Gloaming Part One
Say Good Bye On A Night Like This

AN: The sequel to Lachrymose, takes place in December of 2003. This has been way harder to write than Lachrymose, probably because I have so many ideas I want to work in. I've been on a constant diet of Perrier and sleep deprivation getting it written. If you like it there can be more. I've got ideas for more parts, and I'd like to make this part of a series if there's anyone who would actually read that. Feedback?
On a slightly different note, I wrote most of this BEFORE OotP came out. Now, I've gone back and changed things, but there are obviously going to be some gaping holes here. Like, for example, why Sirius is alive, the details of the war, things like that. I'm going to be using OotP for some background and whatnot, but otherwise ignoring it.

I.

I suppose my first mistake of the night was leaving my flat. Galatea was sleeping peacefully on my chair, occasionally twitching in her dreams. The flat was warm, comfortable, the perfect place to curl up with a book in trousers and a t-shirt and just forget about the outside world.

But Alarbus and Ron were insistent that I attend Seamus' party. So here I am, on Christmas Eve, dressed in scratchy green robes, trying to smile and make small talk with the various co-workers I spend my days attempting to ignore, and attempting to look interested as Abernathy's personal assistant explains how to do The Time Warp. I will never, as long as I live, attend another party.

My second mistake was probably drinking so much. I'm not quite drunk, but I'm definitely not sober. It makes my mouth feel dry and my head feel all achy, and I just want to lie down and go to sleep. Which Ron will not allow. He's noticed me standing by myself, leaning against the wall and dropping off, and he comes over and drags me onto the terrace.

"Come on Harry," he says, trying to sound encouraging and cheerful. "There's some mistletoe between the living room and the kitchen, and Alarbus has kind of been hitting on you…"

"Ron don't be an idiot," I snap. Alarbus has been anything but hitting on me and we both know it. At least, I think we both know it. I really shouldn't have had so much to drink.

"Okay, well, whatever Harry, but you're bringing down the party."

"In that case I'll go home."

"Like hell you will!" His face is flushed red. "You've been drifting about like a zombie, snapping at everyone who so much as says hello to you. Now, as near as I can tell, there is nothing physically the matter with you, so get out there and shag something." Flustered, he gestures madly with his hands as I watch, one eyebrow raised and a bemused expression plastered onto my face.

"I like how you've linked my mental instability with my inherent need for sex. Tell me Ron, have you ever heard of Freud?"

"Goddamn it Harry! You sound just like Snape!" He slams his fist against the rail and goes back inside without looking back. I remain where I stand, frozen by his words. Snape. Of course. I can never get far enough away from the memory of him. The dreams have stopped, at any rate. That doesn't necessarily mean anything though, since I've been taking a potion for dreamless sleep.

There's been no word of Snape in all these long months since he disappeared. Life has gone back to normal, or as normal as it ever was. And now it's Christmas; undoubtedly the most depressing holiday when you have no one to spend it with. Seamus and Alarbus are going back home, and Ron will be flooing to his house early tomorrow morning. He invited me to come along, but it's not my family and the last thing I need is to be coddled and made to feel like the orphan I've always been. In theory I could go to Hogwarts and stay with Remus and Sirius, but I think we all know that won't happen.

It's fucking freezing outside, so I go in, closing the door gently behind me. The guests appear to be doing the Time Warp. Again. I sigh and head to the kitchen, because Goddamnit, too much to drink is never enough.

Alarbus is standing by the kitchen counter mixing a screwdriver when I come in. "But it's the pelvic thrust that really drives you insane," he sings in a frighteningly high-pitched voice before looking up and blushing. "Harry," his voice cracks. "I hadn't realized…er…"

"Shut up Alarbus," I sigh. "Just give me one of those, will you?" He obediently holds out a drink for me and I down it in one gulp. I become aware that he's staring at me rather fixedly, and it occurs to me that maybe I'm not the only person who's had a bit too much to drink tonight. "Something the matter?" I ask.

He shakes his head. "No, I'm fine."

"Glad to hear it," I mutter and pour myself another drink. The music from the next room is blaringly loud, even in here, and it's really beginning to grate on my nerves. "Merlin, does this never end?"

"We could go upstairs?" he offers. "It might be quieter. And if you want to talk…"

"I assure you, I do not. But lead the way. The prospect of silence is entirely too tempting to pass up." I sound like a git when I'm drunk, or maybe it's just the mood I'm in. Then again, I've been in this mood for half a year now.

I follow Alarbus up the stairs and down the hall to Seamus' room. Thankfully, it is very quiet in here. I run my fingers over the bedpost and then catch sight of something glittering from the bed stand. Picking up the handcuffs I snicker mirthlessly. "A few kinks, Seamus?"

Alarbus chuckles. "Maybe he brought them home from work," he offers.

"Right, because handcuffs are so incredibly effective on vampires."

"Maybe they're made of silver," he offers, taking the cuffs from me and stepping perilously close, still smiling. "Harry Potter, I regret to inform you that you are under arrest."

I smirk up at him dimly. "What? What did I do?"

"Don't play innocent with me," he admonishes, running a finger down the side of my face. "You know all your crimes perfectly well."

He's not smiling anymore, a few dark curls of hair falling in front of his brown eyes. His mouth is half open, his breath slightly citric from the orange juice in the screwdrivers. I stop smirking, suddenly aware of how close he is. "Al…"

"Harry, please," he implores, leaning down until his lips are nearly on mine. "Please."

* * *

When we sneak back downstairs an hour later the music is playing at a much lower volume, the party winding down. A few of the guests are lounging on the couch smoking, and a few more are standing at the fireplace bidding their host farewell before flooing to their respective residences.

Alarbus smiles uncertainly at me and reaches up to clasp my shoulder. "I'll see you later," he says, squeezing lightly before dropping his hand and moving to the fireplace.

I sigh and turn around, running a hand through my hair. Ron, sitting on the couch next to Abernathy's little secretary-whore, glances up at me and then turns his attention back to the girl. Whatever.

"Great party, Seamus," I lie. "Thanks for having me."

"Anytime Harry. You really should get out more," he grins at me, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. "So, did you and Al have a good time?"

If I were capable of flushing I probably would. As it is I'm so far beyond caring that I only manage a shrug before stepping into the floo.

It isn't that I'm using him, I tell myself as I step out of my fireplace. I mean, he was willing. I respect him. I like him. He's a great guy and all that. It's healthy for me to be with other people. People who are not homicidal maniacs. People my own age, who don't play sick mind games with me.

It's somehow unsatisfying.

* * *

I fix myself pizza and coffee for my Christmas supper. I haven't bothered with a tree this year. Instead, I curl up on the floor in front of the fire in an oversized grey jumper and slacks, Galatea in my lap as I sip my steaming mug of coffee and reflect on how much has changed for me since I was a child.

Ron had a point, last night. I've really become Snape. I'd been working toward it since we graduated, but it's become even more apparent since the past spring. Maybe seeing him again was all the catalyst needed to drive me insane. There are times I wake up and stare at myself in the mirror and wonder how the fuck I let myself become what I am. What happened to the days when Christmas was magical and parties were wonderful and I actually cared about things?

It's around one in the afternoon when the phone rings. I answer with a disinterested "Hello?"

"Harry?" the voice on the other end of the line purrs. I sit up straight, recognizing that voice at once. "Are you still there? Hello?"

"Snape."

"Oui, mon cher. But of course."

"What do you want?" I demand.

"To wish you a Merry Christmas. What else?"

His voice sounds strained. In my division we're trained to listen for the subtleties in a person's voice and he's trying to cover up his anxiety, I can tell. He's not such a mystery, I tell myself. He's worried about something and if I keep him on the line long enough, I can discover what it is.

"Where are you?" I venture.

"I'll give you three guesses."

"I'm not playing-"

"Yes you are. Playing this game with me. You are because if you don't I'll hang up right now."

"Would that be so awful?"

"Worse than you can imagine."

I sigh. What've I got to lose anyway? "Belfast," I guess.

"Wrong-o, Harry m'boy. Try again."

"America."

"Not for a thousand galleons. Last chance."

I don't bother wondering what will happen if I get this wrong. I've got a fairly good idea. "London."

"Give the boy a prize," he drawls. "You really ought to go with your first instinct."

"If I did that you'd be dead right now," I remind him.

"Touché. Seriously though, Harry, you would never hurt me. Just as I would never hurt you."

"You broke my nose without much moral anguish," I point out.

"That was part of a scheme Harry, a scheme. Don't tell me you're upset over that?"

"Of course not. How could I be when there are so many other things to be upset over? Like, for example, the fact that you ruined my life, killed my friends, led me on a wild goose chase, lied to me, used me to escape, and then came back to mock me. To name a few."

There's a pause on the other end of the line, and a muffled muttering. He's talking to someone else. Then his voice comes back to me, "How would you feel about taking a vacation?"

I snort. "Sure. I'll go to Tahiti with you the day hell freezes over and the Chudley Canons win the Quidditch Cup."

"Not Tahiti," he says. "France."

And then the phone line goes dead.

* * *

I spend the rest of the afternoon trying to ignore the tingling apprehension I can feel running up and down my spine. There's a slight storm outside, which I suppose could account for the sudden disconnection earlier, but I doubt it. I'd be more likely to blame the storm on Snape than the phone going dead on the storm.

In any event I'm alone, in an apartment, with no method of communication and no one to communicate with, and there's a madman somewhere in the city. Part of me wants to go find him, because it's the heroic thing to do. Or maybe because I'm very bored. The rest of me, however, is quite content to stay in and enjoy my Christmas pizza.

In the end I don't have to make a choice, because there's a knock at my door while I'm still mulling over the options with a mug of coffee in hand. I stand, warily approaching the door. I know very well that, if it's Snape on the other side, no amount of locks or wards will keep him out. I can't help dragging my feet though.

Once I'm at the door, wand in hand, I cast a charm to see through the wood like a one way mirror. My heart jumps into my throat and threatens to choke me. It's Snape, all right, but he's not alone. He's got her with him, Arienette, as pretty and young as if she's just stepped out of one of those photographs I've still got hidden away in a drawer at my office. Her dark curls held back with a dark blue silk scarf, her eyes lined with kohl and her mouth plump and red, curled in a secretive smile. She's got on tan suede pants and a white jumper. Snape, standing beside her with his face a mask of youthfully smooth skin, is dressed in black slacks, an elegant black leather jacket, black gloves, and a dark grey scarf. He's smirking, his left hand on the small of her back and the other resting on his hip. He raises an eyebrow and, as I watch, lifts his right hand to wave at me.

I jump back, startled, and increase the wards on the door. I've no doubt he can break through them, break through the fucking door if he decides. I'm certainly not fooled by the neatness of his clothing, or by his appearance. A wolf in sheep's clothing, I think, but he looks more like a raven than a wolf or a sheep. Maybe a siren, I think, nonsensically, taking a step away from the image of his patient smirk.

He knocks again, and leans down to whisper in her ear. She listens attentively, then turns her head slightly and looks right into my eyes, smiling.

With a final, gentle tap on the door, Snape reaches into his pocket and retrieves his wand. His hand closes on the doorknob and I feel my back hit the wall, my mouth dry and my heart racing. I squeeze my eyes shut and then open them wide. No.

He's standing inside now, holding the door open for her before shutting it carefully and replacing the wards. "It is terribly rude to pretend you're not home to company," he says in mock seriousness. "Especially as we've come such a long way to spend the holidays with you. Arienette," he looks down to her. "Why don't you give Harry our present?"

Arienette smiles, her teeth perfect white and her lips like a doll's as she extends an open hand, proffering a gaudily wrapped box. Gold paper, red ribbon, and Snape smirking at me. I reach out hesitantly and accept the gift.

It's a collar, made of some silvery metal with a small, blank, golden tag. I stare. "It's for Galatea," Snape informs me. "You've not bought her a new collar, have you? See, that's very irresponsible of you. Cats like to wander, and if she were picked up people might mistake her for a stray."

The truth is that I did buy Galatea a collar, a fabric one with a pliable metal tag engraved with her name and my address. She staunchly refused to wear it and shredded it after a day. The one she'd had when I got her had been confiscated as evidence, tested and prodded until it just gave way.

"It's enchanted," he says, patiently. "It'll fit anything that wears it comfortably and presents the necessary information. It'll fit you, if you try it on."

My hands move of their own accord, as if under a spell, up to my neck. He smiles indulgently at me, and then at Arienette, whose own little girl smile is all expectance and grace. There's a shiver of fear tracing down my spine, and then the collar snaps shut around my neck. I gasp, out of shock, not discomfort. He was right. I don't feel a thing.

He takes a step toward me and, as I attempt to move back, I remember that I am effectively cornered. His hand rises and picks up the golden tag as he bends in to examine it. "Henry James Potter," he reads. "1835 Tite Street, London, room 28."

I jerk convulsively back as his gloved hand trails down my neck, and my head comes in contact with the wall abruptly, causing me to bite my tongue. There's a stinging sensation, and then a coppery taste so I know I've bitten through it. I wince, and he chuckles, dropping his hand and taking a step away.

"You never did learn to think before you act."

I remove the collar with shaking hands, gazing at the tag, which is blank again, to no one's surprise but my own. I look up from it, to their identically youthful grins. Swallowing, I harden my gaze and draw myself up. "Get out."

"Harry," Snape chastises. "It's Christmas!"

"Take your fucking collar and get the hell out of my life!" I'm on the edge of panic now, not thinking to stun them, or call for help, or even ask one of the thousand questions that keep me up at night. I'd get no answers. It'd be no use. "Get the fuck away from me!"

Snape's hand closes on my upper arm, his voice low and soothing. "Just calm down Harry. Calm down and everything will be okay."

I thrash away from him, throwing the collar onto the floor in a glint of silver and gold, my hand rising to point my wand at the center of his chest. "Ava-"

"Petrificus totalus," he spits out quickly, and the world goes dark around the image of his somber, lineless face.

II.

I'm having a dream, for the first time in so long it's almost painful to think of. I'm in a shoddy hotel room alone. There are two beds, one of which I am lying on. The blanket under me smells like cigar smoke and burnt plastic and something else I can't quite place. I don't like whatever it is. The light bulb is too dim to see properly, and it casts an ugly yellow light around the room, as if the puke green carpet and stained walls weren't already hideous enough. I can hear the hum of electricity, of sockets and volts.

As I look about the room I realize I am not completely alone, as I had at first imagined myself to be. Snape is sitting at a small table, his long legs looking cramped by the severity of his uncomfortable chair. He's got a book in hand, his eyes narrowed as he reads in the dim light, a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. He's not smoking, just letting the smoke curl up in blue streaks toward the ceiling.

"I didn't know you smoked," I say, as if it's the most natural thing in the world. My head feels fuzzy, sort of like it's lifted off my shoulders.

He looks up at my comment, his eyes adjusting to looking further than a few inches as he removes the fag and taps it against the ashtray. "I only started a few weeks ago," he explains. He sounds dazed too. I nod, and he picks the book back up then, wrinkling his forehead, lays it down again and grinds the cigarette into the ashtray. "Need any company over there?"

I shrug. "It's not a very big bed."

"Big enough for two," he lifts an eyebrow. I roll my eyes and scoot over, and he grins, slinking over like a black coyote to slip next to me, his body pushed right up next to mine. He's warm, and I realise how cold it was without him. I roll onto my side and hold onto him, his arm coming round to brush through my hair.

"You dream a lot, don't you?" he asks after a pause.

"Used to," I mumble against his shoulder.

"About me?"

The door jerks open and we both jump up. He slides out of the bed gracefully to stand beside Arienette, who is shutting the door behind her and rubbing her hands together against the cold. I watch, my eyes frozen open, as he leans in and kisses her full on the mouth. She turns her head politely to the side, that same faint smile on her mouth as she presses a finger against his lips. Both at once, they turn to look at me, and their eyes are more like animals' than humans'.

All at once I realise: This is no dream.

* * *

"There's complicated," Snape says, inhaling shallowly on his fag, "and there's complicated."

Our current situation is decidedly the latter. Sitting in this dingy motel, with Arienette perched on the arm of his chair, his legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles, and a cigarette in his still gloved hands, he looks like a young king. I'm sitting on the bed with my back against the headrest, trying to decipher what the hell is going on. I've given up on ever finding my wand.

"There are certain situations, things that took place before you were born, but are now coming into play. Schemes that were never meant to be carried out have been triggered irrevocably, unless we, or rather I, do something about it."

He fixes me with a glare quite reminiscent of the one he used as a professor, and I'm caught off balance, still groggy from curses, sleep and hang over. "This is quite literally a quest to save the world."

I snort. "And why am I along? Did you miss me that terribly?"

"My opinion of you not withstanding," he sighs, "very bluntly put, we will be needing your help."

"My help."

"More specifically we will be needing you to get us help."

"I tried to get you help," I mutter under my breath. He ignores me.

"Before we can continue on our perilous quest, our heroic mission, our whatever it is you and your fool friends got up to a thousand times at school, before we get down to business, Harry, I have to know I can trust you."

I let out a loud, harsh laugh. "Ha! You have to know if you can trust me? You have to know if you can trust me?" I can feel myself bordering on hysteria, and I take a deep breath before fixing him with a sneer. "Are we forgetting that you lied to me and used me after I offered to help you?"

"We are not forgetting anything, Harry," he growls. His voice is like rocks wrapped in velvet, and it leaves an unpleasant feeling in my ears. Somehow, the way he says my first name he might as well be calling me 'Mister Potter' again. "We are especially not forgetting that clever little trick you pulled in Godric's Hollow."

I snort. "So what do you suggest? A trust fall?"

He sniffs haughtily. "Please."

"Well then what?" I demand. This is getting insane. I don't have the energy to convince convicts of my devotion to them. "What will appease you? What will set your mind at ease? Do you want we should share blood? Or maybe I should drink veritaserum? Or you can put me under Imperius? What is it you want from me?"

He smiles, his eyes flashing darkly from beneath long lashes. "I've already got it."

* * *

Snape's downstairs paying our bill. Arienette, holding his wand, is sitting watch over me from a chair by the door, and I can't decide whether or not she's an actual threat. She doesn't feel like a witch to me, doesn't feel magical. There's nothing coming from her, no supernatural energy. If I had to guess I'd say she's a Muggle, and that Snape wasn't lying about that part.

Then again, it doesn't mean she's not dangerous. The wand itself is no threat, but, as I am without one, we would have to fight each other as Muggles. And Snape doesn't strike me as the sort to choose weak companions. I get the feeling that Arienette can hold her own, with or without magic.

She smiles sweetly at me as I am thinking on it. Her mouth is small and perfectly curved and symmetrical, like a doll's mouth. It looks painted on. Thinking about Snape kissing her, I suddenly want to rip it off. It's an unsettling feeling, to get jealous over a man who ruined your life. I must be more fucked up than I thought. Maybe Ron was right about me.

Snape chooses this moment to return, clapping his gloved hands together and glancing briskly around the room. "Everything's settled," he informs us. "I've procured a vehicle for us. Arienette, dear, would you mind?" He hands her the keys and she returns his wand, leaving the room with a final glancing smile directed at no one in particular. "Now, Harry, I'm going to need you to cooperate with me. It will be much more pleasant that way."

"Where are we going?" I ask in a voice scratchy.

"We're visiting an old friend," he says, holding out a hand and helping me to my feet. "We would apparate, but there are certain complications to that option, namely Arienette's notable inability to become to first Muggle capable of apparation and the wards around our destination."

"She is a Muggle then," I remark blandly.

"Oh, not everything I told you was a lie," he informs me, looping his arm through mine and steering me out the door. "Most of it was at least half true. We can talk about that later though. It's a long ride to Malfoy Manor, you know."

* * *

Car ride chatter. Arienette is driving, Snape riding shotgun, controlling the radio station and flipping between channels every five minutes or so. I'm here in the back seat, wallowing in leather interior, sick to fuck of being kidnapped.

From the front seat, Snape says, "Maybe you'll develop Stockholm's Syndrome and we can have some real fun."

"Very funny," I say. I don't get it, but I'm not telling him that. I can just hear what he'd say, if he could read my thoughts right now. 'You do a very convincing job of pretending to be marginally less idiotic than you were back at Hogwarts, but you and I both know it's just an act so why not stop acting like a tough guy or an angst ridden teenager, hmm? Come on, Harry, you can be honest with me.'

"You do a very poor job of imitating me," he says, presently, and lights a cigarette.

"Excuse me?"

"Not that I'm not flattered," he adds, not turning around. I glare daggers at the back of his head, at his stupid clean hair. "I'm just saying, you can't really hope to pull off an image that took me decades to create. Why don't you try finding yourself?"

"Shut the fuck up," I say, and look out the window.

He snickers from the front seat. "Don't you have anything else to say to me?"

"Yeah, get the hell out of my life."

"Tut-tut, my love. You're becoming terribly repetitive."

I don't reply. It's what he wants me to do. When we're talking he knows he can fuck up my mind. Words are all his power, have always been his forte. When I was a child he used them to lash out, to hurt and break and wreak general havoc on the students. He used them to retain control, just like he's doing now. Provoking. He's always lying. I don't think there is a truth to him.

At least, I don't want to think there is.

III.

We stop again around midnight when it looks like Arienette is going to fall asleep at the wheel. I'm not fairing much better myself. I haven't had nearly enough caffeine today. Snape looks reluctant to drive, so we end up exiting the highway and driving in aimless circles around the same few blocks before Snape manages to point out a hotel he likes and Arienette pulls up to it and we partake in the wonder that is valet parking.

I'm too tired to really be aware of what's going on. Arienette leads me over to a couch in the lobby while Snape checks us in. I'm almost going out like a light, and when she scoots closer and puts a hand on my leg I don't notice as much as I should. In fact, by the time Snape comes back I've got my head resting on her shoulder and she's humming softly to me, like a mother, petting my hair.

"Well, this is just adorable," Snape drawls and extends both his hands to help us to our feet. "My two favorite people enjoying one another so thoroughly. Come on then, I've got us a suite."

In the elevator I reflect on how we must look. There's Arienette and Snape, impeccably dressed and darkly attractive. There's me, in my slacks and large sweater, looking shy and harmlessly attractive. We're just three young people, when you look at us like this, but I somehow feel like I look younger than both of them.

The suite Snape has obtained has two rooms, one huge bed. I lie down on the couch when I realize the situation, but Snape shakes his head and pulls me to my feet. "We can't have the saviour of the Wizarding World sacrificing his back, can we? I will not tolerate your risking a crick in your neck."

I somehow manage a sneer and then trundle into the bathroom and vomit.

* * *

Snape takes nearly an hour in the bathroom. Arienette and I limited our showers and other toiletry needs to a brief twenty minutes each, I think inanely. Why is he so special? Keeping that hair clean must take an awful lot of work. I snicker at the image of Snape in a shower cap, before rolling onto my side.

I'm lying as far from Arienette as humanly possible. It's not that I don't like her-I just don't know what to make of her. I went for so long believing she was some sort of fairy tale, or just another lie that Snape brilliantly constructed, I'm not sure even now if I believe in her or not. She's wearing white cotton underwear and a plain white bra, sitting up in bed under the covers and flipping through channels on the television, pausing now and then with her head cocked curiously to the side and her hair, now free, falling into her face and over her eyes.

She turns to me, her mouth quirked up in that smooth, guileless smile of hers. It is unsettling, the frequency with which her face falls back into this uniform expression. I get the feeling, however, that of all people she is genuine, unguarded. In some aspect she means her smile with the innocence found only in the very young or the mentally retarded. She appears to be neither, but there's no telling what company Snape might keep.

She's still smiling at me, so I sneer and roll over so that my back is facing her. "It's no use pretending you don't want him," she says, her voice accented heavily. French. I roll back, looking at her curiously. It's the first time I've heard her speak. The accent reminds me of something Snape had said, about meeting her in France. Maybe some of what he said was true…

"I don't want him," I retort belatedly.

Her smile doesn't waver. "We all know you do. I know, he knows, so it's no use at all pretending that you don't know."

"What are you, a bloody telepath?" I snap.

She grins and lifts an eyebrow gently. "Maybe so."

Snape chooses this moment to make his entrance in a cloud of water vapor and steam from the bathroom, wearing black boxers and a plain white undershirt. He sighs, throwing his outer clothes onto a chair before leaning over to kiss Arienette on the cheek and crawling into bed between us.

"Having fun without me?" He lifts an eyebrow, casting his rakish smile between us.

"I want to go home," I say, though I know it won't matter. "They'll be missing me soon. Alarbus was going to call me later, and when I don't answer he'll know something is up." The fact that I don't expect Alarbus to call, and that, should he not receive an answer, he would interpret it as merely my moodiness, does not faze me one bit at this point. "And work starts in a week. If I'm not there-"

"Where would they look for you? Would they look for you? There's the question. You're the boy hero. You can miss as many days of work as you like and be completely excused. They'll think you're on vacation."

"Not Ron. Or Seamus and Alarbus. They'll find me."

"You could get away right now if you tried," he says, leaning over me and switching off the lamp. "Truth is you're curious. You let one chance with me get away from you, and now you want to know what you missed out on."

"Fuck you," I seethe. "I missed out on your lies and your mind games, and nothing else."

"Whatever helps you sleep at night." I can hear his smirk. "Good night Harry."

* * *

Snape orders breakfast; bacon, eggs, sausage and toast, and we're on the road by ten. Arienette is driving again, Snape at his perch up front, controlling the radio and temperature. I'm in the back, glowering away as best I can. We're making our way, Snape tells me, to the Chunnel. Malfoy Manor is further than I would have guessed.

I fall asleep before we've been on the road an hour. It must be the lack of coffee. ("Coffee creates weakness," Snape had said at breakfast when I sulkily requested a latte. "You'll learn to survive without it or not at all. I will not tolerate an addiction." And he lit a cigarette and walked away in an unnecessary huff.)

I slide easily into a dream about Hogwarts last spring. Sirius is there, and Remus, both smiling benignly at me and inviting me to tea and supper and holidays in Southern France. Sirius' grin is so big it's just about cracking him in half, opening up his head and spilling everything inside him out.

It's something I think about from time to time. After last spring I've kept in erratic touch with my godfather and his lycanthrope companion. Letters by owl, a phone call now and again, the occasional lunch out. I won't go back to Hogwarts, for them or anyone else. So it's been sporadic bursts of communication. Most of our conversations skate over emotions, like Sirius' well wishes and cracking smiles. Remus is always on the edge of things, and I can't help him hating him, just a little, for what he's done to the man I used to look up to.

I'm deep in this dream of well wishes and smiles, and no one bothers to wake me till we're through the Chunnel and in France. In fact, it's around nine at night when they do bother to wake me, and then it's only because we're stopping for a very late dinner at some fluorescent lit diner. Peachy.

I drag myself out of the car and follow Arienette and Snape into the eatery. It's all bright lights and plastic surfaces. I hate it. The man behind the cash register seems to hate it just as much as I do. "Qu'avez-vous?" he says listlessly.

"Deux sandwiches, trois milkshakes, une partie de ce pâté en croûte," Arienette orders for us.

Snape takes hold of my hand and tugs me toward a booth. "I don't know about you," he says, "but I murder the French language, so it's probably best we wait here for her." He smiles at me warmly. "Come on. It's not that bad."

"I've been kidnapped by my ex-potions professor. What could be worse?"

"I could be Voldemort." His teeth glitter in his smile. "It could be lots worse."

"Food's here," Arienette announces, trying to keep all the plates together. Snape jumps up to help her, handing me a thick vanilla milkshake, a ham sandwich and a slice of blueberry pie. I sneer at it, then give up when I realize no one is looking at me. Might as well eat.

I'm finished with the sandwich and working on the milkshake when they start talking. Arienette is sipping her own milkshake through its clear straw, making the straw appear opaque and white. "Qu'allons-nous faire avec le garçon?" she asks.

"La patience," Snape replies, cutting his pie with a fork. "Nous aurons besoin de lui plus tard."

Non mon amour," her eyes flash. "Vous aurez besoin de lui plus tard. Vous avez besoin de lui maintenant. Ne me pensez pas ne voient pas où ceci va." Pausing, to eat a bite of pie, she sizes him up with her eyes, that smile creeping dangerously over her expression. "Naturellement, j'approuve."

"Rien n'est caché de vous."

Not understanding a word of French, I am generally pissed off at being excluded from the conversation. I feel like a child being kept in the dark. Sulkily, like a child, I push my milkshake over and watch the cold liquid spread rapidly and drip into Snape's lap.