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:
- This chapter: 'Pure Blood.' Harry unleashes Dark Magic, and we learn what is meant by 'more Art than Science.'
- Author's Note:
- Thank you to CLS for the Beta review. Go read her fics, especially
It was the end-of-year feast, and banners of yellow and black streamed from the ceiling of the Great Hall and waved majestically in the air. Hufflepuff, for the first time in a century had won the House Cup.
It had been a particularly detention-filled year, with points taken left and right. For the first time in Hogwarts history two entire houses had ended the school year with negative points.
In a rotten mood, Professor Snape wiped out all the remaining Gryffindor points in the final two weeks, snatching hundreds at a time for the smallest offences. Professor McGonagall warned him. Twice. Then she proceeded to match him, point for point, their private war finally breaking out into the open. By the time the dust settled even Ravenclaw's total had sunk to double-digits.
The gentle Hufflepuffs had managed to hold on to their meagre advantage. Never winning many points but never losing them either. Professor Dumbledore called it "a breath of fresh air." They were not known for being competitive after all. For the feast he conjured a fresh gentle breeze to celebrate Hufflepuff's success saying: "we should all learn from this." He gave the heads of Slytherin and Gryffindor in particular a meaningful glance. All those who wore hats held onto them, though a few of these skated across the feast table. The House Ghosts clung desperately to their seats. They were not managing well in this wind.
In an intense grudge-match (with the House Cup certainly out of the question), Gryffindor beat Slytherin in the Quidditch finals, winning the Quidditch Cup in an upset victory by a slim margin. In an excess of enthusiasm, the Gryffindors had torn down the Slytherin Quidditch banner and fed it to the Whomping Willow. Gryffindor lost, altogether, an additional five hundred and eighty points for this, points taken by Professor McGonagall. But it was hard to worry about that when you were already down a negative eight hundred points. Gryffindor finished the year dead last.
At the feast, the mood of Slytherin therefore could be described as ranging from sour, for the gentlest among them, to enraged, for the harshest. One of the latter was the head of Slytherin, Professor Severus Snape.
He clearly stated that he considered the display for the Hufflepuff victory to be 'excessive.' To which Professor Dumbledore responded by changing the cutlery to yellow and black. Professor Snape folded his arms and kept his grumbling to himself after that.
Professor McGonagall sipped her tea and seemed quite satisfied with the results. She was perfectly happy to see Hufflepuff win, so long as Slytherin did not. Particularly not by cheating.
Once the food and drink began to flow however, laughter and cheer soon filled the hall. Both the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor tables cheered and toasted the Hufflepuffs. Many of the professors left their tables and filtered through the Great Hall, chatting and gossiping amongst themselves and talking heartily with favourite Seventh Years who would soon be leaving school. Professor Snape glowered alone at the teachers' table.
Late into the feast, as the celebration was winding down, one student detached himself from the Gryffindor table and quietly approached Professor Snape.
"So... how are you?" Harry asked him hesitantly, turning a glass of punch in his hand.
Severus glanced up, then ignored him, glaring across the Hall.
"I - I haven't had a chance to talk you," Harry continued.
"Nor will you," Severus said, still not looking at him. Harry sat on the table next to him.
"People are staring," Severus snarled.
"I'm not sure I care," said Harry.
"Well, come back when you're sure," Severus turned a crow eye to Harry. "I don't like scenes. Harry."
Harry was counting on that actually. Finally, Severus snapped at him.
"Chairs are for sitting," he said waspishly, pulling out a chair, "at least act normal."
Harry sat down. So far so good. But Severus proceeded to continue to ignore him.
"So... what did you think of the last Quidditch match?" Harry said conversationally.
"That I should have hexed the Quaffle," Severus glowered, "and the Snitch - your Granger friend is looking at us. Oh. By the way, how is she getting on with your Weasley?"
He gave Harry a nasty smile. Harry darkened with anger but knew Severus was just trying to get under his skin. He refused to bite. Severus read his determination and cut straight to the point.
"What is it that you want? Harry. Why are you here? To beg my forgiveness on bended knee?" Severus turned to Harry, his eyes flashing with fury. "Forgive and forget, is that it? Kiss and make up at the end of the year? Gryffindor sentiment. No one has ever yet accused me of being too forgiving. Not even Dumbledore believes of that of me. Be content you are finally rid of me. And my class."
"You wouldn't be so angry if you didn't care," Harry pointed out, ruthlessly treading on dangerous ground.
"Care?! I - what? I wanted to teach that class - !" Severus hissed at him. "Now bite your tongue, you wretched, ungrateful little serpent. You may be fond of fame, you may crave to be the centre of attention, but I most assuredly do not!"
Severus realized his voice was rather loud and that he was almost standing. He sat down. Hard. And pulled in his chair.
"We will speak of this in private. Later."
Harry nodded and left. Barely a moment passed when Severus suddenly threw down his napkin with a curse that rightly should have left it a smouldering pile of ash. He realised belatedly that he had agreed to talk. That boy addled his wits, Severus told himself. Reason enough to be rid of him. And Severus told that relentless part of his mind, the part that said he was glad, to go to hell. He added a few more creative maledictions to that, for good measure. He downed the rest of his drink in one swallow.
That evening in Severus' quarters there came no knock, nor anyone at his door. Not even a note. Severus waited up, with every hour becoming more of a crushing disappointment. It had hurt too, when Harry had given up on sending him the notes. Though he hadn't blamed Harry for getting out of range of his revenge. Severus fell asleep in his chair, a wineglass untouched on the end table. A book slid to the floor, though losing his place made little difference. Not many pages had been turned.
The next morning Severus woke with a start. And a crick in his back. The magically amplified knock at the door far below repeated itself. No one dared his temperament in the morning, not even McGonagall. There was only one person it could be.
"He is here. Good. I can wring his neck."
Whether it was for standing Severus up or cancelling the class, at least the two parts of his mind finally agreed. He let Harry wait. Meanwhile he tried to look as though he hadn't spent the night in a chair. With a considerable lack of success. He ignored the persistent knocking below. As he washed his face in the bathroom, his mirror informed him tartly:
"You'd look better three days dead."
"And you only look as good as I do," Severus pointed out. He hexed the mirror black. But it was too late; he had already seen what was in it. This mirror was used to hexes and insults and it made a raspberry sound at Severus' back as he left.
He didn't do long nights very well anymore, Severus thought, trying to rub the sleep out of his eyes. Oh, who was he kidding? He had never done long nights well. He showed every dark circle and line. Not that it had ever stopped him. The knocking grew a little more urgent. Severus spelled the door open.
Harry was gratifyingly apologetic.
"I'm... I'm so sorry. If you take my head off, I'll understand. I couldn't ditch Hermione! She tailed me everywhere last night!" Harry stopped, finally looking at Severus. "Wow. You look terrible."
"So my mirror tells me," Severus said dryly.
Harry nodded, leaning companionably against the doorjamb.
"Yeah. Mine always says my hair is hopeless."
"We need to invent one that lies."
"Let's get right on that," said Harry.
They smiled at each other. Severus had somehow forgotten to be angry. He shook himself from the spell of that easy smile.
"Oh - I'm a rotten host - come in."
"No! Actually - I, uh, I have something for you. C'mon. Follow me." Harry looked anxious and hopeful, as though he feared Severus would refuse.
Severus snatched up his cloak, puzzled, as Harry led him down the stairs and into the hallway. Though he was rather glad to be going in the opposite direction from his quarters. It occurred to him that he hadn't cleaned up yet from the night before. It would have been obvious he had waited up all night. That was a bit of a sting for his pride and he was glad Harry didn't need to know. And never would know, not if he had anything to say about it.
Harry led them through the wide arched corridors, down two levels to the Potions dungeon. Their footsteps echoed in the empty stone halls. Presumably everyone in the castle was sleeping off their feast.
A gift? Severus mused. What would a student have that he could possibly want? Other than the obvious, Severus smirked to himself. He admired Harry's shoulders and the way he moved under the cable-knit pullover. Harry was dressed in Muggle clothes he noticed, a pair of jeans and sneakers with his Hogwarts pullover. Without his Wizard robes he looked distressingly young.
Then Harry led them away from the Potions room to the left corridor, onward to the caverns. He lit torches several meters ahead of them. Severus politely extinguished them as they passed. This way wasn't often taken so there was no point in leaving torches burning. Harry was leading him to the boats.
So they were going to the Forbidden Forest? Severus frowned, slightly puzzled. He had taken down his traps when the class was cancelled of course, so Harry could have stashed something in that clearing... but why? Certainly some things from Knockturn Alley could not get past the Hogwarts Wards. But Harry could hardly know where to shop. Not without young Malfoy's help at least. Severus could hardly imagine the two of them collaborating.
The day was blindingly bright as they emerged from the dark cavern, no more than a little past ten o'clock. Severus helpfully provided the Propulsion Spell without comment.
The Forest was alive with the sound of birds and other creatures that had been kept away previously by his traps. Well. Such blockades were rather indiscriminate. Dark Magic tended to be that way, and would easily turn on its maker also. The path wound its way lazily, almost unfamiliar by day, and they passed with none of the usual trouble. The forest floor was dappled with green and gold from the first flush of summer. Severus flicked away a mosquito. That was one major benefit of his protections: he had made sure they kept away more than just the large pests. Harry picked up his pace as they approached the clearing sooner than Severus would have imagined.
In the clearing, on the rather blackened rock was a silver embossed Scull-Cup. Beside it lay a double-bladed Gargoyle Knife, and a full set of Alchemist's Powders, already laid out. Though the delicate vials were still capped. Severus recognized them all as being stolen from his office. But that was not what caused him to suddenly throw up a Protection Circle around the clearing. Invisible knives whirled about them, like shadows on the edge of sight, and the light in the clearing was dimmed. Alongside those items was a small, particularly Restricted book on the Dark Arts. It was opened to a certain blood-stained page.
Harry calmly took his place behind the rock and began uncapping the vials. It was a surreal sight. In the sweater, without his robes and with those owlish glasses he looked innocent, his face naive. Too young to be so calmly and knowledgeably handling such items that were patently of the Dark. To be preparing that Spell.
Severus finally caught his breath. "I thought you weren't going to do Dark Magic anymore."
"There is evil," said Harry, chewing his lip, "and then there's Dark Magic. They aren't necessarily the same. Someone once told me that." Harry's smile flickered faintly, though his eyes were busy scanning the vials as he put them carefully into place. In fact, Severus had told him that. What had made Harry finally believe him?
"This Spell is not evil," Harry added.
"Oh. It isn't?" Severus asked softly. That was news to him.
"Not the way I'm going to use it."
"I see. Harry - this is very potent Dark Magic. Regardless of whether it is 'evil' or not, it is dangerous. Even by my standards." Especially by his standards. Severus' eyes flicked to the arm, covered though it always was, that held Voldemort's Dark Mark. Harry caught the direction of the glance.
"The Dark Mark... I am not going to lose you to Voldemort," Harry said. He looked up at Severus with determined eyes.
"This Spell in effect is virtually the same!" Though that was not entirely true, Severus thought. It was deeper. More subtle... yes, Voldemort wouldn't see it.
When Severus saw what Harry was planning, he looked like the wind had been knocked out of him. The Protection Circle was something Harry had heard of, but never seen before. At least Severus was too shocked to notice Harry had stolen all of these items from his office.
"Harry, this cannot be undone. Dark Magic, it is too extreme. It is almost always permanent. And this - this most certainly is!"
"That was on the second Quiz," Harry answered. His calm voice belied how fast his heart was pounding.
"You did not pass that Quiz, if I may remind you," Severus pointed out.
Harry looked up, waiting. "I still learned."
Harry knew exactly what he was doing. He hoped. But if Severus didn't want to... well, it was his choice. There was nothing Harry would do to make him. Nothing he could do, really.
"I'm sure it will work," Harry swallowed. "I'm a pure blood wizard too, you know."
"Yes. You are." Severus' look was fond. That sort of thing mattered to a Slytherin, as it mattered to Severus. "Voldemort couldn't even use it, because he was not. He branded us with his Mark instead."
Harry noted that so far Severus had not said no.
"This is not a coy romantic gesture," Severus growled. He was wavering. Harry held his breath.
"Did Dumbledore put you up to this?"
Dumbledore? Suggest Harry do Dark Magic? This? Not in a million years. The surprised look on Harry's face must have answered him. Severus was silent a moment as it sunk in; his jaw worked.
Harry half expected him to snatch away the book and leave, or demand to perform the rite himself. Instead Severus quietly, submissively held out his hands, palms up. The emotion in his dark eyes was unreadable.
"This is going to be messy," Harry said, glancing at his robe.
Severus nodded and pulled off his robe. Underneath he wore breeches with a white shirt the sleeves of which he rolled up to his elbows. The shadowy knives continued to whirl around them in an invisible circle.
"Do try not to make any of your usual mistakes, Harry," Severus muttered, "or you will kill us both."
Untrue. This spell rarely killed both wizards, except in the most incompatible of cases. Harry was sure if something went wrong, Madam Pomfrey could patch Severus up in the matter of a few months.
Harry's eyes scanned the Spell, reading it for what seemed the millionth time. He had actually memorized it, just in case. It was, as Hermione had noticed, more Art than Science. It was written in verse, the attractive artwork down the page only slightly marred by old brown blood. It was not something you did by rote.
Harry's eyes lit on the part that bothered him. More explicit directions gave way to a single sentence. It described how no one person was like another, no two were like another two... therefore, you shall know. What he would know, Harry was not sure.
Severus stood watching him. Harry mixed the first powders, measuring them with shaky hands. Harry began the incantation, nonsense to him, but flowing like music once he started. It gave his motions a rhythm, calming him and focusing his mind. The world narrowed to this incantation alone. Harry touched the Gargoyle Knife with his wand: Ex libres homines...
Harry picked up the Knife. Severus held out both palms. Over the silver bowl as he should. It had to cut deep, or there wouldn't be enough blood.
Harry's first attempt didn't cut at all.
He expected Severus to be sarcastic or laugh, but he just waited patiently for Harry to try again. The second cut went clean, across the centre of the lifeline in Severus' palms. Severus barely winced. Harry guided Severus' hands over the bowl. Left hand first, then the right. Severus' left was his wand hand.
Harry steadied himself, took a breath, and then sliced his own wand hand. The Gargoyle Knife was slippery and his hand blazed with the heat of pain as he did his own left hand next. He glanced up at Severus with no little surprise at his calm at this searing heat.
Harry continued the incantation glad he had memorized it. He was a little dizzy and distracted by his hands. He laid out the parchment. He began to pour the standard Alchemist's Powders into the scull.
The substance began to bubble of its own accord.
Suddenly the wind picked up. It blew hard from the north. Severus hair flew into his face, - though he stood stock still. The wind did an about-face and buffeted Harry's shoulders from the south, flipping the pages of the book and rattling the vials. Then east. The strips of cloth they would need later fluttered under a paperweight. Then the wind flipped around and staggered Harry from the back, bearing from the west, harsh and clear. Severus face was triumphant.
Harry began to work furiously, testing and mixing the Powders with blood on the parchment before adding them. The first ran clear, then black. He added it. The next had a foul smell. No. He discarded that. He continued the incantation. Thinking, no two wizards were alike... no two combined were alike... he would know, he would know - what?
The substance in the silver bowl had become a vile orange colour at his last addition, which he suddenly knew was not right. It was not working!
What would he know?
Harry tested and tried another power. It was better, now, but it still wasn't right. That much he did know. He glanced up at Severus, but his expression was vague, watching Harry, a spectator. He didn't know either. The wind buffeted him left and right. Harry suddenly recognised that it was going to shift and he was out of time.
He grabbed an entire vial and dumped it directly into the Scull-Cup. The substance turned clear, then boiled, then glowed...
Harry looked down in awe as he recognized the liquid. Severus' mouth opened slightly with a silent gasp. Their eyes met. They both knew.
... silver. Quicksilver. From their accident. It reached and boiled.
The wind roared and Severus shouted over it, "Wizard's Silver, Harry!" he laughed in a wild fey voice, "nothing you used should have made that! If this is wrong we are both dead men! It will tear us apart from the inside!"
Severus' eyes met Harry's. He leaned closer, laying a dripping bloody hand on Harry's cheek.
"It is not too late. You can still back out." There was a hint of a challenge in his eyes.
For an answer Harry tipped the cup to his lips. He almost dropped it - it was acrid and strangely tasted of blood. Gagging and wiping his mouth he held it out to Severus, with a look daring him. Severus didn't hesitate. His hands clutched convulsively at the scull as he drank. Harry caught him as he toppled forward, dropping the Scull-Cup. Suddenly the wind was knocked out of Harry too, and he had just enough consciousness to reach for the sheet strips and loosely wrap their palms together. As his conscious mind faded Harry thought it was not a necessary step, but he did it anyway with the hope that he had... done everything... right.
Harry felt someone stir next to him. He felt so cold. He wasn't in Severus' bed, he was sure. It was too cold. Something jerked on his hands, and Harry came awake. Harry blinked down at his shirt, his jeans. Severus moaned and shook his head next to Harry. Severus' shirt was no longer white. They were both covered in blood. Harry was suddenly grateful he had wrapped their hands before they'd lost consciousness. It probably stemmed the blood flow. But he had got it wrong. He should have tied their wand hands together. Oh, no matter, they both seemed to be alive. If it didn't work, at least they had survived.
No. If they were alive, it had worked.
Harry tried to sit up. His head spun and he decided it was a very bad idea. But the sun was going down. The last pink rays touched the tops of the trees. If it was summer, why was Harry so cold?
Severus grunted and sat up. He shook and freed his hands from the loose bandage. He leaned his back against the rock with an effort and a sigh.
"Why did you do this?" he asked. His voice was low and hoarse with exhaustion.
"I told you," Harry breathed and coughed a little. "I'm not losing you to Voldemort."
"No. Why you? There are others who could have done this spell."
"You know the answer to that."
They lay there for some time, half-awake, mindlessly watching the pink vanish from the trees. Finally Severus spoke with an effort.
"Lost a lot of blood. Can you walk?"
"Good. Glad to hear it. Because we must go - now - if we do not plan to become midnight hors d'oeuvres for one of Hagrid's hairy friends."
He had a point. They staggered up, supporting each other's weight as they half-walked, half-crawled down what had become, in the space of an afternoon, an extremely long trail. Harry's memory of that trip was hazy, though he recalled later Severus picking him up and dragging him when Harry had just stopped to rest. For just a minute. Really. He heard the sound of water, and revived a little in a different breeze. Harry struggled free of Severus and staggered on his own down to the dock. He rolled over the edge into the boat. After a moment, blinking, he realised Severus was in the boat with him. For a foggy second, something seemed missing. Then he realised. He had his wand of course, but nothing else. Harry cursed.
"We left everything, the book - all back in the clearing!"
"You mean you did," Severus said pointedly. He sat up a little and pulled out his wand: "Accio: book!"
One by one, the various Dark Magic items flew to Severus' hands. He let them fall to the bottom of the boat as though he didn't have strength to hold them. Harry could only watch.
"You can do Magic in this state?" Harry asked wonderingly.
"I have done Magic after the Cruciatus Curse," Severus said flatly. "One does what one must."
Nonetheless, his Propulsion Spell failed halfway across the lake. He tried again, but his shoulders sagged as it stopped after only a few more feet. He was about to try again, but Harry grabbed his arm and shook his head at Severus. Stop. So they each picked up an oar and rowed.
Severus' room in the third Dungeon was far closer than Gryffindor Tower. Harry sent a blunt note to Hermione through the house-elves. She'd tell Ron.
'Worked. It's alright. See you tomorrow.'
Sometime around midnight, stretched under the blankets though still in his bloody clothes, Harry felt a kick.
"Harry. Move on over. You are taking the entire bed."
"You need a bigger bed," Harry complained. Every muscle fought him as he complied.
"Why? Plan to stay?" the voice next to him breathed in the dark.
There was a moment of silence before Severus answered:
Finis. Next: 'Overdue Books.'