Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Harry Potter or anything else you recognise.
A/N: This is a oneshot, inspired by many fics I have read, but also by a quote from Romeo and Juliet.
"The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it."
George Orwell (1903 - 1950),
Polemic, May 1946, "Second Thoughts on James Burnham"
The scene was not an uncommon one.
Harry Potter, Boy-Who-Lived, Saviour of the Wizarding world, and all that rot, was in his last lesson of the day: Double Potions. And, not just any Potions, NEWT Potions. Hermione was right by his side, literally rather than figuratively, as she was pointedly ignoring him and concentrating on her own potion.
In fact, rather a lot of people had been ignoring him of late, and about four weeks ago, he had started to wonder why. Why were they all huffing when he tried to start up a conversation, and why were they trying to walk away when he approached? Why, whenever he entered a room where his 'friends' were congregating, did all noise cease and everyone stare at him? Whatever it was, it couldn't be good, and he wanted to damn well know what the problem was!
When the direct approach failed, – i.e. going right up to them and actually talking about things, he tried the not-so direct approach – spying on them with his invisibility cloak. A rather Slytherin tactic, but needs must, as they say.
What he discovered, was a tad shocking, and, not a little bit disturbing.
It seemed that his 'friends' believed he should have done something to end the war before now. Never mind that he was only just seventeen, and still had not completed his education – oh no. Or that fact that he hadn't really had any special training either. These things, it appeared, were merely incidental.
People were dying, there was no denying that. Though so far it was mainly muggles – some of whom were the parents of muggleborn children. But Harry really didn't see what he could be doing. He had no idea what he could do to bring down the evil bastard, only that ultimately, it would be between the two of them.
Or so Dumbledore said.
Sure, Trelawney had spouted a true prophecy right in front of Harry's eyes, but all prophecies were open to interpretation. It might not be speaking about this Dark Lord. The 'other' might not apply to the two of them, but someone else entirely. Who knew? Harry certainly didn't.
Probably what scared him the most, more than anything, was that he was tired of life. Seventeen years old, and he felt weary. Deep down, right in his bones. This last blow, finding out what his 'best friends' – Ron and Hermione – really thought of him, was just the final nail in the coffin. He was fed up, and pissed off.
If the world cared so little about him, then why stick around? Who was really worth saving? He knew there were innocent children at risk, and frankly that was the only thing which had kept him there so long. But even that was starting to lose its importance. And, on a purely selfish note, he was worried about what might happen in the aftermath. If he survived that was. And if he didn't, he seriously wondered who would off him first.
…or Dumbledore and his amazing Lemmings?
Harry really wasn't sure.
"Potter! What are you doing in my lesson if you are not prepared to pay attention!?!" Came the roar from the resident bat, Severus Snape. He sighed inwardly, careful not to let any expression show on his face, lest he gain a detention for some heinous crime…like existing. He might be feeling a bit out of it, but that didn't mean he was deaf. Therefore there was no reason for Snape to imitate a foghorn, nor did he miss the poorly muffled snort from Hermione. Stupid cow.
Harry ignored both of them, and gently flaked the last dried maple leaf into his potion, before stirring it in the correct pattern, four times. After that he put the fire out and waited for it to cool. A brief glance told him it was perfect, though he doubted it would live long enough for him to get any kind of decent grade.
Funny little accidents always seemed to occur when it was time for his potion to be marked, and they frequently made miraculous disappearances. As such, he was scraping the bottom of the barrel when it came to his potions marks, despite the fact that with all the extra studying he'd been doing (thanks to having no friends), he'd found his lessons a lot easier. He had some small comfort in the fact that his end of year exam would not be facilitated by his professor, and so hopefully he would be able to make the potion and actually have it graded fairly.
A small consolation to be sure, but these days, Harry would take whatever he could get.
"Well, what are you waiting for boy? Bottle it up and bring it to the front! Or are you so mentally deficient to know how to ladle liquid into a vial?" Snape spat and Harry flinched almost imperceptibly. Well, imperceptible to anyone but the Potions Master.
There was that word again – boy – the teacher knew the details of Harry's childhood. He saw it all in those humiliating Occlumency lessons two years ago. Since then, he'd taken particular delight in throwing around key words and phrases which he knew would upset his most hated pupil, and took a vicious delight in seeing Harry react.
The first time he'd done it during a lesson, Harry froze. He almost fell into a flashback, and his lack of attention made his potion explode. The vicious man then took great pleasure in deducting numerous house points and assigning detentions all throughout the weekend as punishment for his poor performance.
Still having faith in the Headmaster at that time, Harry had gone to him to raise his concerns. He knew better than most Snape's position in the war, but he felt that the older man was taking things too far in this case.
"Professor Dumbledore, while I understand that Professor Snape is in ah…difficult circumstances, and therefore cannot treat me fairly in the classroom, I think it is grossly unethical and frankly extremely immature of him to bring up things he has learnt during Occlumency as a means of degrading me in public." He was rather proud of himself for speaking in such a calm manner, when on the inside, he was positively fuming.
How dare he? How would he bloody like it if Harry did the same to him? Called him Snivellus in front of the whole class? Dock points and assign detentions of course, but by then, the damage would be done. And Harry would never do that, because he knew how it felt to be on the receiving end, and he refused to lower himself to that level. Never again. He was not proud of the way he had behaved until this year, and he had made a determined effort not to repeat his mistakes.
In fact, if Draco Malfoy stopped admiring himself in every available reflective surface for just five minutes, he would notice that the sum total of fights he had got into with his 'nemesis' this year made up to a big, fat, zero.
"Now Harry my boy, I'm sure it is just a coincidence. Professor Snape would never behave in such a fashion towards a student in his care. Potions is a dangerous subject, particularly at NEWT level, and he is merely strict to avoid any accidents. I am positive that, given time, the two of you can work out your differences." The old man beamed and offered him a sweet.
On a wild impulse, Harry refused and said: "No thank you, Headmaster. I'm allergic, e-numbers you know." And promptly left the office.
Dumbledore simply frowned, and sucked on a lemon drop, wondering what on earth e-numbers might be, and if they could be used in the war.
Cleaning his workstation and pondering over what tragic accident might befall his completed potion this time, Harry admitted to himself that he should have known going to the Headmaster for help would be a waste of time. He couldn't work out if the old man had lost his marbles for real, or was just pretending he had, in order to lull his enemies into a false sense of security, or some such. Or perhaps it was all the better for manipulating people, as that seemed to be one of his major hobbies? That and annoying the pants off of all and sundry.
Stupid old goat.
Quite often these days, Harry found himself wondering, 'Why am I here?'
And for once, philosophy had nothing to do with the question.
Sitting in a quiet corner of the library, and hour or so before dinner, Harry came back to his burning question of the moment, namely – what was he still doing at Hogwarts? Why was he trying to save a world which didn't want him?
He could dissect every portion of his life, and probably write a dissertation long enough to put even Binns to sleep, about the way the adults in his life had failed him. But there wasn't much point in that as any cathartic effect it may have would probably be outweighed by the sheer anger and frustration such an act would evoke in him.
So, he made a decision. He would not excuse anyone, but neither would he confront them.
He had realised that there comes a time in a person's life, where they have to take responsibility for themselves and their own actions. They also have to take the reins of control in their lives and decided for themselves what their goals were, and how they would go about achieving them.
Having made this discovery, he'd decided that he needed more data before making any firm plans. To this end, he had sent a note to his account manager at Gringott's, asking for a copy of his parent's will, and an audit of his accounts. He hoped Dumbledore was above common thievery, but wouldn't put anything past him at this time.
What he'd received in reply, just this very evening, was rather a surprise.
His parent's will was fairly simple – everything went to him when he reached his majority, until then he was to be under the guardianship of either Sirius Black, Poppy Pomfrey, Arthur Weasley or Andromeda Tonks. Under no circumstances, even life or death, was he to be sent to the Dursleys. He was to have a trust vault which would be topped up every year from the main accounts, the key to which he currently had on a chain around his neck. His guardian was to be paid an annual salary for his care, and he was to be given full access to his estate by them on the day of his seventeenth birthday.
Well, it was simple to see that only the very minor parts of the will had be honoured. How had the old man got away with it? Did the Ministry know? Did the Goblins know or have any control? Harry wasn't even sure if he cared right now. It wouldn't change the past. Nothing ever could.
The auditing of his accounts was what had delayed the reply from the bank, and it showed what Harry had already been half suspecting. His magical guardian had been embezzling from his estate – to the tune of one million galleons. This was a small fraction of the whole apparently, since he now owned all the Black fortunes as well. But it didn't stop it being a crime, and thus the Aurors had been duly notified.
Harry wondered if they would actually do anything, what with everything else they had on their plates right now.
A small part of him was scared at how jaded and cynical he had become, but the rest of him silenced that small voice by reminding it that he had to survive. And right now, this was the only way he knew how.
He felt, used, broken and worn. He was so tired.
Putting the papers away, and swiftly leaving the library, Harry looked for place he could be alone. An empty classroom was his best bet, since he knew the old man kept tabs on the Room of Requirement. Once inside, he conjured himself a warm blanket and sat on it, putting up the strongest privacy wards he could cast without exhausting himself.
After a moments pause, he gave way to the pain and hurt that he'd kept at bay for so long, and pretty soon, his small body was wracked by huge heart rending sobs.
Once the storm of his sorrow had passed, his mind turned to his problems and he speculated feverishly of what he might do. One point stuck out in his head:
He was seventeen now, and under no obligation to stay and Hogwarts and finish his education. He was more than ready for his NEWTS. He felt he could take them tomorrow and pass acceptably, or better than that even.
So why was he here, fighting a war for a people he cared nothing for, and who cared nothing for him.
Remus – the last connection to his parents crossed his mind briefly, before being dismissed. The man had barely exchanged two sentences with him since Sirius died, despite the fact that he was the current Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. And whenever he looked into those amber eyes, he could see the flash of accusation before it was quickly masked.
Harry knew he was not to blame for Sirius' death. If the chances of false visions was so high, then someone should have warned him. He would have listened, and would have faithfully reported every detail to a designated adult so the veracity of what he had seen could be reviewed. But they didn't and so he didn't either.
It was Voldemort's fault really. Though, since Dumbledore had a large hand in making Tom into Voldemort, then he could shoulder a large part of the blame as well.
He was always going on and on about 'The Greater Good'. And mouthing off about how his view was longer than others and that they had to trust him. Bollocks!
That's what Harry wanted to say every time the old goat got into one of his sermons on the subject. Yes, there were occasions when the needs of the few must be sacrificed for the needs of the many, Harry was not trying to deny that. However, what the old man seemed to ignore, was that one tiny pebble dropped into a pond can make ripples which stretch far and wide, and all would feel its effects.
But it was pointless trying to argue with him. He was a stubborn, self important, self righteous sanctimonious old git, and completely unable to admit to, or learn from his mistakes. And frankly, Harry was past trying to reconcile with him.
The only people Harry would miss if he left, and leaving was what he was fast believing was his best option, were the twins. Fred and George had never abandoned him, or sided with popular opinion while they were at school with him. They were the ones protecting him in the halls during his second year, and who knew what might have happened to him if they'd not been there?
He hadn't really seen them lately, and so didn't know if they'd thrown their lot in with his other 'friends', but he sort of doubted it. It just wasn't their style. Well, he could write to them, and see how they felt. And if that went well, he could maybe ask for some help. Merlin knew they could keep a secret when they wanted, and hopefully they would agree to some kind of extra security charm. There was no harm in being extra careful.
Dear Gred and Forge,
How are things? I hope business is booming! Though with you two in charge, how could it not be? Well anyway, enough flattery. I'm going to be as blunt as possible about this, so as not to cause any misunderstanding. Do the two of you believe that I should hurry up and end the war, and stop being so selfish by making other people suffer, while I indulge in frivolous stuff like school work and a life of my own?
Just some things I've heard lately have made me begun to reconsider things.
Let me know guys,
Have you gone completely mental? Just how exactly are you supposed to end the war? You're not ready! You need training. Who has been saying this stuff? It's bloody ludicrous. I think we can safely say that we do not agree with that idea at all!
Business is booming right now thanks! As you say, how can it not be with genius such as ours at the helm?!
Call us if you need anything mate,
Gred and Forge.
Putting the letter down, Harry found it incredibly encouraging. But it did give him a moment's pause about abandoning the two of them to the war. He quickly squashed that thought though. He could always offer them a safe home wherever he ended up, and he was pretty sure they would understand his motives for going.
He refolded the parchment and tucked it into his robes, before turning back to his breakfast. He pretended he didn't notice the scowls and disdainful sniffs of the people around him, though it didn't make any of them stop.
"And what were you reading so secretly there?" Hermione asked in a nosey voice. Harry snorted before taking a sip of his drink.
"Nothing special. Just my copy of this month's accounts from Fred and George's shop. I don't know why they insist on sending them to me, since I'm a silent partner and everything, but they said it was their accountant's orders or something." Harry shrugged and Hermione tutted disapprovingly. She looked like she was itching to get her hands on it, but not having a legitimate reason, she couldn't ask.
Finishing his breakfast Harry rose, and headed out of the Great Hall. Thank Merlin for Hogsmeade weekends! He would have to stop at the twins shop in the village, and hoped that if they weren't there, whatever assistant which was on duty would permit him a fire-call.
Harry walked the path towards the village, thankful that he was able to get away from his year mates so easily. Apparently they had some 'thing' they were going to at the Three Broomsticks, and he didn't seem to have an invite. Heh, they weren't even pretending to like him very much anymore, and that suited him just fine. They just smirked when he walked off alone, thinking it would be some kind of punishment not to be included in their outing. They didn't realise he saw it as a blessing and was counting his lucky stars that he didn't have to make up some lie to get away.
It was a short trip, and before long, he was opening the door to 'Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes' and ducking the inevitable trap rigged to hit customers when they walked in. He'd been around the twins too long to fall for something like that. They appreciated it too as they said trying to think of new ways to catch him out kept them on their toes. Harry didn't mind either, as most of their stuff was pretty funny, and he could use a good laugh these days.
He made his way to the counter, and looked around for an assistant. Spotting a harassed looking middle-aged woman, Harry chuckled lightly and smiled at her.
"Good Morning. I'm here to see Fred and George. Are they around?" He asked politely and the assistant, whose badge announced her to be 'Pam – Happy to Help', scowled at him. Clearly, she was not having a good morning.
"No they're not here. But I tell you what? When you see them, tell them I quit!" She declared, pulling off her robe and throwing it at him. With a sniff and a stamp of her foot, as if emphasising her point, she disapparated. Unable to resist, even though he was alone, Harry looked around and declared: "Was it something I said?"
Laughing at his amazing with, oh yeah, Harry turned the shop sign to 'Closed', and went in the back to look for the Floo. It didn't take him long to find it, and he chucked some powder in. Pondering for a moment about where to call first, Harry tried their Diagon Alley shop.
"Fred? George? Anyone there? HELLO?" He yelled and waited for any signs of life.
There was a muffled sound, and then a pair of feet appeared in front of the fireplace.
"Harry? Good Morning! What's up? Not that it's not a pleasure of course, but you don't normally make fire-calls!" It was George. Harry could tell the difference by now.
"Hi George. I came by your shop in Hogsmeade to see you two, but you weren't here, obviously. And like, when I asked your assistant, she went mental! Stormed out of here in a huff and handed me her robes, saying to tell you she quit. Um, sorry mate!" Harry explained a bit sheepishly. George swore softly and then chuckled.
"Not to worry Harry. Not your fault. She was only a temp anyway, as our regular girl is on maternity leave. Let me just go and grab Fred, and we'll be right over. I take it this has something to do with your last letter?" He asked, raising his eyebrows slightly. Harry nodded.
"It does." He replied simply. George then nodded as well, and cut the call. Harry rose to his feet and dusted off his jeans. Looking round, he spied a table and chairs, and decided to take a seat.
He didn't have to wait too long, before a couple of soft pops announced the arrival of the shop's owners.
"Harry mate?" One of them called.
"I'm back here!" He replied, and smiled in greeting when they arrived. He was then caught up in some bizarre three way hug, which he found both comforting and reassuring, but that threatened to bring down the wall he had built between himself and the pain of his friend's and mentor's abandonment. Luckily it was over fairly quickly and he managed to push down the wave of intense emotion which had leaked through a crack in said wall. Now was not the time to break down. Not that he thought the twins would be insensitive, far from it. But he just couldn't afford the time, he had plans to make.
"The reason I'm here guys, is that I've come to a decision." He began, not quite sure how to articulate how he was feeling now that it came to actually explaining it to someone. Or two someones in this case. They smiled encouragingly and he went on. "It's a decision about my place, in the war. In the world even. Oh – don't think I'm going Dark or something, 'cause I'm not. I just, the thing is…you see. I just feel – I don't belong here." He said quietly, and then waited.
"I'm not sure I know what you mean Harry. Well, scratch that, I guess I sort of do." Fred started hesitantly.
"People have treated you differently, ever since you found out you were a Wizard, right? Well, before that actually." George said with a frown and Harry nodded.
"Since the night my parents died really. Let's not go into the Dursleys though, I think you two know all you need to about them, and my life in their home. Then, when Hagrid came for me, I was suddenly thrust into this fantastic world, where all things seemed possible! Where I believed I could finally make a life for myself. Learn more about who I was, and who I could be. And I suppose, in a way, I have. Though most of it has not been my own doing. I still don't have free will here. I know most children don't to some extent, it's necessary. They're too young to know what's good for them, and they need protection from the world and the people in it." He paused for breath, and George took this opportunity to fetch some Butterbeers and cake.
"Cheers." He toasted as the three of them tucked in.
"But then," Harry continued, "What kind of a parent or guardian completely disregards what their child or charge is saying, and blithely shoves them back again and again, into a situation where they are unhappy and being mistreated? It's not right, and I can tell you this, if we were solely in the muggle world, I would have called Childline by now and been re-housed. But that's neither here nor there. My point is, and I do have one, believe me, is that I do not feel the desire to fight for, and save, a world which left me with those people, and never once checked to see if I was OK. Sure, Dumbledore assured everyone that I was fine, and safe, but no one followed up on that. There should be procedures in place and used everyday, to assure the welfare of orphans. For all children even. But as far as my case was concerned, there weren't." He became agitated, and the two brothers in front of him touched him briefly in reassurance.
"I agree with you mate. You know I do. You've been so incredibly let down by the people who were supposed to look after you. Actually, who was supposed to look after you? No way would your Mum and Dad have left you with them!" Fred declared hotly, and Harry grimaced.
"You're right Fred. I was supposed to go – in order of preference – to either Sirius, Madame Pomfrey, your Dad, or Tonks' Mum. If one wasn't available, then the next one down, and so on. There is no way they could have claimed that there was no one to take me in, since your folks are still around, so is Pomfrey and so is Mrs Tonks!" Harry slammed his fist down on the table for emphasis. The twins looked shocked.
"So, you could've been our brother." George said softly.
"You would've grown up with us and everything. You would've been a Weasley, as I know they would've adopted you given the chance!" Fred looked a bit wistful.
"Not so much now though, eh?" Harry replied in a monotone, looking down at the floor. Both brother's smiles vanished.
There was a long silence.
"I don't know what's going on in people's heads these days. I mean, all that stuff they're saying about how you're prolonging the war and shit. It's stupid!" George broke the silence angrily.
"Forge is right! Frankly, I think it's pathetic. I took Muggle Studies and I know they have wars for as stupid reasons as we do – but they don't depend on one man to solve all their problems. They have people who choose to fight for their countries, and they train all their lives to do it. They're a lot better at it than we are." Fred said with a wave of his hand, as if dismissing the entire Wizarding world for gross incompetence.
"Too bloody right. If they ever found out about us, we'd be right in the shit. We might have magic, but there are more than fifty million muggles in England alone! That's not to mention Scotland or Wales, or Northern Ireland. I'm getting off track here anyway. So, as I said, I'm not prepared to be their weapon, or their scapegoat. Even if I did take out old Voldie Poo, who's to say they won't chuck me in Azkaban for murder afterwards?" The other two snorted with rueful agreement. "Well, I don't like those odds, so I'm not gonna take the chance. They can clean up their own mess!" He paused for cheers from his audience, and smiled. The first true, unmasked smiled he'd smiled for a very long time. "The only thing which gives me pause, is leaving the two of you here, to face the music. I don't know what I would do if either of you got hurt, but at the same time, I don't want to force you to come with me if you don't want to."
Both twins' eyebrows rose in shock. They weren't expecting this. Well, they expected something like Harry giving up and leaving, and maybe asking them for some help. But they didn't expect him to ask them to come with him. They immediately knew they couldn't, even if part of them wanted to. Not yet at least.
"Harry, that's, well that's really nice of you, but the business…" George began hoarsely.
"Yeah, the business…we can't leave it. Though I guess if Mouldy Socks decides to take us out, there won't be much of business left." Fred finished bleakly. Harry smiled in understanding.
"I thought you might say that, so I have, a um, proposal for you. You guys help me leave, I'll tell you where I am, we can work a charm or something to protect that. I'll get you portkeys to my house. You wear them all the time. Make some copies of your notes for your products, give me some to store, some ingredients, you know, stuff you'll need to open a new shop with if yours are destroyed. So if proverbial shit hits the fan, you hide out with me until it's safe to come back. How's that?" He asked, an excited smile on his face. They both whopped and jumped up out of their seats.
"Sounds great!" They said in unison and danced round the room a little bit. Harry just snickered along with them, surprised they had been so restrained since arriving. It wasn't like them to be so subdued. When they settled down again, with fresh drinks, Fred looked at Harry curiously.
"Where are you thinking of going?" He wanted to know, Fred also looking interested. Harry hesitated for a moment. Deciding to err on the side of caution and hoping the two of them would understand, he cast a secrecy spell. They merely raised their eyebrows, refraining comment and waited.
"Reykjavík. It's the capital of Iceland." Harry replied. Both twins exchanged glances and then shook their heads at Harry.
"Don't forget your thermals!" They said simultaneously, and Harry laughed.
"Headmaster!" The shout came from behind the door to Dumbledore's office, and he looked up, startled by the shrillness of the cry. "Headmaster!" The same voice repeated, and the heavy door was slammed open. He rose swiftly as two breathless people surged into the room.
"Harry is missing!" Minerva McGonagall declared, fear evident in her voice.
"Calm! Calm now Minerva. Remus?" He said, looking to the man which had entered with the Deputy Headmistress.
"It's true Albus. His friends haven't seen him since yesterday morning." He replied softly, his voice hollow.
"His things?" The Headmaster replied sharply. Remus nodded a little absently, before shaking his head as if to clear it.
"Severus is collecting them now." He answered, and Dumbledore sighed.
"Then we must wait. Have a seat do." The old man replied, waving them vaguely towards some chairs near the fire. He himself returned to his customary seat behind his desk. Steepling his fingers, he ruminated on the problem.
Harry must have been kidnapped. Or enticed away. Oh, he knew the boy had been rather distant of late, but he knew his duty. In fact Dumbledore himself had quietly encouraged the views that the boy should take his destiny more seriously. After all, he was due to graduate soon, and any idea of a career or further study must be discouraged. He had a part to play, and that was all he was good for. The sooner he accepted that fact, the better.
The minutes slowly ticked by as they waited for the Potions Master to arrive.
All three of the room's occupants jumped as the door banged open and Snape burst into the room.
"Headmaster." He acknowledged and came forward quickly, a battered trunk following behind him.
"What of Harry's possessions?" Dumbledore queried, and Snape scowled.
"Knowing little of the boy, I have no idea what might be missing or otherwise. Perhaps Lupin could assist us, or one of the boy's friends?" He suggested, directing the trunk with his wand to rest on a nearby table which Albus had cleared when he noticed his colleague's intent.
The search through the young man's things didn't reveal much, though Lupin did note that a few things were missing: the Firebolt, James' invisibility cloak, his wand, the Marauder's Map, a photo album the wolf knew him to posses, and some things that the twins had given him. His clothes and school robes were still there, among other various trinkets – a sneakascope, a broom servicing kit and other items.
They all sat back and contemplated what to do next.
"Well, it appears he may have been enticed to leave. If he has taken such things with him, then it looks as though he may not have been removed by force. But where? And who?" Albus said, as though he was thinking out loud.
Just then, there was a pop, and a note appeared on the Headmaster's desk. Once it had been duly scanned for any tampering or jiggery-pokery, the old man opened it, and took out a piece of paper from the inside. He cast a few charms and confirmed it was indeed from young Mr Potter. He read its contents quickly.
Dumbledore stared down at the note in consternation, and with a sniff of disgust, he handed it to Snape to read. There were only two lines, and he recognised the quote, as well as the brat's messy handwriting.
"Talk not to me, for I'll not speak a word:
Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee."