TITLE: End of the World
DISCLAIMER: Belongs to J.K. Rowling.
NOTES: Pre-slash, post-war, a bit of Harry angsting, short one-shot (752 words)
SUMMARY: Harry lost the war, but that doesn't mean he has to like it, as Snape is there to remind him.

End of the World

"You lost. You don't have to like it. You just have to get over it."

Harry didn't look up. He couldn't believe that Snape, of all people, was trying to comfort him. He threw another dart, watching the Harry in the picture wince and try to shield himself.

"I don't know why you're so embittered. You're still alive," Snape pointed out. "You're not even being kept in a cage, and mind you, that's what I would do, were I the Dark Lord. You're very lucky he's foolish enough to think you're no threat, now. You have a perfectly nice flat, a perfectly nice job, a perfectly nice life. Stop being ungrateful."

Harry shot him a hateful look. "A great job," he said. "It's always been my dream to go about promoting Voldemort's policies by doing a little dog and pony show. I'm—I'm convincing people to give up hope. They see me, and it—it—just—dies. The light in their eyes. Their dreams for the future."

"You're keeping others alive. When they see you, they know that they, too, can endure. They know that if they keep their heads down, they'll make it. They know it's not the end of the world."

Harry threw another dart, viciously, and watched it streak across the room and imbed itself in his face. "Yes, it bloody well is!" he roared. "Don't you get it? I lost! It's over! And even if they're not dead, they may as well be, because a lifetime of serving him—like this—isn't much better!"

Severus crossed the room to pluck the barb from Harry's picture. The image of Harry cowered. He was every bit as thin and wan as the real thing.

"I see. You fancy yourself a gelding, because he took away your magic? You think you're helpless? You think you're nothing?"

Harry didn't answer.

"What were you before your letter from Hogwarts came?"

The youth shrugged. "A nobody. A boy who lived in a broom cupboard and prayed for something else, every single day."

Severus whirled, eyes blazing. "Let me rephrase that. Who were you, before you received your letter from Hogwarts?"

Green eyes blinked, puzzled. "I was Harry Potter."

Severus turned back to the picture. He smoothed the paper, running a thumb over the many tiny holes. The Harry beneath his hand blushed brightly, ducking his head a bit. He looked a little worse for wear, but his hair was as dishevelled and devil-may-care as ever.

The photograph of Harry looked up at Snape with haunted, hopeful eyes.

"And who are you today?"

"I guess I'm still Harry Potter, but without—"

"But nothing. You are still Harry Potter. That's all you'll ever need to be." He gestured to the boy's picture. There was no frame—it was just a paper tacked to the wall. "Why doesn't he run? Why does he allow it? Why doesn't he leave?"

The real Harry swallowed. "I haven't any other pictures. He has no choice. There's nowhere for him to go," he replied sadly.

Severus handed him a scrap of paper. "I can be found here. Come when you've ceased this disgusting self-pity. Come when you're ready to fight. Come when you've finished punishing yourself for something that couldn't be helped."

"It could've been helped," Harry insisted stubbornly. "I shouldn't have agreed to it. I should've—"

"Should've let your friend die? Miss Granger is worth so little to you as all that?" Harry did not reply. "You bought yourself some time, as you're doing now." He gestured to the piece of paper with the address scrawled on it. "When you're ready, Mister Potter, you may consider doing something useful with that time." He turned back to the picture again, his fingertip's reaching out to graze glossy lips, and both Harrys' eyes widened. "Remember, it's not the end of the world."

Severus Snape stalked out of the room, shutting the door quietly behind him, leaving Harry with the ticking of the clock and his own curious gaze looking down at him. He flattened out the piece of paper, swallowing.

"Thank you," he murmured to no one. "I guess everybody needs to be reminded of that, sometimes." He glanced up at his nearly bare walls. "Maybe I'll drop in tomorrow. Today, I think I'll do some redecorating. What do you reckon, maybe a Monet?"

For a fleeting moment, the Harry in the picture smiled, and the real Harry grinned back. Maybe it wasn't the end of the world, after all.