Title: A Black Stone in a Glass Box
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Pairings: Harry/Draco, Ron/Hermione, Blaise/Astoria
Warnings: Weird magic, DH-compliant in most ways but ignores epilogue, some angst, OC character death.
Summary: Harry has made a sacrifice to protect the wizarding world. And Draco Malfoy is going to find a way to reverse it if it kills him. After all, if he doesn't reverse it, then he'll only die of boredom anyway.
Author's Notes: This is based on the fairy tale of Koschei the Deathless, which is where the familiarity in the plot will probably come from. It's going to be an action/adventure and humor story more than a romance, mostly in Draco's POV, and although the first chapter is fairly dark, the rest are definitely lighter
A Black Stone In a Glass Box
Chapter One—The Blue Book
"It doesn't have to be this way." Harry made sure to keep his voice deep and calm, though he couldn't have persuaded himself to look away from the wand in Otto Cavendish's hand for all the Galleons in the world. "The Ministry has rules in place to ensure fair treatment of even murderers. All you have to do is surrender and come with me, and I'll make sure no one kills you."
Cavendish laughed like a dying sewer rat. The wand in his hand didn't waver. "Do you think I believe that, when one of the people I killed was your best friend?"
Harry would have rolled his eyes, except that that would probably count as looking away from the wand. "I told you, you didn't kill him, simply put him in hospital. It's not going to be a permanent injury, even. I'll speak up for you. I'll get you a comfortable holding cell. You like the comforts of life, don't you?" he added coaxingly. From what they could tell, quite a few of Cavendish's crimes had been committed because he wanted the luxuries that his victims had collected, and killing them was one of the few ways he could be certain that the original owners wouldn't show up to claim them again.
"I might," Cavendish said. "If I was going there. Crucio!"
Harry dodged the spell with an easy drop and spin, and came back up again, closer to Cavendish. He could feel the hair standing up on the back of his neck and his lungs rushing with air. His instincts urged him to strike, but his Auror training held him in check. He had to arrest this man if he could, not kill him, though since Cavendish had landed Ron and three other Aurors in St. Mungo's, Shacklebolt had given Harry tacit permission to do whatever he needed to do.
"It'll be Azkaban for sure now," Harry said, "thanks to the Unforgivables."
Cavendish laughed. "I told you. I only worry about things that have a realistic chance of happening to me." He lifted his wand, and Harry tensed, but no spell came out of it yet. Cavendish was aiming at the scar on his forehead now, and giving him a maniacal smile. "Harry Potter. You survived the Killing Curse once. Do you think you can do it again?"
Every muscle in Harry's body was on edge, vibrating. No, he couldn't block the Killing Curse, but he might be able to dodge it. Still, though, willingness to use this spell was one of the very few things that would make Aurors aim to kill instead of capture.
And he could see Ron's injuries if he so much as blinked. No, they wouldn't kill him, but they had been ugly and painful, and for one heart-sickening moment, Harry had been sure his best friend was dead.
I can't let that control me, he reminded himself. I have to follow the course of justice and do what's best, not what I want to do. He met Cavendish's eyes and started to speak again, striving to find words that would repeat what he had already said but in new ways that might make Cavendish listen.
Harry dodged, and then saw Cavendish lifting his wand to aim at the roof of the cave.
Maybe he wasn't planning to bring it down on them. But he was jealous enough of his treasures that he might have decided that it was better that Harry die here, rather than possibly take his collection away from him.
It was enough of a judgment call for an Auror.
Harry struck to kill, and allowed himself not to think at all for five minutes afterwards.
When he returned from his period of blankness, Harry shook himself and started trotting down the corridor towards what he already suspected was the location of Cavendish's treasure chamber. He would have to make at least a start on counting and cataloguing his finds, so that none of the inheritors would get the bright idea that he had stolen something and look to see how much money they could make by suing Harry Potter.
Besides, the Aurors encouraged simple, mindless work like this to get over the darkly necessary part of the job.
Harry stepped through the entrance and stopped with a blink. The cave floor below him dropped away in a series of smooth, waterfall-like steps, leading to a room that swept and swooped and opened its walls like wings.
There were treasures. Of course there were. Harry had expected that. But either Cavendish had had a substantial legacy of his own, or he had stolen more than Harry realized, because there were so many here. Harry's mind refused to comprehend the sheer number of trunks, shelves, ledgers, and piles of coins, statues, books, crystals, jewels, and other things; by the time that he looked at one part of the cavern, he had already forgotten what was lurking in another point of the compass.
As he stood there, dazed and wondering where to begin, a silent call reverberated in his mind.
Harry paused, his eyes narrowed. Surely none of these inanimate objects could have the power of Tom Riddle's diary—
But the call sounded again, a series of formless noises that remade themselves into words as Harry listened. I rightfully belong to one who has defeated a Dark Lord.
Harry picked his way through the coins, with them sliding underfoot like loose stones, until he reached a trunk that was half-open. Had Cavendish been here recently? Harry cast a few spells he'd helped develop that could locate fingerprints the way Muggle police did, and nodded as the marks of hands sprang into being on the iron hasps of the trunk. This could be a trap, the last thing Cavendish had touched before he had come to confront Harry.
He could not touch me. I rightfully belong to one who has defeated a Dark Lord.
Harry cast more spells before he reached into the trunk, because he wasn't a fool. Despite the large and roomy nature of the trunk, the only thing in it was a deep blue book, the color the sky sometimes turned at sunset. Harry didn't recognize the leather that bound it. It was hard and wrinkled, like wyvern skin, but he didn't think it was dyed.
He kept it floating in front of him as he used magic to flick through the pages. Yes, there were stories about Dark Lords written there, including the story of Dumbledore's defeat of Grindelwald, which made Harry frown. From the appearance of the book, he had thought it older than that.
And then, on the last page, there was a picture of himself, and beneath that, a set of instructions that made him lean closer to the paper.
There will be Dark Lords in the world, again and again, unless someone who has already defeated one makes the final sacrifice to ensure that they will never return.
Harry paused, and swallowed, and swallowed again. Then he used the page-turning spell to slam the book's cover shut, and turned to the task he had come here to perform in the first place, creating an accurate list of the treasures Cavendish had bought and stolen.
The book was not on the list that Harry had handed to Kingsley. Or, well, it was, but on a piece of parchment that at the last minute Harry slid into his sleeve. Now he was sitting at home, the book on a table in front of him, and his eyes unable to move from it, although the book hadn't "spoken" to him since its second declaration that it belonged to someone who had defeated a Dark Lord.
He didn't know that he believed what was written in there. Cavendish could have written it, for all that Harry knew. The handwriting didn't look like his, but it wasn't as though there weren't plenty of charms to disguise someone's handwriting.
And if the book was sentient and had come up with the words itself, or from a trapped spirit, the way Tom Riddle's diary had worked, that still didn't mean it was safe. The opposite, if anything. Harry leaned forwards, making another test, and let his hand rest on the blue leather of the cover. Then he turned to that last page and stared at the crude sketch of his own face.
Nothing happened. When Harry dipped a quill in ink and wrote on the blank page inside the back cover, Hello? there was no response. That made it unlikely to be a book like Tom Riddle's diary, at least.
Or else the spirit trapped inside is smart enough not to answer back.
Harry bit his lip hard enough to leave dents from his teeth. He didn't really believe in the book, no, but he was never going to get anywhere if he sat here staring doubtfully at it and refusing to read what it said on the last page. And putting it away and forgetting about it wasn't an option. Not if there was the smallest chance he could stop another Dark Lord from rising.
One hadn't, not since Voldemort, but not for want of trying. Harry and Ron had personally stopped no fewer than seven attempts to gather Death Eaters together and four rituals that might have produced a wizard with insanely powerful magic if they had worked as advertised. It hadn't seemed like a big deal at first. Someone inevitably betrayed the conspiracy, or the people who wanted to be Dark Lords were mad anyway, and not good at planning.
But Harry could see how the fear ate at the wizarding world, how many people looked back to Grindelwald and spoke of the period between him and Voldemort as just a lull in an endless war. And sometimes they received reports of a suicide, more often of an emigration, as wizards who couldn't stand the fear anymore fled the only way they could think of.
If there was the smallest chance that this was real, and he could prevent another Dark Lord from rising...
Harry picked up the book, focused on the last page under his picture, and began to read.
Harry stepped back from the circle he had made on the floor and squinted at the objects he'd placed on and inside it. Around the rim of the circle were a piece of quartz, a nugget of gold, a flat spoon that was genuine silver, a piece of blue satin almost the color of the book's cover, a pink rose, a scarlet leaf, a pale green stem from a plant growing in his garden, and a tuft of brown fur from Hermione and Ron's dog. In the center was a black stone, a single, round, smooth one that Harry had found in the lair of a Dark wizard and kept as a memento once the Ministry had confirmed there was nothing dangerous about it.
Beside the stone was a glass box, as long as one of his arms, with squat sides. Everything was exactly as it should be.
Harry paced around the circle again, his heart hammering hard. There was possibly no one else who would have understood the instructions the book gave him, or understood why they would work. The book was operating on the same theory that had allowed Voldemort to create the Horcruxes, except in reverse. Where the Horcruxes had been objects infused with a piece of soul, created by a murder, these would be objects infused with Harry's passion and emotion, created by the spilling of his own blood and his willing sacrifice.
And the sacrifice would not even take his life.
Harry crouched beside the circle and shut his eyes. His breathing calmed as he waited, and his hands ceased to tremble and instead hung straight down before him. When he opened his eyes again, he was floating in the middle of a tremendous calm like nothing he had known in years.
Did he want to do this? Yes.
Not because someone was forcing him to. Not because the book had enchanted him. Because he had inquired of Hermione if the magical theory was sound, under another name, and found it was, and because this was a small sacrifice to ease the wizarding world's fear.
The war hadn't ended things. Harry's world still lay under a shadow. He had been naive enough, when he killed Voldemort, to think that everyone would rejoice and come together, and that time would do what force couldn't.
It hadn't happened. The House rivalries in Hogwarts were worse than ever. The rumors of Dark Lords constantly circulated even when the Aurors couldn't find anything to substantiate them. Bribery was at an all-time high in the Ministry. And some pure-bloods had started to pull their children out of Hogwarts and their money away from any business or restaurant that a Muggleborn owned, or sometimes even where Muggleborns were admitted. Harry dreaded the day that started happening with something like St. Mungo's, where the whole community needed it.
Someone had to do something to stop it, to remove at least one source of fear. The spell in the book had promised that when Harry performed this ritual, then the rumors of Dark Lords would die down. Everyone would feel the reassurance flooding their souls that they should have felt when Voldemort died.
Harry had saved the world once. He could do it again, and at such a little cost. No one was even asking him to risk his life, or making him the subject of a prophecy.
He smiled a little, and stood up, facing the circle of salt and the black stone and glass box in the middle. He was ready.
He held his wand to his wrists, and cut them carefully with the spell that another book had recommended for when one wanted to shed blood but not in amounts that would incapacitate. Then he stooped and made the same cuts in his legs, equally careful to avoid the great arteries. Then the side of his neck. Then his forehead, above the curse scar. Then in the lobe of each ear.
And finally, he laid his wand above his heart and made the last cut. His chest bled only a little, bright scarlet blood trickling as Harry leaped across the circle and picked up the black stone, pressing it to his heart.
There was a flash deeper than an abyss, deeper than madness. Harry shut his eyes and swayed in the great wind that seemed to have sprung up about him, centering on his chest and the stone, the hard shape of it that pressed into the contours of his hand, the solid weight.
The stone absorbed the blood, and Harry felt the other objects glowing around the circle, felt the pressure of the light without being able to open his eyes. He was breathing slowly. He didn't remember when that had started. It was growing hard to remember anything at all.
But he turned, the stone still pressed to his heart, and the flowing blood arched away from his other wounds in steady streams, crossing the distance between his body and the objects. Harry opened his eyes, shaking with the effort, in time to see each drop of blood seal the eight objects scattered around the circle. The pink rose and the scarlet leaf turned a darker version of their own shades. The nugget of gold glowed phoenix colors. The silver spoon looked now as though someone had spilled strawberry juice on it, and the blue cloth had a crimson thread along the bottom-
That was all Harry had time to see before the force of the power behind his back drove him to his knees. He knelt there, swaying, his head bowed, and the magic behind him touched the objects and assembled them.
And drew something else out of him along with the blood.
Harry remembered the words he was supposed to speak, and managed to get his breath behind his lungs enough to speak them. He hoped vaguely that the time he was supposed to say them hadn't already passed. "I give my heart to the struggle to keep the world free of Dark Lords, as I did once before. I give my heart's blood. I give my heart."
The book had said that he needed to speak the last words with emphasis. That was no problem. Harry was shaking with passion and not magic now, and he felt the round black stone he clutched become warm.
The blood went on pouring out of him, and then abruptly all the cuts sealed themselves-Harry could see the skin writhing over them-except the one over his heart. Harry felt the stone and his heart reaching out to each other, and held his breath, then realized how silly that was and let it out sharply.
The stone glowed.
Harry opened his eyes, at the same moment as a severing blade seemed to descend in his mind. He could still see the stone, and see the other objects around the circle, no longer only objects, but animals in cages of glass. He could still feel the wonder that the ritual had worked, and the profound gladness that it had, and the worry of what his friends would think of this, if he ever told them.
But all those emotions were distant, ripples on the surface of the pond that his mind seemed to have become. They faded in seconds, and there was only calm, the resolve to do what he needed to do.
Harry stood up and placed the black stone tenderly in the glass box. When he closed the lid, magic sealed it. Harry cradled the box in his arms and Levitated the other glass cages into the air, cages that were home now to golden bird, brown dog, and other animals.
The book had said, Whosoever gives his heart, fully and freely, to the struggle to defeat Dark Lords, shall achieve his desire. But he must thereafter guard the object that represents his heart from any interference. For, should it be taken and shattered, the ritual and the protection will be broken.
That was fine, Harry thought. He would hide his heart somewhere safe, and the animals, magical creatures and not mortal, would serve as guardians to protect it. He would be left with the rest of his life without much passion, with irritation instead of fury, with fondness instead of love.
But wasn't that a small price to pay, to stem all the fear and all the grief? And who could change things now?
Unknown to Harry, the person who could change things was stepping out of a Floo into Malfoy Manor, coming back to England for the first time in five years, and already complaining loudly of boredom.