Primer to the Dark Arts Icarus ©2002

"Strumpet! 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. He made a strategic grab as the basket floated by a second time. Harry was just eyeing a blueberry tart, wondering if he dare eat dessert first, when Professor McGonagall touched his shoulder. He was only thinking about it! But it was concerning another matter that she interrupted the feast.

"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 teacher's table.

"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 effected his appetite. His plate was clean even before the last trace of the feast magically disappeared. He never ate this well at the Dursley's, and always made up for lost time whenever he had the chance. Mrs. Weasley 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 Dursley's 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." It 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 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 Hogwart's. 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.

He 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."

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 Hogwart's 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 right 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?


Next, 'Lessons in the Dark.'