As everyone packed away their books, Severus heard the door creak open.
He looked around to see who was there, but no one came in.
Seized by a sudden suspicion he couldn’t quite explain, Severus darted out into the corridor, and instantly bumped into something invisible.
Severus heard footsteps back away from him.
‘Severus, what are you doing?’ Lucius asked, who had just come round the door.
Severus didn’t answer, for the footsteps of the unseen owner had broke into a run.
He sprinted after them.
Severus could hear Lucius close behind in hot pursuit, but he raced on, after the footsteps, and up one of the long, marble staircases.
Severus followed them until he was rushing down a corridor with a red-and-gold patterned carpet, the walls lined with matching tapestries –
Severus skidded to a halt and stared down the length of the red corridor.
At the end, a portrait of a very fat woman in a pink, silk dress, swung closed, and Severus got a glimpse of Gryffindors in the room beyond.
Severus frowned, unblinking, his face set.
At that moment, Lucius caught up with him, panting and steadying himself against the wall.
‘Severus ... What are you ... doing?’ he gasped.
‘That’s the Gryffindor common room, isn’t it?’ Severus asked in a low voice.
‘Yeah ... So what?’ Lucius panted.
Severus didn’t answer.
He whirled round, robes swirling about him, and strode off back the way he had come.
‘Now where are you going?’ Lucius said, exasperated. ‘You’re always getting away from me!’
‘I’m not getting away from you, Lucius,’ Severus replied, ‘I’m just being haunted by more than poltergeists at the moment,’
Lucius looked from his grim face back towards the Gryffindor common room, and sighed, deeply.
Halloween dawned, bright and clear-skied, on Hogwarts the next day.
The grounds were sparkling with dew, and the lake had turned to chilled steel.
Severus’ feet were cold on the dormitory floor as he lowered them out of bed, and he dressed quickly.
The others were enthusing about the Halloween feast, but for some reason, Severus had his mind on other things, and wasn’t looking forward to it.
He kept on looking over his shoulder while he was he was studying with Lily, and when playing wizard chess with Lucius in the Great Hall.
Lucius won the game, but for some reason he didn’t look pleased about it.
‘You know this is the first time you and have played a game since I offered?’ Lucius asked, suddenly.
Severus looked at him to see that Lucius was looking hurt and angry.
‘Sorry. I’ve been really busy,’ Severus answered, which was perfectly true.
He had been busy doing homework and extra potions.
‘Never busy enough to not be with that Evans girl,’ Lucius said, coolly.
‘What?’ Severus asked in a high voice.
‘I mean, I don’t mind girls, but she’s in Gryffindor!’
Severus hastily swerved the discussion away from Lily.
The others were giving him disapproving looks now.
‘Look, if you want me to be around more, you’re going the wrong way about it!’ Severus told him, crossly.
‘That’s rich, coming from the one always running off somewhere!’ Lucius snapped.
‘That’s because I’ve always had something to run away from!’ Severus shouted, ‘even before I came to Hogwarts, I was always ...’
Severus stopped himself hurriedly, shutting his mouth tight.
Lucius looked at him.
‘Yes?’ he said.
Severus felt the blood drain out of his face.
‘Nothing,’ he said and got up from the table.
Head down, hair flopping over his eyes, Severus swiftly made for the dormitory.
‘What’s eating Severus?’ he heard someone ask behind him.
Severus got into bed, yanked the green hangings closed around them, and pulled the covers up over his head.
How his father had almost been dragged into that discussion, he had no idea.
But Severus felt anger well up out of nowhere.
In his mind’s eye, it was like a film being played to him that he couldn’t turn off:
His father smacked him in the face ... Peeves dropped icy water on his head ... Potter tried to trip him up on the train ... Gryffindors cat-called in the corridors ... Potter cursed him in front of jeering crowds ... Lily ran away from him in tears ... His father again: ‘You actually thought you’d make friends there ... You actually thought you’d make friends ...‘
Severus covered his head with his arms as the word ‘coward’ went round and round in his head.
Severus didn’t go to the Halloween breakfast.
In fact, he felt quite ill, and stayed in bed all morning.
By eleven o clock, a small scrap of cheer arrived in the form Mute who flew in through the dormitory window.
Severus could see that she must have been to the hospital wing, for her wing had been healed, presumably, by Madame Pomfrey.
Mute was carrying a note, and when Severus unfolded it, he saw it was from Lily.
Severus, I don’t know what’s wrong, but, I can tell something’s up because I missed you at breakfast.
Severus turned the note over and wrote back.
I just wasn’t hungry and had to finish my homework.
As he sent Mute off, he felt a pang of guilt about the lie.
He had finished his homework days ago, and, as he was the only student who handed it in early, he supposed this was another reason he was so unpopular.
‘Oh stop it!’ he told himself, crossly, ‘Go find yourself something to do, something useful,’
Severus went to the foot of his bed where he kept his trunk.
Opening it, and pushing aside his spare robes, his books, parchment, and quills, Severus found what he was looking for.
The collection of potion vials twinkled up at him from the trunk’s depths.
The sight of them alone brought him some comfort.
It made him feel stronger, knowing that he had something no one else did.
Severus checked them all, carefully, for cracks in the glass, anything out of sorts.
Then he noticed something wrong. His heart skipped a beat.
Quickly, he counted the vials, checking the labels against the list he had made.
His blood ran cold: Felix Felicis was missing!
The banging and swearing was enough to disturb the birds perched on the Astronomy Tower.
Severus attended the Halloween Feast that evening with something bordering paranoia.
He shot a look of pure loathing at the Gryffindor table, knowing that the new owner of his potion was right under his hooked nose.
His venomous thoughts were interrupted, however, when someone unexpected appeared at his side.
Lupin stood there, and he was looking at Severus with an unusual expression.
He appeared nervous, but concerned.
‘Snape, I know you hate me,’ Lupin said, ‘but I’ve a good reason to talk to you,’
‘I seriously doubt that,’ Severus muttered, folding his arms, ‘otherwise you’d stop Potter from saying that I bite people,’
‘About that,’ Lupin said quickly, looking over his shoulder at the Gryffindors, ‘A lot people have been wrongly saying that you ... have a condition, a problem,’ he mumbled, ‘and it’s not fair,’
Severus stared at him.
Lupin was frowning at something only he appeared able to see.
‘It’s so unfair,’ Lupin said with feeling.
Severus shook his head at him.
‘You don’t know what unfair is,’ he muttered, ‘you have no idea,’
‘Neither have you,’ Lupin answered, seriously, ‘you don’t know anything about me, either,’
‘Why? Is there something I should know about you? Or is that what you’re really trying to tell me, Lupin?’
Lupin paled and swallowed.
Severus watched him, shrewdly.
‘What is it? Is this to do with the monster in the Forest?’
Lupin looked over his shoulder once more, then gestured for Severus to follow him.
Severus narrowed his eyes, but did so anyway.
They left the Great Hall and the doors shut behind them, blocking out the noise of the celebrations.
‘Ok,’ Lupin started, shifting from foot to foot, ‘I had a ... an accident ... when I was very small, but it wasn’t with a vampire,’ he added, quickly, ‘it was ... something else ... ’
Severus wished Lupin would spit it out, but he saw Lupin was finding this very hard to say, so Severus kept quiet and listened.
‘What was it, this ‘something else’?’ Severus coaxed.
Lupin looked like he couldn’t go on, but Severus waited.
Just as Lupin drew in a deep breath, someone behind Severus hit him with a Stinging Hex. He yelled with pain.
‘Thanks, Lupin!’ came a voice from nowhere.
‘No!’ Lupin moaned, both hands to his head.
Severus was so angry he barely noticed.
He drew out his wand as Potter skittered round him in a circle, laughing.
Severus didn’t know how Potter had mastered invisibility, but it answered how he had got into the Slytherin dormitory.
Severus suspected that Potter had been spying on him as well.
‘Potter! You snuck into the Slytherin common room, didn’t you!’ Severus snarled.
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Potter said, airily, pulling Severus’ hair.
Severus swiped him off and cast another jinx, but missed.
Right on cue, Lucius burst through the double doors.
‘I saw Potter sneak out after you! Where is he, Severus?’ he demanded.
‘The small boy is heard but not seen,’ Severus muttered.
He heard Potter’s footsteps run off, and Severus sprinted after him, casting spells at random. Pictures flew from the walls, their occupants protesting loudly, and suits of armour crashed to the floor.
Severus could hear Lucius chasing after, calling, ‘Severus, don’t make me report you!’
Severus didn’t care, he was so angry. His one thought was to punish Potter and get back his potion, for Severus just knew it had been him who had stolen it.
They reached a long, marble staircase and Severus chased Potter down it.
Lucius followed them fast, but the second they were halfway down, the staircase began to revolve. The passengers stopped and hung on to the banisters.
The staircase stopped when it reached a new door, which at once was thrown open by an invisible hand.
‘Oh no you don’t!’ Severus growled.
He charged into the dark, stony corridor, and made a wild attempt to catch Potter.
‘Expelliarmus!’ he shouted.
His spell must have hit them, for he heard a thud on the ground.
He also heard Potter’s wand clatter to the floor, and roll away, somewhere, in the dark.
‘Who’s there?’ Lucius asked, roughly, ‘Show yourself! I’m a Prefect!’
‘Lumos,’ Severus muttered, adding a light to the shady corridor.
There came the sound of someone scrabbling to their feet and into the dungeons.
Just as Severus and Lucius were descending the steps, James Potter jumped out, wand in hand.
‘Damn you, Potter!’ Severus yelled, ‘You’ve been spying on me!’
‘What! Spying?’ Lucius exclaimed, ‘You’ll be in for it now, Potter!’
Lucius turned back up the stairs, but Severus grabbed his wrist, holding him back.
‘For god’s sake, Severus!’ Lucius snapped, wrenching himself free, ‘How am I supposed to do my job as Prefect if you won’t let me!’
‘I’m asking you as a friend, Lucius, let me deal with him myself,’
Lucius gave him a long frown, knowing this was against his better judgement.
‘Fine, but if I see one more fight between you two-’
‘You can go straight to Dumbledore,’ Severus said.
Lucius nodded, satisfied, and a smirk played on his lips.
‘Go easy on him. He is a coward after all,’ he said.
‘Who’s a coward!’ Potter snarled.
‘Who’s been doing the running and hiding, Potter?’ Lucius asked, with a wink at Severus. Then he left.
Severus shot Potter a look of loathing and they squared up to each other.
‘You slimy little dung beetle!’ Severus growled, ‘You’ve been spying on me!’
‘For much longer than you realise, Snape!’ Potter sneered.
‘Remember your first private potions lesson with Slughorn?’ Potter said, ‘A pile of books fell on the floor and Slughorn turned away to pick them up. It was I who knocked them over, and I revealed you as a liar and a thief! I saw you steal that Draught of Living Death behind Slughorn’s back, yet he and Dumbledore think you’re to be trusted!’
Severus’ wand hand was shaking as he prowled down the steps towards Potter, who was backing along the corridor.
‘Disappointing, wasn’t it, after Slughorn said you couldn’t keep your potions?’ Potter went on mockingly, ‘I was in office at the time, invisible, of course,’
The torches were burning strangely low at this end of the stony corridor, and some were extinguished.
Severus felt goose bumps on his arms, but Potter didn’t notice anything odd.
‘I was also in your dormitory the night someone poked you in the eye,’ he went on, maliciously, ‘that was me too. I did that just for fun. You thought I was Peeves, do you remember? That was perfect for me, of course, as bothering students at night is exactly the sort of thing Peeves does,’
His nasty smile was visible even in the dark.
Severus was only half-listening. For some reason, his eyes kept darting into a particular dungeon ... Was someone in there?
‘You followed me onto the floor outside the library, still thinking I was Peeves. You didn’t know what you were doing because I hit you with the Imperius Curse,’
‘That’s illegal,’ Severus murmured, his attention fully on Potter again, as he stared at him, shocked.
‘Oh, don’t be so surprised,’ Potter sneered, ‘you’re not the only one round here who thinks like a Dragon,’
He puffed out his chest.
‘Yes, I know all about the Guild of Dragons. I overheard your talk with the Bloody Baron, as well as Binn’s lecture. I know everything, Snape!’ he laughed, ‘And your special treatment from Dumbledore will end when I tell him you’ve been stealing potions!’
‘So that’s why you’ve been spying on me,’ Severus said, quietly, but then he thought of something Potter, it seemed, hadn’t. He smiled to himself.
‘What are you smirking at?’ Potter said.
‘You plan to tell Dumbledore about my potions, eh?’ Severus asked, calmly, ‘My potions, which are locked up in my trunk, in the Slytherin dormitory?’
His smile broadened at the look on Potter’s face.
‘Tell me, Potter, how does a Gryffindor explain how he knows the contents of a locked trunk as well as the Slytherin password? I don’t think spying, between classes, as well as at night, is allowed at Hogwarts, do you?’
‘I won’t have to explain,’ Potter replied, ‘All I have to do is tell Dumbledore I was doing it for people’s safety, rescuing them even, from a vam-’
‘I AM NOT A VAMPIRE!’ Severus bellowed, and sparks flew from his wand.
‘Temper, temper!’ Potter teased back, grinning.
And with that, Potter darted in through the open dungeon doorway, but Severus was not so daft as to follow into a pitch-black room.
He guessed that Potter had heard his wand roll in there, and was just waiting for Severus to turn the corner so he could strike.
There was a pause.
Severus hesitated, wand raised, knees half-bent, ready for anything.
‘But if you know about the Guild of Dragons, that means you were spying in our History of Magic class!’ Severus shouted in after him, ‘What do the Dragons matter to you?’
‘Oh, I dunno, I was thinking of carrying on their noble work,’ Potter called back, ‘What with them being the greatest slayers of their time. Tell me, Snivellus, do you plan on making Evans your bride?’
‘Shut up!’ Severus growled.
He heard Potter laughing, and then something strange happened.
Potter’s voice was cut off, abruptly, but not as if he had stopped laughing. It was just as if someone had clapped a hand over his mouth and ... knocked him out.
Severus frowned, listening. What was that little git playing at?
There was no answer.
‘Come on, Potter, I’m not falling for that one! I know you can make yourself invisible, but making yourself silent is too good to be true!’
The lack of response was now making him uneasy.
In one, swift movement, Severus stepped into the doorway, his wand hand thrust out in front. Upon his arrival, the torches all lit at once.
Severus’ eyes hit the floor, and what he saw made his insides clench.
Potter was sprawled on the dungeon floor, blank-eyed and unconscious, his face as white as marble. But that wasn’t the worst part.
One side of Potter’s neck was bleeding from an unmistakable bite.