The news that Severus and Black had been kidnapped by a monster spread through the castle like wildfire.
Severus found himself getting a lot of unwanted attention between classes, as people kept approaching him with questions.
Severus found this very irksome, as he wanted to focus on his potion-making.
Slughorn was supervising him as he made the Draught of Living Death, and Professor Sprout had allowed him to use Aconite from Greenhouse 3.
Severus gazed into his inky-black potion, longingly.
‘Please can I keep it, Professor?’ he said, sweetly, but Slughorn refused.
Just then, a stack of books on the desk-edge tumbled to the floor behind Slughorn.
He turned his back to pick them up, and Severus seized his chance.
Quick as a flash, he snuck a vial into the Draught of Living Death, corked it, and pocketed it.
You never knew when an unusual potion would come in handy.
The vampire in the Forbidden Forest still lurked in his mind, and Severus wanted to know more about vampires than his book could tell him.
As Severus left Slughorn’s office, he decided to ask Lucius about vampires in the next lesson.
At that moment, Mute fluttered down to him, carrying a letter from his mother:
I’ve heard of the Malfoys. They’re a very old wizarding family. Purebloods, like me.
How are your lessons going? Have you kept out of trouble? Only joking! Have you made anymore friends? Please tell me everything.
Love from mum
Severus wrote back:
I’m doing really well in Potions at the moment. I earned Slytherin twenty points! A girl called Bellatrix Lestrange is a new friend of mine, she’s in Slytherin too.
Someone was bitten by a Fanged Moonflower in Herbology the other day, and had to go to the hospital wing, but they’re alright. They also got detention for scrapping with a Gryffindor, and I know you’re not over-fond of them.
Love Severus x
Severus felt a twinge of guilt that he wasn’t telling his mum the whole truth.
But, he told himself, quickly, I’m not lying.
Care of Magical Creatures class was taught by Professor Kettleburn in the school grounds. Professor Kettleburn was a bald, timid-looking wizard, who had many scars and bite-marks on his arms and hands.
Severus didn’t really want to know, just then, what creatures had made them.
After being asked to put on their protective gloves, Professor Kettleburn held up a basket of bright red eggs that were glowing.
‘Can anyone name this kind of egg, and explain why you must wear protective gloves when handling them?’
Magical animals were not Severus’ strongest point, but he had read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Yet, it was obvious why they shouldn’t touch the eggs bare-handed.
He raised a hand.
‘They’re Ashwinder eggs, Professor, and they give off a great heat,’
‘Correct - and like hot coals on a Christmas fire they do - Ten points to Slytherin.
Ashwinders live for only an hour, so we must give these fellows the time of their lives. Everyone follow me, quickly, we must get them to a fire at once,’
They followed Professor Kettleburn a short way until they reached Hagrid’s hut.
Hagrid was poking a specially-lit a bonfire, presumably for the Ashwinders, when they arrived.
It was well known that Hagrid adored everything fanged and venomous, so he watched, as keenly as the Slytherins, as the Ashwinders broke free of their glowing shells.
While the others were distracted by the wriggling baby serpents, Severus noticed a couple of eggs that hadn’t hatched.
Just then, he had an idea.
He knew that Ashwinder eggs were one of the main ingredients for the potion Amortentia, and he could add that to his growing collection of vials.
Discretely, he snuck one of the eggs behind his back, cast a Freezing Charm on it to preserve it, and pocketed it for later.
Then he joined the rest of the class.
The Ashwinders were long, thin, pale snakes with glowing red eyes, and Severus moved over to talk to Lucius, who had one spiralling round his wrist.
‘Hello, Severus, how are you?’
‘What can you tell me about vampires that people don’t already know?’ Severus asked at once.
Lucius was off, talking even as the class wrote down the habits of the Ashwinders.
‘Of course, everyone thinks that they turn to dust when sunlight touches them – Nonsense of course,’ he said, knowledgably, ‘That’s an old myth made up to scare children less. Sunlight doesn’t kill them anymore than it kills me. But there is a kind of potion rumoured to render a vampire as weak as a baby,’
‘A lot of wizards are very discriminative about vampires and werewolves, aren’t they?’ Severus prompted.
‘Absolutely,’ Lucius said with feeling, ‘They don’t understand at all,’
Severus went back to his writing about the Ashwinders and asked no more.
Their conversation followed Severus as he wandered down to the library, carrying Mute with him as he went. He had grown uncomfortable about Lucius’ obsession, for an unpleasant suspicion had crossed his mind.
Was it far-fetched to think Malfoy was the vampire he had met in the Forest?
Perhaps one who was finding other means to gather life-essence and didn’t want to risk exposure? He also couldn’t help remembering Lucius’ use of the word bloody on their first dinner time.
As he went, people drew away from him in the corridors, as though he were infected with something contagious.
A group of Hufflepuffs, who had earlier questioned him on his story, scurried off in obvious fear. Severus spotted one of them glance, fearfully, at Mute, and he guessed that they suspected she was the monster.
He had to admit that Mute wasn’t the cutest of Hogwarts pets, but Severus could tell their sudden distrust had been started by something else. It was only as he drifted past a shelf containing the book ‘Smoke Demons’ that he heard voices from a nearby table, and one of them belonged to Sirius Black.
‘-He was unconscious the whole time (feeble lump) you’d think Snape would have something to do with dark stuff, but no! Lucky I was there. It was defending its young, you see, not really attacking, just baring its fangs and making a show, but I could have been bitten all the same.’
Severus bared his teeth as he listened to Black’s reinvention.
‘What did you do, Sirius?’ a small Ravenclaw girl piped.
But before Black could answer, Severus stepped into their midst.
‘He groaned and rolled over, likely wishing he were dead.’ he answered, coldly.
They all whipped round and some of them went pale.
‘Oh, look who it is,’ Potter sneered, ‘Snivellus, the cowardly cry baby.’
‘He’s scared of the dark, I bet.’ Black sniggered.
‘I think I preferred you unconscious,’ Severus replied coolly, and then he looked at the gaping second years. ‘What’s the matter with you lot?’ he asked them, frowning.
All of their eyes were on Mute who was staring back with her large, dark eyes.
‘No pets in the library! And no talking!’
Madame Pince, the scrawny librarian had popped out of nowhere and she began shooing them away with a grey feather duster.
It was only when they were all out in the corridor and she had shut the doors in their faces that they sized each other up at once.
‘How dare you two put it about that my pet’s the monster!’ Severus hissed at Black and Potter. ‘Why did you even bother?’
‘You’re so obvious, Snape,’ Potter leered with cruel superiority, ‘You practically live in the dungeons these days. There are only so many pickled leeches one can count in a night, what the hell are you up to down there? You’re dreaming of moving in, I suppose. It must feel like a palace compared to your home,’
Severus was bursting to tell Potter that he had been brewing up things Potter could only dream of in his worst nightmares, but he didn’t want to reveal his secret.
‘So I’m the monster?’ he asked, sarcastically. ‘I just transformed when no one was looking, picked up Sirius and took him to my tree-house for a bit, is that it?’
Potter stepped closer to Snape, smirking.
‘You’ll have a hard time convincing everyone I’m wrong,’ he said, nastily, ‘You’re the one who skulks in the dark, Snape, wearing nothing but black even at weekends. Friends with Slytherins. Bats for pets. But I know you couldn’t scare a dead Flobberworm, unless you were using a photo of your mother’s face.’
Severus whipped out his wand and there was a jet of purple light.
Potter was whipped round in the air in a perfect circle, and then he slumped to the ground in a heap.
Thinking it unsporting to strike Potter while he was down, Severus circled him instead but this was a mistake. Potter struck him with a jet of blue light, and Severus felt as if his skull was filled with extremely fizzy liquid. Dizzy and with steam issuing from his nose and mouth, Severus stumbled and fell against one of the tapestries, ripping half if it down.
Mute took flight to avoid being crushed, and flittered back and forth, fanning the torches with her wings, making the light stutter so that their shadows cast weird shapes on the walls.
The onlookers had formed a ring around the duelling boys, and Sirius Black shouted them on. Pettigrew were among them, dancing on the spot like a boy at Christmas, but he couldn’t see Lupin.
A familiar voice sounded in the corridor, breaking through the catcalls and chanting of names.
‘Stop it! Leave him alone! Stop it right now!’
Lily had arrived on the scene. She slipped easily past Lupin and stood squarely between Severus and Potter. She had her own wand out now, facing Potter with a defiant glare. Potter hesitated, looking from Lily to Severus, and then he sniggered.
‘Lucky your girlfriend’s come to rescue you, Snivellus,’
Severus’ pale face went bright red, he and Lily looked away from each other as she went pink too and the onlookers laughed.
Potter put his wand away and swaggered off with Black, Pettigrew, and Lupin.
The crowd dispersed and soon, Severus and Lily found themselves alone ... almost.
From around the corner, Potter couldn’t resist one last taunt. His spell knocked Severus off his feet as he made to get up, sending him flat on the floor.
Lily’s bellow echoed off the walls as Potter’s robes whipped out of sight.
Sighing heavily, Lily turned to the now dishevelled form of Severus.
‘What’s been going on? Why were those toe-rags at it again?’
‘They’ve been telling people that I was the thing from the Forest.’ Severus muttered, wearily, as she pulled him upright.
‘And they believed him?’ Lily cried, outraged. ‘People here are so stupid!’
Severus was pleased that Lily was angry with Potter and that she certainly didn’t believe him. They left together, and entertained one another by calling Potter a lot of rude names.
Severus told Lily exactly what had happened during his and Sirius’ detention, and he shared his thoughts that it was a vampire.
When he had finished, Lily’s mouth was wide open.
‘Its powers are weakened but its numbers are growing again?’ she asked in undertones.
‘That’s what it said.’
‘But ... Severus ... why would it tell you this?’
‘I think it’s scared of being hunted into extinction.’ Severus replied, ‘and telling me those things was a plea for help, you know, for wizards to leave it alone,’
But he didn’t really believe what he was saying, and from the look Lily was giving him, she didn’t either.
‘Why would a vampire catch a student and give it news on itself?’ she wondered. ‘If was powerless, it should have devoured you and Black on the spot!’
For some reason, she was making Severus nervous.
‘Hagrid was in the Forest,’ he said quickly, ‘he had a cross-bow! The creature knew he would have killed it before it got a chance!’
But Severus knew that wasn’t right, for Hagrid had been a long way out of firing range at the time. The bat had had plenty of time to sink its teeth in.
‘Severus,’ Lily said, now speaking in a cautious voice, ‘What do you know about your mother’s side of the family?’
At first, Severus was baffled, wondering what on earth that had to with anything, and then gaped at her in disbelief. Was she implying ... She was!
‘So now you believe Potter!’ he cried.
Lily looked shocked.
‘No! No! Of course I don’t! Oh, Severus, I don’t believe you’d attack Black anymore than Lupin would! But vampirism can be genetic, same as lycanthropy.’
Severus felt that this was worse than Potter’s insult about his mother.
‘So now you’re saying my mum’s the vampire!’ he shouted.
‘No!’ Lily cried, putting her hands to her head ‘I’m talking about going back generations! Years and years ago!’ But she was digging herself into a hole and Severus didn’t want to help her get out of it.
He frowned at her, feeling hurt and betrayed.
‘Leave me alone.’ he said, simply, cupping Mute to himself and turning his back on her.
He heard her sniff as she stood there for a few seconds, and then ran off.
How dare people do such horrible things to him! What had he done to deserve this? He left the corridor and went back to the Slytherin Dormitory to be alone.
Now he was in bed, Severus felt very guilty for how short he had been with Lily.
He didn’t know if she’d want to be his friend again, and he hated that, for now he’d had a taste of friendship, it was bitter to be alone.
Severus slept badly that night. At first he dreamt that Dumbledore expelled him for not showing enough gratitude to him for allowing a vampire to be in school. Severus tried to convince him he wasn’t a vampire, and then the Ministry representatives turned up and put hand-cuffs on him.
He saw Potter, Black and Lupin pointing at him and chanting that he was an exile.
He saw Lily lying bleeding on the floor, and his mother bent over her with bared teeth. In the dream, Severus tried to turn into a bat to escape the handcuffs, but he hadn’t learnt how to be an Animagus. Then Lucius grabbed him and they fled into Forest. Then the dream got confusing because Lucius kept telling him that he had to find dragons. Severus tried to tell Lucius he didn’t know what he was talking about, but then the sun came through the trees and hurt his eyes ...
He woke up with a start to find that the last part of his dream was true.
‘Peeves! Get off!’ he hissed, for something invisible had just poked him in the eye. Who else could do such a thing?
Furious, Severus grabbed his wand from his bedside and chased Peeves out of the darkened dormitory. He reached the Common Room, to find that the embers of the fire had dwindled down to twinkling, orange dots.
‘Lumos!’ Severus muttered, and a light appeared at the end of his wand.
The wall slid to one side, and Severus suspected that Peeves was sneaking out, still invisible. He followed Peeves’ echoing titters to the end of the corridor.
‘Don’t you hide from me, poltergeist,’ Severus breathed. ‘I don’t put up with people like you!’
He wasn’t allowed out of bed at night and he knew it, but Severus was in a strange state, like he was a sleep-walker only half awake.
There was a dangerous risk that he would run into Filch or Mrs. Norris, but his legs were moving by themselves.
Severus followed Peeves through the school, could vaguely see his misty shape, until they had arrived on the library floor.
Peeves glided up a scarlet and gold tapestry and hovered about half-way.
Severus drew near the tapestry; stupidly, his sleep-addled brain told him that if he pulled it down, he wouldn’t be troubled by Peeves again.
It was the same tapestry Severus had ripped when Potter hit him with that Dizzying Curse.
Severus raised his wand and, in one swift movement, he slashed the beautiful material clean off the wall. It landed at his feet in graceful, red folds.
A second, silver tapestry with white tassels was revealed behind it. It had a crest with a black dragon on it, and was inscribed with a message:
THE GUILD OF DRAGONS FOREVER
LONG LIVE THE PRINCE