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 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.
- Author's Note:
- Thank you to CLS for the Beta review and many helpful suggestions; Belfrage for Brit-Picking and encouragement.
How to Avoid Your Best Friend
The fat lady in the portrait was fast asleep when they returned to the Gryffindor tower. It took them several tries and Harry hammering on the picture frame to wake her, and she was none too pleased.
"Mmmph - it's five o'clock in the morning... if you haven't slept by now, why even bother? Can't you sleep somewhere else?" she complained, pillowing her head on her hands and turning away. But she did let them in. She was always a softie.
Harry woke the next morning feeling mellow, relaxed, and grateful it was Saturday. It was nice to have a peaceful morning to sleep in. He felt a sort of warm glow from the night before and wanted to enjoy it.
A toad whizzed by directly over his head, and then fluttered up for a perfect two-point landing on the bedpost. He heard a squeak, "Hey, you give him back!"
It was Neville Longbottom. Harry assumed someone had decided to practice transformation spells on Neville's toad, Trevor. For a toad who had just learned how to fly, Trevor was pretty good at it. As Seamus approached cautiously, Trevor swooped over Ron's bed, disappearing into the draperies.
"I think we have to catch him first. Maybe we shouldn't have started with the wings..."
"Close the window! Close the window!" someone else shouted.
Ron was snoring loudly, curled up in the bed next to Harry's. He was oblivious to the chaos around him.
"Hey, Harry, you're up. Wow, you two can sleep through anything! You shoulda' seen the last thing we turned Trevor into - " said Seamus.
" - I've got him! I've got him!"
The hapless Trevor squirmed and fluttered, but was returned to normal. He lunged and took a jump. He landed on Harry's covers looking somewhat disappointed.
"Sorry, Trevor. I guess toads aren't meant to fly," said Harry, as he handed him back to Neville. Neville shot a dark look at Seamus and huddled protectively over Trevor as he carried his toad back to his box.
Halfway through lunch, Ron wandered in, yawning and rubbing his eyes. He looked generally grumpy and disgruntled. He sat down next to Seamus, staring at the food that suddenly appeared on his plate as if it had insulted him.
"Flying toads... can't you let a guy sleep!" Ron complained bitterly, stabbing into some chips with his fork.
Later that afternoon Harry suggested to Ron that they have another look at the Book. But Ron was still in a foul mood and brushed Harry off irritably. So they played a game of Three-Dimensional Pool instead. The balls, no more than three inches across each, were suspended in space in a kind of Sphere with a permanent Hovering Charm. The goal was to knock all of your pieces into the centre of the Sphere, while preventing your opponent from doing the same. Ron was still in a bad mood, but everything seemed fine until he missed an easy shot. Suddenly he swore, threw down his cue and stormed off.
"Ron - it's just a game!" Harry called after him, but Ron slammed the door as he left.
The following day was no better. Harry learned from Neville that Ron was going to Hogsmeade with Fred and George, even though it wasn't an official Hogsmeade weekend. Harry caught up with Ron and asked him about it.
"And I'm not invited?" Harry asked Ron, stunned.
"Uh, yeah, sure. I just - just didn't know you wanted to come," Ron said lamely.
"You thought I wouldn't want to go to Hogsmeade?" Harry was incredulous.
But Ron hardly spoke to Harry the entire trip, and kept Fred or George between them whenever possible. He was very nervous and dropped things in Zonko's Joke Shop - not a safe place to drop anything. Harry suspected he knew what was wrong, and wished they had used the Memory Charm after all. Ron acted like Harry was going to jump all over him - which frankly, Harry would like to do and had thought about a lot since the incident with the Book - but that didn't mean he was going to! Finally Harry pointed out:
"You know what, Ron? You were there, too. And we could always have used the Memory Charm."
"You - remember something I can't? No. No way! I couldn't give you that kind of advantage!" Ron said.
"What do you mean, advantage?" Harry asked, feeling suddenly strange.
"You know..." Ron tuned beet red and looked away.
Harry turned and left, shocked as much as he was angry. He wasn't at all sure what Ron meant, but he had a feeling he should be insulted. After all, Ron was his best friend. Harry refused to speak with Ron after that, and Ron continued to avoid him. Hermione sat between the two of them at breakfast Monday morning, as they sat eating in stone cold silence.
"What is wrong with you two?" she asked in frustration.
But of course they couldn't explain, now could they?
Ron started spending all of his time with Hermione after that. He went with her to the library. He helped carry her enormous collection of books between classes, even dropping them off when they didn't have class together. He hovered over Hermione in the common room.
"What 'cha reading?" Ron asked.
"Homework." Hermione said absently.
"Oh.... yeah?" Ron asked (as if this were the most surprising thing in the world, Harry thought contemptuously), " - really? So... what's it about?"
"Our assignment for Charms tomorrow. Oh, don't tell me you haven't done it yet? We've had all week! I'm just polishing up the rough edges. I just can't remember if it was the Witch of Windsor or Malmsbury that invented simultaneous Hovering Charms..."
Ron looked surprised. Apparently he'd forgotten it. Come to think of it, Harry had, too.
"Oh." Then his eyes brightened. "Can... can you help me with it?"
"It's on page one hundred and forty-seven," Hermione answered shortly. Ron sat looking at her. "Well? Get your book. You have to do your own reading, Ron."
But to Harry's surprise, moments later Ron hunkered down behind the enormous Charms Workbook, though he spent more time watching Hermione over the edge of it than reading. Harry sighed and went upstairs. Thanks to Hermione's reminder he had both Charms and Dark Arts homework to do. Hardly anyone was around, and it was a perfect opportunity to do his Dark Arts essay... but Harry couldn't bring himself to do it. He paged through the Book of Eros instead. But it just wasn't as much fun without Ron.
Later that evening, Ron came stomping up the stairs.
"What's wrong?" Harry asked.
"Nothing." said Ron. And he lay down on his bed, turning his back to Harry. He wouldn't say anything more.
Outside Charms the next day, Hermione seemed very annoyed with Ron.
"...well I'm sorry, but you weren't studying! You were just pestering me with questions. You could have looked all those up! Now stop bugging me, Ron Weasley!" She [She] flounced off to her next class, leaving Ron gaping in the hall.
Suddenly, Harry felt much better. And he felt a little guilty about it, too.
Later that night, Harry had the Book of Eros out. His drapes were drawn, and the blanket tented over his head for an extra measure of security. He heard Ron's steps.
"Harry?" Ron asked. "What're you doing?"
"Nothing," Harry mumbled. He felt a little awkward and strangely vulnerable, because Ron could probably tell from his voice it wasn't 'nothing', and knew exactly what he looked like doing exactly this kind of 'nothing.' Harry hoped he would go away.
There was a long pause.
"Harry?" he asked tentatively. " - you still got that book?"
"Uh-huh," Harry said, trying to keep the huskiness out of his voice, without much success.
"Can I borrow it?"
Harry passed the book through the curtains.
"Going to try it with Hermione?" he couldn't help asking, slightly sarcastic.
"No," Ron said, firmly. His voice was sullen.
So they had something of a truce, passing the book back and forth between the curtains. Harry lay awake listening to Ron's breathing, imagining that Ron did the same. Harry thought for a while. It hurt to say it, but he had to, because they were his best friends.
"Huh - yeah?" Ron asked.
"Maybe you should... I dunno... back off a little with her? Let her breathe?"
There was a long thoughtful silence. Then Ron said:
The two of them skipped the next official Hogsmeade trip, the Book of Eros being much more interesting at their age than Zonko's Joke Shop or a Shrieking Shack that hadn't shrieked in a long time. Rosmerta's butterbeer was still excellent, but their eyes tended to wander to what the adults were drinking with more interest.
When the coast was clear, Ron and Harry drew the curtains on their respective beds.
"Hey, Harry - what spell are you using?"
"Nothing right now," Harry admitted with a little guilt, not wanting to say he'd just been listening to Ron's breathing. That had been plenty.
"You should try this one."
"Oh?" Harry perked up. Was this an invitation?
Harry slid off his bed with some trepidation, pulling up his pants just in case. The last time Ron had sounded like that... well, it hadn't turned out too well. He poked his head through the bed curtains. He was disappointed to find Ron fully dressed. Oh. Harry clambered up onto Ron's bed, checking to make sure the curtains were closed behind them. He read the spell Ron was pointing to and laughed - was that really possible?
"You want to find out?"
After several minutes of different spells...
"Hey - Harry..." Harry glanced up at Ron. His eyes were bright, almost feverish. His face was a little red.
"You want to... put this away?" Ron suggested, turning a little brighter red. Harry's eyebrows rose, but he just nodded quickly, and waited. Ron glanced around as if listening for any visitors, though everyone was gone. Then he put his hand to his belt and started unbuckling it as Harry watched, revealing a familiar sight. Ron's smile was a little toothy and bright.
"I think I remember how - " Harry joked, teasing him. Ron huffed a sigh and rolled his eyes in exasperation. Then just before he bent to Ron's lap, Harry asked, "are you gonna forget to do me again?"
"No! - c'mon, Harry," Ron pleaded in anxious frustration.
After a while the room slowly became pitch dark, and it was stuffy under the blankets, though they ignored it. Ron was as good as his word, and Harry decided to reward him for that. After an hour or so, Harry asked into the shadows in front of him, where he could vaguely make out a warm shape that was Ron:
"So what did you mean, 'advantage'? Harry asked.
"I dunno know, Harry - I guess it made sense, at the time," Ron breathed.
Harry woke, realizing that he had fallen asleep. The bed curtains were all closed, and glowed faintly from a morning sun that touched them on the eastern side. He glanced over and found he was still in Ron's bed. A hand rested lightly across his chest, and Ron's face burrowed deep into the pillow beside him.
Ron's auburn lashes brushed his cheek, longer than Harry remembered. Though Ron blinked a lot while he talked, so it was hard to be sure. Harry imagined those lashes fluttering open, and Harry having to return to his own bed, and he wasn't ready to do that yet. Harry stilled his breathing, was as quiet as he could be. Ron's freckles were delicate on creamy pale skin. He had freckles on his arms, too, and only a little hair on his chest, that also a dark red. Harry examined this, and a dozen other details he'd never noticed before. Harry decided he liked the shape of Ron's mouth, which was a small pink bow, and the way he curled up on his side sleeping very softly, without stirring.
Harry would wake Ron a little later, before anyone got back from Hogsmeade and found them there. But for now, Harry put his head back on the pillow and shut his eyes, content.
In the Forbidden Forest, Harry ducked as Snape casually stunned an overgrown grappling vine that made a grab for Harry. One of his booby-traps probably. Then they turned the corner, and Harry very nearly groaned aloud as he saw the familiar cauldron already set up in the clearing, a small green fire playing eerily at its base. Wonderful. A combination of his two worst subjects: Potions and Dark Arts.
Snape on the other hand was positively chipper. For him.
"Today I have decided to allow you something... a little easier," Snape said. Harry rolled his eyes. Of course it was easier for Snape - he loved both these subjects. "But do not expect me to show such mercy and compassion in every class."
As they started the brew, Snape didn't explain what they were making. Not that Harry cared. He followed Snape's terse instructions as he chopped, stewed, boiled and stirred whatever this Dark Magic potion was.
It actually wasn't so bad. No more than any other Potions class. And they were outside, in a pleasant breeze. It would be great if all Potions classes were outside, Harry decided, especially the really smelly ones, like the Bolyvorg Potion (which could either add or remove warts, depending on what you wanted), or worse yet, the Smoking Hellsbane, which smelled like the bathroom after Mr. Dursley left. As an added bonus, Snape actually seemed to be in a good mood. He limited himself to a few caustic comments, small and sharp as paper cuts, but stayed intently focused on the actual content of the class. Well, why wouldn't he be in a good mood? For once in a Dark Arts class, Harry hadn't done anything unusually wrong.
Even if this had been made in the dungeon, though, this potion would not have been bad at all. It was a pleasant sort of unidentifiable shimmery color, and it smelled... well... rather good for a change. Fruity. Snape's hand flicked out and dropped in the final ingredient. Harry saw something red flutter into the cauldron. The potion changed to a sunset reddish colour, and the boiling abruptly stopped.
"Smells like you could almost eat this," Harry commented, as he gave it a final stir.
"You can. Have some," Snape said dryly.
It was a sign of just how pleasant the lesson had been that Harry automatically lifted the stirring spoon to his mouth to taste, without really thinking about it. Then he caught a glimpse of Snape: there was a glint of humour in his eyes. Harry stopped, the spoon still poised. Anything Snape thought was funny was bound to be poisonous.
"Go on..." Snape said smoothly.
"But - "
"Drink it!" Snape commanded, and took a menacing step closer. Harry touched his tongue to the spoon. It was sweet. His tongue didn't swell up, no warts appeared. He looked down... he hadn't changed colour. He wasn't choking from poison, nor did he feel sick. Maybe he'd gotten away scott-free with such a small taste.
Then Harry felt a vague sort of disorientation, an unfocused heady euphoria, sweeping through him. The skies seemed bluer, the grass greener. It was such a lovely day. Birdsong lifted his heart.
"Some kind of happiness serum?" Harry ventured a guess.
Snape looked frighteningly pleased. "A Love Potion."
Harry gaped. But he hadn't thrown himself at Snape in panting physical need, and, well, Snape could hardly want that anyhow...
"Love Potion... what does that have to do with Dark Magic?" Harry asked.
Snape snorted disdainfully. "What you are thinking of is a simple aphrodisiac. That's all you are familiar with I'm sure... a little hair of goat, some musk, eye of newt. A Squib can make it. But a genuine Love Potion - " Snape scooped and held up a vial of Harry's potion to the light approvingly. Harry would have been a lot happier about that approval if he hadn't just eaten some. Harry noticed now that Snape was wearing gloves. " - that causes head over heels, romantic addiction, the truly tortured love, is far more rare...
"Of course it is Dark Magic. It is a form of madness. And quite dangerous -"
Harry began to feel worried, and a little queasy.
" - too much of even one ingredient, and one can lose one's sense of reason, of reality... permanently."
Harry swallowed. Snape looked at Harry, up and down appraisingly, painfully drawing out the silence.
"Well," Snape said. "Congratulations, Potter. You are still sane it seems. I believe we should mark this day on our calendars: this is the first Dark Arts' class you've ever passed."
But Harry noticed there was still a glint of dark humour in Snape's eyes. It occurred to Harry... could Snape have somehow found out that he and Ron took his Book of Eros?"
Harry felt dizzy all night, and into the next morning as well. At breakfast he sat and stared the lovely owls, swooshing about, until he shook his head and realized his scrambled eggs were getting cold.
"Are you learning anything in your class?" Ron asked him.
"Yeah. Not to drink anything Snape gives me, not even if he tells me to," Harry said.
Ron snorted. "Thought you already knew that."
Finis. Next: 'What Your Enemy Should Never Know.'