Published: September 25, 2018
Well, it’s my help you want, and it’s my help you’ll get; helping people is what I do. There’s the question of payment, of course – keep your coins, child: that’s not what I want. Give me a lock of your hair, seven of your breaths, your favourite memory of a summer day. Yes, thank you; that will do nicely. Of course I’ll help you. But if you want to bind his heart to yours, you must brew the potion yourself.
Begin with something he loves. A friend, a brother, a thing he keeps with him for comfort; a favourite scent, perhaps, a favourite song; something, however sweet or ugly, that brings him joy. Take it, and burn it, and grind it up into ash. Mix in bitterness and iron rust: that’ll make a chink in his cold shoulder, sure enough.
Spit three times into the ashes and blend it all into a paste. Leave it to simmer while you feed in the rest: his tears, his fears, a memory for each of his failures. What – you think it will taste bitter, child? Sweeten it with lies. Drop in a nail to catch on his tongue, and drizzle in honey to help it go down. More than that, I think. Yes – good. No more, or the sweetness will burn him. You don’t want him to taste what you’ve done.
Now take away his strength, and his sureness, and all the peace within his heart. Burn them – you’ll need another bowl for this – and feed the smoke into what you’ve got. You’ll have the ashes left over. Be careful what you do with them: you can’t bury them, or they might take root and grow anew; you can’t scatter them, or the wind might bring them back to him; you certainly can’t just leave them lying about, for if he finds them again neither you nor I nor anyone else on this earth could brew a potion strong enough to keep him. Keep them locked in a lightless place, behind iron and salt, and guard the key against him with your life. Swallow it if you must. A key is a cold sharp thing to swallow, I know – but we all must suffer a little for love, isn’t that so, child?
All the same, you’ll want to keep him from searching and prying. Find him an enemy he can fight and fight and fight against forever without winning or losing: that should keep him barking round a bed of roses. His mother, maybe, or your mother, or a friend he thought he could trust. You alone can choose his friends and foes – remember that, and see that he remembers it too.
But we were with the potion. It needs more fear in it, I think, more guilt, more shame. Take away his dreams; leave him his nightmares. You must be the only thing that gives him hope.
Don’t be so frugal with the shame, child. Shame is what will keep him with you. You’ll know when you have enough by the colour – the potion should start to look a bit translucent, and to have the thickness of jelly.
Now take it off the fire, and let it chill through the night. The last thing you’ll need will be his blood: cut it from him while he sleeps, and mix it in with the knife that made the cut. His pain will have lingered on the blade.
Kiss the lid when you seal the jar, and tie a ribbon around its neck. Love is a beautiful thing, after all. It would not do for it to look like common poison.
To begin with you’ll give it to him in whatever way you can: brush his hand with it when you retrieve something he dropped, or coat his spoon with it if you can serve him a meal. When he begins to trust you more you can smear it over his eyelids while he sleeps. Paint it over your lips before you kiss him, and he’ll forever know he’s yours.
But be careful, child. The potion will win you his heart, but if ever he learns how it was done the spell would break, and his heart would be his own again. He would go searching for the remnants of his strength, then, and if he knew where to find it he’d cut the key out of your belly.
But such are the risks of love, child – isn’t that so?