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A Spell to Save a Life

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Sunday, October 1, 1978 - Salem,  Massachusetts

Mycroft swiped away a tear as he angrily mashed the pestle into the mortar. The dry herbs were crushed to powder and the sharp smell penetrated his stuffy nose. The grinding motion of his arms made the stool wobble under his feet, but he didn’t have a sturdier platform with which to reach the worktop just yet. He needed this done, and done quickly, to protect himself. When he was ready, he’d protect Sherlock too. One never knew when true love might strike, and he had to fend it off, just in case. Caring was not an advantage - neither of them would fall victim to the curse if he had anything to say about it and - more than other boys - he had a few tools at his disposal. He aimed to use all of them this night.

He set the pestle aside and carefully put a silver bowl filled with water in the center of his worktop, where he had carefully crafted a star from white chalk. A little had gotten on the cuff of his pajama top, but he wasn’t worried - it would brush away. He hadn’t wanted to wake Sherlock by dressing before he snuck out of their room and out to the greenhouse. The old floor was creaky, but he could tell Sherlock was sleeping hard, a slight snore giving away his stuffy sinuses from crying.

On the worktop, he placed one white candle at the top of the star and one on each base point. The two red ones went to either side. Then he lined up the ingredients he had collected carefully, in order of use. Tidiness had been drilled into him. Usually while baking cookies, but magic required many of the same disciplines.

He cleared his throat and picked up the white rose petal, dropping it into the water, then struck a match, lighting the white candle at the top of the star. The match was dropped into the water, hissing as it was snuffed.

“He’ll be faithful, and love unconditionally,” he said quietly, but firm. It was practically a given, but he’d followed Uncle Rudy’s clients enough to know that a love spell didn’t guarantee a good match. You had to word it carefully. He had to identify him first. 

He picked up the deathwatch beetle and placed it in the bowl where it floated on its back - its carapace acting like a boat, then lit a red candle, moving clockwise around the star. The second match was added to the water next to the first one.

“He'll know death,” he said grimly, swiping another tear away. If it was coming for them anyway, best to be prepared. He wanted someone who knew what this aching agony inside felt like.

He picked up the sprig of thyme and floated it in the water that had begun to spin gently clockwise, lit another white candle, and dropped the third match.

“He’ll be a protector, courageous and strong.” If they were both to be in danger because of Mycroft, he supposed they needed to be able to defend themselves. A sturdy person, a helper, but good with weapons, he supposed.

“He’ll live among the stars,” He said, setting a star anise floating among the circling ingredients, the silver bowl shining brighter as the light of the candles reflected back to him. The third white candle was lit. He wanted them as far away from him as possible - safest for them, and for him. If they never met, all for the better.

He tugged his silver ring off his finger - it sank heavy to the bottom of the bowl with a metallic clunk, and the water went still. He lit the last red candle, adding that match to the water where it lay dully on top of the rest of the floating items, smoldering gently. 

“He’ll be made of silver,” he said impulsively, throwing out something as impossible as possible, so he could be sure that none of this would come to pass. People weren’t made of silver. They didn’t live in outer space. If he wasn’t alive in the first place, then Mycroft couldn’t make him die.

Then he gathered up the bowl in his hands and blew out the candles. Then he carefully stepped down from the bench, grabbed the mortar and its contents, and walked out into the front garden. 

He trod gently out to the mailbox, (so that his message would be sent out into the universe properly) and set everything down on the ground, careful not to spill. He used his hands and dug a small hole at its base, grimacing as dirt shoved up under his nails, then tipped the water and all its contents in the divot before covering it all with soil. The ground cloves were last, spread overtop - a binding measure to make sure the spell stuck.  

When he was done, he heaved a sigh of relief - it was finished. He had bound himself to a figment, so he would never fall in love, and in turn no one else would die from the curse. It would end with him. With Sherlock. No more. 

His father’s death of his father had been unexpected. They were always unexpected. The death beetle had been creaking all morning. His mother had frantically searched the house in a panic - trying to find it, trying to stop it. 

He was killed in a freak accident. His head had been cracked open by a falling hammer as he unwisely walked below a workman’s platform next to the pharmacy. It was hardly a ladder, but still, folks were likening it to a bad luck death. Mycroft found the beetle the next day, lying dead next to his father’s pocket watch. After months of talk, his mother had simply wasted away, growing listless and pale. Willing herself out of existence until her body followed suit. 

Broken heart, said Mrs. Hudson. But Uncle Rudy disagreed, saying he believed in the Owens curse. It was said that the women of the Owens family were destined to fall in love - instantly and completely. But that their beloved would suffer an untimely death. A curse from their ancestor who had been betrayed by her own beloved. The curse had backfired and instead of saving them from ever falling in love, it had doomed them all. For generations, anyone who had fallen in love with an Owens woman had died. 

Mycroft knew full well that the curse might affect him differently. For one, he wasn’t an Owens woman. In a desperate attempt to divert the curse, his mother, for the first time in generations, had taken her husband’s name. His father was a Holmes, and so he was a Holmes. Secondly, in a rare turnabout, he was also the first male to be born to an Owens woman in nearly 400 years. He had no maternal uncles, great uncles, or male cousins whatsoever. Sherlock had been doubly a surprise, and his great aunts were still gossiping about What It Might Mean. Thirdly, even at the age of 10, he was entirely aware that marrying a woman was likely not in his future. His own inclinations had been solidly put to rest after he spent a summer mooning over Robert Jeffries in his fourth grade class last year before coming to his senses. 

Still, it was best to be prepared. He knew if the curse took hold, he would fall instantly in love.He couldn’t change that part. He knew the rules. But he could make it impossible to find his true love, by instead binding himself to an impossible man - one who couldn’t possibly exist, and thus, he would thwart a destiny he didn’t want - saving two lives in the process.

Sherlock though - that would take some more doing. He wasn’t sure his attempt would work, and thought to cover his bases by trying a separate variation, instead. Perhaps later, one attempt out of the two would work. He wasn’t arrogant enough to assume that curses couldn’t find a way. But perhaps he could delay it for a while.

He had a plan, though. He would make it so that Sherlock couldn’t fall in love with someone. You couldn’t fall in love if you were already in love, already devoted. No, for Sherlock, he’d bind him to something else. He’d have to put some thought into the wording so he didn’t “marry” his brother, not yet 3 but already precocious, to the wrong career.