Descent into Darkness

BY : Athey1024
Category: Harry Potter AU/AR > Slash - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 69308
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor any of the characters from the books or movies. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.


 



Disclaimer: Don't own Harry Potter. JKRowling does.



First Beta Pass by Clemex



– –



"Blimey, Harry! How did you do that!" Ron exclaimed as the three of them left the defense classroom and began to make their way towards the grand staircase. It was Tuesday and they were finally done with classes for the day and were not working their way to dinner.



"Do what?" Harry replied, slightly confused as to which 'that' Ron was referring to now. He had been under the impression that Ron had been oblivious to most of what he spent the last hour doing.



"That... that... thing you did! What was that?"



"Ron, I honestly have no idea what you're talking about," Harry barely managing to mask the air of annoyed exasperation in his voice.



"Harry, I think that Ron's referring to the non-verbal spell you used that caused your training dummy to disintegrate," Hermione said, while giving him a fairly wary look through narrowed eyes.



"Oh... that?" Harry responded. It had hardly been the highest level spell he had used in their Defense class that day, although he was pretty sure no one noticed the more interesting ones.



They had each been placed in front of a charmed dummy that was spelled to send random hexes at them. Moody told them to disable the dummy as quickly and efficiently as possible, and to do it without getting hexed. Harry took care of it in what he felt like was a rather efficient manner. His spell had hit it on his first shot, and had utterly disabled it. Definitely effective.



It was later that he started getting creative and began doing some more... subtle magics around the classroom.



Harry had gotten bored, since he had completed his task first. He was leaning against the wall to the back of the classroom, watching as the rest of his classmates were repeatedly hit with minor hexes by barely animate objects, and were unable to get their attacks past their dummies' weak little shield charms. It was pathetic, really. So he had started messing with people – just sending minor curses and lesser hexes here and there, to amuse himself. They had been complex and subtle, and the fact that he had pulled it all off without anyone the wiser sent an exuberant thrill up his spine.



But Ron wasn't excited about the results of Harry's subtlety. Ron wouldn't have noticed any of them, even if Harry had done it while holding his wand directly under the ginger's nose. No. Ron had never appreciated subtlety. He was getting all excited about the stupid spell he'd used at the start of class. Harry barely managed to refrain from rolling his eyes.



"Yes, that," Hermione said, with a fairly accusatory tone. "What was that, Harry? Where on earth did you learn something like that?"



"Erm... read it in a book, somewhere. Don't remember, where exactly," Harry said with a dismissive shrug. Truth was that his companion had whispered it in his ear a week earlier when he was trying to come up with different curses and hexes to practice in preparation for the tournament. He still didn't know what the next task would be, but he didn't see any harm with practicing curses. Seemed like a decent enough use of his free time to Harry.



"I didn't hear you say anything when you cast it," Ron said, his voice filled with a bit of awe. "Did you seriously cast it without saying anything!"



Hermione huffed in exasperation. "Merlin, Ron! Harry has been doing almost all of his classwork non-verbally for more than a month! How could you not have noticed!"



"Seriously!" Ron exclaimed and turned to gape at Harry.



"Uh... yeah, Ron. I have." Idiotic, unobservant, git. Harry thought as he rolled his eyes. His companion burst into cackles of laughter, making it very difficult for Harry to keep a straight face until it subsided.



"How did you learn to do that!" Ron exclaimed.



"Learned it while I was studying on my own, you know – for the dragon," Harry said in a rather annoyed tone.



Ron's ears went pink and he looked down at his feet.



"So what spell was it?" Hermione asked, turning to Harry and giving him a rather expectant look. "I mean, the one you used today in Defense."



Harry clenched his jaw in irritation, trying to hold back the urge to snap at her and tell her to mind her own damned business. Instead he took a slow breath and pulled back on a disinterested mask.



"It's called distraxi," he replied once he was sure he could keep the anger out of his voice.



Hermione frowned. "I've never heard of it."



Harry was unable to refrain from rolling his eyes this time. "Obviously," he remarked sarcastically.



They reached the landing on the first floor and began to make their way towards the entrance hall.



"What is the spell, exactly?" Hermione persisted. "I mean, what does it do?"



Harry's hand was fisting so tightly into the hem of his robe sleeve that his knuckles were turning white, but he managed to maintain a vaguely calm exterior. "It's a dissolving hex, Hermione. Literally it means to pull into pieces." The truth was that it wasn't a hex at all. It was a curse. But he knew Hermione would only give him a harder time if he admitted that to her.



"Yes, but what are it's limits? Surely you wouldn't be able to use that spell against... against a person would you? We were supposed to be practicing a way to stop someone attacking us with hexes, Harry. Surely you wouldn't use that spell against a person, would you?"



Harry stopped and turned to look her in the eyes. His face was mostly blank, but the irritation was still blatantly clear. His lids were slightly lowered, and his brows were flat.



"The assignment was to stop the dummy from attacking, and to not get hit. The challenge was to get past the dummy's shield charm and disable it. I did that."



"Well, yes, but shouldn't you find a way to do that in a way that you could use in a real scenario? You could use that spell to stop a dummy, but you wouldn't be able to do that if it were a real person... right? What would that spell do against a real person?"



"What exactly are you suggesting?" he asked, flatly.



"Well, it just seems a bit... destructive, that's all. Are you sure it's just a hex? It looked like a curse, Harry. Especially since it managed to get through the training dummy's shield so easily..."



"And diffindo isn't destructive? Bombarda isn't destructive? What about confringo?" he sneered.



"What's your point?" Hermione asked, taking on a rather defensive posture.



"My point is that all of those spells are all neutral spells that are taught as a part of the standard Hogwarts defense curriculum, and they're all destructive too. Bloody bombarda is taught in classes! I don't see how the spell I used was any worse."



"Bombarda isn't taught until sixth year, Harry!"



"You used it last year!" he pointed out.



"Well, yes, but I read ahead! And you haven't answered my question. What would that spell do if used on a living person?"



Harry's eyes narrowed and he glared down icily at the bushy-haired brunette. "It would do exactly what it did to the dummy," he bit out in a harsh whisper.



Hermione's eyes widened in slowly dawning horror and Harry turned away and continued to stride down the hallway. Hermione stood stunned in place and Ron stood there with his head turning back and forth from Hermione to Harry and back again before he hurried down the hall to catch up with Harry.



"You're kidding, right, mate?" Ron said as he caught up and matched Harry's harsh strides. "I mean... it tore that dummy to pieces and dissolved it into dust! In like... five seconds flat! It wouldn't really do that to a person would it?"



Harry grumbled in frustration as he came to a stop and turned to glare back at his 'friends'.



"Do you know why the killing curse is called the killing curse?"



Ron blanched but shook his head no.



"Because that's all it can do. It kills you. It's quick, painless, and honestly – probably the most humane way you can kill a person. Do you know how many other magic spells can kill a person? Hundreds! Probably thousands, if you're creative enough.



"You can kill a person if you slice their throat open with a well aimed diffindo. You can kill someone with a bombarda if you blast them out a window, or off a ledge, or blast some big piece of something hard into their head. If you're point-blank and put enough force into the spell, you could probably blow a person apart with confringo! Bloody hell, guys, you can kill a person with a pencil if you're really dedicated! Just because I used a spell that could be used to kill someone doesn't mean that that is it's only use. Do you want to ban quills because someone could stab you in the eye with one?"



"Yeah but that spell seemed like a really dark spell, Harry," Hermione whispered as she came to stand beside Ron. "It just.. it felt dark."



"Well it's not. It's a neutral magic spell like the others because it has uses that have nothing to do with maiming or killing a person," Harry shouted at her. Of course, it's only just barely a neutral spell... he silently admitted to himself. "Besides, do you honestly think I'd be stupid enough to use a dark spell in school? In class!"



"Are you saying that you know some!" Hermione gasped.



Harry growled in anger. "No! Of course not!" Well... maybe a few... but it's not like I'm going to tell you that. He amended, mentally, and his companion snickered.



"Well, I'd certainly hope not! It's Defense Against the Dark Arts class, not the Dark Arts class!"



"Merlin, guys! I learn a few spells outside the standard curriculum and suddenly you're jumping on the 'Harry Potter is going dark' bandwagon!"



"I just don't see why you'd need to learn a spell that tears things apart like that!" Hermione argued, defensively.



"Uh – does the Tri-Wizard Tournament ring any bells, Hermione? You know, I'd really prefer not to end up dead this year. I'm going to learn whatever the hell I need to learn to survive this thing."



Hermione made to open her mouth but snapped it shut and looked down.



"I'm sorry, Harry. You're right."



"Thank you!" Harry said in angry exasperation while throwing his hands into the air.



Hermione sighed heavily and turned back down the hall and the three of them resumed their trek to the Great Hall.



"You've been doing really brilliant in classes lately," Hermione whispered in a very quiet voice after an uncomfortable minute of silence.



Harry narrowed his eyes and looked at her suspiciously for a moment before masking it away an taking on a forced bashful expression.



"Er, thanks."



"Do you... do you think you could teach me some of that non-verbal magic you've been doing? Maybe point me to whatever book you learned it from?"



Harry blinked at her in surprise. "Uh... I... I don't really know Hermione. I mean, I didn't exactly read it from a book or anything."



Hermione stopped and looked at him with a furrowed, confused brow.



"How'd you learn it then?"



"I just sort of... started doing it. I kind of had an epiphany earlier this term one Saturday morning when I was doing a lot of thinking. I can't really explain it, but I sort of figured out how to tap into my magic in a way I never had before. I just.. get it now. I really wouldn't have any idea how to instruct someone else on it though."



She frowned and sighed. "Oh... alright."



The trio entered the great hall and made their way to the Gryffindor table. Harry managed to avoid much of the conversation for the majority of the meal. Ron and Seamus, who were sitting opposite Harry and Hermione at the table, got into a heated discussion about some upcoming Quidditch match between the Ballycastle Bats and the Chudley Cannons. Hermione ended up eating while reading, and Harry was grateful for the opportunity to be left alone for a while. He knew he would have to soak it up while he could since his friends would expect him to stay with them in the common room to do their homework.



Harry had just finished eating when he heard a startled choking noise from Ron. He looked up and saw Ron's jaw hanging so far open it was practically resting on the table. A glance to the left revealed an identical expression gracing Seamus's face.



Harry was about to ask what they were gawking at when he felt a light tapping on his shoulder. Harry turned around in his seat and saw none other than Fleur Delacour standing just behind him.



His eyes widened and his lips parted in surprise for only the briefest of seconds before he pulled on a confident grin and nodded his head.



"Mademoiselle Delacour, what a pleasure it is to see you this fine evening," Harry said with mock seriousness and a silly dip of his head. She giggled and rolled her eyes at him. Harry heard a strangled whimper noise emanate from somewhere in Ron's throat, but ignored it.



"Please, 'arry. Call me Fleur," she said grinning.



"My lady you honor me," Harry said, still grinning cockily. "So to what do I owe the pleasure? Have you already made your decision?"



"I have," she said, grinning even larger.



"Are you going to keep me hanging here? I'm absolutely desperate with anticipation."



She laughed. "You really are quite amusing 'arry. I do hope you will keep me just as entertained at zee ball."



Harry's brows rose questioning. "Does that mean you've accepted my invitation?"



She rolled her eyes and giggled lightly. "Yes, 'arry. I accept."



Harry beamed at her. "Brilliant."



"I will let you know where to come collect me for zee ball when zee event draws nearer."



"I look forward to it."



"So do I," she said with a smirk as she began to turn away. "See you later, 'arry."



"Bye Fleur."



Harry turned back to the table, chuckling lightly and feeling a smug sense of accomplishment. He looked up and saw that the entirety of the Gryffindor table... and everyone from most of the other tables, for that matter – were all staring at him.



Ron's face was almost as red as his hair and he was making squeaking noises in his throat.



"You alright there Ron?" Harry asked with mock concern.



"Was that what I think that was?" Seamus asked in a choked gasp.



"What do you think it was?" Harry asked, grinning.



"Did... wait, did you ask Fleur Delacour to go to the dance with you!" Seamus exclaimed.



"Yeah," Harry said with a dismissive shrug.



"When!"



"Um... last week. Morning after McGonagall announced the ball."



"For real!"



"Yeah."



"And she just accepted!" Seamus continued, his voice growing higher in pitch with each word.



Harry laughed and shook his head in affirmative. "Yes, Seamus. I asked her out, and she said yes," Harry said slowly, as if he were speaking to a small child.



Ron's jaw was now floundering up and down and his eyes were oddly dilated. Harry reached across the table and waved his hand in front of Ron's face.



"You alright there, mate?"



"F-ff—fleu..." he began to stutter.



Harry rolled his eyes and turned back to Seamus. "So you asked anyone yet?"



"Oh, yeah. I asked Lavender. She said yes."



"Congrats man."



Seamus coughed out a laugh. "Nah, Harry. If anyone should be congratulating anyone, I should be congratulating you. I can't believe you had the balls to ask out Fleur! Even more... I can't believe she said yes!"



Harry laughed. "Is it really so hard to believe I could get a date?"



"It's not that, Harry. It's just that she's Fleur Delacour! And you're just a forth year!"



"F-f-fl-fl..." Ron continued to stutter, dumbly.



Harry chuckled. "Yeah, I know. I think the fact that I'm able to talk to her without stuttering and drooling like a babbling buffoon really improved my chances, though."



Ron's jaw snapped shut and his face went red again.



"I don't know how you manage it, though," Seamus said with awe in his voice. "I mean... you were just talking to her so easily there! How can you not go all dumb around her?"



Harry shrugged and reached down to grab his bag. "I don't know, I just don't." He turned to Hermione who was giving him a small knowing smile and he rolled his eyes at her. "I'm gonna head back to the common room. I'll see you all later, alright?"



"Alright. See you later Harry," Hermione said.



– – –



The next morning at breakfast a speckled gray owl swooped down through the great hall along with the countless other post owls, and settled on the table in front of Harry. Harry's excitement grew and he quickly reached for the parchment wrapped around it's leg. He gave it a piece of bacon off his plate and quickly unrolled the letter.



"Who's that from, mate?" Ron said through a mouth full of eggs. Harry barely managed to stop the sneer that wanted to spread across his face as a few pieces of food fell out of Ron's mouth and onto the table.



Disgusting whelp...



He shook his head and looked back down at the letter. It was from Mr. Mulpepper's Apothecary in Knockturn Alley.



Harry quickly read over the letter and his lips curled into a devilish grin.



"What is it Harry?" Hermione asked as she leaned over his shoulder a bit. He scowled as he quickly folded it shut before she could read it. He masked his annoyance and took on a simple innocent expression.



"I ordered some things from the apothecary in Hogsmeade, but they didn't have some of the ingredients I needed so they recommended I write to an apothecary in Diagon Alley. This is them and they have what I need."



"What sort of ingredients?" Hermione asked, frowning slightly in confusion.



"I needed some Re'em blood."



Hermione blanched. "What on earth for!"



Harry rolled his eyes. "For a potion."



Hermione scowled slightly in annoyance. "Yes, Harry, I figured that much. What potion are you trying to brew though?"



"A strength enhancing potion for the next task," Harry lied easily.



"Are you allowed potions in the next task?" she asked, surprised.



"Of course. That's the point of being given the clue so far in advanced. The sooner you figure it out, the more time you have to prepare."



"Oh. That makes sense. So you've figured it out then."



"Mmhmm," Harry hummed in a rather noncommittal way as he took a bit of food. "As soon as all my ingredients show up, I'm going to have to spend some time in the dungeons brewing."



"We can help you mate," Ron said. Harry almost snorted. As if I would want your help with potions.



"Nope," Harry said easily. "It's for the task. I'm supposed to do it on my own."



"Oh... right."



Harry smirked. Too easy.



Now he had a great excuse to get away from them to do his brewing without having to make any extra excuses. And he could always claim the potions he was making would take multiple days to brew and get away from them even more.



– – –



The next morning a small crate from the Hogsmeade Apothecary arrived, carried by two brown post owls. Two days after that, the box containing the Runespore eggs and Re'em blood arrived from Knockturn Alley. It was the last day of term, and Harry had a potions exam that day on brewing antidotes.



Harry knew that he'd have an easier time with his brewing if he actually got permission to use the potions lab during break, rather than trying to sneak in, or trying to brew the potion somewhere poorly equipped for brewing, so he decided to ask Snape after class.





The exam was surprisingly easy. Harry was pretty sure he got most of the written questions correct, and, since his practical potion was brewed alone instead of with a partner, he was able to get it completed without anything exploding. He was completed with his test fourth behind Malfoy, Daphne Greengrass, and Hermione, but his potion looked better than Greengrass's did, and he never expected to do better in potions than Hermione or Malfoy.



Unfortunately, since it was an exam class, it meant that once Harry was done with his test, there was nothing for him to do until everyone else had finished as well. Everyone else left as they finished, and Ron looked at Harry with mild confusion when he saw Harry sit back down after handing in his potion and test parchment.



It didn't take long for Harry to grow incredibly bored, so he reached into his bag and pulled out the potions book from the restricted section.



The two 'non-restricted' potions that Harry planned to brew were, an advanced nutritional restorative potion, and a bone and muscle restructuring potion.



Both of these potions, however, would normally require Harry to take them every day for years to reach the level of correction that he wanted to gain. They would slowly, and gradually correct the damage done by a decade of malnutrition.



The third potion - the one he got from the restricted section book – was an accelerant potion and it had been invented by a wizard that felt that the other two potions, and other restorative potions like them, took too damned long. It would speed up and magnify the effects of the other two potions, as well as having a number of lesser benefits of its own.



He would still need to brew enough of the first two potions to take one dose every day, but only for two months instead of multiple years. The accelerant potion would be taken eight times. Once a week he would need to take a dose of it, and ideally at a point in time where he could remain in bed for twelve hours without being disturbed, because it would be painful and leave him entirely bedridden.



Thus, his plan was to do it on either Friday or Saturday nights, and come up with some excuse about training or some such thing, to keep his friends away. Of course he still needed to figure out where he was going to stay while he endured these sessions. He was still working on that part.



Harry began to thumb through some of the later chapters in the potions book. Brews and Rituals of Permanent Improvement by Scaliea Vanity. It was a fascinating book. Everything covered in the book would be... well, permanent. Memory enhancement rituals, physical strengthening potions, brews to drastically increase mental clarity and cognitive thinking.



Harry had to admit that more than a few were tempting. However they tended to have side-effects that would be to visibly obvious for him to risk doing many of them while at school. Possibly after he graduated he'd go through and do several of them.



Of course, the potions he was planning on taking would cause a visibly noticeable change too. Hopefully he could get away with claiming he had a magical growth spurt, and had been exercising to get in shape for the tournament.



He looked back down at the book. There were definitely a fair number of things in it he was interested in trying later. He wished he could just copy the darn thing, but the copyright spells on it prevented that. He considered just keeping it. He hadn't actually 'checked it out', so no one actually knew he had it. But he suspected that there were charms on all of the library books that prevented them from being removed from the school.



Write the... publisher...



Harry blinked and then rolled his eyes at himself for not thinking of it on his own. He flipped to the front cover page and looked for any information on the publisher. He found it right away and pulled out a piece of parchment to copy it down.



Jasper Beech; Crespus Publishing



He would write a letter to them asking if he could buy a copy of the book directly from them, as soon as he was done with Snape.



Speaking of which... Harry looked around the room and saw that Goyle and Lavender Brown were the only ones left in the room. Neither of their potions looked very promising, and Harry doubted that Snape had the patience to actually wait for the two of them to finish.



Figuring he'd make use of the time he had, Harry began to pen the letter to the publisher. It was pretty simple. Just asking about the specific book and whether or not he could buy a copy direct from the publisher, and if he couldn't, asking if there was a reseller that he could contact instead. He signed the letter under the same alias, Notechus Noir, that he had used with the apothecary, and folded it up and placed it into the cover of his book.



He looked up just as Snape strode angrily down the isle and glared at Lavender and Goyle. He growled at them to just bottle what they had and turn in their tests. Harry packed away his things and sat back in his chair, waiting until the other two had cleared out.



As soon as the dungeon door closed behind Goyle, Snape spun around and glared at Harry.



"Potter," he hissed in a quiet, threatening tone, "what are you still doing here?"



"I need to brew some potions in preparation for the next task. I was planning to do it during the Christmas holidays and was hoping I could do it in one of the dungeon potion labs," Harry said quickly, getting straight to the point. He knew that drawing this out would only irritate Snape more.



The potions master narrowed his eyes and looked at Harry speculatively.



"And you really need to make use of one of my class rooms for this little task of yours?" Snape sneered with an air of skepticism.



"I was hoping so, yes. I need somewhere quiet where I can concentrate and where I won't have any of my house mates breathing down my neck. I'd also prefer to do it in a properly equipped potions lab then in some random empty classroom. I wanted to get your permission first though and make sure that I wouldn't be causing you any inconvenience by using one of the labs you would be using."



Snape's lip curled up disdainfully. "How unlike you, Potter. Actually taking other people's needs, and the rules into consideration ahead of your own self interests."



Internally, Harry rolled his eyes. Externally, Harry retained a perfectly blank expression. "Would it be alright sir?"



Snape's eyes narrowed and he pierced Harry with them for a long minute before giving him a curt nod.



"You may use potions lab B. It will remain unused the entire break."



The corners of Harry's mouth turned up the slightest bit. "Thank you, sir," he said eagerly. "I really do appreciate it."



Snape looked disgusted by the display and quickly shooed Harry out of his classroom.



Harry didn't dawdle and quickly left the dungeons and began to make his way towards the owlery. If he was lucky, he could get that letter sent out before Ron or Hermione caught up with him again, so he wouldn't have to make up some lie about who he was writing to, or why.



– – –



The next day was Saturday and once lunch was over, he begged off from Ron and Hermione, informing them that he was going to start brewing his potions and would be unavailable for the rest of the day.



He had collected all of his ingredients into a single box, and took it, along with the necessary potion brewing supplies down to potions lab B, and quickly set everything up.



It took him the whole afternoon and into the evening to brew the first potion. He had a huge vat of the stuff when he was done, and conjured a wooden sectioned box and four dozen small glass phials. He carefully measured out two months worth of doses and put one dose into each phial.



He put away all of his supplies and his new box full of potion, and cleaned up his workstation. He did a quick shrinking spell on the wooden box, and then a cushioning barrier around it before slipping it into his bag and making his way out of the dungeon.



He was absolutely wiped out when he was finally done, and headed straight up to bed.



The following day was the same. He brewed the muscle and bone regrowth that day, and it took just as long. Again, he conjured another wooden box and another large set of small crystal jars – larger this time since the dose of this potion was about three times that of the other one.



Monday arrived and Harry took his first dose of each of the two potions. Neither tasted good, but they weren't nearly as fowl as some of the other potions he'd endured in Madam Pomfrey's care over the years.



Friday was the Yule Ball, so Harry planned on doing his first dose of the accelerant potion Saturday night, through Sunday morning. But first he had to brew it. Since he knew this one would take the longest he planned to leave Ron and Hermione right after breakfast. About half way through the meal an owl arrived with what looked like a mail order catalog attacked to it's leg. Harry looked at it with mild confusion for a moment before he removed it from the bird and gave it some sausage.



Upon closer examination, Harry realized it was from the book publisher, Crespus Publishing, that his potions book came from. He grinned as he read a small note attached to it from Mr. Jasper Beech; owner and operator, saying that the book he inquired about had a newer edition available and that he could order it directly from them, using their owl-order service. Details were included in their catalog.



Harry packed it into his bag and told Ron and Hermione he was heading out to start working on his potion. Ron whined about Harry wasting his holidays with ruddy potions work, and Hermione told him to make sure he still had time to dedicate to his holiday homework with all this potion work he was doing.



Harry only just managed to walk away without saying something snarky to them, and made his way down to the dungeons.



– – –



Harry could not describe how grateful he was for the presence of his companion when it came to the brewing of his last potion. It was an incredibly delicate matter and it was, quite honestly, above Harry's level. But his companion was surprisingly patient and his guidance was always delivered in just the right way.



During the lulls between ingredients, or between the times when he had to stand and stir it so many times counter clockwise before adding in a single clockwise stir, Harry sat down at his workbench and thumbed through the catalog.



It became quite obvious right away that Crespus Publishing specialized in questionable books on questionable subject matter. Yet quite a few of those 'questionable' subjects sparked an exited wave of curiosity in Harry.



He chewed on the edge of his quill, waging an internal battle. A wicked grin spread across his lips and he chuckled and shrugged to himself as he put quill to parchment and marked down all the books he wanted to order.



There were quite a few.





By the time dinner had rolled around, Harry had finished. His potion was a semi translucent silvery sludge. It oozed out of the ladle and into the eight jars he had to hold it. He didn't imagine he would enjoy swallowing that down, but he was surprised to find that it actually smelled rather nice. Sort like lilacs.



Harry cleaned up his workstation, packed away his supplies and made his way to Gryffindor tower. He stowed his things, before grabbing the order form from his bag and jogging towards the owlery.



– –



The rest of the week passed peacefully. Each morning he would take another dose of the first two potions, and then spend his day either in the common room reading, or relaxing in bed, in his mindscape with his companion.



The gray mottled discoloration had spread through almost every space of his mindscape. The black mist also took up almost a quarter of the large space and it gave his companion more room to wander. Harry found that he could will the dark ambiguous mass that he once relaxed in, into a specific form if he desired it, so he turned it into a large overstuffed black leather couch.



The whole thing was just in his head, and having a couch there to rest in didn't actually effect his enjoyment of the time he spent with his companion, but it was a luxury he enjoyed giving himself, so he kept it there.



Besides, he liked the image of the two of them curled up together on the large leather couch. The leather felt cool and luxurious against his skin, too – even though he knew that was just imagined in his head.





Harry hadn't been present for the actual incident, but Ron had apparently managed to offend Hermione at the start of the week. He had been suddenly inspired with the realization that Hermione was a girl, and had asked her to the ball in a fit of desperation, while also insinuating that she couldn't possibly have a date to the ball already. The poor idiot had also been stupid enough to point out that while it was bad for a bloke to show up without a date, it was downright mortifying for a girl.



Hermione had refused to speak to him after that.



At some point later that day, Ron had finally gotten so horrified by the prospect of showing up to the dance without a date that he had just yelled out a panicked 'invitation' to the first girl he had come across at the time – which apparently had been Parvati Patil.





Tuesday night Harry had sat in his mindscape with his companion trying to come up with a private place where he could take his potion. He needed somewhere where no one would be able to bother him. He could cast silencing charms, so it didn't necessarily need to be sound proof, but it wouldn't hurt.



He was frustrated by his lack of options and finally slipped into sleep, still unsure as to what he was going to do.



He woke that morning with inspiration. For a few solid minutes he was sure he knew the perfect place where only he could go and no one could bother him. Then reality fell upon him like a bucket of ice water and he frowned.



The Chamber... that was what he had thought. He could slip down into the Chamber and have absolutely no worry of anyone interrupting him. But then he remembered the state of the Chamber and how utterly disgusted with the place he had been.



Plus there was also a great rotting basilisk down there. It had already smelled rather foul down there. Now there would be the added benefit of two years worth of giant rotting snake corpse.



Harry grimaced.



Yet he was getting the distinct impression from the tiny presence he could feel of his companion in the back of his mind, that he should still investigate the idea.



After lunch he told Ron and Hermione that he needed to check on a potion he had on a slow long-term simmer and that he didn't know how long he'd be away. He ran up to Gryffindor tower and grabbed his invisibility cloak and the Marauder's map. He slipped into an empty classroom on the third floor and slipped on the cloak and pulled out and activated the map. Once he was sure the coast was clear and no one would be around to catch him slipping into Myrtle's bathroom, he went to the 2nd floor and slipped inside.



Fortunately, the ghost seemed absent so he went straight over to the sink that didn't work and hissed §open§ at the tap. The sink moved and shifted away, revealing a wide opening into a deep, dark, tunnel.



Harry's lip turned up into a disgusted sneer at the sight of the pipe. He did not want to go sliding down the thing like he had in his second year. He wondered if he should have brought his broom along with he felt his companion's presence grow in his mind.



Stairs..



"Huh?"



Call for stairs.



Harry furrowed his brow in confusion for a moment but he knelt down at the edge of the hole and hissed out §Stairs§.



The smooth edges of the tunnel suddenly began to change shape and narrow, steep steps emerged from it. The first section was so steep it was practically a ladder, but it was still a tremendous improvement. Harry grinned.



He began to climb down and once his head was below the entrance he hissed the close command and was instantly shrouded in darkness. He pulled out his wand and cast a lumos to light the tip. It didn't take him too long to climb down, and a short distance down the tunnel widened and shifted into a gradual slide enough that he could traverse the steps without bending over ducking, or having to climb down like a ladder.



He finished his decent and entered the larger tunnel filled with the bones of countless little dead things. When he came upon the section of tunnel that had caved in slightly he hissed out some banishing spells and waved the rock pile away, reveling in the exquisite sensation of his magic whirling around him and coursing through him. It surged and tingled in delicious ways that made his stomach curl when he wielded it to do larger things like this. Unfortunately he rarely had the opportunity to do anything larger.



The idea crossed his mind that even if he didn't use the Chamber to take his potion, he could still come down here to practice magic in private. That thought excited and a large grin spread across his lips.



He came across the entrance to the anti-chamber commanded it open with another hiss. He braced himself for a wave of horrific rotting odor but was surprised to find that there was no significant increase in the smell of dead things.



He entered the Chamber and came up short upon the sight of the basilisk corpse. He had almost forgotten how enormous the damned thing was.



Had he really fought against that monster when he was twelve?



He shook his head and was filled with a boiling rage that he had been forced into a situation like that. Why the bloody hell did he have to keep dealing with these things? Granted, the teachers weren't capable of parseltongue, so they couldn't have gotten down to the chamber, but was there really no way for them to use magic to find the place?



Although, he supposed, Slytherin had probably gone to a lot of trouble to keep the place hidden, so conventional magic was probably useless, especially if you don't know what your looking for.



Still... didn't the school have wards to detect dark artifacts? Why hadn't the diary ever been detected? Everyone claimed that Hogwarts' wards were supposed to be some of the most powerful in the world, and that the school was the safest place in Britain.



Harry snorted.



Yeah, right.



It was all just empty words. The wards didn't detect shit. And if they did, Dumbledore didn't know how to read them, or willingly ignored them.



Hell! Voldemort had been in the school for an entire year, latched onto the back of Quirrell's head! What did the wards even do if they couldn't catch Voldemort roaming around the school on the back of a teacher's head, or a dark artifact like that diary? Clearly nothing.



Harry shook his head.



He was always on his own. No one ever protected him. No one ever had. He had always had to look out for himself. He'd had to look after himself at the Dursley's, and that hadn't changed one bit upon entering the wizarding world. All that changed was that now more people were trying to kill him.



And why? He realized he hardly knew. He fought against them simply out of defense. Just desperately trying to stay alive. He'd gotten into half of his messes because he felt the need to try and save people, but what was the point of running around like a fool saving people if all it did was get you killed?



He sighed heavily and tried to shake the bothersome thoughts from his mind. He began to stroll around the enormous serpent and was mildly bewildered at how... intact it appeared.



It didn't look like it had rotted at all!



Magically preserved... His companion's voice explained in a breathy whisper that sent a shiver down his spine.



Harry nodded his head and looked down at the monstrous beast approvingly. It really was a shame he'd had to kill it. Of course it was that or get eaten.



Go to the statue...



Harry paused and turned to look at the great statue of Salazar Slytherin that the basilisk had emerged from two years ago. It was still open and he briskly walked over to it. He peered into the inky blackness and squinted. He flipped his wrist and sent a series of small glowing balls of light down the tunnel, each stopping five feet further down than the last and lighting the long, large tunnel.



It seemed to go for a surprisingly long way and he began to trek down it.



About 20 feet in he felt the urge to stop fill him. He had a feeling it was coming from his companion, but the other presence remained silent. Harry looked around the large tunnel he was standing in and felt a pulse of magic from the wall beside him. He reached his hand out and brushed it against the smooth rocky surface. There was something there and he brought his wand closer.



A small serpent was carved into the rock. Curious, he leaned in and whispered §Open§, just to see if it would work.



A second later a seam appeared in the smooth rock in the shape of a door. The rock sunk back and slid to the side revealing an entryway.



Curious, Harry stepped inside and was stunned by what he found.



It was a study. And it was coated in a thick later of dust. The room was about the same size as Dumbledore's office. There was a plush chaise lounge of some sort, a wide, intricately carved wooden desk, and a large high-back wooden chair also carved with designs of snakes curling up the legs and up the back support. The walls were lined, floor-to-ceiling with bookshelves, all of which were filled with books.



Harry walked over and began to examine some of the room with eager excitement.



He cast a lumos maxima and sent the glowing light to the ceiling so as to better illuminate the space while he explored. While it was true that it was covered in dust, it wasn't nearly enough to be a thousand years worth. Riddle must have gotten into this place too, he reasoned. Probably cleaned it up some during his time at Hogwarts.



Harry walked over to the chaise lounge and with a quick sweep of his wand and a controlled swirl of his magic, all of the dust and dirt was banished from it.



It looked like velvet or something similar. It was a deep emerald green, and had small shiny black buttons in the shape of skulls sewn into the back and side rest, pulling the plush fabric in, every six inches or so.



He ran his hand over the fabric and it felt smooth and soft. He smiled. This was perfect.



He could come down here once a week to take his potion and be guaranteed complete privacy. And he could practice his spell work down here in the basilisk chamber. He knew the schools wards didn't detect anything down here, so there was so worry...



He paused and felt a sense of excited anticipation surge through him. He could try out some of those... dark spells... He hadn't felt safe actually casting any of them since he didn't know if there was anyway for someone to detect he was doing it. Plus he didn't really have anywhere private enough to do it. But now he did.



He only had the smallest of reservations about practicing dark magic. His opinion of the branch of magic had changed drastically over the last two months, although he couldn't quite pinpoint why.



It was all magic. Light, dark, neutral. It was all knowledge, and to limit himself to only one or two of the branches, he was only holding himself back. Willingly keeping himself ignorant of a potentially powerful well of knowledge and magic seemed idiotic to him now.



He was at school to learn magic, and for the first time since he had come to Hogwarts, he found himself consumed with a hunger for knowledge. Each new spell he learned - each new theory he came to understand - the more excited he became. It was thrilling to wield such power.



Why shouldn't he learn to use every branch of magic that interested him?



Harry spent two hours exploring the study and the books contained within it. He was literally gleeful - vibrating with excitement. He slipped two into his bag and left the study. He continued down the long tunnel and found the massive chamber where the basilisk had clearly lived. It was filled with bones and filth and Harry quickly left to return to the entry chamber, and then back out and up the stairs.



He checked the Map to make sure the coast was clear before commanding the sink to move aside so he could leave. He glamored the cover of one of the books to look like his transfiguration textbook and settled into one of the chairs in the common room.



Ron tried to get Harry to join him in a game of chess, but Harry said he was busy and couldn't. Hermione smiled in apparent approval at Harry's new studious attitude. Harry smirked, internally. She would hardly be so approving if she knew he was reading about the fundamentals of dark theory.



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