5 August: Doing unto others before they do unto you Who: Malfoys, Narcissa and Lucius What: Practical alchemy and magic, not without consequences When: Evening of August 5 Where: Malfoy Manor Warnings: Dark magics, horcrux destruction, Death Eating talk about murder and so on.
Inside a clear box, tightly sealed, lay what the Malfoys believed to be the ring of the Gaunt, ancient artifact of one of the earliest strains of wizards in Britain, a five hundred year old repository of magic and reverence, and if the rumors were correct, the reliquary for a soul. Above the ring, in a glass container, was less than two drams of basilisk venom. Between the two was a delicate apparatus designed to allow the venom to fall on the ring.
When Lucius Malfoy pulled the control tab, one of the oldest dark artefacts in Britain would be destroyed.
Lucius turned at the sound of his wife's step on the stair down to the workroom. After so many years, he knew what she sounded like in her own house on her own stairs. He pulled the goggles he was wearing off of his eyes and turned towards her. "It passed the Unicorn horn test; it's actually from a Basilisk. Not that Carlos would dare try to cheat us. It's active--it won't stay still in the vial."
"If Travers' theory is right, it should do what nothing else we've tried so far will. Even that tiny amount, for all the power in the ring." Narcissa moved to stand by Lucius. "Give me the goggles. I'll do it. The risk to you is too high."
Lucius laughed. "Bravest of Witches, Best of Wives, I shall do no such thing. I have an heir and mayhap another, and am, dynastically speaking, of little value except to protect him and you. I shall take the risk. The curse on the ring affects anyone wearing it, which I certainly have no intention of doing." He looked at her, not hiding his admiration. "I need you to be ready to protect us both if anything goes wrong."
Narcissa scowled at Lucius. "If that thing is truly a vessel for part of the Dark Lord's soul, destroying it will leave it to flee to the closest appropriate receptacle attuned to the Dark Lord's magic." She pointed her wand delicately at Lucius' left wrist. "If I had my way, you'd be in France right now and I'd have someone expendable in this workroom with me. Like Charles' boy. He hasn't managed to sire a child but if his father was representative of the characteristics of the line, the world would be better off without."
"I suppose we could get one of the Travers to fit the bill. It would certainly go a long way towards placating Rodolphus -- until he figured out what we'd used them for. The venom is enough to fell a small dragon, and the box is sealed to prevent almost all physical and magical pathways that could be used." Lucius made no move to hand over the goggles.
"Speaking of the denizens of Lestrange Park, how is Rabastan? He seemed to be handling the stress of his family situation poorly, I thought."
"Don't think I don't know what you're doing, Lucius," Narcissa told her husband, then answered the question without insisting further anyway. There were important things to tell him. "Rabastan suspects--what he told me was that Rodolphus used the Mark to cause pain. To harm Rabastan. Which is not something Rodolphus normally would or could do. We've put off the matter of dealing with the Travers siblings for the nonce but it's going to come back to haunt us." Which Narcissa's expression told Lucius she expected to be quite the comeback.
Before Lucius could comment on that, Narcissa continued, "And there's another problem: Peter Pettigrew has vanished, which means it's likely that Sirius and his cronies know what Pettigrew knew. Which is presumably not much about our involvement, but--we may face trouble from that direction. Assuming Pettigrew's 'runner', as Rabastan so charmingly put it, wasn't straight into a mouldy grave."
Lucius frowned at the news. It was a loose end he didn't like at all. "If we hadn't already decided to do this, that would've been the deciding point. We can't play innocent if we have the ring. It's a sad commentary on the state of the followers of the Dark Lord, but I find them less of a threat than I do Dumbledore's useful idiots or the Ministry.
"I'd say let Rodolphus take care of Pettigrew, but he did so poorly with the Avery and Travers affair. I never did understand Pettigrew's recruitment. I understand wanting an inside source, but he should never have been Marked. My working theory was that the Dark Lord wanted an example of how he rewarded loyalty. Either that or he wanted someone he could torture to show that even those who were marked were not safe from his caprice." Better Pettigrew than anyone else, perhaps.
"No reason he couldn't do both. He was thrifty, our late Lord. Looking at this ring, I think we're destroying more than we know, but I couldn't find an alternative. Either it's irreparably broken, or it won't release the soul."
He pulled his goggles down again and pointed his wand at the crystal box. "I can't teach you the spell to manipulate the vial in the box, not quickly enough. It has to be me. Be ready to stop anything that tries to escape."
Narcissa already had her wand in hand; she drew her robe, which was heavily woven with sigils and lined with dragon leathers, tight around her, preparing to shield herself and Lucius as needed. "I'm ready when you are."
Lucius nodded and lowered his goggles. The world became nearly monochromatic, and the ring and the acid appeared bright white despite the thickness of the lenses. He took two long breaths. Avery wasn't the first person he'd watched die, but they had crossed the Rubicon. Nott, without his enforcers, was someone a wizard could deal with.
"Step back, dearest one. You'll want to be over by the big retort, from Grandmother's lab. If you're perpendicular to the line of my spell, you'll be able to see the entire field of action."
Lucius let the calm settle over him like a blanket as Narcissa moved to best position herself for defense. He had a zone when he worked, a precision and economy of movement, a way of distancing himself from the work. It was almost as if he were directing his actions externally.
The spell was complex and required precision timing. Nothing less could exploit the convoluted paths of access into crystal container. Lucius cast; his probe snaked through the crystal and reached the thin glass holding the liquid away from the ring. The barrier dissolved and the basilisk venom fell onto the ring. Lucius stared at it and willed something to happen. He slowly started to breathe again as the venom did to the ring what time had done to the Gaunts.
Narcissa watched the venom etch its way into the surface of the ring. There was a mighty CRACK as the stone broke into two pieces along the line of the design of the Hallows, the one that Grindelwald had appropriated to himself so thoroughly most people didn't recognise what it was other than his sigil any more. Apparently the Dark Lord had meant to do the same; it satisfied Narcissa to deny him that as he had denied her the full love and trust of her sister.
The enthralling view of a horcrux's destruction almost distracted Narcissa from her purpose: to protect herself and Lucius from the side effects of the working. It shouldn't have been a surprise when the vessel holding the ring failed, and yet somehow it was. Narcissa caught the ring with her spellcraft before it fell onto the stone of the workroom floor, but her own shielding failed; she felt a few splinters of glass penetrating her face and hands. Her reflexive blink almost lost her the ring again, but she managed to hang on to her grip despite the pain.
"Lucius?" Narcissa gritted out between her teeth.
"Here," he repIied, his working persona not yet fully repressed. "I had the goggles, which probably saved my eyes. Other than that, it was like flying through a window. Are you hurt?"
"Only a little," Narcissa lied. "I still have hold of what's left of the ring, and enough concentration to keep it from dripping."
Lucius scanned the room and brightened the lights. He pulled off the goggles, ignoring the blood on his hands and face. "I think we should sit." He crossed to his wife, perhaps more slowly than he wanted to. That they were both standing and talking was a triumph, and a feat of magic beyond any but the most puissant of spellcrafters. If it took some recovering from, that was to be expected. He began picking shards of crystal from her hair and shoulders, upset with himself for putting her in danger.
"Let me contain this safely; then we'll look at our injuries." Narcissa didn't take Lucius' hand; she didn't want to drive the splinters deeper into their skin. "What have you got ready? I think the ring is inert now."
"I hadn't thought I'd need one with the crystal holder, but we've got an alembic or two that survived the explosion." Lucius held up the curved distillation vessel and let Narcissa deposit the remains of the ring. The center stone was split and it was possible that even if the horcrux hadn't shattered so violently, the older magics were not inconsequential and might have done so anyway.
"I should've been prepared for it to explode. When you unbind something with that much energy, a forceful expression is inevitable."
Narcissa nodded "I'll have to review the literature to find out what the original enchantments supposedly were, if there's any record beyond the natterings of the Gaunts. Damn him for making us destroy it to get rid of him." With the ring and the venom out of her hands, Narcissa turned to let Lucius see more clearly the splinters of glass he was removing from her. Bloodied but unbowed, she smiled as she looked at Lucius.
"It's a good thing that wretched serpent needs a few more days to digest its former master before we destroy it. I believe we'll let Madison take the lead on that one."
Her smile always stuck Lucius like a bludger to the face. It was breathtaking, even if they were both worse for wear at the moment. "It will be some time before Carlos can get us enough basilisk venom to do the task in any case." Lucius summoned a mirror for his own crystal cleanup. "But yes, we'll want more protection. At least the heavy robes took the brunt of the explosion."
He looked around his workroom, taking a mental inventory of all the equipment and breakables he was about to need to replace. "Dobby will have his hands full cleaning this up."