Chapter Eleven - The Shame of Professor BinnsMature

Severus was woken up that morning an hour earlier than he would have liked by Mute, who, for some reason, thought he’d like his ear nibbled as a wake-up call.

   ‘Mute!  Stop it!’ Severus groaned, and raised his hand to push her away.

   She was right up close to his face, and as he looked at her in the half-light, he went very still.

   This close to, she appeared just like ... Severus lifted Mute’s wing to inspect it, and not without a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach.

   Mute had a hole in her right wing, in the exact same place that Hagrid had shot his arrow at the wing of the vampire.

   But was this just coincidence?  How had she gotten that wound?

   Severus remembered his mother giving him a mysterious look when they talking about buying him a seriously cool pet.

   But the notion of her giving him a blood-sucking killer was ludicrous ...

   Wasn’t it?

   Severus didn’t know anything about his mother’s side of the family.  Talk of wizards wasn’t allowed in the Snape house.

   Severus had had enough.  He got out of bed and slipped into dressing gown and slippers.  He pocketed his wand, in case he met Peeves or Filch, and put Mute on his shoulder, and left the dormitory.

   He knew that the school would still be asleep at the hour, but he just had to do something, he had to.

   Maybe if he compared her picture to an image in a vampire in beastly-form he’d feel better.

   Severus plodded downstairs until he found himself outside Professor Binn’s classroom.

   Upon sight of the desk, he stopped, surprised.

   On top of the desk was a large, stone basin with runes all around it that he couldn’t understand.

   The basin itself was quite unremarkable, but its contents were another story.

   Going over, Severus saw that it contained a silver substance, constantly moving but never setting into a distinct form.  It was like wind on the sea, or air made into liquid.

   It looked very enticing, and he wished that he could touch it to find out what the texture was like, but Severus wasn’t fool enough to dip his hand into an unknown substance of magic.  It was certainly unlike any potion that he had read about, but maybe it wasn’t a potion.

   Unable to resist, Severus took out his wand and lightly touched the substance.

   It swirled before his eyes, as though he just created a whirl-pool, and before he knew it, he was catapulted, head-first in through the bowl as though it had grown as large as the room around him.

   He was falling through blinding, white light, cold wind rushing past him, and suddenly he felt his feet back on firm ground.

   Shaking, Severus looked round, and to his horror, he saw that he was in a place that definitely wasn’t inside Hogwarts castle.

   From his surroundings, his best guess was that he was at the Three Broomsticks, at Hogsmeade.

   Severus had never been to the wizarding village, but Lucius and the others had often spoke of visiting the place.

   It was crowded and filled with talk and laughter, and the whole pub were focussed on a single table in the middle of the room.

   The gathering consisted of witches and wizards around his dad’s age, some in various stages of drunkenness, but all in high spirits, as if celebrating something.

   At a glance, Severus didn’t recognise anyone here, and he drew back, waiting to be caught and kicked out.

   That’s when he something about four of the central tables’ occupants caught his eye.

   Severus gasped.

   They were wearing silver robes bearing the crest of a black dragon on the front.

   He had found the Guild of Dragons!

   In the centre of the table sat a man with his very long black hair drawn in a ponytail.  He must be Oswald Knight.

   On his left sat a very handsome boy of sixteen or seventeen.

   Severus reckoned this must be Knight’ son, Arthur.

   On Arthur’s right sat a dark-haired woman with striking grey eyes.

   Severus guessed that she must be Matilda.

   ‘Bring us more drink, won’t you, Sophie?’ one of the men called.

   Severus looked down to see a tray of butter beers passing right through his chest.

   ‘Alright, Oswald, I know you gents don’t like to be kept sober long,’ the witch called Sophie replied as she stepped right through Severus and towards the table in front.

   Severus shuddered, it was creepy enough when a ghost went through you.

   He realised that he must be inside a recording of the past, where people of the present were neither seen nor heard.

   ‘Do tell that story of how you got that last fiend, Oswald,’ someone from the crowd shouted.

   ‘Which one, Olga the Thirsty, or Gretchen the Bloody Wretched?’

   This was clearly an inside joke as everyone laughed.  Knight put a boot up on the table and leaned back in his chair, downing his beer.

   Severus was strongly reminded of Potter.

   Knight launched into a crude and unpleasant account of how he and his family took on Gretchen the Wretched. 

   Matilda flicked her hair and beamed, proudly, at her husband, but Arthur turned red from where he sat between his parents.

   Severus looked at the others, but he seemed to be the only who noticed this.

   A spindly-looking man with spectacles, straggly brown hair, and a red scarf, struggled through the crowd to the front.

   He was wearing a black travelling cloak, and breathing like he had been running.

   ‘Mr. Knight, sir,’ he gasped, looking overwhelmed, ‘It is an honour to meet you and your wife at last,’

   ‘Of course it is,’ Knight nodded, chuckling, ‘What can I do for you, sir?’

   ‘Well, the word is, sir, that er –‘

   The thin man caught sight of Arthur sitting meekly between his parents, ‘and master Knight!  Thrilled to meet you too, you must be so proud!’

   Oswald clamped Arthur to his side, ‘Absolutely!’ he boomed, ruffling his son’s hair.

   ‘And what can the Dragons do for you, sir?’

   ‘Oh, I don’t want anything, thank you, it’s just that I’ve been hearing the rumours and about Vlad the Second ... They’ve been confirmed ... He’s looking for you,’

   The tavern’s mood changed quite suddenly as a hush fell. 

   Some people were giving each other shifty glances, and others were watching the Dragons for their response.

   Arthur was looking absolutely terrified, but his father’s smile hadn’t faded a notch.

   ‘Well, he should have made an appointment,’ was all he said.

   Laughter rolled round the room and everyone went on drinking and slapping the Dragons on the back.

   The scrawny man was gazing at the Dragons with a kind of awed admiration.

   ‘You inspire such confidence, Dragons!  You’re what stories are made of!   Living Legends-’

   He halted as he got a grasp of himself, and then spoke as loud enough for everyone to hear him.

   ‘I bet a thousand Galleons that the Dragons can take on Vlad the Second and his family, and win,’

   ‘With their hands tied between their backs!’ someone shouted from the crowd.

   ‘Blind-folded!’ Sophie called.

   Oswald waved, casually, like he was royalty, ‘Why, thank you,’

   ‘No, I mean it,’ the man went on, his eyes fixed on the Dragons, ‘And that moment will go down in history one day,’

   ‘Oh, here he goes again!  You and your history, Cuthbert!  You both go on forever!’

   Cuthbert jerked his robes, indignantly, amid the laughter and pointing.

   Oswald looked at him properly for the first time.

   ‘Are you serious?’ he asked, curiously.

   ‘Absolutely, sir, you’re ... you all are ... my idols,’ he breathed, trembling.

   Oswald offered him a hand, ‘It’s a deal,’ he said.

   Severus watched as they shook on it, and for some reason, a chill run down his spine.   Who was this man?

   ‘These vampires are both our curse and our blessing,’ Matilda announced, ‘without them, we’d neither be so busy nor so rich,’

   ‘Mother,’ Arthur said, speaking for the first time since Severus had arrived, ‘Aren’t we taking this a bit lightly?  I mean, I know we’re the best, I know we are, and Vlad the Second, well ...’

   The rest of the Arthur’s sentence was drowned out by the crowd, but Severus didn’t need to hear it to guess what it was.

   At that moment, he felt a hand grasp his arm, and looking round, he gave a gasp of shock.  Peeves the poltergeist had hold of his arm, and beside him stood a distressed and angry looking Professor Binns.

   ‘Some things are best left buried, boy,’ Binn’s said, sternly, and Severus felt himself rising again.

   In a moment, he found himself losing his balance and falling backwards, down onto the floor of Binn’s classroom.

   ‘You may go,’ he heard Binns’ voice over him, and he saw Peeves whoosh away.

   ‘I had to use Peeves to get you out of there,’ Binns’ said, angrily, ‘as I can’t touch you myself, but I daresay you’ve caused more harm than that poltergeist ever did!’

   ‘Speak for yourself!’ Severus muttered.

   Professor Binn’s looked shocked.  ‘What did you say to me?’

   ‘I said speak for your bloody self!  Gambling the Dragons’ lives for a thousand galleons, Binns!  What the hell made you do it!’

   ‘I was a blinded fan!  I believed they were invincible, I truly did!  They were legends come to life!  Heroes!  People were fascinated by them ...’

   He said the word with a kind of bitter awe.

   ‘What happened to them?’ Severus asked.

   Professor Binns was trembling slightly, his mouth partly open, his eyes a bit brighter than normal.

   ‘You’ll find that on page 525, and I cannot let that be seen by anyone,’ he answered, sadly, ‘I just can’t ... I can’t,’

   ‘Well then, I’ll have to find it myself, if you won’t help me,’ Severus answered, ‘because right here and now, people are getting bitten, and it’s up to you whether you want to help prevent that,’

   There was a tense silence in which the dust in the room seemed to glitter.

   Severus looked round the room, and then asked, ‘Where’s Mute?’

   ‘Pardon?’ Binns asked, jerking from a trance.

   ‘Mute, my pet bat ...’ Severus said, his voice trailing off as he looked up.

   Peeves was sticking his head out through the ceiling, baring his teeth at him.

   Pure bloods run for your lives.

   He ran back to the Slytherin dormitory and got into bed without a word, yet he was still gripping his wand under his pillow when he awoke next morning.

   When Severus sat up in bed, the sunlight piecing thin rays through the window, like gold wands, he saw that the room was empty.

   Severus got up and dressed quickly, and when he stepped into the common room, Professor McGonagall was to be found addressing the Slytherins.

   ‘There has been a double attack,’ she was saying, gravely.

   Severus’ heart collided with his ribs a few times, and he hurried forwards, not wanting to miss a word.

   ‘Ah, Mr. Snape, you’d better come with me,’ McGonagall told him.

   ‘Professor, I swear-’

   ‘I am not accusing you of anything, Snape,’ McGonagall said, clearly, ‘now please,’

   Severus looked at Lucius and the others, only to see that they looked as scared and confused as he did.

   Severus followed Professor McGonagall out through the wall, up the stone stairs, up the marble staircase and along the corridor to the hospital wing.

   Before he could enter, however, Professor McGonagall put a kindly hand on Severus’ shoulder.

   ‘This may be disturbing for you,’ she said in a surprisingly gentle voice, ‘from what I’ve seen, Miss Lestrange is your friend ...’

   She slowly opened the door.

   ‘ is Miss Evans,’

   Two stiff figures lay on the beds, their faces as white as their surroundings.

   Severus took one look and covered his face.

The End

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