A/N: Feeling nostalgic, I
decided to add a new Author’s Note to my revision of this story for recent
upload. After so many stories (both written and read), it’s funny to think back
to August of 2000, mere weeks after GoF came out, and remember that it was all
because of Bill Weasley that I became embroiled in the world of HP fanfiction.
If not for Bill, I wouldn’t have felt compelled to write HP fanfic. If not for
Bill, and for the sad and utter lack of any other Bill fanfic out there in
August of 2000 (I’m strangely proud of being the first Bill-crazed freak out
there with a ready quill to hand), I wouldn’t have found my way to the
attention of the Weasley Lovers at some place called The Sugar Quill. Ah, the
memories. So I suppose that in the Author’s Note for this, my long ago first HP
fanfic, I should thank Bill Weasley. Bill - thanks to you (and a certain
escaped convict we won’t name) I have lost countless hours of my life to the HP
fanfiction world. I really ought to hate you for it…
as everyone knew, was the largest bank of the wizarding world. They had
branches all over the globe, but no matter where they were located, the buildings
always looked the same - gleaming white marble, huge, grand, impressive.
Weasley had become so familiar with the sight, however, that it no longer
impressed him quite as much as it had used to. Hands in his pockets, he
strolled up the massive stairs to the entrance, squinting a bit in the vicious
glare of desert sun on white marble. Bill loved working in Egypt, but he
had never quite got used to the heat or the days of never-ending sunshine.
Moments like these, he often found himself thinking nostalgically of cloudy
days at Hogwarts.
goblin at the entrance nodded to him as he passed.
“Hey, Graffalk.” Bill smiled in return. “Hot day, isn’t it?”
the gruff reply.
goblins for you, he thought. Never ones for idle chit chat. Or
for a sense of humor.
cooled air enveloped him the moment he stepped through the doors. The huge hall
was packed full of eccentrically dressed wizards and witches, waiting in queues
in front of the long counter. Bill liked to joke that desert heat did funny
things to a wizard’s sense of fashion, but the truth was that he had thought
wizard fashion amusing even back home. He found it ironic that some wizards,
his mother among them, no doubt thought his own clothes peculiar. But considering
the kind of work he did for Gringotts, wearing wizard robes on the job would be
a huge inconvenience, if not a downright risk to life and limb. And since, as
he always said, the Gringotts goblins didn’t care what he wore, he’d be damned
if he’d give up his dragonhide boots. Charlie might deal with dragons on a
daily basis, but getting a hold of these had cost Bill a long trip, and almost,
quite literally, an arm and a leg.
As he made
his way down the hall, passing by the long counter where goblins weighed and
tallied wizard riches, Bill noticed that the bank really was uncommonly busy
today. Or perhaps this was going to be the new norm, even in Gringotts branches
this far from Britain.
The Ministry of Magic was trying to keep a tight lid on any rumors about Lord
Voldemort’s return, but rumors got out nonetheless. And there was nothing like
unsubstantiated panic to make people want to secure their money. Bill
remembered hearing something from one of his Muggle contacts once, something
about Muggles going crazy over their banks during crises. He couldn’t really
understand it. Why on earth would they want to take their money out of
the bank? In the face of an emergency, wizards queued up to put their gold in.
After all, no place in the world was safer than Gringotts, or so the saying
the crowd sobered him considerably. He was probably one of the only people here
who might know that the unsubstantiated panic caused by unsubstantiated rumors
was not as unsubstantiated as he might wish. Bill had been exchanging a steady
stream of owls with his father since returning to Egypt, and though nothing
catastrophic had as yet occurred to indicate Voldemort was on the attack again,
Mr Weasley seemed to think it was only a matter of time. Bill, unfortunately,
had to agree with him.
He took a
deep breath and tried not to think about it. Thinking about it just made him
want to rush back home. What with Mr Weasley trying to manipulate the Ministry
in Dumbledore’s favor, and Ron, Fred, George and Ginny all mixed up with Harry
Potter back at Hogwarts, the Weasleys had never been so prominently on the
front lines of danger. Bill felt like he ought to be there with them. But his
job was too important. The money he made working in Egypt helped to support his entire
in his pockets, he walked up to a familiar door leading off the hall, which
opened on its own as he approached. Beyond it was another large hall, full of
desks, but no customers. Goblins sat behind each desk, busily sorting piles of
gold and making notes in ledgers. Owls perched on stands the length of the
walls, patiently waiting to be dispatched with receipts.
None of the
goblins looked up as Bill walked by, but he was as used to their behavior as
they were used to his strolls through their hall. His office was at the end of
that hall, and even though he really only used it a handful of days each month,
the goblins knew him well enough by now.
The door to
his office was plain wood, decorated only with small gold lettering spelling
out: Bill Weasley - Acquisitions. There was no door knob.
his wand out of his back trousers pocket and tapped the door with it, mumbling
the counterward for the spell with which he’d sealed it a week ago. Some might
think magically sealing his office door an unnecessary precaution, considering
Gringotts’ reputation. But he kept a lot of important information in his
office, and he always thought it better to be cautious. Just in case.
beyond was small, and frightfully disorderly. Bill couldn’t help grimacing as
he entered. Where in the world had all the organizing skills which helped earn
him the position of Head Boy at Hogwarts gone to? The desk in the center of the
office was heaped high with parchment, and several plainly wrapped packages.
One door of the wardrobe against the wall stood ajar, revealing a set of formal
wizard robes and a couple leather sacks bulging with strangely shaped objects.
The fireplace mantle was cluttered with exotic looking ornaments and instruments,
and a couple half full jars of Floo Powder.
surveyed the chaos, and decided it was past time to do some cleaning. He waved
his wand at a cabinet in the corner. A few small brooms and dust rags zoomed
out of it and began to whizz around the room in a tidying frenzy.
his wand idly, Bill headed for his desk, and caught a sudden glimpse of his
reflection in the mirror beside the wardrobe. There he was, Weasley red hair
pulled back in a long ponytail, brown trousers tucked into dragonhide boots,
white shirt with rolled up sleeves, and a vest decorated with a few fangs that
greatly resembled the one dangling from his ear. It had been a while since he’d
actually bothered to look into a mirror, and he couldn’t help grinning at his
roguish appearance. Even the grin added to the look. And here he’d been
thinking about the odd ways wizards dressed these days. He knew exactly what
his mother would be saying to him right about now. He’d told her dozens of
times that the bank didn’t care how he looked as long as he brought in plenty
of treasure. Thank goodness that was the plain truth.
settled himself behind his desk, ignoring the whirlwind fury of brooms and
dustrags at work around him, and began to sort through the top layers of piled
parchment. A great deal of them were maps; treasure
maps, to be precise, complete with bold red Xs and ancient runes along the
edges. He had already made copies of most of them, and quite a few he no longer
needed, since he’d already gotten use out of them. With a flick of his wand, he
sent maps and paperwork for completed assignments zooming toward the filing
cabinet. After setting aside a short stack of parchment for further review at a
later time, he turned his attention to the unopened packages.
them contained tablets decorated with elaborate hieroglyphs, or tarnished
amulets which long experience told him were probably keys to old tombs
somewhere. Another package revealed a shiny glass Sneakoscope.
it out with a smile, just now remembering that he’d ordered it from a wizard
tourist shop in Cairo.
He’d told his family once that Sneakoscopes were nothing more than souvenir
rubbish, but Ron had written to him last year saying how effective the one he’d
bought as a gift for Harry had been, though he hadn’t mentioned much about the
circumstances. Ron had also told him about the beetles Fred and George had
slipped into his soup when they had come to visit on that prize money. Oh yes,
now he remembered all right. He had a box of dung beetles somewhere to ship off
to his brothers at Hogwarts. He just needed to find something innocuous in
which to hide them. There was no time limit on revenge, after all. Bill
grinned, and tucked the Sneakoscope into an inner pocket of his vest.
package contained an object which really caught his interest. It was a small
statue, and fit snugly into the palm of his hand, carved of what appeared to be
some kind of sandstone. At first he thought it was a statue of a mermaid, but
looking closer he realized that though the top half of the figurine was indeed
a woman, the bottom half was not a fish tail, but rather an entwined weaving of
scaled serpent’s coils. It was an unusual carving, delicate and very beautiful.
He looked again
in the empty package, but found no note to accompany the statuette. Unusual. The bank administrators always sent him information
with any artifacts he might need on his field assignments, and even his
sometimes dubious contacts outside of Gringotts usually sent at least a
frowned, turning the small statue over in his hand. He set it down carefully on
the desk, pushed back slightly in his chair, then pointed his wand at the
statue and said, “Maledicia Revelate.”
happened. The sandstone carving was completely unaffected, and nothing in the
immediate vicinity seemed to have exploded.
have to run a few more tests on it to be sure, but for the moment at least he
couldn’t detect any curses or wards placed upon the sculpture. He inspected it
curiously for a bit longer, then replaced it carefully in the packaging and set
it on top of the pile of parchment and maps he intended to take with him when
the small brooms and rags had apparently done all they could with the mess, and
had retreated back to the cabinet from whence they came, collapsing in little
puffs of dust.
glanced up at the clock on the fireplace mantle. Dragon shaped hands pointed at
the brightly glowing numbers, telling him that it was past time for lunch, and
past time to get going on his latest assignment.
over to the tall wardrobe and pulled wide both doors. Skipping over the formal
robes he only ever wore at bank meetings, he pulled out instead a nondescript,
light brown cloak. He couldn’t count the number of times that cloak had served
him as useful camouflage among the desert sand dunes. He also took one of the
bulging full leather satchels. A glance inside told him that all his gear was
still packed and ready. Last, he took out an ivory white broom with tan
bristles - his Gringotts company broom. Though he had a definite fondness for
his personal broom at home, he had to admit the company broom was useful. It
was faster, for one thing, and it was also enchanted so that it could be shrunk
down to easily portable sizes. Right now, though, he would need it as it was.
the pile of parchment, maps and packages into the satchel with his gear, then
swung his cloak over his shoulders, and, broom in hand, satchel over his back,
he left his office.
outside in the hall to let the door close behind him, then took out his wand
again and brushed the tip over the wood. Beneath Bill Weasley - Acquisitions,
a smaller line of gold lettering appeared saying, In The
softly to himself, glad to be heading out to do the work he most enjoyed, Bill
strolled down the aisle of working goblins and back into the main hall. He
smiled at a witch at the front counter who was eyeing him with an admiring gleam,
then headed on out the front doors and back into the dazzling light and brutal
“Hey, Graffalk.” He grinned at the guard goblin, who hadn’t moved an inch since the morning. “Hot day, isn’t
it?” He just couldn’t help himself
“Yes,” came the same, gruff reply.
definitely didn’t have a sense of humor.
Weasley swept one long leg over his broomstick, and soared off into the bright
sky, sun blazing on his red hair.
most prominent wizard town, with hidden magical entrances all over Cairo, and dozens of
various connections to the Egyptian Floo Network. If you were very familiar
with the area, you might be able to get through the magical barriers and fly
directly to it, and Bill Weasley was about as familiar with the secret ins and
outs of Egypt
as a wizard could be.
his broomstick to a smooth landing on the side of Datayrus’s wide central
street, right next to a tavern he liked to frequent. A witch minding the potted
displays of an Herbalist’s shop next door waved at him in friendly recognition.
Bill waved back, then turned and entered the tavern. A sign hung over the door
which read The Thirsty Mummy, and had
a picture of an unraveling Mummy with a mug of cider in each hand. Bill had
always found the name of the tavern amusing, and assumed that the original
owner must have known some true things about Mummies. Being doused with
enchanted wine was one of the few things that would actually stop a Mummy,
since it dissolved the ancient emulsifiers which held the bandages together.
The Thirsty Mummy indeed.
interior of the tavern was dimly lit by torchlight, but as with Gringotts, the
inside of the building had been magically cooled to a pleasing temperature
which defied the blazing Egyptian sun outside. Bill made his way to the corner
seat of the bar, and set down his broom and satchel beside him. The bartender
ambled over, grinning at him.
here early, Bill,” he spoke with a distinct American accent. “The
“The usual, Steve.”
Steve the Bartender
was at least a foot shorter than Bill, but stocky of build. He had broad,
scarred hands, and a shiny bald head. He was also a Muggle,
the only Muggle Bill had ever met living in any wizarding town. The citizens of
Datayrus loved to swap rumors and stories about how Steve had ended up living
with wizards. Bill was one of the few people who knew the truth, but he never
mentioned it because he loved hearing all the outrageous stories almost as much
as Steve did.
was surprisingly simple, really. Several years ago, Steve had been kind enough
to pick up an oddly dressed hitch-hiker, who just happened to be a Ministry wizard
with a broken broom and shaky Apparation skills. It had been the beginning of
an unusual friendship, and Steve had eventually decided that he found the
wizarding world much more interesting, so he’d followed his wizard friend to Egypt, where he
had for the past five years entertained the crowds at The Thirsty Mummy with
tales of Muggle eccentricities.
Steve set a
foaming mug of butterbeer on the counter in front of Bill. “So where have you
been lately? Someone told me you were out of town.”
“Back home, visiting the family.”
you deserved a vacation. Back on the job again already?”
“Yeah. There’s supposedly a wizard’s castle buried somewhere
in the Ring of Tombs. The head goblins at Gringotts have laid claim to the
treasure buried there, if I can find it.” Bill grinned. “Want to come
guffawed. “Sure thing, Dr Jones, just let me grab my fedora.”
“Never mind. Just a Muggle movie.”
genuinely liked Steve, but there were times when he had difficulty
understanding all his Muggle allusions. He knew what movies were, of course.
He’d actually seen one once, a long time ago. He and Charlie had managed to
sneak into a Muggle cinema in town not too far from the Burrow. Getting through
the town without mishap had been adventure enough, but the movie had also been
interesting. It was like a huge portrait where the characters in the painting
were acting out some sort of play. It had been an odd story about a squat,
brown, ghoul-like creature, with a fondness for potted plants, who made friends with some children who flew around on
bicycles instead of broomsticks. He had understood nothing of what was going on, but he found all the bizarre
Muggle contraptions and conversations utterly fascinating. Only years later had
he finally learned what “phone home” meant.
got any chocolate bars?” Bill asked. He always liked to be prepared for any
eventuality when leaving on assignment.
“Sure thing. Sometimes I think old Ahmed keeps those things
in stock just for you. Hold on.” Steve went into the small kitchen and emerged
moments later with a huge chocolate bar wrapped in a gold foil that was charmed
to keep it from melting in the desert heat. “There you go.”
Bill shoved the chocolate into his satchel, then downed the rest of the
butterbeer and stood up. “Put it on my account, Steve.”
it.” Steve shook his head with a smile. “I’ll expect a story when you get
grinned and gave him cheerful nod of agreement, then swept out of The Thirsty
Mummy and took once more to the sky. This flight was much shorter. He landed
again at the other end of Datayrus, on a yellow cobbled street lined with small
stone houses, pale colored and flat roofed. He strolled up to his own doorway,
tapped his wand on the small gargoyle which guarded his threshold, and the door
Just as he
entered he heard the sound of beating wings, and two owls swooped down from a
date tree in his garden and over his shoulder to perch on his living room
chair. They each had scrolls attached to their legs.
hullo.” Bill smiled, setting down his things. “Two of you, I see. I must be a
popular person these days.”
He took the
scrolls, then fed the owls some of his left over toast
from breakfast. He invited them to stay and rest for a bit, but they both
ruffled their feathers importantly and took off through an open window,
apparently to other business. Bill sat down in the chair and opened up his
scroll was from his father. Bill had asked to be kept updated on what was
happening back home, and Mr Weasley did his best to send him weekly owls with
all the news. Apparently not much had changed since the last letter. Harry
Potter was staying at the Burrow for the end of this summer holiday. Arthur
confessed that though he was delighted and honored to take the boy in, thinking
that Voldemort might come looking for him at any time made him and Molly rather
nervous, in spite of the precautionary spells Dumbledore had put in place for
them. But so far everything at the Burrow was peaceful. As for work... rumors
were getting out all over the place, it seemed, and wizards were becoming
careless in the face of their worries. The Obliviators were working overtime
with Memory Charms, which meant that Mr Weasley had to use up some of his
precious time reviewing their activities to insure that they didn’t violate the
Muggle Protection Act with their actions. As the author of the law, he had to
help enforce it. And in addition to all his duties, he was now trying to promote
Dumbledore’s activist views with his fellows in the Ministry.
fancied he could see how exhausted his father was in the odd slant to his
also a postscript at the bottom of the letter, in neat writing he recognized as
his mother’s, which said: Bill darling, I know I’ve
said it before, but you really should consider cutting that hair of yours.
You’re such a handsome young man, and if you just looked a bit more presentable
I’m sure you’d attract all sorts of nice young witches. I’m getting on in
years, you know, and I want to have some grandchildren eventually! I love you,
dear. Take care of yourself.
couldn’t help smiling, shaking his head fondly as he
practically heard his mother’s voice in his head. He knew the length of his
hair had nothing to do with the lack of ‘nice young witches’ in his life. He
just didn’t have the time for dating. His work for Gringotts kept him out of
town more often than not, and he had yet to meet a ‘nice young witch’ willing
to spend days puzzling through stuffy underground mazes and crypts, fighting
off Mummies, and hiding from Sand Wraiths in search of long-lost wizard riches.
It wasn’t exactly the kind of date most witches looked for. He knew, not
because no witch had ever shown an interest, but because they had, and he’d
tried, and the last time he’d spent two days trying to break out of an
Entombment Trap triggered by his inexperienced companion. It was not an
experience he wished to repeat.
letter was from his brother Charlie. His writing looked rather erratic, and one
edge of the parchment was curling with scorch marks.
will have to be quick, as I’m preparing to do a claw trim on a rather
feisty Romanian Rake-Paw.
answer to your question about the Chinese Dragon family, legend says
they have a great fear of centipedes. They seem to think
crawl up their noses and eat their brains. (Dragons can be
sometimes.) Next time you’re planning on facing down a
try conjuring up some centipedes, instead of antagonizing it
with Ice Charms
like you did the last time. (I still can’t figure out how
the hell you survived
that one, you wily bastard!) And if you’re looking for a
more peaceful way
about it, we’ve managed to capture our Chinese Fireballs by
with pearls. I’ve never had the chance to try the
centipedes, but I know the
pearls work. They love the pearls.
thought it would have been good to know all this before going off
on his last big assignment. Normally Gringotts kept him in Egypt, where a
surprisingly large number of eccentric wizards seemed to have made their homes
over the centuries, compulsively hiding treasure all over the place beneath the
sand dunes. But occasionally he did get sent further abroad on his quests, and
his work in China
last year had been particularly exciting. Bill had to admit he’d loved most of
it - everything except the run in with the Dragon in the mountains. He wasn’t
even sure himself how he’d managed to survive that one. Pure luck, really.
Studying up on their behavior after the fact at least gave him information for
future reference. From now on, though, he decided he’d ask Charlie about Dragon
specimens native to his mission areas before leaving.
And in answer to your question about getting time off
work for Christmas...
my best. It’s getting pretty crazy around here. Dumbledore’s sent me
a few messages, suggesting I start to give some serious
thought to training
some of our calmer species. He’s really planning for a
isn’t he? I must admit, it makes me nervous.
to go now. The Rake-Paw’s getting uppity. I’ve got two assistants
down recovering from burns, so we’re short handed for
yourself out there with those Sand Wraiths. I’m still convinced they’re
cousins, nasty little buggers. (If you ever get a chance to catch one,
happy to take it off your hands!)
Mum pestering you about grandchildren, too?
penned quick replies to both letters, letting them know he’d be in the field
for a while, and that he’d be in touch again as soon as possible. Trying to
find anything in the Ring of Tombs was risky business. There was no telling how
long he’d be out there.
he pulled out the paperwork and packages he’d brought home from the office and
sorted through them one final time. One large roll of parchment was a map he
himself had made of the Ring of Tombs, filling in areas as he explored them,
and marking all the places with the traps he knew about - he was always finding
new ones. He put the map back in the sack with his gear, along with the
parchment he’d been given by Gringotts which displayed a moving layout of the
castle he was supposed to find, complete with brilliantly colored symbols to
mark all the secret passageways. He was about to shove all the other papers
into his desk, when the package with the peculiar sculpture in it caught his
out the statue again, turning it over in his hand. The detail really was
exquisite. The woman’s torso was bare-breasted, lovely down to the details of
face and hair. The numerous serpent’s coils which wound
together to form the tail half were intricately carved with scale patterns.
wanted to know who had sent this to him, and why.
holding the sculpture, he pointed his wand at a small wooden box on an
The box zoomed
through the air towards him, and he managed to twirl his wand into a loose grip
with his little finger just in time to catch the box one-handed. He’d always
had a habit of twirling his wand while thinking, and all that practice had done
him good in the end.
the sandstone carving inside the wooden box, which had a glass lid on it so
that he could still see the contents when it was closed. The box was something
he’d designed himself with the use of the Gringotts’ laboratories. As one of
their few official curse-breakers, he had free access to most of their
resources, for which he was grateful. This particular box would glow red if
there were any malevolent curses on the object placed within,
blue if the enchantments were harmless in nature. In some cases, the box’s scan
might trigger the cursed object, but he had also designed it to contain the
effects of most curses. It had only failed a few times, and he’d had to do some
fast thinking to save his skin. But he wasn’t a curse-breaker for nothing.
however, when he closed the glass lid on the statue, the light which
immediately emanated from it was a soft blue glow. So the sculpture was
enchanted, but not apparently dangerous in nature. That didn’t mean it was
entirely safe, by any means, but he was relieved to know it wasn’t about to
explode on him.
the first time he’d received anonymous deliveries from people. A lot of the
bizarre wizards he’d met in the course of his work sometimes sent him old
artifacts they thought might be of help to him, and most of the time they
Bill decided to take the statue with him, and slipped it into an inner pocket
of his satchel. Who knew what use he might get out of it?
the preparations were done, and he swung his cloak on again and hurried out the
door, tapping the gargoyle again to seal his house behind him. He hopped on his
broom and made a quick stop down the road at the Datayrus Owlery to send off
the letters to his family, then pointed his broom south, toward the vast
desert, absently humming one of the cheerier versions of the Hogwarts school
song as the wind whipped at his cloak and hair.
later, Bill Weasley was crouched down in the sand with his back to a large,
crumbling pyramid, trying to keep as silent as possible while scanning the
moonlit sand dunes for any sign of the Sand Wraith hunting him.
holiday had made him lax, or he was too preoccupied with worries about what was
happening back home, because he seemed to have forgotten everything he’d ever
learned about the Egyptian desert by choosing to work at night in the Ring of
Tombs around the full moon. Maybe Sand Wraiths shared some traits with
werewolves, because they always got particularly frisky around this time of the
month. He’d decided to avoid working in the blazing heat and sun by exploring
at night, and had completely forgotten about the increased Sand Wraith
Absolutely brilliant, Bill, he though to himself wryly.
Professor McGonagall’s well remembered voice piped up in his head, as it
usually did when he’d done something particularly stupid, saying, “Do not
get careless, Mr Weasley!” Too late for that.
so engrossed investigating the runes on the pyramid behind him - one of the few
in the Ring of Tombs he hadn’t yet explored - that he’d failed to notice the
whistling of an approaching Sand Wraith until it was almost upon him. He’d
managed to dive out of the way, concealing himself with a Chameleon Charm.
Unfortunately, the moment he moved the Sand Wraith would hear him. They had
exceptional hearing, and could hide like Chameleons without the need for
Charms. It wasn’t safe to Apparate within the Ring of Tombs, either. The area
was criss-crossed and layered with so many horrible enchantments and curses
that it was easy to unintentionally trigger one by Apparating through them. You
never knew what you were going to land on. And it wasn’t safe to fly out,
because Sand Wraiths could jump over a hundred feet straight into the air, and
Bill knew that Wraith was out there somewhere, just waiting for him to
try it. Besides, to reach his broom - which was currently shrunk to the size of
a quill in his pocket - he’d have to move.
Just bloody brilliant.
high-pitched, keening whistle pierced the night stillness, and about fifty feet
to his right Bill saw a dune erupt into a whirling pillar of moonlit sand.
Faster and faster the sand whirled, like a miniature tornado, and the whistling
grew more shrill. The faint outline of a reptilian
shape could be seen in the center of the maelstrom. Local wizarding legend
claimed that Sand Wraiths moved in a constant spin, which kicked up the sand
around them. But Bill had seen quite a few Wraith skeletons in his day - once
when traveling with Charlie - and they had both agreed that something built
like that could not spin fast enough to cause such a sand storm. From the
sounds it made, and the way the sand swirled, Bill wouldn’t have been surprised
if the creature was breathing it all in and blowing it all out again.
whirling pillar of sand began to move, shrieking across the dunes around the
pyramid. Apparently it had grown tired of waiting for him to come out of
hiding, and was going to circle the area until it found its prey.
tightened on his wand, and he got a reckless idea.
What if the
Wraith was breathing the sand? It had always seemed a ridiculous
concept, but he’d seen stranger things. And he’d never seen a Sand Wraith not
enveloped by that contained sand storm. No one knew very much about them. It
might be possible that they actually did suck up that sand and spit it back out
again, causing the constant spiral of air and grit. It might be possible. Might.
hell? He didn’t have anything to lose by trying. Nothing
more than he’d lose by just waiting around to be eaten.
to his feet and pointed his wand at the creature, which instantly shifted
course to streak straight towards him with a deafening roar.
Defende!” he yelled.
gust of wind exploded from his wand, increasing in strength as it whooshed
toward the Wraith. It hit the Wraith so hard that the creature was forced back
several feet, and then began to shred away the curtain of sand obscuring it.
Wind blew the sand away, carrying it off as it howled past, and leaving the
Sand Wraith completely exposed.
been right; it did look like a dragon.
Wraith had a serpentine body covered in shimmering green scales, and it stood
almost upright on two thin legs, with two wiry arms spread out to either side,
each trailing a semi-transparent membrane which looked like they might serve as
wings. Both arms and legs ended in several long claws, and a thin tail lashed
about with claw-like horns on it as well.
moment, the Sand Wraith stood frozen in evident surprise, glowing red eyes
flashing. And then its long snout opened, revealing rows of shiny teeth, and it
roared in absolute fury.
Or at least,
it tried to roar. What actually emerged sounded more like a choked wheeze. A
small puff of sand rose up from the ground beneath its feet, but was instantly
swept away by the winds still swirling out of Bill’s wand.
he didn’t have the time to celebrate his own ingenuity. He broke the Wind Charm
long enough to point his wand near the Wraith’s clawed feet, and said, “Liquidatus!”
The sand beneath the Wraith instantly turned into a muddy pit of wet gloop. He
snapped the wand back up and called up another Wind Charm to make sure he kept
the creature of its balance.
Wraith began to sink, sucked down into the soppy pool as though it were
standing in quicksand. It sunk quickly, all the while trying to roar and
producing only wheezes. As soon as the creature was sunk nearly to its pointed
and scaly knees, Bill pointed his wand at the quicksand again and shouted, “Gelatis!”
The wet sand froze with a loud crack, leaving the Sand Wraith with both clawed
feet stuck in a block of mud suddenly hard as brick.
knew that wouldn’t hold it long. He whipped his shrunken broom out of his
pocket, spoke the words to restore it to its original size, then jumped on and
shot up into the air, streaking away at top speed.
back only once, and could just make out the tiny shape of the Sand Wraith in
the moonlit shadows. A cloud of sand was forming around it again, in the
absence of his Wind Charm. But the Wraith hadn’t moved yet, which meant that it
was either still frozen in the mud block, or it had decided to give up on him
Bill decided it wouldn’t be wise to keep exploring tonight. No need to push his
his broom in the direction of a nearby Tomb, one he had already thoroughly
explored and could easily break into. He’d shut himself up in the pyramid, and
wait out the night. He wasn’t particularly fond of spending the night with
Mummies, but at least they moved slowly, and he had no worries about dealing
with them. He had a good stock of enchanted wine with him. He could use some
for himself, too, while he was at it.
moment, Bill was glad he’d decided long ago not to tell his mother all the
details about his job. She’d probably have a heart attack if she realized the
kinds of scrapes he got himself into.
Perhaps he was
crazy to stick with a job like this. But heck, Charlie worked with dragons.
No one was crazier than that.
and pushed his broom to faster speeds.
day, Bill emerged from the dusty pyramid into the bright morning sunshine. He’d
only had to ward off two Mummies last night, so he’d actually managed to get
some rest. Apparently he’d cleared out most of them the last time he’d been
He took out
his map, made a few calculations based on what he’d discovered over the past
few days, and then zoomed off again astride his broom.
take him long to find the buried castle he was looking for. All that could be
seen of it were a few spires poking up out of a mountain of sand. He paced around
it a few times, searching for wards and curses. After an hour of tests and
examinations, he determined there didn’t seem to be any spells preventing his
approach. So he chose the most exposed spire, and conjured up a few shovels to
start digging away at it.
At least an
hour passed before enough sand had been cleared away to reveal a narrow white
tower, topped with a tarnished bronze dome with a fluted turret on the crown.
The style looked distinctly Eastern, but on closer inspection Bill saw carvings
along one of the stone windowsills done in Egyptian hieroglyphs. The wizard who
built this might have had eccentric tastes in design, but they had known their
at breaking the blocking enchantment on the window, then
slipped carefully through. He was standing at the top landing of a flight of
stairs, which spiraled down the tower into darkness. The bulk of the castle
must be completely entombed below the sand.
the strap of his satchel securely over his chest, then raised his wand,
muttered “Lumos,” and descended into the shadowy tower.
seemed to go on forever, and his wandlight only illuminated one loop of the
spiral staircase ahead of him as he went. Eventually, though, he reached the
bottom, and he could make out a wide stone hall stretching out ahead of him
into thick, musty shadow.
He took one
cautious step forward, and was nearly blinded by a sudden explosion of golden
well, a visitor!” a husky voice chuckled.
blinked rapidly to try to clear his sight, and soon saw that the entire stone
hall had been lit up by rows of iron braziers, filled with flickering gold and
red flames. Even through the blanket of dust on the floor, he could still see
that the hall was paved with slabs of cream-colored marble, and the walls were
beautifully decorated with murals.
And at the
far end of the hall, perched on a stone dais, was a Sphynx.
what Muggles believed about Sphynxes, they were not very pretty, and not even
remotely regal. In fact, they bore a strong resemblance to harpies and hags,
and were usually downright rude, not to mention shamelessly bawdy. Captive
Sphynxes were known to be a bit more placid, as generations of close relations
with wizards had leeched them of most of their wildness, but free ones were
anything but tame. Bill had only run into a wild Sphynx once before this, and
he’d left the encounter blushing as red as his hair with embarrassment.
the presence of a Sphynx here meant she was probably guarding something, and no
matter their lewd nature, Sphynxes could be very dangerous.
visitor!” the Sphynx exclaimed again, yellow eyes widening with glee. All four
of her lion paws flexed eagerly, claws tapping on stone. “And
a handsome one, too! Is your hair that red all over?”
flushed, rooted to the spot, wondering if he should make a retreat and plan another entrance.
go thinking of leaving now! We’ve only just met!” The Sphynx grinned, showing rows
of pointed teeth in her woman’s face. “Unless I’m much mistaken, you’ve dragged
that cute rear down here to find some treasure. Well, come on, then. You’ve got
to get through me first.”
back as confidently as he could manage. “Doesn’t seem to be much point in
dissembling, does there?”
“Absolutely not, gorgeous! Come closer, why don’t you, and
we can get on with business.” A long, blue tongue snaked out and licked at her
impossible, he knew, to get decent conversation out of a Sphynx. He stood his
ground and said, “And what exactly would that business entail, please.”
diplomatic one, are you? What the hell do you think it entails?” Lion claws
scratched the stone dais impatiently as her yellow eyes narrowed, shining
brightly even across the distance of the hall. “Riddles, of
course. You answer three riddles correctly, and I will let you go into
the vault beyond and you can cart off all the treasure your little heart
“And if I
don’t answer the riddles correctly?”
thanks. I’ll pass.”
have a choice, wizard boy!” she snapped, and a very lion-like growl emerged
from her deceptively frail looking human chest. “You went to all the trouble to
dig me up, and now I want to be entertained. Now get over here!”
glanced behind him to see that the entrance to the tower was now completely
sealed over with stone. If he tried to break through it to get back out, no
doubt the Sphynx would attack him. It seemed he really had no choice but to
attempt the riddles. If he failed to answer them, then he wouldn’t be any worse
off than if he tried to escape right now. And who knew, maybe he’d get them
back to the Sphynx, who was grinning at him wickedly, and a bit lustily too. God, what a horrible thought.
wasn’t about to be careless. He advanced slowly, stopping every few steps to
trace patterns in the air with his wand, searching for traps along the way,
trying to ignore the Sphynx’s mocking commentary as he did so.
“All you wizards with your misguided magic! Lunatics, all of you. Crazy.
Thinking you can take on immortals like me! Why don’t you try that stone over
there, hot stuff? Maybe there’s a ghoul under it, never know until you bend
over and check, eh? I’m really surprised you haven’t all been eaten long before
now. I mean, what have all the Dragons been up to since I got stuck down here
pulling watch duty three hundred years ago? Hey, that brazier looks menacing.
Wave your wand at it some more, give me a good show. A few of you nutters learn
a few good tricks, get lucky a couple times, and pretty soon you’ve all got big
heads. You better watch out, you might trip on that oh so nasty and threatening
dust speck there and crack your pretty little head open.
And that would be a shame.”
Bill made it to the base of the stone dais, without finding a single spell or
ward to hinder him. Apparently the Sphynx was the only danger here, but that
was danger - and irritation - enough.
all safe and secure now, are we?”
thanks for asking.”
cheek.” Her grin widened to ghastly proportions. “I like it.”
started twirling his wand again, partly out of nervousness, partly to put on a
show of nonchalance. It probably wasn’t a good idea to antagonize her, but he
couldn’t help himself. Weasleys never backed down from a fight. “So what about
these riddles, then?”
lover boy! You’ll get them soon enough. First.” She crouched forward on her front
legs, sticking her face very close to his, so that her foul breath nearly
overwhelmed him. “Who are you? It’s been a long time since anyone found this
place, and I must admit, I’m impressed by your
himself not to take a step back, though her heavy breathing was lifting up
strands of hair in his ponytail. “The name’s Bill Weasley. I’d say something
like, ‘and I’m the wizard who’s going to spell you back into the mythology
days’ - but I think we can skip over the loud-mouthed intimidation bit and get
down to the real stuff, don’t you?” He grinned his
most charming grin, and tried not to shudder at his own daring. He really was
being unusually cheeky. He only hoped it didn’t get him killed.
froze for a moment, blinked in surprise, then let out an ear-splitting roar of
laughter. The sound that echoed through the hall was hardly human, and it made
him wince in spite of his best attempts to keep a straight face.
reared up then, sitting back on her haunches, and unfurling a pair of crimson
colored wings. A wide necklace of obsidian and gold hung over most her chest,
glinting now in the firelight as she drew a deep breath. When she spoke next,
her husky voice was deeper, grander, and her bearing became suddenly much more
like the Muggle legends made Sphynxes out to be.
“Very well, Bill Weasley. Here is your first riddle.”
life with my absence, grow, and end how I began. I am only seen by my
reflection, but always I am felt. What am I?”
He let his
breath out slowly, brow furrowed in thought. It didn’t help that the Sphynx was
now staring at him with a wicked gleam in her eye. And maybe it was only his
imagination, but she definitely looked hungry.
time, gorgeous,” she said. “I’ve got eternal patience.”
doubted that, but he did feel certain that she wouldn’t attack him without
making some obnoxious comment first. So he felt safe enough to close his eyes,
blocking out the sight of her leering grin, and concentrated on the riddle.
always been better at spell work than theory, and it had been a long time since
he’d had to deal with anything like riddles. But he hadn’t been Head Boy at
Hogwarts for nothing. So... begining life with absence.
Absence of what? Of self? And
was this thing really alive, or was that only metaphor? So...
life with absence. Absence was... darkness? Maybe.
Growing and ending. Growth, and then dying how it
began... death in absence.
“Is that a
broom in your pocket, or something more interesting?”
flushed furiously, his concentration shattered. “It’s a broom. Shrunken.”
“I wouldn’t call it shrunken.”
to think, here,” he snapped.
on with it.”
made a wise crack about eternal patience, but kept it in.
about being seen only by reflection? Creatures like vampires didn’t cast
reflections at all, but he couldn’t think of anything that worked in an
opposite way. Seen only by reflection... but always felt. Reflection...
mirrors? Maybe. Something standing
in front of a mirror... something invisible, but reflected. Was it
always invisible? Growth, and then return to absence.
Was it absent while growing? How was it always felt? Something that was always
present, even when you couldn’t see it, even in darkness, but seen by
finally, the answer hit him. He opened his eyes, and almost jumped to see the
Sphynx’s face held inches away from his own. Her eyes widened into huge, yellow
his grip on his wand, ready to spring into action, just in case he was wrong.
“You’re the moon.”
reared back again, showing all her teeth, and roared out another laugh. “Well,
Bill! I say! You shock me. That is correct. The moon begins its cycle as
a new moon, in darkness. It waxes, then wanes, and ends its cycle in darkness.
Your human eyes can only see the moon because the sun’s light reflects off it,
but always the moon pulls on the ocean tides. I am impressed. The last
bloke who came here guessed that the answer was a radish.”
blinked, stunned in spite of himself. “A radish?”
“I know, I
know! Isn’t it preposterous? I said you’re all complete nutballs. I’m surprised
you all haven’t incinerated yourselves with backfired spells. I mean, really.
I worked hard on that riddle. A radish?”
with what he hoped would be perceived as sympathy for her indignation, just
relieved he’d made it through the first riddle alive.
“So, then. On with the show, yes?”
She drew herself up again, voice once more resonant and impressive, “Bill
Weasley, here is your second riddle: I am all the colors in the... aw, forget
this nonsense.” She slapped her front paws against her chest, did something
with the necklace she wore, then quickly placed both
paws flat against the stone dais. “Just tell me which paw the key to the vault
is under and we’ll call it a day, shall we?”
hesitated, shocked at his luck, wondering if she really meant it, and if so,
whether or not he should risk trying to use a spell to find the key’s location.
on,” she cajoled. “You’re funny, you’re good-looking, you made my day more
interesting, and the truth is that I hate riddles, anyway. That’s just my luck,
huh? So you make a choice, if you get it right, you get the treasure, and I get
to quit this job. You get it wrong, and tell you what, I won’t even eat you.
I’m feeling generous. Don’t test my patience.”
short her ‘eternal patience’ was, Bill took the chance. He’d known all along it
might come down to a fight, if she was lying about not eating him. Keeping his
wand ready, he pointed with his empty hand at her left paw. “There.”
sure is your lucky day, isn’t it?” She lifted her left paw to reveal a gold and
black amulet dangling from one of her long claws. “Come and get it, then.”
one eyebrow, then lifted his wand. “Accio.”
The amulet flew through the space between them and into his hand.
chuckled. “Didn’t trust me? Smart man. The door to the
treasure vault is right behind this dais. Just fit the amulet into the matching
carving, and you’re in. And I,” she rose to all four feet and padded off
the dais, claws clicking on the floor, “am finally getting out of this dusty
hole in the ground. Though,” she paused and swiveled her torso around to ogle
Bill as she passed, “I wouldn’t have minded eating you. That
red hair. Really quite scrumptious.”
He couldn’t help it. “Thanks. I think.”
swished her tail once, folded her crimson wings back, then started to pad off
toward the tower, which was unsealed and open once again. Just as she made it
all the way past him, however, she stopped, and spun around with a snap of
opening wings, her teeth bared.
back, wand raised, on the verge of shouting out the first spell that came to
Sphynx didn’t attack. She stood there, lowered into a threatening crouch, and
when she spoke this time all traces of the lewd, impatient monster were gone.
She was a magical creature now, wrapped in power, immortal, and very angry.
have you brought with you? What are you carrying that bears the stench of
frowned, and took another step back. “Nothing.”
lie. It is there, with you. You carry it.”
glow shimmered in the corner of his vision, and he realized it was coming from
behind him. He risked tearing his gaze from the angry Sphynx to glance back.
was coming from his satchel, still hanging from his shoulder. But that was impossible.
He knew all the gear he’d brought with him, used it all the time. All of it was
practical, innocent, nothing to provoke this kind of response. Unless... the
quickly back at the Sphynx, whose huge yellow eyes were fixed on him. “It’s a
statue, I was given it. I don’t know what it does.”
Sphynx began to relax, muscles rippling under lion pelt and human skin. “Well,
then,” she said, her voice much calmer now. “Be rid of it.”
sense what it does?” Bill asked impulsively.
“No. But it
has been touched by dark forces.”
tested it for curses, and couldn’t find anything.”
don’t need to be inherently evil to be used for an evil purpose. The touch of
previous owners lingers. Be rid of it, Bill Weasley. You’re a decent enough
wizard, no need to mess with dark things.”
the Sphynx swished her tail and padded off, reached the tower, and leapt up the
stairs in a massive bound, leaving Bill alone with lots of questions, and a
vault full of treasure.
Gringotts goblins were delighted with the treasure load Bill delivered. The
Goblin in Chief even broke into a rare smile at the sight of all the gold and
jewels. They were so pleased, in fact, that they granted Bill a month’s worth
of holiday time on the spot, to be used whenever he liked. That made Bill
happier than any payraise. It meant time with his family, at a time when he
felt he ought to be with them.
after the last of the treasure had been delivered to Gringotts,
Bill stopped by The Thirsty Mummy and shared a few drinks with Steve the
Muggle. A good flow of butterbeer soon made some of his worries seem more
distant. The Sphynx’s warning about the statuette disturbed him, but he had run
every curse-detection test on it he could think of as soon as he got back, and
had found absolutely nothing.
telling Steve all about his encounter with the Sand Wraith and Sphynx, and
after his fill of butterbeer, Bill made his goodnights and headed back home,
smiling politely in farewell to a witch who had been eyeing him at the bar. A nice young witch. She’d been quite interested in his
story, but he wondered, as always, how fascinating she would have found him out
in the sand with the Wraith trying to eat them both. Then again, he remembered
Ron’s young friend, Hermione. According to everything Ron had told him, she
seemed to get by on book smarts okay, respectable and all. The
two of them and Harry Potter, getting in to all sorts of trouble. Almost
made him wish he was back at Hogwarts with them. Visiting the school during the
Triwizard Tournament had made him rather nostalgic. He even found he missed the
Fat Lady and her friend Violet. They’d always flirted with him terribly.
He made it
home, tapped the guardian gargoyle with his wand, then
settled down to relax. He lit a magical fire in the hearth, one which produced
no heat, opened a window to let in the warm evening breezes, and took a seat in
front of the fire with a book, Mystical Memories - a Study in Reincarnation.
pages into it, however, he was interrupted by the sound of fluttering wings,
and another owl swooped in through the window with a delivery. At first he
assumed it must be from his family, which made him think that he ought to write
to Charlie with what he’d learned about the Sand Wraiths. Then he noticed that
the scroll was sealed with the Hogwarts crest, and he unrolled it curiously. It
was from Dumbledore.
this letter finds you well, and that the Egyptian summer agrees with you.
personally always found it rather invigorating, but I digress.
I need not mention that you were one of Hogwarts’ most exemplary
students, and you do honor to the reputation of your fine
family. Bearing in
mind your abilities, and what you witnessed and heard at the
end of the
Tournament while standing as family for Harry Potter, I have
decided to ask of you a favor. Please forgive my
presumption, but we have no
more time to be hesitant.
imperative that I meet with a witch by the name of Elizabeth Night. I have
made contact with her, and she has agreed to come to
due to certain limitations imposed upon her, she is unable
to make the journey
here by normal wizarding means. She must be escorted here,
and if you will,
entrust this important task to you. It will be, I am afraid, a lengthy journey.
Miss Night is currently in
hiding for various reasons, and you will need to
who guard her that you are working for me.
choose to accept this task, I will speak with Gringotts on your behalf to
secure you the free time needed. Please send me your reply
with this owl. On
your acceptance, I will send you all the detailed
information you will require
to find and escort Miss Night.
assured that I fully understand if you are unable to do me this favor. I ask
you because I trust you, as a member of your honorable
family, and as a respect-
able wizard in your own right. I chose you because you’re
the best man for the
careful in these darkening times.
the letter a second time, then held it in his hand and stared into the fire,
lost in troubled thought. What could be so important about this witch that
Dumbledore felt he had to go to such extreme measures to meet with her? It
But he also
felt a little bit of pride, because Dumbledore had specifically chosen him for
this important task. How could he not feel good about earning the respect of
one of the greatest wizards who’d ever lived?
really no question about whether or not he would accept. Who could say no to
his entire family was destined to get tangled up in the workings of the battle
against Voldemort. So be it. He would, as Dumbledore had said, do honor to his
grabbed a fresh piece of parchment and scribbled a quick letter back to
Dumbledore, then entrusted it to the waiting owl, who took off immediately to
return to its master.
He stood at
the window for a while, watching the owl disappear into the night. Warm breezes
tugged at his earing, tapping the fang against his jaw. His mother’s words came
back to him, “...with a horrible great fang on it...” He smiled. Maybe he ought not to mention
anything about Sand Wraiths or Sphynxes in his next letter home. If Dumbledore
had already discussed this mysterious mission with his father, then they were
no doubt already worried enough.
Dumbledore’s letter into his desk, then took the time
to make sure that the lid of his curse-box was tightly closed. He’d placed the
sandstone carving in it, and decided to leave it there until he could figure
out what to do about it. Surely, given enough time, he’d be able to decipher
whatever mystery it contained.
he’d go in to the bank, maybe tidy up the office some more. Maybe he could even
squeeze in the time to explore that newly found pyramid in the Ring of Tombs
before having to leave on Dumbledore’s mission. Maybe.
was beginning to doubt that things were ever going to return completely to normal. He’d been feeling that way ever since the
Tournament, when a boy had died, and Harry Potter had
lived again to tell them that Voldemort had returned.
himself, and said aloud, “There’s nothing to be done about it tonight.”
to worry too much, he changed into his sleeping robes and rolled into bed,
pleased, at least, that he’d managed to make it home from another assignment in
one piece. He could just imagine Fred and George saying something ridiculous
about ‘Bill Weasley triumphant again, striking fear into the hearts of Mummies
everywhere.’ He missed his brothers. Funny, all his youth looking forward to
getting away from an over-crowding family, and now
adventures in Egypt
seemed empty without them. He wondered if Charlie sometimes felt the same off
he fell asleep, and dreamed of Hogwarts. He saw Ron there, and Harry, and
Professor McGonagall with her stern bun, and
Dumbledore in the background, smiling behind those half-moon spectacles. And
Bill walked through the familiar halls, with his Head Boy badge pinned to his
desert-stained clothes, saying hello to all the old portraits.
It was a
good dream, and that night Bill Weasley, curse-breaker and professional
treasure-hunter, slept the whole night through with a smile on his face, in
defiance of the troubles which would no doubt be waiting for him in the