?

Log in

Gryffin

The Onyx Runes (G, a fic for romanesca08)

Now that stellar mod

star54kar has posted the reveals of the weasley_fest exchange, I can claim the maternity of the Bill genfic I wrote for romanesca08 - The Onyx Runes. Here is a slightly modified version of what I sent to the community. I had left in a couple of little awkward things.

I was also happy to receive a lovely epilogue-era fic from solstice_muse, in  which Arthur Weasley attempts to find the most representative picture of his family. The title is Bookends, and you can read it here. :)

The Onyx Runes
Title:
The Onyx Runes
Author: redsiodaslair
For:
romanesca08
Rating:
G
Featured Character or Pairing(s): gen, Bill centered
Summary: A chronicle of the events leading to Bill Weasley’s abrupt change of career during the summer of 1995.
Warnings: None.
Word Count: 7,490 (oh dear)
Disclaimer: Ah, if I were JKR. But I’m not.
Author's notes: Dear romanesca08, you wanted a gen piece about change and newfound maturity. I sincerely hope you will enjoy this interpretation of your prompt as well as this look into Bill’s character. My beta-reader queenb23more deserves cookies and flowers – lots of them. Thank you, dearest. <3 All remaining mistakes are mine. Sahbee translates into my friend.


 

 

 

The Onyx Runes

+ + +

Egypt – July 1995

The worn carpet raced at good speed, three feet above the ground, gliding effortlessly against the wind current, a snake of fabric under the platinum light of the sun. Sand whirled on its passing, raining down on the flying carpet’s two passengers. Both men promptly protected their face to avoid its abrasiveness.

At that time of year, sun seemed to be suspended forever in the sky, only to be masked by temperamental winds that blew sand in great gusts. But the horizon was clear and wide, and the branding heat of the day would leave its place to a shockingly cold night in three hours, in what promised to be an orgy of oranges, yellows, and reds.

Muggle tourists and their guides did not risk adventuring themselves on this side of the desert after dusk. The two employees of Gringotts Wizarding Bank seated on the flying carpet would be free to do their job.

Bill Weasley readjusted the white cotton scarf against his mouth to avoid inhaling sand. He pondered that he should have spent his last day in Egypt between the cool walls of the bank. Working on last minute filing and paperwork would have been more reasonable than pleading with his mentor to accompany him for one last ground assignment that would leave him scrambling to get everything in order before his departure for England the next morning.

But there was a time for reason and a time for personal indulgence, and he smiled to himself as he quickly pressed the fabric to his face, just to feel the grains prickle against his hands. He needed to be out, somewhat lost in the scorching deserts of Egypt one last time, before leaping into a life he’d never thought he’d live.

The carpet shivered before landing smoothly at the base of an impressive dune.

‘There it is – the chamber of Aten the Sleepwalker. We’ll have to wait for a few hours now.’ Ya Chikh Zuberi, a diminutive curse-breaker who was rather graceful for a hundred and ten year-old man, sprang up from the carpet and strolled to the dune, swirling his wand before him in smooth circles.

Blue light cracked from nowhere in a dazzling number of sparks, and Bill whistled, impressed. ‘Lovely layering on that one, I’d say.’

Zuberi nodded with large smile, disclosing two golden teeth. ‘It’s a beauty. The entry is well protected and accessible at night only. I figured this one would amuse you.’

Bill smirked as the old man walked back to the carpet. After he slowly lowered himself down, Zuberi searched through the content of a small haversack before pulling out a gourd. ‘I would not have you leave before seeing one last time magic you could appreciate, sahbee.’

Bill laughed, his throat tighter than he’d have expected. ‘I do appreciate it, ya chikh. I’ll set up the tent.’

They waited for a while under the thick, cooling protection of the Muggle-repelling cotton tent. Sun was dipping into the west as Bill was rereading his notes, referring constantly to a battered runes dictionary. Zuberi was flipping through a thick book that had seen better days.

‘The ancients write you should look for the world in yourself,’ Zuberi said abruptly, troubling his focus. ‘They write you should never look for yourself in the world. What do you think? Is that camel dung, sahbee?’

Bill peered up from his pad. His mentor had been curiously silent since he had announced his transfer to London, but Bill knew the old man well enough to anticipate a unique way of addressing this issue. Zuberi was an oddball in the curse-breaking profession, the fifth and last generation of a well-known Egyptian family that ‘read’ the desert intuitively like others anticipated the behaviours of rare creatures or the needs of fickle plants. He also had a very metaphorical perception of their employment by the Goblins. ‘We open, we free, we simplify,’ Zuberi used to say, pretending not to hear the sniggering from the other curse-breakers. ‘Can we do a nicer work?’

‘It seems wise to me,’ Bill finally said. ‘Self-knowledge is essential.’

Was Zuberi hinting that Bill was making a foolish and egoistical choice? Was his professor finally expressing an opinion about him leaving?

‘Oh, I know. I taught you well.’ Zuberi chuckled somewhat smugly. ‘I’m an old man who parrots the wisdom of my ancestors. You, however, are a sensible young man. You seek balance in yourself. Whatever choice you think you make because of circumstances, you always make them through the sieve of your beliefs.’

Circumstances. Bill slowly shook his head. ‘Beliefs, yes, but also reason,’ he added, brushing his mouth against the scarf. ‘And duty.’

‘As you wish - reason.’ The old man tapped a short and knotty finger against his lips. ‘And its weighty brother, duty. But both words mean nothing without what you believe. Why are you leaving? What’s true?’

Bill kept silent for a moment, wondering how to explain the visceral need to stand by his family and to take action into what he anticipated would evolve into an open war soon, but Zuberi did not wait for an answer. ‘Open your hands.’

Zuberi pulled from his jilbaab a small jute pouch, and Bill watched him loosen the ties. Onyx runes cascaded into his open hands, fresh and slick against his palms.

Bill clicked his tongue. ‘Ya chickh, you know me,’ he said, almost apologetic. ‘I’m not superstitious at all.’

‘This has nothing to do with superstition.’ The old man pressed Bill’s hands together. ‘This is me wanting to give you something to think about.’

‘What happened to looking in myself to get answers?’ Bill inquired, cocking an eyebrow at the old man. He stared at the shining pebbles, masterfully engraved with powerful symbols he had come to interpret and anticipate. ‘That’s my problem with divination – one tries to apply a symbol or an interpretation to himself. Doesn’t make any sense at all.’

‘That’s because you’re doing it wrong.’

Bill laughed whole-heartedly as the old man fished for a date and flicked the pit in the air. It disappeared with a pop.

‘Now, humour this old man, and let me reassure myself by reading the runes for you.’

Bill sighed. He had seen the ceremonial done so many times in the sandy streets of Assouan by devious witches, thirsty for money. Eyes closed, he let the runes slip one by one from the cup of his hands until Zuberi stopped him. ‘Pick one with your eyes closed, sahbee… it will be the rune of past and foundations.’

The onyx pebble shined against the scarlet of the carpet. ‘Ah, you are such a surprise to me. You look at this, Bill. To express where you come from, you choose the pharaoh’s symbol of power, brandished from the father to all ancients. Father and family.’

‘Indeed.’ Bill slicked the rune with his thumb, the engraving sharp against his flesh. ‘The Was.’

The Was
Ottery St.Catchpole and Scotland - 1979-1989


Bill Weasley had set his mind on a career at the reasonable age of nine years old.

His ‘Geoffrey Walters, Mysterious Wandmaker’ albums had something to do with it. In the dead of the night, when his brother Charlie mumbled in his sleep, Bill struggled to find enough light to devour the tales of Mr. Walters’ efforts to counter a syndicate of adventurers and their malicious ploys to steal the wandmaker’s secrets.

Bill ate, dreamed, and read everything wandmaking-related his mother allowed him to put his hands on for two years, until he got his wand from Mr. Ollivander’s hands. He then realized that he had wanted to be the heroic Mr. Walters, with his manly manners and quotes (‘I’m afraid ASHWINDER ASH won’t do it for you, crook!’), and not a solitary and highly qualified craftsman obsessed by wood grain and iniquities behind the Demiguise hair trade.

I’m going to do something exciting and challenging that has nothing to do with what Dad has to put up every day.

His father was an entertaining if not tireless storyteller of all things Ministry. Laughing at his hilarious stories about spanking frying pans and insult-blaring fellytones, keeping silent when his father faked carelessness when alluding about how administration and old fortunes complicated his work, asking questions about the War and prejudices based on blood status; Bill was like any other curious teen, surprised by the revelation that his father had an involved life beyond The Burrow.

With the years, he became aware that his father faced the same, immutable situation every day: Bill could grasp that he valued his job and wanted to be useful to both Muggles and Wizards. He could also understand his father’s frustration of holding the officious powers to make it happen but being pushed aside by invisible string-holders when he did so.

I don’t want to struggle within the system to do my job, Bill thought with a tinge of shame. Not like Dad.

It took someone else than his parents to point to other paths and to relieve him from the embarrassment he felt. ‘I understand very well why you are on two minds about the Ministry career path, but there are other options,’ Professor McGonagall rightfully observed. ‘Have you heard about Gringotts’ curse-training training program? It would certainly put to use your excellent Transfiguration skills.’

Spectacular and eerie images of the desert, intricate drawings of hieroglyphics and runes, pictures of heavily moustached men and solemn Goblins unravelled before his eyes as he flipped through the flyer. He tried to keep his mind on Professor McGonagall’s speech about the requirements needed to get into such a program, but the inner need to be there, to be one of those adventurers searching for treasures and gold, was all he could hear.

He kept the brochure, with Professor McGonagall’s blessings, and he slipped it in his History of Magic book, leafing through it as Professor Binns involuntarily plunged his schoolmates into a comatose state.

Mystery awaiting in tombs. Millenary curses to decipher like a challenging puzzle. Access to the Goblins’ world-reputed library. As far as Bill understood it, it had a complicated training program and it cost a small fortune, but it could be accessible through an excellence scholarship that was well to his reach, according to Professor McGonagall.

It also meant moving to Egypt. And living in a single-room flat owned by the bank.

Alone.

There were no choices to make when life offered such a luxurious and exhilarating opportunity.

It took many owls to reassure his mother that he would survive away from her. He lost count of the hours devoted to studying and practical Transfiguration assignments under Professor McGonagall’s stern tutelage. The application forms to fill out were tedious, but every step he took brought him closer to his objective as well as it was tearing him from his father’s choices.

Bill was relieved to see him so proud when the congratulatory gold-rimmed parchment finally arrived. ‘Not yet,’ he had to repeat often, as his father introduced him to his Ministry colleagues as my son, the curse-breaker.

Bill left for Egypt with a hungry mind, and he missed his uproarious siblings quite a bit during the first week, bewildered at how peace occupied the space he now lived in; the next one, not so much.

It was his future he was building, after all, and he had it to his feet, his life as wide as the golden sea of the desert.

Egypt – July 1995

Zuberi had taken the Was rune, and Bill watched him polish it with his sleeve. The old man glanced at him over his glasses. ‘Pick another one, so I know where you stand.’

Where he stood? Bill had a fair idea about that, but he was also on the verge of diving into shadows thicker than the ones looming in a funeral chamber.

Bill sighed but obeyed under the old man’s pressing gaze.

The winged silhouette of the goddess Maat shimmered between his fingers. Merlin, he thought. That was one hilarious fluke, if he had seen one.

‘Why are you laughing?’ said Zuberi, a glint of mischief in his deep-set eyes. ‘Maat does not like to be taken lightly.’

Bill flipped the rune between his fingers. ‘I had many encounters with mummified devotees of Maat. Tombs trapped to the ceiling, enough dark magic to kill a small village, vicious curses mixed with her otherwise protective symbols…What people will make themselves believe to create their own version of justice is bewildering.’

Bill had lost quite a number of idealistic illusions through the years. Comparing both the previous and current state of the world through his job and the life of his family back in England had kept showing him how wizards through the ages were incapable of separating true justice from their skewered feelings of ownership.

Zuberi stared at him with attention, his dark eyes suspicious. ‘You never bragged much about your successes.’

There was so much Bill had not said. It had been freeing to have the power to rewrite who he was in Egypt, away from his geeky reputation in Hogwarts. ‘Why should I? This is my job.’

‘Ah, that noble mind of yours….Maat is so much more than justice, and you know it. Indulge me and play this game with me, sahbee.’

‘Oh well,’ Bill breathed out, ‘Maat is about one’s own truth.’

The Maat
Egypt and Quidditch World Cup – 1989-1994


It would never fail to happen. Whatever the ex-classmates clamoured when he rekindled with them on the grounds of the camping adjoining the stadium that would be presenting the Quidditch World Cup, whether they said it with teasing humour or admiration, Bill shrugged off their exclamations with a smirk.

‘Still in Egypt! I never knew you were one for adventure, Head Boy!’

They would insist by waving their hands at his hair, at the fang dangling from his earlobe and at his dragon hind boots as if to say, but would you just look at you?

He was just the same as they knew him, perhaps with cooler shoes.

Bill knew better than to get caught in what promised to be a labyrinth of embarrassing flattery and to struggle his way to the exit. Five years into the curse-breaking profession had cleared any confusion he might have had with himself. He was a bona-fide geek obsessed with details and planning, keen on solving enigmas and finding his satisfaction in dumping the result of his research on the desk of Gorbagash, the unflinching Goblin that held the title of Head of Treasure Retrieval.

But was he an adventurer? Bill had grasped that his brother Charlie had the daredevil streak he lacked. Only Charlie, Bill believed, could giggle like a five year-old when he recounted the events that had led to him almost having his head chewed on by a Romanian Longhorn on his first day as a dragon keeper.

As far as curse-breaking was to be addressed, adventurers were reckless and dug for treasures at any cost. The appellation was used with a sneer to designate uneducated looters, ones that would break through ancient spell work with disrespect as they blasted magic in showy displays and poor mastery, often damaging what they were hoping to retrieve. Adventurers were those who forgot or ignored how the intricate layers of magic unravelled and had no empathy or sense of foreboding for the intentions of ancient wizards.

Adventurers ignored the cardinal rules of curse-breaking, which had been hammered into Bill many times during his first year in Egypt.

Use minimal magic to get to your objective. Your brain will bring you closer to what you seek.

But brains did not seem to have the same appeal as the aura of glamour shrouding the curse-breaking profession. The eyes of pretty women glittered when Bill told them what he did with his life. Men wanted to hear about mummies and life-and-death adventures. No one held much interest for the sites he visited or the archaic magic he had invoked. There were undeniable advantages to that attention, and he sometimes spiced things up by recounting anecdotes or puzzles he’d faced, consciously forgoing the astronomical number of hours spent studying so he could get through a single door and face the object of the Goblins’ demand. There was no pizzazz in sweating buckets on a sweltering day in the desert, flipping through parchments to identify the entry of a secret chamber.

Cursed snakes hissing at his ankles were, after all, infrequent and flippant occurrences.

Gorbagash had mentioned enigmatically that Bill had ‘the profile’. Bill had honestly never given much thought on how that job could fit him; he had been more preoccupied with fitting into it. Gorbagash confided him in the capable hands of the one curse-breakers referred fondly as ya chikh Zuberi – Professor Zuberi – a diminutive, wise man with delicate manners and features as smooth as a child’s even if he was well over a hundred years old.

Curse-breaking indeed provided the intellectual challenges Bill craved, but he soon discovered he did not dislike its insiders’ games. Professor McGonagall had not said anything about him having to learn vicariously from Zuberi the un-teachable and ruthless art of negotiation with the Goblins.

She had also skipped the part about the necessity of him self-learning moribund languages as he scrambled to find the right incantations that would lead him through a string of rooms. He had felt their impact in his bones when he shouted them for defence, since they had a way of expanding in the rarefied air of a tomb. Bill now spoke with one invested with the knowledge of how hefty and powerful words can be, whether they be rational words of business, cunning words to get his fair paid share, or words of magic and history, opening doors and freeing treasures.

Most importantly, Professor McGonagall had forgot to mention that he would be spending many hours alone in the night, scratching his quill on a notebook, tearing his eyes out in the feeble light he was restricted to use in tombs. The Goblins were firm believers in the philosophy that there was no need to wait for daylight to send curse-breakers on assignments when treasures were to be found in the antechamber of eternal night.

The last few years had him contemplating new pieces of knowledge about himself. He had been surprised at first about how unashamed his marvel and appreciation were when confronted with a beauty of a curse, a cunningly crafted work of doom twisted on itself like the Arabian Nights stories. He had caught himself shaking his head with a drop of superiority as he removed a jinx from a gold necklace, informing ya ckikh Zuberi in the same breath that he was most certain of the way he would have made it untouchable.

Bill had become less naïve with the use and impact of magic, more understanding of the greed of wizards who could not bear separating from their possessions and wished to give themselves the certitude of immortal ownership through complicated and somewhat sadistic curses that spanned over centuries. He had spent days and nights by himself pondering on life and death, on the subtle line between love and possession as he experimented the extent to which ancients were willing to go to protect in eternity what was theirs and their family’s.

The carefree but reasonable teenager he had been changed into a resourceful and responsible curse-breaker. He was enjoying his youth in Egypt, sometimes pulling the string that tied him back to his parents and siblings who - to his surprise - he missed more than he thought he would.

He relished the new identity and what it entailed, from the pleasure of spending hours leafing through ancient books of magic to wearing the protective earring offered by Zuberi.

And yes, occasionally, it would mean coming out from a tomb with a story he could use to entertain young ladies.

The word adventurer evocated an ink spill, a blot covering his essential qualities.

Egypt – July 1995

‘Inner truth,’ said Zuberi pensively. ‘It does take courage to face it, I’ll give you.’

Bill nodded. It always came down to courage. It was glittering red and gold, deep in his genes. It was about standing straight, holding one’s head up high, tolerating to be different, giving one’s confidence and loyalty, refusing to cower. There was no way Bill would have pursued his goal to work in Egypt if his parents had not been so modest about their own sacrifices and not expecting for him to do the same.

They gave him freedom and the possibility to embrace their values in his own way. He should find a way to thank them, when he was back home.

‘Let me see what pains you, sahbee.’ The rune fell from Bill’s fingers into the sand, like a dead body. Zuberi raised his eyebrows. ‘The Leb? This is unexpected.’

Bill smiled nervously. The heart, the siege of consciousness according to the ancients of Egypt. It shocked him to acknowledge that he could see so much into those runes. They embraced all human experience, Muggle and Wizard alike.

Leaving Egypt was not only about standing up to You-Know-Who anymore.

The Leb
Scotland - 24 June 1995


The Triwizard Cup was not unlike those treasures Bill made his priority to locate and to reach both with patience and a handful of disparate clues. He could not help a tinge of disappointment as he waited in the stands for Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory to return from the task that would crown one of them as the Triwizard champion.

He’d had an earful about how the twins tried to qualify for the tournament, and he sympathized with them. It struck him that Fred and George were increasingly thirsty for money and recognition – these were the twins after all, with their off-the-chart attention-seeking behaviour as well as their boasting will to prove themselves in spite the others – but if he’d had the chance, Bill would have dropped his name into the Goblet of Fire for the challenge of it.

This admission had not elicited a word from his mother. She had the shrewdness of choosing her battles, and she was fighting one at that very moment.

‘Harry has been in there for so long already,’ she said for the hundredth time as she stretched to get a glimpse of the entrance of the maze. She wrung her hands and wiggled on her seat to peek over the heads of the wizards sitting in front of them. ‘Shouldn’t he be out by now?’

Bill patted her hand with affection. She was convinced that she could save children by worrying as if it could protect them from the pitfalls she suspected gaped under their feet every step of their way. No words, no success, no proof of independence, no demonstration of highly skilled magic would ever appease his mother’s distress about the ones she decided were vulnerable.

Bill’s excitement left place to contemplation as others around him loudly grumbled about the oddness of them being seated in stands in front of nothing and waiting patiently for some victorious action to happen - the celebration, the end of it all - while nothing transpired from the third task.

Facing nothing and discovering what it hid was his job, and he didn’t mind the suspense.

His younger siblings were discussing with animation Harry’s chances to win, Fred and George attempting their best to enrage the others; a few rows down to his right, Cedric Diggory’s father was laughing and entertaining his neighbours with a loud story about his son’s smarts while his wife stubbornly stared at the maze in a tensed attitude surprising in its poise, her lips tight and colourless.

Bill smiled to his mother when she clasped on his hand only to release it with an indignant clicking of her tongue. ‘Do you find this normal? The French girl and Viktor Krum are back, but Harry and Cedric have been in there for hours.’

He peered at his wristwatch. ‘It hasn’t been that long. Merlin knows what they’re facing in there.’

His mother gazed at him with severity as if he was personally responsible for this situation. ‘Honestly, Bill! You think you’re being funny, do you?’

‘I’m joking, Mum.’

‘They are children. I hope the officials did not forget about that while they prepared the third task.’

‘They were chosen for a reason.’

‘But how do you explain that Harry was?’ Her eyes were blazing from fierce logic. ‘He’s not of age! This is…this is….’

‘He’ll be fine. He’s done more than alright until now, hasn’t he? You said so yourself.’

Bill hoped with all his heart that Harry would come out of the task unscathed. Avoiding his mother’s glare, he studied the contraction of his fingers, their slow unfolding before the renewed closure, again and again, like a heart pumping life at accelerated speed.

He was slightly embarrassed to have been disappointed when he laid eyes on Harry for the first time last summer. He’d then figured he was expecting someone else, and he laughed it off later with Charlie, feeling rather silly about his expectations. The boy was Ron’s age. Harry Potter may have defeated He Who Must Not Be Named in a bewildering and incomprehensible way, and he may have dealt with his dragon with ‘sheer poetry’ as Charlie rhapsodized about it in his Owl, but Bill had not been able to shake the idea that Harry Potter was first and foremost a scrawny and awkward kid, with eyes that were livelier than him.

‘OH MY – HARRY!’

Hermione Granger had jumped to her feet, and the roar of the crowd pushed Bill up as well as he scanned the edge of the maze to get a glimpse at him.

Harry was flat on his stomach, writhing, reaching blindly for something, for someone.

The sight parched Bill; mouth, heart, mind.

He felt he should have been doing something, but he stood motionless before his seat, a feeling of déjà vu grounding him on place. His mother was jumping up and down, not bothering with her immediate neighbour who elbowed her with reprobation. ‘Is Harry alright? Can you see something, anything at all? Bill, tell me!’

In the midst of the brouhaha, he was reminded something old Zuberi often said in tombs when he moralized the remnants of malevolent wizards. We have heavily irrigated lands inside us, easily poisoned if unprotected

That was his mentor’s personal and flowery theory on how good and evil came to people.

Bill closed his eyes for a second. His heart was a finely tuned metronome of flesh and fluid. Heat flooded his cheeks, his mouth. He mused that his pulse should have been running in a gallop of adrenalin and oxygen. He should have been running. ‘He’s – yeah, Harry’s alright, Mum, no worries.’

Shock, he distantly thought as screams and hollering fused around him. A rustling of fabric and worried exclamations informed him that someone had just slipped to the ground, inanimate.

‘Did he win? Did he? Tell me!’ His mother suspended herself to his right arm. His siblings were already threading into the mob emptying the stands as they hustled towards Harry, the Cup, and the fallen Hufflepuff champion.

‘Bill!’

‘Cedric’s mother,’ he uttered, pained. “Cedric’s mum…she needs….the boy’s not moving, Mum.'

His mother spun on her heels. Mrs Diggory was sitting alone in the stands as if collapsed on herself, a lone and crumpled form surrounded by empty seats that had been abandoned in haste.

‘Cedric…is he…? Oh no…oh dear… oh poor woman...’

Bill jogged down the stands, his legs trembling as they supported him to the grounds. Incomprehension floated on the faces he encountered. He gently pushed back crying girls and shocked boys, murmuring what felt like insignificant words of consolation to the sobbing Beauxbâtons’ champion as he moved through the crowd towards the high silhouette of Professor Dumbledore.

‘What can I do?’ he murmured to Professor Sprout who took support on him, her plump face drained from her usual cheeriness. Time fizzled as people cried, screamed, asked for answers.

‘Cedric Diggory is dead! Dead!’

The murmur ran through the crowd and Bill blinked, finally emerging from his daze. Through the tumultuous crowd of arms and bodies, Harry’s death-pale and thin face was glistening from tears and sweat. The boy’s bloodless grief and fear, raw and unthinkable, was exposed to Bill for a brief second, and he exhaled quickly.

Harry Potter was no ordinary boy who had survived to an extraordinary event, he decided. There was no mistake. Harry Potter was reminded often of his personal, never ending hell that kept him on the edge of himself, and he was indeed extraordinary because he kept on living.

Bill would have not seen that much if he had not been able to tear himself from the sight of the lifeless body of Cedric Diggory. And no one, save Moody and Professor Dumbledore, who was keen to notice the richness of the human heart, had seemed to watch closely for signs in Harry Potter’s face.

The injustice of it appeared to Bill as clear as the Death Mark in the sky the summer before. The crowd as a sum had no sympathy for the one who had survived again. They all spoke in a panic, mourning with reason the mysterious death of a talented boy.

If the war came upon them, he feared, they would notice only the dead and not the one who scrambled to stay alive.

Bill handed his handkerchief to Professor Sprout. He watched Moody and Harry’s silhouettes shrink as they approached the castle. What a sheltered life I’ve lived, he thought, staring at Harry’s back. He had been enjoying the comfort provided by a united family in spite of deaths and prejudice, of a home, not rich with money but with life.

A wail he attributed to Cedric’s mother pierced through the cacophony of voices. The audience wavered on itself.

Old Zuberi was right. Bill had felt it once at the Quidditch World Cup as he breathlessly ran, casting spells at who he’d thought at first were troublemakers.

It was over Hogwarts now: the invasion of fear, its venom diluting in the blood of the bystanders.

Egypt - July 1995

‘I knew the power of the Leb over you as soon as you came into my office,’ Zuberi grumbled. He rearranged the runes on the carpet, shuffling them as if trying to find the best sequence for them to exist.

Bill pursed his lips before drinking a large gulp of water off the gourd. If Gorbagash had been rather inexpressive when he asked for a transfer, the small team of curse-breakers had turned silent on him as if he had been committed treason. It had hurt him more than leaving the actual job.

‘Why’s that?’ he said reluctantly, wiping his lips on the back of his hand. The tent was casting on him a fresh shade, but sweat was sticking his ponytail to the scruff of his neck.

‘You live elsewhere,’ said the old man quietly. ‘Always have.’

‘I see.’ Bill dropped another rune to the ground. Irritation was flushing his cheeks, and he forced himself to keep an even tone as he spoke. ‘What’s the significance of the Shenu when picked in fourth rune?’

Zuberi cleared his throat. ‘The Shenu stands against the other runes as the solution.’

Bill bit his lower lip. He wondered if the curse-breaker had tampered with the runes, if he’d guessed more than he had let out. The Shenu was a potent symbol, the absolute and devoted protection to the family name.

Bill shuffled uncomfortably as the old man took a hard look at him. Something in Zuberi’s face expressed disappointment, and Bill felt that he couldn’t leave his mentor without knowing. He sighed. ‘I’m not leaving at the request of my family, ya chikh. It’s complicated. It has to do with me needing to be a part – an active part - of something that involves them…and me.’

‘Ah.’ Zuberi exhaled slowly as he touched the rune with the tip of his finger. ‘Of course it is complicated. Leaving because you chose family, even if you say that it does not represent the only reason, is always complicated.’

The Shenu
Scotland and London - 25 June 1995


Leave it to me, Bill had said to Professor Dumbledore before leaving the Hospital Wing in a hurry. Hogwarts was echoing from sorrow as he thundered down the stairs, hoping to find Professor McGonagall who would hopefully let him use her fireplace.

Bill was now standing in his father’s cramped office, slightly nauseous. The travel from Hogwarts to the Ministry was lost in a blur, consumed as he had been at hypothesizing about the implications of Dumbledore’s words. He passed serene-looking employees of the Ministry that were strolling the corridors in a gale of laughter. Apparently, news had not reached the Ministry yet. He wondered what would be said, how information would be twisted to protect Fudge’s despicable stubbornness.

Blood drained from his father’s face as Bill transmitted Dumbledore’s message almost mechanically. The door shut by itself, and Bill heard the click of the lock.

‘Harry’s fine, you say? Oh Merlin…’ His father plopped himself on his chair, devastation clearly readable from his features. ‘The Diggorys…Cedric….such a fine young man…I wish we’d never had to come down to this,’ he muttered behind his hands.

‘Come down to what, exactly?’ Bill propped himself on the corner of the desk, eager to have a bigger picture of what would be happening. Dumbledore had not been clear to what use this network of well-advised wizards had been intended to be.

‘To this.’ His father shuffled parchments on his desk, his mouth contracted in a bitter grimace. ‘To face this…once again losing promising young people and loved ones. I’m sorry to use you as a messenger, son, but please assure Dumbledore that I’ll be on my way to contacting those he wants me to reach.’

‘Of course, you can count on me,’ pressed Bill with haste. Two wars in a lifetime filled its survivors with enough horror to breed nightmares and pessimism. His father had been a spectator of the first one from a distance, until it hit him and the Prewetts in full face.

‘It will be different, this time, I tell you,’ his father continued with surprising harshness. ‘First time around, people had no idea how it would spiral out of control. They had no idea of what they were heading into by being passive. Now they know. They’ll make better choices. They’ll have to make better choices. They remember what happened…everyone’s lost someone they knew to You-Know-Who….and there’s Harry. They’ll regroup behind what he represents.’

‘I’m not sure I agree with you, Dad.’ Bill rubbed his face with both hands. He could read the indignation in his father’s face, his angry hope. ‘It will be harder to get people to openly oppose the Death Eaters, especially if Fudge publicly disavows Dumbledore. It would be horrible, but it looks like it could be a real possibility. There’s much more at stake than the public opinion, here…it’s politics, and Fudge’s damn good at it.’

‘Fudge,’ his father spat between his teeth. ‘Who’s the one without proper wizarding pride now, I ask you?’

Bill scoffed. ‘Fear leads wizards to use power in very despicable ways, Dad… you know it. As you said, the ones who lived through the first war know exactly what You-Know-Who can do. They know what they’re getting into. If what I just saw at Hogwarts is any indication for the future, those sensible wizards will not learn the truth from the Ministry, I’m afraid.’

Fudge!’ His father jumped to his feet, furious. He paced the diminutive office, the few hair he had left sticking up as if it had been swept from wind. ‘This is a scandal. Are we all cowards? Are we such cowards that we can’t stand for what is right?’

‘Some of us are braver than others, perhaps.’ Bill leaned to his father urgently. ‘Dad, you have to be careful about what you say. The Ministry’s well informed with your views. They’ll use them against you. It could be worst than last autumn.’

‘Then it will not come up as a surprise, will it?’

Bill agreed with a feeble smile. ‘I know.’

‘There’s something you should know, Bill.’ His father inhaled with effort, his face blank. ‘You’ll soon hear about the – about an organization Dumbledore created the first time around. Fine wizards were involved – Harry’s parents, Remus Lupin, Alastor Moody…’

‘And Dumbledore wants to recreate it,’ said Bill, understanding washing over him.

‘Yes. Your uncles were in it too, Bill. Gideon and Fabian were in the original organisation that built the resistance to You-Know-Who under Dumbledore’s direction, and that how they got killed – slaughtered - for it. They did not ask me to join at the time.’ His father’s shoulders sagged, and something somersaulted in Bill’s stomach. ‘I always wondered why they didn’t ask me to join.’

The pain in his father’s voice was overwhelming, and Bill held out a hand to him. ‘Dad-’

‘This time, your mother and I won’t be witnessing at all this from the sides. You need to know, if anything happens to us.’ His father gazed at him sharply before rounding his desk. He reached for a blank parchment and jotted down a few words in his tidy handwriting.

‘You did a lot,’ Bill said. ‘ You don’t need me to say it, but you still do a lot. At that time, I reckon you lot did what you could do – you told us about how you had to intervene for the Muggles’ protection day and night.’

His father folded the parchment and pocketed it with steadiness. ‘There are moments when doing a lot is not doing enough.’

Bill was thinking furiously, and all scenarios were leading to the same solution, frightening but unavoidable. ‘I could help you lot within Gringotts,’ he said quietly. ‘The Goblins hold the money strings, don’t they? If You-Know-You’s back and trying to recruit new Death Eaters, I reckon we’ll start to see old fortunes urgently seeking liquidities.’

‘And how would you do that from Egypt?’ wondered Arthur.

‘I couldn’t do that from Egypt,’ said Bill flatly. ‘I’d do that in London.’

‘No.’ His father shook his head vigorously. ‘No. Absolutely not. We’ll be fine.’

Bill straightened up. The eventuality had been planted into him hours earlier, and the night sitting to Harry’s bedside had made it blossom.

His decision was already breathing and evolving within him.

To have a fair chance of triumphing, he thought with resolution, there is an obligatory passage to loss.

Egypt - July 1995

Night had tiptoed on the desert without them noticing.

Bill was still clinging to the last two runes, and he had no wish to look at them.

‘What do you have left in your hand?’

Bill stood up, and the tent disappeared at once with a flick of his wand. He stared at his clenched fingers. He was hungry for magic, for spells, for energy, for action. He was eager for now. ‘To be honest, ya chikh, I’m not sure I want to know.’

‘This is the future – those who wait for you as well as who you will become.’ Zuberi accepted the hand Bill lent him, and he huffed as he got to his feet. ‘Very well. I’d like very much if you kept the runes. This is my gift to you. Keep them and remember mad old Zuberi.’

Bill laughed politely before shaking the hand of his mentor. ‘I will. Thank you. You gave me so much already.’

He pocketed the polished stones, and they walked decisively towards the dune, old and young, embarrassed by the affectionate silence that had spread between them. Their wands danced in the chilly air. Ephemeral and shimmering bands of magic surrounded Bill as he worked his way through the layers protecting the tomb, and sand finally recessed to his feet as the opening of the chamber appeared before his eyes.

The tomb was a clever hoax, since it had been emptied from its gold centuries ago, but no matter. Treasures were to be found, even in an empty room.

Bill spent hours admiring the intricate art adorning the wall, and he shared a late lunch with Zuberi, buried in the dune. They played cards until the wee hours.

It was a night of beauty, heartbreaking and exhilarating.

Minutes before Apparating the next day, Bill noted with disappointment that the sky was colourless and empty. Egypt had decided to evict him from its splendours. His trunk was already on its way home.

The runes gifted by Zuberi were heavy in his pocket. Bill had not been able to resist looking at them in the faint light of the empty room.

‘The Nebu and the Djed,’ he had whispered.

The gold and the pride. The complexity of a symbol as maligned for its appearance as it was admired, and the inner strength to keep moving forward, whatever would be laid in front of him.

‘Beautiful,’ Zuberi said with emotion before planting a paternal kiss on his cheek. ‘Your life will be beautiful.’

Three steps, a pop, and Bill was already far away, on his way to the International Portkey Office in Memphis.

The sands swallowed his steps as if he had never laid foot in Egypt.

The Nebu and the Djed
London, July 1995


‘You left your curse-breaking job? How’s that?’

His friends had meant well. They were curious about him coming to London and accepting a desk job, and they were surprised to see him speak evasively of family matters he needed to take care of as well as for a suspect need for change.

They frowned when he hinted that the recent events at the Triwizard Tournament had prompted his decision.

‘You don’t believe that, do you?’

‘As a matter of fact, I do.’

Since they were smart blokes, they trusted his judgement. They ordered liquor so they could toast his return.

The next morning, Bill and his slight headache faced parchments and quills, a sturdy desk, Zuberi’s runes, and a bookcase full of administrative procedures in a room as cramped as his childhood bedroom at home. His new work settings were reminiscent of a dusty and feebly lit chamber. They were depressing but necessary.

No mummies though, he thought as he stared with disgust at the stuffed Crup head on the wall.

That would definitely have to go.

He humoured himself and theatrically opened the door of the smallish closet in the corner, wand in hand, almost hoping for something to jump at his face.

Darkness and a stale smell of mold assaulted him, and he stared at the spider weaving up a cobweb in a panic. ‘This is what I open now,’ he declared aloud, before heading towards the desk. ‘Empty closets.’

‘Zat is not a closet…eet is a lift, and eet is not empty.’

Bill stared at the impossibly beautiful young woman that had just materialized with a clunk in the closet, her arms filled with parchments. He wavered to the side to let her in, and she undulated to his desk, her silvery hair faintly glowing in the office.

She dumped her burden without ceremony. ‘I was told zat you would need more to do. Do you talk to yourself like zat often, Meester Weasley?’

‘Only on Monday mornings,’ Bill said, incapable of controlling the daft smile that seemed to have taken control of his mouth. ‘I believe we were never formally introduced during the Tournament, Miss Delacour.’

Non.’ She waved her hand dismissively, and she brushed past him, her eyes sparkling with mischievousness. ‘It does not matter, I theenk. You know who I am.’

Merlin. He chuckled, savagely happy. ‘I sure do.’

‘Oh yes, I almost forgot,’ breathed out the young woman as she handed him a tightly rolled parchment. ‘An owl for you. An urgence.’

He stared wistfully at the deserted lift until he took over himself and opened the missive.

Someone was enjoining him not to forget to start over the F67 forms.

Blood rushing to his head, Bill tapped it with the tip of his wand. From his father’s hand, the sentence that glittered on the parchment was more powerful and visceral than any millenary magic or soul-deep attraction to Egypt.

You are expected to help with the rise of the Phoenix tonight.

He held on to it as he would of a talisman.

+++

The end.


Comments

I should have guessed you were the genius behind this one. Who else could write Bill so perfectly, and create a story that was so neatly tied up?

Thanks, shiiki. This fic gave me a lot to think about. While it was fun to write, I struggled a bit with the form, and I'm happy it worked for you. :)
I've just read it again and loved it again...
You write Bill brilliantly! ;)
I'm so glad you felt it was good enough for a re-read! Thanks so much. ♥

(Anonymous)

Tremendous. Stunning. I am in awe.

"'Beautiful,' Zuberi said with emotion before planting a paternal kiss on his cheek. 'Your life will be beautiful.'"

No one has ever brought Bill to greater life than you have with that line (though it is a line which has echoed through other Bill stories you have written, it occurs to me). Thank you for it.

Michael Ho
Thanks so much for reading and leaving such a kind comment, Michael. I'm happy you enjoyed the story. There is a lot to imagine about those secondary characters, and sadly they are not often used in fanfiction but to showcase more popular characters.

About that line...thank you. Zuberi is The Wise Old Wizard, foreseeing Bill's fortitude. DH gave a very flattering portrayal of Bill's personality. I liked the idea that those shining qualities could be foreseen by an eccentric curse-breaker. :)
Here via the rec at crack_broom. This may be one of the most extraordinary short stories that I've ever read. You not only show who Bill Weasley is but how this boy grew out of his family and matured into the man we see in the Order of the Phoenix but the blending of the ancient Egyptian and magical backgrounds is truly masterful. Your original character, Zuberi, is no Gary Stu and I was fascinated by his (your) interpretation of the casting of the runes. The bit parts played by Professor McGonagall and Arthur Weasley are in character and heartbreaking in their own right. You told a tale so complete and satisfying that I can certainly say that I've never enjoyed a short story more.
Oh wow...*blushes* What can I say but thanks so much for reading and for your amazingly kind comment!

I'm really happy you enjoyed this story. Bill is certainly one of my favorite minor characters, and there's a lot about him to explore. I'm tickled you enjoyed the background of this story - I had such a grand time reading and researching the runes and working them into the plotline.

What I love about JKR's written world is that she opened a thousand doors, and we all get to try to peek behind them :). Thank you very much for giving this story a read.

Congratulations!

Congratulations! You've been rec'd!

The Reader's Have Chosen is a fanfiction recommendation community dedicated to finding the best of the best in fandoms across the boards, and sharing them with other authors and avid readers.

Your story, "The Onyx Runes", has been rec'd and is now being voted on in the Monthly Poll: Harry Potter. Fellow fandom-aficionados will vote for their favorites of all the recommendations, and the stories with the most votes will be posted on the front page.

You can find our website at (without spaces): http : // thereadershavechosen . eternflame . com You can find the Movies Monthly Poll at (without spaces): http:// thereadershavechosen. eternflame. com/ forum/ index. php? topic= 1970.0