An Ever-Fixed Mark
Summary: Harry is determined to discover the identity of his Half-Blood Prince. 1st person, Harry's POV.
Authors Note: A huge, heart felt thank you to Serpenscript, Plot doctor! I couldn't have done it without her support.
Disclaimer: The characters within are not mine and I am not making any money from this.
A Ever-Fixed mark
The stones clack under my feet as I amble down to the dungeons. My whole body is wound tight, vibrating like a live wire. I can feel my hands shaking, whether in anger or fear, I don't know, and I hastily shove them in my pockets. To think that I thought for one, shining second that the greasy bat could be nice and keep his word is about the dumbest thing I have ever done. Sure, I could have just walked away and never had to surrender my lovely book, but of course I did the noble thing and faced the giant snake with dignity… but I found myself bookless and punished all at the same time… punished for doing my homework.
Then, on top of all that, I have Snape's detention to contend with. It's not as though he would just assign the detention with Filch or even McGonagall because I am sure he wants to see the ruin and humiliation of James Potter's son first hand. Bastard.
The corridors twist and turn oddly in the dungeon, actively trying to confuse the walker into thinking they're going the right way only to find they've arrived at a broom cupboard. I dearly hope that the door I spot looming in the distance is in fact Snape's office and not a trick linen cabinet. At least I know what to expect with this detention. Snape will make me chop and clean something horrible and then snip about my technique the entire time before telling me how utterly worthless I am and dismissing me. No fan mail to reply to, no awful scars cleaved into my skin by a horrendous, pink toad women. Just Snape and his unfailing sarcasm and billowing robes and raised eyebrow and smirking mouth… Stop.
The door is indeed Snape's office, I can see the scored wood from countless students prepared to stand all night outside of his door and pound away until he gave them a suitable grade. Poor buggers, I bet none of them got any sleep those nights nor did they manage to raise their grade one point… although I'm sure they managed to lose a few house points along the way. By a few I mean all of them. I almost get the mental image of an enraged Hermione pounding at the door due to her first Exceeds Expectations and Snape right behind the door smirking away as he slams the solid oak in her face with a resounding 'two hundred points from Gryffindor' echoing behind him.
As though life and fantasy have melded together seamlessly, I see Snape looming menacingly from his office, long fingers gripped tightly on the door frame.
"Your late, Potter. Why am I not surprised?" He snarls, smirking gleefully at the possibility of yet more detentions to throw at me. Glorious.
"I'm sorry, Sir. There was a small issue with the hallways… they seem not to like me," I explain hastily before he can snarl at me again and just be miserable to be around for the rest of the night. Which, of course, is not terribly different than usual but it would be nice if there could maybe be a bit of conversation that didn't revolve around how mentally challenged I am.
"I can't imagine anyone or anything liking you, but that doesn't stop the legion of admirers that pant after you. My dungeons, at least, are immune to your charms. Now, get inside so that we can actually get some work done tonight," he says, ushering me in the office and slamming the door behind me.
"Yes, Sir." I sigh, shuffling through the doorway and standing awkwardly in the middle of the room.
"Sit down and pay attention," he barks, elegantly lowering himself into the plush chair behind his desk. I plop rather unceremoniously into the hard, wood chair placed in perfect glowering range from his seat. I can't help but sigh again in anticipation of the disgusting thing I will be forced to dissect, chop, or otherwise mangle tonight before I can finally get some sleep.
"Take out a quill and a stack of parchment," he demands, looking bored already. Oh bollocks. In six years, Snape has never once required me to bring anything at all to my detentions. Of all the sodding times for him to start wanting me to write lines –
"My things are back in Gryffindor tower, Professor," I sigh, wishing the earth would open up and swallow me before Snape has time to yell at me. I was really hoping to make progress with him tonight, despite the formal detention situation.
"Why would you not bring anything to this lesson?" He says very slowly, looking very much like he wants to throttle me. Well, the fact that I'm not currently being throttled speaks a lot for the restraint he must be showing.
"Lesson?" I reply, completely befuddled. What in Godric's name is he talking about? Lesson? This is a detention, right? Why else would Snape demand that I come to his office after dinner?
"Are you really this dense?" He asks, raising his face as though to ask for patience.
"I must be," I mutter miserably, not daring to look at his face. I am just doing a fantastic job making him see how I can actually contribute something intelligent to a conversation.
"You are here because without intervention you will fail your subsequent Potions classes," he drawls, his voice void of emotions again now that the initial anger had faded. His eyes, though, were positively glowing in the candlelit office. The inky black pools churning and sparking at me, liquid obsidian burning through me and making a trail of electricity shoot up my spine. How have I never noticed how… enticing his eyes could be?
"Intervention, right. Wait. What?" I stutter, earning yet another glare. I should really start paying closer attention before be just kicks me out and never speaks to me outside of class again.
"Intervention, Potter. It's a noun, meaning simply the act of intervening, especially a deliberate entry into a situation or dispute in order to influence events or prevent undesirable consequences. Get it?" he snarls, glaring full force now. Ok, now he's even angrier and you'll never get him to talk tonight. God, did he just quote a dictionary? What a smart ass.
"Yes, sir. I meant what sort of intervention," I reply as politely as I possibly can.
"The sort where you sit here every day after dinner and pay attention while I attempt to cram your head full of years worth of knowledge," he explains heatedly, looking exasperated already. Not a good sign that he's fed up this soon into the conversation.
"You're going to tutor me?" I shout excitedly, half-standing from my chair in an aborted manoeuvre that might have ended with me pounce-hugging Professor Snape. Geez, try a little control on for size!
"Running scared already, Potter?" He mocks, looking rather pleased by his assumption that I was upset by this development. Oh, if he only knew how emphatically not upset I actually am.
"Running? I'd have to be absolutely mad to run from an opportunity like this! I can't believe it! This is…I'm just so… Thank you!" I gush, overwhelmed, doing a little arm pump to emphasize my absolute elation. If I thought I wouldn't get hexed, I would be doing a jig around his office. I'm sure my smile must be splitting my face in two, and that I look absolutely ridiculous but I can't be bothered to care. Snape is going to tutor me!
Merlin's shorts, Snape is going to tutor me; The Half-Blood Prince is going to tutor me! Oh Merlin, this day is simply amazing. I don't even know where to begin to express my gratitude, not that he would think it was sincere even if I did manage to pull myself together enough to thank him properly.
"I'm just thrilled to have your cooperation on this. Now, if you are sufficiently informed, can we please begin?" He says dryly, raising one thin brow in mock concern. I nod rapidly, eyes wide with anticipation and smiling so widely that my cheeks are beginning to hurt.
"Excellent. We'll begin at seven each night and continue until we have finished with the evenings goals. For instance, tonight we will be working on the Elixir to Induce Euphoria, Blood-Replenishing Potion and Burn-Healing Paste. The lab is through here," he explains, gesturing briefly to a doorway that I had never noticed before.
"Sir, what about the curfew?" I ask, dreading the consequences should I be caught not returning to bed on time, every night.
"I wouldn't worry, Potter. I'm sure Professor McGonagall can't be bothered to do bed checks until one. I shall be sure to have you seen by the appropriate people in your dormitory," he says nonchalantly, barely glancing in my direction as we make our way through the doorway and into a narrow corridor that opens up into a large Potions lab.
Does Snape really know what time McGonagall does her checks? Why would he be telling me how to get around being punished? Maybe he doesn't have permission from anyone at all to be giving me these lessons. I guess nobody would approve of the fact that I'll be secreted down here until the wee hours of the morning, in the Slytherin dungeons, having highly illegal lessons with Snape who isn't even supposed to be helping me at all. Not to mention the fact that Snape said that he'd make sure that I'm seen by the right people in the dorm for checks, not that I'd be staying there long enough to sleep.
Since the rush of excitement has passed, I can't help but wonder why on earth Snape is doing this. That's not to say that I'm ungrateful or even the slightest bit less than thrilled to have private Potions lessons from The Half-Blood Prince himself, but it just seems strange to me that Snape would invite his least favorite student to partake of his immense knowledge. Not to mention the fact that I never learned half as much from Snape as I did from the Prince which is completely mental because they are the same person.
"Potter, are you listening to a word I'm saying?" Snape frowns, whirling around to glare at me. I gulp again and shake my head mutely. Brilliant start, Potter.
"Of course not. Well, spit it out so we can actually get some work done," he finishes crossly, scowling deeply at me.
"Why are you doing this? It's obviously not because you care about my Potions grade and certainly not due to our fantastic history with private lessons. So, why?" I blurt, probably speaking too fast for him to understand, but if I didn't get it out fast, it would never get said.
"I am doing this because very soon you will need to know things, things that a normal sixteen year old boy should never have to know… things that fully trained wizards are too frightened to even dream about. You will have to know these things to stay alive in order to kill a wizard that people can't even bring themselves to speak of except in whispers," he hisses, clearly using every molecule of intimidation in order to get me to understand. I really wish I did.
"You may think I'm the most worthless child to ever sully Hogwarts' halls, but I am not completely brainless. I know that Dumbledore knows nothing about these lessons; otherwise we wouldn't be hidden away down here, surrounded by enough wards to keep Merlin himself out. I also know that you loathe me and nothing I could have possibly done this year would be enough to convince you to give me private lessons. I need to know what you know that makes you think for one second that this is a good idea," I exclaim, flailing my arms about hither and thither, wholly surprised that I managed not to swat him in the face during my rather hysterical rant.
"I will only tell you that very soon, you will be on your own and you will need every ounce of cunning, skill and intelligence you can possibly absorb. I intend to prepare you for the worst of the challenges that you will face before I am no longer able to do so," he growls out, his normally pallid face turning even paler.
"I'm not going to get any more than that out of you, am I?" I sigh, pouting slightly in disappointment.
"No so don't ask. What you can do, however, is come over here and attempt to prepare an Elixir to Induce Euphoria before I drop dead of old age," Snape drawls, obviously reaching the end of his patience.
"Of course, sir. Shall I just guess what to put in it, or is there some sort of guide you want me to follow?" I snap back, angry despite every effort to remain unaffected. I just can't understand why everyone thinks I'm a big baby who shouldn't be told important information!
"Bite your tongue, boy," he snarls halfheartedly. "If you would stop talking long enough to open your eyes, you'll see that I have laid everything out for you on the table. Just pour the infused Nettle oil in the cauldron and light a fire underneath," He instructs, the swishing of his robes moving closer as I attempt to keep my eyes on the workspace in front of me.
"Yes, sir," I sigh, following his instructions as well as I'm capable.
"Now," he purrs, standing entirely too close to me, so close that I can feel the whisper of his robes against the back of my legs. Bollocks, now is not the time to remember that very detailed dream about the Prince giving me 'private lessons'. "If you do everything I say, you will find yourself with a useable batch of the Elixir."
"What next?" I rasp, feeling each and every place that his clothing is touching me as though it were a white hot brand on my skin.
"Let the oil simmer while you grind the moonstone into a fine powder," he purrs again and I can feel his breath caress my ear with each word and I think I'm going to embarrass myself by moaning if he doesn't back up soon. "Then, you will slice the Murtlap tentacles into one-quarter inch slices."
Right, there are potions to make and Snapes to not molest. God, why am I thinking about molesting him at all? It's Snape, for Merlin's sake! It's not as though a few lessons will make him stop hating me… not that I would actually care one way or another because I definitely hate him no matter what he thinks. Right?
I know that Snape is a different animal completely than my Prince. Obviously, life and experiences have conspired to shape the smart, witty, slightly rude teenager I was so enraptured by into this dark, sarcastic, entirely unpleasant man. As I grind the Moonstone into a very fine powder, per Snape's demand, I can't help but think that it's really not his fault at all that he turned out how he did. I mean, who knows what sort of horrors he's had to live through while serving as a Death Eater… obviously it was bad enough to go to Dumbledore and beg sanctuary in return for information.
"Potter! Add the Powdered Moonstone!" Snape growls, flicking the side of my head to get my attention. Right, Snape is trying to teach my to make a potion, not giving me time to rationalize the teenager and the man. Not that they're really that different….no. Focus.
"Sorry Professor," I say, tipping the mortar over the cauldron and watching as the Moonstone slides on the top of Nettle Oil. Steady on, Potter. You need to impress him this time or else he might think this entire effort isn't worth his time and write it off as a bad job. I guess I did it correctly because he nods slightly and moves on.
"Stir the base slowly, six times counter clockwise and rest the stirring rod against the side of the cauldron," he says firmly, watching avidly as I stir the two ingredients together. "Good. Now begin slicing, you have only five minutes to perfect the slices before you must add them; any longer and you'll have to begin again."
Taking up the knife, I grab one large Murltap tentacle and place it on the cutting board lying in front of the cauldron. Holding the silver blade firmly, I begin to slice the end off the tentacle and discard it before I start on the stock of the plant. I'm not even three slices in before he grabs my wrist and sighs deeply. I wonder what I did wrong this time.
"For Merlin's sake! I said the tentacles need to be sliced in one-quarter inch pieces." he says, keeping a firm hold on my wrist.
"Um, is that not what I'm doing?" I ask softly, kicking myself for messing up so early.
"No, Potter, that is not what you're doing. Those are one-half inch slices, and not entirely good ones at that. Do you know the difference between one-half and one-fourth?" He asks, sounding genuinely interested in the answer. Well, I can't blame him for asking, considering that he thinks I am the most uneducated person to ever be admitted to Hogwarts.
"Yes, sir. I guess my estimation was off," I reply, hoping to keep my voice from sounding irritated.
"Cut the slices you already have directly in two. Potions must be prepared exactly as they are written, or you will find yourself with a cauldron full of sludge," he says, and I can hear an undercurrent of amusement, probably directed towards the memory of my many failed potions, and he releases my wrist. The skin tingles strangely as his fingers slide away from me to rest beside me on the table. Don't think about it, or you'll balls it up again.
"Like this?" I ask, splitting the incorrect slices into two equal parts. Yes, it's possible that I am looking for a little positive reinforcement but surely there's nothing wrong with that.
"Yes, and you will need six properly prepared slices for the potion, discard the rest," he explains, sighing under his breath as though he knew all along what I was after... which is fine with me as long as the encouragement keeps coming because this might just be the first potion with Snape that I've reached the ten minute mark without making the entire classroom fill with smoke or cover classmates with disgusting slime. Hurrah!
"And now I add them?" I hedge, hoping I did the slices right this time. I apparently did because Snape nods again. That's two approving gestures from Snape in one night and for the first time all night, I believe that these lessons might work out after all.
I grasp the cutting board and slide the tentacle pieces into the brew. The potion hisses and pops once before settling again. Looking back at Snape, he nods at me and continues to instruct me about the proper procedure for creating the perfect Elixir to Induce Euphoria.
The evening is going well, with Snape instructing calmly and mostly without scathing comments while I actually craft successful potions without blowing anything up. Really, I wouldn't have thought that I could actually enjoy brewing potions with Snape, but I find myself having fun despite any misgivings. He is mostly quiet while I ramble insensibly about things in my life but despite all the bored sighs he lets out, he is actually listening to me. That feels a lot better than I thought it would; having someone listening to what I have to say without telling me what a stupid child I am.
The Elixir turned out perfect (although I find it hard to believe that anyone could do poorly with Snape giving detailed instructions right in their ear) and I think I even managed to impress him with my lack of explosions. I found the Blood-Replenishing potion to be a bit more challenging due to the elaborate stirring maneuver required. Even with Snape's explicit directions, and multiple form corrections, I still only managed to make a passable attempt at the complicated potion. Snape seemed to think it was a decent attempt though, because he didn't shout at all, just simply told me we would try again tomorrow.
So it is with little shock that I find that the hour has grown late and McGonagall is due to check beds in a half hour. Not good. There is no possible way that I can drag myself all the way from the dungeons to Gryffindor Tower without getting caught by Filch, change into my night pants and look like I've been there all along before my Head of House comes in. Bollocks.
"Sir, I think I'm going to need you to do a Disillusionment Charm on me so that I can get back to my dorm before McGonagall does her checks," I suggest politely, hoping to keep the casual feeling to the evening without insulting him somehow. Merlin knows the man is temperamental enough without me adding fuel to the fire.
"Nonsense, you shall simply take the secondary stairs up to the painting of Gillert the Goon and then proceed to your bed," he replies, looking very smug.
"Secondary staircase? There is no secondary staircase, Professor," I bleat, looking about as confused as I feel. Certainly I haven't missed staircase to Gryffindor Tower on both the Marauder's Map and on foot… right? And really, even if I had, that doesn't mean that Snape would know the first thing about getting to the Gryffindor Common Room; I've always been a bit shocked that he even knew where it is, let alone how to get there so fast the minute he gets wind that a student is out of bed past curfew.
"Of course there is a secondary staircase, you foolish boy. How do you imagine that the faculty gets around without every student in the school finding out about their personal affairs?" Snape snips, still smirking away as though he just told me the secret to the universe. Bastard sure has a way to rub it in, doesn't he?
"Oh, well I suppose I've never given my Professor's social calendar that much thought," I reply, unable to keep the sarcasm at bay with him smirking for England over there.
"Obviously, or else your feeble excuse for a brain might simply implode with the knowledge that teachers have something else to do besides attempt to interest you in subjects you no doubt have no wish to know," he growls out, looking a little breathless at the end of his tirade.
"Couldn't you just tell me how to access the staircase without going into an hour long rant about the inadequacies of every student you have ever taught?" I snip back, frowning at the abrupt change in Snape's attitude. We've been doing so well, too!
"Certainly. The portrait of Wendelin the Weird hangs directly across from the statue of Wilfred the Wistful. If you speak the password correctly, you will be admitted to the staircase without any fuss," he explains, sounding neutral again now that he realized by patience for gentle banter has passed. Pity.
"And what is the password, sir?" I ask with a sigh, clearly not doing well in the game he must be playing with me. If I only knew what the game was… or the rules for that matter, I'm sure that I could do much better at it.
"Ashwinder eggs," he answers, heaving himself into one of the stools stationed by the table.
"Thanks. When do you want me back to work on the Burn-Healing Paste?" I ask, attempting to look interested. After all, he did mention that he hates teaching people who show no interest in the subject he's teaching… so it would only be natural for me to want him to see that I actually want to learn from him lest I be banished from his private lab, never to return again.
For some reason, the idea of never coming back here causes a strange weight to settle on my chest and for a moment I can't breath right just thinking about it. To see his cold, dark eyes scanning me disinterestedly as I fail to impress him in DADA, as though this entire night where he was actually nice to me never happened, would be agony.
"I believe it should be safe to return around two o'clock," he mutters, already tidying up the lab for the next round. I find myself looking forward to sneaking back to his office in the middle of the night, although in my mind I'm not returning to make potions. God, why can't I stop thinking about Snape naked? It's not only absurd but entirely impossible! No matter what odd, convoluted thoughts I'm having lately, there is no way that Snape would even look twice at me… not that I care because I certainly would never make a move on him.
"See you then, Professor," I squeak, hoping beyond hope that he was unable to tell the timber of my thoughts just from looking at my face. God, wouldn't that be absolutely mortifying? I can only imagine the things he would say to me should he find out.
I begin wandering down random hallways, not completely knowing which way was the correct way to go. I should have thought to ask Snape about that but I will scratch that down as a lesson learned. 'Always ask before you go wandering throughout magical moving hallways'.
I have to whip out my wand and cast a hasty 'Lumos' to actually see which way I was going and in my mind that is certainly a bad sign. I feel like I'm in one those Muggle movies Dudley watches randomly and for some reason last summer kept inviting me to watch with him; you know the ones where the girls like Hermione run around in dark alleys and end up on the wrong end of some freak's butcher knife. Let us simply hope that no stray Death Eaters (or Malfoy) pop out with nasty cutlery and make minced pie out of my innards.
These hallways are beginning to seem more and more like a maze as the corridors twist and curl awkwardly before my eyes. I can't help but think that this could have all been an elaborate prank by Snape to get me caught out of bed at 12:30 just so that Gryffindor will lose a spectacular amount of points. Boy, that would be an amazing prank; a prank that even the Weasley twins would envy and emulate… if I ever had the guts to tell them I had gotten pranked by a 30 something year old Slytherin.
Finally I see the statue. Well at least that part wasn't a prank. I slowly approach the portrait directly across from it and for some reason the thought arises in my head that it very well could refuse me entrance, somehow knowing that I am not a faculty member and I should not rightly know the password.
Wendelin the Weird gazes solemnly at me, shifting her weight from foot to foot, waiting silently for me to invoke the correct phrase to open the supposed secret staircase. I smile at her and say 'Ashwinder Eggs' as confidently as I am able under the circumstances. She nods, squinting her eyes at me as though to figure out who the hell I am, but reveals the doorway regardless.
The wall disintegrates into a scantly lit staircase, its spiral curving sharply from the landing and going very far up. I shrug, grip my wand tightly, and step into the newly revealed space. Immediately after my foot clears the first stair, the passage way closes with a snap and the area is plunged into total darkness, save my piteous Lumos. But since I'm already on the first stair, with no way to retreat, I decide to pluck on.
Sooner than I thought I would, I found myself deposited in front of the portrait of Gillert the Goon, directly across from the Gryffindor Common Room. The idea that I traveled from the dungeons all the way up to the seventh floor within twenty or so steps is too baffling to examine too closely and I simply write it off as one of the many wonders of magic.
The Fat Lady is snoring lightly in her frame, but her eyes snap open as I approach. "Out of bed late, child," she admonishes not unkindly.
"I lost track of time in the library. I have a pass from Madam Pince," I explain with a smile, hoping she doesn't call my bluff.
"Oh, certainly dear. I know how N.E.W.T revisions can get. Password?" she says with a smile, waving her hand to open the door when I say the correct password for the correct hidden door. Goodness, if I could get away with it, I would write each password down for their corresponding doors to avoid future confusion.
A quick 'Tempus' shows me that I have exactly three minutes to shove myself into my night pants and climb into bed. Working quickly, I slip out of my school uniform and into the soft cotton pants and crawl into bed just as I hear the dormitory door creak open. Shifting as though in sleep, I hang one leg outside the covers and pray to god that McGonagall doesn't look to closely at me. She doesn't. With a speedy head count, she turns swiftly and moves on to the other dorms for her nightly checks.
I breath out sharply, relieved beyond words that I haven't been caught and shuffle around until I have my regular pants and tee shirt on again. It just wouldn't do to show back up in Snape's lab in my embarrassingly over-sized sleep pants. It just wouldn't do at all.
By one forty-five, I'm anxious again; creeping silently out of the portrait door and across the hall to the secret passage. I walk down the stone steps, lost in thought, and find myself ten minutes early. I wonder if Snape would mind that I'm early or if he would be annoyed that I'm further trespassing upon his private time. Well, I refuse to stand around outside his office, just waiting for Mrs. Norris or Filch to come upon a random boy lurking outside Snape's private office so I push the door open with great trepidation only to see that the man is not at his desk. Lucky, that.
The doorway is just as dark and dank as it was this evening, but I know that way now and I make my way to the hidden lab almost silently. As I enter the room, I notice three things at once. One, Snape is brewing something that looks really involved. Two, he has shed his heavy teaching robe and rolled up the sleeves of his starched jacket to reveal his pale forearms and the dark, contrasting Morsmordre marring the marble-esque skin. Three, he is looking at me with the oddest expression; it's a though he doesn't know whether to be annoyed or amused.
"I know I'm early but I just wanted to make sure that I made it out of the dorm before Neville takes his two am piss," I ramble nervously, unnerved by the relentless obsidian gaze. I wonder if I have something on my face…Why else would he be looking at me like that?
"Mr. Potter, I see you have decided to make yourself comfortable," he observes and it takes me a moment to realize that he's referring to my casual attire. Oh well, it's not as though I could exactly pick out the most attractive outfit in my wardrobe in pitch darkness.
"Sorry, Sir. I was in a bit of a hurry to get out of there," I explain, grinning at him to portray good humor. I certainly know how awkward I look, decked out in Dudley's over-sized, ratty clothes but that doesn't mean that I can't find some humor in the situation.
"While it may puzzle me to no end that the darling of the Wizarding world dresses in no more than rags, we should really begin on the Burn-Healing Paste so that we may actually get some sleep," he snarks, smirking at my glare. Sometimes he really is a bastard; a dark, foreboding, commanding beautiful bastard. Stop. Focus.
"Yes, Sir," I reply almost eagerly, stepping over to the worktable and wait for the velvet voice to begin the instructions.
Author's Note: Alright, this is all you get in one go! I just couldn't leave you all hanging like that. But, because of the lovely schedule I set up, you shall have another instalment next week - AS LONG AS I GET ENOUGH REVIEWS! Yes, I am resorting to bribery again and no I have no pride to sacrifice. So, PLEASE REVIEW!
Oceans of Love,