Disclaimer: I don't own any of this really, except for the plot, and random secondary characters. It actually belongs to people far richer than I.
"What are you doing here, Potter?" the potions professor asked wearily. The school year was over, the N.E.W.T.s finished, and Voldemort finally defeated, thanks, mostly, to the boy standing in front of him. Said boy should not be down in the dungeons, disturbing his preparations for a drunken stupor when he could be celebrating in his common room with his friends…
Or rather getting himself into his own drunken stupor in a vain effort to forget about friends that had been lost before the final battle.
The black haired boy looked at his feet, and if Severus hadn't known better, he'd have said the boy seemed nervous, or even frightened. It wasn't possible, really, but that's what it seemed like.
Stepping aside, he moved away from the doorway and motioned for the boy to enter. He earned a soft "thank you" in return, as the boy went in, shuffling his feet. He certainly did seem uncomfortable about something.
Wordlessly again, Snape gestured for the boy to take a seat on one of the couches before moving to his cupboards. From there he pulled out another glass, setting in beside his own. He hadn't yet had anything to drink, but he'd been planning on it. He took the bottle of fire-whiskey he'd been saving for such an occasion, and poured two very generous glasses, handing one to the boy and taking a deep sip from his own.
Potter still hadn't answered his question. The boy certainly hadn't come to him for comfort. He could have gone to any number of people more qualified than he for that. And if the boy wanted sexual gratification, there were certainly many other students in the school more than willing to offer that kind of comfort. He certainly was not good looking under any stretch of the imagination, so it was inconceivable that the boy would come to him.
It was for that reason that he repeated the question. "What are you doing here, Potter?"
Silently, the boy reached into his robes and pulled out a wad of envelopes, secured by a piece of twine. He flipped through them quickly, counting them. There seemed to be nearly fifty of them, and he itched to open one and read it.
The boy seemed to sense his desire, and, staring intently into the glass before him, said steadily, "Go ahead. You can read them."
Gently, as to not show his eagerness, Severus pulled the parchment from the first envelope, scanned it, and tossed it aside. It was a job offer, or rather a job-training offer, for auror training. That certainly wasn't anything to be upset about.
He moved onto the next one, and then the next, his eyes widening in disbelief. The majority of them were job offers, as well as several marriage proposals, and even a few death threats. The marriage proposals and death threats were to be expected, if unwelcome. There was bound to be enough women out there interested in a piece of the Boy-Who-Lived-To-Defeat-Voldemort, and there was certainly no small about of Death Eaters who had escaped justice, itching for revenge. It was the job offers that were the most surprising. Aside from Quidditch and Auror training, the fool boy wasn't suited for any of the jobs.
The boy's words echoed his thoughts. "I'd need years of training to be able to fill any one of those jobs, and yet they offer it to me simply because I'm the Boy-Who-Bloody-Wouldn't-Die! I don't want to be seen like that, Professor."
The potion master's first reaction was to snort and dismiss the boy as he would anyone else, but there was something in the boy's tone that made him think twice.
Throughout the boy's schooling, Severus had only seen him as Potter, and as his father's son. He'd believed the boy enjoyed his fame, and had tried every chance he got to show the fool child that he wasn't as invincible as everyone made him out to be, that he was only flesh and blood.
For the past seven years, his opinion had seemed well founded. The boy was showered with praise from nearly everyone, given special consideration when he broke the rules, and he seemed to generally bask in the hero-worship.
Now, however, he was getting the chance to see a different side of the boy. One only his friends, and possibly Albus, had seen before. Perhaps this was the true Harry Potter. A boy who didn't want to be famous for something he'd done as an infant. A boy who only wanted to do what he thought was right, and wanted to be left alone.
And now, since his friends were no longer here, he would get the privilege of being the boy's confidant.
Severus couldn't think of anything to say, so he said nothing. There was no point in saying three words where one would suffice… or none.
The boy, however, took his silence as invitation to continue.
"Do you know what they expect me to do!" he exclaimed. "They want me to marry Ginny! As though the noble thing to do would be to tie her down right after she loses her father and brother! They don't even want to give her a choice. They've been asking me when the date is!"
Severus was shocked, though he didn't show it. They thought Potter was going to marry Ginny Weasley? The boy hasn't even gotten over Hermione's death. What are they thinking?
Harry seemed to hear his unspoken question. "They think it's the proper thing for me to do. Become an Auror, get married, have children, and own a house with a white picket fence. They don't care how either of us feel about the whole situation."
Severus didn't quite understand the 'white picket fence' idea, figuring it must be some kind of Muggle saying, but the rest of the statement made sense. He understood how oppressive the views of the public could be. Understanding it, however, didn't mean he had something to say in response.
The boy lapsed into silence, obviously thinking before he spoke again. "I don't want to be an Auror. I don't want to have anything to do with the ministry, with Fudge still the Head. I would be good at it, but I couldn't stand him.
"I like Quidditch as well, but every time I got onto a broom, I would be wondering whether they hired me because of my skill, or because of my name."
Severus stared at him. He wanted to bite out some scathing comment, but couldn't fine the heart to. The boy had come to him for… something, and obviously needed… what? Comfort, advice, help? The older wizard felt uncomfortable. Indecisiveness was not something he was prone to feeling.
They lapsed into silence again, until the discomfort grew too much for the potions master. Patience was something he normally prided himself in, but there were some times when it served no purpose.
"Why are you telling me this?" he asked bluntly, but his voice lacking the iciness the boy was used to.
This caused the boy to really think; a rare occurrence. Why was he telling his most hated professor all of this? He was thinking out loud. "Who else could I turn to? My two best friends are dead, and Albus or Minerva would simply coddle me."
The boy certainly had a point. None of the other students would understand the boy. None of them had been expected to play a significant role in the war. Despite his previous loathing for the boy, he'd been forced to admit he was older than his age.
"And what would you like me to do about this?" the potions master asked patronizingly.
Harry stood up, dropping his full glass of fire-whiskey onto the ground. "I don't know! Half of me wants to be told what to do while the other part is sick and tired to being ordered around. You must know how this feels! You were manipulated by Dumbledore when you were younger!"
And am still being manipulated, Severus added silently, ignoring the liquid spreading across the stone floor. "I'm not sure what you're asking of me. Do you want me to tell you what job to take up? Or do you want me to tell you everything will be alright? I can't tell you either of these things. They're something you have to figure out on your own."
"But how am I supposed to do that when everyone is expecting me to be a certain way?" the boy asked, looking distraught. "They expected me to be the Golden Boy all throughout school, and I did that. They expected me to defeat Voldemort, and I did that. Why can't they just stop expecting me to do things? Haven't I done enough for them already? Haven't I lost enough already?"
The boy broke down into sobs on the wet floor.
So the Boy-Who-Lived isn't unbreakable after all, Severus thought dryly before barking at the boy to stand up.
"You expect them to feel sympathy for you? You're a celebrity. You aren't actually real. Whether your famous or infamous, you will never be out of the limelight. The public will expect you to fail. They will pry into your life, and make it miserable.
"You may think that if you stay in the back ground long enough, they'll forget about you, but they never will."
Severus shook his head. "Don't expect me to tell you everything will be okay, because it won't. I should know."
Harry laughed bitterly, understanding that the man was speaking of the stigma of being labelled a Death Eater. "So, are you telling me I should end my life now?"
"Do you want to?" Severus asked raising an eyebrow.
Harry shook his head and laughed again. "And let Cornelius Fudge out live me? I didn't survive Voldemort just to let Fudge bring the ministry to ruins."
Severus laughed heartily. "And what are you going to do? Take Cornelius down? The man may be a fool, but he does have followers. How else would he have survived this long, especially after he denied Voldemort's return, or after his inattention caused Arthur Weasley's death?"
Harry smiled genuinely, and there was something odd in the boy's eyes. "That idea seems to have merit. Would you like to help me?"
The older man wasn't sure if the boy was joking or now, but he decided not to take it seriously. He laughed, and said, "The dour potions professor following the orders of Harry Potter. Not bloody likely."
Harry laughed with him, but the glint in the boy's eyes wasn't gone. If he hadn't known any better, he would have said the boy was actually serious. He was almost sure the boy was too loyal to Dumbledore to go through with something like that, however.
"Thanks for your advice, Professor," the boy said, yawning. "I'll think on what you said before I go to sleep tonight."
The yawn, of course, seemed fake, and he knew the boy was planning something, because his words hadn't been very helpful. He wasn't going to say anything, however, as he escorted the boy out of his chambers.
He never did figure out what the boy had planned, because Harry disappeared sometime before the morning, without a trace.
Severus wasn't entirely surprised that the boy had managed that, or even that he'd left. The potions master would probably even put money on the fact that the boy had headed into the Muggle World.
The only thing he wasn't sure about was what the boy was planning to do, and it seemed, due to the uproar in the morning, that the ever-manipulative Headmaster didn't know either.
AN: Okay… this is my second attempt at a Fanfic. The first one I gave up on. I had too many ideas, but no actual plot. This one does have a plot, partially in thanks to my muse, Bookie.
Anyway, please tell me what you think about this by pressing the GO button in the bottom corner. It's calling to you. Go to it!