Harry Potter/Ron Weasley Harry Potter/Severus Snape
Harry Potter Ron Weasley Severus Snape
Romance Slash
Multiple Eras
Goblet of Fire
Published: 02/02/2003
Updated: 04/14/2003
Words: 58,873
Chapters: 14
Hits: 107,447

Primer to the Dark Arts


Story Summary:
Harry learns he is to be given private (and secret) tutoring in the Dark Arts to protect himself next time he meets Voldemort. His teacher? Professor Snape. Features ghost cats and cursed harps, spells that are supposed to go wrong and don't, a friendly sociopathic Death Eater... and Snape's very naughty, naughty library.

Chapter 01

Chapter Summary:
Harry learns he is to be given private (and secret) tutoring in the Dark Arts to protect himself next time he meets Voldemort. His teacher? Professor Snape. Features ghost cats and cursed harps, spells that are
Author's Note:
Thank you to CLS for a very thorough beta, story analysis and ratings review; ShadowPhyre for encouragment; and Belfrage the brilliant brit-pick who insisted on my writing more description, more detail, more of everything. A special thanks to Morrighan for her Long Road to Damascus and her insight into Snape. Likewise MartianHouseCat. A happy wave to Moira McDuff, just because.

Primer to the Dark Arts

by Icarus

Clouds roiled about the ceiling, dark and threatening. It looked like a good storm was brewing, and Harry glanced up at the ceiling, distracted from the Sorting. He hoped to catch that first flash of lightning before the rain started to fall. It was a rare chance to be out in a full storm without getting wet, here in the Great Hall. Some of the newly sorted First Years at the Gryffindor table looked up uneasily. They were going to get quite a shock when the rain started, and disappeared right above their heads. In a good downpour you could hardly see the person across the table.

Harry wondered what he would have made of a storm his first year at Hogwarts. He gave an encouraging smile to an obviously Muggle-born new Gryffindor, but she jumped at the first flash of lighting and didn't notice. Darn, he'd missed it. Oh well, there was plenty more where that came from. It was a wonder anyone could follow Dumbledore's speech.

Professor Dumbledore was telling everyone the Forbidden Forest was off limits (a fat lot of good that ever did, Harry thought) and finally, he had a few words for them all. Harry glanced at Ron next to him. They had their forks ready, and a bet on. They leaned forward, poised.

"Crumpet! Persimmon! Fluke!" Professor Dumbledore said triumphantly, and the feast began.

Harry's plate appeared, heaped with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, roast beef, corn on the cob; pumpkin juice appeared on his left, while the wonderful aroma of fresh baked rolls wafted down the table. But Ron had already dug in first, and was grinning from a mouth that was stuffed far too full. Hermione rolled her eyes in disgust. All right, all right, Harry owed him a Chocolate Frog. Harry made a strategic grab as the basket floated by a second time. Harry was just eyeing a Bakewell tart, wondering if he dare eat dessert first, when Professor McGonagall touched his shoulder. He was only thinking about it! But she had other things on her mind.

"Mr. Potter, Professor Dumbledore needs to see you in his chambers," she said. "You can finish your dinner first, of course."

Ron gazed after her as she returned to the teachers' table. The rain chose that moment to start and she disappeared behind its curtain.

"What was that about? You don't think you're in trouble already, do you?" he whispered, as much as one could whisper with a mouth full.

Harry shrugged. He couldn't think of anything he'd done yet.

But curiosity nagged at Harry throughout the feast. Not that it affected his appetite. His plate was clean even before the last trace of the feast magically disappeared. He never ate this well at the Dursleys', and always made up for lost time whenever he had the chance. Mrs. Weasley had chortled a year ago that he had a hollow leg. Well if he did, there was a lot more of it now. He had finally caught up to Ron's height. But he was still as thin as ever, and might always be, judging from photos of his father. Though the Dursleys certainly didn't help.

An hour later, while the other Gryffindors trouped up the tower to learn the new password, Harry stood nervously with Prof. McGonagall at the gargoyle which was the secret the entrance to Dumbledore's study.

"Butterscotch!" she said. "Now, go on up without me, Mr. Potter. Apparently, this is concerning a private matter." This made Harry even more curious than ever.

Classical music played as Harvey stepped into Dumbledore's outer chamber. Dumbledore's quarters were at once familiar, and new, as things had been rearranged and new wonders added since his last visit. Prof. Dumbledore sat in a wingback chair facing a roaring fire. The wings of the chair waved gently in time with the music. On a small table by the chair was an orchestra of tiny stringed instruments. They had arranged themselves in neat rows, and were playing by themselves as Dumbledore conducted with his wand. They came to the final crescendo at the end of the piece. Professor Dumbledore bowed to them and clapped.

"Uh.. Professor Dumbledore?" Harry interrupted tentatively.

"Harry, come in, come in!" He gestured to the instruments and explained. "Rehearsal."

The instruments started packing themselves up, chatting amongst themselves, with a squeak of chairs, various musical riffs and laughter. "I realize we've just had our feast, but would you care for some popping soda? I have lemon, and oh yes -- cherry, here it is. Never known a young man to ever stop being hungry - or thirsty. I'll have one myself. Always nice to have one after rehearsal. It went well this time, don't you think?"

Harry nodded absently as he watched the instruments hop to the armchair and each bow to Dumbledore as they left. He gratefully accepted the soda, and the staccato popping sound soon filled the air like small fireworks. Professor Dumbledore smiled.

"Nothing like a good popping soda. Well, what can I do for you, Harry?"

"You asked to see me...?" Harry said.

"Oh, yes, yes of course," Dumbledore frowned and sighed, "that."

"It's a serious matter, Harry..." Dumbledore looked thoughtfully at him.

"It seems you have encountered Voldemort in one form or another every year at Hogwarts. We are forced to assume that the sun will rise in the east, and the boomslang will shed its skin in spring. There are those who feel you need extra protection this year - "

Harry opened his mouth to protest but Dumbledore put up his hand.

"Now, now, Harry, it's already settled. The arguments have been argued, and there's no use in starting another one. There has been plenty of that already. You will be having extra classes. Private tutoring, to prepare you in case Lord Voldemort puts in another appearance. These classes, I fear, I am not qualified to teach you myself, or I would, gladly. But we do have one who is highly qualified in such matters..."

"One would hope you will prove better at the Dark Arts than you do at Potions, Mr. Potter."

Harry nearly jumped out of his skin at the all-too-familiar voice behind him. Professor Snape emerged from the shadows by the door.

"I am uncertain which is the greater waste of time: teaching you, or having to save you, yet again," Professor Snape continued, looking at Harry with disdain.

Snape must have been there the whole time. Or at least Harry thought so. He fervently hoped Snape couldn't walk through walls. Then what Snape had said finally sunk in. The Dark Arts...? Harry felt a faint chill. Though if he were honest with himself, he had to admit he was a little curious. Professor Dumbledore was speaking again.

"You will have to keep these classes 'under your hat' as they say. You will be Professor Snape's only pupil in this. Two evenings a week. You may have to miss a few Quidditch practices, I fear."

Extra classes? Alone? With Snape? Missing Quidditch practice? This was getting worse and worse, Harry thought. Snape turned to Dumbledore, ignoring Harry completely.

"Are you certain there might not be others who could benefit from my knowledge? Competent students, perhaps? If there are any, other than say, Granger?" Snape made a noise of disgust.

"Yes, Miss Granger is quite competent, isn't she? But I'm sure Harry will do fine." Professor Dumbledore stood and patted Harry's shoulder. Harry was still in shock at the bad news. It couldn't possibly be worse. "No doubt many could benefit from your assistance, Severus. I do. Nearly every day. But is not my policy to teach Dark Magic here at Hogwarts as you know. I have only been convinced that this is a singular and very unusual case. I admit - nothing we have tried thus far has worked. Until now we have mostly been saved by Harry's good luck. We can't count on that again."

Dumbledore turned to Harry. "You do understand why you must keep this a secret, no matter how hard that might prove?" Harry nodded. Malfoy would give his eyeteeth to learn Dark Magic. "Good. No one, not even your friends, must know."

"Good luck to you, Harry." Dumbledore's eyes sparkled. "And to you, Severus."

Snape stalked out with a bare nod to Dumbledore. One of the violins narrowly missed getting stepped on, skittering out of the way as Snape crossed the threshold. Harry knew how it felt.

But was it Harry's imagination, or did Dumbledore seem worried when he looked at Snape?


The moment Harry dreaded finally came, towards the end of Potions class a few weeks into the school year.

Harry had almost managed to forget the looming class on Dark Magic, immersed as he was in the flurry of Quidditch practice, new classes and the excitement of seeing all his friends again. He had certainly hoped Snape had, as one week, then another passed without a word about it.

"Mr. Potter," Snape said darkly. "Please see me after class today."

Harry's heart sank to his toes. Ron and Hermione looked at each other, aghast, and some of the Slytherins snickered and elbowed each other to look in Harry's direction. Snape smiled at them.

Ron whispered, "Harry... Snape's really got in for you this year! You didn't do a thing!"

"Sh," Hermione hissed at Ron under her breath, "don't give him any excuse to take points, too. Do be careful, Harry."

She looked worriedly at Snape. Professor Snape had always been unfair, had always favored the Slytherins, but he had never given punishments for no reason before, however thin his excuses had been in the past.

"It's okay," Harry said. "I think I know what it is."

"What is it?" Ron asked. Hermione looked puzzled.

"It's... it's fine," was all Harry could say. The two looked at each other with surprise.

But of course it wasn't fine, not with Snape as a teacher. He was spared more questions, because at that moment class was dismissed. Gryffindors and Slytherins started packing up their books and wands, flooded past and edged between Harry and his friends. Snape crooked a finger at him, and Harry shrugged at them apologetically. At the door, Hermione hovered uncertainly, and Ron gave him a cringing smile. Then the door to the dungeon separated them and fell slowly shut.

"Follow me," Snape turned in a swirl of black robes, without looking back to check if Harry actually did follow. "Bring only the wand. Nothing else you own is up to this."

With a backward glance at his books, Harry trailed Snape. Snape wove a circuitous route through the castle dungeons. Dust lay thick on the floor of the last passage, and they came to an ancient wooden door with large, old-fashioned hinges. It looked big enough to have been built for Hagrid. With a Spell and password, it opened onto the cavern where the first years arrived every year from across the lake. Or big enough for a boat, Harry realised. Snape gestured to one of Hagrid's boats.

"Get in."

Snape stepped in, and Harry clambered into the bow. Snape untied the moorings and murmured something unintelligible. The boat shot forward as if powered by an outboard motor. Caught off guard, Harry was thrown back into his seat. Hagrid was never so abrupt.

"Try not to drown yourself on the first day," Snape sneered, and he steered their boat through the cavern and out onto open water.

Harry looked over his shoulder, and up. He had forgotten how enormous the towers and battlements of Hogwarts looked from the water far below. It occurred to Harry that he hadn't been this way really, since his first glimpse of Wizarding School seven years before. It was impressive.

Ahead, the sun hung low over the dark Forbidden Forest shrouded in twilight. Snape urged the boat faster with a word.

Spray spit over the bow, showering Harry where he clung to it as the boat skipped forward. Snape casually, lazily, turned the boat to avoid the lunging arm of a sea monster, and then steered a course for the furthest bank, heading directly for the Forbidden Forest. Harry held onto the bow a little tighter.

As they moored at the dock, Snape barely paused long enough for Harry to scramble out of the rocking boat.

"Quickly - child - we have barely enough time left before nightfall!" Snape said irritably.

Harry muttered under his breath, "I'm not a child..." but otherwise held his peace.

At the edge of the Forbidden Forest Harry instinctively reached for his wand. A twig snapped to the left, and something scampered away. Otherwise, it took Harry a moment to realise what was so strange - there wasn't a sound. Not so much as a cricket chirp. Snape didn't even pause at this unnatural silence, but drew his inky black cloak about his shoulders and virtually melted into the twilight, striding briskly along the narrow trail. Harry scrambled to keep up before he lost sight of Snape entirely.

They followed this trail for a while, then turned onto one less well-tended, hardly more than a game trail. Snape muttered Spells under his breath as they hurried, and turned left than right, avoiding more promising trails for the most rutted. On his own, Harry would have been quickly lost.

Once as they passed an intersecting branch, sparks broke over Harry's head. He stopped, startled.

Snape turned and hissed at him. 'Keep close!'

There was a low rumble, like a growl and Harry felt the ground shudder. He leapt out of the way just as wooden spike-like teeth snapped out of the forest floor, nicking his heels.

Harry followed Snape very closely after that. If Snape noticed, he gave no indication.

They finally came to a dim but otherwise rather ordinary clearing. In the middle was a boulder about the height of a table; on it was a bud vase. Beyond that was a low rock wall.

Snape turned dramatically, while Harry paused warily at the edge of the clearing, wondering what all-important role a bud vase played in Dark Magic.

"We have come here," said Snape portentously, "because the Dark Arts cannot be practiced in on the grounds of Hogwarts proper; even less so in the castle itself. There are many protections against it -- I'm certain even you can appreciate the reasons for this. I suggest you not come here unless you are with me, nor bring any of your little friends, as no doubt you are tempted to do. The penalty is more than detention. I have arranged some rather... unpleasant... surprises for those who might think to interrupt, or spy, on our class."

Snape looked pleased and self-satisfied, and Harry had no doubt that if Snape had thought of them, these 'surprises' were very nasty indeed. Snape would enjoy that.

"Now ... " Snape suddenly had Harry's full attention. "Let's take off your training wheels. Dark Magic is advanced from the very outset; there is no beginning or children's level. I will show you what real Magic is."

As Snape muttered a low sonorous incantation, he seemed to grow in menace and power. His eyes rolled back and blazed. The simple Potions master Harry knew was gentle and harmless compared to the man before Harry now. Professor Snape aimed a spell at the rock wall beyond, swinging his wand with an unfamiliar hurling motion.

The rock wall cracked, broke apart, and crumbled into a pile of dust. Snape viewed his destruction calmly.

"Age, Potter," he said, with a small look of triumph at Harry's stunned face, "just age. A thousand years in a moment to be exact. The Dark Arts have twice the power of the... simple... magic you have been learning all these years. Dark Magic is so... unconstrained. You have not lived as a wizard until you have experienced it. The likes of Dumbledore - they do not understand. But you shall."

"Of course, so much power takes years to learn. But you will begin with this." And he handed Harry the bud vase. Harry turned it over in his hands, mystified. It seemed perfectly ordinary. Then Snape plucked a handful of fresh, pretty pink rosebuds from his robe and dropped them into Harry's hands.

"You will age these till they are blackened twigs."

Harry blinked stupidly at Snape, hoping for an explanation of some kind.

"Well? Imbecile. Put one in the vase. I don't want you to miss and wreck our only table," Snape gestured to the rock.

It was hard to say whether the next hour was more frustrating for Harry, or for Professor Snape. The first problem was proper wand position and gesture, which was entirely different for Dark Magic. Snape corrected Harry again and again, grumbling and muttering things such as "should have learned this in the first year" and "short-sighted school masters." He was trembling with irritation by the end, though fortunately most of it did not seem to be directed at Harry.

Finally, once Harry had the gesture, the wand position, and the incantation down (this last was not too different from what Harry knew), Harry aimed the spell over and over again at the pink rose bud.

Nothing happened.

It didn't seem to matter whether he missed and hit the table or not. The spell just... fizzled. The rose bud didn't even open, let alone turn black like it was supposed to. And Harry had a hard time wanting to kill it.

"You are holding back, Potter," Snape said in bored frustration.

"But... but what if it's too much?" Harry wondered aloud. He quickly regretted asking any questions in this class.

"It's supposed to be too much!" Snape was out of what little patience he owned. "Tender-hearted Fool! The spell is meant to do damage! That is the point."

Snape gathered his composure, grumbling, "... why couldn't I have Malfoy, he would excel at this... even that insufferable Granger..." Snape took a deep breath.

"Look here, Potter." Snape drew Harry uncomfortably close with a vise-like grip, breathing down his neck. "Through some cruel prank, a twisted joke of fate, I am stuck with you. You, of all persons, as my sole student. The sole inheritor of all my knowledge. I do not know whether to laugh or go mad." Harry though privately he was doing quite well at the latter. His arm was starting to go numb. "Somehow, I must manage to sieve all my experience and knowledge of the Dark Arts into that teeny, tiny, little brain of yours. Now I may be gentle and accepting in Potions class -

- at this Harry goggled -

"- but I will not be so tolerant here! You will learn, Potter. If I must kill both you and I in order to do so. Bear in mind the order of that, by-the-way.

"Class dismissed," Snape said wearily, and released Harry, "I can tolerate no more of this today."

Harry followed Snape, staring miserably at his back as they followed the path through the Forest back to the boats. Snape's disappointment was palpable in every line. If there was one thing Harry hated, it was letting someone down. Even if that someone was Snape. Harry wished he could be back at Hogwarts faster. He fervently looked forward to Arithmancy... Divinations... Charms... any normal wizarding class, with his whole heart.

Over the next few weeks, Harry's second and third classes in Dark Magic were no better. His fourth was, if possible, worse. All that improved was Snape's sarcasm, which increased in its accuracy and sting with Harry's every mistake, as there seemed more and more ground for Snape's opinion.

"I would call you an abysmal failure, and give up, Potter, if it were acceptable under the circumstances."

"Do it again!"

"Do try at least to have an effect. Of one kind or another. Even Mr. Longbottom, despite his capacity for destruction, usually manages to accomplish something."

It became clear that Snape wasn't just being unfair this time. Harry slowly came to the dawning conclusion that he was genuinely bad at the Dark Arts. Nothing he did went right. Or rather - wrong. Things in Dark Magic were supposed to go wrong. Harry began to feel sorry - or more sorry than he had - for Neville Longbottom, who was bad at everything. Except Herbology. Now Harry knew what it felt like. He began to happily visualize Snape dressed in Neville's grandmother's clothes, stuffed vulture hat and all.

What made the class even harder was the fact Harry could never practice - of course, since Dark Magic wasn't allowed on Hogwarts' grounds. And Harry couldn't even come to the clearing where it was taught without getting snared by one of Snape's booby traps. He couldn't ask for help from his friends. He was sworn to secrecy by Professor Dumbledore. And Harry wasn't even allowed to study his notes where others could see. Worst of all, his Quidditch was falling off, because of all the practices he was forced to miss for Snape's class.

The excuse Snape had for his sporadic absences a couple nights a week was that Harry had detentions. A lot of detentions. The Slytherins were overjoyed. Meanwhile the Gryffindors became as quiet as mice in Snape's class, shocked into submission. There were angry mutters and plans for revenge in the Gryffindor common room, many of which were stopped by Professor McGonagall.

As Snape's first test drew near, Harry grew desperate. He started carrying his Dark Arts notes with him everywhere, tucked in his book bag, studying at every opportunity. No one would ever look for them there, he was sure.

It was in Potions class that disaster fell.

Harry's bag was on the floor, slightly open where he had taken out his potions kit. Harry was stirring a Calming potion, trying to get it to turn a proper fuchsia - Ron's was looking a strange green and they couldn't figure out what they'd done to it - when Snape suddenly stopped at Harry's cauldron. At that moment, Harry remembered where his notes were. He shut his eyes, praying hard that Snape wouldn't look down. Don't look down - please, don't look down. Snape stooped, and ever so slowly, seized the scroll of notes.

"What's this?" Snape hissed at the back of Harry's neck. "Potter. If you cannot be trusted to keep these from wandering around, then you must do your homework from memory! No doubt, our hero Harry Potter can manage to recall a few simple spells?"

Simple spells? It was the hardest class Harry had ever had! Harry watched as his notes, his only lifeline in Snape's impossible Dark Arts class, disappeared into the folds of Snape's robes. He followed Snape with his eyes as he stalked back to his desk, and closed the precious scroll of notes into one of his drawers. There was a whir of several different locking mechanisms and spells, and the drawer clicked shut.

There was nothing for it. Regardless of the consequences, Harry had to get help. He had to get those notes back.

Finis. Next 'The Book of Eros.'