Draco Malfoy Harry Potter Hermione Granger Severus Snape
Drama Slash
The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire
Published: 07/17/2003
Updated: 08/11/2003
Words: 114,996
Chapters: 43
Hits: 388,758

Snakes and Lions


Story Summary:
When Ron and Hermione get together, they notice only each other. A nightmare prompts Harry to return alone to the empty Chamber of Secrets, and leads to a new look at an old enemy. Harry enjoys the company, but with Bellatrix LeStrange actively hunting him, how far can he trust a Death Eater's son? (H/D -- mostly friendship, progressing to mild slash) Sixth year. Rated R for unseemly behavior (drinking, stealing, and Dark Arts), occasional cursing (the non-magical sort), and off-screen violence.
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Chapter 26 - The Potions Master

Chapter Summary:
Harry asks an unthinkable question

The Potions Master

"Professor?" Harry asked tentatively, at his Tuesday evening potions lab. Snape responded merely by fixing his gaze on Harry. Harry forced himself to continue, trying his best to sound casually curious. "Could one use the Imperius Curse on a snake, sir?"

Snape stared. Draco became very focused on his work. Harry shifted one of his glass bowls, and the slight "tingk" of glass on stone resounded in the silence.

Snape's eyes narrowed. "One can use the Imperius Curse on anything, Mr. Potter."

"How well would it work on a snake, though? If someone cast Imperius on it, then I gave it another order, what would happen?"

"Ah," Snape said, rather lightly, "you mean that if one happened to be a Parselmouth, could one overcome the Imperius Curse on a snake?" He shifted as he spoke, his stance and expression growing less severe, to better match his unconcerned tone. "Quite honestly, Mr. Potter, I have no idea. Parselmouths are rare, and, as a Hogwarts graduate, I do not have a solid theoretical understanding of the Dark Arts."

Harry restrained himself from inquiring about Snape's practical understanding of the Dark Arts. He was not supposed to know about that. Instead, he nodded. "I understand, sir." He returned to teasing individual hairs out of his mat of fur. "Would it be illegal for me to test it?" he continued. "I can usually find adders. Would practicing an Unforgivable Curse on an animal count? We were shown it on a spider." Harry could not help thinking that it was a very dark wizard who had shown them that curse on a spider.

Snape's eyes narrowed again.

"It would not be illegal to practice the Imperius Curse on an animal," he conceded. His voice grew much harsher. "However, it would be practicing Dark Arts, which Hogwarts in general, and Professor Dumbledore in particular, do not regard with favor."

Harry looked down at his work and nodded. "Yes sir," he whispered. He waited for Draco's usual comment about his face going "Gryffindor red", but Draco did not say anything until much later, when they needed to discuss ingredient additions.

At 9:20, Snape told them to start cleaning, and ten minutes later, he was pushing Draco Malfoy out the door. Draco passed Hermione in the hall outside. His back was to them, and if he said anything, it was not audible, but Harry could clearly see Hermione's glare.

"Ah, Miss Granger," Professor Snape said silkily, before Hermione had quite reached the door. Snape stepped to block the doorway and placed a hand on Harry's shoulder. His fingers dug in slightly. "Mr. Potter and I have an urgent matter to discuss. Return to your dormitory. I will escort him back myself, after our conference."

Hermione looked questioningly at Harry. Harry did his best to keep his terror from his face. He nodded subtly.

"I could wait. . . ." Hermione offered hesitantly.

"That will not be necessary, Miss Granger."

Ice, Harry thought. Black ice. He nodded again, more obviously, at Hermione and mouthed "go". She looked unhappy.

"Yes, Professor," she said, and walked back the way she had come. Quickly, Snape pulled Harry inside and shut the door.

"This way," he said. He strode to the front of the lab, and sat behind his desk. In a moment his wand was out and pointed at the door, on which he performed both a locking and a silencing charm. That done, he settled into his chair and steepled his fingers on the desk before him. He watched Harry in silence for a moment. Harry waited.

"Tell me, Mr. Potter," Snape asked. "What would be the purpose of casting the Imperius Curse upon a snake? Your own snake is not dangerous, and I cannot imagine you are afraid someone will force it to attack you."

"That's true, sir. However, if another Parselmouth is present, I cannot be sure of a snake obeying me."

"Popular knowledge is that the only other currently living Parselmouth in Britain is the Dark Lord."

"Exactly," Harry replied. "When Tom Riddle -- Voldemort -- and I were in the Chamber of Secrets, the basilisk obeyed him, because he was the heir of Slytherin."


"Nagini, also, obeys Voldemort."

Snape looked puzzled. "Do you think Lord Voldemort uses the Imperius Curse on her?" he asked.

"No," Harry answered. "But perhaps I could."

Snape's eyes widened. "On...." he twitched slightly. "You do not think you could make her turn on ... her master?"

"No." Harry shook his head firmly. "At least, I wouldn't chance it. If I tried, she might resist. However, she would probably not resist being turned on the Death Eaters, whom she terrorizes. If the Imperius Curse can wrest control of her from Voldemort, even briefly, it could significantly sway the odds in that sort of situation, more so if he needs to focus significant attention on her to regain control."

Snape sat back, his mouth slightly open. "I see." He looked at Harry appraisingly, as if seeing him for the first time. "Draco said you should have been in Slytherin." He straightened then, and gave Harry a thin, tight-lipped smile. "Yes, that could be very effective." Snape stood and began to pace, his robes swirling about him at each turn. "Understand, Mr. Potter, that you are in disgrace. Your traditional protectors are angry with you. Should you choose to attempt this experiment, you must not be caught."

"I understand, sir."

"Good." Snape stopped and leaned sideways in the doorway to his storeroom. His free hand came up to his hip. It was an oddly casual pose that made him look years younger and much less threatening than usual.

"That said, Potter," he added, almost idly, "is there any way in which I might assist you?"

Harry let out a breath he hadn't known he was holding in. He smiled tentatively. "Any chance you could catch a snake or two for me, and have them down here, next time? I could stay late, again."

Snape nodded. "I can do that," he said. He smiled thinly. "I will."

"Shall I say you'll escort me back? Or should I just tell Hermione that sessions will be ending at ten, from now on?"

"The latter would be better. As far as young Malfoy is concerned, the session ends at 9:30, and Hermione is always a bit late to fetch you, understood?"

Harry nodded. He could tell Snape did not trust Draco not to pass this idea on to his father, and he wasn't certain he trusted Draco with this, himself. "Completely, Professor," he said. He looked down, then, with a soft smile, up again. "Hermione gets very engrossed in her studies."

All week, Harry fretted about the scheduled meeting with Professor Snape. He woke during the middle of the night, the first night, realizing he had just arranged to experiment with an Unforgivable curse, and lay awake, disgusted, guilt-stricken, and terrified. He eventually decided he would just tell Snape he had thought better of it, and fell back into a restful slumber.

In the morning, he tried to remember exactly what he had said to Snape. Perhaps he could just try overcoming the Imperius Curse in a snake. After all, he reasoned, Dumbledore had quiris. Snape could not be expected to be able to approach them, as he was summoned as a Death Eater too frequently to not reek of Dark Arts, but Harry was expected to be able to approach them. If he explained that to Snape, the Potions master would probably agree that Harry should not cast the curse himself. Harry tried to put the matter out of his mind, and for a few days, he nearly managed to do so.

On Saturday, Harry, Ron, and Hermione finally paid a visit to Hagrid. Harry had to remind Hermione to get permission from McGonagall -- Hagrid's was not on the list of places he was allowed to go. She granted that readily enough, and Harry found himself down in the familiar room, endangering his teeth by attempting to nibble on some of Hagrid's baking.

"Saw yer last practice, Harry," Hagrid said. "Team seems to have settled out some, since the game."

"Some," Harry agreed. He had again assigned Damian to trying to take him out, but Ryan to protecting the Chasers. Damian, encouragingly, seemed to be getting bored with doing nothing but slamming Bludgers at Harry, even though they occasionally hit.

"Never seen Gryffindor play so poorly. Yeh were fine, Harry, but -"

"They were mad at me." At Hagrid's puzzled look, Harry rolled his eyes. "About Draco."

Since the Gryffindor/Ravenclaw match, the other Gryffindors had mostly returned to treating Harry as they normally did. Harry thought it had helped that when Dean returned, he and Harry had gotten into a long talk about life with Muggles. Dean thought of his Muggle life as the "Real World." Harry explained that he thought of his wizarding life as the "Real World." It had been a long and meandering conversation, which left them closer than they had been before Draco, never mind over February.

Hagrid's brows came down. "Can't say yeh haven't improved him," he commented. "Bin acting like a civilized bein', this last month. Yeh bin goin' cold, though -- don't think no one's noticed! If it's got t'come out of yeh to him, I'd rather yeh both stayed as yeh were."

"I am not cold!" Harry snapped. In truth, he felt as if he were burning.

"No?" Hagrid shrugged and poked the fire. "Got a problem with yer glasses then?" He turned and looked at Harry. "In my experience, if a person don' see me, it means he don' want ter see me."

Harry half-covered his face with his hands. "Sorry," he said. He looked desperately at Hagrid. "It was only the once, wasn't it? I didn't want to fight, that's all."

"An' yeh were wi' him?"

"No!" Harry said. "Or just -- that was why I was afraid we'd fight. He knows you're my friend, Hagrid. I told him you were the first person I ever remember being nice to me, really, and he promised to not be so awful to you."

Hagrid looked a long while at Harry, then nodded. "Well, he's bin keepin' that promise, more or less. But if yeh treat all your friends that way, when you're with him, it's no wonder people are angry at yeh."

Harry looked desperately at Hermione. "I don't, do I?"

"What, ignore everyone when Draco's with you? You absolutely do, Harry."

Harry stared at the fire. "Oh," he said. He looked up. "But I can see you any time. I can see you in Gryffindor, in all my classes...."

"That's true," Hermione said neutrally.

"I can't imagine a conversation with both of you."

Hagrid laughed. "Yeh can run with the fox and hunt with the hounds, Harry, but not at once."

Sunday night, Harry dreamed he was in the tunnel before the Chamber of Secrets, casting Osum Crema after Draco. Red fire jetted from his wand and flared to blue on contact with the scattered bones. A matching flare of power shot through Harry's soul, and Draco laughed with Harry's delight.

"You're brilliant!" he exclaimed. His face was flushed and beautiful, then he looked over Harry's shoulder and went deathly pale. Harry turned and saw the Death Eaters, again standing in ranks in the narrow tunnel. An elegant, blond man strode to the front, his wand drawn.

"Avada Kadavra," he commanded, and green light shot from his wand to envelope the white dragon by Harry's side. The dragon fell, and Lord Voldemort rose like a puppeteer behind his legion of followers. Harry's vision blurred. He realized his own wand was of little use against Voldemort's, and seized from the ashy ground the one Draco had dropped. It felt stiff and unfamiliar in his hand, but the hot power from his previous casting was still coursing through him.

"Avada Kadavra," Harry said, almost teasingly, and Voldemort fell in a blast of green light. A second Osum Crema set the Death Eaters before him burning from the inside out.

Harry woke feeling cheerful. A minute later, he was shaking. He could not get back to sleep.

Draco put the scrubbed cauldron upside-down to dry. "That's it, then," he said.

"You should get going," Harry urged. "Hermione's probably deep in some book, and will run down when she finishes the chapter."

Draco glared at Harry, then briefly indicated Snape with a movement of his eyes. "I hate to leave you alone."

"He will not be alone, Mr. Malfoy," Snape said dryly. "He will be with me. I am a teacher, as you may recall. I will see that he safely meets his house prefect."

Draco smiled disarmingly at Snape. "But I'm really not in any hurry --" he began.

"You," Snape retorted, "are supposed to be back in Slytherin, at this time. As your head of house, I require you to leave, immediately."

Draco, looking rather sullen, left.

As soon as Draco had turned the corner, Snape eased the door shut and locked it with a spell. Gesturing for Harry to follow, he strode to the front of the room, sat at his desk, and summoned another chair up from the floor, for Harry. He motioned for Harry to sit, then cast a silencing charm on the locked door. He sneered at Harry, who was still standing.

"Well, Potter?"

"I've been having second thoughts, sir," Harry blurted out.

"Yes, of course you have. I would worry if you had not." Distractedly, Snape motioned to the chair. "Come now, sit. We must discuss this."

Harry sat. "Well, first," he said awkwardly, thinking that while sincere talks with Snape were no longer a ludicrous concept, they didn't exactly feel natural, either, "there's just the 'no, no, no, you musn't,' screaming at the back of my mind." Snape looked amused, so Harry pressed on. "Then there are practical matters, such as the quiris."

"The quiris?"

"You do know about them?"

"Yes, yes. Horsyr has three in her quarters. Revolting creatures. She, of course, says I only think that because I am steeped in Dark magic...." Snape frowned at Harry. "How did you know about the quiris?"

Harry looked down briefly. "You told Dumbledore what Draco had said. He decided to test me, rather than asking."

Snape's eyes flashed dangerously. "I was quite clear --"

"He told me. You were quite sure Draco was lying. He wasn't. He had to see me hold the quiri."


"Not entirely."

Snape studied Harry. "Explain," he demanded.

"Well, I'm considering doing this, right? And Draco did get me to do one bit of Dark magic -- in January. I didn't actually realize it was ... but just because I wasn't thinking, really. It wasn't a spell I'd heard of."

"Then he is not as stupid as he seems."


"It's not an outright lie to say he is teaching you Dark Arts." Snape looked pleased. "That will enable him to stand up to a cursory interrogation by his father -- one using minor truth magic...."

"I suppose."

"Reassuring. I'd thought Draco was risking too much on a blatant invention." Snape leaned back and looked searchingly at Harry. "So, how did it feel?"

"Um..."After a moment of frantic confusion, Harry realized what Snape must mean. "The actual casting?"

Snape nodded. Harry shivered.

"I wasn't ready for that ... that feeling," he tried. Snape raised an eyebrow, daring him to continue. "The power, just.... It was fantastic. I was breaking glass just to see it shatter.... I wanted everything exploding, breaking, burning...." Harry stopped, frightened by the wonder in his own voice.

Snape's mouth quirked, and he looked almost demurely down.

"The Imperius Curse," he said, his voice touched with something like reverence. "It will be much, much more. Do you think you can handle it, Mr. Potter?"

"I was thinking," Harry said, embarrassed, "perhaps we could start with you casting, and me trying to regain control. That is the first relevant part. We can't fully do it the other way, in any case, because you are not a Parselmouth."

"And you want to be alone with me, when I am drunk on power?" Snape asked, already with a threatening delight.

Harry shook his head. "Honestly, no, but I don't know anyone else who would do this whom I wouldn't trust less."

At that, Snape laughed outright. "Little Gryffindor," he sneered, "merely thinking like a Slytherin helps you not at all."

"I know," Harry agreed, with a weak smile. "I jump into it, anyway."

Snape nodded, a faint smile still on his lips. "Let us begin, then. Accio Serpent!"

Snape had brought three wild snakes. He held up the first, gripping it firmly right behind its open mouth. Harry could feel that it was angry and frightened. He started to speak to it, but Snape gestured him to silence.

"You should know, Mr. Potter, that we have various spells which provide control over animals. The permissible one in general use, the Domitus Charm, works well on mammals of low intelligence, such as goats and horses -- even magical ones, such as flying horses -- but has a much more limited effect on reptiles or birds. There are specific spells for some birds and amphibians -- for example, there is a charm to control eagles, and one to summon frogs. However, the Imperius Curse is the only control spell to have a significant effect on snakes, dragons, and most terrestrial lizards."

Harry nodded. He had determined most of that during his own library research on controlling snakes.

"As a first experiment, I shall put this snake under the Imperius Curse, and you will attempted to gain control of it. If that fails, we will try with the second, but you will establish a rapport with it before I cast the Imperius. If that fails, you will command the third snake, then I will counter-command it with Imperius."

In no case were Harry's attempts to gain or keep control of the snakes successful. Snape seemed pleased, but did not agree when Harry suggested the experiment was concluded.

"Hardly, Mr. Potter," Snape said sarcastically. His tone was almost normal, but he shifted restlessly as he spoke. A smile flickered briefly across his face, then was gone. Harry thought how odd it was to see a trace of color in Snape's cheeks when he was less than furious. "Nagini is well bonded to her master. I suggest we try on your own snake, before jumping to any conclusions."

Harry looked uneasily at his sleeve. The wild snakes did not seem to be suffering any ill effects from the Imperius Curse, and Harry had been through it himself, but he still did not like the idea.

Snape slipped around behind Harry, who was seated, and bent so close that Harry could feel the Potions master's breath on his neck. "You have been through this, Potter," Snape sneered, at a whisper that was overwhelming, as the only sound in the large room. "All of your classmates have been through this. You seem no worse than before."

Harry willed himself to make a sound. "Susara?" he called. The snake spiraled out at his collar and hissed in Snape's face. To Harry's relief, Snape shifted back, giving him a little space. The Potions master chuckled.

"What a brave little serpent."

"Does he hurt you?" Susara asked.

"No." Harry swallowed. "We are trying to do something, seeing if my voice can counter a magical command. It does not work on snakes that do not know me. Would you be willing to be let him -- my teacher -- cast a curse on you, so we can see if I can counter it? He will release you as soon as we are finished."

Snape had moved back to his side of the table, but he was leaning over it, the glittering blackness of his eyes locked on Harry.

"I am willing," Susara said simply. Harry wondered guiltily if that counted.

"She consents, sir," he said.

At Harry's words, Snape relaxed. He shook his hair back over his shoulders, in a gesture Harry had never seen before. "Good," he said. He took the small wooden cooling block they had been using in the previous experiments, and set it on the long edge. "You tell her to stay away from this. When you are ready, I will tell her to knock it down."


"What now, child?"

"A positive command is easier than a negative one." Harry gestured over at one of the equipment racks. "Perhaps I could bring that over and tell her to climb up and down it?"

Snape raised his eyebrows. "A good thought, Potter. Five points to Gryffindor." He smirked. "Better hope nobody asks how you earned them."

At Harry's command, Susara began cheerfully spiraling up, across, and down the rack. Once she had set up a neat little circuit, Snape drew his wand.

"Imperio," Snape whispered silkily. Susara paused.

"Keep going, beautiful," Harry urged. "Up, now."

Susara went up, jerkily, then stopped again. She looked over at the block. Her upper body stretched out and wavered like a reed in the wind. Harry glanced over at Snape. He had never seen Snape look so pleased. He was leaning back in his chair, smiling at nothing and twirling his wand end over end in his fingers.

"Up, Susara," Harry hissed. "Climb. That lovely feeling he gives you is false." Susara went up two more turns, then paused again.

"You will do as I command," Harry hissed forcefully. "Up! Climb!"

Susara went all the way to the top of the rack. Snape let out a shaky laugh.

"Finite Incantantum."

Released, Susara panicked. Harry reached out, and she let him pick her off the rack, but the tail she wrapped around his wrist was only for balance.

"Little one? You did beautifully. I did not mean to frighten you."

"Master?" Susara asked uncertainly.

"I'm sorry, beautiful. You are my dear pet. It's over, now."

"You see? Your own snake, you could control."

"Yes." Harry stroked Susara comfortingly. She lashed anxiously back and forth. "But it was an effort. And I frightened her."

Snape laughed. "I doubt Nagini is so sensitive to harsh words." His eyes glittered. "That is all for tonight, I think."

"Do we have more to do?" Harry asked, with a twinge of apprehension.

"That is up to you," Snape responded, "but in this plan of yours, you will be casting the Imperius Curse, not countering it. I would suggest that you do not want to be doing so for the first time when trapped before your enemy, with all my dubious associates around you. It is not a simple spell. Furthermore, one who has cast the Imperius Curse may be better at countering it. I am not asking you to do that now, but please consider the exercise, over the next week."

Harry shivered. "I'll think about it."

"Do that." Snape stood and began to pace restlessly. "We have five minutes before your escort arrives. Have you any questions?"

Why am I doing this?

Harry thought, rather desperately. Oh, right. I need a strategy. He felt the lists in his pocket.

"It's a bit tangential, professor...."

Snape pivoted smartly. He attention focused with uncomfortable intensity on Harry. "Well? Continue."

"I ... I've been making lists, of people's strengths and weaknesses -- I was wondering if you could help me with some of the Death Eaters."

Snape froze. After a moment, he said:

"I cannot give you names. Tell me who you know, and I will tell you what I can about each."

They had just started on Avery when a knock came at the door. Immediately, Snape took down the silencing and locking charms.

"Very well, Potter. We will continue this at a later time. Come in, Miss Granger."

Harry stood and nodded.

"Thank you for your time, sir."

Snape gave a slight nod of acknowledgment. "Good night, Mr. Potter."

Chapter 27 -- The Death Eater's son is summoned