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



– –



Harry entered the chamber, pulled his matchbox-sized trunk out of his front pocket and set it down on the floor. He tapped his wand on the top of it, and it instantly enlarged to full size.



The trunk had three latches on the front; two with keyholes and a spoken password, and depending on which one you turned before opening the trunk, you would find one of three different compartments. The two with the extra security features were book compartments, and the way they worked was really quite fascinating.



When you opened the trunk to one of the book compartments, there were two rows worth of 'shelves' facing up, but they slide from side to side as if they were on rollers. The space was magically expanded on each side of the trunk so even though the books appeared to be sliding into the side of the trunk and vanishing, they were actually disappearing into a magically expanded space. The shelves also looped, so you could keep sliding it to the right for what seemed like forever, and it would just keep repeating the same set of books.



He didn't know how it worked, but he was definitely interested in finding out. He added 'expansion charms' to his list of 'things that are safe to ask the teachers' in a bound notebook he had been keeping for his extracurricular learning activities.



He sat down on the floor in front of his trunk and began to empty it of all of his books. He had amassed quite a nice collection during the past month and a half of owl-ordering from Crespus Publishing's catalog. In fact, the collection had got so large that he hadn't had enough room for them in his old trunk and that was becoming a problem since quite a few of them were of a substantially questionable nature and he couldn't exactly leave them laying on the desk beside his bed for his dorm mates to spot.



He had stuffed them, haphazardly, into his new trunk rather quickly, but now he wanted to organize them. He also wanted to sort through which books from Salazar's Study he was going to... borrow.



The first thing he did was separate his 'safe' books from his more questionable ones. The organized the safe books and put them into the second compartment and gave it the password 'Quidditch'. If Hermione or Ron ever needed to get a book from his trunk for him, he could just tell them that the second compartment was his book compartment and tell them the password. Nice and safe and a good way to avoid suspicion.



All of the other books, he organized by subject and then alphabetically, and then placed them in the third compartment. On that one he assigned a parseltongue password. He used §Notechus§, which was the Latin name for the tiger snake and was the alias he had been using when ordering from Crespus Publishing.



As he was sorting through them, he set a few aside a couple that he he had skimmed through recently and had been meaning to actually practice. He hadn't gotten a lot of time to read many of the books he'd bought from Crespus since none of them were safe to read in the common room, and he had had even less time to actually practice any of it, since most of his time in the chamber had been reserved for practicing the serpentine transformation. Now, however, he thought was probably a good time to try some of them out.



He stretched an arm over his head and twisted a crick out of his back that had formed from sitting on the floor for the last hour. He was relatively satisfied with his book sorting. Most of the books that he had added to his collection, from the Slytherin's library, were books that had probably been left there by Riddle since none of them were old enough to have been left by Slytherin. Some small part of him worried about just how many of Tom Riddle's books sparked a strong pull of curiosity and intrigue in him, but he squashed the concern quickly and pressed on.



He also keep two of Slytherin's parselmagic books.



He looked at the two books he had set aside to practice from and frowned. He was waging a bit of an internal struggle over this. It was so easy to say he was okay with it when it was just a matter of ordering a book from a list, but now that he was legitimately planning on practicing what was contained in the book, he could feel a bit of a queasy unsettled knot in his gut.



This was a book entirely on dark magic.



It certainly wasn't the nastiest of the dark magic books he'd bought. It was sort of an introduction to lesser dark curses. He had already read through several dark magic theory books, but this was the first time he was going to actually try using some real spells.



For a while he hadn't been sure how exactly he would try out the spells. Most were rather destructive, obviously, but he didn't want to start throwing off spells at the walls. The last thing he wanted to do was cause a cave-in down in the chamber and end up getting trapped.



But then he was walking through the chamber one day and looked over at the great, enormous basilisk corpse and was struck with an epiphany.



That beast was magically resistant. Most of his spells would get absorbed right into it's scales, so there was no risk of blasting the ceiling of the chamber in on himself.



He took a deep breath and picked the book up.



It was just magic. Damned useful magic at that. That was all. There was no point in ignoring an entire branch of magic just because it scared those too weak to handle it. Harry was not weak.



Having sufficiently steeled himself, Harry stood to his feet and made his way out into the basilisk chamber. He had the book open in one hand while he skimmed several of the spells and walked, and he had his bound notebook in the other.



The book was called 'Sceadwian's Tome of Shadow Vol. 1; Dark Magic that really really hurts, but won't quite kill.' In his notebook he had already made notes of a few of the spells he wanted to practice, and what page to find them on.



He had two lists. One was a list of environment spells. Things that effected the surroundings. These were spells he figured he could easily practice on the basilisk corpse. The second list was a collection of spells he thought would be useful, but were specifically intended for attacking a live human being with.



He could still practice casting them, but he wouldn't be able to tell if they were cast properly and actually working without an actual person to test them on.



He flipped through his notebook to the page of the environment effecting spells and read through his notes.



Scateren glaesum - Makes any inanimate surface crack and shatter like glass. See pg 98.



Khnwos - Scrambles the matter of an object chaotically. See pg 142.



Dimoliri - Tears down a small structure to rubble. See pg 52.



Collabi - Collapses everything within a sphere of space into a crunched mass. See pg 151.



Quassare - Makes a black point of void and sucks immediate surroundings into it. See pg 172.



Screade - Dark cutting curse that can slice through most anything. See pg 208.



He chewed on the inside of his cheek as he debated what he wanted to try first. He wondered of Screade, that cut through 'most anything' would be able to cut through basilisk skin?



A cutting curse was always useful, and if this dark cutting curse could actually cut through basilisk skin, it would definitely be useful in other situations. More useful than diffindo, that was for sure.. He decided to focus on it first, and opened his book to page 208 to re-read the section on the curse.



A few minutes later he felt prepared and stood before the corpse and pointed his wand.



He figured he could work up to non-verbal after some practice actually saying the incantation aloud, since he had never actually performed any spells like this before. He aimed at a portion of the basilisk's underbelly, focused his magic and drawing it out and around him and shouted out "Screade!"



He felt a sudden and enormous surge of a certain, neglected portion of his magic flow through him, and out his wand. A black beam of color with jagged twirls of deep purple intertwined with it, shot out of his wand and hit the corpse. Harry gasped and felt his knees give out as he suddenly found himself a few feet lower and blinking in stunned surprise.



The magic that had coursed through him had been so utterly raw and intense. It had felt... it had felt incredible!



He hadn't been prepared for it to feel like that. It wasn't anything like using neutral magic. If anything, it felt a lot closer to what his parselmagic felt like. Only... more.



Harry collected himself and stood back up. His eyes were blazing with a weird sort of ecstatic glee. His whole body felt like it was on fire with white hot amazing. He couldn't comprehend any other way to describe it. He pointed his wand at the corpse and cast the spell again.



He gasped and wobbled slightly at the intensity, but didn't lose his footing this time. He threw the spell again, and again and again, and before he knew what was happening, he was cackling madly at the top of his lungs. The more magic he pulled out of himself and threw into the spell, the more incredible it felt. He finally began to feel so light-headed that he began to waver slightly from side to side and his cackle morphed into a subdued titter. He lowered his wand arm and blinked in surprise.



His first few attacks on the basilisk had left it unmarred, but at some point during his barrage, his attacks had apparently begun to do some actual damage. The small section of snake belly that he had focused his attacks on was criss-crossed with shallow gouges.



Another little giggle escaped his throat at the shock of it.



Power. So much unbelievable, raw, delicious power. It was incredible. He could still feel it. It was coursing through his veins and making his head feel foggy, leaving him in an odd euphoric haze. But he loved it. Oh Merlin, he loved it.



More.



Harry looked down at the book that lay discarded on the floor beside his notepad. He moved over to it in a few quick strides with wide, hungry eyes.



He glanced at his notebook first and decided upon one of the spells.



Quassare - Makes a black point of void and sucks immediate surroundings into it.



Sounds interesting... he said with a twisted little grin spreading across his lips.



He opened the dark arts spell book to the proper page and quickly read through the passages on the spell. He had a feeling he was rushing it, but he just felt so damned eager to try it out. To feel that rush again.



He set the book back down and returned his focus to the basilisk. He pointed his wand, aiming at the same section of scarred flesh he had already assaulted. He pulled forth that intoxicating dark magic that came to him so deliciously easily and let it course through his every limb. His eyes nearly rolled back into his head and another little chortle escaped his mouth before he blinked and refocused on the corpse. Aiming his wand, he called out "Quassare!"



The first time it didn't seem to do anything at all, but he felt the rush of magic. It wasn't nearly as powerful as the cutting curse had been though and he scowled. He refocused his magic, pulling more of it out and leaving it at easy access to him. He tried to control his heavy excited breaths and pointed his wand again.



"Quassare!"



A tiny black ball appeared in space where he was focusing his aim and popped big and then small, and then big again for a split second before disappearing with a Bang!



He felt more of the fantastic tingling vibrating all through him that time and had a better idea of what he might be doing wrong. He walked back over to the book and re-read a passage before returning to the snake.



Once again, he pointed his wand, focused the incredible dark magic just so and called out "Quassare!"



The black sphere appeared again, right at the point where all the criss-crossed scars littered the snake's skin. It grew in size by about two feet in diameter, and during that brief moment Harry was consumed with tremendous euphoria and called out in stunned pleasure. The black sphere then shrunk down into nothing, disappearing completely with a pop!



Where the black sphere had been, now existed nothing. There was a perfect hemisphere-shaped chunk now absent from the side of the basilisk. He could see the layers of skin, muscle, and bone that had been vanished with the black magical ball.



And this is a bloody basilisk! Harry thought with excited glee. Basilisks, that were so incredibly powerful, and supposed to be 'magic resistant.'



Not very resistant to powerful dark magic. Harry mentally chuckled with unrestrained glee.



He closed his eyes and shivered as he let out a slow, shuddering breath. His whole body felt so indescribably amazing. It was like the most powerful endorphins known to man were flooding his entire nervous system, setting every nerve on fire with pleasure.



Harry let out a slow breath and opened his eyes slowly as a wicked nasty grin spread across his face. He felt insane with glee. Too insane to rationally analyze his own thoughts or actions. Everything was about this feeling.



Feeling encouraged by his results, he threw another ball of dark magic at the corpse, with similar results. The insane cackled began to escape from his chest again and he began to send off a barrage of the spell. One after another, he pointed his wand and cast the Quassare curse at the snake, leaving it littered with round holes of varying size vanished from it's flesh. When he cast the spell faster and in quick succession, the circles were smaller, but that seemed to give him the greatest rush.



He began to mix in Screade curses at random intervals, practicing repeating his success at slashing into the beasts flesh with it. He felt the need to move. His whole body was pulsing and his muscles were twitching with the need for action. He began strafing from side to side, and then intermixing it with rolls across the floor as if he were dodging incoming spells. All the while, still throwing the delicious dark curses at the snake and trying to maintain his aim.



Anything to give him an excuse to keep firing off the glorious, amazing magic.



Sometime around three in the morning, after Harry had been laying on the floor in a giggling mindless heap for about two hours, Harry blinked his eyes and began to feel his head clear.



He pushed himself up slowly until he came to sit, cross-legged, on the dirty floor in front of the mutilated basilisk corpse. It was a right mess and it took him a few confused blinks to realize that he had done it all. It didn't seem possible.



Like it had to be some impossible dream.



It just didn't seem possible for Harry to be powerful enough to do that level of damage to a thousand-year-old magical creature. It also didn't seem possible for anything to have ever felt that good. It was like it had to be a dream. It just couldn't be real.



But it had been real.



He had done that. He had utterly lost himself to the magic, and the indescribable pleasure it had brought him. As his mind slowly began to work it's way around what had happened, more and more of him began to grow horrified by the whole thing.



Had that really been him?



Yes.



He couldn't put the blame for this on his companion. That had been all Harry. He knew that. The dark magic had been so good that he had utterly given in to it. He had wanted it to take over.



He still did.



A shuddering breath escaped him and he felt a shudder shoot down his spine, to land in the pit of his stomach with a delicious warm curling sensation, as the memory of the way the magic had felt filled him again.



He lowered his head into his hands and fisted his hair tightly while he clenched his eyes shut.



What the hell was happening to him?



– –



Harry had tried to stay away from the Chamber for the next few days. He had really tried. He had even neglected his transformation exercises. He knew if he went back down there he would have to look at the basilisk corpse, and that would only remind him of how the dark magic had felt.



Was it supposed to do that to people? Supposed to have that strong an effect on a person? He had read a few summaries on dark magic in a few of his text books that made reference to dark magic addiction, but he had never expected it to be so strong, so instantly. And these weren't even very nasty spells. They were kind of mild in comparison to some of the others he'd seen in that book.



Despite all of Harry's efforts of will power, he now stood down in the chamber, looking at the devastated section of snake corpse, and yearning desperately to do it again, while also being absolutely terrified to do it.



You must... face this... do not fear... it. His companion's voice whispered in the back of Harry's mind. Harry flinched in surprise at it's sudden appearance.



His companion had been completely absent during his 'training session' a few nights previous. When Harry had escaped into his mindscape the previous night, he had wanted to steer clear of the whole incident. He was trying to relax and calm down, not dredge up his freaked out worries about the whole thing. And his companion had acquiesced to his desires and had not mentioned the event at all.



"What do you mean?" Harry though in a shaky voice.



The magic only... controls you... because it is new... you are unaccustomed... to it. It will control you... as long as you remain... this way...



Harry bit his lip and looked down at the corpse that was currently tempting him.



"But it was like I was insane... I... what do I do if I ever use that sort of magic out in a real battle and I lose myself? I'll end up killing someone and enjoy the whole damned thing... until I come down from my high later on and hate myself forever."



That is why... you must practice... you must gain control of it. To master the darkness within you... you must use the power. You must use it... learn to harness it's... intricacies... and make the power yours.



Practicing it here... where you can harm no one... It is ideal, Harry. You... you can master your power here. Become master of your darkness... Make it thrive... inside you. Wield it and bend it... to YOUR will.



Harry was slowly nodding his head. He saw reason in that argument, and if it was true that practice would bring control, then it was worth it. He had to admit that another part of him was rejoicing with this new, valid excuse to keep using the magic. To keep feeling that thrill.



Harry tried to shove that insane gleefulness down and closed his eyes.



I can help you... His companion's voice whispered through his mind, sending a shudder through him.



Slowly, Harry opened his eyes and nodded his head. The corners of his mouth turned up, and a fire lit behind his eyes. He was committed. He would do this.



And damn it. He was excited.



– –



Harry had begun to make a habit of checking for Moody and Crouch on the map, every time he used it. It didn't take long to determine that there was obviously something very screwy going on.



First and foremost, Moody never left his office.



Literally. The dot beside the name Alastor Moody never moved an inch. The dot beside the name Bartemius Crouch, however was in the school almost all the time, which honestly, made no sense since the man was supposed to be a high-up ministry worker with a full-time job that did notinvolve the school.



Bartemius Crouch spent an awful lot of time with Moody in his office, and also in Moody's classes.



Was Crouch pretending to be Moody? If he was, he was obviously using Polyjuice potion, which would explain why the man had been raiding Snape's storage room. But why the hell would Crouch be doing such a thing? Harry just couldn't work it out. It made no sense!



In any case, Harry was more than aware that the man he was looking at in class each week, was most likely not Alastor Moody.



One day in class, the next week Harry even pulled out the map from under the lip of his desk, activated it, and checked. He looked up and at the head of the room, lecturing, was was looked like 'Mad-Eye' Moody. But the dot on the map in the exact same spot said Bartemius Crouch.



It was just... bizarre! What was going on? And did anyone else know?



– –



It was now three weeks until the second task. That week would be his last dose of the accelerant potion, and Harry was looking forward to being done with all the potion nonsense.



Neville had spotted him taking his morning potions several times, since Neville had a similar morning schedule, and had no qualms about being in the bathroom at the same time as Harry. Dean and Seamus were still rather skittish about the whole thing, as far as bathroom time was considered, but at least they weren't being obnoxious about it.



Mostly just awkward.



Harry had been making considerable progress in his serpentine transformation. He'd managed to transform both of his legs into a single mass that melded together and then shifted into an extension of his spine, instead of hips and leg bones.



That had been an undeniably bizarre sensation, but he'd done it every day for the last four days and was beginning to feel accustomed to it.



He still hadn't completely absorbed his collarbone and arms, although they did get very small now. He was sure he was getting incredibly close to having the transformation complete.



Harry's dark arts practice had been going great. He'd managed to control his irrational need to do it, as long as he was regular about it. He dedicated a whole hour to it every night, but no more than that. He even charmed a wrist watch so that when the hour was up, it began to get very very hot. If he didn't stop, the watch would continue to get hot until he did stop. If he didn't stop soon enough, it would literally burn him. And quite badly.



But it had been effective at breaking him from his hazy intoxicated state the first few weeks of practice. Now he didn't need it, and as soon as the alarm sounded, he was able to regain control of himself and stop of his own will.



His companion stayed with him during most of his dark arts practice sessions. He didn't say much most of the time, but he would occasionally contribute little hints, or use some strong words or urges to get Harry to calm himself.



Harry still found that he absolutely loved the way the magic felt when he used it. The feel of his dark magic well was just so much more delicious than his neutral magic well. It was also growing stronger.



His companion had been right when he had said that Harry needed to practice. The stronger his dark magic grew, the greater control he had over it.



He also noticed that his gray mottled mindscape was quickly changing it's appearance again. It now had a nights sky. Or at least that's how he imagined it. The ground plane was still gray, but much of the walls and the non-existent ceiling had begun to fade to pitch black.



The darkness was soothing.



His companion seemed to appreciate the change as well. He was able to spend longer periods of time in Harry's aware mind during the days now. He said it was much easier for him to tap into Harry's magic now.



Harry wasn't an idiot.



He knew what this meant.



His affinity had switched. Had his magical affinity really been so light before this all started, though? He had a hard time believing that. But his mindscape had been pure white. Wasn't that a representation of his affinity?



He was really only theorizing, but it seemed pretty glaringly obvious to him.



His magical affinity, which for some reason he couldn't fathom had already aligned with the light before, had managed to switch to the dark, during the last four months.



And he couldn't quite find it in himself to care.



He liked it better this way.





Harry made his way to breakfast following behind Ron and Neville. It was Friday and he was both looking forward to, and dreading his last dose of the potion the next night. His mind was busy mulling over the spells he planned to practice that night in the chamber, so he sat down at the Gryffindor table and began to pile food onto his plate on auto-pilot.



"Hermione...? Are... are you alright?" Ginny's voice broke in through Harry's haze and he glanced up, looking between the two with a blank, confused face.



Hermione sniffed once, before quickly mastering her expression, sticking her nose into the air and locking her jaw.



"I'm fine," she said, tersely.



Harry was reallyconfused now. He looked back and forth between Ginny and Hermione, trying to figure out what was going on. It was at that point that he saw the two copies of Witch Weekly that were lain out on the table in front of Ginny and Hermione. He scowled down at the magazine. He couldn't make out the cover, but he clearly saw a picture of Krum from the last task, scowling and then ducking out of the border. The byline also clearly said "Rita Skeeter" under the article's title.



"What has Skeeter done now?" Harry asked in a tightly restrained growl.



Ginny glanced over at Harry and then back at Hermione, hesitantly, as if she was afraid to answer the question.



"She, er... wrote a pretty nasty story about Hermione and Krum," Ginny said, giving Hermione an apologetic look.



Ron's head came up now and he looked at the group of them with an annoyed scowl. "What about Krum," Ron said through a mouthful of food.



"Don't even start, Ron," Ginny hissed angrily. "Not now."



He shot his sister an indignant expression and narrowed his eyes down at the newspaper. He literally sneered down at the photo of Krum before returning his focus to his food.



Harry heard Hermione stifle another sniffle and could see the masked pain in her eyes. He looked down at the offending paper and he felt his anger beginning to boil. He was actually surprised by the intensity of the emotion, considering how little he actually liked any of his once-friends' company these days. They had become a means to a goal, and the goal was was to remain under the radar of the general student populace, and the faculty. As long as he was friendly and he socialized on occasion, and he seemed outwardly happy more often than not, people wouldn't suspect that he'd begun practicing dark magic in Salazar Slytherin's secret chamber.



But still, he hadn't lost all of his old protectiveness of them. Besides, they were his, and anything that the vile Skeeter whore did that was in some way tied to him, made him angry. He would protect what was his.



Harry reached out and made to grab Ginny's copy of Witch Weekly, but Hermione reached out and snatched it away first, causing Harry to growl and glare angrily at her for a moment before he managed to mask his reaction. Fortunately, Hermione was refusing to make eye contact, so she didn't see the fury that flashed across his face.



"You don't need to read it," she said sharply, while staring at the table.



Harry's fumed internally and the angry monster in his gut began to growl and hiss loudly, but he held it in check.



"What. Did. She. Say?" Harry said in slow, controlled words as he fought to keep the beast at bay.



"It doesn't matter," Hermione said as she finally made eye contact.



Harry held her gaze for a long uncomfortable minute. Finally Harry forced himself to push the anger away. He could just get a hold of the paper later on his own to find out what the cow had said. Hermione was clearly embarrassed by it.



"Fine," he said as he turned his attention down to his plate and stabbed his eggs with his fork rather forcefully.





"Harry? Can I talk to you?" Hermione's voice called out to him as he entered the portrait hole that night. At that moment, Harry was in the process of coming down from his dark magic high, and usually begged off from 'exhaustion' the second he got back from the chamber. His temper was always a bit skewed after his training and he didn't think he could keep his mask on properly in that state.



So, understandably, Harry was considerably hesitant to agree to her request. However something in Hermione's tone made him sigh – mostly in frustration – and concede.



"Yeah, sure, 'Mione. What's up?" He said as he turned to face her and pulled on the most convincing caring mask he could muster, given his current mental state.



"You know how you couldn't figure out how Rita Skeeter managed to find out about you being... gay?"



"Yeah?" Harry said with mild exasperation.



"You and Fleur talked about it after the ball, but there was no one there, right?"



"Right," Harry replied shortly. He really didn't have the patience for her to be beating around the bush like this. If she didn't get to the point soon, he was liable to snap at her.



"Well some of the things that she said in that... article about... me... there's no way she could have known those things. No way. No one else was there, and I've asked Viktor and he has no idea how she found out either. He was incredibly furious. I know he wouldn't have said anything."



"So what you're saying is that Skeeter must have some secret way of eavesdropping on us?" Harry said impatiently, trying to get this over with quickly.



"Exactly!"



Harry took a moment to breath, trying to push away his irritation with her. He had already figured this, but she had a point. He would have to keep his eye on it more.



"Well, she's banned from the castle. Dumbledore banned her after the first task. But I'll start checking for her name on the map. See if she's sneaking into the castle under an invisibility cloak, or a disillusionment charm. But she might be using someone else to do her spying for her."



"Do you think she could be using the paintings or a ghost as well?"



Harry shook his head. "The paintings wouldn't help her. They're loyal to the headmaster. The ghosts too, except for Peeves, but I would have spotted him if he had been anywhere around when Fleur and I were talking."



"And Viktor and I weren't even in the school for one of the times that she would have had to eavesdrop on us."



"Where were you?"



She blushed. "Out by the lake. Under that willow tree."



"Ah," Harry said, nodding his head in understanding. That was a pretty well known location to go for a good snogging. "Well the map doesn't show me the grounds, only inside the castle, but I'll keep my eyes open."



Hermione bobbed her head in agreement. "Alright. I'll keep my eyes open too," she hesitated for a moment before looking back up at Harry. "Thank you Harry."



"Don't mention it."



– –



Sunday afternoon at half past noon, Harry 'woke' from his final session with the accelerant potion. He stood in front of the full-length standing mirror and admired the results of his hard work and suffering.



In comparison to what he looked like at the start of the school year, he was now a solid seven inches taller. His shoulders were considerably broader and firmly muscled with surprisingly defined deltoids. His forearms felt and looked solid now instead of the frail bony appendages he once had. His legs were similarly well defined now, as well.



His ribcage, hip bones, and spine were no longer visible on casual inspection. He was lithe and he liked what he saw.



He smirked into the mirror as he turned from side to side eying his reflection.



"Well, I'd fuck me," he said, jokingly to his reflection before snickering loudly. He looked older than fourteen now. He could easily pass for sixteen, in fact.



The changes had happened gradually over the last two months, and as far as he could tell, no one at school had made note of the rather drastic changes. However, he was pretty sure that anyone who hadn't seen him on a day to day basis would notice how extreme his 'growth spurt' had been.



Still, he didn't care. Magical growth spurts weren't unheard of. And he could always argue that he was well past due for one.



Finally, he sighed happily and pulled on a shirt and then his robes. As a reward, he was going to head straight up to Gryffindor Tower and go take a much needed nap.



– –



He drew his wand and aimed it at the target dummy he had conjured. It was getting easier and easier to access his magic, even in his ridiculously pathetic vessel. His power was growing in leaps and bounds and he was becoming more and more anxious and excited for his final resurrection.



He called forth his magic and it responded with growing ease. It was still reluctant to answer the his call with this pathetic body as the intermediate, but he was strong. It would answer his will.



He mentally incanted the spell and the orange jagged light shot out of the tip of his wand and exploded against the dummy.



He cackled at the dark euphoria. He had missed this feeling. Almost as much as his books.



He threw another curse, and then another and another in fast succession. The magic flowed through him and around him as he effortlessly commanded it to suit his will.



His endurance was still rather pathetic, and his vessel grew weary far too soon for his liking, but he had made progress.



He called his levitating chair to him, climbed up into it, and sighed as he finally allowed his limbs to relax. He guided the chair into the study but instead of heading to the desk, he went over to the large windows and with a flick of his hand, the curtains were drawn back and bright sunlight beamed inside. The warmth against his skin was a relief. The manor was too drafty, more often than not.



There was a great yard and an untended, overgrown garden below the window. He was on the second floor, and the manor was atop a hill. From his vantage point he could look out and see Little Hangleton in the distance.



A hissing sound from behind him brought a smile curling upon his lipless face. Nagini climbed up onto the sill of the window and he shifted in his chair so that his small bony hand could reach out and touch her. He hummed in contentment at the soft feel of her scales beneath her fingers. She hissed back in pleasure, happy to be at her master's side and told him so. She also told him that she was hungry and wished he would allow her to visit the local town's park so she could eat one of the younglings who played there.



He chuckled, but told her that she would have to limit her diet to the creatures in the nearby woods. She sulked but didn't press the matter.



§Ah, love, I know you are bored and frustrated here. I am as well. But soon, we will be free to leave this place and I can finally resume my work,§ he hissed to her as he lovingly ran his fingers over her head.



– –



It was three weeks until the task and Harry was currently racing from the second floor corridor, down the grand staircase, and towards the entry hall. He had a triumphant grin across his face as he ran.



He had done it.



He had finally completely succeeded at his first serpentine transformation. He could turn into a huge sea snake, and do it at will with ease. He'd got the transformation time down to less than a minute and finally felt like he was ready to try it out in the water.



He had three weeks to practice actually swimming in that damned freezing lake, and making use of the warming and bubble-head charms. He was fairly confident that it would be enough time, but he was anxious to get started.



He escaped the castle and began to jog down the grounds towards the lake when he came across Hagrid coming out of the forbidden forest followed immediately by young golden-colored unicorn foal. Harry grinned, feeling a wave of relief that his Care of Magical Creature's course had finally started covering creatures that weren't constantly trying to eat him. He wasn't sure how much longer he could stand the blast-ended skrewts.



Hagrid grinned at him and waved cheerily. Harry chuckled and waved back but kept on running. He reached the shore of the lake and began to make his way around it until he had reached a section far enough away from the castle, and with a thick enough collection of trees nearby to hide him from anyone who might be watching.



He reached out with his magic, searching for any nearby magical auras, just in case that Skeeter whore was around under an invisibility cloak or something, but he sensed nothing.



He stripped down to his boxers, which was horrifying since it was bloody February, and it was COLD! He quickly cast a warming spell on himself and instantly sighed in relief as a magical barrier surrounded his whole body, creating a small pocket of warmth. Next he swirled his wand around his face, casting the bubble-head charm directly over his mouth and nose.



He gave a few test breaths to make sure the bubble was actually working. When he was convinced the charm was performing as it should be, he steeled himself and jumped into the lake.



Warming charm or no, it was still really bloody cold. But it was just cold, not the icy-freezing-suffering-pain that he was sure it would be without the charm.



He let himself sink down as far as his body would allow, given natural buoyancy, and began to focus on the transformation.



He held his legs down straight below him and felt as they magically melded together. His arms tingled uncomfortably as they shrunk down into nothing but vestigial limbs. His skull shrunk and streamlined, his jaw structure changed and he felt his hinged fangs grow in. A moment later, he was a long, large serpent. A streamlined mass of muscle and strength. He gave a quick test breath from the bubble and could tell it was still in place and still working. His lungs could hold enough oxygen to last him twenty minutes underwater, but he would still want to ration his air since he was using a small bubble over his smaller snake face, and would need it to last an hour during the actual task.



He opened his eyes, but kept his secondary set of eyelids closed to protect his pupils. His underwater vision was impressive and he would have grinned smugly, if he had been capable of it in this form.



He gave a few experimental swishes of his strong powerful body and began to practice swimming.



There was a modicum of instinct that was working for him, but he was still going to have to learn most of it the hard way. Which also meant practice.





The one-to-two hours each night that Harry had previously dedicated to trying to master his transformation was now moved to the afternoon and used to practice swimming. After a few days, he added in practice using the locator spell in his snake form, as well.



Since he couldn't exactly hide things in the lake himself, he started using the spell to locate different creatures that he knew should be in the lake already.



Most of the time he just located the giant squid, but he located the merfolk's village, and a large colony of grindylows, as well.



Nothing down there was ever the slightest bit suspicious of him – although several things were quite wary and steered clear of him. As far as any could tell, he was just a very large water snake.



While Harry would have thought that the present of a large snake would be an unlikely occurrence in a Scotland loch in the dead of winter, nothing else in the lake seemed to think so. But the more time he spent down there, the more he became aware that the Black Lake was filled with a large array of very strange and inexplicable things.



His excursions down there were proving to be quite effective, and he was now able to zip his way through it's many nastier obstacles without any hindrance. He wasn't sure if it would really be that easy during the actual task, but at least he felt like he had a good handle on the lake's underwater terrain.



After the first week of practice, he reduced his time spent in the lake to one hour, three times a week, just to keep in good form.



He had been falling behind in his homework lately since he had been putting so much of his efforts towards his preparation for the task, and into his private studies of the dark arts. He had a lot to catch up on, and began to use his now increased free time to work on his back log.



– –



"I want to try something a little different today," Moody said as he came to stand beside his desk and leaned his weight on the corner to allow his fake leg to rest. He looked out over the class of forth year students and smirked.



"Who can tell me the most important difference between an experienced dark wizard, and an inexperienced one?"



The class looked around and quiet murmurs could be heard, but no one raised their hand at first. Hesitantly Seamus rose his.



"Mr. Finnigan," Moody said, nodding his chin towards Seamus.



"Uh, an inexperienced dark wizard won't know as many spells as an experienced one?"



"Well, that is true, but it's not the most important difference. Anyone else?"



"An inexperienced wizard will make more mistakes in an actual battle?" Hermione asked.



"Again true, but that could be said for any experienced wizard versus an inexperienced one. I'm talking specifically about a dark wizard. Anyone?"



Hesitantly, Harry rose his hand.



"Mr. Potter," Moody called out.



"An inexperienced dark wizard won't have control of the dark magic yet. The magic will still be controlling him."



Moody looked impressed and smirked.



"Correct, Mr. Potter!" Moody pushed himself up off the corner of the desk and began his rough pacing. "But is that truly an advantage, or a disadvantage?"



"It depends on how powerful the dark wizard in question is," Harry said.



"Oh?" Moody asked, curiosity and interest shining in his eyes.



"Well... if the wizard had a really large magical power well to draw from, starts using dark spells, and gets lost in the dark madness, they may just go berserk and start blowing up and slaughtering everything in range.



"They may be easier to take out because they're not necessarily thinking defensively, or using a strategy, but you have to be able to dodge and counter their spells to begin with, and you may not have the time or opportunity if they're already gone. At least an experienced dark wizard who has control of their dark magic won't be so wasteful of their power. But they'll also be thinking clearly enough to employ a strategy and counter any attacks you make. So... it depends."



Moody grinned widely. "That's right, Mr. Potter! Twenty points to Gryffindor."





"Where did you learn that, Harry? None of that was in any of our defense text books," Hermione said in a flustered, frustrated tone as they walked down the corridor towards the grand staircase.



"Er, it was in one of the books I owl-ordered on my own, I think," Harry said dismissively.



"Really? Can I borrow it?" Hermione said, looking bright and excited.



"Uhm... I'll see if I can remember which one it was from and dig it out sometime," Harry said, hoping that he could just put it off until she had forgotten about it.



"That would be fantastic, Harry. I was really fascinated by Professor Moody's lecture today. I've never heard anyone explain the psychology behind a dark wizard, or the biology of how the magic effects their body, like that before," Hermione gushed.



"Yeah, but what was all that rubbish about endolphins and stuff?" Ron asked. "I couldn't make heads or tails of any of it!"



Harry and Hermione both looked at him with frustrated disbelief.



"They're called endorphins Ron, not dolphins." Hermione said exasperatedly.



"Yeah, well I don't know what that is either," Ron grumbled bitterly.



Hermione turned to face Harry, apparently having decided to pretend Ron hadn't said something exceedingly idiotic... again. "Anyway, I thought it was an incredibly fascinating lesson. I'd never heard that using dark magic effected the nervous system like that before, but it's really useful to know, actually. The fact that the dynorphins and enkephalins in the spinal cord and peripheral nervous system that dampen and slow pain nerves are triggered by the dark magic is huge!"



"Huh? How so? And what the ruddy hell does any of that even mean!" Ron said, cutting back in.



"It means that using a lot of dark magic triggers the body's natural pain dampening systems. What that means is that a dark wizard could get hit with some pretty nasty curses and hexes but not really feel a thing till much later. They'll be able to just keep on fighting."



"Oh... that's... bad," Ron said looking painfully thoughtful.



"But what I thought was really fascinating is the fact that repeated use of dark magic causes a surge of endorphins in the hypothalamus! It's no wonder that so many dark wizards are sadists! They literally feel pleasure when they cast really nasty dark curses at people! The magic makes them feel a euphoric high. It's really kind of sick, but it's also really fascinating."



Harry had to fight against the sneer that tried to pull itself across his lips, but managed to force it down into a grimace.



"But what does that endolphins in the hypopotamus mean?" Ron asked in a frustrated whine.



"Ron, please don't... don't even try to say it," Hermione said, shaking her head and rubbing her index fingers against her temple.



"Well, you know what I mean!"



Hermione huffed. "It stimulates the reward pathways of the brain, giving the person a sense of euphoria and pleasure."



"Oh... well you could have just said that."



"I did!"



"No, you said –"



After that, Harry just tuned them out. He was already aware of all this. He'd been reading up on dark magic for months now. It's not like it mattered anyway. He grumbled in annoyance and hurried his pace towards the great hall. Maybe some food would distract him.



– –




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