaming blade sprang from the hilt of the "sword-key". And a good thing it did, for it was just in time to deflect a bolt of black lightning from out of the well.

"Whew..." Bill exhaled. "Crikey... That... was interesting... but I doubt I'm finished yet, not by a long chalk." This was something he'd heard his grandfather say but had never before thought to say himself.

Looking down into the well, styled the 'Fountain of Revelation', Bill received a surprise. Looking up at him with a wicked grin, was the head of a wild looking warlock....

"Not badly done, me boyo. Not badly done at all. Yeh worked it out quicker'n the last fifty ter come through this way. Oh an' by-the-by, yeh've no need to worry 'bout yon scorched mark. 'Twas a nasty shock he had, but he'll be fine. He'll be strong as new steel, in no time, once he's grown all his hair back, that is."

Bill was momentarily speechless, wondering what was going to take place next. He shot an inquisitive glance at the pair of goblins who were standing, several feet to his left, watching impassively. Bill then looked admiringly at the sword he was still holding. It was a beautiful, and decidedly powerful, instrument.

"A beauty ain't she?" Said the head in the well. "An' just as sharp t'day as when she were forged close to two-thousand years ago. Belonged to me Great Grandsire that did. He built this place as a stronghold against the Romans. Used his sword as 'e key to 'e curse-wards... so yeh've discovered. But now, yer task isna done yet, Boyo. Ah, no there's still wards to bring down, 'fore yeh'll be waltzin' into me humble cottage such as it is..."

"Just who--in bloody-blue-blazes-- are you anyway?" Bill finally found enough voice to ask.

"Why, I'm Jenkin ap Madoc...but, yeh kin call me Mad John, or just John, if yer so minded. I'm to be yer master while yeh serve out yer apprenticeship here."

"WHAT?" Bill nearly shouted in alarm. "An apprenticeship? Here? Working under you? Since when?"

"B'y, yeh've been working fer the goblins since ever yeh took hold of that Portkey this morn. This testing is by way of introducing you, to situations yeh're apt to find yerself in, workin' to break curses on wizards' hid treasures." Mad John explained. "I've been head curse-breaker for 'e goblins fer nigh on a hundred and twenty-seven years.... Trained most all in 'e business 'ese days." He grinned, with obvious mischief. "We decided to hire yeh firs' thin', after we got your owl...and after I talked wit' me nephew, Albus; I knew we could start yer trainin' right off. He holds high hopes fer you, b'y, don't yeh be disappointin' him."

Bill was both amazed, and quite amused, to hear his former Headmaster spoken of as if he were a child who was not to be denied his favorite sweet.

"I'll...err...umm... I'll do my best." Bill struggled to say without chuckling.

"See yeh do." The old Warlock was suddenly deadly serious, and quite intimidating, which was some feat considering 'he' was just the vision of a head glaring up at Bill from several inches down inside the top of a well.

"Enough o' this min'less chatter, take down 'e rest of 'e curse-wards, boyo. An' mind yeh keep yer wits about yeh, I've laid on a couple of surprises yeh jest might not be familiar with.... Yeh'll have no lastin' harm, so long as yeh hold 'e 'curse-key', but it would slow us down if we have to nurse yeh back ter strength, now, wouldn't it?" With a last evil smirk and a resounding 'POP', Mad Johns head disappeared.

Bill turned to the goblins.

"The test, you have passed," gob junior stated.

"Your Training, you begin now," Clawsblock said.

The younger goblin held out a small sack. As Bill took it, he was surprised by its heft.

"Thanks. By the way I didn't get your name earlier." Bill said inquiringly.

The junior member of the duo stood erect. "Name is Vaultslock. Son of Clawsblock"

Bill understood, and was impressed. This particular gob, Bill knew, was prominent in the Gringotts security forces. Those security goblins were scary. Completely ferocious in the execution of their duties, trained to never forget anything or anyone they saw, they were no-one to mess with.

"It was nice to meet you." Bill offered with a grin.

With the same unreadable blank stares that they'd had the whole time, the goblins disappeared with a slight nod of their heads and a resounding 'SSNAP''.

Bill was alone in the courtyard. He first thrust the 'Ward sword' in his belt, and opened the sack that Vaultslock had given him. Inside he found: a small beautifully tanned leather wallet, a small roll of fine parchment that proved to be Official Gringotts Credentials identifying Bill Weasley as an Apprentice Curse-breaker, and finally, thirty of the shiniest Galleons he had ever seen.

Bill opened the magnificent leather wallet, and inside was a surprise; a miniature, ivory white broomstick with tan bristles. Bill extracted it from the wallet and examined it carefully, before touching it with his wand. Soundlessly the broomstick enlarged until it was of full size. "Well I'll bow" --another of his grandfather's expressions he'd never needed before-- "a Company broom already, and I'm just an apprentice? I knew I'd like working for the gobs." Bill declared enthusiastically.

He looked back inside the wallet. Another piece of parchment had appeared there. Bill read:

With a small 'pop', Bill now had Twenty-Nine Galleons to put into his beautiful new wallet. "Ah... that's more like the goblins we all know and love. Looks like I'm renting a company broom, until I finish my apprenticeship. Better make sure it doesn't take too long." Bill snorted. "Right. Well I have to take down the wards that remain and get into the Castle. Wonder what the old madman meant about surprises?" Bill mused. As he again approached the doors, he wove his wand in intricate patterns, at arms reach ahead of his face. He was muttering charms and counter curses as he went. When he was once more close to the huge doors, he began to see a curious green-tinged glow. It was set at about six-inches distance from the building and covered the entire castle. Bill stood still, contemplating what he should do.

The Sword is the key to the Curse-wards--but a key has to have a keyhole--there has to be a lock that this fits...uh umm, my note to self says: I must be certain to put the sword-key in the correct place, else I'll trigger the dark fire that will kill my soul. I would normally think that was speaking of the 'black lightning', back at the well...but as I'm dealing with a nutter who is trying to trick me, I can't be certain that is what the instructions are referring to. I have to find the correct place to put this restored blade that will disarm the curse-wards and allow me to enter the doors.... From the 'Fountain of Revelation', Bill gave a sarcastic snort. Journey Northwest to Southeast. Back to the well, Billy me boy. Let's get this finished an' no more muckin' about.

Bill once again stood with the sword in hand looking across the top of the well-coping. He was once more aligned facing Southeast. With his wand lit, and raised above his head, he raised and pointed the sword ahead of him as he stepped to the charred spot beside the well. The black lightning flashed once more, but this time Bill was expecting it and caught sight of the place to which it was deflected. It struck the stones of the castle directly in front of Bill, perfectly aligned on the Northwest to Southeast axis.

Bill directly, and hurriedly, walked from the well to that spot on the castle wall. There he found the middle of the three slots on this side of the doorway.

"Right," said Bill, grasping the sword-key. "Here goes nothing."

Bill raised the sword as if to deliver a final stabbing-blow to a defeated adversary. And thrusting it into the slot in the wall, he plunged it to the hilt. With a sound not unlike that of placing a blade in its sheath, the 'sword-key' began to glow a blinding shade of bluish white. Immediately, there was a tremendous 'Crack' and bolts of the familiar black lightning raced across the surface of the now easy- to-see curse field. When all had dissipated, Bill could find no trace of the former greenish glow. He reached up and grasped the hilt of the sword-key once more, and was surprised when it fell into his hand a blade-less 'curiosity' once more.

"Well, I'll bow..." Bill nearly whispered. "That was a complex series of spells to all hinge on this one, seemingly worthless, artifact." Note to self: Never discard anything, as it could prove to be very useful later.

Finally, Bill was able to walk completely up to the doors of the castle. After three insufferable hours, he could now attempt to open the doors.

As he had noted earlier, these were mostly unremarkable security wards that any Wizarding family might use to guard their property. "Except that one--and this one here..." Bill didn't remember those from his earlier examination of the doors. In fact he was certain that the first one was entirely different now from what it had been when he'd first read through the curses, three hours before.

"Crafty blighter," Bill muttered to himself, "went and changed the wards on me, didn't you?" He continued to mutter to himself, but it was as if he were addressing Mad John. "Thought I'd not see the difference in that one, 'cause it's really slight. Maybe, you figured I'd not see it, for seeing this one which is so obvious it nearly screams for attention. Must've thought I'd wind up tripping over that one because it's nearly the same as before." Bill was impressed with the subtlety of the ways 'Mad' John was challenging him. Nothing he knows I can't handle, but nothing to insult me with its simplicity. Wonder how much Dumbledore takes after dear ol' uncle Jenkin, then? He's teaching me without even speaking to me. Bill was awed by the prospect.

With a final muttered incantation, the last ward dropped, and the doors swung open on their own.

"Heh, That's 'e ticket, boyo. Come in... Come in... Welcome to Lloches y Ddraig."

Bill translated the name in his head, "'Lair of the Dragon' I hope that's just a decorative name meant to inspire dread in enemies."

As Bill stepped though the doorway, a feeling of electricity brushed his exposed skin; almost as if the very air was magically charged. Feeling suddenly lightheaded, but not quite dizzy, he swayed slightly to keep his balance. At a guess, as he looked around, Bill would have said that he was not in the same place as he had been... Wherever that was.

The ancient warlock was standing a few feet away, chuckling softly and examining Bill with a positively evil grin on his face. Around his feet were playing a pair of small dogs. One Bill recognized as a Crup. The second dog was larger than the Crup but still not a large dog. "Aye, boyo, yeh're not at me 'ome.

"There be only one way to learn curse-breakin', b'y, an' that be ter break curses. We be in a distant corner o' Sweden close to 'e border with Norway, way-away to the North. This place was an old Dragon keepers' lodge... Gringotts got hold of it a while back an' sent a team to survey it. Wanted ter see if they could find 'e treasure as has been said is hidden here." Mad John informed him.

As he listened to the explanations of the old wizard, Bill examined his surroundings. The room in which he found himself was definitely not what he had seen through the open 'doorway'; he had already surmised that the door had been some kind of a portal. The room was large and mostly dark. There were only three flickering candles attached in brackets on the walls. From what he could see it appeared to Bill that this was sort of a common room. The walls were of rough gray stone and there was a huge fireplace at one end, cold and dark. The floor was paved with large pieces of granite, rough and unfinished. There did not appear to be any windows and Bill couldn't see a doorway for the darkness. The shadows of what appeared to be pieces of furniture were evident in the gloom.

Mad John seemed to consider what else to tell Bill. "The team got through the first couple of layers of curse-wards and then they Apparated back to their base and owled the goblins, as I was in the field in Egypt. Seems they tripped on something unexpected down in one of the dungeons. Well, yeh'll be seeing that for yerself soon enough."

As he stood listening to the information the old wizard was providing, Bill contemplated exactly what would trip up a team of professional curse-breakers. And what exactly am I expected to do about it? This was just supposed to be an interview. And what happened to the training Clawsblock was talking about...? I have a really bad feeling about this.

"Firstly, they broke 'e exterior wards; an' then 'e lockin' charms and curses on 'e doorway. Tha' took just under full day ter accomplish. As a standard practice when we work in bad weather conditions, once the initial security is brought down, we then make an Apparating point on the inside; so we can come and go without having to battle the elements. I connected 'e point here to 'e doorway of Caerfadog, so you could get here all dry and comfortable. No wasted time, that way, waiting for you ter dry off and all."

Mad John grinned at Bill. "Now before we go to work, let's have a bit o' lunch and I'll answer yer questions while we eat, eh?" With those words, the room was brighter and there was a fire blazing in the fireplace.

Bill turned and saw a table set up and laid out for two people. There was meat, bread, cheese, fruit and a pitcher of something that looked like pumpkin juice, all just waiting for someone to tuck in.

"Albus told me you like a light lunch, so I took the liberty of throwing this together," Mad John explained. "Now, let's eat."

"I suppose you'd like to know a bit more about me as yeh're going to be working under me...what's Albus' word...ah yes, 'tutelage', that's it. Well, 'e place where yeh were tested this morn is me family 'ome. 'Twas built by me Great Grandsire, as I told yeh before. His father fought against the Romans with the Iceni, under Queen Boadicea."  As he was speaking, Mad John tossed a scrap of meat to each of his dogs. "Tho't 'twould be a good way ter judge yer skills, those wards are what I'd call intermediate level, and you didna have much difficulty in working around 'em. 'Course, if I was seriously tryin' ter keep yeh out there are some others in place I had disarmed. Those'd prove a real challenge ter anyone. That'll be yer final examination, boyo. Yeh'll have to get into me 'ome throu' all of 'e wards... but don't worry that won't be fer some while yet."

Bill was seriously beginning to doubt his own reasoning, as he thought on what the old nutter was saying. What kind of fix have I gotten myself in this time?

"Well, be that as it may." Mad John continued, "Me and me nephews, Albus and Aberforth, me sister's boys yeh understand, and me great-granddaughter Katie... we're all's left of 'e line now. Katie's parents, me granddaughter and her husband, were killed in the fight against Grindelwald back in the forties. But Albus, he took care of that evil piece o' filth.

"Katie would make a great curse-breaker, but she keeps tellin' me she enjoys her own life. People say she got her sense of humor from me...always telling me I twisted her mind when she was young." Mad John snorted, as he tossed a cusp of bread to the dogs. "This is Cavall, and this is Alexandra. He's a Crup as yeh can see, and she's one-quarter Crup and three-quarters Corgi. Just got her last week, she's sort of in training like yeh are, boyo."

Bill considered the dogs for a moment and then couldn't help asking; "Please sir, what exactly is she...err...Alexandra, training for?"

"Yeh needna' be so formal, b'y. I'm not yer headmaster... just 'is uncle," chuckled the old warlock. "Beasties are knowin' lot's about finding thin's, boyo. It's their natures, yeh see? Now magical beasties, they 'ave all 'e abilities they need early on, they just need training what thin's 'tis yeh want them ter find. And since Alexandra's only one-quarter Crup she needs more 'tutelage', -- I do like that word-- than say Cavall would, yeh see?" Mad John asserted as he was finishing the last of the sandwich he'd been eating.

"Crups are great scavengers, always dragging up things others've lost or 'idden away. Now Corgis, even though they're Muggle, they are great dogs too. 'E Muggles use them on their farms and for show.

They've tremendous hearts do Corgis and very quick wits. Yeh cross the two breeds and yeh have a really useful companion in finding an' working your way through what's 'idden in a great maze of a place such as this."

Bill made a note to himself to remember the advice about making use of creatures both Magical and Muggle alike.

Mad John began speaking again. "Now as I was tellin' yeh, we've gotten past 'e exterior wards; and 'e first couple of levels of security wards inside, which means pretty much everythin' above ground is safe ter move through. It's in'e dungeons where we mus' take care. There are nasty thin's in those dungeons, b'y, nasty thin's for certain. Yeh be payin' heed to what I tell yeh, and don't be wandering off on yer own. Yeh hear me, b'y?"

Bill swallowed a partially chewed mouthful of his own sandwich and croaked, "Ye...ah...yes sir."

"That's grand now....Ah, me b'y, yeh's the' makin's o' a great Curse-breaker...if yeh just remember this one thin'." It was amazing how much the ancient wizard resembled Professor Dumbledore now as he instructed: "Always think before yeh do. Research will get more gold than all 'e wan' wavin' in 'e world. It's not just knowin' how to break a curse, but thinkin' ahead. Sorta like play'n' chess; knowin' tha' if yeh break th' curse on 'is room, it's gonna trip 'e Entombment Charm in 'e next room so that yeh'll be caught soon as yeh enter there.  So 'e charm yeh use to drop this one has to be powerful enough to take down whate'er is tied in wit' it. Yeh showed yeh could do all 'at this morn. And o'course yeh knew 'bout 'e use of curse-keys, an' knowin' 'bout curse-keys is a powerful great he'p, boyo, a powerful great he'p indeed."

"Are yeh ready ter be gettin' on wit' it now?" Queried Mad John.

"Yes Sir!" said Bill forcefully so as to cover his apprehension.

"Heh, 'at's 'e spirit boyo! Com'on I'll show yeh where we're gonna start. An' don' yeh be worrin' I've gotta plan!" Mad John smiled enthusiastically.

Bill was not especially comforted by Mad John's zeal. However, he didn't see that he had any choice except to push on with what he'd started.

"Now pay attention young Billy-me-b'y, I'll lead yeh throu' 'e curses that've a'ready been taken dow' an' show yeh 'ow 'twas they's broke. An' keep yer eyes open, boyo 'cause there could be some curses as was overlooked by 'e first team. Trust nothing. Yeh could say that paranoia is a job hazard in curse breaking. Nothing is sure unless yeh've done it yerself, an' double-checked yer work, an' e'en then yeh shouldn't feel safe." Mad John instructed, sounding like the venerable voice of experience.

The ancient curse breaker pointed to the room ahead and informed Bill,  "Now this is where we found 'e first interior ward. 'Twas a strong Phobius Charm--coupled with a nasty Confundus Curse. If it 'as tripped 'twould cause yeh ter be both afraid and confused. Give yeh a sense of terrible fear coupled with having a helpless feelin' o' not knowin' what it is yeh fear. 'Twould prove quite effective at keeping the unprepared from moving onward. 'E key ter bringing it down safely 'as sending that ol' shield, over there, hovering through the doorway while muttering a Shieldin' Charm to block the Confundus. Once the shield had triggered the Phobius Charm, it fell to the floor yeh see; and if yeh wasn't holding up a Shieldin' Charm as well, yeh'd still get waylaid by the Confundus. Always use somethin' inanimate, if yeh can, to help yeh break compound-wards."

The next two rooms where covered by first an Entombment Curse, followed by a nasty combination of a Full-Body-Bind coupled with a Smothering Curse. Bill was beginning to see why being paranoid was a good idea.

As they progressed through the maze of the old Dragon-master's lodge, it became apparent that there were a few curse-wards still to be broken. For example they discovered that all of the security wards on the rooms of the castle had been broken, but the contents of those rooms were a different matter entirely. Cavall and Alexandra were constantly warning the two wizards of curses on furniture and fixtures in a room they were searching. One such example was on the third floor; Alexandra drew Bill's attention to a magnificent wardrobe in a large and sumptuously furnished bedroom. It looked to be made entirely of silver. In trying to determine if it was in fact silver and therefore qualified as treasure, he cast a testing charm at the wardrobe.

"Comprobo Argentum!"

It was a good thing he used a charm, instead of touching it directly. As it was he was forced to dive hurriedly to the side when a powerful Stunning Spell burst from within the dark interior of the wardrobe with a great 'WHIZZ'. The sound of the spell impacting on the far wall echoed throughout the castle. Its 'CRACK' was almost like that of a thunderous blow from Thor's own Hammer .

Mad John came and stood over Bill with a curious expression of genuine satisfaction. "Heh, yeh've got 'e reflexes o' a great curse-breaker, boyo, there's no doubt o' that. Merlin's beard 'at 'as quick."

"Er... Thanks." Bill replied somewhat limply.

"Let's see what yeh found shall we?" Mad John practically yelped with glee.

Bill thought the old warlock sounded like Fred egging George to new heights of mayhem. "I have a bad feeling about this." He moaned. Then he asked, "Sir, how long have you actually been doing this work?"

The old warlock sounded testy when he spoke. "I tol' yeh b'y, yeh should call me Mad John, or jest plain John if 'at serves yeh better. My right name is Jenkin which is a Welsh form o' John. Yeh could e'en call me 'at." He paused as if in thought.

"'Course I was called by a nickname when I went ter Hogwarts, me mates called me Jinx sort o' a play on me name yeh see. 'At an' I's right handy throwin' jinxes at 'em Slytherins who provoked me. Professor Flamel was always taking points off o' me in Potions fer jinxin' somebody on 'e way ter class. 'Twas a good thing Gryffindor had 'e strongest Quidditch side fer all seven years I's in school or we'd ne'er 'ave won 'e 'Ouse Cup." Jinx chuckled.

"Right. How long have I been breakin' curses? Le'me see... 'twill be a hundred an thiry-two years come June. And in August it'll be a hundred and twenty-seven years since I became Head Curse-Breaker. Yeh got a real chance ter have me job one day, boyo. After trainin' curse-breakers fer o'er a hundred years I can tell just by 'e way a wizard walks in ter 'e room if 'e's got the talent ter survive as a curse-breaker." Explained the old wizard.

As Bill suspected, the wardrobe proved to be made entirely of silver . On its shelves they found some valuable artifacts, some rolls of parchment, several jars that proved to contain powders of different colors and consistencies. And down at the bottom a huge jewel-encrusted golden egg.

Jinx looked around at Bill with a cocked eyebrow. Bill whistled a low note, his eyes widening. He felt a smile stretch his face.  Now we're talkin'! he thought gleefully.
Well done, Mr Weasley; Very well done, indeed. Professor McGonagall's voice congratulated him. Bravo! my boy, that is indeed a very fine days work. Added the voice of Professor Flitwick. Outstanding accomplishment, young master Weasley, I'd say it deserves a feast. The sound of the Headmasters voice caused Bill to shake his head vigorously from side to side. And then he heard Severus Snape, who had just recently been named the new potions professor. When Snape's his voice snarled, Beginner's luck, Bill felt the need to sit down.

The insistent prodding of a bony finger into his shoulder roused Bill from his stupor. He found himself sitting on the floor gazing into the cavernous wardrobe, absentmindedly stroking Alexandra who had nestled in his lap. "Jinx, is-- is--um... that stuff real? I mean it's really treasure isn't it, not just props... you know for training me?" Bill stammered.

"Com'on, boyo, yeh've not seen 'e likes o' treasure to be found yet!" Laughed Jinx.

The next several days passed in a blur of strange and mystifying images. On one occasion they spent the entire day clearing a room filled with thousands of small boxes. Each box was about six-inches square and all of them proved to be guarded by separate and often different curses. At the end of the day they had only a single brass key to show for all of their efforts. Jinx however, was oddly philosophical about the situation.

"Buck up, boyo, e'ery day cain't be all silver cu'boards full o' golden trinkets. I'll wager me wand, yon key proves valuable enough ter pay fer all our trouble o' gettin' it." Jinx's statement and the manner in which it was delivered, again reminded Bill of Professor Dumbledore.

For three days straight the two curse-breakers and Crups worked their way through all of the upper floors of the old castle. Occasionally, they made small discoveries. These always thrilled Bill. He reasoned, This is sort of like walking past the entrance to the great hall when preparations for the Christmas Feast were underway, the smell of all those treats wafting up from the kitchen and the sights of the decorations being prepared... it all always worked together to whet my appetite. In this instance, being teased with some treasure discovered each day or two was building in Bill a great hunger for the Main Course-- the complete inventory of the treasure-- that he was now convinced was hidden in this place. It was becoming like an addiction... an insatiable hunger. He couldn't not go looking for more treasure.

Jinx had chuckled when Bill had voiced his thoughts about his predicament. But he hadn't really said anything of substance on the topic, he just sat stroking Cavall, puffing on his old pipe and starring into the fire.

One evening, as they sat over the remains of a hearty stew Jinx had prepared for their supper, a large screech owl got their attention by tapping on the door with his beak. When Jinx, who was closest, opened the door, the bird flew in and made a circuit of the room before alighting on the back of his chair.

"Looks like we've got mail service here at last," Jinx opined to Bill. "Them dragon-keepers had 'e place so unplottable 'e Owlpost couldn't find it but 'bout a third o' 'e time. They generally had their mail held at 'e nearest Post owlery and picked it up e'ery couple o' days." explained the old wizard.

There proved to be two letters for Bill.

The first was from his father, written on official Ministry parchment, it read:

Bill chuckled as he laid his dad's letter aside and opened the second note. This one was from Charlie.

Bill thought for a minute about replying to the letters right away-- but figured he could wait-- a day or two more, and I might have something really interesting to tell them!

Almost in spite of himself, Bill had developed a feeling of respect and even of liking for Jinx. The old wizard was certainly eccentric...bordering on mad even... but he definitely was the world's foremost authority on Curse-Breaking and had taught Bill a tremendous amount in just the short few days they had been together. Things like, "Always double check your work and the other fellow's too. It isn't rude it's just Curse-Breaking." And, "Never assume you've defeated all of the curses someone could put on an object, Make sure you defeat all of the curses."

The work went on. Unfortunately it was not without mishaps. While Jinx was off with Cavall, Bill and Alexandra failed to detect a secondary security ward on a locked door in the cellar above the dungeons. It was a wicked hex that left his ears the size of peanuts.

"Eh, Auris Minumius--haven't seen that'n in a while," Jinx said, when he got a look at Bill a few minutes later. "I'll try to grow 'em back fer yeh, b'y, but I'm a bit rusty at this so they might'n be just the way they was before." He continued apologetically.

Bill sighed, "Not again.... Mum almost didn't get them put back to their proper size and shape the first time this happened."

But, surprisingly, Jinx must have been more proficient than he let on. Because in just a few minutes Bill's ears were nearly perfect. He couldn't help feeling self-conscious, however, and renewed his determination to let his hair grow a bit to cover them over.

Not long after this, Jinx showed Bill how to treat yourself after being hit with the "Extorqueo Excrucio" curse. Neither of them detected it on the doorway leading from the corridor to the main dungeon.

"This-- was what sent 'e first team-- off ter recuperate." The old warlock stated somewhat breathlessly. "I knew-- 'twas 'round 'ere someplace-- but not exactly where. I know 'e counter for it-- an' I was prepared to trip it-- just ter show yeh-- what 'twas like-- but, Merlin's Ghost this hurts!" Jinx winced as he explained. "Yeh want to avoid-- gettin' hit with it-- as a general rule. Hand me my wand b'y so's I can counter this."

The curse, which caused the recipient excruciating pain by twisting and damaging all of the joints in the body was countered by a combination of healing and strengthening charms some of which were complex and some really obscure.

Bill made a note to himself: Remember to watch out for and avoid the EE curse.

Finally, after almost a full week of room-by-room curse-breaking, the two wizards had reached the dungeons.

The air was heavy with the smell of mildew and was stale due to a lack of  circulation. The stones of the walls were discolored by stains of water seepage and fungi, and Bill couldn't decide if the blackened ones were an indication of some kind of fire or something else entirely. With their wands lit it was apparent that there had been others here before them. Whether they were treasure seekers or long forgotten prisoners or maybe the Dragon-keepers themselves, the remains of several persons were scattered throughout the room. "Urgh, Jinx, who do you suppose they were?" Bill inquired in what was meant to sound like a tone of indifference, as he glanced hesitantly at the nearest bones.

"Haven't a guess, boyo, must've been here fer many long years tho' by 'e looks o' thin's," the old Warlock replied. "Ter look at these bones here yeh'd think they'd been broken and gnawed on by some kind o' beastie. But there aren't any beasties left in this place. The goblins have the documents of the last Dragon-keeper that owned this place and all o' 'e Dragons were 'counted fer when 'twas turned o'er too 'em. Must be a trick o' 'e light."

"Or maybe these are all left from before the last owner up and sold out," Bill added hopefully. Not likely, I fear, Mr Weasley, not likely at all. Professor McGonagall's voice drifted across his mind and down his spine in a silent shiver.

"Best to be on yeh're guard though, Billy me b'y." Jinx counseled, "We'll act like there's a great fire-breathin' beastie loose in here and we don't know where. This is where the Crups will be most he'pful I figure."

Together the curse-breakers worked their way through the large room-- picking their way past small, and some not so small, piles of bones on the floor. They found nothing out of the ordinary. Bill found a manacle hanging from a pin set in one wall. Inside the cuff was a scrap of cloth and a hand made of very tarnished brass.

"Bill," Jinx's voice was decidedly flat and controlled, "would yeh step back o'er here with me please, without any sudden moves if yeh will."

It was all Bill could do not to run panicking from the room. He had never heard such a serious tone from his mentor, and that more than anything else he perceived, frightened him.

When he had turned to rejoin Jinx, Bill saw the old warlock was back close to the entryway into the room, kneeling down with his back to the wall, and that Cavall and Alexandra were positioned before him watchfully sniffing the air with the hackles on their necks bristling.

"Wh... what is it?" He whispered to Jinx.

The old warlock only shook his head slightly and crooked a finger at him by way of reply. So Bill walked as calmly and quickly as he could to stand beside him. Once he was there he saw what had put Jinx on such an edge.

There were bloody bones lying on the floor and from the stench they hadn't lain there long.

"I'll be havin' a talk with the goblins when we get out of here." Jinx's whispered voice was colder than the arctic night surrounding the castle. "They told me Sam an' Phineus were recuperating in Spain. That they'd tripped the "Extorqueo Excrucio" and hadn't been able ter counter it quick enough ter be able to continue the survey. Said they gave them a month in Spain to heal and were bringing me in with a new apprentice to finish what was basically a mop up....That all the really nasty stuff was done a'ready."

Bill could almost feel the anger radiating off his mentor. "D ..." Bill gulped and tried again, "Do you think it was a dragon that got your friend? Or err... is that both of them? He stammered in a whisper.

"Nope, this is just Phineus, he always favored blue robes. The Owl I got night a'fore last? That was from Sam's son said he was writing for Sam, but couldn't tell where he was writing from. Just that Sam was going to be okay. 'E said there was something more'n curses to fear in the dungeons 'ere, and that I should think about writing this one off as unrecoverable. I was wonderin' what would frighten Samuel Hastings. 'E's one o' the best curse-breakers I ever trained. But I couldn't believe 'e goblins would conceal somethin' as important as a Dragon in 'e dungeons from us." Jinx's confusion was evident in his facial expression as he continued to whisper to Bill.

"We're leavin'," Jinx stated decisively. "I wasn't prepared ter hunt a dragon in it's own lair which is what this dungeon is--make no mistake. Whate'er it is that's down 'ere, it's no tame, an' stupefied Wizard's pet. Not anymore. 'E beastie 'as 'ad 'e run o' this place for about sixty years or I miss my guess. Let's go."

Bill wasn't about to argue with his mentor on this issue. In fact he thought the explanations could have waited until they were back in the main hall. He was just turning exit the dungeon when....  The floor shook.  Cavall and Alexandra both began to growl low down in their chests. And Bill began to smell something vile. It was a combination of sulfur and stagnant water.

"We're leavin' right now!" As he backed toward the exit, Jinx had his wand pointed across the room in the direction the Crups were looking, "Don't stand there mucking about. Get a move on!" In spite of the dire circumstances, the old wizard's voice was steady and still held an edge of its former anger. There was no panic.

Bill was able to control his own fear by drawing strength from Jinx's example. He hurriedly exited the dungeon all the while keeping his wand pointed toward the approaching menace.

Later, when they reached the main hall and could relax after a fashion. Bill posed a question. "What do we do now? Call in some other curse-breakers to help us get rid of the dragon? I didn't get to see; it was a dragon wasn't it?"

He bristled at the reply Jinx gave. "Aye 'twas a dragon. A great greyish-blue one. Might've been a Swedish Short-Snout they're sort of that color...but who knows what those Dragon Breeders might have come up with down there. Whate'er it is, it won't be yer look after. Yeh're goin' back to Britain. Yeh're not ready fer this kind o' work yet, boyo. No one expects an apprentice Curse-breaker to face a Dragon on their first trainin' assignment."

"I'm ready!" Bill exclaimed. "I passed my N.E.W.T.s with good marks, if not high ones, in everything--"

"That's not the point, b'y. Yeh aren't ready for this challenge just yet. We need time to gather ourselves, form a stratagem, do research. We don't e'en know what that beastie is yet. Yeh can't go chargin' in against THAT unprepared. Remember my friend Phineus?"  Jinx was agitated.

"Jinx, I'm not afraid-- I was but I'm not now-- Now, I'm determined to see this through. I know the risk. I saw the bones-- and the blood-- and I smelled the foul beast even if I didn't see it. I want to keep going. I want to finish this. I've done okay so far, haven't I? Well, I won't be shunted off to safety like some squib now, either let me continue my job, or fire me altogether. You're staying aren't you? How did you learn to defeat a dragon, Jinx? You've been testing me now for days on end, tell me the truth-- am I a Curse-breaker or not?" Bill's voice was growing louder than he intended but he felt a bit insulted that his mentor was showing so little confidence in his abilities. At the same time, there was the voice of his Mum in his ear, Have you taken leave of what little good sense you had? William Arthur Weasley! deliberately facing a dragon! I never in all my life thought that one of my children could be so rash!  The combination was a strong motivation for his stubborn streak to push to the front.

Jinx sat back and regarded his apprentice through narrowed eyes. Bill kept eye contact with the old warlock during the entire time it took for him to speak. It seemed like a very long time before Jinx spoke.

"Very well. Yeh may stay an' he'p in finishin' this recovery. Yeh have 'e backbone fer this work e'en if yeh don't show good sense in this instance. Yeh're right, I'll be stayin'. And I had ter learn to defeat a Dragon once, meself, an' yeh don't do that by sittin in a library, that's a fact. But, we're doin' this 'e right way. No rushin' straight back down ter 'e dungeons fer us, boyo! We'll not be goin' back down there till we're prepared. An' that means long hours of research and collecting information before yeh sets one toe out o' this room.

Bill owled his family that night, just to allay some of their fears. Of course he didn't mention any of his own.

The following morning, two other curse-breakers arrived in response to owls Jinx had sent. Unsurprisingly both were older than Bill. The first was named Michael but was called 'Mint'. The joke was he had found enough gold to fill one. Bill never got his last name. The second was a witch named Sarah. She was South African, and she said her tribal name was unpronounceable in English. She brought with her enough books to fill a small library. She began immediately to hand out rolls of parchment. and demanded that Jinx and Bill write down everything they could remember about their encounter with the Dragon.

After two further days of intensive research Bill felt like he was about to retake the N.E.W.T.s. I could ruddy well do better on the Care-Of-Magical-Creatures Exam now! Bill fumed. But, he could readily see the need to know as much about dragons and their weaknesses. They knew there was at least one confined in the dungeon. And seeing that they didn't know the exact breed of their particular foe, they needed to prepare for as many dragons as possible. Hopefully it will be one we've researched!

At last the time had come to act.

Jinx and Bill would lead 'Mint' and Sarah into the Dungeons today. Bill seemed to be having a hard time breathing; he kept wanting to hold his breath for some inexplicable reason. He had to keep telling himself to exhale. He thought back on how nervous he felt that morning just two short weeks ago when he was about to Portkey to this 'Job Interview'. He snorted, If I had only known! But that thought, and the irony of it, seemed to relax him and he was better able to focus now on the task at hand.

"Right, we're going after a Dragon people. This isn't a Sunday stroll in 'e park. Take no chances. Nobody let down yer guard for a second. 'E beast is confined in a small space. That works both for and against us. 'Twon't be able to fly, but we'll not have much room ter maneuver either." Jinx suddenly sounded like a general marshaling his troops. "Everyone check yer wands."

Four sets of wands were raised. Four voices called "Stupefy!" Four bolts of red shot into the darkness of the corridor ahead.

"All right, anyone want to remain behind?" Jinx asked, looking pointedly into each person's eyes. When no one left, Jinx took a massive breath, "Right! let's go!"

Down they went, four determined souls. They were not coming back empty handed. Even if that meant they weren't coming back.

Upon reaching the dungeon Jinx disarmed the restraining spells he and Bill had placed previously, and opened the door slowly. Cavall and Alexandra entered first, both scenting the air, their hackles already rising. The stench of the Dragon was stronger than Bill remembered. He wondered why it was that they had not immediately noticed it the first time they entered the dungeon. Must've been because the dragon hadn't been in the room in a while.

Bill and Jinx entered the dungeon close together and promptly separated to either side of the doorway, to stand with their backs to the wall and survey the scene before taking any action. The Crups were several yards into the room, facing the darkness on the far side of the chamber, both in postures that would lend easily to attack or flight. "Lumos Fulgeo" Bill and Jinx called simultaneously. Twin beams of light flashed from their wands, crossing as they moved to search the far reaches of the room.

There was a huge hole in the far wall. It had once been secured by great iron bars but they had been pulled from the opening and lay in twisted ruins on the floor to either side of the hole.

"In there, do you think?" Bill lifted his chin to indicate the hole.

"Mus' be... as there's no Dragon in 'e room here with us." Jinx responded conversationally.

That was certainly where the Crups thought the beast was. They kept edging further and further that way, growing more and more agitated. Suddenly there was a sound. It was like someone dragging a blade across stone... but it must have been a massive blade. Bill looked expectantly at Jinx.

The old warlock was focused entirely on the hole, his wand steady before him. "Bill, d'yeh still have me Sword in yer pack?" Jinx inquired as if he were asking 'who won the World Cup?'

"" Bill's mouth was so dry he sounded a thousand years old.

"Good man, get it out, please." Jinx requested.

Bill did as he was asked, fumbling in his pack without taking his eyes off of the hole in the wall. The first thing he found was the brass key they had taken from the 'Room of boxes'. He slipped that into his pocket so it wouldn't be in his way. Next he found the company broom which he replaced in the pack. Finally his hand found the handle of the old magical sword. "I have it," he stated.

"Good. Keep it ter hand." Was the old wizard's reply.

'Mint' and Sarah, who had remained in the doorway until this point, entered and separated to join Jinx and Bill. Sarah to Jinx's side and 'Mint' to Bill's.

"Let's try an' get it ter come ter us here," Jinx suggested. "We don't know what's back there and there doesn't look ter be room fer 'e four o' us ter go in together safely."

"How do you get a dragon to come to you?" 'Mint' wondered.

"Easily," Bill said. "Let him know there's food on his plate."

"Quiet!" Jinx hissed "I think yon beastie is takin' notice o' our presence."

His suspicion proved correct. Something was coming out of the hole. Just a suggestion of movement at first... but it gave the impression that it was gigantic. The Crups had stopped moving forward but were still poised and watchful, maybe a dozen feet from the opening.

"Cavall! Alexandra! Come! Now!" Jinx raised his voice to call his pets.

Cavall turned and trotted back to his master immediately. But Alexandra was another story. She placed herself in the midst of the room, centered on the hole. And gave every appearance of intending to stay.

"Alexandra! Come here!" Jinx called again.

Suddenly there was a terrible roar from the hole. Alexandra began to growl and bark in a ferocious--for one-quarter Crups at least--way.

In came the Dragon. First its massive horned head, followed by its scaly neck, then came its mountainous chest and front shoulders. Finally, it was in the room completely.

At first look, Bill estimated that it was about forty feet long from nose to tail. A greyish-blue color as Jinx had said. Smoke was curling from its nostrils and it was showing vicious teeth and claws. What was most striking for Bill though, was the fact that the dragon looked very thin; like it was starved. Great! Exactly what we wanted, a hungry dragon....

Suddenly things became very bad. Everything began to move in slow motion. Alexandra charged the giant beast. 'Mint', who had never struck Bill as the foolhardy type, went charging forward to save the little crup. Jinx shouted "NOOOO!" Sarah and Bill both tried to stun the dragon..."STUPEFY!" they screamed.

It was terrible to watch. Alexandra leapt onto the dragon's foot and began to try biting it's ankle. 'Mint' charging across the floor succeeded in keeping the beast's attention away from the Crup; but to his own cost. Pale pumpkin colored flames mixed with deeper reds and oranges boiled from the dragon's mouth across the room. Bill never knew when he started moving... he just was. It was a shock to feel the heat from the beast's breath ruffling his clothing. "Ignis Glacialis Totalus!" Bill shouted pointing his wand first at the blazing shadow that was Michael 'Mint' Whomever-he-had-been. Then he turned his wand on himself and repeated the fire freezing charm "Ignis Glacialis Totalus!" Alexandra, having finally given up her futile attempt to bite through the dragon's leg, hurried back to Jinx.

Which left Bill completely alone in the center of 'The Dragon's Plate' as he was now thinking of the room. Just me and the Dragon here, Jinx and Sarah might as well be in London for all the help they can give me. Then things began to move very fast indeed. Bill would later have to be told some of what happened because he wasn't entirely conscious for it all.

The dragon--which later investigation determined to be a contraband American Rocky Mountain Razorclaw, an illegal import and therefore left out of the official records of the long dead Dragon-keepers--blasted Bill with another short burst of fire. Luckily he was as proficient as ever in his charm work... so the fire freezing charm prevented him from suffering cremation. However the Dragon did not rely solely upon its combustible breath to dispose of its prey. Suddenly Bill found his feet swept from under him as the Razorclaw lashed at him with its tail. While there were no spines or horns on this beast's tail as with some dragons, it still was a massive instrument of destruction. Bill landed hard and was certain he'd never walk again; he had to look down and actually touch his left leg to ascertain that it was still attached. He hurriedly rolled across the floor as the dragon attempted to impale him with its claws. First he rolled to the right and then just as quickly he was forced to roll back left.

All the while Jinx and Sarah were hurling spell after spell at the beast trying to just get its attention away from Bill.

In rolling across the floor, Bill, lost his wand. Now, Can I Panic? his voice asked and was answered by Professor Dumbledore--which upon later reflection Bill felt was unsurprising--You, Mr Weasley, are one of the most proficient wizards to ever pass through Hogwarts. A credit to both Gryffindor house and to the school as a whole. One can but do one's best, Bill... at least one's best with what one has.

"The best with what one has" Bill repeated aloud. "Jinx's Sword!"

He grasped the hilt firmly and prepared himself. He clenched his teeth."This is going to hurt!"

Bill awoke in a strange room. The walls were bare and white and the sheets on the bed remarkably warm and comfortable to be so stiff. Sunlight was falling hazily through a window somewhere on his left. He could see the slanted rays when he turned his head in that direction.

"Uh huh humm..." The sound of someone clearing their throat pulled him fully awake and snapped his eyes to the right. There stood Jinx and his father.

"What happened to the Dragon?" Bill asked.

"Yeh did fer him, boyo! D'yeh not remember striking 'e beast across the throat with me sword?"

"No," said Bill. "I must have missed that part."

"Well there yeh laid, I thought the beast had yeh fer certain. It was an illegally imported Rocky Mountain Razorclaw-- from America-- did yeh know? An' I figure he thought he had yeh too. He reached out with his great right claw... Ah, wicked things they were as I guess you found out... There's a reason they're called Razorclaw after all. Anyway yeh kind o' sat up like yeh was trying to meet the beast half-way... and he stuck a claw clear through yer left shoulder. There just above yer arm. An' he picked yeh up like to put yeh in his mouth. Well that was when I heard yeh shout... an' it brought chills down me ol' spine ter hear yeh, Billy-me-b'y! Yeh weren't crying in pain, boyo, no indeed! Yeh were shoutin' a battle cry. Yeh actually shouted "GRYFFINDOR!" Then "Gladius Trucido!" An'--I'll be boiled-- if yeh didn't cut the beast's head nearly clean off with my ol' Grandsire's sword!" The old warlock was as breathless as if he were calling a Quidditch match.

"Down he fell, and down yeh came... but I managed to catch yeh with a levitatin' charm...and eased yeh down softly. Yeh was hurt too bad ter treat at 'e site so we used 'e portal charm and moved yeh here to St. Mungo's. Yeh're gonna be fit as can be. So just yeh rest easy."

Bill looked at his dad. "Mum?" he asked.

"No." Arthur Weasley replied. "She doesn't know anything about this, and I don't think we should tell her for a while. What do you think?"

Bill nodded his head as vigorously as he could. "I think you're right. So am I still working for Gringotts?"  He asked.

"Yeh better believe it! O', I've sorted them out well and good, boyo, don't yeh worry! Yeh got a raise and yeh don't have to pay that stupid rent on the company broom any more. In fact yeh get a company broom all to yerself for life. There was a huge amount o' treasure behind that dragon b'y and the goblins are rightfully impressed with a wizard that would single handedly take out a bloody great Dragon--without a wand no less." Jinx held out Bill's wand as he said this.

"Well I must get back to the Ministry." Bill's dad said. "I'm glad you are safe, for now at least. Please do take better care of yourself." He offered with a smile. Some people thought his dad was not too bright, but Bill wasn't one of them. His dad was a powerful wizard. He had to be. He's kept up with Mum all these years.

"Jinx, what happened to the Dragon?" Bill asked, and seeing the looks of concern on the two faces before him, he grinned. "I mean after I cut off its head."

"Well it's still there in 'e dungeon. 'E goblins are trying to work out some kind of deal with 'e Americans so they can sell it off as salvage. Otherwise 'e Americans will debit Gringotts for its value and just let it rot there. But that'll take a couple hundred years... dragon hide lasts, b'y. It lasts fer years an' years... Why are yeh askin'?" Jinx wondered.

"I want some of it's hide. It got some of mine and I think I want to have some of its as a remembrance." Bill mused.

Jinx Smiled. "I like it! Quick as yeh're on yeh feet we'll go get it. 'E goblins won't mind I can assure yeh o' that. As fer 'e Americans... they'll never know will they?"

Three days later Bill and Jinx walked back into the 'Dragon's Plate'. There it lay; the blood was all gone now, and the internal organs had been preserved... Sarah had done that as soon as she got back from helping get Bill to St. Mungo's... but it was still an impressive sight.

Jinx reached into his pocket and produced the sword. "Gladius Substantius," he said; and with the familiar "SHHING" the blade appeared.

"What are you going to take? Remember it has to be something that can be written off as battle damage. That is 'e only stipulation 'e goblins have.

"I want the front feet." Bill stated.

Jinx looked at him with a cocked eyebrow. "'E front... both of 'em?" He questioned.

"Definitely" Bill said. "I'll show you."

He took the sword from the dumbfounded old warlock and moved deliberately forward. With two powerful swings, both forepaws of the Razorclaw were severed.

Bill, to the fascination of his watching mentor, lifted the sword and with deft chops removed the claws from the feet. He then returned the sword to the curious old curse-breaker and removed his wand from his belt.

With a series of transfigurations there weren't any forepaws nor claws to be seen. Instead there was a pair of greyish-blue boots sitting on the floor where the massive feet had been. Instead of there being claws lying about the floor, there were small bits of silver. Bill sat down and removed his battered old shoes.

As he was pulling on his new boots he reckoned he'd never have to have another pair for the rest of his life. And he intended to see to it that that was going to be a very long time indeed. An extremely long time, he thought as he picked up the silver claws: shrunken to resemble a collection of metallic fangs.

"Let's go for a drink, boyo, yeh've earned it." Jinx said.

"Okay, any place in particular?" Bill asked.

"Place I jest found the other day in fact." Jinx grinned "Called ''E Hungry Dragon' it's in 'e village maybe five miles from 'ere. Who knows, yer new boots might get us a good table. So, Billy-me-boyo, who's yer Quidditch team? Cheer for 'e Caerphilly Catapults meself."

Bill laughed out loud. It was good to be alive and a Curse-Breaker.... "A live Curse-Breaker" that was the only thing he wanted to be....


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