Chapter Fourteen: Blood Night
Ron and Ginny fought late into the night. Once Hermione found out what Ron and Harry had witnessed, she joined the arguments too, saying that Ron should be more happy for Ginny and stop trying to control her. Harry did his best to stay out of it. After many tears and shouting, Ginny stormed away upstairs to bed, yelling at Ron that it was her life and she'd do what she wanted. Harry was exceptionally glad that Hermione didn't stay angry at Ron, as he felt very sorry for his best friend now. Hermione seemed to realise how hard things were for Ron, and to cheer him up, she let him beat her spectacularly at wizard's chess. Ron felt a little better after this, and for once, he managed to sit and talk without snapping at somebody.
Things were very strained at breakfast. Ron wasn't talking to Ginny or Draco, and they were ignoring him just as fiercely. Neville, Luna and Kainda had no idea of what had happened the night before, and most unfairly Harry thought, everybody dumped the job of telling them on him. He explained briefly. Neville looked very shocked at the news, and even Kainda was taken aback, though Luna just smiled slowly.
"How sweet," she murmured. "Romeo and Juliet, ignoring the wishes of others, just to be together."
"Draco's hardly Romeo," said Kainda, smiling weakly. "And Ginny's not a Juliet. Who wants to take bets on how long it's going to last?"
"That's hardly fair," said Luna, serenely. "I think we should be happy that we now have three couples in our group. Only Neville and I remain single. Though who knows."
Neville edged away from her to hide behind Harry.
After breakfast, Draco went off into the grounds with his sketchpad. Ginny headed away to the library, probably to get out of the range of Ron's dark looks. Ron and Hermione headed back to Gryffindor Tower, with Neville in pursuit, and Luna pranced away to the Ravenclaw common room. Harry checked his watch, and saw that he didn't have long before the start of his lesson with Professor Lupin. Kainda, who had just come wheeling out of the Great Hall, saw the look on his face and came over.
"Harry? Something wrong?"
"Yeah... I've got an extra class," he said. "I don't really want to go though."
"Is it Potions? I heard somebody say you're doing remedial potions a while ago," she said, moving along beside him as he headed towards the Dark Arts classroom slowly.
He smiled. "Can you keep a secret?"
"Sure I can."
"I'm not," he said, smiling still. "That's just what I have to tell everybody. I do occlumency and legilimency. Mind stuff."
Kainda goggled at him. "Are you serious? Who with?"
"Snape," he replied.
"Oh, is that why... you've got your collar thing...?"
"No, that's something else."
"Tell me about it?"
He smiled. "It's... really, really, really complicated. And I'm willing to bet quite a lot of gold that you won't believe me."
"Oh, I've believed some garbage in my time. Does anybody else know about this really complicated stuff?"
"No. I've probably told you the most about it, when you were just leaving the hospital wing, last year. With all the Healers. Remember I told you that Dumbledore's told Snape and Peter to look after me?"
She nodded a little. "Vaguely. I wasn't exactly concentrating on remembering every word you said then though. How about we meet up after your lesson? We can talk more then."
"Sure," he said. "I'll come and find you... where will you be?"
"Probably the library, or the Great Hall," she said. She waved as she turned around, called goodbye, and then headed away back down the corridor. He quite wanted her to stay, at least so he could delay his killing lesson with Lupin, though he had to go. He knew it was important. Even if he didn't want to murder small creatures.
When Harry knocked on the door to Lupin's office, it opened almost immediately, though it wasn't Lupin who looked out at him. Madam Ivy, wearing a rather oriental red-dress and her hair up in sharp spikes, smiled down at him.
"Ah, hello Potter. You must be here to see Professor Lupin. He's through in his private rooms."
"Thanks, Madam," said Harry. She opened the door of the office, and let him in, leading him over to another door. She knocked three times, and Lupin's voice came drifting out.
"Harry Potter's here to see you, Professor," said Madam Ivy.
The door opened, and Lupin glanced out, looking rather peaky and pale. He gave Harry a kind smile. "Morning, Harry. How are you?" And the moment Harry stepped into his private rooms, he slammed the door in Madam Ivy's face.
"Fine," said Harry, trying not to smile too much. "Are you...?"
"Tired, but well," said Lupin, smiling wearily and sitting down in an armchair by the window, gesturing for Harry to sit.
As Harry sat down, he had a look around curiously. Lupin's private rooms were far, far different to Snape's. The walls were cream compared to the dark navy of Snape's chambers, and the floor was not stone but beige carpet. They probably had the same amount of furniture, though Lupin's seemed much more spread out and spacious. Harry felt a little more comforted by his surroundings. He knew that if he was learning how to kill in the dark of Snape's private rooms, he wouldn't be able to sleep properly for a month.
"How was your first week?" asked Lupin, kindly.
Harry smiled as he thought about this. "Eventful. And exhausting."
"You'll be glad to know today's lesson isn't going to be overly demanding then," said Lupin, with a small smile. "I'm just going to start teaching you a few extra curses you could use in a duelling situation. I understand that you are not looking forward to the prospect of killing something, and I can see why, so I'll teach you some curses to disable your opponent at first. We'll build up slowly, Harry."
Feeling encouraged by this news, Harry nodded. Lupin seemed ready to start. He stood up, shrugged off his work robes and hung them by the window, before taking out his wand, beckoning Harry over to a cleared space in the room.
"First things first, Harry. How to destroy an opponent's wand."
Several long hours later, Harry hobbled out of Lupin's room, nursing a small bruise forming on his hand and checking his wand for scratches. Not only had he learnt how to completely destroy an opponent's wand and protect himself from the surge of raw magic that would flood out of it, but how to perform an advanced bone-breaking curse, how to freeze a single muscle in the body rather than the full body bind, a piercing charm that could be extremely painful, and a nice selection of useful jinxes. Next lesson, Harry would be learning how to do incantations whilst running. It was good to know he wouldn't be murdering things right from the word 'go'.
When Harry entered the library, he found it fairly full. Nearly all the tables were full of students working through their start-of-term revision homework, and after a few minutes of checking, Harry realised that Kainda wasn't there. He left the library, and entered the Great Hall. A few people sat here and there, playing chess or talking. By far the most noticable pair in the hall sat over by the window, debating what looked like a music magazine. Professor Chetry was today wearing a rather grubby looking white shirt with a tartan waistcoat, trousers that looked more like pajama bottoms, and a little tartan golfing hat. A huge fluffy rainbow scarf was wrapped around his neck, and even though he was inside, a pair of star-shaped sunglasses were perched on top of his wild shock of multicoloured hair. Kainda sat opposite him. She wore a warm, dark-brown sort of sweater that was definitely more comfortable than it was eye-catching, but compared to Professor Chetry she looked amazingly sophisticated.
"Nae, nae," he was saying, richly, jabbing one pudgy finger at an article they were arguing over. "Ye have te listen te all kindsa varietiesa muggle music before ye can start sayin' tha' wizardin' stuff is better. Aye, I'm nae sayin' all muggle music is brilliant, but most of it does the job okay. Selestina Worbeck could take a few pointers from Celine Dion, lemme tell ye that."
"You've got to look at a wider scale though," Kainda said, wisely. "Yes, you've got Celine Dion, but then you've got people like The Cheeky Girls. And look at wizarding music, we've got The Weird Sisters, Selestina Worbeck..."
"Aye, but the muggles have got the Bay City Rollers," said Chetry, proudly, jabbing at one of the many badges on his scarf. "Now there is nae a single piece of music in the world tha's anywhere near as good as anythin' the Bay City Rollers can do."
Harry came over, and sat down at their table. Kainda looked up, and as she did, Harry realised that it was a wizarding magazine they had open. The title of the article was, "Muggle Records To Be Released To Wizarding Community : Take back your garbage, say The Weird Sisters".
"Hiya Harry," she said, smiling. "How was your lesson?"
"Fine," he said. "Easier than I thought it would be anyway."
"Great." She smiled to Professor Chetry. "I agreed to go for a walk with Harry, sir... you don't mind, do you? You can borrow the magazine if you want, by the way."
"Ach, thanks," he said, beaming. "Nae, I dunnae mind. Ye two go an' enjoy ye walk - dunnae be gettin' up te any mischief now, will ye?"
Kainda smiled politely. "No, no, we won't, Professor."
Harry took the handles of her wheelchair, and together, they left the hall. Professor Chetry went off the other way, singing a very tuneless version of Kylie Minogue's latest song and bouncing on the balls of his feet. Kainda laughed softly.
"He's mental," she said, shaking her head. "He's funny as hell in lessons, but he's mental."
"What are you doing in Muggle Studies at the moment?" Harry asked.
"Music," she replied. "Professor Chetry's a bit of an expert on it. He's sung in muggle karaoke bars and everything. Though he could really do with updating his tastes a little. The Bay City Rollers... honestly."
As they took a side-door out into the courtyard with the fountain, Harry was feeling a bit worried. He planned to tell Kainda everything, because as things became more and more dangerous and suspicious, he wanted somebody he could talk to about it. Somebody who he had never had a fight with, would believe every word, and wouldn't want to constantly know more information and use it as something to nag him about. The only person who really fitted all the criteria was Kainda, though it wasn't her reaction Harry was worried about. It was Snape's. Did Snape expect Harry to keep the secret of the bond forever?
Though as they stepped out into the courtyard, Harry realised that it wasn't the most private place to talk in, as he noticed Ron and Hermione sitting on a stone bench across the courtyard. He stopped, intending to turn around, but Ron had spotted him.
"Hey, Harry! Where have you been?"
"My extra lesson with Professor Lupin," said Harry. Deciding that he could always talk to Kainda in private later, he wheeled her carefully down the steps, over to join Ron and Hermione. Ron was looking quite cheerful, and Harry wasn't ungrateful for it. "I told you, remember?"
"Oh yeah," said Ron, nodding.
"So what have you two been doing?" asked Kainda, idly.
"Just sitting outside, getting my backside stuck to this bench," Ron shrugged. "There's nothing else to do. Done all my homework already. Don't know how I did it, but I did."
Ron and Hermione both moved up on the bench, letting Harry sit down. They then huddled together, like penguins in a blizzard, and Harry couldn't help but smile. It was good to be around people who weren't at each other's throats for once. He was just starting to wonder if he could possibly live the rest of his entire life like this, trotting faithfully between Ron and Draco, when a little voice spoke in the back of his head.
Harry nearly spoke aloud to reply, but caught himself just in time, and instead thought, "Professor?", as his three friends started discussing Professor Chetry's taste in music.
"Why, precisely, am I sitting here and getting the feeling you're doing something you shouldn't be?" Snape's voice said.
Harry tried to keep his expression blank, not wanting his company to think he was hallucinating. "I'm not," he thought, in as innocent a tone as he could. "I'm sitting in the courtyard with Ron, Hermione and Kainda."
"Just talking," thought Harry.
Harry had trouble controlling both his face and his thoughts, before thinking, calmly, "Professor Chetry."
"And what are you, or were you, planning to do after this conversation?"
"Do you want for the next week, or month, or my whole lifetime, or what...?"
"Do not take that tone with me. I mean short-term, Potter."
Harry twitched a little. "I sort of want to tell them."
"What about?" Snape's voice said sharply in his mind.
"The bond," Harry thought.
He quite expected a very sharp and impatient no, or for Snape to perhaps even shout at him across their telepathy, but Snape managed to surprise him. He didn't say yes, though very significantly, he didn't say no. "Who are you planning upon telling, and for what reasons?"
"Ron, Hermione, Kainda. Because of extra safety. If I'm ever in big trouble, but you're ignoring me or busy or just think I'm being my usual risky self, they can run and get you. Or if I go missing and you can't find me, you can ask them. I'm protected by Ron's presence, after all, so both you and him are looking out for me. He should at least know." For extra measure, he added a very hopeful and pained, "Please...?"
"I can just imagine the puppy-eyed expression on your face, Potter." Snape sighed into his mind. "I regret having so much contact with you, now. You're learning how to argue logically. Though I must admit... very well. Though rest assured Potter, if word gets out, it will be you running around the school performing memory charms, and not me."
Harry grinned. "Thanks," he thought, before subtly cutting off the link. He didn't know how he had done it, he just had. It was just like closing his eyes - he didn't need to be taught how.
Ron was in the middle of a long speech about a concert Fred and George went to once, when he cut off, seeing the smile on Harry's face. He frowned. "What are you grinning at?"
"You know ages and ages ago," said Harry, casting his mind back. "On that day that Kibbles set fire to the shed with the opsittops in. And we thought it was Death Eaters trying to kill Hagrid."
"Yeah..." said Ron, slowly.
"And Snape came running down from the castle, shouting at me. Then he pulled me away and put a collar on me, and then you asked what it was all about. I told you I couldn't say, and you asked if I would tell you someday."
Harry smiled. "It's someday. Come on, let's go for a walk. I can tell you everything."
"What, all of us?" said Ron, incredulously.
Harry nodded, and stood up, tucking his cloak further around himself. All three of them were watching him closely, clear surprise on their faces. He grinned at their expressions. "Come on, I bet you five chocolate frogs you won't be able to guess."
"That's three... four... and five." Ron handed over the last chocolate frog.
Harry smiled slightly. "Thanks. So was finding out worth them?"
Ron gave him an odd look, and raised one eyebrow. "Finding out that Snape's purpose in life is to guard you, that you actually quite enjoy his company, that Peeves the poltergeist is also obliged to give his life to protect you, and that you can actually talk to him telepathically?"
Harry had predicted their reactions to everything perfectly. Kainda found it pretty cool, and though she didn't ask questions, she clearly found the idea entertaining. Hermione, on the other hand, asked millions of questions, managed to work out hundreds of incidents that proved the existance of the bond, and then went off to the library, bringing back a great big book full of more information about wizarding bonds. Ron seemed just as curious as Hermione, though his questions weren't quite as technical.
"So... Snape can read your thoughts?" he asked, staring at Harry across the table at lunch.
"Only the ones I want him to," said Harry, pleasantly. The hall was relatively empty, as most people were still out in the grounds or in their common rooms, and so they could talk in peace. Only Ron and Harry were in for lunch today. Hermione was still in the library, now learning about the bond between twins, and Kainda had gone off to the common room to rest her stomach. Even though they were pretty much alone, Ron and Harry had purposely taken a table far across the hall from anybody else, and only Snape was sitting anywhere near them, twirling his fork through a plateful of salad.
"So it's not like... he's there, all the time, in your head," said Ron, oblivious to the fact he was just spooning soup onto his plate.
"No," said Harry, shaking his head. "The telepathic link isn't open all the time, just when I want it to. He can read my thoughts if we've got eye contact though."
"All your thoughts?" asked Ron, quickly.
"Just any I let him see," said Harry, shrugging, stabbing a few chips with his fork. "I can block things out, because of my occlumency."
"So it's not like everything I tell you I'm also telling him."
"No," said Harry, shaking his head reassuringly. "Even if he finds anything out, he's not allowed to tell another person. The bond says he's got to protect my secrets as well as my safety. And I'm not allowed to spread his secrets either," he added, seeing the eager look on Ron's face, which promptly died.
"Oh, why?" said Ron, disappointedly.
"I respect the bond now," said Harry. "I know how important it all is. It's not like he's got many weird secrets though... he's just your average Potions master..."
Ron studied Snape for a moment, with a suspicious expression, one eyebrow raised, almost looking thoughtfully. "Oh, I think Snape's probably got at least one dark secret. Something that's really, really terrible. Something worse than being an ex-Death Eater, because if he's admitted that to most people, then he must have something even worse lined up. Maybe we'll never know. But I can guarantee you that deep down, there's something horrible following that guy around."
The funny thing was, that as Harry and Ron heard the bell, picked up their things and hurried off to go and meet Hagrid down by his hut, Harry forgot all about what Ron had said. The words were simply stored in a little box in his brain labled, "Ron's Paranoid Theories About Snape", and then left alone in a dusty corner somewhere, next to all the things Hermione told him about Hogwarts: A History, Snape's constant warnings about him being just a sixteen-year-old boy and not fit to fight Voldemort, and the photographs of Mrs Figg's cats. And while the other three were never used ever again, the box about Ron was opened again, two weeks later, as Harry found out that Ron was actually right.
Hagrid's dragons had now been at Hogwarts for two weeks. All three of them were male, huge, scaly and terrifying to be watched by when you were trying to join in with Care of Magical Creatures. Luckily, they had been trained not to attack students or buildings, and so they just roamed around Hogwarts rather randomly, like monstrous peacocks at a stately home. And every weekend after his lesson with Professor Lupin, Harry went down to Hagrid's hut to help out with food and bedding for the rest of the week. This typically took hours and hours, and was the reason that Harry was found staggering up the wet lawns to the castle at about nine o' clock at night, three weeks into September.
Having been slicing up cow carcasses all afternoon, his hands were aching, he was covered in stains, and all he wanted to do now was stagger into Gryffindor Tower, have a hot bath, then go to bed. He would finish all of his homework tomorrow. His NEWT projects were all going well, and he was actually ahead of schedule. Hermione hadn't caught up on him in Defence Against The Dark Arts or Potions yet, and though he didn't mention it to her, he thought of this as one of his greatest achievements to date. Hermione also seemed more comfortable helping Ron with work now where he needed it, as he was prepared to do most of it himself, and as far as Harry could see, their relationship was going pretty well. He often saw them as a little like Arthur and Molly Weasley, a couple that despite all their little fights were still perfectly happy together. Harry was, of course, spending some time each day with Kainda too, though he was careful to not neglect his studies. His NEWT year was easily his most important yet, and he was determined not to mess up at the final hurdle. Kainda thought the same way too. A few days ago, he'd set out an evening he would spend with her, ignoring his homework for once, and as they sat in one of the window-bays in the library, talking quietly, he couldn't help but wonder how things would have turned out if he was still with Cho. She had left Hogwarts now, and from what he'd last heard, was working at Madam Malkin's. He didn't quite know how things would have been if they'd still been together. Though one thing was for sure; he wouldn't have traded the casual, easy relationship he had with Kainda for the world.
One couple who were receiving a great deal of attention now were Draco and Ginny. Word had spread that they were a couple, and Draco was the talk of the school. Harry thought he had gone the wrong way about things, by not letting the veela scandal die down before starting his next one. Of course, Harry was still friends with Draco and Ginny, and shared his time equally between every single one of his friends, even if it did get a bit hectic sometimes. Harry did notice that Draco was rather enjoying all of the attention. He went to great lengths for public displays of affection with Ginny, most of them when Ron was around. Though once or twice, when Ron stormed out of the room in a rage at seeing Ginny cuddling up to Draco yet again, Harry was sure he could see a flash of a triumphant smirk on Draco's face, before it was gone.
He thought about all of this as he made his way wearily up the stone steps of the castle, noticing how his shoes squelched on every step, and still dreaming about the bath waiting for him in Gryffindor Tower. He knew that Hermione often left some of her beauty products in the Gryffindor bathrooms, and secretly, he'd tried a few of some odd bath crystals she had. Very interesting bath crystals they were too, and as he passed through into the entrance hall, he was hoping she had left them out.
It was very dark in the hall, though he hardly noticed this, caught up in his thoughts. So caught up in fact that he didn't notice the shape lying in the middle of the floor until he caught it with his foot, and almost fell over.
"Hey!" he said, stepping back, regaining his balance, thinking it was a cat. "Shoo, go back to your owner!"
The shape did not move. Frowning suspiciously, Harry reached into the pocket of his robes, and drew out his wand.
"Lumos," he murmured. The little beam of light glowed from the end of his wand, just enough for him to realise what it was lying in the middle of the entrance hall. When he did, his mouth fell open in a silent scream, and his wand clattered to the floor.
It was not an animal as he had first thought, but a person. A third year boy Harry recognised as being in Gryffindor was just lying there on his back, eyes shut, looking very pale and still. In the light of the fallen wand, Harry could still see the wounds on his neck. It looked as though something had bitten him there, and actually torn the skin. Blood was leaking in a slow pool around the boy.
Panic and horror rushed through Harry. For a moment, he stood frozen to the spot, just staring at the boy's silent face, before he realised he had to do something. But what? He debated with himself for a moment whether he could carry the boy to the hospital wing, or maybe even drag him, but he hadn't even started to polish his plan when the doors of the library swung open. A figure strolled out, her arms full of books, high-heels clicking on the marble floor.
It was Madam Ivy. She took a few steps closer, frowning, her scarlet eyes sweeping over the figure on the floor.
"What...?" she began, before she realised just what. Her eyes widened behind her rectangular glasses, and her mouth fell open just a tiny fraction. "Potter, did you - "
"No!" said Harry. "Of course I didn't! I just walked in and found him here, he was just lying there, just now!"
She reached out, and grabbed one of the torches from its bracket, placing her books down on the shelf, then hurrying over. Harry took his wand and tapped the torch. It lit and the glow of the flames filled the entire hall, as Madam Ivy knelt down next to the boy, studying his face, tilting his head up to reveal his bites.
"But..." she murmured. "How could there possibly be...?"
Abandoning her thoughts, she handed Harry the torch. "Potter, take this. We'll have to carry him to the hospital wing for the matron to deal with. Make sure you keep your eyes open and your wand out, just in case - "
"What's going on here?" said a cold voice, as another figure swept up from the dungeons. Snape stepped into the circle of light, frowning, his dark eyes training onto the boy lying on the floor. Harry noticed he looked a little dishevelled and paler than normal.
"Professor Snape," said Madam Ivy, standing up. "Potter just found the boy lying on the floor. He has some nasty injuries to his neck. We'll need your help to get him to the hospital wing... I believe he's a Gryffindor, so Minerva should be informed."
Snape swept over. He bent down next to the Gryffindor, and like Madam Ivy, he studied the bitemarks closely. Though there was an expression on Snape's face that Madam Ivy had not worn - Harry wasn't quite sure what it was. He looked almost pained, as though there was something deeply suspicious and worrying about the boy.
"Mm," he murmured, quietly. "Very well. Potter and I will be able to carry him to the hospital wing, Madam, I suggest you go and alert Minerva to what has happened. Potter, take his legs, carefully."
Harry quickly performed a levitating charm on the torch, then bent down and grasped the boy by the backs of his knees. Snape had him under the arms, holding him half-way down his back. Madam Ivy was hurrying away up the marble staircase, her long crimson cloak trailing along behind her across the floor.
"On three," said Snape, gruffly. "One. Two. Three!"
Harry lifted upwards, and between them, they managed to hoist the boy off the ground and start to carry him towards the hospital wing. It was easy to see where they went, by the trail of blood drops left along the floor. Snape was still wearing that strange expression. Finally, when Harry's arms were just starting to strain against the boy's weight, they were outside the doors of the hospital wing. Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey were already waiting there. The moment Snape and Harry approached, they pushed open the doors, and Madam Pomfrey guided them to place the boy on one of the beds.
"Gareth Jones," said Professor McGonagall, quietly, leaning over him and studying his wounds. "Third year... though why was he out at night, alone? Ah." She had opened up the pockets of his robes, and extracted quite a collection of food. "Sneaking to the kitchens for snacks."
"My goodness," Madam Pomfrey whispered. "The wounds... but... they can't be, can they? How on earth did one get into Hogwarts?"
McGonagall was frowning darkly. "I don't know, Poppy. I don't know. There aren't any children with such blood at Hogwarts at the moment, and I can't imagine one roaming about the grounds then just sneaking in."
"What is it?" asked Harry, tentatively. "What's bitten him?"
McGonagall sighed, and turned her eyes onto Harry, indicating the wounds to him. "These sort of bites are distinctive of only one creature in this world, Potter. The vampire." She turned to Snape. "Severus, the castle will need to be searched, in case the attacker is still lingering in the dungeons anywhere. Could you attend to that? Wake the other teachers, and make sure they search in groups. Safety in numbers. Potter, I shall escort you back to Gryffindor Tower."
Snape nodded, and before turning to leave, he glanced at Harry. His mind's voice filled Harry's thoughts for a moment or so. "Come to my office tomorrow night at seven o' clock."
Harry gave the merest hint of a nod to show he understood, before his magical guardian left, and McGonagall was leading him out of the room. Harry took a last glance back at Gareth Jones, Madam Pomfrey bending over him and daubing some odd liquid on his bites, and he remembered that dark figure from a few weeks ago. Was that what had attacked Gareth? And if so, where was it now?
Most oddly for Hogwarts, the news of what had happened to Gareth Jones didn't get out at all. The next day, everybody went about their business as usual, finishing homework, playing games, walking around the grounds talking and laughing. Gareth Jones's disappearance was noted in Gryffindor Tower, but everybody said he'd been looking ill for a few days and so nobody found it suspicious at all. At the end of the evening meal, Harry went to ask Professor McGonagall if they had found the vampire, though she said no, and that it was probably one that had crept in from the forest, seen Gareth, bitten him and fled. Harry didn't tell her about the figure in the cloak he had seen a few weeks ago. He couldn't bring himself to shatter the safety inside the castle for another year, though he didn't think this was a one-off attack at all. Nothing strange that happened at Hogwarts ever went by without an explanation.
Explanations were a thing that Harry quite wanted. He hardly knew anything about vampires. Anything living in the wizarding world could be classified as beast, being, or spirit. Werewolves were beasts, veela were generally seen as beasts, mermaids and centaurs were beasts, though vampires were beings the world over. Consequently, Harry had never learnt about vampires in Defence Against the Dark Arts or Care of Magical Creatures. The subject had been brushed upon in his first year, when Professor Quirrel stammered his way through an explanation about the black forest, though that was it. Harry's only other sources of information were the countless muggle films that Dudley received for Christmas and birthdays. He'd gone through a period of liking horror films, and watched a lot of vampire movies, which portrayed the usual drinking blood, turning people into other vampires, and so forth. If the muggle perception was accurate, Gareth Jones would now be a vampire. Then again, muggles thought that gnomes carried fishing rods and lived in toadstools. That was muggles for you.
After dinner, Ron and Hermione went off to Gryffindor Tower to play chess. Harry glanced at his watch, and saw that it was nearly half past six. In half an hour, he was due in Snape's office, probably for a DMT lesson or something like that. He decided to go to the library for half an hour, and as the library was fairly close to the dungeons, he was sure he wouldn't be late.
It was fairly empty as he walked in, except for a few first years in the corner debating in whispers and giggles, and curled in an armchair next to the fire was Madam Ivy. Harry wondered for a moment why she didn't read in her own rooms, before realising she probably wasn't welcome around the Dark Arts corridor. Lupin would have staked his territory firmly. As Harry passed her, he glanced at the huge stack of books on the coffee table in front of her, registering a few titles that were mostly about famous wizards through history. Madam Ivy didn't notice him.
Harry quietly slid into the restricted section; he was sure to get better information about vampires in there. Madam Pince was after him in a heartbeat.
"And who has given you permission to come into this section?" she demanded, bearing down on him like a vulture with a half-dead rabbit.
He took a slip of paper out of his pocket, the one that Professor Snape had given every NEWT Potions student. "Snape," said Harry, coolly.
Madam Pince frowned at him, her eyes narrowed, as though reluctant to accept his excuse, though she had to let him pass. She turned, and stalked away down the aisles of books, leaving Harry on his own. Idly, he started to look through the various shelves. Most of the books in the restricted section were very sinister to look at, covered in suspicious red stains, many of them with deep slashes across the spines, a few burnt here and there. Harry cast his eyes around, looking for anything about vampires, though another word caught his eye. He paused and studied the shelf before him closer. It was a moment before he realised what he had recognised, and when he did, he extended a hand and slid one of the leather-bound black books from the bookcase. He turned it over. Verin Maleficia's pale, swarthy face smirked out at him, and then he took the feathered cap from his head, bowing. Harry studied the title of the book - "A Summary of Black Blooded Beings". Wondering if it could help him at all, Harry sat down at a nearby table and flipped the book open, scanning the contents page. Luckily enough, there at the bottom he found what he was looking for: vampires, on page 156.
He flicked through the book, noting the faint smell of smoke that it gave off, until page 156 flopped open before him. He grimaced a little at the picture which greeted him, a vampire taking blood from what Verin Maleficia had described as a "donor", but Harry thought of more as a "victim". He turned the page, and scanned through a list of helpful summary points.
VAMPIRES : Vampire gene passed on through blood, not biting another : Blood Night is time of first taking blood : Enhanced physical strength : Enhanced senses, can lead to problems with light and temperature : Must drink blood to survive : Similar lifespan to wizards, 200-220 years
Harry noted all this down in his memory. It all seemed to make decent sense, and he could see things that had been adapted into muggle folklore. Obviously, the muggles would have noticed a very strong person that didn't like light and lived longer than most people remembered. Idly, Harry flicked over the page, and found another of Verin Maleficia's charming little drawings. This time, it was a child vampire, a boy with messy brown hair, taking blood from what was probably his father. Harry had to take a second look at the picture. The father didn't seem to be in any pain, and the boy certainly didn't look malicious at all.
He scanned through the text, his eyes naturally picking out phrases that were important or interesting; "Drinking blood requires a willing donor, contrary to muggle fiction"; "Human blood is most beneficial to the vampire, though animal can be used instead to satisfy cravings"; "Families of vampires often share blood with one another and the condition is certainly not an affliction".
Harry read on for a little while, letting his eyes wander vaguely across the page and not really taking any of it in. Only when Madam Pince came stalking over to ask what he was doing in the restricted section so long did he decide to go. He was a few minutes early, but it was better than being late. He put the book back on the shelf, and left the library, passing Madam Ivy on his way out. She didn't notice him.
He pulled his cloak around himself as he entered the dungeons and made his way around the cold, dark corridors. He sincerely hoped that somebody had actually checked the dungeons for any hints of a vampire. He knew that if he was a vampire, sensitive to light and heat and looking for somewhere to hide, it would be the perfect place. Though luckily, he made his way to Snape's chambers without seeing any cloaked figures or bodies pooled in blood. He lifted his hand, and only managed to knock once on the door before it swung open and he was hauled in.
"How exactly do you know when I'm outside?" Harry asked, as Snape shut the door after him quickly.
"I know from the moment you step into the dungeons and breach my wards," said Snape, calmly. "Sit down then, Potter, make yourself at home."
Harry sat in his usual armchair, took off his cloak, and handed it to Snape. The Potions master hung it carefully on the wall by the door, as Harry asked, "So how come you wanted to see me? I don't have DMT on a Sunday now, do I?"
"No, you don't," said Snape. He moved out of sight behind Harry's chair, and apparently started making drinks. He didn't answer the first question.
A few moments later, he reappeared, and handed Harry a cup of tea. Harry took it with a smile, which was not returned. Snape looked oddly edgy as he sat down in front of Harry in another armchair, and he didn't sink into it as usual, proclaiming his territory. He sat on it as though he was waiting for something that would be arriving very soon. Harry had spend enough time around Snape out of lessons to know what that odd posture meant; Snape was about to do or say something important, and didn't know how to go about it.
The Potions master stood up just a few seconds after he had sat down, and walked around to the back of his chair, toying with his chin. Harry was starting to get rather nervous himself now, watching Snape behave so oddly.
"The attack, Potter. On the Gryffindor. Last night."
Harry looked up from his tea, watching Snape pace agitatedly across the room. "You mean Gareth? What about him?"
Snape looked even more agitated. A lock of sleek black hair fell in front of his eyes as he turned on his heel to retrace his path. He frowned, pushed it back irritably, and continued. "It was you who found him first?"
Harry nodded, wordlessly. Snape retraced his steps across the room yet again. He seemed to need something to do with his hands, as they kept alternating between scooping his hair off his face and knotting behind his back.
"In the entrance hall...?"
"Well, yes... just at the bottom of the marble staircase."
Snape's hand seemed to feather slightly as it raked his hair out of his eyes again. "Mm. Close, very close. Though I don't see-... I can't..." He sighed. Pausing in his anxious pacing, he turned to face Harry, curling his fingers fretfully around the back of the armchair. "Potter, there is something you must know. Something that I NEED you to know; for my own good, for your own good, for the well-being of the rest of the school."
Harry watched his hand restlessly push another lock of hair behind his ear. It was only then that Harry realised something that in normal circumstances would have advertised to him immediately - Snape's hair was not greasy and limp as usual, but sleek and almost shiny. In fact, Snape just looked different in general. His skin, though still waxy white, did not look greasy and sallow anymore. A few wrinkles about his eyes had seemingly vanished, and suddenly, Snape had cheekbones too. What was going on?
"I-... my family, Potter... something less than admirable has been passed down through the male family line, and... it has never been a problem before, though-..."
Harry's mind floated dimly back to Grimmauld Place, and gazing down at Snape's family tree. The male line. Tracing Snape back through fathers, each man marked with a black B and a date.
Harry was very quiet. He looked up at Snape, and subconsciously, his muscles were already tensing.
"B doesn't stand for birth date on your family tree, does it?" Harry said, his voice little more than a whisper.
Snape shook his head wordlessly.
There was silence for a moment, then Harry asked, quietly, even though he already knew what the answer must be. "Then what does...?"
"Blood Night," Snape murmured.
Harry's armchair hit the floor, he got up so quickly, and the cup of tea shattered as it fell. Before Snape could stop him, Harry bolted for the door. He had to get out. Desperately, he grabbed at the handle and tugged frantically, pleading with it to open, but then cold fingers twisted around his wrist. With un-natural strength that Harry now understood, he was turned around and both his wrists were pinned against the door. Harry tensed and shrunk back.
"Don't!!" he cried. His shoulders hunched up, trying to protect his neck. "Please...!!"
Snape made a quiet noise, and said, seriously, "I can't, Harry, listen to me. I need you to calm down."
"Let me go," Harry pleaded, desperately, trying to pull away, struggling against Snape's iron grip. "The b-bond... you can't, it won't let you, leave me alone...!"
"Harry," said Snape, his grip tightening on Harry's wrists. "I'm not going to bite you. I wouldn't be able to. And nor would I want to."
"Because you know I'll tell them," said Harry, frantically. "I'll go right to Dumbledore, and I'll tell him what attacked Gareth! It was you! That's why you were there so quickly when me and Madam Ivy found him!"
"I did not attack that boy," Snape said, dangerously serious. "I have never taken blood from a human, never. Please listen to me, Harry. There is not a single person alive in this world that knows about my... condition..."
"Then why are you telling me?" said Harry, looking up at him, confused and afraid.
Snape studied him for a moment, before letting go of Harry's wrists. "Take a seat," he said, rather gently, leading Harry over to the armchair again and lifting it back up off the floor. "This could take a while to explain."
Harry sunk into the armchair numbly. Snape managed to fix the tea-cup and clean up the spillage with a wave of his wand, then dragged his own chair closer and sat in front of Harry. Harry looked back at him, unsure of what to think any more.
"Before I say another word, I need you to believe and trust me when I tell you that I did not attack that boy. I have never taken human blood before, and I assure you that if I want to, I'm not going to stalk Hogwarts students."
Harry looked down at his hands, and then back up at his guardian. He saw truth in Snape's eyes, and Harry could say that now he'd grown up and was wiser about the world, he trusted his instincts. His instincts said that Snape would never give up his dignity and attack a student, no matter how hungry he was. He didn't need to even tell Snape he believed him. The professor just knew. They sat quietly for a moment, before Harry asked, "So... what do you need help with?"
"There's a responsibility I want you to undertake," said Snape. He looked a great deal more like his usual calm, logical self now that Harry believed him. "For seventeen years, I've been making sure you do nothing dangerous. I'm calling in the favour." He reached into his pocket, and extracted two thin silver chains, each with a dog tag. Harry sat calmly as Snape moved forward into his chair, and after a moment of working at the clasp, removed Harry's hated collar. Snape had put it on the night before they came back to Hogwarts, and Harry hadn't realised just how much he hated it until it was off, and Snape had put it away in his pocket.
"I decided that collars are perhaps a little primitive and impractical," said Snape, idly, as he looped the chain around Harry's neck.
"You mean, you don't want to wear one but know I'll get sulky if I still have to," said Harry, with a smile.
Snape's lips curled into a smile for a moment, before he managed to fight it away. "Of course not, Potter, don't be so ridiculous. Though if you still want your collar, just say the word and I'll put it back on, especially tight."
"No, that's okay. So how come you've got one too now?"
Snape handed the other chain to Harry. Harry put it around his neck as he answered. "The main reason my condition hasn't been a problem for these years is because there's nothing around to remind me of it. Though after that attack, it's going to be on my mind for at least a few weeks. The chain is just a precaution, in case I do something dangerous that I shouldn't. You'll know if I do, and you can use the same method of shocks as I still have to use on you sometimes. Though please remember," he said, seeing the look on Harry's face, "that if you decided to shock me awake in the middle of the night I will not be pleased."
"I'll remember that," said Harry. He looked down at his new chain, and studied the dog-tag for a moment, tracing his fingers over the metal. "Um... Professor?"
"Can I... ask some questions?"
"You may. Whether I answer them or not remains to be seen."
"How long have you been a vampire?" asked Harry, looking up at him curiously.
"Forever," said Snape. "I was born this way. You saw for yourself on my family tree... the blood has been passed down through the male line of my family, though it will die with me - the last Snape."
"And you had your Blood Night when you were fifteen. But didn't you drink blood before then? How come you didn't need it?" Harry asked, puzzled.
Snape smiled. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you've been researching this, Potter. A vampire only starts relying on blood to survive after their Blood Night, though the later the first time is done, the more frequently the vampire will need blood in later life. If a baby is given blood at just a few hours old, they will only need to drink it every few months, though if the process is left to around the age of twenty, a vampire could need feeding every day."
"Twice a month."
"But you don't... not a human... so what do...?"
"That does not matter," said Snape, calmly.
Harry got the message that the question would not be answered, and so asked another. "What else can you do? I mean like... special powers? Can you turn into a bat?"
Snape smirked at that. "Muggle rumour, Potter, started by one of my ancestors. He was an animagus, a bat, and made the mistake of transforming in front of a muggle, who promptly told everybody else." He sat back in his chair. "I have better senses than most people, and an extra sense that cats also have. A cross between taste and smell, on the roof of my mouth behind the fangs, and - "
"But you don't have fangs," said Harry. "I've seen your teeth before, and they're pretty normal."
Snape curled back his upper lip, and Harry's mouth fell as the Potions master's canines lengthened before his eyes, becoming sharper, inching over his lower lip. Snape shut his mouth and smirked again. As he talked, Harry could see that his teeth had returned to normal. "They evolved to be retractable centuries ago. No doubt they were such an inconvenience before that somebody changed them, rather wisely. Other powers... greatly increased physical strength, for one. Stealth, for another. And though it isn't exactly a power, sensitivity to light and heat."
Harry nodded. He wasn't sure why he didn't feel scared of Snape. After all, he'd just discovered the man he was supposed to trust with his life was actually a vampire, and the idea of vampires scared most people senseless. Perhaps it was that Snape just looked different to the vampires Harry had seen face-to-face, the ones Voldemort had brought to the siege. Harry glanced at Snape, remembering something, and eyeing his hair, wondering if he dared to ask why he suddenly looked so...
"... much better than normal?" said Snape. Harry jolted, realising that he'd had his mind wide open, and Snape had been following his train of thought. He grinned apologetically, though Snape wasn't offended. "I always do after feeding," he shrugged.
"After feeding?" said Harry, looking at him swiftly.
"Ah, yes... well, Potter, I hate to inform you, but you weren't the first person to find Gareth Jones. I was."
"And you... you fed from...?"
"No. I panicked."
Harry, who couldn't quite imagine Snape panicking but let it pass, gave him a prompting look to continue.
"I recognised it as a vampire attack the moment I saw him," said Snape, idly, as though they were discussing the weather. "If there is one thing that scares a vampire, it is another vampire. We are naturally territorial, as werewolves are. If another werewolf arrived at Hogwarts, Remus Lupin would know about it immediately and one of them would most probably end up dead within weeks. Vampires are a little more tolerant though. Yet the idea of another vampire lurking around in the entrance hall conjured some... unpleasant memories for me. I went back to my chambers, and tried to pretend I hadn't seen anything. I fed. Then when I heard the commotion in the entrance hall, I came to investigate."
Harry was quiet, thinking of something. Seeing Professor Lupin in such an uncharacteristic moment of anger, at something as simple as a few hairs in his office.
Snape noticed Harry's silence, and said, "Problem, Potter?"
"Professor Lupin doesn't like Madam Ivy," said Harry, glancing up at him.
"Very few people are trustworthy of new staff who come to Hogwarts with a recommendation by Cornelius Fudge," said Snape. "Particularly Lupin."
"But Alrister hates Fudge," said Harry. "And he's alright with Madam Ivy. You don't think... she's a werewolf, do you?"
"She isn't," said Snape, shaking his head. "Nor is she a vampire, before you suggest it. Madam Ivy is human."
"How do you know?" asked Harry.
"She smells as vile as all the others," said Snape, with a little smirk.
Harry wasn't quite sure whether to be insulted or not. "So you can tell what somebody is? Did you know about Draco?"
"I did," said Snape, calmly.
"Why didn't you know what Lupin was? You only found out in their fifth year."
Snape was quiet for a moment, before he said, calmly, "At the age of eleven, I realised from the first time I came across him that Remus Lupin was not human. Though I had never smelt anything apart from human and vampire. Naturally, I thought he was a vampire. I made the mistake of following him around to try and find out if he was indeed a vampire, though Potter took a dislike to me and fended me off."
"Sorry about that," said Harry, apologetically.
Snape gave a soft huff of laughter. "I gave up making you pay for your father's crimes last year. There is no need to apologise."
"When did you actually first meet my dad?" asked Harry, realising he'd never asked this. "And how come you hated each other? I mean... one of you must have done something to the other."
"Hatred never requires a reason," said Snape, wisely. "The smallest thing, such as the way somebody looks or speaks, can prompt a lifelong loathing on both parts. Your father was suspicious and wary of me ever since our first train journey to Hogwarts. He already had a multitude of friends, right from the start, while I had nobody."
"What about Lucius Malfoy?" asked Harry.
"Malfoy had better things to do than entertain me," said Snape, with a small smile. "Chasing females, for one. Like father like son." He glanced at the clock on the wall, and said, "It's getting late, Potter. I shall escort you back to your dormitory now, if you don't mind. DMT lesson, tomorrow."
"What are we doing?" Harry asked, as he stood up and pulled his cloak back on.
"Manipulation of the senses."
"Wow, that sounds fascinating."
"Did my ears deceive me, Potter, or was that your first successful use of sarcasm?"
"Did my ears deceive me, Sir, or was that a pretty rubbish attempt at humour?"
Snape smirked, clipped him around the ear, rather gently it had to be said, and lead him out of the office.
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