Rating:
R
House:
Schnoogle
Ships:
Harry Potter/Ron Weasley Harry Potter/Severus Snape
Characters:
Harry Potter Ron Weasley Severus Snape
Genres:
Romance Slash
Era:
Multiple Eras
Spoilers:
Goblet of Fire
Stats:
Published: 02/02/2003
Updated: 04/14/2003
Words: 58,873
Chapters: 14
Hits: 107,447

Primer to the Dark Arts

Icarus

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 04

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 supposed to go wrong and don't, a friendly sociopathic Death Eater... and Snape's naughty, naughty library.
Posted:
02/14/2003
Hits:
6,843
Author's Note:
Thank you to CLS, for a very dedicated Beta review (go read her Sirius fic 'Black Shadow' now - really, it's outstanding), and to Telanu whose suggestions brought out a subterranean subtext. Thank you.


Slytherin Sympathy

by Icarus

The spinning had finally stopped. Fortunately, Harry managed to never actually say any of the awful florid poetry that had come to his mind at odd moments, comparing red hair with the rays of the sun and whatnot. The effects of the Love Potion appeared to have finally worn off.

His next Dark Arts class turned out to be a ruthlessly hard pop essay quiz, so it was held at Hogwarts, in the dungeon where they usually had Potions. Harry racked his brain, but could only remember half of what he'd been taught the last few weeks, in various unrelated bits and pieces.

There was a persistent drip, drip, drip sound you never noticed when the dungeon was full of Slytherins and Gryffindors, and you weren't trying to concentrate on a test. Harry's quill scratched over the parchment. Snape sat at his desk, scowling at the stack of scrolls he was grading and making liberal use of a blood-red ink.

Harry suddenly realised that he was almost out of time. He wrapped up the last half of his essay on methods of various forms of death and destruction in the final ten minutes.

"Time," Snape said.

Sweating a little, Harry handed it in. Snape's glance said that he didn't expect much, and boy, he was right about that. But then Snape leaned back in his chair, and pursed his lips, reflectively.

"There is an antidote, of course," Snape offered, as if Harry would know exactly what he meant.

"An antidote...?"

"To the potion."

"Oh. Uh. Right. Will that be on the next test?" Harry asked.

"I have some of it here," Snape said, holding up a small vial, "if things have been getting a little... warm... for you. Or Mr. Weasley. Love Potions can be so embarrassing. Or so I hear."

"Oh. I was a little dizzy for a bit, but it went away." Harry decided not to mention the poetry. It had been too awful.

Snape sat up. "What?"

"I'm fine. Really."

Snape's eyes narrowed suspiciously, as if he were trying to detect a lie.

"That's impossible. I did a Litman test on that potion - it was perfect. How did you - ? How could you - ? You could not have ingested an antidote by mistake, it is very complex... unless....

"...No. Can't be. But it's the only possible explanation. - Oh. Oh my...."

Snape's laugh was long, high, and mellifluous; it rolled up and down musical scales, rang off the dungeon walls... and sent a chill down Harry's spine. Snape, leaning over his desk, leered at Harry.

"There's only one possible way that potion could not have worked," Snape smirked knowingly at Harry, scanning him uncomfortably now from head to toe, as if seeing him for the first time. "Well, well. Who would have thought? It appears, dear Mr. Potter, that you have few dark secrets of your own after all. And so young, too. How sad. At this rate, no doubt by the time you are my age, you will have a full complement of skeletons rattling around in your closet."

Snape gave another bark of laughter, and leaned back in his chair with a languid satisfied smile, muttering as if to himself, "...wouldn't it be wonderful if James also... no, that would be too much to hope, he had Lily after all...."

Snape turned his attention back to Harry, who stood rooted in place, wishing for some Dark Magic to open a chasm beneath his feet so he could fall through. Snape was enjoying this immensely.

"A Weasley. Really, Harry - " Harry blinked at the familiar use of his first name " - even in this you show an appalling lack of taste. But don't worry. Regarding our 'little secret.' You can trust me... as much as you ever have."

~*~*~

Snape did not allow Harry to forget their 'little secret' for a minute.

That evening at dinner, Harry felt an uncomfortable prickle on the back of his neck, like he was being watched. He turned and found Snape, gazing at him from the teachers' table. Snape raised his wineglass in a silent toast to Harry, and watched him over the rim as he slowly drained the glass. Harry's face burned, and he lost all appetite. He jumped as Ron put his hand on his shoulder, with what Harry thought was too-obvious concern.

"You sick or something?" Ron asked.

Harry glanced back at Snape, who had blessedly turned to speak with one of the other teachers.

"I'm going to be," Harry said.

~*~*~

Snape was just as bad in Potions, two days later. If not worse.

"Harry," Snape said in a silky voice, as he prodded the roots Ron had chopped for their team, "are you satisfied with Mr. Weasley's... assistance? Is it up to par, do you think?"

The Slytherins giggled, understanding from Harry's obvious discomfort that somehow Professor Snape had devised some new torture for the Gryffindors. They leaned forward to listen, eagerly. Harry couldn't think of a single answer to this that wouldn't be embarrassing, so he waited silently, hoping Professor Snape would let it pass.

"Well?"

Harry gave in, and nodded, blushing furiously.

"I am so very glad to hear it," Snape smirked.

As they were leaving, Hermione whispered, "that was strange. What's going on, Harry? What did you do?"

"Yeah, he's got something on you, that's clear," Seamus added, hefting his cauldron into its case.

Harry just shook his head. But behind Hermione he saw Ron freeze, and mouth the word: No! Shortly thereafter Ron cornered him between the gargoyles in the hallway outside the Potions dungeon.

"How'd Snape find out? He did, didn't he?" Ron asked anxiously.

Harry hurriedly explained, about the Love Potion, the fact it couldn't work if that's how you already felt. Ron's response was not what he expected.

"You - you're in love with me?" He was stunned and suddenly nervous.

"What -? Oh, I dunno. I haven't thought about it. But that's not the point," Harry continued, confused.

But Ron had a very strange expression on his face. He made an excuse and left in a bustling hurry, nearly catching his bookbag on the gargoyle. He stopped to untangle it, then scrambled away with a glance.

Trust Snape to really foul things up, Harry thought. Then he had that itchy feeling on the back of his neck again. Harry turned, and discovered Snape had just come out from the dungeon, and was standing in the doorway, looking at him. There was a flicker of sudden understanding in his eyes.

He had heard. All of it.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

"Potter."

A bit of light trickled into the Potions master's office from high window slits, outlining the harsh angles of his face and sharp nose, in this stone room. Those angles were echoed painfully in the spartan d├ęcor of his office, in the teachers' corridor upstairs. It was as neat as a pin, without a single personal item; not a waving photo of family, nor even so much as a spotted cactus could be found. Harry would've thought there'd at least be a Slytherin banner.

Harry stood in the doorway, wondering why he was here. Was Snape going to spring another Dark Arts test on him? Or maybe - it was too much to hope - tell him the Dark Arts class was to be cancelled, forever? It was just like the sadistic Snape to let him stand there long enough work up a cold sweat.

Snape didn't look up from his scrolls, continuing to write as he finally spoke, in casual measured tones.

"Potter. I don't presume to know the details of your sordid private life, nor do I wish to know." Harry listened cautiously. He agreed with that, his mind recalling Snape's erotic Book of Eros. He certainly knew more about Severus Snape's personal life than he ever wanted to know. "But a word to the wise. Never, ever, reveal your true feelings. Not unless you know for certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are returned.

"And if necessary," Snape's black eyes met his briefly, before returning to his paperwork "...lie."

Harry stood there a moment, unsure what to think.

"You may go, Harry, unless you wish to become a permanent fixture in my hallway. I could use a new gargoyle or two."

~*~*~

For the rest of the week Harry puzzled over what Snape had said. Harry couldn't see how Snape's advice could get him into trouble, though he couldn't imagine any other reason for it. It couldn't be that Snape actually wanted to help him. Though maybe he just felt guilty. Perhaps that was it.

He longed to talk it over with, well, not Hermione in this case, but... Ron.

Never mind what the Love Potion said, Harry didn't really believe it. He just wanted his best friend back. Harry didn't think a Potion could know something he didn't. But he knew better than to try to talk to Ron.

Besides, while Ron didn't seem mad exactly, this time, Harry discovered he was suddenly never alone with him. And even when they were teamed together in Charms or Potions, Ron spent most of the time staring at his feet.

It was a stroke of luck that after a late Quidditch practice, Harry jumped through the portrait hole to find the common room empty, except for Ron. He was parked alone in the corner in front of his chessboard; a pleasant fire warmed the colors of the room and glinted in his hair. Ron was consulting a book 'Chess - Muggle Strategies vs. Wizarding: Which are Better?' attempting to coax his complaining chess set into trying some Muggle moves.

"Chess is chess!" Ron argued with a small but irritated-looking Bishop which stood with its tiny hands on tiny hips. "Even you agreed that Bishop to Queen's four is the same, whether it's Muggle or Wizard strategy."

"Eh, reading that newfangled stuff. Your grandfather would never approve!" The Bishop waggled its finger at Ron. Harry snorted and pulled out the chair across from Ron.

"Want an easy win?" Harry offered.

Ron closed the book with a snap, exasperated. "I'm certainly not winning here. I tell you, you'd think I was asking them to fight a dragon, bare-handed! It's not even all that different, just variations on a theme..."

Ron blinked and glanced up, either just noticing it was Harry, or only now remembering why they shouldn't be here. Ron's eyes quickly took in the room, and widened as he saw they were alone.

"Uh - no, no - thanks, I... I was done for the night." Ron swept bickering chess pieces back into their box in no particular order. "G'night." Ron scrambled up the stairs where Harry could hear Seamus and Neville laughing. Well. So much for that.

~*~*~

The library was no better. Among the rows and rows of shelves, Harry spotted Ron, sitting slightly away from everyone else. They weren't exactly alone this time, so that should be okay, Harry supposed as he sat next to Ron.

"Hey," Harry whispered, dropping his textbooks with a soft plunk.

Ron blushed and stared into his book, nodding briefly to Harry. After a few minutes he got up to get another book, which he checked out at Madame Pince's desk.

With a sigh, Harry watched him leave. He flipped through his copy of 'If the World Could Talk: Animating the Inanimate', grumbling to himself, "Dammit, Ron. You liked it, too."

"What was that, dear?" the book muttered sleepily.

"Nothing," Harry told it, wishing he could animate Ron. He'd had more conversation out of this book than Ron all week.

~*~*~

Fortunately, after their little 'talk', Snape had stopped teasing Harry about Ron. Potions was no worse than normal, and in the Dark Arts classes he was almost even polite.

Snape had chosen a Saturday afternoon for their next Dark Arts class. Normally this would have annoyed Harry, but as it was, it came as a welcome distraction. After all, it wasn't as if Harry had other plans.

The clearing in the Forbidden Forest was nowhere near as scary in the daylight, and the Forest itself seemed almost normal, if you discounted the eerie silence and impossible size of the trees. But Harry was used to both by now, and was even getting the hang of the trails as he led the way to their 'classroom.'

Snape apparently had given up entirely on teaching Harry the Dark Arts. He set a beaker of water on the rock, gave some bored brusque directions as to how it would be transformed into crystal - here's the theory, the gesture; this is the Spell. Do it. Then he set up residence with his back against a tree, and stared absently off into space while Harry set about accomplishing nothing.

Harry threw spells at the beaker for a full forty-five minutes, uninterrupted, with no results. Oh well, he thought, at least he was getting the theory of the Dark Arts down. Harry glanced over at Snape, who had passed up any number of opportunities for sarcasm, and wondered if he was okay. He hadn't even noticed that Harry had stopped.

Harry picked up a pebble, and on a whim, tossed it at the beaker. He missed. So he tried several times until he heard the plunk of one going into the water. At the sound Snape turned. Alarmed, Harry held up his wand hoping Snape would mistake the sound for a Spell. Or something. But Snape simply resumed his complete disinterest.

Feeling guilty, Harry heaved a bored sigh and got back to work. He threw another Spell.

The rock suddenly frosted over in a puff of cool smoke. Stunned, Harry took a few steps closer and touched the beaker. His finger nearly stuck to it - it was frozen solid. Of course, the water ought to have turned to rock crystal, not ice, but Harry was out of the habit of expecting anything to happen at all in this class.

"Professor Snape?" Harry ventured, feeling more like Neville Longbottom than ever. Imagine having to admit to Snape you messed up! But the beaker was quite stuck to the rock, and Harry couldn't shake it loose.

Snape didn't appear to have noticed, shrouded as he was in his own dark thoughts.

"Professor?"

"Hm?" Snape shook himself. He looked nothing if not wistful. And sleepy. "Hm. Lost in the past. I have far too much of it for my comfort. Must be getting old..."

"You? You're not that old," Harry said. "In fact, you look like you're a lot younger than the other teachers."

Snape blinked at Harry and grunted, though whether that was assent or disagreement it was hard to tell. "As McGonagall never fails to remind me..."

Suddenly it seemed rather... odd... to be reassuring Snape, of all people. But it was no stranger than Snape giving him advice. Snape glanced up at the sky and changed the subject.

"It's late. Class dismissed. Come," he gestured to Harry, crossed to the rock and reached for the beaker. It stuck fast.

"What's this? A little prank?" Snape snarled. "Playing with Flickwick's Freezing Charms in my class, are we?"

"No! That... that just happened," Harry said lamely.

"Then Unfreeze it." Snape folded his arms, and glared.

"I - I don't how..." Harry said.

Professor Snape gave a snort of disgust, and performed an elementary Unfreezing Charm. Harry could have told him that wouldn't work. As it didn't. He tried several other Charms, with no more success, growing increasingly irritated. Finally they just had to leave the beaker there.

"Well. It's certainly a Darks Arts Spell. If I didn't know it was impossible, I would say you were spending nights in the Restricted Section." Snape eyed Harry up and down suspiciously, then stared down at the offending beaker. "It seems to be permanently fused."

"I don't know how you managed to foul that up. Normally I would consider this an unmitigated disaster. But in your case, it's quite the improvement." Snape motioned for Harry to precede him.

"Perhaps I should ignore you more often."

They walked in silence down the narrow Forest trail, skirting patches of early evening sun that touched the trees. Snape showed no sign of ignoring Harry however. A shiver crept up Harry's spine, and he glanced back to find Snape's eyes boring into him. As Harry clambered over fallen rotted logs and slick moss, he felt the weight of that unblinking gaze, all the way to the water's edge.

At the boat, Snape told him, "I'll give you a pass to the Restricted Section." Harry blinked at him in amazement. "Don't look happy," Snape said wryly. "Your next assignment is to get my beaker back."

~*~*~

Upstairs in his bedroom that evening, Harry chewed his lip, his mind wandering from the dreadfully dull Arithmancy story problems. Who cared how many Peruvian wizards it took to cast a Sleeping Spell that would knock out a Spanish Wyvern? Were Spanish Wyverns more powerful than any other ones? There were too many variables. He suspected these details were added just to confuse him. He kept coming back to the same sentence, realising he had read it three times - without even seeing it.

He had the book spread across his knees, sitting up in his four-poster bed. He wished he had Ron to complain to about his homework.

The fire was lit, but most of the torches were out. All the other Gryffindors of his year were downstairs in the common room. Harry could hear whooping laughter, and a cacophony of indistinct voices. He had told them he wanted some quiet, but really, he couldn't stand how Ron was avoiding him. Again. He thought about what Snape had said. It seemed unwise somehow, to take advice from Professor Snape - after all, he was hardly what one would call a 'people person.' But the more Harry thought about it, the more he made sense.

~*~*~

"You know, probably it was just too small a dose to work right," Harry told Ron in Charms class a day or two later.

"Oh, sure, yeah of course - I figured that," Ron answered, brushing it off. But he looked very relieved. He sat next to Harry at lunch, for the first time in a week.

And who could know? Maybe it was even the truth.

Finis. Next: 'Between Friends.'