Author's Notes: This fic was written last April, before the release of HBP. I had only posted it on my LiveJournal, but I decided it was a fun little fic, and that I should post it here, too. So, be aware that this fic is PRE-Half-Blood-Prince, or 6th-year AU. It was a quick fic, written on a whim one afternoon.
Also, in case you're wondering if this is Harry/Draco slash, the answer is "Not really," although there are definitely some slashy overtones. If you're deeply offended by slash, tis safer not to read it. All slash-flames (ie. "Ewww slash!") will be taken as compliments.
This is a ONE-SHOT story. No sequel is planned.
And now, enjoy!
STOP THE WORLD!
(I Wanna Get Off)
It was the second day of school, and already, Harry Potter had had enough.
Actually, it had started over the summer. After the mess at the Ministry, and the subsequent meltdown in Dumbledore's office, everyone had decided that it was about time to ensure that Harry Potter was completely in the loop. And so they informed him about everything that could possibly relate to him. They let him know Voldemort's status. They kept him apprised of every development in the war, every act of horror and destruction, every arrest. But mostly, they let him know what great things were expected from him.
By the time Harry had arrived at Hogwarts, he was well sick of the war, and all he wanted was to focus on classes, and try to feel normal for a change.
He should have known better.
After the story of Voldemort's return had been blown open, and the students had been able to spend the summer digesting that information, Harry was suddenly the hero again. They wanted to shake his hand, sit next to him in class, gush apologies and well wishes. Colin Creevey went through a roll of film every day. The professors were all determined to see him succeed, become an Auror, fight evil, and be everything that The Boy Who Lived was destined to be. Well, everyone except Snape, but some things would never change. Everyone wanted him to be great. Everyone wanted him to be a hero. Everyone expected so much of him. It was sickening.
So on the second day of school, after having been stopped in the hall by Professor Sprout, who wanted to show him how to combat some particularly deadly plants that Dark Wizards often used as traps, Harry found himself collapsing into the couch in front of the fireplace in the Gryffindor common room in a particularly foul mood. His stormy demeanor didn't go unnoticed. Ron put aside the chessboard he'd been setting up, and Hermione actually set down her Arithmancy book.
Harry didn't look at them. He sat staring into the fireplace, thinking about everything that had happened. The time he'd wasted, the people he'd lost. His frustration, his situation. The pressure, the job he had to do, and the expectation that he would do it without question – because he was Harry Potter. He was The Boy Who Lived. It was his job. It was his obligation. It was –
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Hermione shift in her seat. "Quit what, Harry? Divination? Herbology?"
"No, just what I said. I quit."
"Quit...?" came Ron's confused voice.
"Oh Harry." Hermione sounded so rational, it made Harry want to gag. "You don't really mean that."
Harry almost replied, but he didn't even want to get into an argument. What was the point of quitting if the process only led to more grief and aggravation? No, he wasn't going to fight. He'd quit that, too.
Finally, without another word, Harry grabbed his books and went to his dormitory, leaving two very confused friends in his wake.
At first, nobody noticed. Harry was fine with that. In fact, that was exactly what he wanted. One of the wonderful things about quitting was that he didn't have do anything that might get noticed. More specifically, he didn't have to do anything. It was wonderful.
The first sign that somebody had noticed was when Dumbledore approached him after dinner later that week.
"Harry, I think it would be prudent if you were to resume Occlumency training with Professor Snape. I know that your experiences with the Professor may have been less than pleasant, but he really –"
"Now Harry, my boy, Professor Snape has given me his word that –"
"I don't care. I'm not doing it."
There must have been something different in Harry's tone, because never before had Dumbledore's eyes widened in quite that way in response to anything Harry had said. "Harry, you must understand that we're doing this for your own good."
"No you're not."
Dumbledore's tone voice remained calm, but his eyes narrowed. "You have a job to do, and your name carries a responsibility."
"Then how about I change my name." It was not a question. "I never signed up for this job. I quit."
At that, Dumbledore sighed in that infuriating way he had of making the world appear so heavy on his shoulders. He looked to the side and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Perhaps you are frustrated or overwhelmed, and need a few days to yourself. I understand that. We will speak of this again, but for now, be mindful of your classes, and take that time to quiet and organize your thoughts."
Harry said nothing.
Dumbledore tipped his head in acknowledgement, never losing the critical expression on his face, and departed the Great Hall.
Harry watched him go. With a nonchalant shrug, he left for Gryffindor tower. On his way, he thought about his classes. Dumbledore said to be mindful of his classes. Another expectation. The only class in which there were no expectations was Potions, save for Snape's expectation that he would fail spectacularly.
Perhaps he would start having to disappoint everyone. It ought to be fun.
In Divination the next morning, they were doing a refresher on Tarot reading. Lavender and Parvati were deeply engaged in predicting their romantic fates. Ron had laid out the cards in the correct pattern and was trying to concoct a reading of doom and gloom to satisfy Trelawney. Harry was shuffling his cards.
When Trelawney drifted over to observe their progress, Ron spun a tale about disembowelment by an angry house elf. Harry stated that he'd become a successful poker player. Trelawney scowled. Harry smirked.
At lunch, Harry ate dessert first. And second. And third.
Hermione lectured him thoroughly about tooth decay and saturated fat.
Ron looked on warily.
Harry ignored both of them and reached for another helping of pudding.
Their next class was Care of Magical Creatures. With Hagrid, reinstated as the instructor. And the Slytherins, as always.
"Right then, welcome back, everyone," Hagrid greeted the class, optimistic as ever. "T'day we have a bit of somethin' special, yer know, a bit of a treat ter start the year."
"Who wants to place bets on the possible hazards?" Malfoy drawled. "Poisonous barbs, ten-inch claws, razor-sharp teeth, or fire-breathing?"
"Malfoy, we'll have none of that," Hagrid warned, but Malfoy wasn't done yet.
"Or we could take bets on who's going to die first. I've got ten galleons it won't be Potter... even if I lose, I win."
"Ten points from Slytherin!"
Harry watched in amusement as Malfoy's face screwed up in a snarl, but Hagrid ignored him, and quickly led the class to the pen behind his hut. The pen appeared to be strongly warded, and inside, a bonfire was burning. Around the pen, smoking, ashy, snakelike creatures were slithering along, apparently trying to find a way out.
There's never a way out, Harry thought ruefully. Might as well give up.
"Now, er, class, today we're goin' to be studying Ashwinders. They grow out of magic fires that 'ave been burnin' fer too long. Yeh can control them with light, see? They like the dark, so if yeh shine a strong enough light at 'em, yeh can herd 'em back into the fire and put it out. A good Lumos does the trick. I need a volunteer." Hagrid looked around the group, clearly a bit desperate for a raised hand. "Er... Harry, they're a bit like snakes. Perhaps... would you like to –"
Hagrid had clearly not been expecting that. His face fell. "Are yeh sure, Harry? Well... er... I guess... anyone else then?"
Harry kept his expession carefully neutral, but inside, two interesting emotions were twisting in a strange conflict. He felt a bit bad for disappointing Hagrid – the half-giant had never shown Harry anything but kindness. But then Harry reminded himself that this was the point. He wasn't going to live up to anyone else's expectations. It was time for someone else to volunteer.
Then Harry saw Malfoy staring at him out of the corner of his eye. Harry turned his head just enough to make proper eye contact. Malfoy had the most interesting look of wide-eyed confusion warping his pointy face. It was that, more than anything else, which convinced Harry that he'd made the right move. With a nonchalant smirk and a shrug, he turned back to watching Hagrid flounder through the lesson.
It was the evening of the first planned DA meeting for the year when everyone finally realized that something was Not Right. With Dumbledore reinstated as headmaster, the DA had become an official school club. And of course, Harry was expected to run it.
He hadn't volunteered. He hadn't told anybody he was doing it. Everyone had simply expected it.
So when a sizeable group of Gryffindors was making its way to the portrait hole that evening to go to the meeting, and Harry was sitting in front of the fireplace, completely engrossed in a copy of Quidditch Quarterly as though he hadn't a care in the world, someone was bound to say something.
"Harry, did you forget the time?" The voice belonged to Ginny Weasley. She was standing off to Harry's side, hands planted firmly on her hips. "You're going to be late. I would expect Ron to lose track of time in a Quidditch book but –"
"I'm not going."
"What do you mean, you're not going?"
Harry glanced up over the top of his magazine to observe Ginny's confused expression. "I don't think the translation is that complicated," he said easily.
Ginny's eyes darkened. "I'd ask if you were feeling well, but I think I can answer that myself. So humour me, if you will: Why aren't you going?"
Harry raised an eyebrow. "I'll answer that when you tell me why I have to go."
There was a distinct murmur from the group of students near the portrait hole. Ginny, for her part, only stammered for a second before she recovered with a scowl. "Maybe because the DA was your idea in the first place. Maybe because you're the heart and soul of this organization. Maybe because it's the right thing to do!"
Harry almost felt his resolve wilt under Ginny's blazing glare, but then he saw over her shoulder the students, all standing there, waiting, expecting. Ron's mouth was hanging open, Hermione looked as disappointed as if she'd failed a quiz, and Neville looked like he was going to trip standing still. The younger students... it only got worse from there. They all expected him to come. Expected him to lead. Expected him to do everything, be everything.
Harry lowered his magazine. "I regret to inform you," he began, sounding particularly formal, "that I've stepped down. I never volunteered for this – for any of this. Why don't you have Neville lead it? He'd make a great Boy Who Lived."
There was a whimper from the back of the room, and Harry assumed it was Neville, but his eyes were on Ginny. Ginny's fierce scowl turned into one of betrayal. "Oh, so that's how it is. You just decide to quit while the rest of the world is fighting your battle!"
It was the wrong thing to say. Harry felt the air crackle around him before he even realized it was crackling because of him. He pulled himself to his feet slowly, feeling much taller than he usually felt. The effect must not have been lost on Ginny, because she backed a step away. Behind her, Harry could see several of the younger students duck behind the nearest available larger body.
"My battle?" he growled. "My bloody battle? Is that what you really think this is?"
In the fireplace, the flames seemed to grow brighter, angrier. Harry took a step forward. When he spoke, his voice wasn't loud, and he wasn't hysterical. In fact, he sounded menacingly calm.
"I've been fighting this fucking battle for five years. FIVE YEARS, GINNY. I was supposed to just be a boy, but instead, I was a tool, a piece of propaganda, a rally cry, and a doormat. Training to fight is one thing. BEING the fight is another. We've all lost friends, family... but I've lost myself. Every day for five years, I was everything everybody wanted me to be. I'm sick of it. And I QUIT."
Ginny pushed a small step forward, as though the air was thick. Maybe it was. "Harry, we don't see it that way. To us, you're Harry. You've always been Harry. And we need you."
At this, Harry laughed. The sound was bitter. "You need me. Heh." The words dripped thickly off his tongue. "Let me ask you this... and you don't need to answer, because I already know. If I'd been anyone else, would you have had that crush on me those first couple of years? You know what the answer is. Hell, Ron's first reaction to my name was to ask if he could see my scar, and the first thing Hermione ever said to me was that she'd read all about me. So even if you got to know a little bit about 'Harry' after a while, it was still Harry Potter. You don't need me. You need Harry Potter. So go find him, because the Boy Who Lived has left the building."
"Harry..." Hermione's voice came from the back of the room, wavering.
Harry ignored her. "Go have your DA meeting. If you want Harry, he'll be here when you get back, reading his Quidditch Magazine."
Nobody argued. Harry knew they wouldn't. There was nothing to argue with.
The sounds of feet shuffling out the door were followed by the scrape of the portrait of the Fat Lady swinging shut. It sounded good.
Harry picked up his magazine again, but as he went to read, he noticed that he felt strangely light. He wasn't sure if that was related to the hollow feeling or not, but he didn't much care. He crossed his legs, leaned back, and settled into his reading again.
Harry knew it wouldn't make sense for him to put any effort into Potions class. He had already decided to effectively sabotage his own bid to become an Auror. He wasn't doing it for any higher purpose. He had simply decided that if he was going to disappoint everyone, he might as well disappoint Snape too. And because he didn't care about his score, all that mattered was his performance.
Hermione stared at him for several minutes, at a complete loss for words, as Harry handed in a lengthy roll of parchment – longer than her own essay – for the latest homework assignment. Her confusion seemed to grow when he immediately threw himself into chopping and slicing ingredients with as much precision as he'd ever used, double-checking measurements, stirring precisely. She wasn't the only one who seemed confused. Snape was too busy staring coldly at him to even bother taking points from Hermione for not working.
"Mr Potter, what in Merlin's name are you doing?"
"The assignment, Professor," Harry said with a careful balance of nonchalance and politeness.
"I can see that," he snarled. "Why?"
"Well, you assigned it, didn't you? So, if you're the professor, and I'm the student, I guess that means I'm supposed to do what you tell me, sir."
In a flash, Snape pounded his fist onto Harry's workbench. "You will cease this insolence immediately!"
Harry was the picture of innocence. "Yes, sir."
Nobody had ever seen Severus Snape's normally sallow complexion attain quite that shade of purple before. "Thirty points from Gryffindor!"
"Yes sir, I'm sorry sir."
Snape made a strange choking sound, spun on his heel, and stalked back to his desk. He sat down with a foreboding flourish and scowled darkly at Harry,
Harry was looking at the Firelily root he was slicing, and missed his professor's glare entirely. He also didn't see the stunned looks from his classmates, who had been witness to his bizarrely non-cooperative behavior for the previous few days.
"Harry, what the hell are you doing?" Hermione hissed in his ear.
"The assignment," he replied calmly without looking up. "I thought I already covered that. And Hermione, you really ought to get started yourself. You don't want to lose any more points for Gryffindor."
"But I thought you –"
"Quit. Yes. I quit living up to people's expectations. You're bright. I would have thought you'd have figured that out by now. Now can you please hand me the powdered salamander claws?"
The class progressed smoothly. Harry was mildly surprised that Snape didn't smash the phial of potion he placed on the professor's desk at the end of class, but he didn't really care about that anyway. He was enjoying this entirely too much. As he was walking out the door, however, he collided with Draco Malfoy.
"Pardon me, Malfoy, but unless you're about to ask me to cha-cha, get out of my way."
The comment seemed to throw Malfoy for a moment, but he quickly regained his composure. "What the hell are you playing at, Potter?"
Harry smiled. It was a twisted smile that you wouldn't have expected on his face, but once it was there, it almost looked too right. "I'm not playing anymore, Malfoy. In case you missed it, that's the point. Keep doing your little 'thing', whatever that is. I don't care anymore."
Draco's mouth was hanging open, but not blankly. He was plainly furious at being dismissed. "We'll see about that when Quidditch season starts, Potter. Rather hard to be impassive when there are Bludgers flying at your head."
"Yes, it will be hard for you. And I'll be watching from the stands. Now, get out of my way."
With that, Harry pushed out the door, leaving a very confused Draco Malfoy in his wake.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, HE'S QUITTING THE QUIDDITCH TEAM?"
Ron's voice boomed through the common room. Harry had his back to the portrait hole, but he didn't bother to turn around. He chuckled to himself and turned the page of his book.
"Ron, please calm down." That was Hermione.
"I was near the back of the classroom and heard him say it to Malfoy." Seamus.
"HARRY!" The sound of Ron's feet, thudding heavily across the floor. "YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS!"
"You're right, I can't be," Harry said mildly, "because Sirius is dead."
"Harry, that's not funny!" Hermione wailed.
"I didn't intend it to be humorous."
"HARRY, DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA –"
"Ron, I think you'd better calm down," Hermione said plaintively.
There was the sound of air hissing through clenched teeth. "Harry, do you have any idea what you're doing to everyone?"
Harry finally folded his book and laid it aside. "I thought I made it perfectly clear that I'm doing nothing."
"But Harry, can't you see that you're hurting people?" Hermione said. Her tone was pleading. "You're a part of this... of us... and we can't stand you not being involved. We thought we were your friends, and it hurts us."
Harry felt a dark jolt in his stomach; not sympathy or pity, but anger. "I hurt people when I do get involved. People die because I get involved. If you're my friends, then accept the fact that the rules have changed."
"Harry..." Ron again, but this time, it sounded like he was at least trying to be rational. "You loved Quidditch. You were desperate to play last year. You're even reading Quidditch Through the Ages. Again. You can play now! Why won't you?"
This time, Harry sighed and turned towards his friends. "It's not the same, Ron. I'd love to play, if it really was just play. But it won't be. It's another expectation now; another thing I'm supposed to do, just because I'm Harry Potter."
"It's something you do because you're bloody incredible at it, mate. Because you're the Seeker! It has nothing to do with your name. You were the –"
"I know, I know. 'The youngest Seeker in a century.' Ron, if I hadn't been Harry-Bloody-Boy-Who-Lived-Potter, you know McGonagall would never have let me do it. I wouldn't have got that broom when every other first-year wasn't allowed. I wouldn't have been given the position. They would have had a proper tryout, and who knows? Maybe someone who had been practicing for years missed the chance because they decided to bend the rules for me. I'm sorry, Ron, but no."
"Ginny did a stellar job last year. She can do it."
Harry picked up his book again and thumbed to the new section. It was the latest edition of QTtA. In the last chapter, "Recent History", there was a new section. It was titled "Youngest Seeker in a Century." Harry slammed the book shut and stalked out of the Common Room.
A couple of weeks passed. Harry had wondered if he was going to get bored with his new lack of ambition – he was a Leo, after all – but after five years without a break (or sixteen, depending on how he wanted to count) he was enjoying his new attitude. He felt strangely light, and the feeling hadn't faded. His classmates had stopped pestering him, although he was sure they were all still hoping he'd come out of his phase soon. Dumbledore had called him to the Headmaster's Office twice for tea, lemon sherbets, and attempted conversation, but Harry hadn't budged. When McGonagall had learned he was refusing to play Quidditch, she'd pulled him aside after Transfiguration class to thoroughly lecture him, but in the end, she couldn't do anything, and Harry knew it. Quidditch wasn't required of any student, no matter how long he had previously played, or what his name was.
The oddest thing had been Draco Malfoy. The bastard seemed to be staring at Harry more than usual. Harry had been curious about the cause of the odd stares, but he wasn't curious enough to do anything more than throw a smirk in Malfoy's direction and look the other way, leaving the boy fuming once again.
Malfoy should be pleased. He's got me out of the way, and he didn't even have to do anything.
Harry pushed it out of his mind. At least, out of mind until one evening on his way to the kitchens. He'd been hungry, having napped through supper, and had decided to take a stroll and get himself some biscuits. It was still before curfew, so the worst he'd get for being found down there was the loss of house points. As a result, he hadn't taken the Map.
And as he turned the corridor that led to the kitchens, he collided head-on with Draco Malfoy.
"What the hell are you doing here, Malfoy?" Harry asked with lazy nonchalance.
"I think I should be asking you that, Potter," he said icily. "In case you'd forgotten, I'm a Prefect, and it's my duty to patrol the corridors."
"Preying on hapless first-years, right? Seems about your speed. Now if you'll get out of my way, it's not curfew for another hour, and I –"
Before Harry could say another word, he found himself slammed into a wall.
"WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM, POTTER?"
Harry's first instinct was to fight back. Hard. But he didn't. He wouldn't let himself. Fighting would be doing something expected, and he wouldn't do that now. He took a slow breath before replying.
"Right now, it would seem that my problem is that I'm pinned to a wall."
Draco stood perfectly still, stunned, it would seem. Suddenly, holding Harry against the wall with one hand, he pulled back with his other hand, aiming a tightly clenched fist at Harry's face. "I'll do it, Potter! So help me, I'll do it!"
It was reckless, and it was stupid, so therefore, it was exactly what Harry did. He laughed. If Voldemort and classes and the DA and Quidditch didn't matter, Draco Malfoy sure as hell mattered even less. And Harry sure as hell could ignore him, regardless of the imminent pummeling.
Draco must have received that message loud and clear, because in the next instant, he'd dropped his raised fist and had Harry gripped tightly, both hands fisted in the front of Harry's shirt.
"You are not going to ignore me, Potter!" he hissed. "I won't let you!"
"I think that's exactly what I'm doing," Harry said in measured tones. "I'm ignoring everything else. Why the fuck do you think you're so special?"
"You sodding bastard, I don't care what you do with anyone else," he snarled, punctuating his words by slamming Harry against the wall a couple of times. Harry let him, more amused than hurt.
"I'm not doing anything with anyone else. In case you hadn't noticed, I'm perfectly satisfied not doing anything."
Harry had expected to be slammed backwards again; for Draco yell at him, to protest, to insult, or even to finally punch him, but he didn't.
"You can say that, but you know this is you and me. Fuck You Know Who. Fuck everything else. I am not going to let you quit, because I still want you."
It was all Harry could do not to laugh. "Oh, Malfoy, that sounds like an indecent proposal! Up against the wall, with you telling me that you want me for yourself... how cute."
Now, Harry was sure Draco was going to begin punching, but he didn't. Instead, Draco leaned in, glaring darkly. "I told you, Potter, you're mine."
Now Harry was confused. "What?"
"I don't care if you ever battle the Dark Lord; you haven't finished with me yet. I've been waiting for five fucking years, Potter! And you always win! I'm sick of it, and you're not going to quit until I'VE HAD MY SAY!"
Harry was starting to become sincerely concerned. "What the fuck are you –"
"SHUT UP! You listen here! First, you snubbed me! Then you bested me! You belittled me, and you beat me, again and again, and I want my rematch! You're not going to ignore me! You can ignore the rest of the world, for all I care! But you're not going to quit on me! YOU. ARE. MINE!"
For a moment, Harry wasn't sure what to say. This was completely unexpected. He'd spent the past two weeks doing what nobody else expected, and now that someone had turned the tables on him, he was at a loss. His mind reeled as he searched for something to say. "And you think you can do anything to make me play along with your stupid game, Malfoy? You're nothing to me, and if I can ignore good old Snake Eyes himself, you're definitely not going to be able to do anything to change my mind."
"Oh yeah?" Draco growled. "Try this."
Harry wasn't sure which startled him more. The explosion of pain as his head was slammed backwards into the wall, or the sudden crushing sensation of Draco's lips on his, which had caused him to slam backwards. At first, he was too shocked to move, but as soon as reason kicked in, he began to struggle, making desperate noises of protest that were swallowed by Draco's mouth. His heart was thudding in painful jabs in his chest, wedged between lungs that were fighting for air. And for the first time in two weeks, Harry was fighting too. Urgency and anger, fury, rage... all piled up until Harry finally got a grip on Draco and shoved him backwards.
He was breathing hard, head and shoulders forward as though ready to tackle Draco, which he was about to do until he noticed that Draco was standing casually, with his arms folded across his chest in a most satisfied manner. In that moment, Harry hated the boy more than he'd ever thought possible.
The challenge had been called, the battle was on. This was war.
"I'll see you on the Quidditch pitch, Potter."
Harry said nothing as Draco walked away. Finally, Harry stepped away from the wall, and turned towards Gryffindor Tower. He needed his sleep. He had Quidditch practice in the morning.
Author's Notes: First, please drop me a review! I like to know what you think!
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