Who: Rodolphus Lestrange and Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy What: Serious Magicians at Work When: 16 April Where: Malfoy Manor Library Warnings: Dark magic talk; evil fairy tales; threats of portraitcide; minor blood magics.
"I think that has quieted all the defenses, as least the ones cast in the last decade. And I'm relieved to say that you almost, but did not quite, fool me. The one on the left is the copy and the other one is the Chalice of Helga Hufflepuff, known for centuries as a powerful source of magical drink magic and cited in source after source as proof that Helga was a worthy co-equal with the other founders and not just their bartender."
Lucius looked up from his notes, the oddly colored eye protection making him look like a refugee from a deranged tour of Xenophilius Lovegood's subconscious.
"This truly is a worthy vessel to enchant with. The magic of a thousand years sits before us, and we want to find an enchantment on it from the last few decades. A powerful one, no doubt, but still one voice in the chorus of history."
Lucius grinned. "You bring me the best challenges, my friend. Shall we see what we can learn?"
Rodolphus had watched from a safe distance. He had done his part and it was perhaps time to watch a master at work. “A powerful chalice for drink?” He turned the words over. There was potential there, and certainly even a reason why Healer Mulciber might want to get his hands on such an item. “It would probably be too base to assume it merely a vessel for a potion to put a stopper in death.”
He stood, daring to come a little bit closer to take a better look. “It does seem to have a bit of an aura, or personality about it. Is that a common finding for artifacts such as these?”
"And yet we're meant to find a--a Muggle notebook by resonance with it." Narcissa's nose wrinkled a little at the idea. She had been waiting with Rodolphus, and like him, rose to approach Lucius and the chalices. "So it's neither the intrinsic physical value nor the magical potential of the item. Not unless the Dark Lord inscribed very powerful spellwork in the book."
"If one were looking for diverse objects one could hardly do better. One the one hand, a beautiful ancient, creation crafted of metal and precious gems by skilled artisans, strongly ensorcelled and legendarily associated with one of the founders of British wizardry, on the other, a mass-produced binding of sheets of pulped wood, with no magics, history, or value--the kind of thing you might not bother to step over on the street." Lucius adjusted the filters on his goggles. "One might think an object such a muggle writing book would not survive the kinds of mighty magics needed to attach a spell atop a Founder's treasure. It speaks to the magician's versatility and control. And gives us some leads on the enchantments used.
Lucius pulled off the goggles and ran a hand through his blonde hair, pushing it back and away from his face. "The only connection I can see between the two objects is that they are both corporeal." His eyebrows raised, he stood, thinking furiously.
Narcissa had listened to Lucius all the way through his explanation, but her mind had stuck on something Rodolphus had said. "A bit of--personality," she said, quoting Rodolphus. "What kind of personality?" She addressed the question to both wizards.
“It might be nothing, but if you stand too close to it for a time, it almost reminds me of standing in the same room as my father or even the Dark Lord.” From another man those words might have been considered sentimental, but from Rodolphus it was an observation. He supposed it would make sense that such powerful enchantments might leave impressions of the caster. “I also at time finds myself in need of drink if I am in the room with it too long.”
Lucius nods. "That's interesting-- 'In need of drink', specifically." Lucius pulled on a thick glove and held up the chalice. "Have either of you ever read a magical description of a medieval Black Mass? Not the Victorian spoofs, the real ones? 'This is my body. Take, eat, in remembrance of me. This is my blood. Take, drink, in remembrance of me. So that I shall not perish but shall have eternal life."
Lucius raised the chalice and let the light play on the gems and gold for a moment. He was feeling showy. "We can research the entirety of the spell sequence, but we have a way to start. They're looking for items that are reliquaries for the essence of the dark wizard. Phylacteries. Soul Asylums."
"I know the book we need." Lucius put down the chalice and went to the bookshelf with his wand. "It's a medieval tome from France. I think it replaced the one lost in the library fire of the fourteenth century." Lucius waved his wand up and down, thinking. "English name was … 'Down Off the Cross'. Very dramatic, the medieval religionists, but it will tell us what we need to know."
"Hors De Croix"
"I'll fetch it." Narcissa moved to a locked cabinet, which she pricked her finger to open, and started working her way through the volumes inside to find the right one, and considering the others as potentially relevant to her work.
“Phylacteries.” Rodolphus repeated the word not quite believing the possibility. “Are we to be worried about liches now?” The Dark Lord as the Lich King did make some poetic sense. Not that it answered the purpose of the chalice. “And more importantly are we creating something or storing?” Creation made more sense. “Perhaps this common journal might contain the ceremony for eternal life.”
"Yes, or the notes on it." Lucius frowned. "As much as I personally do not want to die, real immortality is unappealing. The ghosts and mummies and other beings who have tried it act more as a warning than an inspiration.
"I'm not sure it's as desirable as some might imagine. One day, you're breathing, feeling, acting, working towards your plans and dreams, the next … you're a wineglass."
Rodolphus chortled. “Some men -- and women -- wish for improbable things.” For all that he wanted and sought, he did so under the knowledge that his existence was liminal. He would much rather his legacy live on, while maximizing every moment he had now. “Living forever would be rather daunting.”
“So, if neither of us are seeking immortality, is this academic? Or perhaps a more practical endeavour to undermine what other men might seek?” Since his conversation with Lucius last month, he was still mulling over the Arlo problem.
"You know I'm an academic at heart, Rodolphus," replied Lucius. "There are definitely men we know who should not be afforded the opportunity to impose their boot upon the neck of wizarding Britain forever." Lucius paused. "Allow me to paint a perhaps alarmist picture. Imagine a powerful wizard, someone versed in the dark arts. Seeped in them, perhaps. They've created a vessel for their life to be stored in. And unworthy men seek it, and use the power of the wizard's soul for their own ends, without the tempering fire a wizard gains earning that kind of power.
"For the good of the wizard and wizarding kind, it would be the right thing to do to destroy that vessel rather than let it fall into the wrong hands."
Narcissa had returned to the table with four books, three from the now-resealed cabinet and a fourth, less-ominous looking one. "Hors de Croix, as you requested, Secrets of the Darkest Art, Godelot's Magick Moste Evile," at which Narcissa's eyes momently rolled heavenward, as if she were imploring a higher power than herself for patience to deal with ridiculous men, "and, perhaps most importantly--" she picked up the last book "--the Tales of Beedle the Bard. Which I have been pondering while I read them to Draco."
Opening the book and setting it on the table, she pointed to the fairy tale in question: The Warlock's Hairy Heart. "I assume you both are familiar with this story even if you haven't reviewed it since the nursery. You can see how it might be relevant."
Quite fortunate for Rodolphus, Narcissa had returned when she did. He wasn’t entirely against dethroning or more periment solutions to their current predicament, but he had yet to identify the right figurehead to continue the cause. Perhaps the time for terror and force was over. He gave Lucius a small nod, non-committal but not unopposed.
Instead, he reached for the children’s book, the most accessible of all the texts in front him. Rodolphus flipped through the pages. He remembered as a child being bothered over why a wizard would cut out his own heart as an act of strength. “Are you suggesting the chalice is a hairy heart? Or perhaps the tale is more of an anecdote for what we might be facing?”
"Not exactly either," Narcissa answered slowly. "Consider the role of the Beedle tales: they are instructions for magical children designed to teach about ethics, or at least the limits of power. For instance, the Tale of the Three Brothers is designed to teach the perils of trying to outwit Death. What, then, is the lesson of the Warlock's Hairy Heart? What act is it trying to tell us to pursue with great care, if at all?"
Lucius answered with a tale of his own. "The summer before I started at Hogwarts, I broke my arm and spent several days on bedrest from the skelegrow. I listened to the wireless, and they had a play about a cursebreaker who gets trapped in the home of a vampire at night. Scary, when you're ten. Anyway, the vampire couldn't be staked, because he'd removed his heart from his chest, to keep it safely elsewhere. Eventually the cursebreaker devised a plan to determine where in the house the heart was hidden, and caused the vampire to exert himself until his heart beat fast enough to hear, even though it was disguised as a clock. He put a stake in it and was able to leave."
"So much is associated with the heart. Life, love, vulnerability. The tale tells us that removing a part of oneself for safekeeping exposes it to corruption and decay, and that such an act may not be trivially reversed and may kill those who we cherish. Oh, and it tells us not to pay attention to the gossiping of servants, but I don't think that was Beedle's intent."
“Recovering the cup did require a good deal of blood.” Rodolphus set the children’s book back down. A fascinating truth in fiction it would seem. “However, the heart is often used as a symbol for the soul, isn’t it? And there are some that subscribe to a notion that soul is what makes the witch or wizard. The corporeal body is just that a rather complex vessel.”
Rodolphus glanced back over the chalice. “And surely if this is in quest for immortality, there would be a way to place that soul into a new body.” He paused. “It makes me think about pensieves or memory modification…”
"That, my dear Brother-in-Law," said Lucius, pointing at the stacks of books Narcissa has provided, "is the topic of our upcoming research project. But before we settle in to that task, we need to find the notebook. Lucius pulled out his wand again. "If you all would please watch for any sign of morphic or thaumatic resonance, I will attempt to excite the enchantments."
Narcissa lifted a pair of what appeared to be opera glasses to her eyes.
It would seem Rodolphus had been remiss and left his fancy eyewear at home. He did, however, have his wand at the ready for any flying books that might appear.
Lucius tightened his goggles over his eyes, and pressed a lever on the side to change the polarization of the lenses. He removed one of his gloves and put the protected hand forward, protecting his face. The spell he had in mind was actually a combination of several others, and not one he had cast before. It wasn't the kind of serious magic that required an artifact or a ritual, it was suited to ad hoc casting.
Still one took precautions. It wouldn't do to find oneself accidentally fighting for possession of one's own body. Lucius carefully aimed his wand and channeled the energies he would need to shape. He rehearsed the motions of the two spells together, and a second time to assure he was ready, and then he began. "Specialis Horriblis Ipse Revelio ". Lucius held the spell, fighting the efforts of the magic to remain undetected. He was here. He was strong. No spell cast by a dead wizard would master him. He would win the battle of wills, because no will mattered but that of Lucius Opimius Maximus Armand Malfoy, first of his name, Fifty-second head of the leading family of the greatest wizarding nation in the world, he was not to be denied. Lucius would later deny it, but he was working up a sweat.
The goblet, as ancient as the Malfoy line, shook under the waves of magic power pouring off the wizard. It rattled on the library table, steamed, and eventually it started to emit a purple-black glow. Lucius leaned in towards the chalice. "Find that aura!", Lucius directed, more to remind himself of the goal of his exertions than to tell his wife and brother-in-law what they were already attempting to do.
It was difficult to ignore the level of ambient magic around him. One of the two week old runes reappeared, pulsing almost. Rodolphus wasn’t sure exactly what he was looking for, but the same knowledge and instinct that helped survive the catacombs would be useful now. Rodolphus followed that beacon around the edges of the library, until he came to a stop.
“Here.” Rodolphus gestured his hand, feeling something more prominent, different on that shelf. And he knew better than to touch. Unlike the catacombs this was not familiar Lestrange territory.
Narcissa, on the other hand, was a blooded member of the Malfoy lineage now in more ways than one. There were a number of books on the shelf, but she knew then by heart. It took her about a minute to work her way through them one by one, leaving only the small portrait at the end of the shelf. Her eyes narrowed at the Malfoy ancestor with one hand in his robes, Muggle-style. "Hand over the book, grandfather," Narcissa told him in flawless French.
"You, madam, were not among those to whom my descendant authorised me to give it."
Her delicate eyebrows arched. "Am I the mother of your heir or not? He who gave you that command is no longer among the living and we are now the masters of this house. Either you can give the book to me or I can recover it from the inside of your frame after I have melted the paint off your canvas."
Which made the portrait quail, and he passed the book out into Narcissa's gloved hand. "Merci bien," she told him, smiling viciously, and drew a cloth over his portrait.
Rodolphus smiled. That was quite a display. However, there was time for sentiment later. “I believe we have what we are looking for, Lucius.”
Lucius stood back up, and the glow from the book and the chalice faded. He raised his wand and pulled off his safety goggles. "Quite warm. I hope I haven't damaged the heartstring. It would be vexing to have to adjust to a new primary wand now."
"Dobby!", he called. "A cold compress for me, and a fortifying beverage as well."
Lucius looked from his wife to his brother-in-law. "So much accomplished, so much to be done."
"Now as far as giving the chalice to Mr Mulciber," Narcissa said as she took the cold compress from Dobby and pressed it to Lucius' brow, "I have some ideas." She made a dismissive gesture to Dobby, who vanished, leaving a restorative tray of tea in the room.
"Since we have our copy of Godelot out, he has a surprising number of interesting enchantments that we can consider. Lucius may need some time to recover from his effort, but I'm sure you and I can manage the necessary, Rodolphus."
“I am at your service.” When it came to dark artifacts and objects, he would defer to the experts. “After all these objects can have quite the temperment. I would rather dislike for us to rush into anything.” Arlo could wait. He would have plenty to keep him busy in the days to come.