* * *
Way Down in the Valley Tonight
by Edmondia Dantes
* * *
Darkness. All he could see was darkness.
Wasn't it? Or had he gone blind?
He closed his eyes against the night and shook his head, burying his face into his pillow.
No, not blind.
But he may as well have been.
He clamped the pillow over his head in a vain attempt to shut out the unearthly quiet that lurked in the corners and oozed down through the foundations of his house.
It didn't work.
But then, he hadn't expected it to, really.
He rolled over again, staring with unseeing eyes up at his ceiling.
Blind fool. What was he doing?
Ron Weasley sighed and kicked off his covers.
No sleep for him tonight.
He staggered his way out of bed and went hunting for a midnight snack.
Perhaps something warm would settle his nerves and send him into dreamland.
A sardonic snort forced its way out of him. Not bloody likely.
Then again, nothing was.
* * *
Funny, how she had expected a house full of people would also be full of noise. Funny how it wasn't.
The thick silence shimmered with the soft breathing of Virginia Weasley, who slept the sleep of, if not the innocent, the young.
Otherwise, all was silent and still and deep.
Unlike in her home, no machinery rumbled, no furnace buzzed, no electric clock glowed in the night.
There weren't any streetlights outside.
Hermione shivered and buried herself deeper in the covers, but they provided no comfort.
Harry, where are you?
Thoughts of death and the cold hands of Voldemort's hordes had haunted her nightmares for days.
Unless she got some news soon, be it good or bad, she would cease sleeping altogether.
Hermione shook her head, untangled herself from the nest of blankets she was ensconsed in, and staggered downstairs to get a glass of milk.
* * *
The backs of his hands were very boring. Very, very, very boring. They looked nothing like the hands of a convicted murderer. There was some dirt caked under his fingernails, but on the whole his hands were just plain, ordinary, boring, sensible hands. Which was why he had been staring at them for the past hour and a half.
Boring hands. Ordinary hands. Anything to keep himself from looking up to see judgment and despair. Anything to focus on to keep the bile down.
Right. And he'd go and do the macarena while wearing a sign that declared in neon letters that he was eternally devoted to Lord Voldemort and his fuzzy slippers. While wearing nothing but bright purple boxers adorned with little dancing orange Dark Marks. Possibly with his hair tied in a bouncy ponytail and singing 'Barbie Girl'.
Minerva McGonagall had kept silent through his shaking narrative, but she did raise an eyebrow at his sudden, hysterical giggle.
Sirius Black looked up, clear eyes flashing strangely, and stated flatly, "That Moony's a bad influence on me."
She muffled a snort. "Is he really?"
The night was quiet and calm.
Inside, Sirius Black felt anything but.
* * *
Whenever he tried to read the page, the words blurred together.
Eventually, after the fifty-seventh try, he wound up flinging the book across the room.
Had it been a vase or something that would explode upon impact, he would have relished it more.
As things stood, however, he buried his hands in his hair and tugged.
"I'm going crazy!" he declared in a singsong voice to his abandoned book. "Going completely nucking futs!"
Given the circumstances, it was probably for the best that he received no reply.
How long had he been in here, anyway? How long since he had left a sad-eyed Harry Potter because he couldn't stand to see grief-filled longing cross that pale, shadowed face?
He needed food.
He needed a psychiatrist.
But food seemed a more viable option.
Remus Lupin set out for the kitchens.
* * *
Silence hung like a fragile thread in the stillness of his sanctuary.
The great man frowned thoughtfully across the room, regarding the nothingness with a dangerous calmness that belied his age.
An inquisitive cheep, polite and respectful, barely brushed the surface of the hush.
The great man snorted rudely and sucked on a lemon drop.
In a war fought by children for children, he played the role of the most noble leader of the light. But it had been many years since his childhood.
The bright-eyed innocents who wound up flung in the mud and beaten by harsh reality, the ones who returned to their homes to find their families slaughtered, the ones who didn't know what they were getting into when they began. His valiant forces, charging blindly ahead into - what? There was no glory in victory, and nothing but hopelessness in defeat.
And he - he had many children to attend.
But this was not tilting the scales in his favor.
The unbalancing of the one emerald-eyed child had sent everything reeling. Silently, he damned his nemesis.
Not that one mere curse, even from one such as he, could condemn the evil one any more.
But the drowsy danger of the werewolf, the tightly coiled energy of the escapee, the high-strung children, the tension threaded throughout the very castle itself - dangerous, implosions were, and difficult to predict. The question was, would this one have a spark?
Darkness swirled, volatile and angry and pained, in every motion and breath and thought of the boy who would be fifteen.
Small wonder, then, that this confused being latched on to the only other one remotely like it.
Small wonder, but not wonderful. Far from it.
Albus Dumbledore frowned.
And what of his precious spy?
How long until he lost the child he had fought so hard to gain? Darkness and death shadowed him like a lover - how long until he gave into those insistant demands? How long until he fell into that fatal embrace?
Or would he?
It was a dangerous game he played.
But he must.
Because there was no other way.
* * *
Life fucking sucked.
There was a bawling baby at his feet, a scowling dark lord at his back, and his conscience had decided to make itself known to him at this most inopportune of times.
He wanted to cry, throw a hissy fit, or blow someone up.
Preferably the latter.
As things stood, however, he simply pulled the deadly little vial out of his robes and uncorked it.
Then he did the one thing he thought he would never do. He reached out along that shining silvery nothingness - and met with confusion.
*Brace yourself, brat.*
A moment of crystal clarity - then he wrenched himself away and focused on his task.
They laughed when they pulled the struggling little boy to his feet and broke his jaw when they forced his mouth open.
Severus grimaced as he tapped out the delicate portions necessary for this particular experiment. A broken baby. How charming.
Five minutes later, they had to sit on the boy to keep the convulsions down. But nothing could stop the screaming.
Severus gritted his teeth and said nothing, observing the results in stony silence. The quill scraped harshly against the borrowed parchment as he carefully recorded every twitch, tremble, and unearthly shriek. How long had it been since he was so scientifically detached?
Behind him, Voldemort smiled indulgently.
Yes. Life fucking sucked.
* * *
He'd run headfirst into Remus Lupin.
But that -whatever- that filled his stomach with churning dread and made his head spin and his body ache and his scar was starting to sear on his forehead and-
Large hands landed delicately on his shoulders, and his grappling fingers sought and found and twisted into pale robes.
He managed to mumble out a confused, "Hospital wing," but only barely, because the world was starting to spin and spin and melt and twist and...
Harry Potter closed his eyes and screamed.
* * *
His head jerked up, blue eyes widening frantically. In front of him, he could sense McGonagall leap from her seat, wand in hand, ready to race out the door and kill whoever was responsible for that scream.
"Harry?" he managed to mumble, slightly dazed.
Then he nearly tripped himself running down the stairs to tend his godson.
* * *
Albus Dumbledore sat in the darkness.
"Well, Severus," he sighed into the silence, "It seems your touch is as flawless as ever."
He slowly drew himself to his feet, summoned Fawkes to his side, and together they made their slow way down to the hospital wing and Harry Potter.
* * *
Blood drenched his vision.
He was vaguely aware of screaming incoherently, but - no, it wasn't him? It was - but not.
Along his veins fire leapt and shimmered in a thousand rippling colors.
Outside in a dreamy haze flitted forms that he couldn't see, outside echoed with familiar voices that lifted in a frenzied torrent that rushed and crashed around him like so much shattered glass.
Inside he was being torn to shreds.
And he knew.
But he didn't blame.
He would never blame.
It was neccessary.
That was the only reason.
Only for that would he forgive.
* * *
Severus bowed his head and whispered a silent apology. Not enough - nothing would ever be enough to repent for his sins.
He felt the double echo of agonized screaming reverberate in his skull.
They would have him slaughter infants.
And they would be glad.
Behind him, Voldemort laughed, delighted.
* * *
On to Chapter Thirteen
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