Title: Absit Invidia
Characters: Bill Weasley, Blaise Zabini
Warning (highlight to view): For implied character death.
Word Count: 1477
Summary: In the course of his duties, Bill inadvertently provides a service to Mrs. Zabini.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers, including, but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: Originally posted under the sub-pseudonym of oolsock. Cross-posted to genfic_hogwarts.
"Absit invidia," Bill whispered, before casting the charm that relieved the massive, battered-looking wooden door of its wards and pushing it open with an effort. "Right," he said, stepping inside the room, "it's got to be in here somewhere."
Blaise hesitated on the threshold and drew his wand. "'Let ill will be absent'?"
Bill laughed. "Come on in. The expression's just something curse-breakers say."
"Of course," Blaise replied, noting that his ex-girlfriend's eldest brother had sheathed his wand and doing the same before following him. "Thank you for agreeing to help me. The artifact was in my mother's side of the family for several generations before it was stolen. I can't believe you remembered seeing it."
"You can't believe I told you that I remembered seeing it after what happened, I think you mean," Bill said, turning to grin at the younger wizard in the dim light of one of Gringott's musty storerooms.
Blaise was not used to feeling flustered, but the good-natured, even-handed manner in which Bill Weasley was treating him gave him pause. The Weasleys knew that his relationship with Ginny had ended badly, just not why or how badly.
"It's good of you to be so understanding."
"Hell, I know how Gin—how British witches—can be. Why do you think I married a French witch?" Bill asked, pulling out his wand and laying it down on a crate before turning to open another one.
"Do you need any—"
"Nah, I've got it, and you're dressed a bit too finely for this sort of thing."
Blaise watched Bill rummage through the crate, shake his head, and move on to another one further into the room, and then another, before asking, "So, you and Mrs. Weasley . . . ?"
"French witches," Bill answered, straightening up. "We may need to try the sub-basement of this room. Trap's this way."
The two wizards walked to the back of the large space and stopped.
"Gods, but it gets creepy in here, sometimes! Wand, wand," Bill said, patting himself down.
"I believe you left—"
"Yeah, I did. Would you mind casting a Lumos? If I Accio for a wand in this place, there's no telling what might happen."
"Not at all," Blaise said, drawing his wand and casting light toward the indentations on the floor while Bill pulled up the wooden door.
He felt relieved and a little regretful. It might have been nice to have a brother-in-law like you, he thought, remembering, as Bill lowered himself to the floor of the sub-basement, how much more at home he had felt with the Weasleys than he ever had in the bosom of his own family.
"Are you all right?"
"Yeah. The rails are a bit slippery, is all. You might want to hand down your wand and take a firm grip on them."
Gratified by Bill's concern, Blaise did just that.
When his feet hit the floor, he smiled and said, "You know, Weasley, I—"
"Call me Bill, Blaise. You're never going to be my brother, but there's no reason we have to be so formal. Now stick by me and be careful. The artifacts down here haven't been properly catalogued."
"I really can't thank you enough. Mother's been desperate to have the artifact back for months."
"I'm sure. Valuable piece, is it?"
"Something wrong?" Bill asked, without breaking his stride.
Draco called her that, Blaise thought, remembering his last night with Ginny. I never should have invited him to— "No. Nothing's wrong, and yes, the artifact is priceless."
"Well, I'm glad you didn't allow your, uh, guilt to prevent you from taking me up on my offer."
"I am sorry that things ended the way they did," Blaise murmured, wondering how long it was going to take before he could leave the undeniably "creepy" underground cell in which he found himself.
He never had liked enclosed spaces.
Bill led Blaise to the back of the room and stopped in front of a crate large enough to hold a casket.
"Is this it?" Blaise asked, surprised.
"Tell me something," Bill replied, turning to face Blaise. "Just what was it my baby sister couldn't do for you?"
"Yeah, it's none of my business, but I'm curious. I would've liked to have seen Ginny well settled. Harry's great, an' all, but he's different since—"
"Ginny's back with Potter?" Blaise interrupted, somewhat alarmed. I Obliviated her, but Potter, he might—
"You didn't know?"
"Obviously not. I wish her the best, but I agree. Potter is—"
"Any chance you might want to get back with Ginny?"
Blaise's stomach muscles clenched painfully at the thought. "No, there really isn't. Could we get on with it?"
Even in the dim light, Blaise saw how Bill's expression momentarily hardened before he laughed and said, "Had to ask, didn't I?"
"Now then," Bill said, setting Blaise's wand to hover above them as he opened the crate, "there's a blood-lock on the inner container which you'll need to open. Here," he continued, pulling a knife from his belt and holding it out to Blaise. "One drop on the lock and the password should do it."
"I don't understand. The artifact was stolen. How—"
Bill pressed the knife into Blaise's hand and answered, "It's standard Gringott's procedure to secure all 'un-catalogued' items with a lock spelled to open for a family representative—it's how they cover their goblin arses, you know. Password's on the handle."
"Ah. I remember the Locke affair a few years ago."
"Right. The boys went digging on property that wasn't actually abandoned, and it cost them more than a few knuts. Go on, then."
Reassured, Blaise pricked his finger, applied a drop of blood to the lock, and then glanced down at the knife handle. "Is this some sort of joke?"
Bill shrugged. "Just goblin humor."
"I don't much care for it. 'From an angry woman'?"
"You'll need to say it in Latin," Bill replied, grinning.
There was no malice in Bill's expression, but Blaise felt uneasy again. "Look, I realize you must be ang—disappointed about Ginny and me, but—"
"It's nothing to do with me."
"Then why did you ask if I was interested in—"
Bill threw his arm around Blaise's shoulders and steered him closer to the crate, saying, "I'm her big brother. I had to ask—it's my job—but I also need to be getting back upstairs, so stop stalling. It's just a blood-lock, right?"
Blaise shuddered. "I've never cared for them much. Mother is rather too fond of them."
"Yeah, well," Bill replied, removing his arm and stepping back, "she does have one of the most extensive and priceless collections of rare magical artifacts in Britain—and it will be 'to an angry woman' you return if you don't secure this piece for her."
"It's a surprise."
"I haven't told Mother about the artifact. I wanted to surprise her," Blaise replied, steeling himself against his own foolishness. I have to do something to make up for ruining my marital chances with Ginny.
His mother had not been pleased by his broken engagement; it had embarrassed her to lose a daughter-in-law from what had become one of magical Britain's most prominent families, and she had taken to regarding Blaise in the same bored manner with which she had always gazed upon one of his step-fathers before they disappeared.
It's probably just the pregnancy affecting her mood, Blaise thought sourly, as he cleared his throat and resolved to get on with matters. "Ab irata!"
The lock fell to the floor, and Blaise jumped at the sound it made smacking the stone as the door to the crate swung partially open.
"Well, that was easy enough."
"Yeah, wasn't it just?" Bill asked, from behind him—from too far behind him.
Blaise attempted to turn but found himself caught. Eyes widening, he looked down at his robes to discover a pair of clawed hands grasping his robes.
"What the hell?"
The claws sank through fabric and into flesh to pull him toward the crate while Blaise fumbled helplessly about his robes for his wand.
"My wand! Bill, help me! I can't—"
Blaise fell into a shocked silence as the gruesome head of a harpy emerged from the crate, but the creature sank back before Bill's fading litany of "absit invidia."
It was then that Blaise remembered the same refrain falling from his mother's lips. He'd only caught her chanting it the once, but the reason why she'd been chanting it had been so horrible that Blaise had willed himself to forget the incident.
"Shouldn't 'ave made 'er mad, dearie," the harpy half-shrieked, tugging Blaise forward into the charnel darkness, a void in which he knew that the bones of his father didn't quite rest.
Half-crazed by fear and pain, all Blaise could do was laugh and think, Should've brewed that sodding abortifacient when I had the cha—