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Chapter Two: Know Thy Enemy
This morning in the Black Manor proved as gloomy as it would anywhere else, given it was raining heavily and dark clouds covered skies from one horizon to the other.

He woke up with a scream as he dreamed of waking up at Dursleys. At the sudden sound, Revy immediately appeared in the room, worried about her young Lord.

“It's alright, Revy, just a nightmare,” he said as soon as he noted her magical presence in the room.
“Is Master needing anything?” the elf asked in squeaky voice.
“No, I'm fine. Though I wouldn't mind a coffee,” he smiled weakly — a nice proof his sleep was anything but peaceful and satisfying.
“Revy be doing that now, Master,” she squealed little too enthusiastically to be normal this early in the morning, and popped out.

He sighed and sat in the bed. This was it, the last day of holiday — today he would board the school express and arrive at Hogwarts for the very first time.

He spent the past two weeks reading up all the books he acquired in Diagon Alley, and being a quick reader, he reached for the books from the Manor library as well.

With another sigh he finally got up from the bed to visit the shower — one place he actually revelled in as he'd never been allowed more than a quick weekly scrub in freezing water.

After shower he descended to the ground floor for his morning coffee — which already waited for him, thanks to Revy. The elves were stubborn at fattening him up, but quickly learned he simply didn't do breakfasts; never being allowed much to eat was a bodily habit hard to break, even his sporadic lunch and dinner were small victories for him, even though the elves tended to disagree with the amounts he ate.

After his simple morning with a cup of coffee and Daily Prophet, to which he subscribed as soon as he'd learned it's the most solid — though quite often still lacking — source of daily news, he returned to his rooms to check he's packed everything needed for the school year, which he has, so he ended up in his study with Course-book of Curses, Tome III, as he still had over two hours until he had to depart for the Hogwarts.

Oh, how the reading was pleasant nowadays. He had always liked reading but he had as well always had troubles with it. Last week he visited St. Mungo's (at Nott's recommendation) to get vaccination against magical maladies, and healers there found out he had some serious troubles with his sight — and so he had them cure it for him.

***

“Can I sit here? Everywhere else is full...”

He looked at the intruder to his tranquillity. The boy looked around same age as him, so probably a first or second year. He had red hair, his complexion was tattered with freckles and his clothes remembered better days for sure.

“Sure,” he nodded even though he preferred his solitude and the boy seemed downright noisy. Alas, he seriously doubted the train would be gigantic enough to allow every student the privacy of his own compartment.

As the boy entered, he looked out of the window again hoping against all odds the red-head would get the hint and doesn't disturb him or involve him in any chat-sessions.

Some things were not to be...

“My name's Ron, by the way, Ron Weasley,” the boy said and waited for him to introduce himself, but he only nodded not even looking at the boy again. Not his fault, of course, it was only little over one week since he'd found out about wizarding world. Not that he didn't search up everything he could think of, because he did, but still... Now he was finally heading off for his real start in this world and had too much on his head to deal with any over-enthusiastic companions in his last moments before the school; he needed to prepare some more.

As it seemed the boy would start talking again he was saved by someone else opening the door, though this time he didn't bother even looking at the second trespasser.

“Weasley,” the new one — a boy, judging by his voice — spat with enough venom to coat weapons for a whole army.

“Malfoy,” the red — head said with equally loving voice, and the two seemed encompassed in a fierce glaring battle for a while. He finally looked at them, giving into his curiosity. The newcomer had pale, though not unhealthily so, skin, baby-blue eyes and platinum-blonde hair. Their battle didn't last long, unfortunately, and soon the blonde turned his attention to him, looking him over.
“And you are?” he asked.
“Leaving,” he growled out throwing both of them seemingly bored looks. Then he got up and left.

He wandered the train until he found one very quite compartment with only two occupants who looked up from their books as he opened the door.

“Hi, do you mind if I sit here?”
“Sure, come in,” a fair haired boy sitting near the window said.
“Got kicked out?” a dark haired girl smirked.
“Left voluntarily, too noisy,” he returned.
“Good for you, some people just don't understand the meaning of peace and quiet...” the girl sighed.
“Too true,” he nodded and sat at the free spot by the window.

The boy helped him put his trunk above his head with a simple wave of his wand.

“Thanks; you're seventh year?”
“No prob, and yeah: I am. You're a first year? I've never seen you around.”
“Yeah, first year. Know some nice spots in the school?”
“Library always pays off,” the girl piped in. “You'd think the place would be crowded, but no...”
“Seems I'll be labelled a bookworm really quickly,” he snickered.
“If you end up in Ravenclaw, you'll get your peace and quiet in a common room, they're not too talkative.”
“Humph, we are nicely outspoken, we just know when to shut up,” the boy said.
“Are you by any chance insinuating I don't?” the girl growled dangerously.
“Oh, how could you think so, dear sister of mine? I'm merely stating that whenever you start about Dark Arts even silencing wards don't block out your tirades...”
“How curious... And here I thought you're interested as you always join in the discussion...”
“Of course I do, since it's impossible to hide or run away.”
“Malakai, dear, I think I'll start using you as my test subject.”
“Sorry to break it to you, Malanei, dear, but you've been doing that since you were four..."

***

“Hey, you here?” Malanei tried to get his attention as he has spaced off to somewhere really far away in his thoughts.
“Hm,” he refocused on the present time and space.
“Just wanted to tell you we should be arriving shortly,” she said.
“Thanks,” he mumbled with still somehow faraway look in his face.
“You okay?” Malakai asked looking at him curiously whereas his twin more concernedly.
“Just a bit tired... guess there's too much to think of,” he confessed sounding little weak; nothing of which would ever happen had he not spaced off to his memories before. In his head he knew that those were memories — the events of past — but this burden was too real and too fresh to dismiss it completely. He suppressed and forced his mind on Hogwarts.
“If you say so,” Malakai acquiesced hesitantly, as he didn't seem too convinced about his words.

***

“Don't cry, little one,” a gentle voice said. All was black.
“Cry?”
“Yes, little one. It's not your fault so don't cry. I'll help you.”
“Who are you?”
“No-one important. Just close your eyes and rest, I'll take care of everything.”
“No! No! I can't rest! My chores are...”
“Unimportant, little one. Sleep now and leave everything to me.”
“I can't! If Uncle come home and I'm not done he'll be angry...”
“Trust me and don't worry. Just close your eyes. Everything will be just fine.”
“Will I see you again?”
“Yes, little one, you will.”
“Alright.”


***

They stopped their proceedings in front of a grand, heavy door which was now closed. Looking around he could see like thirty students — his year-mates, as it would seem. Right in the centre of them being the two he had the misfortune to meet in the train. The blonde boy — Malfoy — was standing with two other boys (that reminded him of gorillas built-wise) that appeared to act as his bodyguards. The boy was glaring daggers at one Ron Weasley, the noisy red-head. They both seemed ready to go for each other's throat when they were stopped by an appearance of an elderly witch who came in front of this large cluster of students.

“I'm Professor McGonagall; I'm teaching Transfiguration here as well as I am in charge of the House of Gryffindor,” the woman introduced herself. “Now, as we enter the Great Hall, you'll be sorted into your Houses, which will be like your family while you are staying at Hogwarts. There are total of four Houses: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin...”

It seemed to him the introductory course was taking a bit too long so he tuned her out, as the information given was either a common knowledge, or completely unimportant.

He smirked as he replayed her saying ‘Your House will be like your family', which sent shivers down his spine. He sure hoped the sentence would prove to be a lie, as there was never anything pleasant connected to the word ‘family' in his head.

The students started moving and he refocused back to find the door open, and the first-years-to-be were led to the Great Hall.

And great it was, in more ways than one...

Yes, it was spacious, stone walls and pillars reaching heights he could not reach, disappearing in the skies that seemed to be placed around the hall's ceiling, replacing it...

He could see the dark clouds gathering around the night sky, yet it was still light, as the hall itself was lighted by thousands of candles floating in the air, and numerous fire places around the walls.

So, yes, it was somehow nice and he found himself impressed. Bur it was nothing compared to the... feel of magic, dare he say, that gathered here. That was what had him awed, and that was what made it truly Great Hall.

Professor McGonagall stopped in the front of the hall and motioned them to gather around her... and a tripod stool with a shabby-looking hat placed on it.

“When I call your name, you'll step forward, and I'll put the Sorting Hat on your head and you will be sorted into your Houses,” she said and called the first name.
“ABBOTT, Hannah!”

The hat was indeed placed on her head and instantly seemed to be put in some dilemma situation, as it started mumbling something to itself. But not too long after that it finally shouted for all to hear:

“RAVENCLAW!”

Then came other names: Alistair, Avery, Barkers, Bennett, and finally came the moment for him to bear all the looks, as McGonagall choked out:

“BLACK, Navi!”

There were quite few murmurs that erupted with his name announced but he chose to worry about them later, as he heard a voice in his head talking.

“Ah, this I call an interesting mind, Mr. Black... Or Potter, is it? Nah, definitely Black,” the Hat continued its mental monologue. “I've never put a Potter anywhere but Gryffindor, yet there's no place better for you than
“SLYTHERIN!”

He had the Hat lifted from his head and headed for the Slytherin Table where he could see many people clapping while other Houses settled for silent hateful glares... though the Ravenclaw did a little applause for the appearances' sake...

“So you ended up with me, guess I lost the bet,” he heard a familiar voice — just a few seats from him sat one of his train companions.
“Malanei,” he nodded to her.
“I just now noticed we never properly introduced ourselves, right? The name is Malanei Adoran.”
“Pleasure, though I'd sleep more peacefully if I knew there weren't any bets concerning me...” he said and the girl smirked playfully.
“Ah, we couldn't help ourselves. You seemed to like quiet places to think, so I'd thought you'd be sorted into Ravenclaw. It somehow pisses me off that Kai bet you into Slytherin right away. Damn him, he always wins...”
“Kai?”
“Ah, we shorten our names. Kai for Malakai, Nei for me, so call me that, ok?”
“I'll remember that,” he nodded and looked to the front of the Hall to see how far the sorting has progressed.
“Does it always take forever?” he mumbled towards Nei.
“Unfortunately. Gods, I'm starving!” she growled out. “Oh, look, the Malfoy brat's joining finally,” she commented as the name: ‘MALFOY, Draco' was called and the boy was instantly put into Slytherin too.
“Ugh, will be fun,” he sighed.
“Don't like him?”
“He was one of the two reasons I retreated from the noisy compartment...” he mumbled, his somewhat pouty tone causing her to giggle.
“And the other one?”
“That red-head over there,” he pointed to the unsorted lot. “Weasley, I think...”
“Poor you, I can understand now why you left them voluntarily,” she blinked at him. “But do bear with Malfoy. He might be a stuck-up snobbish arrogant brat, but his family is very influential and his father holds its Lordship.”
“I'd better muster my patience then,” he sighed once again ending the current topic, as the Malfoy heir sat not so far away from them.

***

He paid attention really well and now he was glad he did as it seemed that their common room along with the dormitories were in the dungeons and those more often than not proved to be a complete maze, which exactly was the case this time.

The older House-mates took their seats, prefects informing the first years not to leave yet. And so they waited, but not too long.

Soon, the door to the Slytherin common room opened and a man entered. He knew he was a professor, as he noticed him sitting at the teachers' table during dinner, thus he now easily guessed he was the Head of the Slytherin House.

The man was quite tall, and really slim. He had dark, shoulder-length hair, and big crooked nose. His eyes were so dark that they seemed black. He wore black robes that billowed behind him somehow menacingly giving him dangerous impression, his scowl not helping lighten his image anyhow.

“Welcome, and welcome back, Slytherins,” the man started and his eyes travelled through all the first years, probably memorizing the faces of his charges... though he somehow managed to avoid looking at Navi, but the boy didn't mind very much. Not to be noticed was what his relatives taught him, and what he preferred anyway...

“My name is Severus Snape and I'm residing Potion Master at Hogwarts. As you've probably guessed I'm also the Head of Slytherin, and as such you're my first and foremost responsibility.
“If you ever encounter any troubles, or have problems you come to me.”

The man continued his speech with introducing them to the school and House rules; going onto more basic information such as Quidditch practise. This particular bit of information was continued by Marcus Flint — seventh year prefect and captain of Slytherin Quidditch team. He told the Slytherins that there were two open positions — namely a Seeker and a chaser — and thus there would be tryouts before any actual training could even begin.

Navi stifled a yawn, trying not to rest too much as he was quite sure, he would fall asleep if he relaxed. The room itself didn't help at keeping himself awake, as it was dark and dusky, the only light being green-glow lamps and a fire-place. He tried to focus but he was really not interested in such boring matters...

“It's late, I know, but there is one more thing to do before you can go to beds, do follow me,” he said and led all the first years out of the common room.

“We are going to the Hospital Wing to have you all checked. Madame Pomfrey — the nurse — will make each of you your personal file, which hopefully won't be needed as I'd prefer you stayed as far away from infirmary as possible. But knowing Gryffindors, I'm afraid that will not come true,” he informed them while they walked up the stairs.

Well, he was wide awake now. He can't go there, but he won't be able to talk himself out of it either — it would be too suspicious, not to mention he somehow knew he would succeed anyway... But if they checked him — something he spent his whole life to avoid — they'll find out. They'd know what happened to him and they'd check his house... which is currently Black Manor, yes, but no child could be born and live absolutely alone. They'd ask and pry and finally they'd become suspicious. And then they'd connect the dots and they'll know who he is. They'll find out he's the Boy-Who-Lived... the second this is out he'd have no place to rest, no sanctuary, no peace...

No.

He'll never let that happen.

No matter what...

And so he spent his way up the stairs and to the Hospital Wing trying to come up with a solution.

“Mr. Black?” the nurse opened the door to the infirmary and motioned him to enter, and he did his best trying to act as calm as possible... at least outwardly, because on the inside he was a bit on a rough end and he could hear his heart beating wildly in his ears.

As soon as the door closed and they were finally alone and out of sight, he took advantage of the nurse's inattention and his wand instantly appeared in his left hand, blue beam hitting her in her back.

He quickly picked Avery's file and proceeded to file out his own, basing the information on his classmate's data, changing his writing so it would appear like nurse's... which was very difficult, as he had troubles writing in general. How in the Holy Hell did the left-handed people manage to use an ink and a quill?! He might not have a dominant hand, but his right hand had been broken too many times for him to be able to write with it comfortably.

Finally he put his file open on a desk and the curse only smiled at him sweetly not knowing what reality offered at the moment, as she was presented with an illusion of what she thought she was doing right now — a medical check- up.

Navi sighed tiredly, it was really risky; leaving alone it was the very first time he ever used it on a human, it was a really weak spell and he realized it very well. The only reason the nurse submitted to this simple mind-play was because she didn't suspect being charmed by a first-year who has yet to start learning magic. True enough, there were many things one could learn before Hogwarts, but a child couldn't manage the practical aspects of magic, as they weren't allowed to use it before Hogwarts... his exception being a secret one, and he fully intended to keep it this way.

He sat on the hospital bed and ended the illusion, immediately hiding his wand.

“That should be all, Mr. Black,” she smiled at him.
“Yes, Ma'am,” he acquiesced and headed for the door, exiting quietly.
“Mr. Crabbe,” she called out the next one and he could finally breathe easily, though he felt even more tired than before.

***

The night was an outright disaster, he sighed tiredly as he sat in the common room. He knew he'd have nightmares; it was very rare they didn't come. He had known and he put himself under a silencing spell, so that he wouldn't wake anyone. He suspected that the check-up and the threat of revealing his past was at fault...

He glanced at the parchment he was holding — his timetable he'd picked from his nightstand where he'd found it.

Monday:

Transfiguration: 9AM — 11AM;
Potions — theory: 12PM — 1PM;
Defence against Dark Arts: 3PM — 5PM.


The timetable granted him so much free-time he suspected he'll really be considered a bookworm very soon.

A bell sounded throughout the castle and he looked at the clock — five in the morning, no sane person should be awake at this ungodly hour.

He decided to have a walk, surely even professors would not patrol corridors — who'd suspect a student being awake this early?

He wandered the dungeons until he finally met the corridors of the ground floor, and quietly skulked outside — one can never be careful enough... He sat at the banks of the lake they'd crossed on boats the day before. And the sights here were still somehow magical. He'd never been away from Surrey, not counting in his recent visit to London and him moving to the Black Manor. This place, however, looked so pure, so untouched by a hand of civilization... so beautiful.

The skies were dark, the Forbidden Forest was like a primal shadow creeping on a horizon, the Black Lake was as dark and calm as the night sky it reflected along with multitudes of stars and their constellations... There was no sound but the wind playing with leaves and branches of trees of the ancient forest.

After what seemed like an infinity and a second at once, the skies started to brighten and he knew the new day was about to begin.

***

He opened his eyes just to find his room still covered in rich black of night. It took him only few seconds to realize he was in his private quarters of Slytherin Dungeon in Hogwarts and that today — probably, depending on the hour — was the first day of school. He groaned, as he didn't like the idea. Why did he have to wake up this early? He could've slept some more, but no... of course he wouldn't be so lucky.

So, following his daily rituals, he dressed into his robes and sat in comfortable armchair in front of fireplace.

First day of school — a royal pain in the ass... There were few — really few — students he was glad he'd taught in his career. The rest were just cheeky, untalented brats that had no real future in Potions.

Severus seemed to be drowning in the flames of fireplace as he tried to recall why he couldn't sleep tonight — aside from it being his mandatory presence in Hogwarts; no more comfortable Manor, no more spacious, clean and high-class potion lab. No, there was more to that...

Black.

Yes, he remembered now... Black hair and green eyes, pale skin and somehow scrawny built. The only possible Black-parentage being that goddamned mutt.

So that hellion spawned once again, huh?

Quite disconcerting being the fact that no one has known there's Black heir running around. But then again, the mutt was perfectly able to impregnate a random witch — hell, even a muggle — and not tell anyone about it.

But Black is locked out safely in Azkaban, right? So where did the kid grow up that no one heard anything about him, until now, that is.

Though to Severus there was only one thing of concern — his high school nightmare returns. The brat reeks of trouble...

He shook his head to clear it of all those thoughts but to no avail, so he decided to take a stroll — no students to catch, just a little bit of peace before all hell breaks loose.

Ah, how beautiful it was; Hogwarts would be perfect were it not for the students and annoying portraits littering the walls. That's why he loved dungeons — not many students stepped there until absolutely necessary, no portraits to disturb the peace, pleasantly cool and pleasantly dim-lit...

His stroll was disturbed by a loud sound of a bell announcing six in the morning. With a sigh he decided to have an early breakfast thus he headed few levels higher. Then he noticed something from the corner of his eye and he looked out of a window he was standing by.

“Merlin, it's just six hours since the September started and he's already out causing troubles,” he growled as he instantly recognized his revived nightmare — Black. But then again the brat is a Slytherin, the disturbing House choice aside, he simply cannot take points in quantities he'd like. There would be no way for them to win the House Cup then. He grinned evilly. No, he couldn't take the points, but well, that isn't stopping him from dealing him detentions left and right. He nodded to himself, pleased, and came to a stop by the door the brat would cross when entering the castle. And he didn't have to wait too long, either...

“I think I've explained the school rules properly yesterday,” he said quietly but no less dangerously, observing the brat closely, and nodding satisfied when he noticed a flinch when he spoke.
“Sir,” the hellion nodded acknowledging his presence, his face however showing no emotions. How strange.
“For breaking the school rule about curfew you're assigned a detention with me at seven this evening.”
“Yes, Sir,” the brat simply nodded, annoying him even more.
“Off you go,” he groaned and the boy only nodded and headed for the Great Hall, to his utter displeasure. With a sigh he went after the brat who just had to have the same destination in mind...

***

Sighing, he sat down at the Slytherin table. He could've know he'd be caught — just his luck.

“Detention, wonder what it's about,” he thought and he really had no idea; he'd never gone to school, and even if he had, this is a magical school, surely it'd be different anyway. He looked around as he searched the table, which was already full of jars with jam and honey, tea pots and empty cups and glasses, pitchers of water and what seemed to be some kind of juice...

“Pity there's no coffee,” he mumbled, but the second the words left his lips a cup of coffee appeared right in front of him.
“House-elves,” he thought, and looking at his cup he allowed a small smile grace his features.
“Thank you for the coffee,” he whispered; if the elf could hear his comment, it most likely could hear his thanks too.

Not long after he tasted the coffee — which was brilliant — he heard a fluttering sound so he looked up, just to see it was Cadmon, an owl he got the second he learned about the owl-post and owl-orders... Cadmon was quite big, but extremely fast owl, with black feathers and yellow eyes, both of which giving him a dangerous look, and ultimately keeping people on their toes when around him.

The owl landed gracefully on the table right in front of him with a morning edition of Daily Prophet.

“Thank you,” he nodded and grabbed the newspaper before it got too uncomfortable for the bird, offering said bird a snack he grabbed at the table. Cadmon hooted his thanks and looked at him questioningly.
“No worries, just my luck kicked in and I've already earned a detention...”

The owl narrowed his eyes dangerously as if scolding him.

“Not my fault I couldn't sleep and there was nothing to do. I just went outside for a bit.”

Cadmon nodded, probably acknowledging the explanation and after another treat — this time a piece of bacon — he flew away to the owlery to get some sleep. Navi slowly finished his morning coffee simply looking through the news, skimming through the useless babbles, reading the important articles. After a bit he frowned as he caught the Harry Potter, so he read it quickly. It was only first day of school, but wizarding society was already worried that their hero didn't appear at the Sorting Ceremony. The reporter — one Rita Skeeter — wrote about her concerns that something happened to the child- saviour, and promised to get an interview from his magical guardian as soon as possible. With a smirk he put the newspaper aside, oh yes, he was looking forward to this evening.

***

Black. That name never left his thoughts since the Sorting Ceremony. They met in the Hogwarts Express and the boy seemed withdrawn and not very likeable; most likely a Mudblood too, he had thought back then, so he was just glad when he left.

But then his name was announced — Navi Black. His black hair was barely reaching his shoulders, his green eyes were almost hypnotizing; from his speech pattern — not that he spoke that much — he could hear a sheer vocabulary, his face was always kept strictly emotionless, a perfect Pureblood mask.

This changed situation immensely. So for the sake of connections with the Black family he tried to be nicer.

“What's wrong, Draco?” a dark-haired girl asked.
“Black. I wrote my father yesterday and I got a letter from him this morning...”
“Well?”
“Nothing I didn't expect. I'm to befriend him, the problem is he doesn't care...”
“He does keep to himself, doesn't he?”
“How am I to befriend him when he barely answers simple questions?”
“Oh, Dray, we'll get his attention, don't worry.”
“I think he'll join us,” said one Theodore Nott looking deep in thought. “Just not now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Look at him, he's clearly waiting for something,” Theodore said and pointed at the subject of their little discussion.

Navi was sitting in an armchair in front of a fireplace, seemingly out in his own world. Draco wanted to go to him, but at that moment the bell rang and the Black heir stood up and swiftly exited the Common Room.

“What was that about?”
“It seems he was waiting for it to be six in the evening...”
“What's important about that time?”
“We'll just have to wait and see...”

They were back to discussing ways how to approach the young aristocrat and few minutes into their renewed debate Navi returned holding something in his hand.

“Evening edition of Daily Prophet,” Theo commented, frowning slightly.
“Well, at least now we know what he was waiting for...” Blaise Zabini whispered.

They were all wondering why would anybody wait for the evening newspaper — the most important things were always published in the morning edition... But then their thoughts were disturbed when a soft but clearly evil laughter reached their ears. They all turned towards its source — Navi Black.

“So Harry Potter receives a personal training from you,” they heard him whisper. “Yes, that's right; run... run as fast as you can, but you won't get far, old man,” he chuckled dangerously and drew his wand. Draco with others followed its movement in astonishment as with no incantation whatsoever an article ripped itself out from the rest of the newspaper and rested in the boy's lap, while the remaining majority of it landed in fireplace.

“Did you see that?” Pansy whispered in wonder, not being able to tear her eyes from Black heir.
“Yeah, nonverbal magic... And he's only eleven, just like us,” Blaise said in equally low voice.

That night Draco couldn't sleep so he decided he'll take a stroll, though he didn't get further than to the exit of boy's dorm. He stopped abruptly when he noticed the person in their Common Room, the very person who was the reason he couldn't sleep.

Navi was sitting on a floor with countless scraps of parchment lying all around him, with nothing but a cross drawn on each piece. It seemed like Navi, with his wand drawn, concentrated on a single scrap that lay on a ground directly in front of him. From afar, Draco noticed the dark grey cross drawn on the piece glowed a little, turned black and the next moment the scrap of parchment burst into flames leaving only ashes.

“Damn,” he heard Navi whisper. The boy picked a whole piece of parchment that was covered with some notes and scribbled furiously what seemed to be his new observation. Then he picked a book that lay beside him and reread few pages.

Draco was watching him with interest — what was going on with Navi, really? And what was he working on this diligently. After a few more unsuccessful tries on Navi's part Draco finally got too tired and retreated to bed, plenty new questions running amok in his head.

***

“Uncle Sev,” Draco smile as Severus let him into his private quarters immediately.
“So? What brings you here?”
“I just wanted to talk, it's not like we can have a chat during Potions,” Draco sighed dramatically and sat himself in front of a fire place.
“True,” he nodded. “But there is another reason to your visit,” he stated knowingly.
“Father told me to befriend Navi.”
“Black,” Severus spat immediately. That name time and time again. It was only a month into the school year and he could hear it everywhere. Curiously enough not once has anyone complained on this particular Slytherin, each and every one were interested or taken by the boy. First McGonagall, then Flitwick, then Quirell... and then even Dumbledore started taking interest in him. The brat was gaining House points left and right, flaunting his scarce knowledge... what did he expect, really... like the father, like the son... The same attention-seeking, arrogant, cheeky, spoiled progeny of his mutt of a father.
“You don't like him,” Draco said, catching his attention again.
“I had the greatest displeasure to know his father.”
“Sirius Black. But he was a Gryffindork, right? Navi is a Slytherin so he can't be one of those...”
“Any spawn of Sirius Black means troubles.”
“He's good at Potions, I thought you'd like him...”
“He seems to be good at many things,” he drawled disdainfully. “Arrogant little brat...”
“He is good at many things, Uncle Sev,” Draco piped.
“Even you?”
“I can't deny he's good, no matter how I try not to,” Draco whined. He was a Malfoy, after all, who are superior at everything; admitting that someone is better was unheard of. Strangely enough, in this particular case Draco didn't mind any.
“Don't worry, it's normal — a Black always equals trouble.”
“You're being unfair! He might not be my friend, yet, but anyone would be jealous!”
“So, what did the-oh-so-prodigal-Black do so great to incur a jealousy of a Malfoy?”
“Lot of things. Nonverbal magic probably being on the first place...”
“What?”
“Oh? Picked your interest?” Draco smirked. “You heard right, though. He can do nonverbal magic, quite easily at that.”
“But he's only...”
“Eleven, yes. Curious, right?”
“Curious indeed.”
“So, can you help me now?”
“What with?”
“Navi Black. How do I befriend him?”
“How should I know? Why don't you ask others, I'm sure you're not the only one to have to befriend the Black heir.”
“Neither of us knows... He doesn't talk with anyone, maybe except Malanei Adoran at the Welcoming Feast.”
“Then talk to him while in your room. He can't ignore you so clearly, he's Pureblood too, after all.”
“Easier said than done...”
“What do you mean?”
“I'm starting to think he's a vampire or something.”
“Don't be ridiculous.”
“I've yet to see him sleep! When we go to bed, he's not there yet and when we wake up, even Theo who wakes early, Navi is already gone. I couldn't sleep last Friday, it was damned two in the morning! He was sitting in the Common Room!”
“I caught him the first day of school wandering outside... it was barely six...”
“See?”
“I'll look into that. Not that I care about a Black but he's a Slytherin, so I'll try...”
“Do you have another idea how to get him at least talk to us?”
“Did you try finding what he's interested in? You can talk about that and take it from there...”
“He's interested in way too many things,” Draco sighed, and Severus looked somehow amusedly at his godson's dejected face.
“For example?”
“When I say ‘way too many things' I mean goddamned everything!”
“Language, Draco.”
“Sorry. It's been only a month since the beginning of the school year and he read so many books I could barely remember their subjects... Charms, Transfiguration, Ancient Runes — and I'm not talking about school course-books here. Psychology, politics, even Law! Merlin, I swear he even read the complete Hogwarts-rules while taking notes! I'd have no idea what to talk about...”
"Interesting... and disconcerting... Black a bookworm? That could pronounce either miracle or an outright disaster, perhaps both," Severus mused concernedly, while carefully keeping his expression strictly neutral.
“Try politics, then. You must've learned a lot from Lucius.”
“Well, I've heard a lot,” his godson mumbled, and he frowned.
“Draco Malfoy, you are a Pureblood, more so, you're the heir of Malfoy line! You should listen to your father when he teaches you Pureblood laws and politics, and I mean listen and pay attention...”
“I know... it's just... difficult...”

He sighed; it seemed he'll have to talk to Narcissa.

“Then talk to him about something you are interested in.”
“Well... Potions, Charms, Quidditch... oh, but he's not interested in Quidditch... Do you think you could help me a bit?”
“Hm?”
“What's the topic of next Potions?”
“I see... Fine; on Monday we'll be starting with poisons.”
“Awesome! I just hope we'll get to talk, he seems to be busy lately... well, since the beginning, but he seems more irate lately, so I guess his experiment — whatever that thing is — isn't quite working out...”
“Experiment?”
“Remember when I said he was doing something in the Common Room at night?”
“Yes.”
“Well, he had those little pieces of parchment all around him and he tried to do something, but they always ignited which guessing by his reaction wasn't what was supposed to happen.”
“Since it seems important to him, why don't you offer your help?”
That I already tried.”
“And?”
“He got this thoughtful expression, kinda creepy really... it was as if he could see right through me... Then he said it's something he has to do on his own... Weird, isn't it?”
“It is.”

***

He opened the door to the Slytherin Common Room, wondering if Draco thought right and the Black heir would be there.

He was; right in front the fireplace sat one Navi Black. He crept through the shadows never abandoning the sight of the young boy sitting on the floor. Black had his hair loosely tied up, though some of it was obscuring his vision as it was too short to be held properly. Not that any of it made his concentration falter.

Just as Draco said; there were parchments scattered around him: scraps with only a cross drawn on each piece, and regular pieces covered in neatly written notes. He thought back to the brat's essays. All of them were undoubtedly Outstanding, but... The first one...

“Mr. Black, it's a standard to use a black ink and you'll do well to remember that. Next time, I'll be lowering you grade and taking points.”
“Yes, Sir.”


Since then his essays were written in black ink, just as he'd demanded, but the scribbles were barely readable, so he still took points for wasting his time on decoding the mess or simply graded it T, when he didn't feel the need to take anymore points from his own House.

He focused back to those parchments with notes. All in pretty and neat handwriting, but all in this strange dark silvery grey ink... just like his first essay. Then he noticed a muggle pencil lying on one of them. He frowned. So the first essay was written with pencil? But how come his handwriting suffered such change with simple switching between writing tools?

“Hell yes!” he heard almost hissed proclamation from the brat and noticed that the scrap of parchment he'd been focused on wasn't burnt, but bore inky black cross.

“Final test,” the brat muttered and took a random parchment of his notes.

His wand hovered above the parchment, making small circular moves. The parchment glowed slightly and then the writing turned black.

From what he could see of the boy's notes it was something about chemistry, he noticed various graphs with some calculations that didn't make any sense from afar, as he couldn't see them in a detail; many notes focused on Transfiguration and those in particular were what the boy's problem was, guessing by the fact that many of them were crossed out with small notes on the side, or completely rewritten. Finally his eyes widened in awe when he realized what the Black heir was doing.

Transmutation.

Pencil with the core of coal, ink...

“That was quite a feat, Mr. Black,” he said and noticed a shiver that ran violently through the brat.
“Professor Snape,” the boy said quietly and with a wave of his wand all the pieces of parchment disappeared.

Nonverbal magic, another thing Draco's mentioned. Amazing skills; for an eleven-year-old unthinkable even, yet here he was witnessing them.

“Your roommates expressed their concerns that you're turning vampire, ridiculous as it might sound...”
“Why is that, Sir?”
“To them it seems you don't sleep. Leaving aside the accusation of you being a vampire, it is quite clear to me that you sleep hardly enough. And as the Head of your House it is my duty to watch out for my charges.”
“You think there's something wrong with me,” he said, and Severus notices it wasn't a question.
“It is disconcerting,” he nodded.
“I get enough rest, Sir,” the brat said and Severus couldn't help the chuckle; rest not sleep, how Slytherin, truly... Maybe this Black isn't that bad...
“I find it hard to believe, Mr. Black. Why don't you visit Madam Pomfrey if you have troubles sleeping? It is the reason she is here,” he said and frowned as the boy flinched, normal person wouldn't even notice, but it was hard to fool the spy's eyes.
“Thank you for your concern, Sir,” the boy said levelly. “But there's nothing to worry about. I had some troubles getting used to a new place, even the company in the dorms, but I assure you Sir I sleep normally now.”
“Is that so?” he said frowning. It was the truth, that he could see, but it still didn't feel right. Curious. “If you ever feel that your insomnia returns you should visit Madam Pomfrey or me for a simple Sleeping Draught.”
“Thank you, Sir,” the boy nodded and got up from the ground. “I wish you good night then.”And with that he left.

Severus still couldn't get his mind off the boy. Something didn't seem right about him. Insomnia, extensive studying, nonverbal magic, transmutation, anti-social... even those little things; like only a coffee for a breakfast — yes, he noticed that — or the change in handwriting.

"You are a mystery Navi Black, and I'll take great pleasure solving you."

***

“Ah, Severus! I've heard you have gained quite a pupil this year.”

He groaned inwardly. Why did he have to meet Dumbledore this early in the morning? He didn't have nearly enough coffee for that.

“Headmaster,” he said, praying it would be over soon.
“So? How's Mr. Black faring in your classes?”
“Fairly well.”
“That's quite a compliment, coming from you.”
“If you think so.”
“I've heard nothing but praises about him, you must be proud.”
“Better chance to win the House Cup.”
“Yes, yes... Slytherin is a force to be reckoned with this year. Ah, you must excuse me, Severus, there's a letter I need to write.”
“Of course, Headmaster,” he nodded. "Thank Merlin for that."

***

He was staring out of a window. Even though it was almost November it was still fairly warm outside. Though today was raining the whole day, no blue sky, no warm sun, even the yellows and oranges of a beautiful autumn didn't seem so colourful under the leaden sky.

“Navi Black?”

He turned to the one who addressed him and nodded in confirmation of his identity.
“The Headmaster told me to pass this to you,” a boy said and gave him a missive.

Mr. Black

Do visit me in my office at 3 PM. The password is ‘Chocolate Frogs'.

~A. Dumbledore


So his ex-magical guardian wishes to see him? Wonder what's that about... There's no way he'd know his previous identity, nor was there any troubles with him. He was just a first year. He might be a heir to a Pureblood name — at least to the public, as he was already Lord Black — but that surely didn't warrant any meetings, least of all with a Headmaster of a school.

"No other way to find out but to go there," he sighed. This will be hard, he knew. Meeting the enemy face to face is always hard, not to mention the enemy doesn't know about his animosity and he has to pretend there's none. With another sigh he got up and headed, with a help of portraits, to the Headmaster's office.

He finally stopped in front of the gargoyle that stood guard for the Headmaster's office, and was about to speak password when he stood frozen at the sight. The gargoyle — inanimate, as he'd seemed to be — stood up, straightened and then bowed to him, politely gesturing him to enter. Navi stared at the bizarre sight not able to move for a bit, but shortly he collected himself enough to nod to the guardian and enter the passageway with a rounded staircase.

But what did the gargoyle's reaction to him mean? Perhaps it recognized him as a descendant of one (well, two) of the Founders? He'd have to look it up in Hogwarts: A History; another thing on his already long ‘to do' list.

“Ah, Mr. Black. Come in, come in,” he heard through the door even before he had the chance to knock.
“Headmaster,” he said after he closed the door.
“Please, have a seat. Care for a tea? A lemon drop?”
“No, thank you, sir,” he said as he sat down.
“I bet you are wondering why I called you here.”
“I do, sir.”
“You see, I've known your father, quite well so... He was a good Gryffindor, even though he came from a very Dark family.”
“Yes, sir.”
“You see, I can't help but be concerned about you getting sorted into Slytherin. I'm afraid you'll follow in footsteps of your father's predecessors, if you know what I mean.”
“I do, sir. Though I must admit I fail to see a connection between Slytherin and the Forbidden Arts.”

Oh, he knew the connection very well. The Dark Arts fascinated him to no end, but he knew he wasn't prepared for that step. Yet. There's much more basics to conquer first. But the old man didn't have to know all the facts, that's why he used the Light term Forbidden Arts.

“Oh, my boy,” the old man smile benevolently, it would seem his acting wasn't that bad, he smirked inwardly. “The House of Slytherin bears many Dark Wizards. I'm afraid you'll have many troubles in that House.”
“Oh... Um, I don't get along with them... Is it because they're Dark?” he put on his best innocent, slightly frightened, mask, but not anything extreme; he was a Slytherin so purely innocent and naive mask would be simply unnatural, at best.
“I'm so sorry to hear that, my boy, so sorry... On a brighter side, I've heard you're doing excellently in your studies, I'm sure your father would be so proud of you.”
“Um, thank you...”
“But still, be careful, my boy. I wish you luck.”
“Thank you, Headmaster,” he said and got up to leave, he knew dismissal when he heard one. Though he didn't get far as he felt a little dizzy. Anger flared to life and he did his best not to blast Dumbledore to the next eternity.
“Are you alright, my boy?” the damned man had the gall to ask.
“Just a little dizzy, I couldn't sleep much tonight.”
“You'd best visit Hospital Wing for a sleep potion, if you have troubles. We don't want you getting ill.”
“Of course. Goodbye, sir.”

He walked out of his office keeping his face carefully blank, wary of the portraits. But as soon as he reached dungeons his expression darkened in fury, and if the looks could kill, even the walls wouldn't prevail.

***

He got up and straightened his back. With a single disgusted look, which he threw at a pile of unmarked essays, he headed to his liquor cabinet.

“Impossible brats,” he hissed as he downed a glass of firewhiskey. His eyes wandered back to his desk, focused on the essay on the very top and he took a double take as he spotted a random sentence that stated: ‘A Moonstone is a stone of lovers that ensures longevity of a relationship (...)' He blanched noticeably. “Sweet Merlin, why do you punish me so...” he groaned, turned on his heel and headed for the door. He knew he couldn't stay. If he read that essay now, he'd probably end up either in St. Mungo's or chasing after the damned Hufflepuff that had the death wish putting bullshit like this into a Potions essay. A third year student, who just started with Divination, most likely; he mused to himself while striding through the calm dungeon corridors. He remembered Trelawney spouting similar drivel during last All Hallows Eve. He'll have to take extra care while checking pumpkin juice this year, he took a mental note. Merlin save anyone who'd mention anything like that to him again.

He was about to turn the corner when he got passed by...

Navi Black.

He stopped. The expression the boy bore was one of a devil. Anger and hatred rolled off him and was almost tangible. The boy continued in his steady pace without even noticing him. Just what happened?

“Mr. Black!” he called out to him.

The boy stopped abruptly, and he quickly found himself at the receiving end of that glare, and couldn't suppress a shiver that ran down his spine.

“Professor Snape,” the boy said politely trying to control himself.
“Would you accompany me to my office?”
“Certainly.”

Sitting the boy in the chair, he rounded his desk (with the dreaded essay still glaring at him) and sat down.

“Would you tell me what happened?”
“Nothing.”
“Nothing, as you say, wouldn't cause the glare I happen to be receiving.”
“Sorry, Sir. I assure you nothing happened,” he said, his control slipping.
“I'm here to help you, you can tell me.”
“I don't trust you. Now if you would excuse me, Sir.”

He looked at him and for the first time in many years found himself at a loss for words. Surely, no Slytherin trusted anyone entirely, but to be told so this bluntly... He was sure that if the boy was his usual self, the sentence would've never left his lips.

“Very well. Even so I'm here to help my charges no matter what, so maybe this will help you speak freely,” he said with a frown and drew his wand. He noticed the boy was closely following his every move.
“I, Severus Tobias Snape, swear on my magic that anything Navi Black should tell me in this office will remain secret between the two of us unless he allows me to speak up. So mote it be.”

The magic swirled around them until settling back down.

The boy was watching him deep in thoughts as if analyzing any loose ends, and he most likely was.

“So mote it be,” he sighed in the end and for a second his mask slipped completely.
“So? What happened?”
“Dumbledore happened,” he spat.
“Did he now? Do elaborate.”
“He invited me to his office just to tell me I'm going Dark, only to offer his condolences when he found I'm not going anything. After another pile of useless chatter I was dismissed... And as soon as I turned to leave he cursed me with Merlin knows what...”
“Excuse me?”
“You heard right. He cursed me and tried to Obliviate me, pity it didn't work. The fact remains I have no idea what he did as the bastard did so nonverbally. Now I need to find what.”

That was quite a lot to take in.

Sure, he didn't trust Dumbledore. Yes, in war he played a part of a double spy for Dark which warranted distrust to anyone. But the man was supposed to care for his pupils... Oh, so that's why he was so interested in the Black heir earlier that day.

To curse a student... and to Obliviate him afterwards. Was it the first time it happened?

“Does something feel different?”

The boy struggled not to bite his head off, which was obvious. But he at least tried to calm down, though not entirely successfully. With a sigh he stood and headed for his potions cabinet, where he picked a bottle with a gold liquid. As he sat back down he put it in front of a boy.

“Thanks,” he whispered and downed the Calming Draught immediately, at which Snape frowned. Did the boy recognize the potion? They wouldn't learn it before the end of the third year. Strange.
“Charms and runes...” the boy mused, probably not even realizing he spoke out loud. Then his eyes shot open as he laughed bitterly. A sound that was simply too dark for a child.
“Well?” he asked with dreadful anticipation; what did Dumbledore do to force such reaction from the boy?
“He's bound my magic.”

And that was even more to take in. So much, in fact, that even he felt fury on a Black's behalf. He had to take few deep breaths as he noticed his anger caused his magic flare.

“I'll help you, but first we must find what binding he used.”
“May I have a bit of parchment, Sir?”
“Of course,” he nodded and put a piece in front of the boy, gesturing to his writing tools.
“Ugh,” the boy groaned softly as he stopped abruptly just to frantically search his pockets.
“Something wrong?”
“No, Sir,” he whispered and took the quill.

Then he bowed his head so low his bangs covered his face. Severus could see the boy biting his lip harshly, while he slowly and shakily wrote. He frowned. What was that about? The boy's hand was trembling and he was holding the quill with unnecessary force. Both of which resulted in barely readable scribble he had already met while grading his September essays. Not forgetting to mention that since he witnessed the boy's successful transmutation, his essays came in written in immaculate handwriting... And here it was back again to the shaky hieroglyphs.

When the boy finished, he heard a silent, relieved sigh.

“Revy,” the boy whispered in a strange voice and immediately a house elf popped next to him.
“What is Master wishing?”
“Please, could you find those books in the Library and bring them to me?” he asked in a low voice that sounded almost pained.
“Of course, Master! Revy be doing that now!”
“What's wrong?” he asked the second the house elf popped out of his office.
“Sir?”
“I've been wondering for the longest time why your handwriting lacks any skill from time to time. Now seeing it, it's quite clear that your hand hurts you.”
“It's alright.”
“It clearly is not. Would you mind me examining it?”
“Sorry, Sir, but I do mind,” he whispered.

Before he could retaliate, the elf popped back with quite a pile of books.

“Is Master wishing anything else?”
“Thank you, Revy. That would be all for now.”

After that he witnessed the boy in a study-mode. It was as if he shut out everything unnecessary. He skimmed text; from time to time he murmured something to himself. At one point he closed his eyes again and stayed that way for few minutes.

Severus sighed, since the boy is in a world of his own he returned to the dreaded essays.

“I've got it,” he heard the boy growl, so he looked up. “It's a simple but strong binding spell, conditioned by runes.”
“Could you enlighten me? For obvious reasons I've never had the need to study binding spells, seeing as it's only used on criminals, or in some cases in St. Mungo's.”
“Fine. Do you know what happens when a child has its magic bound, for a long time, and then reaches maturity?”
“Do go on.”
“At a point a wizard comes of age, he reaches his full magical potential, his magical core stabilizes and doesn't expand any more. Be that as it may, coming to this full magical potential happens always the same way — a sudden burst of magic, like accidental magic sometimes comes out. Now, the magic is bound. Were it a weak bind, it would break while coming-of-age.”
“You said ‘extremely powerful'.”
“Yes. If the bind is powerful, it wouldn't break during coming-of-age. In a lucky, very lucky, case the child is weak magic-wise, reaching magical heritage wouldn't be anything spectacular. But that is lucky case. Even your ordinary wizard comes of age forcefully with a blast, literally. But back to the lucky case. The wizard comes of age, bind doesn't break, magical outburst isn't anything much and so his core stabilizes, but it stabilizes at the bound point. Meaning, he could never reach his magical potential having his magic bound, and reaching maturity his core was unable to expand, meaning...”
“The bind is permanent, even if it's removed.”
“Correct.”
“Then back to ordinary and powerful wizards that come to their heritage with a blast, as you said...”
“Yes. The magical core is bound so it cannot expand, the Binding Spell wouldn't break even with the powerful influx of magic. Even ordinary wizards generally receive about the same amount of magic their already have. So the core suddenly hosts twice as much magic and it has to expand, but it can't.”
“But it would...”
“When there's a crack in a core, the magic leaks out and cannot be controlled until the core is healed or until there's nothing left to leak. But coming of age is powerful. The crack in the core isn't enough to let all that magic out in that sudden outburst. It cracks so much that there are holes everywhere, it's literally shattered like a glass globe when you drop it. There's nothing to keep your magic in.”
“I've never heard of such a case.”
“Oh, I'm sure that it could be found. If a book mention that possibility it means either the book is fiction or it already happened, it's as simple as that. Back to topic, when there's nothing holding you magic in, the magic simply leaves, and the destroyed core cannot be healed, that much is known, so the magic has nowhere to return, nowhere to regenerate. To a wizard it is fatal. With a luck, a lot of it, he might survive; becoming a muggle, not even a squib. With lesser luck...”
“He will die.”
“Correct again. Now leaving alone coming of age, there's the Dark Arts. So far what I've read about it they are a strain for the magical core, especially weak or not mature cores, for to use the Dark Arts you need to channel magic differently.”
“That's right.”
“Just as a wandless magic, using a Dark spell you need to awake the entirety of your core and then depending on your intent and incantation the spell is born; depending on your will, emotions or pure magic the strength of a spell is determined.”
“That seems correct.”
“Say your core is weakened, meaning it cannot function at its full power, and you draw more power than it contains at the moment, or use the Dark Arts that force your entire core to function, only it can't.”
“It cracks,” Severus whispered, even though he didn't have to, for he already knew the point the boy was trying to make.
“Say your weakened core comes to maturity.”
“It would... Merlin...” he couldn't even voice it.
“Yes, it breaks completely. Now I mentioned it's conditioned with runes. What do you think happens when we secure the bind with a nice phrase, an epitaph really, such as: Liveth in Magick?”
“When your magic leaves you, you'd die for sure, no chance at survival.”
“Yes, he was quite worried I'd go Dark, it would seem. I use a Dark spell, I die; I use a powerful spell, I die; I come of age, I die. Simply, I cannot rebel against his ideals; I'm perfectly controlled while at Hogwarts and if he doesn't trust me I won't go Dark after leaving, he simply doesn't remove the binding and one Dark wizard less to worry about, no evidence whatsoever. Clever if you ask me.”
“He can't... He wouldn't...”
“He can, he would, and as you can see, he has. You said you'd help me.”
“Of course.”
“Would you unbind me?” the boy asked and pushed the book to him. “I don't want to chance a try at any magic at the moment.”
“Understandable.” And understand he did, too strong spell equals death, and from the look of it, it would require certain magical potential to break the bind. He read the instruction once more, just to be sure, and then he cast the spell.

The boy collapsed the second the spell hit him, and his magic swirled around him wildly. Severus could only gape at the sheer amounts of it. He wouldn't expect any Hogwarts student to posses this amounts of magic. A powerful spell would break his core? The boy would kill himself even if he cast a simple Expelliarmus in anger, for Merlin's sake!

His head shot up at a sound of a soft pained moan from the boy. As he stood up to inspect the boy, Navi woke up with a groan.

“Are you alright?”
“I think Dumbledore will haunt my dreams for a while.”
“Is your magic back to normal?”

The boy just gave him a small smile, instantly a wand appeared in his left hand and he waved it nonchalantly, freezing the whole office, including the torches and the fireplace. It the next second the illusion, as Severus realized, disappeared.

“Little tired, but back to normal,” the boy nodded, pleased.
“How come you're so advanced in magic?” he couldn't help but ask.
“Advanced?” the boy looked honestly surprised. “I just read few books... with the theory behind the spell explained and understood it's easy, really...”
“Not anyone shares the same opinion. If controlling and learning magic would be that easy, there'd be no need for a school.”
“I've always liked reading, so maybe understanding of the subject comes easier to me? I'm sure anyone could manage a spell to which he understood the theory. And the more you know, the less you need to read up, all spells share certain characteristics. For you to change a vial into a bird, you need to learn whole theory of intent and wand waving, and memorize the incantation, but to turn it into a snake, you don't need to learn anything else, all you have to do is alter a wand movement and change the incantation. The more basics you know, the more similarities you see, the easier it comes to you to alter the spells to do your biding; you don't need to read whole passages when you know what to change. The only strange thing is that nobody mentions it, when introducing you to your classes.”

Severus stared. It was the truth, all magic was connected in one way or another, everything coincided with everything. And it was the truth nobody bothered to mention it. He laughed, honestly, how much more is this boy going to surprise them?

“Did I say something funny?” Navi frowned, and Severus only waved his hand shaking his head.
“No. It's just that you took all the complexity and intricacies of magic, and lay it down in those simple terms that anyone would understand your point. No wonder it comes so easily to you if you can see it this clearly. And yes, I do wonder why nobody mentions it,” he chuckled. In his own time as a student he's had so many troubles with Transfiguration, to be honest, he still had them. If anybody would tell them that simple and short explanation at the very beginning, his years at Hogwarts would be probably a lot easier.

***

“ALL STUDENTS WILL FOLLOW THEIR PREFECTS BACK TO THEIR DORMITORIES, ALL PROFESSORS WILL FOLLOW ME TO THE DUNGEONS!” the Headmaster's voice boomed throughout the Great Hall, and was so loud that it shut down the panicking students in a matter of seconds.

The crowds then stood up and followed the order.

“Merlin, where's Draco?” he heard a girl's voice; Pansy Parkinson, oldest daughter of Nathan Parkinson, pureblood, his mind instantly supplied.
“No idea, he wasn't at the feast,” a boy to her left said; Theodore Nott, only son of Thorius Nott, pureblood.
“You don't think the troll... And Draco doesn't know about it! What if...” the girl was visibly shaken, she couldn't even articulate a proper sentence.
“He received a letter from his father that upset him. Maybe he's just sulking in the dorms...”
“You're right, that sounds like Draco,” Parkinson nodded, still a little distraught.

The professors left them to chase after the troll already, so he surmised they already passed the danger-area.

"Works fine for me," he thought. Due to the incident, he didn't have to sit at the feast that would take up to ten times longer than a usual dinner, so he turned for a secret passage which he discovered early in October, that lead almost directly to the Library; no enduring the annoying staircases.

He stood out from the passageway and headed directly to the Hogwarts Library. But he didn't make it far when he heard a terrified squeal that sounded horribly alike to the sound Revy used to make, when he requested a second serving — not too often. But this, all similarities aside, was unmistakably a voice of a student, a terrified student. Then it hit him, the smell was so disgusting it made his eyes water, though his stomach stayed calm, due to years of practice.

The odour of a troll, a terrified voice of a student. He already ran, when the equation completed in his mind. The student met the troll, and neither of them liked the meeting very much. He halted in a slide, when he noticed both figures.

The troll glared at the small scared bundle hiding in the corner of the corridor from his over ten feet height. Navi looked in the direction of the said bundle and with a start he noticed very fair hair a very pale skin. Draco Malfoy, it would seem he wouldn't be found in the Common Room, as their classmates predicted. Malfoy was looking at the creature, unable to tear his eyes away, tear running silently down his face, shaking terribly and too scared to even utter a sound.

Just as the troll made a step forward to be in grabbing distance of the scared snake, Navi moved as well. Wand appeared in his hand, and if he was focused on anything else but the troll, he would have noticed that he didn't draw it, but it simply appeared there. Magic swirled around him, so wildly that even the dumb creature noticed the threat and turned to him. But Navi already reined his power, thus when the troll only decided to attack him, Navi already did. He didn't know a spell that would incapacitate the beast, or even killed it, he didn't know what would work and so he made a wide swish with his wand as though it was a sword, forcing his magic into the strike.

And strike it did. The blood splattered the corridor into a gory scene, with unmistakably dead creature falling down to the ground with deep gaping cut through its torso, and when it did fall the blood pooled on the ground quickly.

He quickly walked to the fear-struck Draco, and kneeled in front of him.

“Malfoy?” he probed his reaction carefully, but it seemed the reaction wasn't coming. He reached out to him, only to see him flinch. Navi brought his hand to the fellow snake and grabbed both his shoulders forcefully, so that even when the boy tried to get free of him, he couldn't. Malfoy whimpered softly, his eyes still blindly focused on the spot where the troll had towered over him, most likely still caught in the moment and still seeing the creature.
“Draco,” he said firmly, hoping the boy would react, so he wouldn't have to slap him back to reality.

The boy blinked few times.

“Troll... it... horrible smell... and then... so scared...” he whispered as if trying to recall what was true and what wasn't, as he couldn't see the troll anymore, for all of his vision was occupied by...
“Navi? But... a troll...”
“I know. It's dead, and you're alright now. Can you stand? We need to get out of here, before the professors get here.”
“Dead?”
“Yes, it's dead,” he nodded, waiting patiently for Malfoy to get his bearings. “Now, you need to get up so we could go back to dorms. You can break down then, can you do it?”
“I thought... I was so scared...”
“Anyone would be,” he said in calming voice, helping Malfoy to get a grip. Obviously it would be soon, as he could already form a sentence, and even understand he was out of danger.
“You saved me.”
“I did. But we need to go now. The troll is dead now and I for one don't need to stay here to find what the professors think about gore.”

Malfoy finally focused on reality entirely and his eyes wandered to the corridor. Then he went positively green, and Navi only just managed to get away from the boy when he lost the contents of his stomach. With a wave of his wand he banished the mess, and helped the barely-responsive-now Malfoy to his feet. They left the scene, only for a while they stopped, when Navi wiped out their bloody footprints from the floor and cleaned both their clothes.

***

“Can I sit here?” he asked in a timid voice and Navi turned to him, then he simply nodded and went back to his reading.
“I wanted to thank you,” he said.
“I would've done so even for a Gryffindor,” Navi waved nonchalantly.
“Even so, I owe you a life-debt,” he mumbled, for he feared what would happen.

Since the incident with the troll he was scared to turn the corner and any sudden loud noise made him loose it. He hated this fear, but he couldn't help it. It was already a month since that happened, but he still had panic attacks at night, when everything went dark, for then he could recall the vicious eyes and the horrid smell. More so, he hadn't been to the Library since then, he couldn't face the corridor.

The only people that knew about it were Navi, obviously, and Theo who was simply too clever to fool him. He didn't tell his Uncle for he feared he'd tell his parents. Parents, yes, that brought him back to why he sought Navi.

“Would you mind helping me with something?” he said so quietly, that he feared the boy didn't even catch it. He hated asking for help, but since the incident he was strangely dependant on Navi. If the boy was in foul mood, so was he, if the boy felt happy, he felt warm and comfortable. They weren't friends, but Draco could feel a very strong connection to him. He couldn't explain it, even to other Slytherins, it just came. Even if he was discussing something with his friends, his eyes sought Navi, as if needing his approval, which was ridiculous, but very true at the same time. He felt like a newborn baby dependant on his mother.
“Are you listening?”
“What?”
“You asked for help and then you spaced out... I was asking what you needed.”
“Um, I noticed at the beginning that you read a lot, not only the school stuff.”
“So?”
“Do you... I mean, do you know anything about politics... pureblood laws as such?”
“I do.”
“Would you... teach me? I know that Slytherins don't do anything for free, but I really need to know. My father taught me, tried to... But I don't get it, it's so complicated. I mentioned it to Uncle Sev... um, professor Snape, and he contacted my mother and Father found out. He's gonna test me during the Christmas break, but I can't fail,” he was ranting now, he knew, but it just flew out. It was again that dependency thing, the feeling he could tell Navi anything and everything, needing his comfort, needing him around to gather his strength... He turned to the boy with pleading eyes. Navi was looking at him so intently, he could see right through his defences... not that he had any when it came to this particular company. Another thing: he simply couldn't muster even a normal pureblood mask around him.
“An hour after dinner, every day? I'm aware that Christmas is just around the corner,” Navi trailed off.
“Really? You would?”
“Yes, just tell me what you don't understand; I assume you know at least the most basic things.”
“Um, I know basics of Heritage Laws and little bits and pieces of Marriage Law... anything else is pretty much a gigantic ocean of nonsense and chaos,” he admitted easily, too easily, he thought. Then he blushed when he realized how much he already confessed.
“I guess we can start with the basics of Marriage Laws, Lordships and Binding Laws, as those are pretty much all you'd need for now. If we can manage to get through the basics before Christmas we can work more on Heritage and Binding Laws, as those are your immediate concerns, for they already concern you, even when you are underage.”
“Wow,” Draco stared at him. Navi really did know his stuff. And he was eleven just like him, he thought ashamedly. Only eleven, yet he felt already so mature... too mature. Mysterious, in fact. How come he knows that much? How come he doesn't feel like a teenager at all?
“So is this agreeable?”
“Yes, yes it is,” he nodded.

***

Christmas was time of peace and quiet in the Common Room, Navi decided as he sat down in the comfortable sofa in front of the fireplace. For a while he considered going back to Manor, but then he thought better of it. He'll have a whole summer break to conquer some parts of Library — quite Dark parts... For now he still needed more basics. Since the incident with Dumbledore he decided that runes are very useful not just for decoding ancient text but for altering and enhancing magical effects of spells. What better way to ensure his safety, than to learn what could be used against him? Rune magic was difficult, no, not difficult but complicated. There were so many aspects that could change, so many variables... not to mention that the variables tended to change depending on position of the planet and immediate space objects. Ah, Astronomy, now that was something he hated above all. A sun could explode and change the fluctuation of magic, but you wouldn't see any bigger effects in generations. You need to read every damned dot on the sky, to be sure nothing goes wrong. Yes, Runes were interesting, but too dependant... Blessedly, any sudden appearance of a red dwarf wouldn't affect it, unless it was the Sun of their solar system or Proxima Centauri, which was just barely on a border what Rune magic would consider ‘immediate proximity'. Though it didn't matter as much, for if the sun turned into a red dwarf he was pretty sure anybody would notice, and Proxima Centauri already a red dwarf was, so only concern was when the damned star finally ran out of fuel, stopped affecting the earth magic and subsequently changed all variables, which was basically still effect of sorts, but this one was the ‘one and for all' type... Yes, he hated Astronomy very much.

With a sigh he turned a page of Your Heritage — what you receive and what you offer. Draco needed his tutoring, laughable as it may seem, for he wasn't the one to have been brought up as an heir of a bloodline. He learned all he needed, basically omitting any heritage, for he went from a common wizard to Lord in a matter of a single signature, and as such he never needed it. But he could offer Draco what he needed, for a small favour. Well, to Draco it might seem small, but to him... He groaned.

“Mr. Black. This is a wizarding school for wizards, if it escaped your notice,” McGonagall hissed at him. She was the only teacher that simply couldn't stand him. Probably because she was on the opposing end of the House rivalry as a head of Gryffindor House, or maybe because she expected a child of Sirius Black (or James Potter, not that it matters House-wise) to be in her House, or maybe there was some personal grudge? One could never be sure. He only stared at her waiting for her to finally get to the point. “All of us here are magical, so I would appreciate if you didn't bring muggle things to this classroom; you are a wizard, aren't you?”

“Yes, Ma'am,” he intoned dutifully. Ah, his notebook and pencil again. Would he never be rid of that? Surely muggle-borns in her House used such things. He quickly found, they shared their opinions of each other. Honestly, how can someone take points for utilizing a different writing tool? Simply ridiculous...


And yes, this was the favour he asked of Draco for tutoring him his Laws. To find out — secretly, mind you — how do the left-handed wizards conquer the goddamned quill and ink, when it's always smearing everywhere... Transmutation helped with essays, teachers didn't usually mind him writing with a pencil, nobody commented... It was just McGonagall who couldn't drop the subject and who took points for it. It was only a matter of time until she started giving out detentions for ignoring the cat's ranting...

He shook his head and concentrated on the text.

***

Zachary Thornridge, the oldest son of Bartholomew Thornridge, heir to the family, he intoned in his mind. He remembered him, he was sixth year that was particularly loud after every Slytherin win — be it Quidditch match, duel or something as childish as outsmarting a Hufflepuff... His family was Dark and all were supporters of the Dark Lord in his reign.

He crumpled the Daily Prophet and threw it into the flames, his face thoughtful.

"Why does Dumbledore come to mind?" he thought bitterly, sarcasm lacing even his thoughts. He knew why, and it certainly had everything to do with his experience with the damn codger. If he wasn't mistaken — and he wasn't — he remembered Zachary telling his friends that after the break he would be finally able to use magic outside of Hogwarts, which meant he would turn seventeen during the break. It would seem that Dumbledore used his little spell before. Just how many students were killed by him? How many unknowingly headed to that end? Surely not every Slytherin; that would be way too suspicious...

With a sigh he headed outside. It being a Christmas morning meant that probably no one would be out in the halls, he could have a little walk.

Could he help them? Should he? Slytherins kept to themselves, protected their own, yes, he supposed he should. But how? How could he read their magical potential and find out if it was bound...

There was Heritage potion, it would reveal all your powers, yes, but what was the most important: it would show your magical core for others to see. Obviously that wasn't the potion's main goal, but it would serve their purpose. Now if he remembered correctly, there were some ingredients involved that would be quite hard to obtain... unless you were a Potions Master. Perhaps it was time to pay the Head of his House a little visit...

“Mr. Black?”

Ah, speak of the devil.

“Sir,” he nodded.
“What made you wake up this early on Christmas morning?” Snape asked curiously. "Right back at you," Navi thought amusedly.
“I was about to visit you, to be perfectly honest.”
“What brought that about?”
“Have you read today's paper yet?”
“I have, yes. So you too noticed the announcement about Mr. Thornridge.”
“I did, and I thought perhaps a little Heritage potion could help...”
“Heritage potion?” Snape looked taken aback. Then he frowned, deep in thoughts, only to scowl afterwards when he realized what Navi meant. “Surely you don't think...”
“Thornridge was turning seventeen during the break, though I don't know an exact date, I cannot help but wonder. Above all, I do not trust Dumbledore; as well as I do not believe in coincidences.”
“Merlin, if this proves right...”
“Then I'll have another little bit to put into his file.”
“What file?”
“I didn't mean it literally...” He did, but Snape didn't need to know. “Just binding child's magic would secure you nice spot in Azkaban, at that is leaving aside all your intentions behind the act. If you could put together evidence, that is... I'm sure he erased anything that could lead back to him, his mistake was trying that on me, for his Obliviate didn't quite work. Had I not had the protection, nobody would be any wiser. Now we have a chance.”
“But it's Dumbledore, it would've to be some irrefutable evidence so that he couldn't worm his way out...”
“Glad to hear no all professors side with him.”
“I've never sided with him,” he said, though it was obvious he didn't mean to let that slip out, for he looked at him nervously.
“Glad to hear that too,” Navi only smiled. “All magic should be practised.”
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