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. 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.
- Author's Note:
- Thank you to CLS, the perfect Beta, who surely will fall on her nose after this project. Go read her 'Black Shadow.' Post haste.
Trafficking in Magic
The cavern was strangely dark and cold. Water slapped the boats against their moorings, a dull clatter that echoed under Hogwarts castle. Harry didn't bother to light any of the torches, but it felt strange to be here, alone, at this hour. Usually there was still a fading sunset glazing the surface of the lake, with Snape hovering, well - before it had seemed threateningly, but now Harry felt he was naked without Snape's dark protection at his back. At least by now Harry knew the way to the clearing in the Forbidden Forest. No doubt Snape was waiting for him for their class. Harry was late. It was after seven already.
Harry stepped into the boat, holding the dinner roll in his mouth as he manoeuvred the oars into their locks. He didn't have Snape's Propulsion Spell, so he was forced to row. But he decided he could take his time as he crossed, and eat on the way. He was late anyway. Harry pushed the boat off into the dark. Faint wisps of mist clung to the cavern walls. Harry awkwardly used an oar to push the boat off a tree stump that stared out of the water, its vestigial branches reaching like claws. Past it, was open water.
Now to keep an eye out for sea monsters, Harry thought, biting into his roll. He fumbled the oar back into place.
His supper finished, Harry began to row, keeping his eyes peeled all about him. A slimy black tentacle skimmed the surface of the lake near the boat. Harry heard the slosh of a slight wake. Then something scraped the bottom of the boat, where nothing ought to have been. Harry dropped an oar with a splash, his wand out. A long moment passed. The boat rocked gently from Harry's sudden movement. But the lake remained still, and whatever it was didn't trouble him further. Nonetheless, Harry rowed faster, and wished he'd eaten while he was still on shore.
Harry tied the moorings, gratefully climbing out of the boat, but more grateful still that Snape would be with him on the return trip. Harry had never noticed how dangerous just coming here was, not when he had Snape available to guard him. Professor Snape had made him feel like a blundering idiot every time he wandered into some trap, but actually, it was bloody dangerous in the Forbidden Forest after nightfall. Snape only made it appear easy. Harry adjusted his cloak about his shoulders, and followed the familiar winding path to the clearing, where he and Snape practiced the Dark Arts.
None of the usual traps sprang on Harry as he cautiously followed the path. Perhaps Snape had disarmed them. Here and there, however, Harry noticed a splash of some silvery liquid on the leaves and the ground. It reminded him of unicorn blood, something he hadn't seen since his first year at Hogwarts. But on closer inspection, it was darker, more greyish, the colour of quicksilver, and writhing slightly. It looked alive. Harry didn't touch it, and carefully walked around. Years at Hogwarts had taught him some caution with strange magic. And this was stranger than much he had seen.
There was a large splattering at the edge of the clearing, and a silvery moon-like glow ahead. Harry parted the leaves on the edge of the clearing and stopped. Cold.
Professor Severus Snape stood with his back to Harry, rigidly black against a silver glow that spread from the cauldron before him. A thick viscous liquid bubbled in it, without any fire under the cauldron that Harry could see, unless the fire was the same colour as the glow. The liquid occasionally reached out of the cauldron, only to fall back. A glowing mist steamed about Snape, a vaporous silver cloud.
"You are late." Snape bit off the short syllables coolly. But his voice was quiet, his eyes fixed on the cauldron as though it bore careful watching. Harry imagined it would.
Harry stepped into the clearing, carefully edging around the silver-grey quicksilver splash.
"Be careful not to step on it. It is highly poisonous, and rather malignant. It fought me all the way here. I can keep it at Hogwarts, but what we're about to attempt of course...."
Snape's voice remained that eerily focused calm. Harry wondered what he meant by 'fought,' though he was unsurprised the liquid was dangerous. It sure acted dangerous. But Snape was still talking.
"I don't know why I missed it, Harry. But it is painfully obvious to me now. I made our class too easy. I tried to explain mere theory," Snape said, "all without showing you the real thing."
Easy? Harry's eyes widened at the thought. Snape's presence should have been reassuring, but his mood seemed strange. Talkative. Not like him at all. Harry stayed near the far edge of the clearing.
"Naturally, it didn't work. I should never have listened to Dumbledore's warnings. Go slowly, he said, be careful, Severus. But you are like me, Harry. In more ways than one. If it is too easy, you simply get bored. You have not been trying. And that is my entirely my fault for being so blind."
Not trying? Like Snape? Harry's mind wasn't quite grasping this. They both had black hair, but there the similarities ended. Unless Snape played Quidditch.
"It's been like teaching music through lecturing about the notes. Essays. Simple spells. When the beauty of the Dark Arts is the challenge, the very danger of it! It is the sharpest tool. One unwise move, Harry - " Snape gave a short derisive laugh, " - there's good reason there are no incompetent Dark Wizards. The fools do us all the favour of weeding themselves out."
Weird shadows, silvery and liquid, played about Snape's face.
"How little you understand me, Harry. You see merely a Potions Master. After my father's death I experimented with my grandfather's books. My grandfather had taught me some, before he was killed by a misguided Auror. Not every Dark Wizard gave a brass Knut for Voldemort. My grandfather was a Scientist," Snape glowered at the cauldron.
"I levelled entire rooms in our house by my experiments, my mistakes. Accidents I barely crawled away from alive, alone in that rotting manor; I doubtless would not have survived were it not for the house-elves."
A bit of the silver liquid on the ground reached for Harry. He edged away, deeper into the clearing, paying more attention to the quicksilver liquid than to Snape's speech. Snape didn't seem to notice.
"But I learned, however slowly, without him, Harry. Things that even Voldemort doesn't know. My grandfather's research. And a little of my own. Voldemort has miscalculated if he thinks Dumbledore would not let me teach you. Books are merely a starting place, a crutch for those who don't dare go further. This," Snape indicated the silver glow, "is my own."
"Come," Snape said softly. There was a strange light in his eyes, something like Ron with the Book of Eros.
Harry stepped forward with trepidation, keeping a careful watch on the reaching quicksilver behind them, which Snape ignored, his eyes only the cauldron.
"I did all the preparations. It starts with a simple levitation spell. Just follow my lead, Harry," Snape said evenly.
He touched the liquid with his wand, and it followed like a fountain, a rippling banner into the air, suddenly sparkling and marvellous. Harry had never considered levitating a liquid before.
"... don't let it touch anything you don't want it to," Snape said smoothly.
Harry tried it. The quicksilver liquid sprang up easily with a touch, trembling in what felt like a breeze, though Harry knew there was no wind.
"You'll want to have it all suspended in the air, before you start the incantation. Beautiful, isn't it? It's malleable. And deadly. It can maim. It can destroy. Or trap. Depending on the shape you choose for it."
The liquid pooled in flashing silvery drops. It was difficult to control, Harry discovered. He found that instead of holding up one fluttering line of the stuff like Snape, it broke apart. He was trying to hold up a dozen, then a hundred, then a thousand gleaming drops, all around him.
"... now the gathering incantation, repeat after me..."
Harry's concentration shook with the effort of keeping it all up in the air. He started losing control; one or two drops sagged to the earth. He struggled to force them back up, and others floated too close to him. It didn't look right, but he was completely absorbed in keeping it away from him and in the air.
"Now swirl the liquid over your head like a whip - this is one of the easiest shapes. Now! Incendio!"
The banner lit like a blaze over Snape's head. Snape's black eyes mirrored the quicksilver flame, entranced and glorying in its beauty.
Harry tried gamely, but only a little at the end of his wand followed his lead. The rest floated around him like autumn milkweed.
"Incendio!" Harry imitated Snape as best he could.
On the other side of the sudden blue-white blaze, he saw Snape's head turn in shock.
Harry stirred in the darkness. No. Not quite darkness. There was a faint bluish light... that came from... from... himself. Harry heard a moan. Then he recognized that it was his own voice. St. Elmo's fire ran lazily up and down Harry's arms. Strange. He watched it dance, slowly, lighting the bed slightly.
"Don't move," commanded an urgent voice, distantly familiar.
But Harry couldn't help shake his head and wonder where he was. He tried to sit up - and the light increased and ran like water down his arms, as he heard someone race to his side. Peculiar -
"Harry - !" Snape said. But there was a jolt and a flash.
Harry woke again, to the sound of voices. It was daylight. He was under a black duvet. The sheets... felt like silk. The room about him was unfamiliar. High ceilings. White walls. The furniture was all of dark wood. Through the doorway he could see a small kitchenette. That looked promising. Harry was suddenly hungry. He could now make out Professor Snape's voice, though he couldn't hear to whom he was talking.
"He is indisposed. As am I. Yes, of course he's all right! We are merely working on these special classes of his. Yes, they are going well - or they were until you interrupted, just to 'drop by.' He can catch up on his other homework later. Good day to you!"
Harry heard the door slam. So these must be Snape's quarters, Harry thought idly. Nice. Somehow he expected something creepy, stuffed spiders for cushions maybe, Goya prints, decorative electric chair perhaps? But this was positively normal, elegant even.
He didn't care what got rid of the visitors, only that they went away. He was so tired.
Harry looked down at his arms. There was no more blue fire, [I'd suggest a comma here] he noticed with relief. And he no longer felt like a thirty-watt light bulb. Pretty as it was, it had not been a comfortable feeling, watching yourself glow in the dark. He shut his eyes and sleep won over hunger.
What seemed like only moments later, Harry felt a firm weight settle on the bed next to him. He opened heavy eyes and murmured a protest. Snape, he saw, was wrapped in a dark robe, his black hair hung in lank strands on his face. He looked even more haggard than usual, dark circles and lines etched in his face, as though he hadn't slept in some time.
"Busybody. McGonagall's been sniffing around," Snape scowled. He put an arm around Harry's shoulders and helped him to sit up. In his hands was a bowl of something steaming that smelled wonderful. "Here. It's been a day and a half. You have to eat. I've Sealed the quarters, in case Minerva tries to push my welcome again. That leaves out the house-elves. You will have to suffer through my cooking. Tell me if you are too weak to hold it up - I will spoon-feed you if I absolutely must, but you will not spill on my duvet!"
The stew was excellent however. Harry managed not to spill any, as he didn't like the idea of being fed like a baby by Severus Snape. Harry was nearly through the bowl when a thought occurred to him.
"Have you eaten?"
Snape snorted. "I will. There hasn't been much time. I did not fancy your becoming a cinder in my bed."
Harry stopped mid-bite.
"Indeed. It was a near thing. You are quite fortunate, Harry, that I had nearly the same 'accident' years ago. Otherwise I would not have known how to tend you." Snape took his empty bowl and set it down. He held Harry's eyes, as if to impress the lesson on him.
"Harry, listen to me. While this may be partially my fault, perhaps I should have been watching you more closely - " Harry bit his tongue. Snape hadn't been watching at all. " - you must have complete control in Dark Magic! Not a whisker, not a hair can be out of place! The Dark Arts... cannot be undone. They are not like the simple little school hexes you've hitherto learned. For those, there are always counter charms, if not twenty such. But the Dark Magic, it is too extreme for counterspells. It is permanent. Like walking off a cliff. The best I can do is to repair the damage."
Harry looked at his hands, noticing for the first time the spider web of criss-crossing bluish scars that ran over his skin. It looked as though he had been sliced to ribbons. He pushed up his sleeve urgently - realizing now he was in a black satin nightshirt, probably Snape's - and saw the scars were all over his arms, his chest... everywhere.
"They are looking much better. Now," Snape said wryly. "But no, you are not quite your usual pretty sight. It will require a couple more days to heal, I believe. I can stall Minerva for at least that long." Snape scanned him, and his eyes settled briefly on Harry's chest. Harry realized his nightshirt was open, and buttoned it with a blush.
Harry felt suddenly very tired, as if merely eating had sapped all his energy. His head drifted back to the pillow. He heard rather than saw Snape stand and pick up his bowl, and walk across the room; heard the Charm as Snape conjured a cot, blankets and some pillows.
A last thought occurred to Harry as he drifted off to sleep... Snape, you have really screwed up this time, haven't you?
He didn't think he had said it aloud, but Snape answered.
"Yes. Do me this one favour, and live. I owe Dumbledore a great deal, and I'd rather not repay it by losing him his famous Harry Potter."
In the middle of the night Harry's arms tingled; the hair stood on the back of his neck. He stirred, opened his eyes. He saw the blue fire flutter like a ghost, tracing the scars on his hands and arm -
" - Snape?! Professor!" He sat up, forgetting this made it worse.
"Stop shouting..." Snape growled half asleep. He turned, glimpsed the blue glow and threw back his blankets. "Merlin's bollocks - "
Snape snatched a potion jar from the nightstand, and pried it open with shaking hands. He scooped out something that glowed eerily like Harry's arm and reached for Harry. Harry flinched away.
"It absorbs the charge," Snape said sourly, grabbing Harry's hands. "Here."
He took up a finger full of the stuff and rubbed it into Harry's skin. Harry blinked at him, uncertain.
"Don't look at me like that." Snape glanced up. "We have done this a dozen times already. It should be somewhat easier with you awake and cooperative - I emphasize cooperative. How is it you suppose these scars have healed so quickly?"
Snape snapped up his wand, and with a command lit the candle. In the warmer light the potion did not look quite so poisonous and intimidating. Slowly, as Snape soothed it into Harry's skin, the arcing fire eased and subsided.
Snape continued stroking up Harry's arm to his shoulder, then started on the other hand. His touch was deft and cool, and surprisingly gentle. Harry began to relax. Snape's hands worked more slowly along his other arm, kneading Harry's bicep and shoulder. Then Snape started to pull off the nightshirt Harry was wearing. He stopped.
"You will probably... prefer to continue this yourself," he hesitated.
Harry just waited. Snape nodded, briefly, and pulled the nightshirt up and over Harry's head, the candle flickering.
He directed Harry to lie on his stomach. Harry snuggled in among the blankets. As Snape started with his neck and shoulders, and smoothed his way gently down Harry's back, the tension and fear eased out of Harry.
It felt so nice... Harry's mind drifted. It had been a long time since Ron had touched him like this. He didn't realize how much he missed it until now, as he drank it in.
Moments later, Snape stopped with an irritated sigh. He leaned ruefully on an elbow and brushed the lank hair out of his eyes.
From Harry there came a soft snore.
"You can finish it yourself tomorrow then," he told the insensible young man, and replaced the lid on the potion.
At first Harry smelled something faintly unpleasant, medicinal, and he stirred. Next he was aware of daylight pressing on his eyes. He didn't want to open them. But the fact he was hungry, too, nagged him until he finally woke.
Snape's pillow was downy soft and tried to convince him to stay in bed, almost successfully. Harry looked about Snape's bedroom. There was no sign of Snape or his cot. He must be teaching, Harry supposed, though he wasn't sure what day it was. He winced, wondering how much homework he'd have for the classes he'd missed. He decided it wasn't worth worrying about.
The potion for Harry's scars was on the bedside table, the lid carelessly replaced. That was the source of the medicinal smell. Harry tightened it, wrinkling his nose. It didn't do much good. Snape's apartments were pretty chilly, and Harry couldn't find his clothes anywhere. He finally gave it up and wrapped the nightshirt closer. He did find his wand.
The scars seemed thinner, fainter, and more flesh-coloured today. But the biggest difference was in how much energy Harry had. He felt a little bit shaky, but otherwise he was almost normal. And hungry. For lunch? Breakfast? Well, that depended on what time it was. It seemed rather late, based on the soft grey light that came from high overhead windows, he guessed it was nearly noon. There was a persistent ticking sound from the kitchen. On inspection, this clock didn't show the time however. The hands had pictures of the Hogwarts Professors, and words such as 'Pleased,' 'Smug,' Bored,' and 'Annoyed' around the face. Professor Flitwick's picture was down at 'Irate' and ticking like a bomb. Harry wondered what anyone could do to make Flitwick mad.
The kitchen was small, a little cold, but comfy, with wood counters and a small table. At it were two ornately carved chairs. Feeling a little like a burglar, Harry raided the refrigerator.
Harry plucked up a terse note from Snape that hovered inside: "Eat - then go back to bed!" it scrawled, then the letters disappeared.
The fridge contained a variety of potions, neatly labelled: 'Choking Potion,' 'Wart Serum,' 'Bolyvorg,' and a dozen others of a poisonous or otherwise unpleasant sort. Harry dearly hoped none of them ever spilled, as he pulled out the makings for a sandwich. He nearly stepped on an untouched saucer of milk on the floor by the sink.
When he was done eating, he went to wash up, but the sink snatched the plate from his hand started washing it.
"Uh... thanks," he said to it, startled.
He glanced at Snape's note and noticed it had changed. 'Biscuits are in the jar in the cupboard. Leave me some.'
With a plate of biscuits, Harry felt a little more welcome, though the note was a tad like having Snape watch over your shoulder. He explored Snape's living room.
There was a huge fireplace, with an ornate black candelabra on the mantle. Every wall was covered in bookshelves, and there was a large black leather-upholstered chair and love seat. A large picture of a crow over the fireplace blinked at Harry, eyeing him suspiciously.
"I won't break anything," Harry promised it. The crow seemed unconvinced.
Framed sheets of music were on the walls; Harry accidentally discovered these played if you bumped them. He looked apologetically at the crow. A small Celtic harp stood on a pedestal in the corner. Harry reached for the strings, when he noticed a brass placard: 'Cursed since 1871.' Beside it was an enormous book on Curse Breaking from the Hogwarts library Restricted section. Harry wondered if Snape was having any luck. He supposed not. The book was long overdue.
Harry noticed there were a lot of restricted books on Snape's shelves, nicer copies than they had in the Library. Right out and available. But recent experience made Harry a little less curious than he normally would be. There were other books in all different languages, Latin, French, Italian... tons of journals on Potions. There was little to interest Harry. The rack next to Snape's chair looked more promising. There was a much-thumbed copy of a trashy Romance novel by a popular witch - Snape had the whole series - copies of the Daily Prophet, The Apothecary Journal vol. 561, and several biographies of obscure wizards. They all had bookmarks in them; it looked as if Snape read numerous books at the same time.
Then a book on one of the shelves caught Harry's eye. Maybe it was slightly askew, or the cover looked a little different. Or perhaps it was the letters sticking out of it. In any case, as Harry pulled it off the shelf a number of postcards tumbled to the floor, and some folded letters. He opened one of the letters. "Thank you, you devil, it was a complete surprise - " it started. Harry had an attack of conscience and put the letter away. It seemed personal. Postcards however, as everyone knows, are fair game. "Wish you were here!" they said, and had photos of a young wizard with long blond hair, about the same age as Harry. He wasn't handsome, his eyes were a little watery and too close together, but he had an open, genial face. He grinned at Harry and blew a kiss from the top of the Eiffel Tower. Harry turned to the book. It had an inscription on the inside cover:
Thought you'd like this, you dirty Bastard! Happy Birthday!
Harry opened the book. It was all pictures.
Paging through Torvald's gift, Harry suddenly understood why Severus Snape had kept Harry's secret about Ron. It made complete sense.
Harry picked up and set his plate of biscuits on the coffee table, and carried the book to the love seat for a closer look.
Harry startled awake in a tangle of nightshirt, book and biscuits at the sound of a door slam. Snape's footsteps approached. He realized, too late, that he had the book in his lap. Snape eyes went to the book immediately, and he stood glowering over Harry. After a moment he spoke:
"Of a thousand perfectly innocent books on my shelves, how the devil did you manage to find that one?" Snape folded his arms.
Harry had no answer. Snape snatched away the book and opened it.
"You didn't read Torvald's letters," he said. It was a statement, not a question.
"No," Harry managed, "I - I don't read other people's letters." He tactfully omitted the postcards.
There followed a heavy silence. Snape placed the book firmly back on the shelf. Harry cringed. He couldn't remember falling asleep; when had he done that? He had been looking at the pictures, and his fantasy must have blended into a dream. Harry guiltily followed the living embodiment of that fantasy with his eyes, as Snape stalked into the kitchen.
Harry heard finally, "Did you think, at the very least, to leave any biscuits?"
Harry nodded, then realizing Snape couldn't hear a nod, answered aloud: "Yes."
"Small favours..." Then Snape said in a tight voice: "Go to bed, Harry."
Harry hesitated at the bedroom doorway. He had to know.
"Torvald... is he - is he your boyfriend?" Harry asked quietly.
"Did I ask you to blunder into my personal life?!" Snape stormed. The crow in the photo batted its wings at Harry. "I would rather you had played that harp!"
Harry fled into the bedroom, though he had at least part of his answer.
Shortly afterwards Snape extinguished the lights in the kitchen. Harry pretended to be asleep as Snape readied for bed. Harry felt very bad that he had ever brought it up. Snape invoked the cot again, and two pillows plus a blanket dropped out of the sky. Then Snape curled under the blanket. Harry heard a heavy sigh.
Finally, Snape relented.
"No, Harry. He's not," he said softly into his pillow. "Not anymore."
Finis. Next: 'Midnight.'