Disclaimer: Not mine, just borrowing for a while.
Author's note: After an insanely long hiatus….here it is. I hope it was worth the wait.
Severus had given up on sleep at some point before dawn and simply gone downstairs quietly to begin preparing Harry's first lesson. He transfigured the formal dining room into a make-shift classroom. He needed to maintain some personal boundaries. It was too easy to forget things when you started letting the Art consume you.
He paused in drawing on the chalk board and swallowed hard. He felt raw today, like someone was stroking their fingers in an open wound. Sadly, he did know exactly how that felt. He repressed a shudder at that particular memory. Even when all things had been broken between them, Tom could torment him. Severus let his anger swell forward, filling up the empty places. He would make the Dark Lord regret not finishing him off personally.
Severus finished the diagram and laid out a few books on the desk. Preparations for today finished, he went to the kitchen to make coffee. He didn't think he could honestly stomach food this morning. What little sleep he'd managed to steal had been haunted by memories. He blinked in surprise as Harry came downstairs, just as the pot of coffee finished brewing.
"Good morning, Mr. Potter." Severus said, noting the boy had brought down his mug from last night.
"Morning Sir." Harry said and put the mug in the sink.
"Were you able to get back to sleep?" He asked, noting that the boy did look rested.
"Yes….Thank you." He said after a short pause, meeting his teacher's eyes.
Severus merely nodded in acknowledgment, not caring to speak about last night. "Would you care for some coffee, Mr. Potter?" He asked as he poured himself a large mug. At the boy's enthusiastic nod he filled a second mug and handed it to the youth.
"Sir, I have given some thought to the questions I'd like to ask you." He said and added liberal amounts of cream and sugar to his coffee.
Severus sipped his own, black mind you. "You may ask, though I might choose to defer it until after our lesson today. If I feel that the answer is….involved." He gave that caveat.
"Certainly, Sir." Harry said and summoned his courage. "I'd like to know why you joined V…the Dark Lord." To Harry it made the most sense to start at the beginning.
Severus nodded, the only acknowledgment that he approved of the question. "That is most certainly a topic to discuss later." Severus also definitely preferred to talk about this over a rather large glass of scotch.
"Of course." Harry said, only a little disappointed.
Severus smiled. "Now, I'm going to start breakfast." He got up and in short order had them scrambled eggs on toast with some bacon. He sat a plate down in front of Harry. "The Dark Arts requires a great deal of energy, you'll need to eat well." He said to him.
"Yes Sir," Harry said, starting in on breakfast. His years with the Dursley's had impacted his diet, he always ate less than his peers, pacing himself over small meals so it never looked like he ate meagerly. Eating that much just felt wrong, after so many years of not being allowed more.
Severus didn't comment, he knew well the hallmarks of abuse. Elements knew, he'd lived through his share. How the other teachers missed it always baffled Severus. To him it was as clear as day, but the other professors were always so shocked when such things came out.
"If you find it hard to eat a great deal at one sitting, I'll make certain you have more frequent meals throughout the day, this is one area that you cannot neglect in this." Severus did finally say, watching Harry eat about half his meal and then fuss with the rest. He would also need to brew some nutritional potions for him, he was too thin.
Harry's cheeks colored. "I….we may have to do that Sir." He said quietly and sipped his coffee.
Severus nodded and left him alone, finishing his own food and getting up to start cleaning the dishes. He still preferred to do many things the muggle way, out of habit. He gave Harry some time to pull himself back together. "You can spend the next few hours as you please, but we will begin your lessons at 10am in the next room." Severus told him. "There are books in there that you are free to read as you please." He told him, hoping that perhaps Harry would elect to do just that and prepare a little before this most important lessons.
Severus had always been exposed to The Art, his mother had been inducted to it through her own parents. She made certain her son understood certain things before he'd gone to school. Most chief amongst those lessons had been to keep the Art secret, and not let on the full extent of his knowledge. He could make bad things happen to those that crossed him without anyone ever understanding how. His only real weapons at Hogwarts had been the ones his mother had gifted him with.
It had been his fledgling use of the Art that had drawn Tom's eye, he knew that now. At the time, however, it had felt like someone was FINALLY acknowledging his talent and intellect for what it was, instead of scorning him for it.
He looked up from the dishes to see Potter had fled the kitchen, and the door to the makeshift classroom was ajar. Severus decided to let him be for a time and went to relax for a spell.
Promptly at ten, he entered the little classroom and found Harry reading one of the books his mother had given him. It was a history of the Art, and how it bad become reviled over the centuries. He cleared his throat. "Are you ready to begin?" He asked.
"Yes Sir." Harry said and marked his place before setting the book down, it *was* fascinating.
"Since you were not exposed to the Art as a child, I'll begin with a few basics." He sat down, treating this less like a formal lesson and more like a conversation. "Many who practice the Art believe that our power comes from the Elements, that the earth herself has lent us this power. It's a belief rooted deeply within our community, but many of the muggle-born and muggle-raised are never taught of it, and some today feel that it is simply an elitist religion that should be lost. For those that believe, this is just another reason for the divide between purebloods and muggleborns. Old pureblood families routinely thank the Elements for good fortune and will pour a bit of their potions to the earth to thank them for their blessings. We are creatures of nature, you can never forget that, or you will lose your way in the dark." Severus said.
"Then why do people call it the Dark Arts, if it's not evil?" Harry frowned.
"People always fear what they cannot understand. Certain magics that were once revered, are now considered dark, blood magic for example, or death magic. Blood magic was one of the first real magics, and even today the most powerful ward and protection spells are powered with blood. The protections placed on you by your mother were so very powerful because they were fueled by her death. Lily was not a follower of the Art….but she understood it, and knew the value in it. In her moment of most dire need, that is what she chose to protect you." He said softly.
"You taught her that?" Harry asked then.
"I merely opened her mind to the idea…she did her own research in that regard." Severus said. "She was very curious, and dedicated to learning absolutely everything about our world…both the good and the bad." He said and took a breath. "The great Wizard Concordat of 1946 outlawed use of Blood, Death, and Hereditary Magic. It also outline exactly what spells were dark, and therefore, forbidden. Fear of Grindelwald had fueled a kind of hysteria in our world. They were determined that there would never again be a Dark Lord. Sadly their efforts merely drove us all underground. There had been laws before that made certain magics ambiguous; but never like this." Severus said.
With that Severus dug into the legislations, knowing that it was always best to understand the laws you'd be breaking. He broke off noticing the clock had ticked past four in the afternoon. He blinked, having been so engaged in discussion with Potter about the laws that he hadn't even noticed the passage of time.
"On that note…we'll leave it for today." He said. "I'd like you to finish reading the book you started earlier over the next couple of days. Bring any questions about it to me as you think of them." He said.
"Yes Sir." Harry stretched. "I'll make dinner, if you want." He offered.
"That isn't necessary Mr. Potter." He said and stood. "I'll call you when dinner is ready." Severus said and left the room, knowing that he would need to make time after dinner to address the boy's question from earlier. It was not something he relished.
After dinner he took Harry to the living room and poured the both a tumbler of fire whiskey. He sat in the comfortable chair and took a long sip of his drink, trying to think how best to start.
"You wanted to know why I joined the Dark Lord…and to understand that, you need to first understand who I was. I need you to think back to your second year, to the time when the school had all but turned its back on you. Now span that feeling over your whole school career, take away your friends. I had one person that I trusted and confided in…and she was in a rival house. When we got to see each other it was always in secret and as we got older…I managed to drive her away too. I was a half blood in a house that prides itself on blood purity, and it was commonly known that my mother's family had disowned her for marrying my Muggle father. I learned quickly to watch my back even in the dorms." He paused a moment unable to help but remember the nights he'd been shut out of his own dorm room as a first year…relegated to sleeping in the common room until Lucius had discovered it and helped him to deal with the problem himself.
"After your mother and I had our falling out, I turned to the allies I'd made in my own house for companionship. That summer I ran into Lucius Malfoy and we became friends, of a kind. He was older, but had always had an appreciation for my skills. As his friend, I was introduced to a new, more powerful circle of friends. They didn't scorn or belittle me, indeed they praised me for my mind and my talents. I'd never known that kind of acceptance or approval, and I craved it. When the Dark Lord offered to help me develop my talents further, and after that asked me to join his Death Eaters….I gave him the only answer I could. Yes." Severus said very softly, the normally severe man's eyes softened by regret. "Many who joined him then were like me, drawn in by promises of power…of fellowship. He knew all too well how to tempt us, and played to our personal vanity to ensnare us in his web. By the time you realized just how deeply you were in, it was just too late to get out." He said softly.
Harry watched the flow of emotions over Severus' face and knew that there was much more to it, but didn't have the heart to press him on it. He sipped the potent liquor and let his Professor pull his shields back up around him. "Was Mr. Malfoy trapped, or did he join by choice?" Harry asked, always curious on that score.
"Lucius was trapped at birth, Mr. Potter. His father, Abraxas, was one of the Dark Lord's first supporters and more fervent devotees. Lucius grew up on the Dark Lord's rhetoric an ideals, he never had a chance. Not really." Severus said. "He's as good a man as his circumstances allow him to be."
"Could he be an ally?" Harry asked.
"When the time is right, yes. Before we can approach him, we need to arrange things in our favor." Severus smiled, pleased that Harry had guessed part of his plans. To truly win this war they would need to destroy the man's power base, and the Malfoy's fortune was a huge part of that.
Harry nodded. "Thank you Sir, for sharing that." He said, able to picture himself in Snape's shoes. What would he had done in his place? Could he truly say that it would be any different?
"In turn….I have a question for you." Severus said then, a predatory smile on his lips.
"That wasn't the deal…" Harry scowled.
"Come Mr. Potter, you can't honestly have expected something for nothing. From a Slytherin?" He chuckled warmly.
Harry muttered something but nodded. "What's the question?"
"What's between you and the Weasley girl?" He asked, going right for the throat.
"Nothing…at least, not for my part." He added the last bit with a sigh. "She's been infatuated with me since she started school, and I guess it was just easier to go along with it than break her heart." He said.
Severus nodded. "Is there anyone else you care for?" He asked, wondering if it was the Granger girl that held his heart.
He shook his head. "I just don't feel that way, about anyone. Since I was twelve years old my life's been pretty much constantly in danger and anyone I showed even passing interest in started acting liked crazed fans." He said. "It just made me uncomfortable."
"Natural reaction, I suppose." He said. "If we're successful, there will be plenty of time for all that later." Severus reassured him.
"Yeah…if." Harry said and it hung heavy in the air between them.