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The problem with curses, Bill Weasley had come to realize, was that they never looked quite the same. Nor, despite their similarities, were the effects ever identical.

The problem with goblins was that they didn't care in what sort of condition their curse-breakers emerged from a dig, so long as they got their gold.

Which was how Bill found himself entrapped in a curse, fighting the fear that always came with nearly certain death almost as much as the adrenaline, which rushed so hard at these times it was hard to think.

Thinking was necessary, though. Bill hadn't gone down to one of these yet, and he didn't plan on tonight being the night. The Curse pulsed against him, golden strands of light that seemed to crush in on him holding him where he stood.

He wasn't sure if the Curse was sentient in some way, or if the magic was just incredibly complicated but the strands had spoken to him, or at least, that was what it had felt like.

As Bill understood it, the strands fed off his magic and would do so for roughly eight hours until he was drained entirely. Then they would leave him for dead, and go back to happily guarding their hoards of gold.

Bill would have despaired except that it was a known fact in every curse-breaker's existence that everything could be broken, most things with a password. So he began to talk to the Curse. It felt crazy at first. Bill often spoke aloud to himself when trying to break one, or brought in other breakers, something like that. He'd never had much practice at speaking to the curse itself.

He tried an experimental, "So. . .where do you call home?"

"Magic," it said.

"Right," Bill said. "Why do you guard the treasure?"

The Curse seemed a little confused at that. Finally it said, "Magic."

Which seemed to be its answer no matter what Bill asked. So Bill dug up the word "magic" in every language he could think of: Latin, French, Spanish, Aramaic, Hebrew, Arabic and onward. When nothing seemed to work he closed his eyes and thought of the way magic worked, the way it felt, the way curses came together and could be broken.

It was personal, magic was so very personal, but there were certain things that were true for every practitioner of the art, everyone from Egypt to America, from the Middle Ages to the postmodern.

Magic was something a person had to know as deeply as he knew himself, his home, anything of immense value and enormous familiarity.

With that, Bill took a breath and let the Egyptian word for "knowledge" curl off his tongue.

He thought he felt a spark of something sharp against him--as if the Curse had always known this would happen--before its golden threads slipped down from him and faded away, remnants of the sun disappearing in the depths of the night.

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile