AU. Harry does some thinking after the DOM fiasco. An overheard conversation turns his world upside down and he decides to return the favor.
A/N: Note the AU bit…this is not typical Voldemort character, and everyone else will also be a bit OOC. You'll see that I decided to grab most of the typical Ron/Hermione/Ginny bashing cliché's. Since their betrayal isn't a main part of the story-just an underpinning-I decided to go ahead and just spit them all out at once, have some fun, and then forget it…except for allowing others to mock them periodically! They aren't important in the story, only the fact of their betrayal and the fact that they were never really his friends. Well, Hermione may have had a few weeks there after the troll….I tried to have Harry use insults appropriate for a 16 yr old.
This fic should be around 5 chapters.
Time: 6th Year. End of September
I have a proposal for you; something I believe will benefit us both and, albeit unusual, this appears the best method available to begin our discourse. I would like to propose a private Détente between you and I. Obviously, I do not speak for the Wizarding world or any other group, only for myself as a private individual.
I believe that you and I can easily come to a mutually beneficial agreement. The details and benefits would have to be discussed privately, but our dialog must start somewhere, and I am taking the plunge, so to speak. I am aware that you would not trust my request for a meeting, and so I will use this forum to explain the background of my position in the hopes that you will understand that I am genuine in my request. If there is one thing I have learned here, especially in my Divination class; it is that things are never what they seem. In hindsight, the obvious interpretation has often been wrong and people tend to see what they want to see. Truth can be elusive and subtle. But, subtlety is rarely a Gryffindor trait. I ask that you forgive my bluntness. In short: This is not my war. I am positive that you would agree if we could only speak privately and I could explain my thoughts.
Others have manipulated perceptions to place me in the vanguard. My youth and ignorance kept me where I was placed. But, fortunately for me, those faults are easily remedied by time, luck, and sneakiness. Alas for the master manipulator, Albus Dumbledore, the time has come and I have always been lucky. His first mistake was sending me to grow up in an abusive, magic hating home where I had to learn to sneak to survive, to show others only the face they expected. His second was to forget that you cannot simultaneously hold the roles of jailer and rescuer for long before the facade crumbles. Most importantly, he forgot why people fight. You demonstrated your understanding of this principal last spring. People put their lives on the line when something, or someone, they care greatly about is at risk. Once my godfather died protecting me at the Dept of Mysteries; the magical world no longer contained anything for which I would risk my life. Dumbledore's isolationist policy has ensured that I have had little to no exposure to magical culture; definitely not enough to feel any sense of affiliation. It feels as foreign to me as I am sure the muggle world feels to many wizards. Just as wizards feel no burning desire to fight for England in the recent muggle wars, I find I feel similarly about the British magical world's war.
In addition to this lassitude, the events of these last two years have exhausted my patience and destroyed the last shreds of positive feelings I had towards Britain's Magical society. All of this is topped by how Dumbledore's manipulations have simply become too blatant to excuse and I've grown tired of pretending I don't see them. The strings have been cut and this pawn will no longer play someone else's game. I've decided to act for my own 'greater good' and have come to the belated realization that I am not responsible for the world. I am after all, just barely 16 yrs old. I am always being told not to ask questions, to leave things to those older and wiser than I -- so I will do so. Everything. I am taking myself out of the equation. I will not stand against you, but neither will I stand beside you. I am choosing neutrality.
This is not my war and I have no desire to continue placing my life on the line before I have even lived it, especially for a society I know little about and feel even less a part of.
You once told me that our backgrounds were very similar. Those similarities you mentioned were merely the surface…
The day the world changed for the British wizarding community, started like any other morning. People all over the Island woke up, bathed, dressed, and then sat down for breakfast and the morning paper. Regretfully, those breakfasts were rarely finished; most were ruined by spilt tea and coffee - a few tables were even completely overset. Messy… breakfast was very messy everywhere you looked. Many witches & wizards choked and had to be pounded on the back by their spouses or children. The cause? One simple advertisement on the front page of The Daily Prophet titled "A letter from Harry Potter to Lord Voldemort".
Early risers for breakfast at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry saw a rare sight; Harry Potter breaking his fast without his two ever present bookends -- Ron and Hermione. The man of the hour sat alone, smiling to himself as he decided between sausages and bacon. He'd managed to get out of the dorm without waking Ron and convinced the others not to do so until at least 20 minutes after he'd left. He then sent a message, via Ginny, up to Hermione about Ron running late and asking that they wait for him. Hermione of course, would assume that Harry would also be waiting for Ron - but in the dorm. By the time she realized he was already down in the Great Hall, unsupervised, it would be far too late and she wouldn't want to waste an opportunity to harangue Ron for loosing track of Harry. This should guarantee that they all arrived together after the Daily Prophet and bickering just enough to distract them in the corridors. He wanted the gossip to be at the right point as they entered the Hall. He was greatly looking forward to their reactions, perhaps even more than Dumbledore's. After all, it wasn't every day that your backstabbing, fake friend's phony personalities were exposed to the world.
The paper arrived just as Harry was serving himself seconds of eggs, fruit and toast; giving him a perfect excuse to keep his head angled toward his table while his eyes moved around the room. The reactions were everything he could have hoped for and even a bit more. He couldn't help the smirk from spreading over his face and pretended to be very busy picking fruit pieces while watching the room out of the corner of his eyes, especially the head table. Then, just as he'd hoped, Dean and Seamus were the first to ask as they slid down the benches.
"Harry mate, is this true? Has the Prophet gone mad again or is this a joke or …" Dean ran out of words and simply sat and stared.
"Yes, it's true, every single word." Harry spoke clearly; wanting to make sure it was easy for the eavesdroppers. He had posted Dobby in Diagon Alley with instructions to buy the first available copy and verify that the printed letter matched his original document. The little elf had given the sign for success before Harry entered the Hall that morning.
True to form, Seamus bellowed loudly "It's true then?! Dumbledore really did all that? Ron and Hermione have been spying on you all these years? They've just been pretending to be your friend for money and privileges… making sure you did Dumbledore's weird tests and him trying to get you to kill You-Know-Who while you were too young to survive? Ginny and the love potions? Stealing from your vaults?? It's all… all TRUE!!"
Trust Seamus to focus on those issues and not the pending meeting with Voldemort nor the possible repercussions. Harry could have hugged him, it was perfect. He wanted the focus on the truth about his so called friends and allies. There would be plenty of time in the upcoming weeks for the panic as they realized he wasn't going to fight for them. If they wanted to be saved this time around, they'd have to do it themselves.
"Yea, I overheard them discussing it and then I spied back a bit. No doubt at all mate. I verified everything - the money, various privileges. I found out Dean here was supposed to be prefect last year until the Headmaster overturned the decision and gave it to Ron as extra payment because of the bad press that summer."
Neville tilted his head thoughtfully as he slid further down the table into place near Harry, "I always thought that was odd. Ron doesn't have the grades like other prefects, nor the right temperament. He's pretty volatile and lazy about the responsibility; doesn't look after the firsties at all. Even Malfoy does a better job watching over the Slytherin firsties than Ron does ours. It makes sense it should have been Dean here, you're a much better match up with the prefects in the other houses."
Neville gestured at Dean as he picked up pieces of bacon to add to his toast and grilled tomato sandwich. "I've noticed that most of the other prefects get along with the other houses, like you do, and you have much more respect -- in and out of Gryffindor. Ron's pretty much a bigot; he sees only the stereotyped house label and likes to pick on the younger kids."
The three boys looked at Neville in shock. Harry soon realized his reason for shock was very different from the others.
"What?" Neville murmured around his breakfast sandwich as his gaze moved from boy to boy. "Everyone knows Ron's a git. We've all only put up with it cuz of Harry here and his being Harry's friend. Come on guys! You haven't figured it out yet?"
Neville burst into laughter at the expressions on Dean and Seamus's faces. "Ron ISN'T under Harry's protection any longer. He's on his own, we don't have to be nice anymore or put up with his crap, nor Hermione's. They no longer have a wealthy, well-connected patron house to hide behind. Even Dumbledore will drop him now that he's of no use to him, Ron can't influence or spy on Harry if he's not his friend and has no excuse to be around."
As what Neville was saying sunk in, Dean and Seamus's faces lightened and they high fived each other. Seamus sank deeper into his seat with a beatific expression on his face. "OHHHH, this is going to be bloody brilliant the first time he tries to pull something."
"Yea…" Dean chipped in. "You just know he's thick enough to forget in the moment."
The boys snickered and Harry shook his head. "You all should have told me that was happening. I had no idea he was being that obnoxious or using me that way. "
Neville waved his sandwich in the air. "We didn't think you'd believe us. Ron kept saying you wouldn't believe anyone over him, your best mate. He was very careful to never do it around you or when you might walk in and catch him. Don't worry about it mate, it's all over now, old news and it's really the least of my concerns." He looked serious for a moment then smiled, leaned forward and lowered his voice. "Besides, we get to enjoy payback time!"
They all chuckled and the other three began plotting that well deserved payback. Harry nodded as he half-listened and looked around the room, making eye contact with various members of the DA as he did so; he even included a Slytherin or two. He almost started to laugh again, the Slytherin reaction was the best. They seemed totally stunned into silence as the other tables gossiped and whispered. Malfoy's eyes were wide, jaw dangling while he stared across the room in shock, tea spilled over his plate. Harry wasn't sure what had hit the other boy the hardest; the public outing of Ron and Hermione's roles or the news that Harry would be working out a private Détente with the Dark Lord and the realization that he was therefore out of bounds for harassment, for good.
His attention was caught by McGonnegal rising slowly from her seat and leaving through the staff door. On her way to see Dumbledore, he expected. Too bad he was going to miss that one, but you couldn't have everything. He had enjoyed watching earlier while she sputtered, choked on her tea and then was pounded on the back by Professor Sprout. It looked like she'd read the article twice before sitting in thought for a bit. The staff table really had been fun to watch. Hagrid kept muttering on how it couldn't be true, any of it, while Snape sat, head tilted, staring at Harry after reading the article. He had an intense look in his eyes, as if he were seeing Harry for the first time and wished he could bore right into his head directly to his plans. To Harry's great surprise, the man picked up his teacup while holding Harry's eyes, toasted him with it, then continued on with his meal -- totally ignoring the commotion -- all without a single attempt at legilimency. Harry could swear the corner of Snape's mouth was turned slightly up as if Harry had finally done something worthy of amusement.
When things began to reach a fevered pitch, Ron and Hermione walked into the hall, bickering, with Ginny trailing behind. Of course, Hermione shushed Ron as they got closer to Harry and they seated themselves on either side of him, squeezing Neville and Seamus down the bench, completely oblivious to the stares and mutterings of the other students. Typically, the scolding began before Hermione had even taken her seat. Harry wondered how on earth he had ever stood it this long.
"Harry! Why didn't you wait? If you wanted to come down early, you should have told me! There's no reason for you to have come down alone, you shouldn't isolate yourself from us like this, we're your friends, and you know you can tell us anything - "
En mass, Neville, Seamus and the remaining members of the Gryffindor Quidditch team stood up, grabbed the three and hauled them off the benches in the midst of Hermione's tirade. Harry smiled while Dean cheered them on from the opposite side of the table.
"Get away from him! How dare you! What kind of Gryffindor's are you?!"
The shouts escalated and soon the three were surrounded by students who felt the need to give them a piece of their minds. Once he was certain the others would keep them occupied, Neville slid out of the group and joined Harry and Dean at the table. Seamus followed his example a few moments later while Neville was speaking.
"I'm sorry about them, Harry. I never knew; I never heard anything. I should have said that earlier, I just got caught up thinking about not having to put up with Ron." Neville looked a bit sheepish and shrugged his shoulders.
"Hermione's always talking about Dumbledore and all, but other than that, I never caught anything to make me think they were… well, doing what they were doing. If I had, I would have told you, truly. This is much bigger than Ron trying to use your rank and we wouldn't have let it go. Thanks for what you said in the letter, about me being a real friend to you." The quiet boy looked down at the table and began to fuss with the place setting. "Are you really going to talk to him? Make a deal? After everything he's done?"
"Yes. I know it sounds crazy, but I meant what I said in that letter. This isn't my fight, no matter how much others try to make it that way. My parents chose to fight, I didn't, and I refuse to inherit their choice out of some bizarre desire for revenge or twisted loyalty. When people choose to put themselves in a war as combatants, they, and their families, have to be aware that they could be killed or injured. That's how wars are; it's ridiculous to pretend otherwise."
Harry's attention was momentarily grabbed by Ron's bellow, followed by two outraged shrieks that could only have come from the harpies-in-training. It sounded like they still didn't know exactly what was happening, he had a few more moments to try and explain to these three. He took a deep breath.
"It wasn't personal, you know. He didn't attack that night because he didn't like them as people; it was a strategic military decision. It was a different situation than yours Nev, he didn't torture them, he just killed them quickly because they were blocking the way. He even told my mother to step aside and she could live. I want to move on and stop being defined by that moment in time. To do that, I need to stop hating and letting that hate control my life. I need to see that night for what it was to both sides. It's the only way I can look at things and stay sane."
Harry finished off his egg while the boys exchanged glances.
"I think of it as my parents being soldiers whose base camp was attacked by the enemy who was trying to destroy a perceived threat. Their side won, but they died in the battle. That's the bigger picture. The very cold, and horrible, objective truth is that my parents were collateral damage. That's a muggle military term, but it helps to remind me that it wasn't a civilian situation with normal motivations. Everyone calls that time a war, but they don't like to think about what that really means. In war, soldiers die, and when that happens you don't find their families running off to find the soldier on the other side who fired that specific killing shot. They're unhappy, they grieve and are angry and completely free to hate, but they don't run off looking for, and expecting to get, personal revenge. At least muggles don't. I don't know; the magical world seems crazy to me so maybe you all do."
Dean and Seamus - with their muggle backgrounds -- smiled in commiseration while Neville looked confused but thoughtful, the remains of his sandwich forgotten in his hands.
"Look guys, it was their choice to join the war as soldiers the minute they joined Dumbledore's Order, but it wasn't mine. I've never chosen a side - I don't even really understand all the issues. I only know the hyperbole spewed by Dumbledore and the Ministry, and after all the lies I've been told, I doubt that's the whole truth. Even I know the world isn't that black and white. If Dumbledore isn't pure good, I doubt Voldemort is pure evil. What's been the worst part of all this, is that every time I end up in his way, other people get hurt or killed. People like Cedric, Sirius and you Neville at the DOM. Cedric is dead because Dumbledore's manipulations made me, and Ced by default, targets; and Sirius, well, Dumbledore destroyed him just because he may have gotten in his way. Think about it. Dumbledore was the head of the Wizengamot and a member of his precious Order doesn't get a trial? Isn't questioned with veritaserum to see how far his betrayal went? If they were so certain he'd betrayed them, they should have wanted to know by how much. It doesn't add up and never did. Sirius went to Azkaban because Dumbledore didn't want any interference with his little pawn, me, and my unprotected bank accounts. Well, no more."
Harry, realizing that his voice had risen with his last sentence, cleared his throat and lowered his tone but still spoke earnestly.
"All this began before we were even born, Nev. This is really between a corrupt Ministry, Dumbledore, and Voldemort. A lot of it is personal between the last two and doesn't involve anyone else and I'm not going to be dragged into it as a poster boy to rally the blind masses. I think all three sides are corrupt and this society has been heading for a showdown for the last fifty plus years. They can have it without me. It's time for the adults who've been part of the problem to solve it themselves. Wizards live long lives. With all that experience behind them, there's no reason for things to be this messed up; and especially for them to expect children our age to fix it. They should know better."
The boy's attention was grabbed by Hermione's shriek. Someone had finally handed her the morning paper and she'd been reading the article. "Harry James Potter! How DARE you do this without talking to us first! How could you think of making a deal with that monster! How could you let them print this about ME for everyone to read without hearing me out first? How could you betray me like this! I'm your friend!" Her face was beet red, her expression completely horrified. Harry kept his face impassive, but inside he was chortling with glee. She may be book smart, but the witch was completely lacking in common sense and any understanding of real people and feelings - and she was always complaining that Ron had the emotional depth of a teaspoon…Hunh! Her tablespoon was right there beside Ron's teaspoon. Harry stood and leaned towards her and chose his most sarcastic tone.
"Oh, you mean like how you came to me back in first year when Ron and Dumbledore approached you with their dirty little bargain? How you didn't betray me; you're first friend here - the first person to speak to you nicely and that befriended you while everyone else, especially Ron, called you a bossy nuisance, know-it-all bitch?"
He leaned forward even more, eyes spitting fire and gave her a very vicious smile. "I gave you the exact same consideration and loyalty you have given me. Karma Granger, I'm sure you know the concept." He moved to stand straight and stared her down until she averted her eyes in shame.
"I will give you three just this one single warning, so pay attention." He looked over and pierced Ginny and Ron with his glare. They both caught their breath and stepped back instinctively; this was a Harry they hadn't seen before. The sound of their shoes scraping on the stone echoed in the silent listening hall.
"Stay away from me you three. We are not friends, we aren't even acquaintances. You are dead to me; I wouldn't even cross the room to spit on you if you were in flames. I consider your existence on this planet a complete waste of perfectly good air. Do not push me or you will find that the nasty cruel tricks the Marauders pulled on Snape are only the tip of the iceberg of what a Potter can do when he's motivated."
Harry stepped back and sat on the bench, he paused mid-turn towards the table. "Oh, and Ginny? Come near me one more time with one of those potions in your pocket and you will spend the rest of the year lusting after Crabbe and Goyle. They might really enjoy a little weasellette plaything." He waved his wand at the pale girl and a vial rose out of her pocket and hovered at face height in front of she and Hermione -- where it exploded, showering her with glass shards and potion.
After screeching, Ginny grabbed Hermione's arm in a panic. "Merlin! Some of it went into my mouth! What will it do? Hermione! Stop gawking and help me!" She stopped as she realized Hermione was wiping potion off her own face, including around her mouth. "NOOOOO!" Ginny shrieked and ran out of the Great Hall screaming with Hermione running after her.
Ron gaped after them, mouth moving like a fish, and then turned towards Harry, fist rising.
"I wouldn't if I were you Ron. Lot's of witnesses and you aren't sliding along on my coat-tails any longer. Everyone knows exactly what kind of person you are now, as well as how disgusting I find you, and I don't think the rest of the school will be cutting you any slack. You've always wanted to be famous, have your name and picture in the paper, have people talking about you. You're about to get your wish. You're going to find out exactly what it's like to be famous for something you'd rather not be known for. Although the exposure of it was out of your control, at least you can comfort yourself with the thought that you are now known for something you've done that you're brothers have not."
Harry couldn't resist letting out a snide chuckle.
"If you're smart, you'll go make sure your sister made it to the Hospital Wing and that Poppy can negate the effects of that potion she was planning to use on me. Here's something for you to think on while you're walking. I have the Marauder playbook, have had it for years. There's a section with all the nasty things that even Sirius thought were too mean or harsh for Slytherins. I would love the chance to see some of those in action, give me the slightest excuse and you'll see them too, very up close and personal. They're all either extremely humiliating or horribly painful - sometimes both. Think very carefully before you act, your protection is gone, and I don't only mean mine. You're useless to Dumbles now, and he doesn't go out of his way for people in that category. Indeed, you're actually now an embarrassment and hindrance, since your presence will be a constant reminder of his manipulation of my private life."
Harry tilted his head and sounded thoughtful for his next words before his voice became hard again at the end.
"I imagine this category is a very dangerous place to be, after all, he shoved Sirius into Azkaban only because he was a 'potential' hindrance to his plans. I wonder what he'll do to 'actuals' like you three? Hmmmm… Stay away from me weasel, and I'll stay away from you. Don't ignore this warning. This is the last conversation we will ever have."
Harry glared at Ron until the other boy gulped. With freckles standing out on his pale face and wide frightened eyes, Ron slowly backed away and went after Ginny.
"Cor Harry," mumbled Seamus as Harry turned back to the table, "You can be downright scary you know? Please warn me if I'm getting close to making you that angry, alright?"
Harry took a deep calming breath and a sip of tea then smiled coolly at the silent group. "You can be sure I'll let you know." He took a deeper swallow of tea and continued in a quieter voice.
"Well, that was fun. Now where were we? Right, I guess this might help explain some of what I'm trying to get across. The muggles have a saying, I don't know it exactly, but this is close. People have the government they earn, the one they deserve. It sounds harsh, but it's true. If people are apathetic and sheep like, they accept what they're given and they end up with crap. If they argue, push, and stand up for themselves, they'll have something better. Nobody seems to hold the Ministry, or Dumbledore, accountable; they just shake their heads and say 'isn't it terrible?' The Wizard press is a joke when compared with the muggle versions; the Prophet is really just propaganda for sale to the highest bidder. They'd faint at the idea of journalistic integrity or true investigative journalism. That would require too much work."
Harry paused and caught Neville's eye. "I refuse to die for a society that isn't even mine, especially one as corrupt as this one. Like I wrote in the letter, this isn't my war and I won't fight it for people who spit on me one day and then demand I save them the next. Turnabouts fair play. I owe them nothing."
He lowered his voice to a bare whisper and spoke only for the three boys.
"The few people I care about, well, you all have legs and you can do the same as I am, you can leave. I highly recommend that you think about transferring to a school outside of England and stay there once you finish. You can tell the others what I said, but they should keep it away from the teachers and Dumbledore's stooges."
With those parting words; Harry got up, gathered his book bag and left for his first class. It was going to be an interesting day, hell; it was going to be an interesting few weeks until Halloween, and his escape.
A/N:. updates on this fic will be slow. My main story is still Two Sides, but the first, and last, chapters of this one just wouldn't leave me be. Guess I'm posting because I'm feeling guilty that the next chapter of Two Sides isn't ready!
How Harry got to this point will be described in chapters 4 & 5. The next couple of chapters are reactions and Halloween.
Revision loaded June 1, 2008