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Tiny Little Box

Arthur Weasley was considered a man of honour; a man of dignity; a man of strength. He was always highly revered by those of the Wizarding Community; always thought to be one that could be called upon to get things done. Never once in his life have his behaviours been looked upon as irrational because he always acted without hesitation, fear or worry. But things change.

Now, as he trudged slowly along the path behind his expansive home, all of those traits trickled away, warped by an onset of distress and total remorse. His dignity was shattered and he felt more ashamed than self-assured. His strength dissolved into a state of weakness, as though his own thoughts cramped the muscles in his body. He felt that the reverence he received was ill-deserved and fear gripped at his body, his heart and his mind. He was no longer the man people considered him to be. In fact, he probably never had been that man. All his life he tried to gain the advantage; tried to ensure that no one got over on him or that he got what he felt he deserved. Maybe that was because he had always feared that he would lose out on what he wanted to gain. After all, it wasn’t like it hadn’t happened before.

Arthur hung his head as he approached the door to his home, wondering what scene he would meet inside. Would his sons and house-elves come barging down the corridor, anxious and relieved that he had finally returned after being gone for so long? Would they think that he had been on some secret assignment and had only just finished? Or would they be indifferent and simply unconcerned about his whereabouts? He was not sure which one he preferred.

As he entered the home, he felt a sense of reprieve as he met the entrance empty and the corridors deserted. Cautiously, he maneuvered his way through the labyrinth of halls until he finally arrived in front of his office. Peering behind him one more time, he unlatched the lock, slipped inside and relocked the door. The room was dark, devoid of even a hint of light from outside. The atmosphere was stuffy, almost to the point of being suffocating; he had to take a few deep breaths before his body adjusted. The entire room felt foreign to him – another stripping away of familiarity he had become so accustomed to – and somewhat disconcerting but he could not figure out the reason why.

‘Maybe it’s your own stress that has you feeling that way,’ he thought, stepping deeper into the room as the darkness enveloped him.

He sighed and flicked on a light that cast an eerie glow of golden-yellow along the walls and his desk. He took a seat behind the mahogany structure and tilted his head back to gaze at the ceiling, trying to gain some composure. Unfortunately, he couldn’t. His mind was in a whirlwind, thoughts swooping in and out but nothing settling. It all seemed so surreal yet familiar. Why familiar? That was because he had been feeling like this for a while now, ever since the death of Lily Potter.

‘No, not death,’ he contemplated bitterly. ‘Murder!! You murdered her! How could you?’

Arthur sat up quickly and gripped his hair with his hands, his thoughts threatening to send him insane. He had murdered her. Lily Potter…of all people…he had murdered her. He closed his eyes against the sting of regret and the tears of nostalgia as thoughts of his past swirled back and forth, mixing with the mistake his own hands had made.

He stood up quickly and moved determinedly around his desk. He knew he shouldn’t do what he was about to do – after all, it was better to just leave it all hidden and tucked away – but he just could not resist the urge. That past always seemed to be a little more comforting than the present, even though it was a little disheartening.

Sighing, Arthur finally reached the section of his office he was aiming for. Unfortunately, what he met was something unexpected. Before him, on the ground, was a scene of disaster. Dust and debris covered the floor while larger chunks of wood and tile were strewn haphazardly around the area. There was a large gaping hole in the floor, a hole that had been placed there for a specific purpose years ago.

Falling to his knees automatically, Arthur sank his hand into the opening and groped around while praying that what he was looking for was still there. His prayers went unanswered. The hole was empty save for dust and a few pieces of debris. Swearing loudly, the man sprang to his feet and looked around his office. Nothing else seemed out of place. His desk was still fixed; all of the books on his shelves were still in tact. The chairs, tables and curtains all looked undisturbed. The only thing that had been disturbed was the floorboard.

Arthur felt himself start to panic. His heart hammered in his chest, his pulse quickened and a feeling of dread swept over. He was sure that no one even knew about the box much less where it was. Obviously he was wrong and the only question he kept asking over and over was who in the world had the box?

Hermione sighed and scrunched her eyebrows as she rubbed at her forehead, a sign that she was in a state of deep concentration. She was currently sitting on top of the vast kitchen counter, her legs folded and her elbows perched on her knee. She was the only one present but the fact that she was alone did not matter to her. She was concerned with the small box that sat in front of her. It was still locked. She had tried everything to open it. She had retested all the unlocking charms, tried a few commanding charms, even resorted to muggle means by smashing it against a wall and using a knife. None proved successful.

Getting agitated, Hermione flung her arms in the air and exclaimed, “How the bloody hell is this supposed to open?”

“Er, Hermione, what are you doing?”

The bushy-haired girl looked up quickly and her eyes landed on Ron. He was leaning against the kitchen doorpost, one foot crossed behind the other, his arms folded and an eyebrow raised.

“Hey, Ron,” she said, and then gestured towards the box. “I’m still trying to figure out how to open this thing.”

“Oh,” he replied, walking into the kitchen. He gave her a quick kiss on her cheek and then leaned against the counter. He looked at her for a few seconds before saying, “I don’t think staring at it is going to work.”

Hermione sighed. “At this point, I’m willing to try anything.”

Ron picked up an apple, took a bite, chewed and swallowed before asking, “Why are you so adamant about opening it anyway?”

“I guess it’s just habit.” She looked up at him. “I’ve never really like the idea of not being able to do anything.”

“Ah,” Ron said with a nod and another bite of the juicy fruit. “So, you think because the box is proving such an obstacle, you feel that you have to conquer it.”

“In a sense.” Hermione turned to face the box and picked it up. “I’m also a little curious of what’s inside considering how much your father went through to hide it. It could contain some very useful information.”

“Or,” Ron said, moving to sit to the table, “it could just be something utterly useless. Maybe it’s just some collection of Wizarding trading cards or something.”

Hermione arched an eyebrow. “Trading cards? Why would he go through so much trouble to hide and charm a box of trading cards?”

“Hey, some of those old ones are very valuable. Maybe there are a few in there that are worth millions of galleons.”

“I don’t think so,” Hermione said with a shake of her head. “I think it’s something far more important than that.”

As the pair slipped into a relaxed silenced, Ron continued to eat his apple and Hermione went back to trying out various charms on the box. The two remained like that for a while and Ron kept stealing glances at Hermione.

‘She looks so beautiful sitting there like that.’ He smiled.

Just then, Luna and Neville entered the kitchen and both Ron and Hermione looked up at them. Luna was humming softly and smiling serenely. Her long hair was pulled into a ponytail and she was dressed in a simple jeans skirt and a tank top. Neville was watching her with a smile on his face while at the same time adjusting the top button on his freshly laundered robe.

“Where are you off to, Neville?” Hermione asked, sitting up straight.

“I’m going to work,” Neville said. “I’ve been absent far too long.”

“I thought you wouldn’t want to go back considering that you were kidnapped from there.”

Neville shrugged. “I can’t exactly not go back to work. It’s my only source of income and I need to get a handle on some of my, er, tasks. Besides,” he added quickly, “maybe I could manage to catch some information on Lucius while I’m there. I’ll have to be careful of course, seeing as how he knows I’m involved in all of this.”

Hermione nodded. “True. At least you’re still working. I’ll be lucky if I even still have a job after this. Neither Ginny nor I have been in to work since we had to go clean up the studio. If I know Mrs. Pompey, she’s probably replaced us by now.”

“I don’t think so,” Ron said, standing up and moving back to the counter. “Ginny’s very valuable to that studio and from the success you’ve had there I’m pretty sure you’re just as important.”

Hermione smiled at him. “I hope so.”

Ron shrugged and wrapped his arms around her. “You’re important to me, anyway.” Hermione’s smile expanded and Ron kissed her softly.

“I swear I need to stop walking into the kitchen. I always catch some random display of affection.”

Ron pulled away from the kiss and turned to see Ginny and (to his surprise) Harry take a seat at the table. He grinned at his little sister. “I think I’ve caught you enough times to make us even.”

Ginny laughed. “Yeah, sure.”

“So, Harry,” Neville said, clapping the bespectacled man on his back, “I take it everything’s straight?” Neville nodded to Ginny and then looked back at Harry.

“Everything’s fine, Neville, thanks.” Harry smiled a genuine smile and, to prove his point, wrapped his arm over Ginny’s shoulder and drew her closer to him.

“No problem. And I’m glad it worked out.” Neville squeezed Harry’s shoulder and then walked next to Luna. “Well, I better be going or else I’m going to be late.” He bent down and gave her a kiss. “I’ll see you later.”

“Hope everything goes well,” Luna replied, smoothing down the front of Neville’s robe.

“Me too.” He straightened up and then headed for the exit. “Bye, guys.”

After Neville left, Hermione picked up the box and hoped off the counter. She and Ron took a seat to the table, followed by Luna. Once settled, the arrangement was such that Ginny and Harry were next to each other on one side of the table; Ron and Hermione were directly across from them and Luna sat at the head of the table.

“Still trying to open that box, I see.” Ginny nodded to the object Hermione had placed in front of her.

“What box?” both Luna and Harry asked.

“I found it when I went to talk to my dad,” Ron explained. “It was well hidden and magically guarded but I managed to blast it free. We have no idea what’s inside of it and we can’t get it open. Hermione’s been trying almost all day.”

“Yes,” Hermione said, “and it’s driving me crazy. I’ve tried almost everything I can think of.”

Luna looked at the box quizzically. “It looks rather old. Are you sure you can’t just smash it open?”

Hermione shook her head. “I’ve tried that already. I even tried to use a knife to pry it open. Nothing works.”

“May I?” Harry took the box from Hermione and examined it. He spotted the latch and tried to pull it but it wouldn’t open. He turned it over and over in his hands, examining each part of it as closely as he could. The third time around, he spotted a set of symbols scribbled into the side. “What’s that?” he asked, placing the box in the middle of the table and pointing at the symbols.

“I have no idea,” Hermione said, leaning over. She squinted her eyes and then let out a little ‘hm’ before straightening and looking up at Harry. “I didn’t even see them.”

Harry could understand how she could have missed it. Besides the symbols being lightened (probably from age), they were also cramped and pushed to the side of the box. Anyone who hadn’t been looking for them specifically could have easily missed them.

“Are they runes?” Luna asked, tilting her head to the side to get a better look. “That one looks like the symbol for wunjo.” She pointed to the third symbol that looked a little like a ‘P’.

“What the ruddy hell is ‘wunjo’?” Ron asked, looking at Luna.

“It’s the equivalent to either ‘w’ or ‘v’, depending on what word is intended,” she replied, still looking at the box.

Hermione looked closer. “I think Luna’s right. I can’t read the rest though; it’s too distorted. Ginny, you have the best eyesight. Do you think you could figure it out?”

Ginny nodded and pulled the box closer to her. She picked it up and peered closely at it. Her eyesight was obviously a lot sharper than everyone else’s because she could see the symbols clearly. Ron peered over her shoulder and arched his eyebrow.

“They don’t look that distorted. I can see it perfectly,” he added, looking up at Hermione.

“So can I,” Ginny said without looking up.

“Maybe that’s some kind of charm your father put on it,” Hermione pondered. “Maybe only someone with Weasley blood can read it.”

Ron nodded. “Maybe, but that doesn’t really do us any good because I can’t read runes.”

“I can,” Ginny said, leaning back in her chair.

“Well, then, let’s hear it. What does it say?”

Ginny put up a finger, indicating that they should wait. She continued to look at the runes, and found that they had been separated into what she guessed were individual words. There was quite a bit and she realized that she may not be successful if she worked it out in her head. So, she quickly conjured a parchment and a quill and set to work. First, she copied the symbols from the box onto the parchment, separating them as done so on the box and double-checking to make sure she had the copying and spacing done properly. Then, in the spaces next to each, she decoded them into their actual names; once again, making sure that it was all done correctly. She proceeded to translate the words into their phonemic equivalents and then, finally, into Standard English. When she was complete, she gazed down at the parchment laid out in front of her:

Wunjo othilo tiwaz      hagalaz ansuz algiz      berkanan isa naudiz

naudiz othila      laguz othila ingwaz isa raido      ansuz algiz

Phonemic translation: ‘Wot haz bin no longer iz’

English: ‘What has been, no longer is.’

Ginny placed the quill down and read the translated sentence out loud. “What has been, no longer is.”

Ron arched eyebrow. “That’s just as damn cryptic as the symbols themselves.”

Ginny sighed. “I know. It doesn’t really give us a clue as to how the box is supposed to be opened.”

“Maybe it’s a clue to what’s inside the box,” Hermione said, sliding the paper in front of her. “Obviously it means that something which once existed no longer does.”

“That could hint at a lot of things,” Harry said. “It could mean a person or an animal or it could be something figurative. And if it is figurative, then that opens the possibilities up even more.”

Hermione nodded and Luna asked, “Do you think what’s inside could be something dangerous? Like some secret ancient weapon or something?”

“Does that even fit?” Harry asked.

“In a way it does,” Ron said, scratching absentmindedly at his nose. “It could have been a weapon or a device that was used during a specific time in history but became obsolete so they no longer use it. The question would really be what that weapon was and how dad got a hand on it.”

Ginny continued to listen as the other four continued to bounce ideas back and forth. She wasn’t sure if any of them were the right ones. There was something they were missing; something they were overlooking. She eyed the parchment once more, licking her lips and then biting on the bottom one in concentration. She slid the box closer to her and turned it face up, staring at the chipped and discolored surface. She titled it sideways and gazed at the latch, wondering how exactly it opened.

She repeated the words over and over in her head, wondering if it was enough to help her realize something. Nothing jumped out at her. Getting slightly edgy, she scrunched up her eyebrows and whispered to herself questioningly, “What has been, no longer is…”

Suddenly, the box began to vibrate and she dropped it onto the table with a loud ‘thud’. Everyone looked at her as she shot up quickly, knocking her chair to the ground. The box continued to vibrate and everyone else stood up, looking at the shaking container apprehensively. The quivering intensified until almost the entire table was shaking. The five of them stepped back a few steps as a light began to glow from beneath the box and a beam shot up, stopping just a few inches short of the ceiling. Then, it rebounded on itself and was sucked back into the box, which gave a final shudder; then, a loud click reverberated through the kitchen as the latch undid and the top flew open.

Ginny, Harry, Ron, Hermione and Luna all looked at each other, wondering if it was safe to touch the box. Ginny was the first and only one to move. She stepped slowly towards the table and cautiously leaned over, trying to peer into the box. She reached out a hand.

“Do you think you should touch that?” Harry asked, taking a step forward.

Ginny didn’t answer him. She tipped the box with her forefinger but nothing happened. Relaxing a bit, she picked up the box in her hand and turned to face the other four. Harry, realizing, that nothing happened to Ginny, took a few more steps forward and reached out to touch the box. Unfortunately for him, the box closed shut and zoomed out of Ginny’s hand onto the ground and under the table. As it did so, Ginny jumped and latched onto Harry.

“What the hell was that?” she asked.

“I don’t know. Ginny that hurts,” he added as he felt her nails dig into his arm.

“Sorry.” She loosened her grip.

Hermione crawled under the table to retrieve the box. Just as she was about to touch it, it moved from her reach and slid to the other corner of the table. She jumped up quickly, knocking her head onto the edge of the table.

“Ouch!” she cried, rubbing her head and standing up.

“You alright, Hermione?” Ron asked, walking over to her and caressing her hand.

She nodded. “Yes, I’m fine. I think that charm extends to who can look into the box as well,” she added, taking a seat as Ron examined the top of her head to make sure no bump started to form.

Finally letting go of Harry’s arm, Ginny crouched next to the table and went to take the box. When it did not budge away from her, she picked it up and placed it on the table. Everyone kept their distance as she began to rummage through what was inside.

Ginny felt herself get confused. There was nothing dangerous inside the box at all. There were just rolled up parchments, folded pictures and what looked like small jewelry boxes crammed into the confined space. Nothing menacing jumped out at her. Furrowing her eyebrows, she picked up on of the parchments and unrolled it. She started to read it and her eyes grew wide with each word.

‘What in the world…’ she thought as she threw the paper back into the box. She picked up a few of the folded photographs and opened them up. She gasped every time she unfolded one. ‘This can’t be. I must be hallucinating. Yes that’s it. I’m seeing things again.’ In an attempt to prove herself right, she folded one of the pictures back, closed her eyes and then reopened it. But, when she looked at it, it did no change.

“Ginny,” Harry said slowly, “what’s wrong?”

“I…I can’t…it doesn’t…I don’t.” Her eyes opened wide. “Oh my fucking God!”

Ginny quickly repacked the box and grabbed it off the table. She couldn’t believe it. Her dad…he was…he had been…but how could…No! It didn’t make any sense. None whatsoever! She shook her head and quickly threw her cloak on over her jeans and t-shirt. She had to see for herself. She had to sort this out.

“Ginny, where are you going?” Harry asked, trying to grab her hand.

“To dad,” she responded quickly before disappearing with a ‘pop’.

“What the hell is she going to dad for?” Ron asked, staring at the spot Ginny had just been standing. Then he looked up at everyone else. “What in the world do you think was in that box?”

“I think it may have been what my father’s boss has been looking for.”

“Beg your pardon?” Hermione asked, grimacing at the pain that shot through her head.

“I remember hearing about something valuable my father’s boss wanted to find,” Luna explained, resuming her seat. “It wasn’t necessarily something he needed but he wanted it nonetheless. For blackmail.”

Both Ron and Harry looked at Luna with confused expressions. “What could possibly be in a tiny little box that can be used for blackmail?”

Arthur Weasley continued to pace back and forth. He didn’t know what to do. The box was gone and he had no idea who had taken it. What were they planning on doing with it? Use it against you, obviously. Arthur quickly silenced that thought and took a deep sigh, turned around and sat in the chair in front of his desk. He had to think things through. Maybe James knew about the box and had stolen it. But how would James have known where it was? Or that he even kept that box? He was sure he had done everything to make it appear as though he was over it and all was forgotten. Maybe he hadn’t been as convincing as he had hoped and James was simply biding his time until he could get that proof and blackmail him with it.

Arthur hung his head and shook it. What was he going to do? For once in his life he was lost on how to go about looking for something. His mind was still clouded with distress and regret. The only comfort he had was knowing that his charms prevented anyone who wasn’t of Weasley blood from opening it. But charms like that could be broken. Mind you, it was not an easy task but it could be done and there were people who broke charms and curses for a living. All the thief had to do was locate one of those experts and pay him a good sum of galleons. Then, his secret would be out and the life he tried so hard to build would be shattered.

He let out a frustrated sigh. The contents of that box were never meant to be discovered. In the wrong hands, they could spell the death of him and his entire life’s work. They could go against everything he had led people to believe about his life.

‘If anyone ever found out that I…’ He swallowed. ‘No one can ever find out.’

Just as Arthur stood up and made to move from behind his desk, the door to his office flew open and a person stomped inside. Arthur looked up and saw that it was Ginny. She was wearing a black cloak over her clothes. Her hair hung over her face which was contorted into an expression of shock and utter rage. She stood in the doorway for a few seconds, gripping tightly onto something Arthur could not see due to the dimness of his office.

“Ginerva, what-”

But he stopped short when Ginny let out an aggravated grunt and stormed up to him. Angrily, she lifted her arm and flung something onto the desk, causing it to slam loudly on the polished wood and the top of it to bounce open. Arthur gazed down at the object in disbelief. It was the box he had been fretting over for close to an hour. He peered down at it, his eyes scanning over the parchments and folded pictures inside and noticing that they had been disturbed. Slowly, he lifted his gaze to his daughter and saw that her expression had not softened. In fact, she looked angrier, like she was ready to jump over the table and squeeze the life out of him, all because of what the contents of the box indicated.

‘Does that mean that -’ He paused in his thoughts, a sense of panic rising in his chest, ‘she knows that I…?”

“You loved her!!” she screamed, cutting off his questioning thoughts. “YOU WERE IN BLOODY LOVE WITH HER!!”

Arthur looked back down at the box. His fear was confirmed. The truth had been discovered.

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