Way Down in the Valley Tonight - Chapter One

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Way Down in the Valley Tonight
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Interestingly enough, I still don't own 'em. Darn. Author's notes at the end.

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-Chapter One-

It had seemed like a decent day, when it had started. Granted, now it was very high up there on his list of days that just plain sucked. Not at the top, no, but pretty high up.

Harry Potter shivered involuntarily. And okay, so he was behaving like a little kid, not a teenager who had faced down Voldemort several times over.

Then again, he'd never killed anyone before. He had a right to be emotionally frazzled, didn't he? Or was he just being stupid again?

Probably just being stupid. But he hadn't expected to walk into a nest of Death Eaters during the summer holidays, now had he? And he certainly hadn't expected to be running from them in the company of a man who despised him. He glanced cautiously up at Snape, whose midnight eyes were mere slits, and who wore his blackest expression. Combined with the blood that coated his entire front and some of his hair, the effect was more frightening than ever. He winced again, surprised a second time when he felt himself steadied by the professor. It was just one of those days.

Harry shifted his broken arm against his chest and sneezed again. Damn, even with the cloak he was cold.

At least it wasn't raining.

* * *

It wasn't as if Severus had planned to get into this mess. On the contrary. It had seemed like an ordinary day. Granted, on ordinary days he didn't venture into muggle-infested London, but what else could he do when his supply of exotic poisons was running low?

So he'd slipped away from Hogwarts and apparated to a relatively quiet part of the city, close to a nice little chemist's shop that carried a very large and quite illegal supply of precisely what he was looking for.

He had just stepped onto the sidewalk and was going on his way when someone very large had come barreling out of the door right beside him. Severus had nearly been bowled over by the strangest grouping of humanity he had ever had the displeasure of seeing. The pack was led by an overly-large man, who was trailed by an emaciated woman, the fattest child he'd ever seen, and a wild-eyed Harry Potter.

The Boy Who Lived now looked like the Innocent Bunny Who Was About To Be Devoured By A Very Large And Angry Jungle Cat. Severus found this mildly amusing even as he focused one of his frostier glares on the beefy man who was giving him a very strange and very frightened look. It really was amazing how purple his face had turned.

He was somewhat surprised when the woman and pudgy thing that he assumed was human both attempted to hide behind the man, which was somewhat futile. In the name of Slytherin, that boy was enormous! His lips twisted in a sneer, and the trio positively leaped backwards. Hmm. He'd been known to cause outright hysteria and fainting fits, but he hadn't even said anything yet.

He glared at all of them in turn, before focusing on the last and smallest member of the group, who was doing his best to blend into the background. The background was the dark brown brick side of a wall that clashed horribly with Harry's threadbare yellow tee shirt. Needless to say, his attempt didn't work.

Severus raised an eyebrow and cast a cool look down at the boy. "Potter?" he inquired archly.

The boy stepped forward bravely. Idiot Gryffindor. "Professor?" The expression on his face hovered somewhere between relief and abject terror. It looked more than a little strange, especially because he kept flashing desperate glances up at the house behind Severus, back to his family, and back to the potions master again.

Odd. "What are you doing here?" he demanded brusquely. The obvious 'and causing so much trouble for everyone?' went unspoken.

Potter sent another nervous glance up towards the house they'd just come racing out of. "We were just... visiting... a friend of the family, sir." He bit his lip anxiously, looking for all the world like he wanted desperately for the ground to open up and swallow him. Such a thing was unlikely to happen in the middle of a back street in the center of London.

Severus narrowed his eyes, watching as the boy shifted uneasily, almost ready to bolt. "Is it customary to fling yourself out of doorways as if Voldemort's blasted snake were on your tail?" he purred pleasantly.

Harry blanched. "Er... that's the thing, sir," he stuttered, a panicked look creeping into his eyes.

He folded his arms and gave an exasperated sigh. "What is the thing, Potter?"

Those emerald eyes were very large in the child's very pale face. "The family friend, is, um..."

Harry's stumbling explanation was cut short by the explosion that decimated the front door.

A blue-clad figure staggered down the stoop, one thin hand clutched against its breast and a blank expression on its face. The woman paused for a second, seemingly to consider her options, and drew a wand in an instant, flattening it straight between Harry's eyes.

In a voice devoid of emotion, she spoke flatly, "Avada Kedavra."

Severus shoved the boy out of the way before the first syllable had left the woman's lips and dove for the ground.

A sharp crack of green light split the air.

A scream of agony reverberated through his senses. She'd hit someone, but not her intended target. The woman staggered forward again, eyes and wand fixed on Potter, who only looked at her steadily. Her face lit with a strange light, and she raised her wand for another spell.

No time for anything fancy, then. It was terribly inelegant, but desperate times and all that. Severus lunged forward and tackled her before she could say a word.

She shrieked, dropped her wand, and tried to bite him, but years of being a Death Eater came in handy sometimes. It didn't take him more than a moment to snap her neck.

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Harry Potter wasn't stupid enough to stand up. It would probably get him killed. But he did watch wide-eyed as the woman he had known as Miss Elana Johnson was caught in a spectacular tackle by his potions teacher and wrestled to the ground. Almost instantaneously, a shrill scream rent the air, echoed a second later by a sickening 'crack'.

He felt the blood drain from his face as the woman slumped bonelessly to the ground, her blue robes puddled loosely around her like so much water. Snape loomed over her like a dark shadow for a moment before he shook his head slowly. He sighed heavily and slowly rose to his feet, shoving a few strands of hair out of his eyes, his black cloak flowing like a living thing behind him. His expression was cruel as ever, though a strange sense of detachment hovered around him. It seemed the angel of death had taken on human form.

And even though he'd seen death before, even though he'd watched in stupified horror as Voldemort lazily declared, "Kill the spare," even after all of that he'd never seen anyone commit murder with their bare hands.

But he didn't say anything.

So when Snape glided forward and offered him a hand up, he took it. Did it really matter that those same hands had just stolen a life? They offered aid now, a gift he had known only on rare and wondrous occasions, and never from this man. He simply couldn't refuse.

Black eyes raked his form appraisingly as he stood shivering in the sudden chill. One pale hand drifted up to touch his shoulder and trace its way down to his wrist with a delicacy he'd come to expect from the man. "Your arm is broken, Potter."

"I figured," he admitted, still firmly disregarding the pain. It hurt like hell, but that was okay. Better to feel sheer agony than nothing at all.

Snape raised an eyebrow at his nonchalant tone. "Very well." He glanced somewhere behind Harry, adding coolly, "Your aunt and uncle are dead, I believe. I have no idea where your cousin ran off to."

The news hurt much more than he'd expected it to. Bile rose in his throat, as though he'd been socked in the stomach with a bludger. For an instant, he felt tears sting his eyes, but he shoved them down. No way he was crying in front of Snape. No way in hell.

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The boy didn't look at them, just winced and looked back up at his professor, his expression pleading.

"I thought so," the boy whispered, his fingers curling slowly, as if they itched to hold a wand. The shadow on his face darkened, but only slight grief showed in his manner. Potter swallowed once, then set his jaw and clenched a fist. "What happens now?"

Life turns even more into hell. What a wonderful start to an absolutely bloody wonderful day.

"First, you explain, Potter."

The boy took a deep breath, looked around nervously, and questioned "Here?" in a remarkably even tone of voice.

Three dead bodies scattered over the sidewalk and small yard. The child had some sense.

Severus rolled his eyes, seized the child's good arm, and apparated back to a small cafe on the opposite side of the city. "Sit," he commanded sternly. Harry sat.

He settled elegantly into the other side of the booth, ordered a coffee and sandwich, and fixed the child with his most piercing stare.

"Talk."

Harry talked.

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AN: Next chapter we see why exactly Harry's so out of it and why the... erm... completely non-dynamic duo are so... erm... icky.

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