Summary: Gryffindor isn't what Slytherin sees in it, and the reverse is even more true. The Potters don't know they look different depending on where you're standing, the Blacks know exactly how they come across but can't be arsed to care, and Severus Snape isn't exactly who anyone thinks he is—least of all himself.

Roll up your sleeves, slip into your cloak, and slap that dagger on your belt. This is war, people—pick a side! Oh, what the hell. Pick three.

Disclaimer: Profitless fanwork

Warnings: by chapter. Here, some bad language. And Severus-brain.

Style and pace: War coverage, yes. Nonetheless, this fic is an exploration, not a gory plunge or thriller. It's in no hurry. Really at all. Also, the first handful of chapters aren't typical. To make an informed decision about whether this story's for you, I'd say give it at least till chapter six. You wouldn't leave without at least greeting His Dark Lordship, would you? It's safe enough; he's still sane... ish...

FAQ below. Skip it if you like; it'll be here if you start wondering about discrepancies with things Harry thinks he knows and so on.

Valley of the Shadow
by nightfall


There wasn't much time between the Halloween sky falling and being swallowed by the grey to work out which halfhearted flutters of chaos-butterfly wings had shattered the world. It was enough for Sirius to realize that Pete must have been feeling like a fifth wheel for years, although not enough to learn to take any blame.

It took longer for Severus, who didn't wait a nanosecond to start the debate on whether it would be most useful and more of a penance to kill himself or go on teaching, to decide it had probably begun with the Thing With The Ducks (Of Which We Do Not Speak). Of course, he had rather more on his calendar.


The ducks had happened before even the first of the series of war-related tragedies that had really hit home for either of them. Back then, the war had still been mostly underground, and in comparison to what it became later it had felt like a game. Back then, Severus's old Housemates had still only been killing and tormenting people they didn't see as people, and only a few of them.

Even then he hadn't been thrilled about it, not by a long road. Unfortunately, his position was, as he saw it, caught in the undertow, heading for a tall waterfall, with quicksand on one bank and crocodiles on the other. After his years at school, he'd found very little to choose between Duly Constituted Authority and the Death Eaters, and the scant years since graduation hadn't changed his mind.

Didn't both sides have their bullies, their torturers of prisoners? Didn't both sides do unforgivable things? Didn't they both think a particular culture, whether it was the muggle or the Slytherin one, made everyone who was tainted by it inhuman and unworthy of consideration, acceptance, and the protection of justice and equitably enforced law? Didn't they both operate on stupid, short-sighted, narrow-minded, change-phobic, wizard-centric, self-righteous sets of assumptions and values that didn't hold up well in the face of real life?

That being the case (and he went on believing it had been the case until he died, as nothing ever persuaded him otherwise), he reasoned then that the crocodiles didn't live where he slept, whereas the quicksand wasn't actually slavering for his blood. In that case: cautiously experiment with snowshoes.

No matter how disgusted he got, or how afraid, it never once occurred to him to leave the country. But then, he never claimed to be undamaged enough to qualify for sanity. Except out loud to other people. Which totally didn't count.

It wasn't the only thing he lied about, although it was probably the only lie he put into words that worked even a little bit. Years and years of careful groundwork had left most of his fellow Slytherin alums looking down at him indulgently, as a more useful than usual mascot. He was clever but naïve, scrappy but squeamish. Proud for his station, but knew his place and didn't fight it.

He could be trusted to behave appropriately at social gatherings, if you exercised common sense about the other guests, but had absolutely no desire to have to do so. His blood was at once impossible and impeccable. In the Slytherin view, it made what in another would have been social climbing a still-distasteful but natural and nearly mandatory attempt to gain back the standing his mother had thrown away. Still, he left no one under any misapprehension that he wanted anything more than to be self-sufficient, helpful when he could be, and left-the-fuck-alone with his books and cauldrons.

If it wasn't the ideal position for someone who wanted nothing to do with the violence and the politics and had too many allies who wanted everything to do with both, it was (he thought) the only survivable one. The problem with it was that so many of the people who felt reasonably friendly to him because of it were, when you got right down to it, monsters.

For example: Bellatrix's lumbering psychopath of a husband and his ideas about cool craft activities to share with friends. You couldn't shoot him down because he'd get huffy and break your arm, and you also couldn't shoot him down because of his goddamn excited-puppy eyes anyway, you pushover.

So you ended up a year and a half later shattered into dust in a blast-blackened house, kneeling on your demented boss's ashes with the glorious coppery hair of your first friend's corpse spilled out all over the floor instead of blood. With her kid looking down at you from the crib with her eyes, sodding burbling at the pretty light show, not even the sense to know the world had ended, as sociopathic and above human feeling as his surely-damned father.

…Yeah, okay, so those dots could probably use some connecting.

chapter notes: Yes, Severus's read on Harry's noises there was completely wrong. Whimpering ≠ burbling. That's not 'lack of familiarity with baby noises,' that's 'Severus was not fully-and-correctly processing anything but Dead Lily.' What can I say, he and Harry always get each other wrong. I suspect Horcrux/Dark Mark static on the radar (kidding! ...mostly).

Welcome aboard.

Story-wide warnings:

The likelihood of anything in the story being darker than chapter three is similar to that of Severus dressing up in Albus's loudest dressing gown to do a rendition of Hello My Baby in the Great Hall before his coffee. Without being high or having lost a bet. I'll help the squeamish skip the worst of it. I'm squeamish myself (although you may not believe me in a minute...)

You shouldn't need the prequels (see the POV sections) to understand what's happening, but they're where the relationships developed. I.e: at Hogwarts. If you have, please be patient with the flashbacky exposition: it's there so newcomers don't absolutely have to read 163 pages of kidfic and heart-eyes to not be completely confused about the central relationships.

This is a love-and-war story. There are two versions posted, and in the 'gen' version all the Severus love is platonic (canon relationships still exist, and there may be other pairings or UST implied). I'm sorry to have to admit that neither version will get graphic, but I've been told the non-gen version, at least, ought to come with a 'feels' warning on some chapters. It should be noted that 'platonic' excludes lust and sex but not emotional or even physical intimacy. Nothing will be sprung on you without explanation/backstory (as touched on above).

In 2014 I don't think it should still be necessary to have to warn for the gender-makeup of couples. There are at least references to relationships in all gender-iterations, canonical and otherwise. I won't mess around with canon relationships, but it shouldn't be assumed that any other relationship (or any character) will or won't make it to the end of the fic unless Harry has certain knowledge about it.

That was a big ol' I'm not warning you one way or another about character deaths there, in case anyone missed it.

I will warn you there's way more pregnancy than the author is entirely comfortable with. 1980-fic, can't be avoided. All the mothers are straight-up female, though. Straight, too, actually, unless Frank Longbottom is quietly trans. Lucius and James definitely aren't, at least in this fic, but if you want to read Frank that way it's OK by me. ^.^

What's with the (d)s in the chapter titles?
To my surprise, I'm not the only one who thinks the way the not/platonic difference changes the dynamic and even the actual characters turned out to be interesting. Since some people are reading both versions, the chapters that are affected by the change are labeled with a (d). All other chapters should be the same between versions. I think there's one (unlabeled) chapter where there's a one-phrase difference, but I do try to either make differences matter or not have them.

Canon Compliance
It is advised that the reader be familiar with the biography of Harry Potter written by Ms. Rowling. The reader should be aware that this seven-volume series was fact-checked by Ms. Skeeter rather than Miss Granger, and cannot be relied on in the matter of dates. Furthermore, Ms. Rowling's books are written from the point of view of the subject, and not only contain a distinctly pro-Gryffindor bias but largely confine themselves to what Mr. Potter saw, heard, assumed, and speculated.

THIS IS A SLYTHERIN STORY. Truth is subjective, there is no whole truth, there is no one truth, and people lie. The Riddle wars are well-named.

(Also, the information in PS/SS: The Boy Who Lived doesn't mix well with the rest of the series once we get away from Vernon Dursley's POV. No one who was there for the next few pages would have talked to Rita, either. I'm assuming she pulled the bits before Hagrid got there out of her... antennae.)

POV and House bias
This fic follows A Key Called Promise and The Wicket Gate. Those are really one story, separated mainly for rating reasons. This is a different one. Being written entirely from the POV of a Slytherin Severus-ally, they had a strong anti-Gryffindor bias.

To be clear from the beginning: that was the character's bias, not necessarily mine. There are multiple narrators in this story, and they will all see themselves and each other in their own way. JKR set up canon so that it would be OOC for the characters not to hate on each other. That's one thing. When a story character-bashes, it feels like slapstick to me. Can be fun, not what I'm doing, not really interesting. My actual position will always be 'X behaved badly here, I think I can see why, that's going to have consequences,' rather than 'X is such a bitch!' or 'oh, poor X, of course she did that!'

And if it isn't... it was the goal.

Temporary notes?Chapters are the only place to respond to reviews made without an account, ask all the readers a question, note that there's been a major edit or fix and credit the reader who prompted it, that sort of thing. IMO, notes like that are communications with current readers and irrelevant to future readers, if not actually annoying or distracting. IMO, I do ZOMG TOO MANY NOTES. Ergo, only notes that have to do with the actual story will stay in the chapters forever.

Yes, please(please please please please). Getting encouragement and talking about the story/world/characters stimulate the writing. Posting into an echoing void is discouraging, and not something I'm interested in.

Right then.
In the right place? Keys, wallet, phone? Cloak, dagger, wand? Know what side you're on? Good catch, quite right, trick question. Let's roll.