Disclaimer: Bill Weasley
belongs entirely to JK Rowling, under whose indulgence I’m taking Bill out to
This story ©2005 by Lady Narcissa.
Many thanks to Paige and Corgi for scourgifying my mistakes so thoroughly. Doxycide,
adventures in curse-breaking
The Nile River sparkled in the sunlight; Bill tucked his wand
quickly out of sight beneath his shirt. The last thing he wanted to do was
attract any more attention than usual; his red hair and blue eyes and pale skin
were already on the docket as cause for curiosity. He walked quickly along the
Nile Corniched, all familiar territory to him. The day was fairly busy;
pedestrians and cars shared the road and he kept to the side, breathing in as
deeply and inconspicuously as possible for someone who knew he was about to
face rather a challenge. Rarely a day went by for him where he could simply
conclude that it had been business as usual. He turned onto the Sharia al-Mahatta
and away from the sparkling blue water of the Nile and the lazy palm trees, treading down old
The bazaar was that way. He walked the Sharia
al-Mahatta until it met up with the street to the temple at Karnak and there that street
changed names. It used to confuse Bill; he'd spent enough time there now to not
only know and understand the city, but also to love it greatly. The street sign
read Sharia al-Markaz and he was glad to see that not much had changed
since his last assignment to Luxor. As he wound his way south towards the temple and into the
market area, he caught a glimpse of a newspaper: 10 April, 1994. The crowd jostled him
along and alert as always for pickpockets, he realised with amusement that
he'd come here with no money other than the few Galleons in his pocket.
He'd been in tighter fixes before.
No worries, Bill. No worries, mate. It was the voice of one
of his coworkers at Gringott’s, almost a mentor to him when he first arrived in
Egypt fresh from Hogwarts and
first-round training. If you've got your wits about you, you've got what you
need. Those words came in handy on more than one occasion and they sounded
rather good to Bill at that particular moment. Rows of alabaster and clay pottery
caught his eye; he was close. Very close. For behind the largest of the Muggle
bazaars here lay the Bazaar Al-Amun: the wizarding bazaar. Its entry was
decorated by crio-sphinx statues: with their ram's heads and lion's bodies,
they symbolised the God Amun. Seven of them heralded the hidden entrance, and if one
tapped them in the correct order...
In a flash Bill was through the entryway; it
closed behind him with a quiet hiss and he remembered thinking a long time ago
that it was Luxor's answer to Diagon
Alley. In many ways that wasn't a bad comparison at all. He headed straight for
the Luxor Gringott’s Auxiliary office, hidden behind a pottery stall. Pushing
back the rug that hid the door, he peeked inside.
The interior was dark, the room low and long. At
the far end at an elevated desk sat a goblin he recognised and Bill was very glad
to realise that some things never changed. "Hullo, Crankgrap."
The goblin looked up at him; his long fingers
twitched in anticipation, in a dream of treasure. "If it's not our wayward
Mr Weasley. What have you got for me?"
"Nothing, I'm afraid." Bill studied
the goblin; this was not an answer they liked to hear. "But I do need a
new assignment." In all his years, this was only the second time he'd
appeared in this office empty-handed. "I got sidetracked through no fault
of my own, and drink and women had nothing to do with it this time."
Although one could not simply charm goblins into laughing, Bill never stopped
"Sign the ledger." Crankgrap slid a
book toward him. "Line 42."
Bill took the quill and signed his name with a
flourish. "Crankgrap, there haven't been strangers here asking after me,
"None stranger than you, Mr Weasley."
The goblin examined the signature carefully, then pulled out a parchment envelope
from a desk drawer. He handed it across the table to Bill. "Newly
discovered tomb. No one knows what guards this one, Mr Weasley. Caution as
always; don't come back empty-handed a second time."
The parchment had the Gringott’s wax seal on it;
Bill broke it open and took a deep breath. Right here, Valley of the Kings. The trick to this was
to do the work during daytime without attracting the attention of any tourists
or archaeologists or...
"You've given me a challenge." He broke
into a smile and turned to the wall; a series of cubbies sat barely visible in
the dim light. He knew from long years of experience which held his supplies,
though, and reached for an inconspicuous sand-coloured galabayya with a hidden
pocket for his wand, which he slipped on over his body. It would help him blend
in just that much more. He wrapped a scarf around his head, turban-style and
pocketed his minimised treasure rucksack.
"Close enough, right?" A bit less
obvious at any rate. "I'll either return with treasure or not return this
The goblin scanned the ledger without looking up.
"Second tomb to the right and straight on till morning, Mr Weasley."
Goblin humour. Bill shook his head in amusement.
The entry to the Valley of the Kings curved to the right
around hills glowing golden and peach; the cloudless blue sky was piercing in
its intensity. The sounds of tourists and the smells of food and the wares
being hawked all added up to a veritable feast for the senses, but Bill was
focused. "No, no, no." It became his mantra: he needed to get to Tomb
KV 27˝ without further distraction.
Hidden from Muggle eyes, of course: most of the
known-to-Muggles tombs here were looted long ago, if not carefully dug up, each
item categorised and sent off to a museum. No, for many known tombs there were
other corresponding yet hidden wizarding tombs, their glamours still being
uncovered in many instances.
Tomb KV 27˝ was one of these, and Bill's insides
tensed with anticipation as always before attempting to unravel a new tomb's
Who was buried here? What was their importance?
Was there great wealth associated with them? Perhaps they were animals; other
tombs here contained animal remains. Perhaps it was a wizarding king or queen,
a Pharaoh of highest esteem. A priest, those were often the most interesting
tombs. Or perhaps a person of small significance, forgot by all but the dimmest
mention somewhere in history...
And what would guard this tomb? He'd faced them
all: dragons charmed to sleep for centuries but wake at the first sign of
intrusion; Sphinxes stretching and baring their fanged teeth and spouting
riddles; curses and hexes so complex that to set off their guardian system
meant instant death; mummies, whose hands caused incurable illness if they
touched you; environments charmed to become deadly at the merest misstep. Bill
had seen them all and was glad for his years of experience, because now he knew
exactly what to do.
Especially when working alone.
He reached into the galabayya's pocket and drew
out a parchment pad and pre-inked quill, then—careful not to attract attention—touched
the tip of his wand and cast a very unobtrusive, very silent Disillusionment spell
on himself. He simply blended into the background, invisible for all intents
Just like Tomb KV 27˝.
All glamour, all the time; it's the happy life
of a Gringott's Curse-Breaker. With a determined grin, an invisible Bill sat
and drew up some very quick Arithmancy calculations based on the location and
entry to KV 27˝ and its distance and vector from the temple at Karnak, where the gridlines
protecting all these ancient tombs began. This was 18th-Dynasty era; his years
of experience and its location told him that without question. He thought back
to his training: The fashion in protections for 18th-Dynasty wizarding tombs
comes in three primary flavours: Sphinx. Death-trap floors. Enchanted mummies.
He knew better than to place his foot anywhere in any tomb without the proper
testing first; he’d already heard most Sphinx riddles and even bested a few
with his own innate charm (although he never relied on that as much as riddle-solving
and a carefully-aimed Sleeping Spell with them) and he knew he could move
faster than any mummy.
He looked down and double-checked his
calculations: the safe walkway should be just here; like most tombs in
of the Kings
he expected the familiar three corridor/antechamber/sunken sarcophagus chamber
layout. Most of the treasure (in his experience) lay beside the sarcophagus and
most of the protections waited in the antechamber, although the corridors often
held their own treacherous charms. Wand drawn, still Disillusioned, Bill set a
first tentative step past the glamour and into the first corridor; the rest of
of the Kings
disappeared behind him.
"Finite. Lumos Subtilis." There. He could see
himself again, though just barely. Removing his head scarf and galabayya and
setting them aside, he glanced down at his calculations and nodded: KV 27˝ felt
familiar. There would be an invisible ward-line at his midsection here
("Revelare! I thought so, I'll go beneath you...") and another
one at ankle-height just beyond it, a spider's web of intruder alerts and he
weaved his way through them, almost a dance, all practised steps born of
experience. First corridor, second corridor, third corridor. Deep breath,
Bill: keep your wits about you and your wand at the ready. Sphinx, trap, or
He never once expected a Manticore.
Damn, damn, damn, damn. His heart raced and his
thoughts scattered wildly as the Manticore's scorpion tail twitched lazily back
and forth. Its lion body stretched aeons of sleep away and the humanoid head
turned and grinned unpleasantly. "Ccccccenturies, it seems," the
creature whispered with breath so foul it could make one reel, "I've been
waiting for ssssomeone to play with."
Think, Bill, think. That tail carries an
instantly fatal sting; the skin repels almost any hex or charm you can throw at
it. You'll either have to go for its eyes or charm it back to sleep. He remembered his
off-hand comment to Crankgrap about how he'd been given a challenge. Rather a bigger
one than he was expecting but there was no turning back; he simply had to do or
"Hullo. I'm Bill. I'm here from Gringott's Wizarding
Bank in London. I don't suppose you'd
like to let me pass?"
Calm. Think calm. Focus; slow your heartbeat. Calm.
Calm. Calm. Deep breaths.
The Manticore stretched again and sat up on its
leonine haunches, letting out an other-worldly and very eerie laugh. "Ccccenturies
I've waited for a plaything, Bill from Gringott's Wizarding Bank in London, whatever that might be.
No, I don't suppose I'd like to let you pass."
Nothing like a dragon, although I suppose a
Conjunctivitis Curse might confuse it enough so it doesn't kill me straight
Despite his attempt at self-induced calm his heart pounded wildly in his chest
and he knew the Manticore could sense it. He would just have to project an
outer serenity he didn't possess. "Have you a name, or do I just call you Manticore?"
Not enough room to sneak past it. Enough room
for that tail to reach him anywhere in the antechamber if he made one wrong
"Ccccccccall me what you like; any name I
provide is sssssshort-lived for you." The Manticore grinned evilly,
stretching out a paw and examining its claws before resheathing them.
"Bill, did you bring me food? I'm ssssssssstarved."
"Emergency rations." Bill tapped his
wand cautiously; a plate of grapes appeared. "Lovely if you fancy fruit.
Tell me, what's a Manticore's preferred diet? I’ve never had the pleasure of
feeding one before."
Stall for time. Stall for time. He could see the
opening to the sarcophagus chamber behind the Manticore, and barely listened as
the Manticore replied "anything flowing with blood, Bill. Like you. Are
you going to try to get past me? That'ssssssss your job, isn't it, Bill, to sssssssteal
my treasure?" It swiped at the plate of grapes; they skittered here and
there and everywhere.
Bill nodded, all easy attitude. "Don't take
it personally. Tell me, how would you like to play this game? Who moves
"You're the guessssssst. You firssssssst."
There was something so very curious about the
sound of Manticore laughter. The only other time Bill had come across one was
in a bestiary, protected from it by not only cages and bars but by charms so
complex he couldn't even begin to understand the way they worked. But this was
different: now they were face to face, and it required either raw courage or a
tremendous amount of unexpected foolishness. He watched the tail whip back and
forth and sat just out of reach, protected only so very slightly by the
If only you were a Sphinx.
This was going to take some thought.
The one thing that Bill had working to his
advantage, he knew, was that Manticores, like dragons, relied heavily on the
impenetrability of their hides for protection. That and (in a Manticore's case)
their whipping tails and fierce claws.
Their eyes, like those of dragons, were
From his tentative position of safety by the
door, he thought back to Newt Scamander and Fantastic Beasts and Where to
Find Them. What did he have to say on Manticores, the least-expected Greek
visitor to Luxor that Bill could
imagine? Something about how they were probably wizard-bred specifically to
But he'd not been a Curse-Breaker all those
years to be bested by a treasure-keeper; no. This was all part of the fun and
so Bill stood and began to pace, just outside the reach of the Manticore's scorpionic
tail. "Tell me, friend. How many years have you been here? A thousand? Two?
Have you lost track of the time? How have you survived? Did you know there's a
whole different world out there?" And before the Manticore could answer,
he continued: "And when was the last time you saw sunlight? Lumos Soleum!"
A huge bright light filled the room and for the first time Bill had the
advantage; he seized it. A complex series of spells and hexes issued from his
wand: the aforementioned Conjunctivitis Curse followed by a Confundus
Charm, a Cheering Charm, Protego on himself, and a small
Self-Levitation Charm so the soles of his dragon-hide boots didn't make any
noise. The Manticore let out a fierce and alien howl, paws covering its eyes,
and Bill took his turn: he dashed across the room just above the surface of the
floor, past the Manticore, and into the sarcophagus chamber.
"Dissendium! Colloportus!" The stone door to the
chamber slid shut and sealed, and Bill knew that he had only minutes—if that—to
retrieve the treasure hidden here before fresh air ran out. He fulfilled his
obligation, though: made a notation of the hieroglyphics gracing the walls with
a quick copying spell so that the Gringott’s historians could perform their due
diligence and ensure that no living relatives of this tomb's residents had the
right to any treasure he might find.
And then the fun began: Bill reached into his
back pocket and restored the size on his treasure rucksack. "Accio. Accio.
Accio." From vases and cups, boxes and miniature sarcophagi, a
veritable trove of treasure flew out: rubies and garnets, diamonds and gold,
sapphires and bezel-cut tanzanites; alexandrite, tourmaline, rhodolite. All
were of the finest quality and Bill laughed, knowing that Crankgrap would be
rather more pleased to see him next time round. At the last flick of his wand
an emerald of exquisite quality landed in his outstretched hand. He studied it
for a moment; he'd seen many, many gemstones but this one was overwhelming in
its beauty. He would negotiate for that one, he knew.
He did not disturb the sarcophagus itself; that
went without saying. Only one question remained: would the Manticore's eyes
have adjusted properly to the light, or did Bill need to play games with spellwork
again to make his escape? He had no desire to be trapped in an ancient burial
chamber, after all, and though the relatively comfortable pay made up in the
long term for any job-induced injuries, there was always an element of danger.
Rather an unexpected one in this case. He wrapped up his notes and all the
treasure safely into the rucksack and set it on his back, feeling its weight and
heft nagging at him, its contents urging him to get out of there as quickly as
Taking a very deep breath, wand pointed at the
archway, Bill directed the heavy slab back away from the entry to the
antechamber, ready for the Manticore. The Conjunctivitis Curse would still be
in effect but he needed to watch out for the thrashing of its tail, which could
There was a bit of timing to this. He listened
to the Manticore moan and watched the flailing of its tail, studying the rhythm
and it was hypnotic, almost entrancing: back and forth, back and forth, and he
knew he could make it back to the other side of the antechamber without more spellwork
if he was very, very careful. And he did so, one step at a time, over the Manticore's
tail so very gracefully and he was glad; grace of movement had never been a
given for him. No, he was far more prone to stepping on a rake and smacking
himself in the face with the handle, or tripping over the Wellington boots queued up at the
door. But under pressure he performed and did it so very well and before he
knew it—before he had time to take another breath—he was on the far side of the
The Manticore looked miserable. There were a
number of things he could have done, but he opted for what was kindest: he
pointed his wand to those still-closed eyes and cast a Sleeping Spell. With a
whimper, the Manticore slumped to the ground. "I'm sorry, friend," he
said quietly, ending the Sunlight Spell and the Conjunctivitis Curse.
"Sweet dreams; you've made a formidable foe. I'll see to it that you're
freed from duty now."
Although his load was far heavier and his galabayya
and head scarf relegated to being tucked under his arm, he whistled as he
wended his way back toward the Bazaar Al-Amun, blending in with all the other
backpacked European tourists who were appropriately awed by the sights as they
left the Valley
of the Kings.
The sun was setting and the hills lit up with golden light and the vendors were
out in full force. "No, no, no," Bill heard himself say, and after
the quick boat trip back to the east side of the river, he turned up one of Luxor's three main streets
until he passed the crio-sphinxes and was back to the Gringott’s office.
Pockets heavy with gold, one especially
beautiful emerald tucked safely away, and the promise of an easier task next
time firmly agreed upon, Bill nodded to Crankgrap. He tucked his galabayya and
scarf and treasure rucksack into the appropriate cubbyhole and turned to leave.
Perhaps he would have a strong cup of Egyptian coffee, or a plate of some
fig-and-berry delicacy, or maybe just sit by the edge of the Nile and watch
what little was left of the sun reflect off its surface. Wander the Muggle
bazaar until the dark of night when things closed down, midnight or later, then find a
friendly place to lay down and sleep for a few hours until the bustle of the
city began again. "Ta, Crankgrap."
His hand reached out to move aside the heavy
carpet that served as a door; he turned to face the city of Luxor and grinned.