After the double attack, Dumbledore sent owls to the Ministry demanding the school be guarded by special Hit wizards with night vision. The students were accompanied to all their classes by teachers, and no one was to leave their dormitories any later than seven. Quidditch and evening activities were cancelled until further notice.
Severus had expected Lucius, at least, to look distraught that Quidditch was no longer on, but after the attack on Bellatrix, he was very miserable.
Severus noticed that the Gryffindors were looking woebegone, and no doubt the attack on Lily was affecting them. He was quite surprised when he noticed that Potter appeared the most distant and subdued.
After their meeting on the train, Severus had always thought Potter disliked Lily, but he supposed she was a Gryffindor after all.
No one however, could possibly be feeling as rotten as Severus did.
The bullying for attacking two Gryffindors now had reached sky-high, and Potter and Black had been about to give Severus mouse ears when he was saved by Professor Flitwick, who took ten points from Gryffindor.
Severus wrenched himself free from Potter’s grasp and drifted off like a shadow.
‘And if you didn’t attack Lily, you would have helped her!’ Potter yelled after him, causing Flitwick to warn him with losing more house points if he persisted.
Severus sat on a stone step, feeling depressed.
Potter’s words had glued themselves to the inside of his skill.
Severus’ insides squirmed, guiltily.
He should have known there would be another attack! Why hadn’t he had a look round while he had the chance, instead of going straight back to the dormitory?
The Liquid Sunshine had been a total waste of time! No one could use it in their sleep, for goodness sake!
You idiot, Severus! he heard his father’s voice say in his head, Why didn’t you think of that! If you think of those girls as your friends, why didn’t you check on them?
Because I’d have been bitten too! He wailed back, silently.
... Coward ...
Severus pulled his robes up over his head in shame.
‘Severus? Are you alright?’
Severus pulled his robes back down to see Lucius standing on the steps below him.
‘No, I’m not alright!’ Severus yelled, his anger getting the better of him.
He leapt to his feet.
‘I’m sick to death of being blamed for that stupid vampire! Why is it here? It can’t just be for blood! Vampires can bite anyone, but this one goes for Hogwarts! WHY? And how many more attacks must we have before Dumbledore done something about it?’
‘We’ve all been wondering that,’ said Lucius, quietly, ‘but I think Dumbledore’s got his reasons,’
‘Humph!’ Severus replied, ‘Well whatever reasons Dumbledore has, they’re not good enough for me. I’ve had it,’
He began heading for the Slytherin common room.
‘What do you mean?’ Lucius asked, sternly, swiftly following.
Severus pulled out his sketch of the Dragons’ crest and showed it to Lucius.
‘I may not be a Dragon,’ he said, ‘but I’m going to hunt down the vampire, myself,’
‘Don’t be ridiculous, Severus!’ Lucius snapped. ‘You’re eleven for god’s sake!’
‘My age doesn’t matter, Lucius!’ Severus snarled back, ‘Everyone here is at risk of being bitten, and I want to put a stop to it!’
‘Be reasonable, Severus! The Dragons were professional slayers, and there eaten up by this vampire prince!’
‘Binns said there was no proof of that!’ Severus said, quickly.
Lucius gave him a hard look, and spoke slowly and clearly.
‘The Dragons are dead, Severus, and anyone who knows anything about them is dead too,’
‘Exactly,’ Severus replied, quietly.
That evening, Severus was to be found pleading with the Bloody Baron to tell him more, but the Baron refused, point-blank, to speak a word.
‘Oh alright,’ Severus snapped at last, ‘but if you won’t help me, can I please talk to Professor Binns?’
‘You aren’t allowed to leave your dormitory,’ the Baron replied, tersely.
‘I don’t want to leave the dormitory, I am requesting that Professor Binns come to me,’ Severus said in a voice of forced calm.
The Bloody Baron gave him a deeply suspicious look.
‘Wait there,’ was all he said before gliding through the wall and disappearing.
Severus paced back and forth, very agitated, as he waited for Binns’ arrival.
He couldn’t get the image of Lily out of his head, lying as though dead in the hospital wing.
The other Slytherins were huddled in chairs, showing various levels of angst.
Some were playing Gobstones or chess, but Severus couldn’t relax.
‘What’s taking them so long?’ he fretted, ‘Isn’t Binns only a few floors up?’
‘I don’t know what’s so important to you about the history anyway,’ Lucius replied, moodily, ‘How can it help us now?’
‘You’d be surprised how much of the present is actually to do with history,’ Severus muttered, darkly.
At that moment, there came a tapping at the wall.
Severus rushed over and it opened before him. He jumped back in alarm as an owl hovered before his face, its wings fanning his hair back from his face, before dropping a letter at his feet and swooping back the way it had come.
Severus picked the letter up with a sinking heart.
It was probably another one from his mother, asking him how wonderful school was and how much he was enjoying himself.
Severus tore the envelope open, but it didn’t contain a letter.
Unfolding the contents, Severus discovered it contained a page torn from an extremely old, extremely large book.
Severus looked at the page number, and his heart swelled:
Five hundred and twenty five, and on the bottom of the page, was a large moving illustration of an unmistakable figure.
Oswald Knight stood, feet apart, framed against a sun-rise, one hand on his hip, his silvery robes billowing, his long, black ponytail streaking in the wind.
With a thumping heart, Severus began to read:
A vampire is not, strictly speaking, a human being, but a Dark spirit. This spirit is smoke-like in appearance except that it moves at will rather than at random. While in the smoke-like form, the vampire can neither feed nor attack, but one must not be fooled into thinking it weaker in smoke-form. In this state, the vampire can pass through solid objects, leak through keyholes, mouse holes, etc, and is invulnerable to harm.
Vampires can also possess animals, the purpose of which being to disguise themselves.
Bats are their most popular choice, although endearing animals such as foxes, cats, and rabbits are sometimes used to lure unsuspecting witches and wizards.
This practice was discovered by the infamous Vlad Dracul the Second. Dracul was the most dreaded vampire of his time, as his primary goal was peopling the world with vampires.
Dracul was perhaps most remembered for causing the downfall of legendary vampire-slayers, Guild of Dragons, who were never found since their encounter with the Draculs.
It was as though someone had just fit in a missing jigsaw piece.
‘Lucius!’ Severus breathed. ‘I understand now!’
‘What do you understand?’ Lucius asked, sweeping over at once and eying the page, beadily.
‘The vampire in the Forest turned to smoke after Hagrid shot at it, and each time its entered the castle, it’s always been in a bat-like form! That’s why I’ve suspected Mute! It’s because she’s a bat. Vampires possess bats to disguise themselves! The Vampire Prince isn’t dead! He’s been using her all year to get in and out of the castle to feed, that’s why no one’s caught him! They can’t detect him because he’s been inside her body, and leaving it in smoke-form to get out again!’
Lucius grabbed Severus’ arm.
‘What was it he said to you in the Forest? ‘Our powers are weak-’
‘-but our numbers are growing,’ Severus finished, nodding seriously.
‘Severus,’ Lucius said in a choked voice, ‘There could be loads of them out there!’
‘No, I don’t think so,’ Severus said, after thinking, ‘if there were lots, then there would have been many more attacks. They’d have to send in dozens of animals, otherwise they’d be starving. Then it would look suspicious,’
‘So we’re presuming there are three, as there have only been three attacks, and one double attack,’
Severus nodded, and then he checked the rest of the envelope.
There was nothing else inside.
‘Who sent you that page?’ Lucius asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Severus replied, ‘there’s no note,’
The envelope was indeed empty, but Severus had a better reason for not telling about what he had seen in the Pensieve.
He felt it kinder for Professor Binns to own up rather than be shown up.
Then, Severus turned the page over.
It showed a very long list of names, wizards, witches, and vampires alike ... and reading the top, his mouth fell open.
‘This is a list of the dead!’ he gasped, ‘people slain in the wizard-vampire war. Lucius, this is why they hated each other so much! This is why the Dragons were so famous, and why Dracul was so powerful! They must have led in the war!’
‘And you want to hunt him?’ Lucius cried, his eyes bulging, ‘You and what army?’