"I've used them, yes," Snape said lowly, "Mastery's a poor term for a peculiar and individualized branch of Magic, you realize?"
Harry Potter nodded shortly.
"You've heard, I believe, Black say that I came to Hogwarts knowing more Dark Arts than most 7th years?" Snape said crisply.
Harry's mouth tightened, as he nodded. He wasn't even sure why - something about the conflict between Snape and Sirius was... disquieting - itchy, almost.
"Nothing could be farther from the truth." Snape said with a smirk, his voice vehement and low. "The Marauders taught me the Dark Arts, and I was a very good student." Snape had a smugness, a certain satisfaction on his face, that Harry wanted to knock off of it. Instead, he merely fisted his hand in his robes, clutching them so as to not bleed.*
"Sir, did all the Death Eaters learn the Dark Arts, at some point?" Harry Potter asked, trying - and, mostly, failing - to summon sympathy for the torturers; the murderers.
Snape laughed, a dark barking boom that crossed the room and rebounded, echoing like a foghorn. "No, not even the Dark Lord would have condoned breaking his men for a bit of power." A shadow passed over Snape's face, and Harry Potter thought he was remembering a memory, "would have, I say. There are now times that I question his sanity."
Harry said, softly, "There are certain times that I question Dumbledore's sanity, sir."
Snape looked at him sharply, incisive eyes assessing truthfulness before nodding, "Hero-worship has always been a Gryffindor game. Inevitably, they wind up disappointed at the end."
"Did..." Harry asked, suddenly thinking that Snape might have looked up to Tom Riddle - as someone who had conquered his sense of hopelessness, if nothing else. The thought froze in his belly, those cruel, snakelike red eyes nearly hissing at him from Harry's own memory.
"The Dark Lord himself," Snape said softly, "And Bellatrix Black."
Harry looked at Snape attentively, and he eventually continued, as he began to pace erratically around the room. "The Dark Lord is not named so because he has a mastery of the Dark Arts, merely because he is capable of wielding them." Snape said, pausing, "It is a warning, just as much as it is a term of loyalty or of simple truth. Because you can't ever truly measure someone's capabilities if they possess the Dark Arts."
"Why not, sir?" Harry prompted.
"Because they're idiosyncratic, and likely to change. I missed the first time I cast a Dark spell, and if I hadn't, the world would have been short a Potter." Snape said with a smirk.
Harry Potter's eyes bulged at the bizarre sense of humor that would lead his Professor to humorlessly joke about his father being dead. His absentee father, who had died saving him. Yeah, that one. Harry Potter found himself remembering Bellatrix Black, pulling her into his memory and spinning her around, "Sir, did the Dark Lord do something to Bellatrix? Did he break her?"
Snape laughed a dark laugh, "No, Potter, she's in love with him. There's absolutely nothing dark about that." Snape said, pausing, "Time was, Bellatrix Black was a wonder to behold, a falcon swift on the wing." Snape said, his mouth relaxing as he remembered, "No, she knew Dark Arts from deep in her childhood, as I suspect did the Dark Lord, though he never talked of his past."
"What, what happened to her?" Harry Potter said, "It's only, she looks so different, acts so different from her sisters..."
"Bella Black stood in front. Whenever her father was in a temper, she was there to take the blow. Her mother, her younger sisters, they all stood aside." Snape said, "She was always strong-willed, but she loved her family dearly, and she couldn't stand to see someone harmed if she could help it."
Harry Potter shook his head, almost unwilling to see the girl, brave beyond her years. The woman had been a crazed torturer.
"Azkaban corrupted and corroded her - not that the Dark Lord's beliefs haven't shaped her beforetimes, you understand." Snape said. "She truly thinks of the impure blooded that they are beneath her, subhuman really." Snape shook his head, "It's the only way she can bear to do it, you see. Shake that belief, and she'd collapse like a pile of cards."
Harry Potter looked at Snape, wide-eyed - he truly hadn't given any thought to how she'd managed to accomplish such feats of raw sadism...if they weren't sadism...
"That was not a request." Snape said curtly, and Harry Potter blinked, only with difficulty shifting himself back to the conversation.
*he's making a fist. tightly. fingernails can cut flesh easily.
[a/n: well, I thought this was going to be the last one, but I've still got more ideas for this interaction. So, onward with the talkings!
Reviews are greatly appreciated.]