Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling. I'm just messing with her characters.

Summary: All the First Year students have been told that a certain Potions Master is a Vampire but only three students are willing to venture into Severus Snape's private chambers. Entry in the 2009 Potions and Snitches Challenge Fest. In response to the On a Halloween Night Challenge by Missy Eye.

The Photograph

"Hermione," hissed Ron, his gaze switching pointedly between the person in question and the head table.

Hermione rolled her eyes with a huff, and had the puffed up appearance she always exhibited before a great harangue.

Harry, on the other hand, kept his eyes affixed the suddenly fascinating marmalade on his toast, attempting with all his might to not enter his friends' third argument that week.

No matter how engrossing the marmalade was, though, Harry couldn't help but to hear.

"Really, Hermione. I'm telling you – Fred is right! Look, he's not touching the food, only that mug he seems so attached to! I wonder what's in there, do you think it's—"

"No! Honestly, why do you believe anything that comes out of your brothers' mouth? After that incident with the Hufflepuff before Charms last week-"

"-And have you noticed the way he looks? All pasty and gross, I've never actually seen him in the sunlight! I bet that's why he stays down in the –"

"And I feel that you should know by now that guillibiliity is not a trait well suited to the magic world! If you'd only paid attention yesterday in History, Gibby the Gullible's great war-"

"Guys?" Harry entered unwillingly, "I think it's time for class."

Ron and Hermione looked up with a great deal of shock, each interrupting their own monologue, and realized that the Great Hall was nearly cleared and their third friend was nowhere to be found.

Still Breakfast:

"More toast, Severus?"
Snape recoiled from his plate as Albus placed a stack of very liberally buttered toast on his plate. The man's eyes twinkled, and his beard carried a myriad of crumbs; altogether he looked far too cheerful for the ungodly hour.

The dour professor picked up his mug once more, only to nearly spit out its contents.

"What is this, Albus!?"

"Just a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down," hummed his mentor.

Snape sighed, cleared the foul defilement of well brewed Arabica beans, and poured himself another mug's worth, clear of any cloying accoutrements

"My dear boy, you should know that rumors are circulating among the students-"

"Since when have I given a crap about those –"

McGonagall looked quite ruffled by Snape's brusque language, and went back to her full Scottish breakfast, ignoring Snape with a certain amount of the necessary righteousness that comes along with being spoken to in such a way.

Even through the sleepy blur in his eyes, and the fog on his mind, Snape couldn't help but to notice the youngest red head staring at him with wide eyes.

"Commendable work, Mr. Malfoy. Continue as you are," praised the potions master.

Harry frowned into the soupy mixture he was stirring, which was excreting a rather floral scent. Had he added too many sea salt rocks? Perhaps too few macerated fig leaves. Ron had distracted him earlier when he'd raised his burner to the highest level and nearly caught Harry's book bag on fire, and Hermione said he'd probably missed adding the hippogriff egg at the right moment.

Harry felt a shadow loom over him, and looked up to see Snape crooked over his cauldron like a shepherd's cane.

"Mr. Potter," Harry never knew his name could be said with such derision, and he grew up with Vernon Dursley, "once more, you've taken my class to be a showroom in which to show off your ineptitude."

Harry gritted his teeth, and looked down to dice celery root. He would not pay attention to Snape. He would not pay attention to Snape. He would not pay attention.

Upon the addition of the root (which was rather sloppily diced, considering Harry's hands were shaking) the potion turned a more acceptable color, and nearly matched the hue of Hermione's teal goop.

Snape still sneered though, and continued, now addressing the Slytherin side of the classroom. "Take this as a chance, students, to find the answer for an age old argument. As clearly exhibited in Mr. Potter here, nature will always superimpose itself on nurture. You may be spoiled and given the greatest advantages, but somehow your father's arrogance and stupidity will manifest itself in you." Half of the room cackled, and Malfoy even pretended to take notes.

Harry was now gritting his teeth so hard that his whole face ached, and he kept his face down, stirring his nearly-acceptable potion with trembling hands.

The professor turned around, and his foot shot out, knocking over Harry's cauldron. Snape quickly evanescoed the mess away, and smirked at Harry. "Ten points from Gryffindor for failure to follow simple lab procedures and place your cauldron on a steady flame base," he drawled.

When the bell had finally rang, and Harry had grabbed his bag with alacrity, Snape motioned him to his desk. "Zero for class today, Potter. You failed to turn in your potion."

Harry left so quickly that he failed to see the potion master's parting sneer.

"Hermione, you have to listen to me! Look at him; he looks as though he's going to eat Professor McGonagall!" Ron forced this all through a mouth full of mash and sausage.

Hermione wrinkled her nose in distaste, but didn't have the chance to reply."

"Let's go see then," cut in Harry with unusual ire. Ron grinned at his friend; he knew he would back him up!

"What do you mean, 'let's go see'?" demanded Hermione with alarm.

"I mean," Harry began with slow deliberateness, "let's go find out for ourselves. If we can prove he's a vampire (he gave a look to Ron), then there is no way Dumbledore can keep him on staff!"

Ron grinned, "See, Hermione! I'm not the only one! Only today Seamus told me that he and Dean and Neville and Parvati and Ellen from Ravenclaw and Susan and-"

"I get the point," Hermione interjected rather testily, "everyone but me thinks that our potions professor is a rare dark creature. But there is no way we are going to go find out for ourselves! Honestly, Harry, where did you come up with such an idea?"

But Ron and Harry were already leaning into each other over Hermione's napkin-covered lap, planning the investigation.

Still Lunch:

"Professor Snape," McGonagall addressed him coldly, "I'm sure you have an extremely justified reason for why Gryffindor is forty points lower after only three sessions of class this morning?"

"Nothing out of the typical, simply your little lions (he here gave a great snort of derision to the transfiguration professor's affectionate title) acting on their usual impulses."

Hagrid, seated next to Snape in an unfortunate arrangement that was the result of a late arrival, emitted a burly chuckle and slapped Snape on the back, nearly forcing a head-on collision with a pitcher of pumpkin juice. "Those tykes," he rumbled in good nature, "quite the spirit!"

McGonagall had the audacity to smile, and she gave Snape's shoulder an affectionate pat. "Just work on curbing your own impulses, Severus."

Snape's eyes widened comically. He should have known any attempt to predict the austere woman's moods would end up in … whatever this was.

McGonagall returned to her light chat with Pomona, and left Snape glaring at the back of her head in hopes that his gaze could set fire to her tartan cap.

Hermione, now, was the one purposefully excluding herself from her friends' conversation. No matter how fascinating the theory behind Galblot's Law of Color Altering Spells was, Harry and Ron's plans were still more alluring.

"So tonight-"

"No Ron, not tonight, tomorrow night. Tomorrow is Halloween night; everyone will be at the feast."

"But we're invited to Sir Nicholas' Deathday Party!"

"Hermioooone," whined Ron, "you think that will be more fun?"

"It's okay Ron, I'll go by myself. Anyways, you're nearly too tall for the cloak now – a pair of trainers sneaking around would be a bit suspicious, y'know?"

Ron looked between Harry and Hermione, and saw the look of pure determination on Hermione's face. Something tugged inside of him, and he knew how he would have to answer. "Okay, I'll go to the Deathday Party. But you have to tell me everything that happens, 'kay?"

Harry nodded, and felt relieved. Although his original plan had been a prank, now he had remembered how much antisocial he generally felt on his parent's own deathday. Snape was always absent for the Halloween celebration, a peccadillo the students used to breed a rumor about dark rituals and potions. Harry, though, felt he was probably inside his chambers celebrating the day that Harry's own father had died, considering Snape seemed to abhor him almost as much as he abhorred Harry himself. It seemed appropriate that Harry would be there to watch, gather information about his parents that felt so much like strangers to him that it hurt, and see what the dour man would do.

Halloween evening saw the friends parting at the alcove beneath the stairs of the Great Hall, Hermione looking both thrilled (at the chance to see a ghost's party, a true educational experience) and frantic (that Harry was about to sneak into a professor's chamber). Ron didn't say too much, preferring to frown and look down, feeling altogether left out of an adventure.

"Now remember, Professor Snape usually leaves for his chamber around 6:15, do not go into the Great Hall, we told McGonagall you had a cold, and please, Harry, be careful!" Hermione whispered urgently, eyes flicking around as if the Hogwarts Handbook itself would appear and smack her over the head.

Ron spoke up, "Remember the garlic in your pockets, in case he finds you!" Ron looked suddenly stricken and excited at the thrilling thought of his friend being eaten by a vampire.

Harry nodded obediently, and donned the cloak, watching his friends leave for the party.

He stood, hidden under his father's cloak, next to the entrance for the Great Hall. More than once he'd felt his heart race at the creak of the doors opening, but it would be a nauseous student, a snogging couple, and even once Professor McGonagall pulling Fred and George by the ears.

Finally, at 6:17 (read his old watch that Dudley had smashed after missing his favorite cartoon) Snape came out of the hallway, followed by the swishing of his cloak and invisible Harry.

Harry followed the man through numerous twisting hallways, and descending stairs. Finally, they arrived at an empty wall. Snape pressed his hand into one of the stones, and whispered something that Harry couldn't catch. The wall trembled, and then a section morphed into a simple door that swung open. Harry scurried at the back of Snape's feet, holding his breath as the door closed. His mind trembled as the wall had, thinking of all the possibilities. He was sure Dumbledore wouldn't be mad at him for sneaking as long as he showed the Snape really was a vampire, right? At that point, all Harry really truly was considering was the past year and a half of tormenting and humiliation.

Earlier that day, when he'd had a study period after lunch, Harry had considered (in an introverted moment that he wouldn't dare to mention to Hermione, proving that she was right about 'need for reflection') why he was so bent on getting dirt on Snape. He had realized that without Snape, Hogwarts would be perfect. Okay, so there was a possessed professor every now and then, and Lockhart wasn't the most agreeable person he'd ever encountered, but altogether the school was ace compared to Privet drive.

Having spent the first eleven years of his life being ostracized, feeling like the freak, the only one who couldn't do things right, coming to Hogwarts had been like a warm cup of cocoa after a snowy romp. Hogwarts was exactly that, every time he remembered it he felt soothing warmth trickling down his stomach, putting him at ease. But then there was Snape. The one who embarrassed him, sought him out to show him how weird and inept he was. Hogwarts would be just perfect without him. He didn't want any reminder of the Dursleys in the one place he felt comfortable.

Snape's rooms were not nearly as gothic as Harry had imagined. The room was generally dark, with a solitary leather armchair near the hearth. But there were earth-toned rugs and tapestries saturated with color that made the room seem more … human.

Snape had grabbed something from on the mantle, a book of some kind, which he was flipping through with an ease born of familiarity. Harry crept forward, taking care with each step, until he could see the book. He almost gave himself away at that point.

In the book were photographs of people that looked all too familiar. One page held an old picture, of a girl and a boy. But the boy looked alarmingly like the Professor, and the girl - the girl was Harry's mother? She had a shock of red hair, nothing like the orange of the Weasley's. Her eyes were a green so familiar that Harry nearly choked, and she was smiling brightly at the boy. His mother and Snape?

Harry swore Snape muttered something, something that sounded frighteningly like "I miss you" before he had turned around and narrowed his eyes.

Harry knew it was coming, and he gave up on the garlic in his pockets. Even that wouldn't protect him against the man now.

His cloak was whipped off and was thrown to the ground. Snape's face contorted in a manner that made Harry amend his previous thought. This was more than abhorring him, or hating him. This was something further.

"What are you doing here, Potter?" Snape didn't yell or roar, but his voice was quiet as the smooth whisper the ghosts made when they floated through walls.

Harry's brain froze. He had an explanation, he knew he did, but all he could ask was, "Is that my mum?"

Another transformation overcame Snape, and he was now yelling. "Of all the things to do, Potter! You had to come in HERE, you had to ruin things! I don't know why you came to this school, but I know there will be no further instruction for you. Another Potter, arrogant, superior, who believes he's above all rules. Another one. What do you think of yourself, Potter, hm? Let me tell you, you are scum, scum just like your father."

And with that, Harry's daze at seeing a picture of his mum, his mum, vanished. He felt the ire from the potions classroom, from hundreds of classes and encounters swell in him. He was yelling back now.

"So I'm not wanted here too, huh? I HATE you Snape. Hogwarts would be great without you. This is the only good place. The ONLY one. It makes no sense!" And now Harry, to his great mortification, felt his eyes burn and his throat close, "IT MAKES NO SENSE. How come you got to know my mum? What did I do? You knew her, you, who hates everyone, treats everyone like the dung you stepped in, knew her.

Suddenly, Snape understood the change McGonagall had underwent when arguing with him earlier. The way she'd suddenly calmed, suddenly seemed to sympathize with him. He felt it now, and he reviled it. The small skinny boy in front of him was seething with abandonment and upset, and looked so familiar to the skinny boy in the pictures that Snape felt his hands shake. Here was Potter, son of his worst enemy, the one who'd taken his only friend, the only good thing in his life, away. And here he was, old and bitter and malevolent, identifying with him. He remembered what the boy had said (yelled more like), that this was the only good place, and he had ruined it. He had done what James Potter had done, bullied and stolen and hated.

They both stood on the rug, neither speaking. Harry was making an odd noise that Snape had heard before from homesick first years, and looking to the side stubbornly.

Harry looked back at Snape as he moved, and took something out of the book. "You are excused now, Potter," he said, and put a warm (not a Vampire) hand on Harry's neck, steering him to the wall-turned-door.

Before the door closed, he felt something being pressed into his hand, and looked up at Snape. Snape wasn't sneering, he wasn't grimacing or smirking. His face was as close to neutral, or nearly pleasant, that Harry had seen it before. His eyes seemed less haunting and more haunted.

The boy looked down to what was in his hand, and saw a photo. It was his mother, just his mother. She was wearing a green dress and smiling, looking as though she had stopped mid-twirl. Something twisted in Harry's stomach, and he placed the photograph in his pocket. The one that didn't carry garlic.

When he left to meet Ron and Hermione at the same alcove, he didn't say anything much. He told them that Snape wasn't a Vampire, and left it at that. Hermione quickly took over with tales of the unique habits of the dead, and Ron looked irritated that not only had he missed out on the adventure, but now wasn't even hearing about it.

They all headed towards the dormitory, Harry's hand reaching down every now and then to rub at the tip of the photograph which poked from his pocket.

Before they reached the dormitory, Ron let loose an expletive. "Blghhh," he groaned, lifting the hem of his pants by pinching at the fabric above his knees.

Harry looked down into the pool of murky water, barely listening as Hermione tread forward, listing the possible causes for the flood.

"It must be Moaning Myrtle, she gets upset at the smallest things. We'll have to tell the teachers, of course, so it can be fixed for school tomorrow."

When Hermione suddenly fell silent though, Harry looked up. Written on the wall in something red (was that blood?) were the words "The Chamber of Secrets has been opened. Enemies of the Heir, BEWARE." And below that hung Filch's cat, still as night.

A rush came behind them, as students filed in from the feast. Susan Bones gasped and pointed at Harry, who was standing dangerously close to the words. Rumors filled the hall as everyone saw the words, and saw Harry, standing so close looking so out of sorts.

"What is happening here?" demanded McGonagall as she charged through the crowd.

"Professor!" called out a particularly suspicious Ravenclaw, "Potter killed Filch's cat!"

McGonagall turned to Harrry, "Harry, is this true?"

Harry froze under the eyes of the majority of the school, and spluttered, "No – professor – it wasn't me – we just came up here and"

"He wasn't at the feast, Professor," declared Malfoy, who had elbowed his way to the forefront of the group.

"He was with me."

Harry whipped around, hand covering the precious paper in his pocket, and saw Snape there.

"He was serving detention with me. He released him only moments ago. Clearly Potter had neither the time nor the intelligence necessary to paint such words on the wall."

Harry felt a swoosh of relief, and attempted to thank Snape. He didn't manage for several moments, until most of the teachers had gathered to the side to speculate, and the students had done the same. Then finally, he attempted something near a smile.

"Thank you, Professor," he said.

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