In the ancient fortress called Shali Ghali in Siwa was hidden the Wizarding part of the oasis. For centuries it had been designated the entry and exit point for all international travelers to and from Egypt. This was done mainly to protect the country s large trove of still undiscovered treasure. And, like Hogwarts as well, all that the Muggles were able to see were old ruins and mud bricks.
On the south side of the fortress was a large cortile, on one side of which was a small waterfalls complete with palm fronds with poisonous streaked weever fishes swimming in its pool, their black and purple heads flashing in the morning light as they peeked through the surface. Off to one side of this courtyard, under the protective shade of a portico, stood a tall young man with shoulder-length red hair. Bill Weasley was waiting for the arrival of the family he had left behind in England; his other brother, Charlie, would not be arriving until later that evening. He stood there quite impatiently, sometimes walking to and fro, harrowing the soft mudbrick ground underneath him. He showed nothing at all of the cool and collected persona he usually exuded.
Over the years, his family's occasional visit to Egypt though few and far between - was a welcome event for him, a respite from the rigors and dangers of his job as Gringotts Wizarding s Bank Curse Breaker. Though not yet thirty, he had risen as one of the banks more reliable and top Curse Breakers and Treasure Hunters, a feat not surprising at all, given that he graduated from Hogwarts at the top of his class. But ever since he received a letter from his father hinting of a problem that had happened to his youngest sibling and only sister Ginny during her first year at Hogwarts, Bill had started to feel a certain disquiet. Though his Dad s letter was quite short, Bill knew his dad well enough to be able to read between the lines. True enough, Ron sent a similar letter, this time with a lot more detail and a lot less thought to its effect. Bill remembered his anxiety the moment he had finished reading Ron s letter. What happened? What happened? was all he could think of.
When he left England to take on this job, he left with a family relatively safe and happy. Thanks to young Harry Potter, Wizarding Britain enjoyed years of relative peace. Even though Bill was still quite young at the time, he remembered nevertheless the years of fearful anxiety during the last terrible reign of You-Know-Who and his Death Eaters. He remembered seeing his mum standing every night in front of the family clock and watching nervously his father's hand in it until he had safely arrived home. Even then, the air of anxiety had never truly left their house. For instance, he was completely aware that his parents never had a night of full sleep. They were always on the constant alert for the tiniest bit of movement or sound that would signify an unwelcome presence in the house. Times being what they were, it was not paranoia but sheer survival instinct that caused his parents - especially his mum - to be so wary. And the danger was driven home more clearly the night they learned of his uncles , Gideon and Fabian Prewett, murders, murders that according to the old Auror Mad-Eye Moody, who delivered the news to their father, looked most likely to have been at the hands of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself. He remembered the wreck that his mother had been upon hearing the devastating news. It was only the fact that she had her own family to raise now, the survival of her own brood to still worry about, that prevented his mum from going over the brink. Even so, after that tragedy, the birth of a child became more a cause for worry rather than an occasion of joy as it should have been.
And with good reason.
For soon after that, Death Eater attacks on both Muggle and Wizarding households had grown to such an alarming rate and heightened brutality that proved Death Eaters enjoyed equally the sport of killing just as much as killing as a means to intimidate there just didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason for who and where they attacked.
It was one of the main reasons that Bill became interested in Curse Breaking early on. At that time, his mum was more often pregnant than not. His dad, fearing for his wife's safety in her seemingly perpetually vulnerable condition as well as their children's, would leave them at Aunt Muriel's mansion for the day and collect them at night, after making sure that the Burrow was still safe. It was one of his father's greatest fears in his life he would later admit to Bill - to come home and find the Dark Mark over the Burrow. Determined to be prepared should the worst happen, Bill, as a child, would read every book on wards and house protection he could lay his hands on, which in Aunt Muriel's vast home library not that she ever got around to reading much in there were plenty to hand. He even asked Aunt Muriel's house-elf, Milly, for pointers. But seeing as how Wizard magic and house-elf magic were vastly different, well, he couldn't say he found much use to Milly's then befuddled and convoluted explanations (in Muriel Prewett's household, in-depth discussions between wizards and house-elves were as rare as self-stirring cauldrons). Remembering, he shook his head and laughed silently at the memory of the bewildered look on the poor house-elf's face when he asked her to "teach him how to ward homes .
Then came that fateful Halloween night when rumor broke out of You-Know-Who's disappearance after attacking the Potters. He remembered it quite clearly. It was in the small hours of the morning when they heard someone's voice shouting from the fireplace downstairs. By that time, like his parents, Bill had learned to become a light sleeper and be wary of the tiniest noise or movement in the house, ready to herd his youngest siblings to safety in case of an attack. The death of his uncles in their own homes taught him, as no other, the necessity of Constant Vigilance! as he had often heard Mad-Eye Moody say. Quickly he jumped off his bed and ran to his brothers' rooms to rouse them, running off to wake Charlie - who, like him, had learned to watch out for the family - up first. With his brothers gathered around him - he and Charlie holding on to a twin each while Percy carried the still sleeping Ron - he tiptoed to the top of the staircase, clutching the emergency Portkey his father had given him. His mum stood just at the bottom of the stairs away from the line of sight of whoever it was making the Floo call, baby Ginny clutched tightly to her bosom. She turned her anxious face up to him as she felt him coming down the stairs but each said nothing to each other.
He recognized at once the voice emanating from the fireplace: Amos Diggory who lived just off aways from the Burrow.
...Are you sure, Amos? Bill heard his Dad's voice. It isn't just a rumor?
Of course, I'm not sure, Arthur! Bill heard Mr. Diggory s impatient voice echoing up the stairs. But I've received a Patronus from Fudge, alright? They've already collected the Potters' remains, but their son, Arthur! Young Harry! He survived!
And no sign of You-Know-Who? None at all?
No. And rumor has it that even as we speak Death Eaters are running around and are trying to find him. There must be something to it, Arthur. Because the Wickfords in Abingdon were being attacked by Death Eaters and they would have been killed for sure but suddenly the Death Eaters attacking them stopped and scarpered from the place. Now why would Death Eaters do that if nothing's happened? The boy was clearly attacked by someone! Old Bathilda Bagshot swore she saw the child bleeding from a head wound. She thought none of them had survived.
At this point, Bill had silently padded down the stairs after handing over the twin he was carrying to Charlie, and could now see his father crouched on his knees in front of the fireplace.
But how can that be, Amos? The Potters died, but their son lived? Maybe You-Know-Who left him. Maybe he was only after James Potter and his wife.
I m really not sure, Arthur. But Fudge said that Dumbledore has already informed the Ministry that You-Know-Who has disappeared after attempting to kill the Potter child; that he's making arrangements for the relocation of the child to a safe home .
A silence ensued. Everyone in the room could immediately comprehend the implications of this development: What it would mean for the Wizarding World if He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was truly gone.
Well, if you hear anything more...
If you hear anything more, Arthur. You should try Alastor Moody. You're closer to him than I am. I'm thinking what he's got to say would be a lot more reliable than Fudge.
I'll try, said Arthur Weasley and Bill saw for the first time in a long while his father's face lessening quite a bit that tense expression he always wore on his face. Thanks for the heads up, Amos.
But they didn't need to contact Moody any further that day. More calls came in through the Floo that morning, owls came swooping in and out of the Burrow, the skies were suddenly alight with firestars which to Muggles would look like ordinary shooting stars, and a wisp of something white drifted into the kitchen as the family sat down for lunch. It made a small sound peeeheeep - and then dissipated into the air like ordinary cigar smoke. Dad, with a smile on his face Bill hadn t seen in a long time, said it must have been a Patronus, or at least someone tried to send them one. Everyone thought You-Know-Who s dead, stopped in his tracks by a mere child, though some time later Bill was to hear from other people that some wizards, particularly Dumbledore, did not believe the Evil Wizard was truly gone and that he could be back at any moment.
Even so, it was only 'til a day later, when the Ministry finally made the official announcement that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had disappeared, that the Weasleys finally allowed themselves a sigh of relief. Not that the younger ones, particularly the twins, were aware of anything that had been happening around them. In fact, it was the first time that Bill had heard his mum yell at the twins, who along with baby Ron had been penned inside the expanded baby crib, in that characteristic way he was to identify with her later on, when she discovered the two have spattered Baby Ron with their urine and poo. That was the day that he got to see the mum in Molly Weasley that they were to know later on in life. It was one of the happiest moments of his life.
But now .
It would seem trouble had encroached upon their family and at their most vulnerable point yet.
Being the eldest, Bill of all his brothers appreciated the most the arrival of their baby sister into the family. Though he adored Ginny more than anything in the world, he treated her with kindness and respect as if she were a young lady instead of the baby in the family that she was. Still, he couldn't help to hide his affections for her and delight in her antics, for even as a toddler, she was already beginning to show signs of following in the twins' footsteps. He remembered Ginny used to often follow him around and ask him all sorts of questions. Nevertheless, he knew that he didn't have the monopoly in his affections for his youngest sibling. Coming after a long drought of a female Weasley, Ginny was valued and adored, not just by Arthur and Molly's brood, but by the entire Weasley clan. And that's why he couldn't understand how anyone in the family not have known that something was not right. Even though Ginny had always shown an independence of character and spirit she wasn't one to suffer through any form of mollycoddling and was quite unmerciful in proving it to you if she caught you at it - still, his brothers ought to have known that something was amiss.
He shook his head trying to shake off his anxiety. It did not escape his notice how his father had tried to downplay everything in his letter. But Ron s more detailed and descriptive letter told him everything and he only recognized full well the danger Ginny must have been in not to mention Ronald, and of course, Harry Potter.
Hhhmmm, he thought to himself. There was something there. But he'd have to wait for his family's arrival to know more.
And now he stood there in the middle of the courtyard near the fountain where his family was designated to arrive via International Portkey, more apprehensive than ever to meet his family and hear the full story firsthand. Not a moment too soon, the air around him glowed and shimmered, signaling the opening of the space portal. He quickly jumped out of the way and true enough, one by one his family appeared spinning and then crookedly trying to straighten up to gain their grounds. The twins, however, continued to do some kind of pirouette around each other and Bill, seeing the scowl beginning to form on his mother's face as she noticed the antics of Fred and George, (We're in a foreign country, for Merlin's sake!) walked hurriedly towards them to head off Hurricane Molly before it got a good start.
Mum! Bill cried, plastering the most charming smile he could muster on his face as he threw his arms open to embrace her. It was enough to distract his mother. Behind her back, he grinned and winked at the twins whose faces equally broke wide into a grin.
Molly pulled back from the embrace and surveyed her son, noting his long hair which she had been trying to have him cut for the longest time. She also noted that her eldest son was not as filled out as she would like him to be.
You look thin, she frowned. In Molly's case, her sons (which in her heart and mind now include Harry Potter after he saved her only daughter's life in the Chamber of Secrets) never looked well-fed enough.
No, Mum. I look dead-sexy and you know it, Bill said, giving her an impish grin.
Oh, you're such a scoundrel! Molly said, swatting him on the arm but smiling nevertheless.
Bill turned to his father, giving him a one-armed hug. Hey, Dad.
Bill. They exchanged a look. They both carried the security of the family on their shoulders and what happened to Ginny was a serious breach that needed to be addressed.
Bill shook Percy's hand next, the latter's Head Boy badge pinned on his fez. He didn't have the heart to tell his younger brother that the fez was bad enough and so tried to find a compliment he could give him.
Hey Perce, I see they made you Head Boy, he said congenially.
Percy mere smiled and shrugged his shoulders. Though he tried, he hadn t really done anything that Bill hadn t already achieved.
A crop of red hair crowded his face.
One of the twins (George?) stood before him and bowed deeply, intoning Weasley Maximus.
Weasleys Minor, Bill said, his expression just as equally somber, nodding his head ever so slightly, as if the acknowledgment was more than he deigned to give. Then Fred elbowed his way in front and did the exact same thing. Bill replied with an even stiffer nod, if it were possible.
The twins held their bow for the longest time but everyone could see their bodies twitching as they tried to contain their laughter.
You're mental, the lot of you! Ron said, cheesed off at the antics of his brothers.
Somewhere off to Bill s right someone giggled.
Bill turned and his eyes lit up at the sight of his only sister.
Ginny! He swooped her up and twirled her around, Ginny squealing in delight.
Bill, stop it! Put me down! she cried amidst her gales of laughter.
I can t. You re too pretty to be let go! and he continued to twirl her around.
Now, now, enough of that! said Mrs. Weasley. We should head off now before it gets too hot!
Where are we staying anyway? I'm starving, Ron said.
Bill put Ginny down and turned towards his mother but kept Ginny close to his side, his left arm draped protectively over her shoulder.
We can t leave yet. You still have to check-in at the International Visitors Area and have your luggage inspected, Bill said, pointing at the counter where indeed an Egyptian wizard was checking the wands of the Wizarding tourists while to his side a goblin with a Probity Probe Stick was checking both a wizard and his luggage after all, Gringotts Bank had been given exclusive exploratory rights for treasure hunting in all of Egypt. Then we can take the Bomini bus to Old Cairo. That s where the oldest Wizarding Village in Egypt, if not the world, is. Normally, people here either just Apparate or at night take the Bedouin carpets to get there, but as it is the middle of the day, I guess we'll have to travel by their version of the Knight Bus.
So the group gathered their luggage and trudged towards the window Bill indicated.
After an hour and a half, most of which was spent traveling on the Bomini bus, (which to their horror, had all the seats in the second deck upside down to protect the passengers' heads from the desert heat; good thing it was not full so they were able to find seats on the first level and therefore were able to enjoy the ride and the many frequent detours it made to other wizarding settlements all across Egypt, including the Wizarding Market Town at Karnak) they finally reached the Wizarding Village in Coptic Cairo. Entering via the South gate, (Muggles seemed oblivious to their presence) and settled into the Djadjaemankh inn just a stone's throw away from Bill's apartment.
After settling in their respective rooms - except for Ginny, who, since she couldn't share a room with any of the boys and none of her family were really keen on leaving her in a room all on her own, was to stay in Bill s flat where Bill and Charlie, also staying with Bill, could look after her during the entire duration of their vacation - they all headed off to the inn s restaurant. Ginny s room was actually a small cupboard just off the living room hallway that Bill had expanded and changed into a pocket bed though he took care to decorate it pleasantly enough for Ginny's taste. And by pleasantly, it meant he painted and decorated the space in various shades of green, which apparently was a color Ginny had grown fond of over the last couple of years.
After they were settled, the family headed to the private dining room that Bill had booked earlier. They dined on mainly continental fare, (none of the Weasleys felt brave enough to sample the local dishes this early in their vacation, fearing that their stomachs might take some getting used to to the local fare.) After indulging on the sumptuous meal, the group suddenly became quiet, instantly aware of the discussion that was about to follow, though Ron tried to cram the last piece of cake in his mouth before the discussion started.
So, what happened? Percy? Fred? George? Bill said, his expression stern, and his brothers knew that he was not referring to the events that led to the Chamber of Secrets but the fact that it happened to Ginny at all. With four elder brothers with her at Hogwarts, the fact that Ginny fell victim to such evil, was completely unacceptable.
Percy cleared his throat. I'm sorry Bill. We didn't know. We didn't see.
Obviously, you didn't know. But how come? Couldn't you see that something s wrong with Ginny? Surely you must have known something s up with her.
Bill , whispered Ginny quietly. She didn't like her brothers fighting, especially not over her.
But you don't know Bill, George said. Ginny's changed. She's been different ever since you last saw her.
Of course, she's changed! She was being possessed by You-Know-Who, for Merlin's sake! Of course, she'd be different! Shouldn't that have tipped you off that something's not right with her?
No, interrupted Ron, waving a large hand. Even before that whole diary thing, Ginny's changed...
Ron! Ginny cried, completely mortified. She knew what Ron was about to say. Everyone at that table knew how much she fancied Harry but she didn t want it to be declared out in the open. But Ron simply ignored her.
You didn't know. She's been different. She was all shy and bumbling and...
But Bill only raised an eyebrow, incredulous. He knew Ginny sometimes acted more like the twins than any of them. It was hard for him to imagine Ginny acting shy and diffident ever.
RON! Ginny hissed, her face reddening.
It's true, Fred piped up, casting a nervous glance at Ginny but forging on anyway, for a while now, Ginny's been acting different
...ever since she saw Harry Potter at the Burrow, finished George.
What do you mean?
Ginny fancies him. Ron said simply.
Well, then great!" Ginny huffed, scowling as she crossed her arms and leaned back on her chair, "Why don't we all just discuss my love life, take notes, and send a copy to Harry!
But Bill only wrinkled his forehead. He knew that. It was very plain to see from the few letters Ginny sent him extolling the many virtues of Harry Potter. (She couldn t send him a lot of letters because Errol, their family owl, was rather old and feeble and it would be cruel to make the poor bird make the long journey often; besides, Bill was often out doing field work deep inside ancient tombs.)
Even so. You should have sensed something s different. You were there, you were closest to her, Bill said.
The four boys concerned merely hung their heads, contrite.
Finally, Percy lifted his head up and addressed Ginny from across the table.
We're sorry, Gin, we should have been there for you.
Ginny kept silent, more angry that her affections for Harry had been bandied about the table as if it were nothing.
And you, Bill turned his stern face towards Ginny, you should have said something to me, too. You carefully hid what's been happening to you in your letters to me.
I'm sorry, said Ginny, bowing down her head, ashamed to have put her family through so much.
Bill considered her for a moment. He knew that none of what happened was her fault and he didn't like seeing his sister so dispirited.
Don't worry. It's not really you I'm angry with, but at the situation, ok? Even though it's all over, it just shouldn't have happened in the first place.
Ginny simply nodded to the table.
After a while he spoke again.
Lucky Harry Potter came to save you.
It was actually both Ron and Harry, Ginny replied in a small voice, looking down at the embroidered, scalloped edges of the table linen.
Yeah. Our family might be lacking in a few things, but courage wasn't one of them, was it?' Bill said, looking straight at Ron whose ears turned red at the undisguised compliment. Then, turning back to Ginny, he said, Still, Harry went on to try and save you on his own?
Yeah, Ginny said, still not looking up.
Even though he knew that a thousand year old Basilisk was waiting for him at the end of that tunnel?
With nothing but a wand as his weapon?
Ginny continued to nod at the table, Arthur and Molly, who had determinedly kept quiet all throughout this conversation - the siblings needed to hash this out on their own - looked at each other and exchanged smiles.
Knowing that the Heir of Slytherin, a wizard that is certainly more knowledgeable and skillful than him, was there?
Yeah. Ginny's voice became barely a whisper now.
And that there's a strong possibility that he might not even find you alive?
Ginny simply nodded. Bill became silent for a minute, contemplating.
Hhhhmmm., he said after a while. I wonder how many people in the world he was willing to do the same thing for.
Ginny did not reply. Suddenly her heart began to race, and overwhelming joy, gratitude began to fill her.
Not very many, I expect, Arthur Weasley said, a small smile gracing his kind face. Molly, who was seated beside her husband, was wearing a similar expression on her face.
I think we owe him a lot, Bill said after a time. Lucky for us Ron is his best mate, hmm?
Maybe we ll get luckier and he ll be more than Ron s best mate to us? said Fred, becoming flippant now that the tension seemed to be diffusing. He looked at Ginny across the table and wiggled his eyebrows at her.
Ginny's face suddenly became the color of her hair. She tried to scowl at Fred who was exchanging grins and high-fives with George but somehow she couldn t muster the right expression. Instead, she felt unbounded gratitude and happiness. And although she felt somewhat guilty for putting Harry's life - all their lives, really - in danger, he had just officially become her own personal savior. Finally, she looked up, her face breaking into a wide grin as she looked at her eldest brother. She didn't know what Harry's actions might have meant or where it might lead to or whether it meant anything at all...who knew really? But perhaps, maybe, just maybe, someday .