Disclaimer; Harry Potter and related characters and settings are the intellectual properties of JK Rowling. Certain aspects of this story are my own invention but no money is being made from them.
A\N; This is a short teaser for something that bubbled through my head a while back. I was reading through some of my notes on Obeah and Rootwork (two related American/Caribbean magical traditions) when I found a reference to the spell/ritual/plot device below. I thought it would be nice to see this kind of detail or attention to detail given to fanfic and wanted to see how well it would work.
Most of the Wishing Candle ritual is genuine Obeah but I spiced it up a bit here or there. The herbal correspondances especially are true and tied into both magical traditions and herbalism as a whole. Read it through and let me know if you think this kind of "real world" magic should be written into fanfic more often. I've been considering a longer AU fic after I finally finish the stories I've got that would incorporate a lot of western esotericism and magical tradition, but I don't know if people would like the more "thinky" style. (It definitely won't be this story though.)
This will be updated very rarely as the muse/alcohol inspires me but it's far from a priority.
If most people were told of the life of Harry Potter thus far and asked to describe how he should be doing as his sixteenth birthday approached, they might describe a deeply troubled and depressed young man, or perhaps an angry violent sociopath waiting for someone to twitch. They'd almost all be wrong. The loss of his Godfather was tragic and senseless, but young men are very flexible. He mourned, remembered the good times, and moved on.
And yet, as midnight of July thirtieth approached, Harry was laying awake in his room. He wasn't depressed, nor was he angry at the world. In truth, Harry was a very lonely young man. His friends' letters basically amounted to excuses why they couldn't talk to him, and begging him to "let it all out." He didn't necessarily need to talk about the war, or what the Order was up to. Just a few friendly words from someone he loved would have made a world of difference.
The clock beside his bed read eleven thirty when Harry picked up the book he had borrowed from the library at Hogwarts. The book was full of pureblood history and traditions, fairly biased and ignorant but still interesting. Initially Harry checked it out so that he could argue intelligently about things he had little exposure to, but the more he read the more he wondered why no one ever told him these things. Most of the traditions that he found were simple but after reading through them he decided he would probably pass them on to his children.
One such thing he found was that it was common to throw a party or have a small celebration when a child had his first brush with accidental magic. Families saw magical children as a good omen, that the family's fortune would increase, and confirming that your child was a witch or wizard therefore something to be proud of. It almost explained why Neville's Great-uncle acted like he did, almost. The family was in tatters and it's survival hinged on Neville, if he were a squib their place in society might be lost through inaction. Harry still thought tossing a child out a window and hoping for magic was barbaric, but he understood how it happened in a twisted sort of way.
The other "coming of age" type tradition was not too dissimilar from muggle traditions. Basically it was the same idea as making a wish when you blew out a birthday candle, but with a touch of magic involved. The ritual could be done on any birthday, some families thought one age or another was significant, but was usually only done once. A wish wasn't guaranteed to come true, but with magic involved you never knew.
Harry had decided that regardless of what the laws about underage magic said, he was going make a wish.
The Wishing Candle is one of the last pieces of true Blood Magic in common use among modern wizards. It is used on whichever birthday family traditions find most significant to draw good fortune and favor to the wisher. There are many reports of people actually getting their wishes from this tradition, but many more of having no result whatsoever. The effectiveness of this ritual is therefore rarely taken seriously, though the symbolism and tradition is fairly universal.
In the week before the birthday, the candle is made. Into a small pewter cauldron, one and one half pints of the magician's blood is warmed over a low flame started with a lit cinnamon stick. When drawing the blood with a silver knife, the wizard must focus himself and allow his magic to flow from his body along with his blood. The emotions he felt during this drawing will color and flavor the wish if it is granted. It is because of this that it is essential that the wizard control his emotions during this part of the ritual. Someone who is suicidal and wishes for peace may very well find it in a tragic way. Three stems of mugwort are finely chopped and added to the blood while it is stirred counterclockwise for three minutes. Mugwort inspires very light euphoria, it represents the wizard's hope. It is then allowed to brew for one hour while the other ingredients are prepared. This mixing of blood, magic, and hope must not be disturbed.
Three burdock roots are powdered and sprinkled across the still surface to purify the blood before three dandelion heads are added whole. Three grams of Valerian root should be ground between stones. This represents childhood dreams being crushed by the twin stones of duty and honor. Allow this mixture to simmer very slightly for a number of hours equal to the wizard's age in years before proceeding.
Finally thinly slice a piece of ginger root three times as thick as the wizard's thumb. Ginger will stimulate the blood and set light to the fire of magic with its spice. Once the ginger has had a chance to soften, add the wax from three slim candles and stir until everything is incorporated. By this time the blood mixture should be thick and will not prevent the wax from hardening when the candle is made.
Each of the candle wicks should be handled with care. The wizard should think about his father and allow three drops of blood to soak the first, think of himself and drip on the second, and think of his mother for the last. The wicks should be braided together and placed upright in a tall narrow vessel. Pour the potion from the cauldron into the candle mold and center the wicks, the candle will cool and harden unnaturally fast so it should be done quickly.
On the wizard's birthday he will go off by himself to perform the ritual. Though this is an important ritual it is also a deeply personal one and the wishing should be done without fear of voicing a "silly" wish. The wizard must place his wand over his heart and voice his dearest wish, drawing on that passion. The tip of his wand will glow and should be used to light the candle with the fires of his heart. The candle will be consumed quickly as the blood recognizes its own magic and heart's desire. If the wizard is truly lucky he may receive some sign that his wish might come true one day.
It is easy to notice that this ritual emphasizes the power of three repeatedly. It is indicative of the past, present, and future, or blood, magic, and fire, or two parents and their love for their child. Some families continue this theme by making sure that the number three is somehow included in when the candle is lit and the wish made.
As midnight approached, Harry took his candle out of his trunk and opened his window in case there was any smoke. The Dursleys had been very irate when the smell of hot blood began wafting out of his room last week, but just as Vernon went to pound on the door to complain, Harry opened it holding the bloody silver knife and having his left arm covered in blood. He was just going to clean up and put a little gauze on the cut near his elbow of course, but his relatives took it entirely different and had left him alone after that. They secretly feared he would come after them in the dead of night with that knife and soon it would be their blood boiling in a wizard's cauldron.
Harry looked at his watch and counted down the seconds until his sixteenth birthday. He sat in front of his bed with the candle and his wand in front of him. As the clock struck midnight Harry stood and placed his wand over his heart. He drew a deep breath and searched his heart for the one thing he really wanted. When he found it, it sent shivers down his spine and he knew his wish.
"I wish I had someone around who really understood what it meant to be me, and the things I have to deal with." On impulse, Harry remembered the part at the end of the books description about the power of three and repeated the wish and tapping his heart twice more. Each time he said the wish his wand glowed brighter and it hurt to look at it as he lowered the wand to his Wishing Candle.
At first, the wicks burned about as brightly as a normal candle, but once the wax began melting the flame leapt several feet into the air. It formed a small pillar of red and green flame, but burned cleanly with no smoke. The candle gave one last flare of flames as the last of the blood and wax was consumed. Out of that final burst of flames galloped a stag made from the fire. It reared up on its hind legs and hung majestically in the air for a few brief seconds before it came crashing down. When it came down, it kicked Harry squarely in the chest with its front hoof, knocking him unconscious and back onto his bed.