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Way Down in the Valley Tonight
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Not mine, alas. Then again, maybe it's all for the best that way.

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-Chapter Eight-

When he woke up, he was alone.

There was sunshine filtering through the vaulted windows of his dorm room, and he was wrapped like a baby in his sheets.

Harry Potter blinked and sat up, absently reaching for his glasses.

It was quiet.

He blinked slowly and looked around. The room seemed far too empty, free of clutter, trunks, and clothing strewn haphazardly around the room. Blank.

He wriggled out of the sheets and crawled down to the end of the bed. At the foot sat a pile of clothing. Shirt, socks, underwear, pants, and shoes tucked under the bed. And atop the red shirt sat a scrap of black cloth.

Curious, he picked it up. It was soft as a dream, velvety and silky at the same time. It smelled spicy and cool and damp.

Harry smiled and tucked it into his pocket. He would be okay for now - he had a link. Cautiously, he tried to *reach* - and wonderfully, blessedly, he was there. Not sparking with fury this time, no, but focused and calculated.

He would be all right.

Harry got dressed faster than he ever had and raced out the door, intent on finding one Severus Snape.

* * *

"Breakfast is a good thing, Padfoot," Remus said quietly, regarding the lump in the blankets with a frown.

A groan. "Lemme starve."

Remus folded his arms and put on his best stern teacher look. "No."

"I can starve if I want to," Sirius muttered against the pillow.

"No you can't," he countered, poking Sirius in the side. "Up."

"Die," was the prompt retort.

Remus rolled his eyes. "Not planning to anytime soon." He hesitated, then decided to play his trump card anyway. "And I thought you reserved that particular desire for Snape."

Sirius sat up abrubtly, tossing back the blankets and glowering blackly. "Bastard," he snarled, fingers digging into the pillow as though it had personally affronted him.

Well, at least he was awake now. "Up is good. Come, breakfast awaits. We'll be able to think better if we have food in our poor, aching bellies."

It was a grumpy and rumpled Sirius Black that Remus Lupin wound up dragging down the stairs.

And, lo and behold, who should they run into but little Harry Potter coming down the other way, jumping down the stairs in his haste to go somewhere. Lupin had a feeling he knew where he was headed, but kept his mouth shut. He didn't want to deal with this first thing in the morning. He didn't want to deal with it ever, but here it was, and there was not a bloody thing he could do about it.

"Harry?" Sirius' voice was hoarse as he gaped at his godson.

Harry froze in mid-step, the soft smile on his face vanishing as though it had never been there.

Remus swallowed. "Good morning, Harry."

The ebony head swiveled his way and bobbed uncertainly. He was still too pale and fragile to be out and about like this - there could only be one reason for him to run, and that reason was lurking somewhere in recesses of the castle.

"Harry, Moony and I are going to go down to breakfast. Would you like to come?" Sirius asked slowly, keeping his distance.

It didn't help. Harry looked cornered. "I... I..."

"Why don't you come and get something to eat? You look sick," Sirius pressed, his voice very slow and even.

Actually, Harry looked like he were *about* to be sick, but Lupin refrained from mentioning it aloud.

Tears were beginning to well in those big eyes. "I..."

Sirius took a tentative step forward.

Harry leaped backwards, fingers scrambling to find a hold on someone who wasn't there. "I have to go!" he managed, before spinning around and fleeing down the stairway - no doubt headed for the dungeons.

Lupin's heart plummeted from his throat into his stomach. Dammit.

It was a long moment before he registered the low growl reverberating through the corridor. He turned his eyes to his best friend. Sirius wrapped his arms around himself, gritted his teeth, and seemed to tremble with tension. The air shimmmered with rage. Finally, Sirius gave a wordless scream and stalked off down the hall.

Damn. It. All. To. Hell.

He turned a pleading glance towards the heavens. What were they going to do?

* * *

"Mister Potter, you seem to be in quite a hurry."

Harry slipped on the flagstones, barely managing to right himself before he landed on his bottom.

Albus Dumbledore smiled at him, but there was no sparkle in his eyes. Harry shrank back, unsettled.

He didn't like this, he didn't like this, he just didn't like it. An uneasy feeling prickled down his back. No, no, no. He wanted out. Dumbledore - too strong, too bright, too focused. Yes, he had to get away, but there was no escape for the likes of him, was there?

"Headmaster?" he questioned, but his voice came out a mere squeak.

Dumbledore smiled at him, pleasant enough, yes, but he took another step back anyway.

Never trust a smiling man. Good advice, he knew, and wondered vaguely where the thought had come from.

"I believe you and I need to have a little talk."

No! No, no, no - he couldn't, not yet, he couldn't and they couldn't - could they? No!

As he was ushered quietly into Dumbledore's office, only one thought reverberated through his mind.

Where was he?

* * *

At the moment, Severus Snape was down in his dungeons, glaring at a half-melted cauldron and swearing very violently.

Damn Voldemort for his impossible demands. A jar shattered against the wall.

Damn Dumbledore for *his* impossible demands. Another jar.

He glowered at the mess. Oh, very lovely, he thought sardonically, and here we were accusing *Black* of acting like an adolescent.

Damn himself for his own impossible demands.

* * *

When he managed to roust himself away from the halls, he went back into his rooms and came face-to-flushed-face with an enraged Sirius Black.

The first words that tumbled out of his mouth were completely idiotic, and he wanted to hit himself the moment they had been said. "Sirius, calm down."

"Dammit, Moony! My godson just ran screaming from my presence because I wasn't a fucking Death Eater that he loves more than me! How the fuck am I supposed to be calm?"

Lupin opened his mouth, but he couldn't find anything to say.

"Fuck!" Sirius screeched through gritted teeth, pounding a pillow into a misshapen blob.

Remus Lupin had never felt more like crying before in his life.

* * *

An hour later, Albus Dumbledore had not gotten so much as a sentence out of the child. Harry had planned it that way. Don't let them know anything - they'll use it against you. He'd realized soon after Dumbledore started his lecture that the man was trying to determine something about him, trying to dissect him like a frog on a plate.

He was damned if he would let that happen. His fingers absently folded and re-folded the strip of fabric as he kept tuning the older man out. His senses sang with contentment as he felt the burning ire of his protector. It made him feel safe and vaguely disquieted at once. If he concentrated hard enough, he could almost - he didn't know what. But something sparked in his mind, and he couldn't contain a slight gasp of startlement. Snape was mad at Dumbledore, too?

"Harry, is there something wrong?"

Harry blinked. "Um. No," he replied numbly, still fixated on the odd sensation.

"What is the matter?"

His mind itched. "It's Snape," he blurted, then clamped a hand over his mouth.

Dammit! He should have kept quiet! What was he doing? He had to be calm, had to get away without causing a scene, or otherwise he'd be in even more trouble, and that way he would never get to the Potions Master, and he couldn't do that!

Dumbledore stiffened noticably. "I see. Severus always has been a volatile one." His voice was warm, but his eyes were so cold...

Harry repressed a shudder with difficulty. This was so confusing, he just didn't understand what the man wanted! Cold again now, solemn and focused and brilliant. The change was baffling. Before he could stop himself, the words tumbled out of his mouth. "Why doesn't he just... stop?"

Dumbledore's expression was solemn. He didn't even ask what Harru meant, instead replying, "I truly doubt that he can."

Harry opened his mouth to ask another question, but the Headmaster was gone, and he was alone.

Again.

He bit his lip, turned on his heel, and fled for the dungeons.

* * *

They came when called like the schoolchildren they once were, turning subdued eyes to the headmaster. Oh, lord, had it been a terrible day. And it wasn't even half over yet.

"I believe you two should answer this," Dumbledore said slowly, offering him a folded sheet of parchment.

Lupin bit his lip and accepted it. Sirius hadn't spoken in at least two hours, and hunched in on himself as he was now, eyes burning with emotion, it was unlikely he would be in any semblance of calm.

He tugged him back to their room, sat him in a chair, and opened the letter.

Smudged ink, dashed off in a frantic hurry. Two styles of writing, sloppy and sharp, both scoured deeply into the paper. A young hand. He opened it with a great deal of trepidation.

Dear Professor Dumbledore,

What is going on? Where's Harry? Please, is he all right? We're terribly worried. The news about his family was just too awful! Dad says the Ministry's all upset about all the deaths and is trying to cover up a Death Eater attack! What happened?

~ Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger

Lupin dropped his head into his hands. "Fuck..." he moaned quietly.

* * *

Dudley Dursley was having an absolutely wretched day. The hospital was gone - just gone in a roar of heat and flame and smoke, and now he was being dragged along the ground by his hair - by one of Them. It was a huge, towering figure to his blurred eyes.

Black, immense, terrifying.

He started sobbing in earnest.

The thing turned its silver-masked head back at him and laughed.

* * *

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