Severus jumped out of his skin and turned round so fast that he stumbled and fell to the ground, twisting his ankle.
He winced and raised his wand, and then he gasped as he saw who it was.
A tall wizard was standing, very still, amongst the trees. His silver robes swept the ground, and his black ponytail fell all the way down his back.
His dark eyes were fixed on Severus’ face, and his mouth was curled in a smile.
‘You’re ... You’re Oswald Knight!’ Severus breathed, ‘I thought you were dead!’
‘That’s what they said,’ Knight answered, bowing to Severus, gracefully.
Severus felt a wave of relief sweep through him and he began to laugh.
He was safe!
‘Oswald, please help me, my friends are somewhere in the Forest and the vampires are attacking Hogwarts. You must stop them,’
Oswald didn’t move.
‘Vampires only attack when they’re hungry,’ he answered, calmly, ‘but they’ve fed now,’
Severus struggled to get up with his ankle.
‘Listen,’ he said, impatiently, ‘You don’t understand,’
So much time alone had left Oswald Knight out of touch.
‘Hogwarts is a school. The people being attacked aren’t skilled slayers like you and the other Dragons. They’re children. I need you to help them,’
‘Yes, you do,’ Knight answered, ‘and so do we,’
At that moment, three more figures appeared from behind the trees.
Severus recognised them at once as Arthur, Matilda, and Mary who also gazed him, unblinkingly.
‘A shame that Helena couldn’t join us tonight,’ Oswald said, mournfully.
‘Are you sure that’s him?’ Arthur asked his father.
‘Without a doubt,’ Oswald replied, gazing at Severus with something like pride in his eyes.
The women bowed, but Arthur still looked doubtful.
‘Can he prove it?’ the boy asked.
‘Don’t be rude, Radu,’ Oswald said, sharply, and the boy gave Severus a short bow he clearly didn’t want to make.
‘Radu? Severus repeated, frowning, ‘I thought his name was Arthur,’
To his surprise, the Dragons laughed, and their laughs were cold and sounded superior, like they knew something Severus didn’t.
Severus felt goose-bumps swell on his arms and legs.
There was something very strange going on here.
‘You can’t be possible,’ he said, suddenly, raising his wand, ‘You’re all hundreds of years old. You should be dead, every one of you!’
‘And yet here we stand,’ Oswald said, bowing again.
Severus frowned back, looking from one Dragon’s face to the next.
‘How?’ he asked, quietly.
‘Well, that story starts a long time ago, and I suppose it really began after a bet was made that Oswald Knight could actually overthrow a Vampire Prince. None of those fools knew what they were up against. They had only read the history books, you see. Same as those poor, misguided friends of yours at your school,’
‘What do you mean?’ Severus asked him.
‘Historians can be liars, Severus Snape,’ Knight went on, ‘Books written for wizards by wizards. No vampire hand ever wrote as much as a paragraph in the Dragons’ history records. Writers can be biased, Severus Snape, and so can the editors,’
‘What are you talking about?’ Severus snapped.
‘Binns, Snape,’ Mary continued, smiling at him, ‘Professor Binns tore out that page from the Guild of Dragons book. He was ashamed that he gambled the Dragons’ lives on a bet, and didn’t want his students to know what he’d done,’
‘What do you care about how vampire history is written? You hate them!’
There was a silence, but all three Dragons’ heads snapped to Oswald Knight.
‘Hatred for vampires was what forced the Vampire Prince and his family into hiding. They wanted to wait until the superstition had truly died. But possession weakens a vampire, as does frequently moving in smoke-form. He has to drink doubly as much blood to sustain energy. We shared the body of your pet to get what we needed. Thankyou,’
He paused to bend his knee to Severus once again, and the others copied.
Severus wished they would stop as it made him very uncomfortable.
‘You possessed Mute?’ Severus repeated, his forehead beaded with sweat.
‘Bats are our favourite choice,’ Mary explained, ‘We had to, so we wouldn’t starve. But don’t worry about her, she has no memory of the incidents,’
‘The people you attacked do though,’ Severus said, his voice trembling.
‘About that,’ Radu said, looking guilty for the first time, ‘We made mistakes. We only meant only to bite the Purebloods, as they give us the most power, but we were desperate,’
‘You attacked three of my friends!’ Severus shouted, his voice sounding extra loud in the quiet forest.
The Dragons bowed again and apologised, graciously.
‘What else have you been doing up at the castle?’ Severus snarled, ‘Spying on Dumbledore? What are you up to?’
‘The Vampire Prince taught us to possess humans, but we wouldn’t dare go near Dumbledore in so few numbers,’ Matilda (or Lilith the vampiress) said.
Severus went white. ‘You can possess people?’ he breathed.
‘That’s another part of our history wizards failed to record,’ Knight snarled, baring his teeth.
‘And it’s why the Potter boy cast an Unforgivable Curse on you,’
‘You did that?’ Severus said, stiffly.
‘We possessed him so we had the strength to hypnotise you. It was the only way you could discover our hidden tapestry and go looking for us,’
‘And why, exactly, did you want me?’ Severus asked, ‘Will you stop bowing!’
‘Because you are the last in my blood-line,’ Oswald Knight, or rather, Vlad Dracul the Second, replied.