Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, I don't make money of them either.
This is the first chapter of an almost 30000 words long story in ten chapters. In spite of my previous decision (you know, that one about quitting fanfiction writing ;-D) here it is, and please, try to enjoy it.
It's not the usual story of mine, because the main characters are adults. I hope you'll like it though.
I rated it PG-13 just to remain in the safe side, though I don't think it's more than a simple PG.
I uploaded another new story, its title is: The cupboard. Nice, long one-shot, and just a little bit angsty.
I hope you won't be disappointed.
Betaed by Barbara (as always) – many thanks for her wonderful work!
Fool (if you think it's over)
Written for the HP_SS_Gen_Fest challenge 36: An emotionally damaged Harry flees to the Muggle world after years of fighting. The war is not over though so someone needs to bring him back. The only person available is Snape, who could care less about the mental well-being of his former student. Will this change though when he sees what the expectations of the wizarding world has done to the young wizard?
Warning: post OotP, spoilers ahead!
Pairing: you'll see
Betaed by Barbara
Fool if you think it's over
Because you said goodbye
Fool if you think it's over – I'll tell you why
New born eyes always cry with pain
At the first look of the morning sun
You're a fool if you think it's over
It's just begun
(Chris Rea – Fool)
Harry lifted his teacup to his mouth while he stood next to the window and stared out to the Sydney night. The tea tasted bitter, the night was dark and cold, and he was tired to his bones. He was working in the reptile house of the zoo, and they had been cleaning the terrariums for days, which was quite exerting work. Generally, his colleagues left it to him to transport the reptiles from one place to another, and there were some very big snakes, which were too lazy to move, so that Harry had had to carry them.
But he wasn't annoyed with his co-workers: exhaustion was the perfect way to fall asleep fast without lingering in the past thinking about Ron, Luna, Lupin and Hermione, who…
No. That was finished. With a soft cling Harry put his cup down and retreated from the window. It was time for bed. He stepped into the small kitchen and with some quick movements washed the cup up and put it on the tray. He loved order around him, many times he simply felt that without the external order, the remainders of his internal discipline would push him into madness all too soon. And even if he didn't want to live that much, becoming a fool wasn't too enticing an alternative. He remembered pretty well Neville's parents, but he wouldn't even have anybody to visit…
After the quick shower he put on a bathrobe and sat on his favourite armchair for a quick read: he leafed through the local newspaper (the usual May dullness, nothing else), and reached for his book to read it, when somebody knocked on his door.
Harry's hand froze in mid-air. It was half past ten, not the most usual time for social calls. And about other calls – after short consideration, Harry refused the idea. Here, he had no acquaintances, except for his colleagues and some neighbours, which meant that most probably somebody from the neighbourhood had some urgent problems to talk about. But he didn't want to talk, so he didn't move. The knocking, however, didn't cease, and Harry could hear somebody swearing quietly in front of his door. He smirked. How impatient the man was! With a slight groan he stood up and was about to walk to the door and open it, when he heard a soft, muttered 'Alohomora' and the door opened up.
The next moment he was lying on his stomach behind the sofa cursing himself violently for abandoning his own wand when he finally decided to leave the wizarding world behind and live a normal, muggle life like anybody else, like the Dursleys: a normal life without crazy dark lords and even more crazy light leaders like Dumbledore, an absolutely average life with working and sleeping and, perhaps later, marrying and having kids – and Dumbledore could do to Voldemort whatever he wanted. He didn't care anymore. It wasn't his war anymore.
There were no people remaining for him to fight for. After all those deaths, Harry had felt that love had dissipated from his heart, and he had known precisely that love was the only thing that made him stronger than the dark monster had ever been.
But he couldn't love anymore, so he had fled, and now, was lying on his belly, thoughts racing in his mind.
"Potter," an annoyed voice sounded in the room's silence, and Harry almost blacked out.
His late guest was his good, old Potions instructor, the only one of his former professors Harry hated with an unbelievably unwavering passion.
Not to mention that the last time they had been closer than four feet from each other, Harry had finally repaid some of his cruelty to the big-headed Slytherin: it had happened the day after their graduation. Harry, without any further ado, had stepped up to the dark man (who wasn't taller than him anymore) and punched him on his nose with a joyful glee on his own face. The nose had broken with a nauseating crack, but Harry hadn't cared. After seven years of continuous tormenting, ridiculing, harassing, humiliating, belittling he just couldn't help it. And it hadn't been only for himself. It had been for everybody Harry loved and the git despised: for Ron, who couldn't become an Auror, because of the missing Potions NEWT (perhaps if he had become one, he would have been… stop, stop, he had to stop thinking of those would-have-been things, the past was the past, and nothing could be changed), and he had given that blow for Hermione too, who had been the very best in that class, but she had always been met with contemptuous words and scathing remarks instead of the needed support and approval she was always longing for – and Snape had spoken ill about her even after she… no. That was another forbidden topic.
Since that day, Dumbledore had been very cautious to talk to them separately, and during the Order meetings they had been placed as far away from each other as it could be physically possible. Not to mention that the last time Harry had met his ex-Headmaster and the Order had been more than eleven months ago.
"Potter, come out! I know you're here!" Snape barked, and Harry surrendered. When he stood up, he found his ex-instructor standing in the centre of the room, wand in hand, with the usual hairstyle and expression – only one thing was definitely different: the clothes. Snape wore muggle clothes: jeans, t-shirt and sweatshirt, like an average muggle.
"I didn't know in the circles of pureblood families you can just enter one's house without being allowed in," Harry sneered and rearranged his bathrobe. "And considering the fact that I, most definitely, don't want you to be in my house, you can leave. Immediately, if you'd be so generous…" he waved towards the door.
Snape smirked and lifted his wand, which was in his hand and pointed at Harry, with a sadistic merriment in his eyes.
"Oh, no, Potter…"
Harry didn't even flinch, just crossed his arms over his chest and eyed the other man despising.
"If you don't want me to call the police, Snape, you'd better go."
Snape quirked an eyebrow.
"Police, Potter? What about your wand?" he stepped closer.
"I don't have my wand, as you surely know. I left it behind with Dumbledore. Now, go."
"No," Snape lifted his wand and tapped his chin in thought. "It's a beautiful chance to repay some… things, Potter."
"Repay," Harry spat the words and turned around. "It's still me who has something to repay, not you, git."
The next moment he fell after Snape muttered 'Impedimenta', knocking the floor lamp over in his fall. "You won't escape this time, Potter. Here there is no Dumbledore to protect you…"
Harry turned to his back, still lying.
"Kill me, Snape. Believe me, it will be the first generous deed in your cursed life."
"Showing off, Potter?" Snape scowled, although Harry was sure his ex-teacher intended his expression to be a smirk. "Such big words: 'generous deed', indeed… No, I will not kill you, for some reason Dumbledore wants you alive, but having some fun…"
He didn't elaborate, what he meant by fun, but Harry wasn't curious about it either. Just shrugged, not even trying to stand up.
"Get over with it, then. After you finish, you can leave, greet Dumbledore in my name, and tell him to fight his war without me, I'm not interested."
Apparently, having fun with an unresisting adversary wasn't interesting enough for Snape, because he lowered his wand.
"I will bring you back whatever you say, Potter. The Headmaster's order was clear. He wants you back."
"And I don't want to go back. Go on, Snape, cast those curses on me and leave my house. You can even kill me, if you want. At least, Dumbledore will have the chance to find another saviour to sacrifice."
"How dare you talk about him in such a way?" Snape leaned to his face and hissed angrily.
"Come on, Snivellus. Kill me, don't hesitate. You can finally take revenge for the things my father did to you more than twenty-five years ago…" A strong slap on his face silenced Harry.
"Don't dare call me that name again!"
Harry licked the blood from his lips and grinned.
"Come on, Snivellus. You can do better than that. I will not tell Dumbledore, be assured." Another blow. "I hope you washed that filthy hand of yours before, Snivelly. I don't want it to cause contamination…"
The next moment Snape grabbed his bathrobe and practically threw Harry into his chair.
"Finite Incantatem," he said stopping the still effective Impedimenta. "Go, put on some clothes. We are going back. Now."
Harry stretched himself slowly, luxuriously.
"No, Snape. I've already told you. I won't go back. Bye. The door is that way," he gestured towards the door. "Hope you're satisfied now. G'night."
The next moment Snape's hand was strangling him, and the older man's face lingered almost impossibly close to Harry's face. "Oh, no, Mr Potter. You will come with me," he hissed maliciously.
"I told you that you can kill me, Snape," Harry had to press the words out through his suddenly too narrow throat. "But I will never return. If Voldemort wants something from me, he can come here, I'm here, waiting for him, or if he decides not to come, I have a life to live." With an angry shift, he freed his neck from the other man's grasp, and massaged the bruises left behind. "I don't mind how many so-called prophecies are about me, my life, my relatives, dogs, cats, flowers, whatever… I will remain here and I will enjoy the life I chose for myself not famous leaders and half-wit old bats…"
"The Dark Lord killed…!" Snape bellowed irately, but he couldn't finish.
"I KNOW THAT!" Harry bellowed, but hastily added, "I'm perfectly aware of that, thank you," Harry's response was icy. "But my death won't bring them back."
"But…" Snape opened his mouth for a retort, but Harry didn't let him speak.
"You saw what happened in my sixth year when I wanted to take revenge for Sirius's death! I almost fell to the dark side! By the end of that year, I didn't even need Dumbledore to explain to me that revenge can't be my driving motivation if I don't want to become somebody like Tom Riddle!" Harry yelled and jumped to his feet, and this time it was he, who leaned close to Snape. "Or somebody like you, Snape! And now, go or I will break that crooked nose of yours once again!"
Harry's outburst first surprised the dark man, but he soon regained his composure, his face was blank, just the eyes glittering with the usual hatred.
"Playing the drama queen, are we, Potter?"
But Harry wasn't the easily irritable teenager he had been years ago. He was a twenty-two year old man, a war veteran with quite a lot of experience under his belt. He didn't become angry, or even irritated, just slightly amused as he smirked.
"I don't know which part of my speech was hard to understand, Snape. I'm burned out. I'm not able to feel fondness any more. And I don't want to become a murderer. I want to live my life, that's all. You can go."
For the first time in that evening, Snape seemed clueless about what to do.
"You know Potter that the prophecy states clearly that you're the one supposed to kill him," he shushed through his clenched teeth. Harry gave a short and bitter laugh.
"The Golden Boy, you wanted to say?" he asked mockingly.
"Don't change my words, Potter!"
"Go to hell, Snape!"
"Your decision will kill the wizarding world!"
"I will send money for the funeral fees then. Why should I care? I hadn't received anything from your world! Save it, if you want to, but I am fed up! I quit, my decision was final. I will never come back. And even if you bring me back by resorting to violence, it will solve nothing. I won't fight. I won't die for you. Choose another fool to crucify! I'm just a man!" With that, he whirled around and marched to his bedroom. From the bed, he yelled out once more. "Don't forget to lock the door behind you!"
Snape, apparently, wasn't in an understanding mood, because the next moment Harry's entire bedding disappeared into thin air, and he remained lying there without the necessary blanket, sheet and pillow. After a short moment of thought, he sighed and lay on the floor. Certainly, Snape couldn't just make the floor disappear!
No, he couldn't, but its temperature seemed freezing and Harry, if he didn't want to acquire a case of full-fledged pneumonia, had to stand up.
"All right, you win," he muttered angrily. "You can spend the night here, and you can torment me again in the morning, just give me back my bedding. I will even give you clean bedding and you can sleep on my sofa, you can use my bathroom and drink my tea, just let me have some rest for now."
"I'm not sleepy, Potter."
"I don't care, Snape. This is my final offer. Oh, or you can leave, of course, as another option!"
Harry went to the cupboard, fished out some bedding and a towel and threw them at Snape. "Here you are. You can choose a book from my shelf if you're that bored." With a short tug, he removed the wand from Snape's hand, who was carrying his bedding a little dazed, and with a shove, he pushed the man out of his door. The next moment, he cast a locking spell on the door, then a silencing charm, and finally, he restored his bedding and went to bed.
Tomorrow. He would concentrate on Snape's business tomorrow. For now, the only thing he wanted was to sleep.
After Potter threw him out of his bedroom, Snape stood on the same spot for a while.
The whole situation confused him. Something just was… strange. Potter wasn't his old self, but something different. No, not better, but most definitely different. He didn't even try to attack him, to hit him or to curse him after he had stolen his wand – he had just closed the door and gone to sleep.
And without his wand, Snape didn't have a clue what to do next. So, he sighed and surrendered. He would spend the night in Potter's disgustingly muggle flat, and the next morning he would bring the brat back to Hogwarts. Potter had better defeat the Dark Lord, because he couldn't move as freely in his own country as he wanted since last July, when the Dark Lord had suddenly begun to question his true loyalties absolutely unexpectedly. He barely survived that day, he had had to use the emergency Portkey from Dumbledore in the end, confirming his ex-master's suspicions of him. Since then, his ex-colleagues had been breathing on his neck trying to catch him and bring his head on a silver plate to their irate master.
That was the main reason Dumbledore had come up with the ridiculous idea that he had to find the missing Potter. They had known that the brat had left for America after his rushed decision to quit, but there, he had lost the trace, and it had taken almost ten months for Snape to say for sure that Potter hadn't been there.
And here, in Australia, he had found him in one month. He was quite proud of himself.
Now, Potter was found, but he was standing like a fool, wandless, in his sitting room preparing to bed down on his sofa.
He would kill the brat that was sure. That whole speech about not being able to love and that wallowing, how typically Potter-ish it had been!
And then again… something was amiss. Potter hadn't behaved in his usual manner.
Codswallop! Why should he care? Tomorrow, he would hand Potter over to Dumbledore, and that was it. Then the Headmaster could cure his favourite pawn's psychological problems just as he wanted to.
Relieved of this decision, Snape decided to take Potter's offer and choose a book from the shelf. There were only muggle books, but Snape knew quite a lot of them: it was a carefully selected collection, which surprised him more than the brat's behaviour could. Who could have guessed that Potter had some taste after all?
Oh, and there was a volume of Yeats too! It had been ages ago, when he had last read his poems – the Irish poet was Heather's favourite too, he wondered and smiled. Pulling the book off the shelf, he brought it to the sofa and sat down comfortably. The book opened up almost automatically, and Snape's eyes wandered to the first words he caught: When you are old and grey and full of sleep – he knew this poem. It was deep and meaningful and beautiful. Like Heather. Something, Potter had never been. And then again, the book showed itself that its owner loved this poem and returned to it again and again, until the page had become crumpled and worn like an old face. Snape suddenly examined the paper more closely. It was as if it had been dropped in water, or more, if some liquid had dropped on it.
Feeling as if he were spying on another person's privacy, he opened the book in another place. A sheet of paper slipped out from between the pages and fell on the floor. Snape took the book off his lap and leaned down for it. When he lifted it, he suddenly felt breathing quite hard a task. It was a death certificate from the Ministry of Magic. What was this document doing in Potter's library in this special book? Fighting the urge to break the brat's bedroom door down requiring an explanation, he opened the death certificate with somewhat trembling hands.
He gasped for air and an unfamiliar, pressure-like feeling began to press the corners of his eyes and his nose. No, no it couldn't be true!
What he saw, confirmed his worst fears.
He felt as if the world was crumbling down around him.