‘You mean Potter or Black, don’t you?’ Lily asked, wearily, ‘Severus, they can’t be responsible for everything that goes wrong in your life,’
Severus was about to say they’d so far made a lot of things wrong in his life when the doors burst open.
Red evening sunlight pooled onto the castle floor.
The Slytherin Quidditch team slouched in, trailing mud, and looking thoroughly miserable. Leading them was Lucius Malfoy who threw his broomstick on the floor in disgust, almost hitting a terrified Hufflepuff.
‘I can’t BELIEVE how badly that went!’ he exploded, ‘Four hundred points to seventy! How is that even possible!’
He was red-faced as he put his fists, and his forehead, against the wall.
Severus was startled. He had never seen Lucius lose it like this.
Bellatrix was rubbing Lucius’ back, soothingly.
‘It’s not your fault, Lucius,’ she told him, kindly, ‘You’re a great Keeper,’
‘Obviously not as good as I was,’ Lucius said in a dispirited voice, ‘or we wouldn’t have lost so badly,’
While the other Slytherins slouched off with heads drooped and faces hidden, the Gryffindors charged in, cheering and clapping each other on the back. They rushed off in a mass of red and gold, heading straight for the Gryffindor common room.
Severus stepped forwards, cautiously, wanting to speak to him.
He vaguely remembered Lucius telling him he was Slytherin Keeper, but he hadn’t known Lucius was so passionate about Quidditch.
Severus realised he may have a lot to learn about Lucius Malfoy, but he knew right then he wanted to cheer him up.
‘Lucius,’ Severus said, ‘It is not your fault that Slytherin lost, and I have proof,’
‘Humour me,’ Lucius said in doubtful tones.
‘It wasn’t skill that won Potter the match, it was pure luck!’
‘What are you talking about, Severus? Potter’s an excellent Chaser,’
‘I gave him Felix Felicis, down in the dungeons the night he was attacked. I had to, otherwise he would have died,’ he added, quickly (but not looking like he cared), ‘It was Felix Felicis that won Gryffindor the match!’
At this, Lucius straightened up and stared at Severus in genuine shock.
Severus smiled back, ‘You see? It wasn’t your fault,’ he said, kindly.
‘No,’ Lucius replied in a choked voice, and then he turned brick red.
‘It was all YOURS!’
Severus staggered back as the full force of Lucius’ rage hit him like a tidal wave.
‘What?’ Severus squeaked.
‘Thanks to you,’ Lucius said, his voice trembling, ‘We’ve not just lost the Quidditch match, but we’ve lost the Quidditch Cup, and the House Cup as well!’
Lucius swept off, ignoring Bellatrix, who was trying to tell him off for being so harsh.
Severus felt a nudge behind him, and saw Lily, urging him on.
‘Talk to him,’ she mouthed.
Severus dithered, and then in a split second, he went hurt to furious.
He stalked after Lucius through a side door, and caught up with him on the second floor corridor.
‘Lucius!’ Severus barked.
Lucius didn’t even look round, ‘I’m not speaking to you,’
Severus broke into a run, grabbed Lucius’ wrist, and yanked him round.
‘Then let me do the talking!’ he hissed.
‘Tell me something, Malfoy, what would you have done, if you’d found someone dying? Ok, so I hate Potter, but do you seriously wish Potter had died, just so Slytherin could beat Gryffindor at Quidditch?’
To this, Lucius said nothing. He just sulked.
Severus crossed his arms, and looked away.
‘You’re alright, you know, Malfoy,’ he muttered, bitterly, ‘You’re lucky. You’re rich, you’re happy, and you’re all pure-bloods. No one’s angry at you, no one blames you for Potter’s accident, and no one thinks you’re the vampire, even though you’re vamp obsessed and I’m not!’
Lucius looked at him then, and when Severus met his eyes, Lucius’ guilt was plain to see.
‘You’re right, Sev,’ Lucius said after a pause, ‘I’m sorry,’
‘Pardon?’ Severus asked, hardly believing his ears.
Was snobby Lucius Malfoy being humble?
‘I’m sorry for what I’m about to do ... I’m so sorry,’ Lucius sighed.
Severus stared at him. What was Lucius talking-
But next moment, he found himself in a headlock, staggering on the spot, and Lucius ruffled his hair.
‘Get off!’ Severus protested, irritably, as Lucius laughed.
Rather to his surprise, Lucius let him go, and it was only when Severus straightened up that he realised Lucius was only joking.
‘Git,’ Severus muttered, flattening his hair, but his anger had left him, and all that was left was a grin.
He watched his friend head off down the corridor.
‘I’ll get you back for that!’ Severus called after him.
Lucius turned the corner at the end...
Severus whipped out his wand and pelted straight down the corridor after Lucius.
As he turned the corner, a terrifying sight loomed to meet him.
A fearsome creature, seven foot tall, towered over him. It had huge, horrible wings, dark eyes, and cruel fangs.
It was the vampire from the Forbidden Forest!
His back to the wall opposite wall, pale-faced and motionless, was Lucius Malfoy.
The vampire bared its teeth, then it dived straight at him.
‘Expelliarmus!’ Severus yelled.
The vampire was blasted into the air with a shrill shriek.
Severus raised his wand higher, prepared for a return attack-
Shards of glass rained down on him, and Severus threw his arms over his head.
When he looked up, he saw that the monster had escaped through a stained-glass window. Fragments dropped from its ruined edges.
Severus rushed to gaping hole in the wall, but there was the no sign of a retreating shape.
He looked round and gasped.
Lucius was crumpled on the carpet, his hand to his neck, and blood leaking under his palm.
Severus ran to him.
Lucius wasn’t white like Potter had been, as the vampire hadn’t had time to drink, but he looked clammy and very sick.
Severus gripped his arms as Lucius tried to stand, and held him down. Maybe it was the shock of someone he liked having been bitten, but Severus felt panicky this time. He didn't have any more Felix Felicis, and could do nothing to help.
At that precise moment, Peeves swooped through the ceiling and spotted them.
‘Ooh look!’ he cried, gleefully, ‘Slitherus Snake and Mucus Malfoy! Are Slithery and Mucus fighting?’
Then Peeves saw that Lucius was bleeding. He froze, halfway through a midair cartwheel.
Peeves flipped the right way up, and bellowed.
‘VAMPIRES! DEMONS! MONSTERS OF THE UNDEAD! PURE-BLOODS RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! VAMPIRE ATTAAAACK!’
Doors burst open everywhere, and students flooded into the room in panic.
Some were still in their Quidditch robes, and all the Gryffindors were carrying butter beer or packets of sweets, clearly from a victory party.
They screamed and yelled as they saw Lucius’ bite mark, Professor McGonagall waded through them, trying to restore calm, whilst trying to save himself and Lucius from getting crushed, was Severus.
Peeves hovered over them all, grinning at the pandemonium.
‘Caught red-handed!’ Pettigrew shouted, pointing an accusing finger at Severus.
‘That’s enough, Pettigrew!’ McGonagall snapped.
Severus jumped and there was instant silence.
Professor Dumbledore had arrived who had his wand raised.
‘Everyone, go back to your dormitories now,’ he commanded in a clear, ringing tone that filled the room, ‘Professor McGonagall, please take Mr. Malfoy to the hospital wing. Severus,’
Severus looked at him, fearfully, but Dumbledore’s blue eyes were quite calm.
‘Follow me, please,’
The crowd thinned, and many pushed in their efforts to get away from Severus, making signs of the cross with their fingers.
Severus glared at them as he left, hurrying after Dumbledore.
Dumbledore led Severus along corridors, and up staircases, until they reached a stone gargoyle that was sat in front of a stone wall.
‘Friendship,’ Dumbledore said. This was evidently a password, for the gargoyle hopped aside, revealing a golden, spiral staircase that was revolving.
Dumbledore stepped onto the staircase and Severus followed.
They ascended, smoothly, until they reached a pair of oak, double doors that parted, silently, to reveal Dumbledore’s office.
It was easily the most beautiful room Severus had seen at Hogwarts.
It was dome-shape and filled with curious contraptions that whirred, and puffed smoke, and made funny little noises. Though he was mystified what they were for.
In a cage on one side of the room, was a Phoenix that looked at Severus with very bright eyes.
Dumbledore seated himself behind his desk and placed his fingertips together.
Severus looked at his feet.
‘Am I in trouble, Professor?’ he asked, unhappily.
‘No, Severus,’ Dumbledore said, surveying him with his bright, blue eyes, ‘but I would like to ask you something,’
Severus swallowed, dryly.
‘I need to know, Severus ... if you’re happy?’
Severus didn’t know where to begin.
He thought of his father saying ‘You actually think you’ll make friends there’ and of the duel with Potter outside the library. He thought of Peeves pouring ice-cold water over him and the monster carrying him off in the Forest. He thought too of everyone believing he was attacking pure bloods, that he’d lost Slytherin the Quidditch Cup, and the constant accusation he was the vampire...
‘I love Hogwarts, Professor,’ Severus said, ‘it’s been the best time of my life,’
I’ve thanked Professor Dumbledore for helping us, and for my private Potions. I‘ve been getting lots of points for Slytherin and am working extra hard.
I hope you’re ok,
Love Severus x
The attack on Lucius had turned what had been suspicion into pure fear.
This was encouraged, heavily, after Peeves’ promise that pure-bloods were in the most danger.
Severus was surprised to learn that not all pure bloods were Slytherins, that people from all Houses were nervous, including, he was pleased to see, Potter, Pettigrew, and several more Gryffindors.
There was a crush as people booked seats to get the Hogwarts Express home for Christmas, and Severus was relieved they were going.
He was heartily sick of having crosses and garlic waved at him wherever he went.
Bellatrix Lestrange was the only one who found this funny, and she would deliberately shelter Severus’ head with her cloak when they started on him.
‘Oh no!’ she’d say, melodramatically, as he’d pass under a weedy ray of sunshine, ‘Keep to the shadows, Dark One, I’ll protect you! It burns!’
At this point, she’d pretend to collapse, hissing like a frying pan under a cold tap.
‘I’m infected by the Pointy-Tooth curse! Now I must pursue in Severus’ reign of naughty, misbehaving-type power!’
Severus didn’t mind. He was glad Bellatrix thought the idea of him being evil was outrageous. On the other hand, he wondered if Lucius might be offended by these jokes, as he’d been attacked.
But Lucius, who had been healed by Madame Pomfrey in a second, was buoyant these days, and Severus was in no doubt why.
‘Has it gone yet?’ Severus would ask him, grinning, as Lucius checked for the umpteenth time whether or not he still had a reflection.
‘No,’ Lucius answered, disappointed, ‘I should have known I was being too hopeful. Nothing happened to Potter, even though the vampire practically drained him. I wonder if it’ll be back for more,’ he said, hopefully, ‘er – More of me, that is,’
Severus on the other hand, wasn’t hoping the same.
He didn’t think he had enough vials to cure the whole school of bites and he wasn’t the only one to realise this.
Lily had been sending him notes, asking how the Liquid Sunshine was coming along, and if there was anything she could do to help speed it up.
You can’t rush art, Severus wrote back, but he wasn’t annoyed by her notes.
He was proud that he had chosen so wisely in a work partner.
They took it in turns to stir the Liquid Sunshine at twelve on the dot as the instructions had told them.
Yet, many times between, Severus would run down to the cupboard to check that it was still there.
‘It’s coming along well,’ Lily said as she threw in more Golden Fleece.
‘It’ll be done in a week,’ Severus replied, happily, as the potion turned a gentle shade of pink.
Severus woke one morning to find white winter light shining through the Slytherin dormitory’s only window.
‘Merry Christmas!’ Bellatrix and Lucius chorused as they entered, carrying presents.
Bellatrix had bought Severus a large box of Chocolate Frogs, and Lucius had given him a green-and-silver striped scarf that looked like a snake, with wool for skin.
He put it on at once, and it hissed and slithered round his neck in circles.
Severus had bought Lucius a crimson book entitled Famous Vampire Quidditch Players – The Skill is Sharper than the Tooth and for Bellatrix he gave a novelty purple and black witch’s hat, that turned her eyes mirror-like when she wore it.
He met up with Lily in the Great Hall, and saw she was grinning.
‘Morning!’ Severus said brightly, then spoke in an undertone, ‘The Liquid Sunshine will be finished today,’
‘I know!’ she breathed back, her eyes sparkling.
The Great Hall smelt of baking Christmas cake and there were dozens of Christmas trees all around the walls. Warm, dry snow was sprinkling down from the ceiling, and here and there, little fairies flitted about, singing carols in tiny voices.
But Severus and Lily couldn’t stay, they almost skipped to the dungeons, or at least, Lily skipped, Severus walked as though carrying a bomb in his hands.
He was actually carrying the last ingredient, the Ashwinder Egg, in a box, cleverly disguised as a Christmas present, with ‘Fragile’ stamped on the side.
Downstairs, Severus threw in the last of the Golden Fleece.
The potion turned a warm shade of yellow.
Concentrating fiercely, Severus stirred clockwise, five times, and anti-clockwise once, over the portable fire that Lily had conjured beneath the cauldron.
‘This is it,’ Severus murmured as he drew the Ashwinder Egg, carefully, from the box ... and stopped.
‘Go on, Severus,’ Lily moaned.
‘Let me see the instructions again,’
Lily handed them to him and Severus swore.
‘It just says ‘drop in an Ashwinder Egg’, but I don’t know if that means the contents, or the whole thing,’
Lily put a hand over her eyes.
Severus decided to crack it, he took the egg in two hands and placed one side of it against the cauldron’s side.
‘One ...’ he said.
‘Two ...’ Lily went on.
Severus dropped the egg in whole.
They shielded their eyes as the potion erupted a dazzling, blinding gold light, as if the sun itself was shining out their cauldron.
Severus gaped, astonished, at what he had done.
Liquid Sunshine beamed at him from his cauldron.
‘You did it!’ Lily cheered, hugging him from the side and grinning broadly.
‘We did it, you mean,’ Severus said, startled.
‘No, Sev, this is your potion,’ Lily said, fervently, ‘and if I were a teacher, I’d give a hundred points to Slytherin for it,’
Severus glowed as much the Liquid Sunshine.
Severus and Lily attended the Christmas Feast that evening together.
When they arrived, they found that only the staff table had people sitting round it.
At the table sat Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid, and Flitwick, but also Lucius, Bellatrix, a few Ravenclaw sixth years, and a blond Slytherin fifth year girl Severus knew only by sight.
Lily couldn’t stifle a laugh as she looked at Dumbledore, and Severus smiled too.
Dumbledore was wearing red robes with white fur, and a floppy red hat with a white bobble. He had Charmed his beard so that it winked little gold stars.
‘Severus and Lily! Come and join us,’ Dumbledore said, warmly, ‘So many people went home for Christmas, it made sense for us to all be at one table,’
They pulled Christmas crackers together, which gave off explosions like cannons, and huge clouds of purple smoke.
The table was heaving with turkey, roast potatoes, gravy, vegetables, Christmas cake, chocolate log, and Christmas pudding.
Severus, whose father had never let them celebrate Christmas with a meal like this, ate until he was fit to bursting, and went to bed that night feeling Hogwarts wasn’t so bad after all.