* * *
Way Down in the Valley Tonight
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Belong to JKR.

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-Chapter Fourteen-

He staggered home (was it really? How pathetic - living at work, sure, he was independant) as best he could, and managed to not pass out on the way to his rooms.

Once he was inside his rooms, however, was a different matter.

He was very grateful that no one saw the ungraceful tumble with which he landed in his bed.

* * *

The sun had risen, as was its wont, and now they sat on the parapets and munched on breakfast platters brought up by the house elves.

"I'm going shopping!" Remus declared out of the blue.

Sirius paused mid-pancake gobbling. "Pardon?"

"I'm sick of staying 'round here and getting absolutely nothing accomplished! I'm going shopping!"

Bright blue eyes blinked slowly. "Moony... that's very effeminate of you."

He growled.

"Mooooooony's a poo- Oof!"

The resulting bruises and brief strangulation were decidedly unfeminine.

As was the pancake-smashing into Sirius' face.

As was the subsequent victory dance.

* * *

He hung anxiously over her shoulder as she read the letter aloud, trying not to be distracted by the soft aburn curls brushing against his cheek.

What the hell was he thinking, anyway?

But by the time she was done, all the color had drained from both of their faces.

"Oh bloody hell..."

She quietly folded her hands into his. "...It could be worse."

He stared, flushed, down at their intertwined fingertips. "How d'you mean?"

"Well... at least he's not dead."

An exhausted giggle slipped past his lips. "Yeah. Yeah, you're right, Hermione. You're absolutely right."

In the morning light, her eyes glittered brightly.

* * *

He woke to see calm eyes watching him.

Well, fuck me.

"Good morning, Albus."

A calm smile. "Good morning, Severus. Sleep well?"

He resisted the childish urge to clap his pillow over his head and ignore him. Well, I was, but then you showed up. It's too early for your... excrement. Go away.

"...still tired, I suppose?"

Funny, his Lethal Glare of Death and Destruction and Bloody Gore and Other Such Fine Pleasures didn't seem to work when he couldn't keep his eyes open. No, I'm bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Kindly fuck off.

Albus ignored him, humming a little tune, patiently waiting for him to get up, but he didn't want to get up, so there.

"There is a small matter I think you should attend, Severus."

He now resisted the urge to utilise his pillow in a potentially lethal way. Smothering was an interesting way to die. Hadn't one of the women in that Muggle playwright's story gone out that way?

"What?" he muttered grumpily, not quite up to his usual level of sarcasm, seeing as how he felt as though he'd been flattened by a passing train.

Albus' eyes were very solemn.

"The matter of a young boy lying asleep in the hospital wing. I believe you know to whom I'm referring."

Briliant emerald bright and shining with terror and unshed tears, flickering light ensconced in shadow, sobs restrained beneath the darkness.

Harry Potter.

Well... fuck.

"Get some more sleep, Severus, then come and dine with me, and then you'll go and have a chat with our Mr. Potter."

And he was gone again.

Severus let himself flop back on the bed, cursing quietly under his breath.

As his pupils so eloquently put it, today was going to suck.

* * *

He'd spent the morning wandering the parapets and wondering when Harry would wake up. For a while, he dozed in the sun, for a while, he stared off into space, and for a while, he ran and ran and ran until he collapsed in a heap on some long-forgotten balcony.

That was where Remus found him.

He blinked the glare out of his eyes and squinted, waving a hand in idle greeting.

"Hullo!"

Remus was smiling. In a very scary way.

Immediately on his guard, Sirius growled out a cautious, "Hey."

Remus' smile was showing far too many teeth. "Look!"

Cautious blink. "At what?"

He waved a basket under his nose. "Harry's 'Get-Well-Soon-So-We-Don't-Have-to-Haul-You-Off-to-the-Loony-Bin' present!"

"Harry's... what?"

Rustle. "See?"

"GAH!" He'd never jumped backwards so far in his life, and that included the time he'd accidentally walked in on McGonagall doing calisthenics. Shudder.

Bright eyes shimmered like amber in the morning sun, the light catching and reflecting off of dazzling emerald.

Blink. Blink. "You don't like it?"

"Moony, it's a *snake*!"

The snake coiled innocently around Remus' arm, tongue flicking out, and he recoiled. Ew!

"I know it's a snake."

"I don't like snakes."

"You don't have to like snakes."

"Harry doesn't like snakes either."

"Harry *talks* to snakes, Padfoot."

"But they're slimy."

"Actually, this one's quite nice and cool."

"I said they're *slimy*, Remus."

"Just because I'm crazy doesn't mean I'm stupid."

"...you're crazy?"

"Loony loopy Lupin," he grinned cheerfully, scratching the snake's head with a disarmingly casual air.

This... was absolutely true. "Well, damn."

Remus was still off in happy-little-lycanthrope land. "Hmm?"

"I was expecting you to be the normal one in our relationship."

"Normal? Me?"

"You're absolutely right. I'm asking far too much."

"Shut up."

"Make me."

"I'll wave this snake at you. Hiss."

"...that was just disturbing."

"The snake doesn't like you. Nyah."

"I don't like the snake. Look, it's got evil eyes."

"I think it's got pretty eyes."

"They're glowing evilly."

"Have you got a problem with glowing eyes, Sirius Black?" A hint of warning had slipped into his normally soft tones.

Er... "Of course not, Moony! Now stop smiling like that, you're scaring me."

"I'm giving Harry the snake."

"Why?"

"It's cute."

"It's a snake."

"Hiss."

"All right, all right! Give him the snake! ...just never do that again."

"Heh. I win."

"Moony, my dear, you were waving a snake in my face. Not to mention the fangs. You know, the sharp pointy ones you keep in your mouth? Yes, those fangs. Stop that. Now please don't ever smile at me again. You will give me nightmares."

"Padfoot, you're taking this entirely the wrong way. I have no desire to Slytherin-ize Harry Potter. But Harry Potter can talk to snakes. Therefore, this pet will be a bit more interesting to him than a bunny rabbit!"

"But bunny rabbits have nasty big pointy teeth..."

"No quoting Monty Python. Do not make me hiss at you again!"

"Pythons are snakes."

"..."

"..."

"Do you feel really stupid?"

"...a bit."

* * *

Severus Snape felt remarkably stupid. His eyes narrowed threateningly at the offending doorpost, but the blasted thing merely radiated as much innocence as wood in the chamber of a Slytherin possibly could. Which was to say, not very much at all.

He'd been up for five minutes and had managed to walk into his door. Twice.

Today was not a good morning.

* * *

There was light dancing along the shadowed corridors of his blackness.

He hated the light.

He hated the blackness.

He buried his face deeper into the drenched warmth of the pillow, trying to block out both, but how could he block the void behind his eyes?

Emerald, serpentine and bright, flickered erratically at the edges of his mind, but he shied away from the comforting presence.

Traitor.

But then, wasn't that to be expected?

And hadn't it been necessary?

Fading screams and emerald-shrouded ebony...

Why do you hate me? What did I do wrong?

He muffled a sob into silence, clamping both hands over his mouth to stifle it into nothingness.

Weakling.

He wanted to throw up, but his stomach was empty, and he choked on damp air and salt.

And I'll forgive, won't I? I'll forgive because I can't not forgive, because I can't not, because I can't stand it alone, I can't!

He wanted to scream and cry and throw things, but he just pulled the covers tighter around him and squinched his eyes shut as tightly as he could.

I'll forgive because I don't have a choice.

Pathetic.

Alone in the hospital wing, Harry Potter ran out of tears to cry.

* * *

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