Severus blinked and found himself fully awake since he had left his bed.
He saw the silver tapestry beneath the red one, then the shredded material at his feet, and his wand in his hand ... and put them all together. He’d be in serious trouble if he were caught vandalising, and raised his wand again to cast Reparo -
Severus whirled round as a deep voice sounded in the corridor. His eyes stretched in horror.
It was the Bloody Baron, the Slytherin ghost, so-named because his pale evening-wear was stained with silvery blood.
None of the students knew how this had happened to him when he was alive, but all of them feared him. Even the other ghosts.
‘I – please, Baron, I didn’t mean -’
The Baron raised a long-fingered hand and Severus fell silent.
‘I know you didn’t, yet it’s a shame you found this.’ he said, mournfully, indicating the silver tapestry. He gave Severus a shrewd look.
‘What made you break school rules to damage school property?’
There was an awkward pause as Severus fought to explain himself.
‘You honestly don’t know, do you?’ The Baron said, his expression fading, and Severus was astonished.
‘You believe me?’
The Baron drifted closer. He had a long, gaunt face, and pale, bulbous eyes that stared from beneath wiry eyebrows.
‘I believe you,’ he said. He cast the silver tapestry a mournful look. ‘I never thought I’d see those words again in my life, let alone in my death,’
‘What do they mean?’ Severus asked, raising his wand for a better look, ‘How can you have a guild of dragons? And who was the Prince?’
The Bloody Baron looked grimmer than ever.
‘I haven’t the heart to tell you,’ he said, and touched the bloodstain on his waistcoat, unconsciously.
Severus looked at it, thoughtfully. Then, he asked, ‘How did you die?’
The Baron gave him a fierce look, and without a word he whirled round and glided straight through the silver tapestry where he vanished into the wall.
Severus bit his lip, and wished he had been more tactful.
A clock chimed somewhere. It was one in the morning.
I should get back to the dormitory, Severus thought, but he dithered for a while.
The Guild of Dragons was stuck in his head, and he was determined to learn more about them.
‘Accio parchment! Accio quill!’ he muttered, and out through a classroom door, one after the other, floated his writing tools into his outstretched hands.
Concentrating, Severus sketched the Dragon crest, trying to make it as much like the one before him as possible. He also copied down the message.
‘Reparo,’ he muttered, and the message was covered behind the school tapestry.
‘Reverto, quill’ – and the quill flew back into the classroom he had Summoned it from.
Without a backwards look, Severus ran off along the corridor, down a marble staircase, along the stony passage, and into the Slytherin dormitory where he got into bed. Almost at once, he fell asleep.
Next day was a Sunday, and although the sky was clear, the wind blew cold and crisp from the North.
Severus was seated in the Great Hall, trying to write an essay on Sirens for Professor Kettleburn, but he couldn’t concentrate. He was worrying about how to speak to Lily, and was just about to get up and find her ... when she arrived at his shoulder. He stood up in surprise.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said, quickly, before he could speak, ‘It wasn’t fair of me to say what I did, and I swear I don’t really think what I thought I did!’
‘It’s alright,’ he said, gruffly, ‘I’m just a dumb git too sensitive to take a joke,’
‘You got the first bit down to a tee,’ said a voice Severus was beginning to dread.
‘Shove off, Potter!’ he and Lily said together.
‘Ooh, don’t mind me,’ Potter replied, raising his hands and backing off in mock courtesy, ‘After all, small boys should not be seen or heard,’
He said these words so deliberately and clearly that Lily and Severus stared at him, but Potter only gave Severus a smarmy look and slunk away.
Over at the Gryffindor table, Black and Pettigrew were sniggering. Lupin wasn’t joining in; he had his head rested on his arms, and was looking rather ill.
‘Let’s go,’ Severus muttered, sweeping his homework into his bag.
‘What do you think Potter meant by that small boys thing?’ Lily asked as they walked along a corridor.
‘Who cares?’ Severus said, ‘Listen, I want to tell you about something ... ’
He told her everything about his discovery outside the library and what the Bloody Baron had told him.
‘Ooh, I’ve never heard of a Guild of Dragons before, what do you suppose it is?’ Lily asked, fascinated.
‘Maybe we’ll find out in the library,’ Severus suggested.
Soon, he and Lily were moving, swiftly but quietly, among the library’s many shelves, being careful to keep their voices down, not just because people were studying but because Severus thought it best no one else knew what they up to.
‘There’s nothing in Hogwarts, A History,’ Lily whispered, ‘but I see no point in looking in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. These Dragons sound more like some sort of secret society to me, but as for the Prince, well, there just aren’t any royal wizards.’
‘We don’t even know what their names were,’ Severus said, dispiritedly, ‘we’ve got nothing to start us off with.’
They hid themselves behind a bookshelf, and huddled facing the wall, so that Severus could show Lily his sketch of the crest.
Lily suggested asking Madame Pince about the Guild of Dragons, but Severus didn’t like the idea. That would mean explaining how they had heard about them, and he highly doubted she’d be impressed about it.
Severus wandered over to the Restricted Section. This was where Slughorn had given him permission to the book Moste Potente Potions so that he could make the incredible Polyjuice Potion which turned you into somebody else. He had also learned from there how make the curious Ghost Potion that allowed you to fly and turn into smoke at will.
Severus hadn’t even told Lily about his secret collection of vials, which had grown considerably since the start of the year, and were locked in his trunk.
Students couldn’t get into the Restricted Section without a signed note of permission from a teacher, and it wasn’t long before Madame Pince found him hovering.
‘What are you up to, young man?’ she asked, peering down her beaky nose.
‘I’m just looking,’ Severus said.
‘Well, you’d best look somewhere else, ‘cause you’re not allowed in. Shoo!’
She shut the library doors in Severus’ and Lily’s faces.
‘What now?’ Lily asked.
Severus pulled out the crest again. ‘I think it looks like one of the school crests,’ he said, ‘but there’s never been a Dragon House before.’
Lily gave a fake cough that sounded a lot like Hagrid.
‘Maybe we should ask someone,’ he said. ‘I agree with you that there’s no point in looking up anything about dragons. Whoever these people were, they were alive during the Baron’s time so we’re going to need someone who will remember that period like the back of their hand.’
‘Oh come on,’ Lily groaned, ‘Who’s going to want to remember a time when outdoor toilets were the height of technology? They’d have to be a real anorak!’
Professor Binns taught History of Magic.
He had been extremely old when he died by the staff-room fire, and had simply got up one morning to teach and left his body behind.
Apparently, trifles such as death didn’t stop Professor Binns from teaching History, and he was the only teacher at Hogwarts who was a ghost.
Severus was mystified why Binns never feared of luring his students to a similar fate; his teaching methods certainly bored him to death.
‘-In 1890, Muggle resistance acts greatly increased, and the Obliviate spell was invented by Esmeralda Muse to decrease conflict between Muggles and wizards. Early discussion of the Muggle Protection Act and the Statute of Secrecy-’
Severus felt as if a giant leech was sucking his brain out of his ear.
‘Fear levels in magic soared among Muggles,’ Binns droned on, ‘and, in particular, fear of vampires,’
Severus usually groaned at any mention of vampires these days, but now, he jerked round in interest, and shot a hand into the air.
‘Please, sir, weren’t the Guild of Dragons interested in vampires?’
Bellatrix lifted her head from her hand, Karkaroff awoke with a snort, and Lucius closed his mouth at once, for he had been yawning.
Professor Binns squinted at Severus.
‘Mr ... er ...?’
Professor Binns frowned at him, sharply, ‘What do you know about the Guild of Dragons, Mr. Snape?’
Severus looked at him nervously, but Professor Binns didn’t say he was in trouble.
It then hit Severus that Binns was testing him.
‘I read that ... the Guild stopped the vampire movements,’ he tried, ‘they slew them and saved hundreds of lives,’
Binns looked as though indoor plumbing had just been invented.
‘Fifty points to Slytherin!’ he beamed, and Severus could see he was thrilled that a student had shown any interest in his subject.
Severus was astonished, and so were the other Slytherins.
‘That’s all I know though, sir, please could you expand?’
‘Well, it certainly is a valid part of this lesson ...’ Binns considered.
Lucius stared, raptly, at Professor Binns now, hanging on to his every word.
‘Let me see ... ’
Professor Binns floated across the room and asked for a volunteer to hand him down a book from the shelves, as he could no longer touch solid objects.
Severus and Lucius jumped to their feet.
It was a truly enormous and dusty old tome Professor Binns was pointing to, and it took them both to lift its’ weight off the shelf.
It slid from Severus’ grip with a resounding boom on the desk, throwing up clouds of grey dust. It had the Dragons’ crest on the cover, beneath the handsome gold title: The Guild of Dragons ~ Masters of Monsters.
Severus turned over the thick, leathery cover, and opened the book half-way as the first twenty pages or so were waffle from the author.
Professor Binns ran a long, thin, ghostly finger along the page, muttering to himself.
‘Essences exchanged – No, no that’s how the vampires were made ... Back a few pages, please, Mr. Rake,‘
Severus scowled but did as he was told.
‘Ah-ha! Here we are! The Guild of Dragons were a family of vampire slayers, well-known for their inventive methods at killing them, which included the Perfringo Curse, and Liquid Sunshine (This is long before the vampire rights act was started, of course). The Guild was formed by wizard and warlock, Oswald Knight, and his wife, Matilda, it was later joined by their son, Arthur, and expanded when Matilda’s sister, Mary, joined.
They were well recognised by their self-fashioned crest branded on their silver robes. The Guild fearlessly advertised themselves to those they loved and hated. They seemed unstoppable to all who challenged them, and their confidence border-lined on arrogance. Oswald even once joked that they were truly called ‘The Invincible Dragons’, and, unfortunately, this fake title reached the ears of the Vampire Prince,’
Bellatrix went very still, and Lucius made a slight movement, but neither spoke.
‘The Dragons had heard of this so-called Supreme Vampire, and naturally arose to face him, fearlessly. From that point onwards, the Dragons were never seen, or heard from, again. It is very likely that they, the Vampire Prince, and the Vampire Prince’s family all slaughtered each other, as all went missing in the same night. There is no evidence to support this theory, yet it is, I repeat, very likely,’
Professor Binns paused and studied his class, they were all watching him tensely, and Severus reckoned they were all wondering the same thing: What happed to the Dragons?
Severus was about to voice the question, when the bell rang to signal the end of class.
For the first time in history, there was a great groan of disappointment in the History of Magic classroom.
‘No!’ Lucius howled, ‘Please tell us more, Professor! It’s only lunchtime, I can live without lunch!’
Professor Binns looked like he was about to cry.
‘Oh ... my goodness ... Well – er - I can say that vampires are far from extinct, and that they have been planning on settling the score with anyone who follows in the Dragons’ footsteps. They believe that the latest in the bloodline of the Prince will make him or herself known and lead them to victory. Muggle blood is no longer of use to them, as they were given no choice but to breed with wizards after the Muggle Protection Act. Some believe that a vampire’s energy has to come from sunlight and similar energies, but this is modern-age nonsense made up to scare people less,’
Lucius went scarlet and Severus grinned at him.
‘Blood is the only thing that keeps a vampire alive, and I am sorry to say that nowadays they favour that of Pure-Bloods-‘
‘YES!’ Lucius punched the air with both fists and everyone laughed.
Professor Binns looked puzzled by this joyful response, but rounded off the lesson by thanking the class, and hoping they all enjoyed lunch as much as his lesson.