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

Disclaimer:  What's truly miserable about this situation is that I only own those people that I've killed off and this rather tangled storyline.  What's worse is that I receive no financial compensation for the creation of this... er... "masterpiece."  Yes, that's what I'll call it...

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-Chapter Nine-

For one who usually walked with a sedate, measured pace, he managed to trudge along quite admirably.

Back to his room, again.  Lupin was beginning to feel like an oft-chastised child.  He left, something horribly twisted and wrong happened, and back he went.  This time he'd gone for a walk in order to clear his head.  It hadn't worked.

Another day, another problem, another instance that made him want to tear his hair out and scream.  The weather had decided to rub salt in the wound, resulting in a gorgeous, cloudless, warm day, complete with a nice breeze coming over the lake.

Remus threw open the door to their room with a crash.  Damn the world.

He really wanted to punch something.  Preferably a dark-eyed, dark-haired, slimy little greasy git of a something, but no, that wasn't an option for nice little gentlemanly Remus Lupin.  That was more a Sirius Black thing.  Who, at this point in time, was shuffling across their room, scuffing his boots on the floor, and generally looking like he wanted to either die or slaughter something.  Like Voldemort.  That would be nice, and would probably clear his name in the process.  Death could be fun!  They could all watch and eat popcorn, and boo at the bad guys!  Then they would handcuff all the Death Eaters together, turn their robes into glittery cheerleader outfits, and force them to jump rope while singing, "You Are My Sunshine!"

Sirius Black glanced over as Lupin stalked into their room, startled out of his brooding by a half-stifled giggle.  He blinked in surprise, slightly worried about the maniacal grin that had crossed Lupin's lips.  It made him look rather like the Joker.

* * *

He skidded to a stop just in time.  That was a rather large door, and he didn't much fancy smashing his face in on it.

But his head was spinning and his heart was tight and there wasn't enough air in his lungs.  He shouldn't have run all this way.

Harry Potter leaned heavily against the wall and drank in a deep breath of cool, damp air.  Running so much was bad.  He felt like he was about to throw up, despite the fact that he hadn't eaten anything in what seemed like forever.

Too many questions.  Why did they have to get so close?  He needed room - he wasn't ready to deal with people yet, he wasn't even ready to deal with himself!  Why couldn't they just leave him alone?  It was barely even afternoon, and he felt more drained than... than... than something.

But it was nice and cool down here, shadowy and empty and silent.  The whole school was very still without the presence of so many students.  It was rather enjoyable.

Harry closed his eyes.  He could feel his heartbeat returning to normal, though the knot in his chest refused to go away.  Breathe.  He had to breathe.

"Are you going to stand there all day?" an irritated voice sounded from the doorway.

Harry straightened -He's here!- and flashed a blinding smile up at Snape, and darted over beside him, absentmindedly curling a hand into the trailing edge of his robes.

Snape, as usual, said nothing.

* * *

The slightly deranged look had thankfully vanished from the werewolf's features when he pulled the note out of his robes and regarded it with a thoughtful frown.

"Sirius?"

"What?" he asked wearily, still a bit unsettled.  Perhaps he wasn't the only one who felt like the world had fallen out from underneath his feet.  God, he felt sick.

"This is a letter."  To emphasize, Lupin waved it under his nose.

He blinked.  What the hell was this?  "Who would send us a letter?"

"Students."  The word sounded like a pronouncement of doom.

Clouded blue eyes narrowed suspiciously.  Why was he being so obtuse?  "What students?"

"Hogwarts students."

"Hogwarts students?" a faint note of dread crept into his voice.  Oh no, oh no, oh no...

"Two Gryffindor students."

Oh yes.  "Two *fifth-year* Gryffindor students?"

"Yep."

"Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger?" Full-fledged dread had overtaken his suddenly clumsy words.  He wanted to kill something.  He could kill something.  He should kill something.

Remus flashed him a miserable look.  "Yep."

Maybe he should kill himself.  "Crap."

Remus nodded quietly.  "Yep."

He could throw himself off of a high tower.  "What do we tell them?"

Remus shrugged.  "No clue."

Or drown himself in the lake.  "Crap," Sirius muttered.

"Yep," Remus agreed.

Sirius buried his face in his hands and cried.

* * *

"Did you pull another disappearing act?"

Harry looked around for a place to sit, finally deciding that the floor wasn't that cold anyway.  He discreetly moved so he wouldn't be in the way, and plopped down by the wall.  He had obviously interrupted something.

Snape swept back to his work, peering carefully into a steaming cauldron.  The room was rather messier than usual, with jars of squelchy things littering the tables and small piles of ground up... things all over the place.

It smelled rather like pumpkin pie.

Irritation - sharp and biting.  He blinked, distracted, and looked up,  but Snape was focused on the softly bubbling cauldron and not looking at him.

His voice worked today, didn't it?  "Yes."

A low snort was the only response.

Harry swallowed and sat back.

Safe, yes - that was true.  Sane?  He bit his lip, hard enough to draw blood.

Truth be told, he didn't know.

And that scared him more than anything else.

* * *

Dudley Dursley didn't want to open his eyes.

He knew he wouldn't like what he would see.

It was cold and smelled awful and he felt sick to his stomach.  He guessed he was lying in a cellar somewhere.

Alone, without his mummy or dad, or even his miserable little cousin.  They were dead.

Dead, dead, dead, dead.

And when he heard the creak of a door opening, and soft, shuffling footsteps, he hunched in on himself and wished he were dead too.

High-pitched laughter echoed shrilly against the damp walls.

* * *

Big, sad, emerald eyes.

The child was apparently attempting to impersonate that infernally adorable deer from the cartoon film 'Bambi.'

Severus allowed a twisted smile to cross his face.  He'd much preferred the less elegantly executed but infinitely more entertaining 'Bambi Meets Godzilla.'

If only such perfection could come out of so little effort more often, he'd be much happier.

As things stood, however, through frustration and broken jars and quite a few obscure swear words, he was making headway.  And it was a different challenge.

The results would be not at all nice, but really, it was coming along nicely.

After all, what better way was there to rid a Dark Lord of his enemies than by striking them down in a way one could not see?  This potion would prove to be quite interesting when it was finished.

Not too much longer, then.

The work itself was despicable. Beautiful, yes, but horrid.

Severus felt quite pleased with himself.

* * *

Voldemort regarded the quivering mass of flesh sprawled on the cellar floor with amused detachment.

Such a stupid, ugly little Muggle.  None would mourn his passing.

And if Severus' potion accidentally killed the fool, it wouldn't matter.  It would be regrettable, true, for all of his hard work to come to naught, but one could not accurately predict what the specific outcome of a new potion would be unless it was tested.

If the little Dursley died, then something else would have to be done.  It was as simple as that.

Still, it would be a pity.  Severus hated it when his potions went wrong.

Voldemort allowed himself a thin-lipped smile.  It was fortunate that such things occurred only rarely.

Fortunate for Snape, and fortunate for himself.

* * *

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