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Way Down in the Valley Tonight
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Not mine, not yours either I'm willing to bet, so let's just say they belong to JKR and leave it at that, ne?

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At least it wasn't raining.

True, the sky was coated with steel-grey clouds, and true, thunder was rumbling ominously in the distance.

But it wasn't raining, and Severus Snape supposed that was a good thing. It would have been a better thing if it weren't windy and cold as hell, but he wasn't wet. At least not yet, anyway. Weather. Never could trust it. He never had as a child and never would now.

And speaking of children... the particular one at his side looked far too small and thin, his face deathly pale against the velvet blackness of Severus' cloak. It was much too large for him, but at least it was somewhat warm. He stumbled every few steps, trembled constantly, and his glasses kept sliding awkwardly down his nose. He rather looked like an abused puppy. Severus hated puppies.

Harry Potter tripped again, and Severus shifted his grip around the boy's waist. Damned if the brat wasn't going to faint on him. Potter sniffled and rubbed at his nose with a dirty hand that seemed engulfed by the voluminous black sleeves. He looked like his mother had whenever she was feeling sick.

Well, the boy was shaking, cold, and miserable looking. He supposed that counted as sick. As if on cue, the child sneezed, rubbed his nose again, and then cast the professor a slightly sheepish look, having used his cloak for a tissue. Severus grimaced but kept quiet. No need to upset the brat. Any more than he already was, that is. So he said nothing, instead artfully guiding the child around a gaggle of harried-looking housewives. He'd known a concealment charm would come in handy.

That way, nobody could see the blood.

It was quite plentiful, actually. It would definitely take a large dose of extra-strong scrubbing potion to get it out of his clothing. And he was fairly certain that some had gotten into his hair. Potter looked like the walking dead, his face ghastly white and splattered with crimson whose color was fading into rust.

Severus hated that look. And, ironically, he hadn't actually been planning on killing anybody this time. He didn't like killing. It was messy, complicated, and tended to get him into heaps of trouble. Plus, that nasty little thing he suspected was his conscience had a tendency to plunge him into a deep depression whenever he actually did commit murder. He'd been quite depressed when he was younger.

Today was an exception. There would be no guilt trip this time.

Potter sneezed again, and, most likely unconsciously, tried to burrow farther into Severus' side.

Much to their mutual surprise, he allowed it.

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AN: Erm... *shrugs* Go fig. Never thought I'd write one of these kinda things. No, it's not gonna be slash. No, this isn't a response to Severitus' challenge, although that certainly helped to inspire me. Review anyway.


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