Conquering the Darkness

Chapter 1: The Beginning

Harry hated Snape. The greasy old bastard loved watching him suffer. It was probably his only pastime in life, besides drinking Fire-Whiskey. That was why he was stuck being Draco Malfoy's partner in Advanced Potions. Again.

The cauldron was bubbling dangerously and Harry eyed it with some suspicion before snapping at Draco, "Will you turn down the bloody heat, Malfoy?"

Draco turned to glared omnipotently at his rival and sneered. Of all people, Professor Snape had to place him with Potter. Dumbledore and his damn unification of the houses; it always got in his way. Ever since his first year at Hogwarts, Draco knew that the white-bearded freak had it out for him, just because he was the son of Lucius Malfoy.

Glowering at Potter, Draco spat bitterly, "You can turn the cauldron down yourself, Potter. Just don't blow it up. This is my grade you're talking about. I, unlike you, care about what other people think about me. But, I suppose your Muggle relatives never taught you anything about public appearance, did they, Potter?"

Harry ground his teeth in irritation and bent his head down to appear that he was actually trying to cut the Mandrake root in equal pieces, but as it was, he could hardly see in front of him he was so angry. Somehow, despite all his best intentions, even if they were not very good, he nearly came to blows every time the sodding prat was within two meters of him.

It had been like that for five years now, and, it seemed, this year would be no different from the last. Not that he had expected it to be. Some things, the Gryffindor admitted, would never change.

Steadily trying to ignore the Slytherin's ramblings, Harry bent close to the cutting board, feeling the blood rush to the skin on the back of his neck. He hated Goosebumps.

The svelte boy continued to try goading his raven-haired partner. "I suppose that's why you like House-elves so much, Potter. You can relate to them so well. Ever since I met you, I always wondered why you were so bloody special. You're a dirty little Mudblood lover with nothing special except your deformed forehead. I don't see anything godly about that," the Slytherin remark conversationally to Potter. He lifted his delicate ivory hand and brushed away a tendril of nonexistent silver hair from his unscathed forehead.

Yet, Potter was being terribly patient today, and he continued to cut the Mandrake root diligently in a concentrated effort. It was odd, though, Draco admitted. By now, Potter would usually be threatening him and his family with vague and absurd remarks. Draco, holding in a bored sigh, lowered his stormy eyes to his own cutting board; slowly beginning to dice the daisy stems that their potion required. He would just let the boy mull for a bit. Time was all he needed and he had plenty of it.

Don't loose control. Don't take the bait. Don't… Harry repeated to himself in his head, his eyes gently closed so that he would not be forced to even acknowledge Malfoy's presence. Yet sometimes that was impossible. He could feel the blood rushing to his cheeks, despite every concentrated effort, to do otherwise. The sharp blade beneath his hand seemed cool and almost pleasant to the hotness of his face, and unconsciously, he curled his fingers about the hard metal edge, unaware of the thin sliver of crimson that leaked down his pale skin, becoming almost instantly absorbed by the Mandrake root.

Draco frowned slightly at Potter's lack of response; so resolutely, he continued to harass the emerald-eyed boy. "Yes, nothing godly about killing your own godfather, either, Potter. You're the Boy-Who-Wouldn't-Bloody-Die, so you kill other people? I'd do it too, if I were you. Being the famed Golden Boy isn't as wonderful as you thought, is it?"

The shuffle and scrape of a chair momentarily filled the room, and jumping to his feet, Harry raised his hand, about to strike. How tempting it all seemed, how tempting in it's natural quality. There seemed nothing wrong with his actions at all, they were impulsive and basic on every human level. His cheeks were flushed and his eyes slightly glassy in anger, perhaps not even seeing the cool figure before him; only the gray tumultuous eyes giving away the Slytherin's uneasiness.

The room was deathly quiet for a moment, and time seemed to have stopped.

Draco's elegant lips upturned slightly as he saw Potter's knuckles turn pallid as his hand clenched his sharp knife. "Now, now, Potter. Control you temper, Golden Boy, or Snape will have to come over here and take points away from Gryffindor. And we all would hate that so much," he drawled languidly.

The world had stopped.

Harry stood still, his hand still clenched about the handle of the large silver knife, its surface glinting in the blue firelight from the cauldron. His heartbeat raced madly in his ears, as though a song, slowly driving him to insanity. Harry knew he had to regain control, he couldn't let the Slytherin get the better of him; he couldn't give in. He had learned this by now. If he gave in, then everyone and everything would have control…it was that easy.

Glancing hurriedly back at Snape, and finding him otherwise employed with Neville (whose potion had turned fluorescent purple) Harry sighed mentally. Although, technically, he could punch Draco's lights out, he would, no doubt, get in trouble in more ways than one. Moreover, considering that Gryffindor house was just barely in the lead as far as points were concerned, it was better, he decided, not to risk it.

Then of course, there were other reasons; reasons that Harry knew but could not bring himself to muster up consciously.

Taking a deep, shuddering breath, he glared at his mocking classmate and grumbled under his breath, "Sod off, Malfoy" before storming past the silver-haired boy, knocking him back somewhat as he slammed into his shoulder. On impulse, Harry snatched a dirtied flask they had used to measure the horseradish. He had to look as though he was attempting to do something, anything.

Draco smirked. He loved pushing Potter's buttons and pulling his strings. This always made his day. Potter was his puppet, his marionette. And he, the puppeteer. Deciding to try to add salt to an open wound, he turned and added, "I'm sure that's what you did after he died, isn't it? Ran away with your tail between your legs. Some hero you are." His eyes glinted and his smirk widened as Potter's step faltered.

Just…walk away. Don't allow yourself to…

Lifting one foot after another, he continued to step forward, trying desperately to ignore Malfoy's amused chuckles that seemed to follow him like a plague as he made his way slowly across the room. His journey seemed long and overdrawn and he nearly collapsed onto the sink by the time he had arrived. Being in control nowadays seemed to require so much from him, both physically and mentally. Silently, he longed for the days in which he was still innocent about the dark things of the world, naive to what Dumbledore could only allude to. Yet Harry knew; Harry knew what all dared not to speak. His grip tightened against the flask, and shuddering he grasped the edge of the counter and looked down at his reflection in the black marble sink. He frowned spitefully, and cupped his hands about his cheeks that were no longer flushed in anger but in shame.

I am such an idiot.


Harry's head snapped up, about to yell at the person (guessing it was some pestering Slytherin, like Pansy), but saw it to be Hermione and stopped. "What?" he asked, glancing suddenly, not even noticing her presence, perhaps just as he did not notice his bloodied right hand.

"What's wrong? Did Malfoy say something to you? You know you shouldn't let him get to you, Harry." Hermione told him, frowning slightly. She wiped her cutting board off, turning the water on to rinse off the wooden surface. It was not in Hermione's character to not give advice, it was impossible it seemed sometimes.

"No." Harry lied between his teeth, trying not to look at her and instead he concentrated on the water spinning down into the drain.

Hermione's chocolate eyes widened as she dropped her wooden cutting board into the basin and snatched Harry's hand. It landed with a dull thud. "Harry, you're bleeding!" the girl exclaimed nearly in a panic. Nevertheless, it soon passed, and finding that the wound was hardly serious, she inhaled a deep amount of breath to calm her temporarily unruffled nerves. "What happened?" She sighed, not waiting for an answer, and whipped out her wand. She murmured a quick healing spell and replaced her wand into the depths of her black robes, glancing only once to make sure Snape hadn't seen her from across the room. The man had vision like a hawk. She muttered something under her breath that sounded vaguely like "boys" before turning back toward the sink so that she could continue washing the equipment.

Turning his hand over in astonishment, Harry murmured, "I didn't know I was even cut." Running his fingers over his palm, he realized it must have happened while he was at the table chopping the Mandrake root. Glancing back over his shoulder towards the table's cutting board, he could see (at least from his vantage point) no sign of blood. Malfoy was stirring the pot lazily, and, snorting, Harry grabbed the sponge and begun to clean out the flask in fury. Damn Malfoy. No good, worthless, cheating, lying, crap of a Quidditch player, who needed to get a tan.

"Potter, are you done chopping the Mandrake root? It needs to go in," Draco's composed voice called out as it sliced through the noise of the Potion's room. The Slytherin sounded mildly agitated (as usual, Harry noted), and his sharp gray eyes cut through the space, right to Potter's own green orbs.

Harry did not know what to say. He had never seen Draco look at him that way. There was neither hatred, nor malice; there was but a look of questioning, as though he sincerely wished to know about the Mandrake root.

Rather surprised by the expression in his rival's eyes, Harry glanced down and spat, "Just dump them in then." He did not want to talk to that prat. Returning to the sink, he continued to scrub the flask in heated anger and annoyance. Harry hardly noticed a blush on his cheeks and attributed it to the temperature of the Potion's room due to the amount of lit fires.

Draco blinked suddenly. He shook his head and turned away. No, Potter wasn't blushing, you prat. It's just warm in here with all the fires going… He felt heat creep into his cheeks. See, you're getting hot, err, warm, too… He shook his head once more and grabbed Potter's diced Mandrake root and, with the back of his knife blade, pushed the entire lot into the simmering potion.

Looking down into the brew, the silver haired boy leaned over it and sniffed. Supposedly, as the book said, the potion was supposed to smell distinctly of roses. Frowning, he decided that the potion did not smell like roses at all, but more like…tulips, he supposed. The contents began to rapidly bubble, and the Slytherin jumped back in alarm. The last thing Draco saw was a wave of brown as the liquid spewed forth onto his clothes and face—and then all went black. The last thing he remembered hearing was a sickening bang.

The room suddenly filled with bright blue smoke. Harry distantly heard Snape yell something, but before he could comprehend it, he heard a sickening gurgle, then a low, resonating booming sound. Whirling about, Harry coughed and put his hand to his mouth and tried to breathe as little as possible. The haze stung at his eyes and it smelt like rotten tulips and daffodils in a way that made him want to throw up.

Shouts and screams filled the room, Pansy in particular shrieking like a livid Veela. Harry's eyes, watering madly, called out, "Hermione? Ron?"

Through the blue smoke, and the screams and shouts, one voice rose above all others, silencing any chatter whatsoever.

"Silence! Everyone, be quiet, now!"

It was professor Snape and Harry could only imagine his outraged face. Yet, Harry thought triumphantly, it surely couldn't have been they that caused the explosion. Moreover, even if some how hell had frozen over and Draco managed to make a mistake, Snape surely would not take points away from someone from the Slytherin house. No, Harry thought, wiping the tears away from his dilated eyes, Snape would never do that. Harry silently grinned to himself and imagined the scenario.

"Of course it was just an accident Draco. It could happen to anyone."

"I am sure it wasn't me. It was that bloody Potter, he probably ruined it on purpose!"

"Believe me, I am sure he did, but unfortunately Dumbledore insists that I have proof."

"He still deserves detention anyway, along with the Weasel."

"Yes. I agree. Potter! Detention all this week!"

The smile was wiped off his face as the smoke was swiftly cleared away with a great rush of wind from the end of Snape's wand and the classroom returned to what it had once been. The cauldrons were still boiling away, almost cheerfully, under their blue flames. The students, although looking rather startled and upset, were beginning to grin now and peering at Neville, expecting Snape to start lecturing him any second. Leaning against the marble counter of the sink, Harry glanced at Hermione who was back at her table adding the next ingredient to the potion (daisy stems) with a look of deep concentration. Shaking his head and grinning in amusement, his escapade with Malfoy almost forgotten, a scream suddenly disrupted his entertained thoughts.

It was a high falsetto scream: not one of amusement, or curiosity, or giggly school girlishness. It was a scream of fear, of death. Harry knew such a sound almost instantaneously.

"Professor Snape!"

The greasy haired teacher, who had been making his way towards Neville, his eyes dubiously resting on the purple bubbling cauldron, glanced over his shoulder and snapped, "What is it Ms. Parkinson?"

"I-It's Draco!"

There was a flutter of whispers, and the sound of footsteps. Harry from his vantage point glanced about the classroom. His partner was nowhere to be seen, at least, not on eye level. Yet, slowly, slowly, slowly his gaze fell from a half-melted cauldron to the ground. There he saw a crumpled heap lying on the cold, hard stone floor, a blue haze of smoke still dimly encircling his figure.

"Potter! What the devil happened?!" Snape snarled as he withdrew his wand from his jet-black cape and quickly flicked out a stretcher. A strange look had come upon the Professor's face, one of trying to hide deep fear behind a mask of anger. Harry wondered if he was the only one who saw through this rage and beyond into the concern for a student.

Harry shuddered under his gaze. Now was not the time to be introspective.

Stepping forward and making his way through the crowd, Harry could hardly contain his shock and disgust. Large red gashes, brown, red, and oozing covered Malfoy's chest and the middle of his face. The boy was not moving and Harry dimly smelled rotting flesh. He wanted to gag.

Harry's mind began to work quickly as he looked at the collapsed and badly injured Slytherin. Had they done anything wrong in the directions? He had followed the instructions; in fact, Draco had forced him to do everything step by step by step until he had wanted to slam the cauldron onto the blonde prat's head. No, he insisted, the two of them had done everything correct, he was sure of it.

"I don't know Professor. Malfoy made sure I did everything right, and I don't know what he was doing while I was at the sink."

Snape glared down at him for a quick moment, his thin lips curling in disgust. Yet, his dark and emotionless eyes flicked to Draco's figure, and grabbing Harry about the wrist he instructed, "You, Mr. Potter, are coming with me to the Hospital Wing and then to the Headmaster's office where you can explain everything. And, I do mean everything."

Gulping, Harry tried to find Ron and Hermione's eyes through the crowd, but he could not locate them amongst the worried and angry stares. Once again, Harry thought dimly, it was his fault. It was always his fault. If Gryffindor lost the game, it was his fault—if the potion went terrible, it was his fault. They never said it, of course, but…

"I'll send Filch to watch the class, and if anyone so much as puts one piece of hair out of line, you will loose 50 points. Each. And that includes Slytherin as well."

Pulled along behind the professor, who directed the sagging stretcher down the frosty and gloomy halls of the dungeon, Harry tried not to look at Malfoy. Would his face be permanently scared? These wounds did not seem normal, not that anything was normal in the magical world to begin with, but something was defiantly wrong, so much so that it would cause Snape to take points away from his own house.

Looking away down at the slippery stones beneath his feet, Harry gulped and tried to ignore the quickened pace of his heart.

Once again, Malfoy had gotten the upper hand against him.