Disclaimer: Harry, his friends, his teachers and anyone else who looks familiar belongs to J.K. Rowling (dammit!) and I am making no profit whatsoever from this. Nhean and any other new characters are mine.
Number 4 Privet Drive lay quiet and dark when Remus Lupin and Severus Snape apparated at the front gate under the protection of invisibility cloaks. The two men looked around carefully before shedding their cloaks. Remus Lupin opened the gate and walked up the path with the quietly grumbling Potions Master following behind him. Severus Snape's sullen company was something that Remus could have done without but Dumbledore had insisted that Remus be accompanied to check on Harry when the wards on Privet Drive had alerted that there was a problem. Severus had been the only one available at short notice and he had not wanted to waste time arguing. Dumbledore had not been able to decipher what the wards had been trying to tell him except he was certain that Harry was still alive.
Remus rushed up to the front door and rapped loudly on it. He and Snape waited impatiently for a response. When none came, Remus pounded again on the door. When again there was no response from the house, he pulled out his wand and, after quickly looking around to ensure that they were not being watched, he whispered, "Alohomora". The door clicked and he pushed it opened and the two men walked into the house.
"Come on," Remus said with a gesture, "Harry's room is upstairs."
Severus sniffed dismissively but followed the werewolf up the stairs. Remus made his way to Harry's bedroom and threw the door open. He came to sudden stop two steps into the room and the Potions Master nearly bumped into him.
"What is it, Lupin?" Snape said quietly but acidly.
Remus turned and looked at him in confusion and sorrow. "He's not here, Severus." Remus turned away and entered the room. He was back in a few seconds holding a limp, white, feathered body in his hands. "But now I am truly afraid for Harry. He would not have willingly allowed this."
Severus took Hedwig's body from Lupin and examined it. He gave the limp body back to the werewolf and pointed to the neck, "The owl's neck has been broken; twisted sharply and violently." Snape's lips thinned and his eyes took on a grim look, "I think we had better find Potter."
Remus looked down at the bird for a moment longer before going back into the bedroom and laying her on Harry's school trunk. He came back to where Snape was standing and the Potions Master saw the deep anger growing in the werewolf's eyes.
"Come on," Remus growled, "I think I know where he is." Remus started for the stairs, taking Snape a little by surprise. He quickly caught up and asked, "Where are we going? Surely he will be in one of the other rooms?"
Remus flicked him a quick glance as they headed downstairs. "No, Vernon and Petunia used to keep him confined in a cupboard under the stairs when he was growing up. I suspect that's where he is now." Remus frowned in concern. "Though surely he would have heard us come in and yelled."
Severus stopped dead and stared in disbelief at Remus. Lupin stopped when he realised that Snape was no longer following and looked back in surprise. Snape was staring at him with growing anger on his face. "The boy was kept in a cupboard?" he said with a snarl.
Remus raised an ironic eyebrow. "I didn't know you cared, Severus. I thought you hated the boy," he said dryly.
Severus sneered at him and said with acid precision, "I dislike the latitude the boy is given with regards to the rules, I dislike the boy's insolence and rudeness to both me and others and I dislike the boy's typical Gryffindor thoughtlessness and brainless behaviour. But I would never condone any child being brought up with such neglect and abuse!"
Remus stared at him for a moment and then gave him a nod of apology and the two men made their way to the door of the cupboard. They found it locked and could not hear any sounds behind it. They exchanged glances and Remus pulled out his wand again and with a quick 'Alohomora' unlocked the door. He ripped it open and both men flinched back from the sight that confronted them.
Harry was indeed in the cupboard. He was lying curled up on his side in a foetal position, facing the door. He was unconscious, breathing stertorously and painfully. Where his thin t-shirt had pulled up at his waist they could see the black bruising but it was his face that had caused the men to pull back in shock. Harry's face was a bloody mess. It was impossible to tell exactly what damage had been done, the blood was masking everything.
Remus' breath caught several times and he had to turn away from the sight. Snape pushed past him with a terrible look on his face and gently scooped the boy up. Harry moaned and his breathing became shallower and more pained. Severus moved quickly into the living room and placed Harry gently onto the couch. He turned back to the silently weeping Remus and snapped, "Apparate to Arabella's and get Albus and Poppy here right now."
Remus disappeared with a crack and Snape turned back to the grievously injured boy. He gently lifted the t-shirt and saw that Harry's torso was almost completely covered in the black bruising they had glimpsed. There were indications that the bruising extended below the boy's hips but Snape left that for the moment. He gently pushed the boy's hair away from his face, carefully pulling away locks that had been glued down by the drying blood. He conjured a bowl of warm water and a cloth and began gently cleaning the blood off Harry's face. He started at the boy's jaw and was absurdly relieved to find that although there were distinct signs of bruising under the blood and the boy's bottom lip had been split in at least two places, there did not seem to be any further damage.
As he worked higher it became obvious that Harry had been worked over quite extensively. The boy's nose was clearly broken and much of the blood had come from that source as well as his lip. It was when he went to work higher that he was forced to stop and wait for more expert hands. There were tiny shards of glass peppering the boy's face around his eyes and, as far as Severus could tell, the amount of glass there did not account for the amount of glass that would be found in the boy's spectacles. With a wince, he realised that some of the glass must have penetrated the boy's eyes.
He was just sitting back on his heels when three loud cracks indicated the arrival of Remus Lupin, Albus Dumbledore and Poppy Pomfrey. Both Albus and Poppy gave exclamations of horror and the school nurse darted forward, pushing Severus aside. He quickly stood to make room for her and joined Albus and Remus. The three men watched as Poppy whipped her wand out and started muttering various spells. Finally she stood, pointed her wand at Harry and muttered, "Conservo". She turned to the three men, her face grave.
"He needs to go to St Mungo's, Albus, I've got him stabilised for now and I've put him in a form of stasis so that nothing can get worse but he needs to go to St Mungo's," she said. The three men looked at each other and Remus began to protest. Albus held his hands up but before he could do more than that, Severus spoke.
"He can't," Snape said bluntly, ignoring Poppy's protests. "If you take him there, the Dark Lord will know shortly afterwards and the boy will be dead. The Dark Lord would not hesitate to attack St Mungo's if he could be sure that he would be able to kill Potter." Snape hesitated and gestured towards Harry. "Look at him, a child could kill him right now. We cannot allow the Dark Lord to know that this has happened."
Albus closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. "Of course Severus, you are right. Poppy, take him to Hogwarts and do everything that you can for him. Severus, go with her. Your expertise with Potions will be invaluable. You may use the fireplace; I took long enough to ensure that it was connected to the Floo network."
Poppy Pomfrey opened her mouth to argue but then shut it and turned back to Harry. She waved her wand and muttered, "Mobilicorpus". She took a handful of Floo powder from the bag that Dumbledore held out to her and threw it into the fire that had been conjured in the grate. The flames blazed green and she stepped into the fire, a firm grip on Harry, yelling, "Hogwarts Hospital wing". Snape watched as she disappeared and stepped forward to grab a handful of Floo powder and followed her.
Remus and Dumbledore watched them go and then the Headmaster turned very calmly to Remus and asked, "Where are the Dursleys?"
Remus looked around in surprise; having honestly forgotten about the Dursley's the moment he had found Harry.
"I…I don't know, Albus," he stammered. "They didn't answer when we knocked; we had to break in. The house was dark and nobody came out to challenge us when we were upstairs." A memory came back to Remus and he grabbed Dumbledore's arm. "Merlin!" he gasped. "Harry's owl! Albus, she's dead. Her neck was broken, according to Severus, deliberately."
Dumbledore's eyes filled with tears and he closed them. When they opened they were full of quiet rage though he patted Remus' hand gently where it clung to his robes.
"Let us search the house," he said calmly though his eyes were still full of rage, "and see what there is to see."
The two men split up and searched the house from top to bottom, finishing in Harry's bedroom. Remus came in to find Dumbledore sitting on Harry's bed gently stroking Hedwig's feathers. He looked up at Remus' approach, his eyes sad. "Well?"
Remus sat down heavily next to him. "There is no sign of the Dursley's here, though both Vernon and Petunia's room and Dudley's room show signs of a hasty departure. There are suitcases missing from both rooms and clothes as well. I do not think they were coerced into leaving, Albus, I think they left of their own accord after…" Remus' voice trailed off.
"After they beat Harry into submission, realised what they had done and feared our retribution," Dumbledore finished with a dangerous quietness.
"Yes," Remus replied heavily. He stared at his hands for a moment then finally his rage began to get the better of his shock. Anger began to kindle in his amber eyes and he managed to look startlingly wolf-like. He started up from the bed and began to pace.
"Albus," he grated, "we cannot allow those…those people to get away with this! We must do something!" His voice rose to a menacing growl.
Dumbledore stood up, the anger in his eyes matching Remus' and there was no sign in his manner and bearing of the slightly dotty Headmaster. He stood tall and strong and anyone observing would have had no doubt as to the reasons why Voldemort feared this man above all others. Nevertheless, the hand he laid on Remus' shoulder was gentle and his voice was calm. "We will, Remus, we will. For now we will return to Hogwarts. In the morning we will set things in motion."
Remus nodded and picked up Hedwig. He handed her to Dumbledore who gently cradled the owl in one arm. Remus cast the spell to hover Harry's trunk after making sure that there was nothing of the boy's left in the room. He directed the trunk out of the room and the two men made their way down to the living room and from there, by Floo, to Hogwarts.
In the Hogwarts hospital wing, Poppy Pomfrey laboured over her unconscious patient. Severus aided her with quiet efficiency, quickly summoning from either her stores or his any potions she had need of. As the potion bottles were lined up on the table beside the bed, Severus' temper began to mount. The extent of the damage that had been done to the boy soon became plain. Potions for concussion and shock soon lined up alongside potions to repair internal injuries and blood loss.
Poppy had gently extracted the slivers of glass in Harry's face and repaired the wounds. She was now turning to his eyes. She gently pried one eyelid open and gasped. Severus leaned forward and saw what distressed her so much. The boy's eyes had been pierced by many slivers of glass. Poppy delicately began to remove them with her wand, making sure to heal the wounds carefully.
"He must have had his eyes open when his glasses were shattered," she muttered to herself. "Though why? Surely he would have seen the blow coming and even if he couldn't avoid it, have closed his eyes."
Severus had no answer for her and could only hold out the container for the glass shards. When she finished both eyes, she washed the remaining blood from Harry's face and placed a bandage over his eyes. She took the container from Severus' hand, gathered the remnants of the bandages and other medical accoutrements and walked quickly out to another room, the movement of her shoulders suggesting to Snape that she was crying.
At that moment, the Headmaster and Remus Lupin walked through the door.
"How is he?" Lupin asked urgently.
"Poppy has just gone to clean up," Severus answered. "She will know better than I."
Remus nodded, sat on the edge of the bed and gently took one of Harry's hands in his own. Dumbledore moved to stand beside him and laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. Poppy came bustling back out of the far room, her eyes a little red, and nodded grimly to the three men.
"It is bad, gentlemen, but it could have been worse," she began. "He has been beaten quite badly. There is extensive severe bruising and four of his ribs have been broken. He had some internal bleeding but I have stopped that and the ribs have been set. His nose has been broken but again I have set this. All of this will heal well." Here she hesitated, unsure of how to go on, finally looking up at the Headmaster. "But Albus, his eyes. I…I cannot be completely certain until he wakes but the damage was severe. Several of the slivers of glass had completely pierced the eyeball. He may retain some sight, Albus, but I fear that he will most likely be blind."
A long silence fell at these words. Finally, Remus stirred and asked softly, "How…how long before we know for sure?"
Poppy sighed. "I want to keep his eyes bandaged for a week to allow the wounds to heal, so at least that long. He should wake tomorrow morning but he will be very groggy due to the effects of the various potions he has been given. He will need someone with him at all times."
Remus immediately volunteered and Dumbledore nodded as well. "I am sure many of the teachers will be willing to stay with him," he said. "I will ask and we can set up a roster. Severus?"
Snape, who had been staring at Harry with a closed and unreadable expression, started. "What?" he asked in surprise.
"Can we put you on the list to watch over Harry?" Dumbledore asked gently.
"Yes," he said shortly and to the surprise of the others. He ignored them and turned to Dumbledore. "What will be done to those who did this?" he asked.
"It appears that the Dursley's have fled, realising that we would not permit this to go unanswered," Dumbledore replied. "Tomorrow morning I shall contact the various authorities, both Muggle and Wizard, and set things in motion." Here Dumbledore turned back to Remus. "I take it you intend to stay with Harry tonight." Remus nodded an affirmative. "Then I can rely on you to question Harry when he wakes to ascertain exactly what happened." Remus nodded again. "Good. Do it gently, Remus, do not stress the boy too much or Poppy will have both our heads."
Poppy nodded emphatically and started to shoo Dumbledore and Snape out of the door. "You can discuss whatever you need elsewhere, Headmaster, the boy needs quiet," she scolded. Dumbledore smiled and nodded to her and gestured for Snape to precede him out the door. Poppy bustled back to the bed and patted Remus on the shoulder. She conjured a comfortable chair and fussed Remus into sitting in it. She patted him on the shoulder again and left him to his vigil.
She turned back for one last look before she left the room. Remus was sitting just where she had left him, amber eyes glued to the pale form in the bed, one of Harry's hands still held gently in his own. She turned her gaze to Harry and shuddered slightly. The boy looked so small and wan lying in the bed. From past experience she knew the boy had great depths of stubborn strength, she hoped it would be enough this time.
Dawn found Severus Snape seated in a chair in front of the fire in his rooms. He had found himself unable to sleep and had drawn his dressing gown over his pyjamas and taken himself out to somewhere where he could think properly. Last night had been something of a shock. He had always had the impression that Harry Potter had grown up in a fairly well-off family. While that was indeed true, it had never occurred to Severus that Harry had never shared in this largesse.
Lupin's revelation that Harry had spent much of his life living in a cupboard under the stairs had infuriated and shocked the Potions Master. That a wizard, even one as annoying as Potter, should have been treated in such a way by mere Muggles had touched a nerve in Severus' pure-blood heart. Yet he also knew that this was something that could never be made public. It would merely seem to reinforce everything that the Dark Lord and his followers stood for.
He wondered why Dumbledore had continued to send the boy back to his relatives. Snape knew of the blood protection offered by the boy's Aunt but an equivalent protection could have been organised elsewhere, particularly with a wizarding family. Severus snorted; the Weasleys would have undoubtedly been thrilled to take in the boy.
Severus frowned and considered the idea that perhaps Albus hadn't known. Merlin knows, the boy was good at hiding things and even better at not telling adults things they needed to know. Severus was sure that if the boy's family had been beating him on a regular basis Albus would not have hesitated to remove him. Perhaps, he mused, last night's events were a one-off. His frown deepened, it was a fairly extreme reaction for a one-off event, though Severus knew that the boy was quite capable of driving people to distraction.
He spent some time considering the boy's injuries. The gross injuries, the broken bones, the bruises, would heal and heal well. Within a week or two, Potter should be ready to leave the hospital wing. It was the boy's eyes that were the concern. Severus found himself echoing Poppy's question; why had the boy not closed his eyes? Had he not seen the blow coming? How was that possible? He had seen the injuries himself and did not agree with Poppy's ridiculous optimism. The boy would be left blind. The slivers in his eyes had not been large, but there had been a lot of them and many had been quite long. His corneas and lenses were undoubtedly damaged beyond repair and many of the slivers had been long enough to damage the retinas as well. One or two of them in both eyes were long enough and had been in the right area to possibly have damaged the optic nerve as well.
Severus' eyes narrowed; now that he had time to really think about it, he had thought the glass had come solely from the boy's glasses. But there had been too much of it. And some of the slivers had been very long; far longer than what could come from lens glass. There had been no signs of broken glass anywhere that he had seen and Albus and Lupin had not reported any. A muscle twitched in Severus' cheek. Glass was not difficult to clean up and his discussion with Albus after they had left the hospital wing had made it clear that the Dursley's had endeavoured to cover their tracks when they had run.
He turned his thoughts to the boy's future and snorted. The damn prophecy didn't foresee this happening, he thought sardonically, how is the boy supposed to defeat the Dark Lord if he can't damn well see him. Severus started tapping the arm of his chair. Blindness combined with the boy's obviously poor mental state at the end of the school year was going to make him very difficult to deal with. A sneer wafted over his face; the boy will be wallowing in self-pity, he thought, and that damn werewolf will probably join in with him. The boy doesn't need coddling; he will need to be provoked, to be goaded into moving and learning how to deal with his disability. Severus smiled smugly; it seemed that he would be best suited for that role. An opportunity to rile Potter for a good cause; an unusual circumstance but one he would undoubtedly enjoy. While he had sympathy for the boy, for no one deserved what had been done to him, it was sympathy only, not pity. Pity would be dangerous, it would encourage the boy to hide; sympathy was acceptable, not that he would allow the boy to hear that sympathy.
Severus nodded in satisfaction and rose to get dressed. He still had no answers as to what was to be done about teaching a blind boy magic but he rather thought, from the look on his face last night, that Albus had something up his sleeve.
Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape and Poppy Pomfrey all found themselves back in the hospital wing a couple of hours later. Remus did not seem to have moved from where Poppy had left him. She fussed about in her office to keep herself busy, with one ear cocked towards the ward. Dumbledore settled himself on the edge of Harry's bed while Snape clasped his hands behind his back and stood next to the Headmaster. And they waited.
The first indication that Harry was finally regaining consciousness was a slight increase in his rate of breathing. His mouth opened slightly and he hesitantly licked his lips.
Remus leaned forward slightly. "Harry? Can you hear me? It's Remus," he asked quietly.
Harry licked his lips again. "R…Remus?" he whispered. "W…where am I?"
Remus closed his eyes in relief and gently squeezed the boy's hand as Poppy hurried out from her office to join them. "You're at Hogwarts, Harry, in the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey is here, so are Professor Dumbledore and Professor Snape."
Harry gave a slight inclination of his head to indicate that he had heard and he fell silent and breathed deeply for a minute. He licked his lips again and whispered, "Water?"
"Of course," Remus said with a smile and picked up the glass of water sitting on the bedside table. He conjured a bendable straw in the glass and held the end of the straw to Harry's lips. Harry sucked down the water eagerly. When he indicated that he was finished, Remus put the glass back on the table and leaned forward again.
"Harry? Do you feel like talking a bit more?"
Harry swallowed and nodded. "Remus? Why is it so dark?"
A thick silence fell and the four adults exchanged looks. Remus took a deep breath and spoke, "Your…your eyes were hurt, Harry. They've been bandaged." He hesitated for a second. "Do you remember how that happened?"
Harry gasped and was silent and then he began to shake. He drew in a long shuddering breath and his grip on Remus' hand tightened. Remus tightened his grip in return to reassure Harry and began to stroke his hair.
"It's alright, Harry," he said soothingly. "It's okay. You can tell us. Please."
Harry swallowed and drew in another deep breath, the shaking subsiding a little. He chewed on his bottom lip and then let it go with a hiss, having found the healing splits. He hesitated for a moment longer and then began to whisper. The four adults leaned in and listened intently.
"The Dursley's were pretty good for the first week of the holidays. I think Moody really scared them with what he said. They pretty much left me alone and they didn't make me do any chores. I guess I helped a bit; I stayed in my room a lot. I…I wanted to think. About…" Harry hesitated a long moment and when he spoke again his voice was choked. "S…Sirius." Remus gave his hand an extra squeeze in understanding and Harry took a deep, shuddering breath. When he continued his whispered voice was back to normal. "Something happened on the Monday of the second week of holidays. I think something bad happened at Uncle Vernon's work. He came home that night in a pretty foul mood. He snapped at Aunt Petunia and Dudley and yelled at me. I went straight back to my room after dinner as I didn't want to provoke him any further and he really only has to look at me to get provoked. I guess that continued for the rest of the week except Uncle Vernon's temper just kept getting worse and worse."
"Things came to a head on Saturday night. After dinner I went back to my room but Dudley went out with his gang; they usually beat up any little kids who are stupid enough to get in their way. Something must have gone wrong for him this time 'cause he was brought back by the police. They said that he hadn't been charged yet but that he may be the next day after the kid who he had been beating up gave her statement. I guess that was his big mistake; he was beating up a girl. Uncle Vernon started screaming at him, saying he was a disgrace to the family, that they didn't send him to such a prestigious school as Smeltings so that he could go and get himself into trouble with the police, that if he continued he'd end up at St Brutus' along with me." Harry paused. "That's where Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia say that I go; St Brutus' School for Incurably Criminal Boys. They think it's better than saying I go to Hogwarts." Harry gave a breathy laugh then winced and continued. "Then things just kind of got out of control. Pig arrived with a letter from Ron but he obviously got mixed up and flew in the kitchen window. Uncle Vernon went berserk. He doesn't like owls in the house at the best of times and Pig's antics are enough to annoy anybody. He yelled at me to get down there and started yelling at Pig to get out. I guess Pig listened to him as I saw him flying out the window just as I got there. Uncle Vernon was…well, I've never seen him so angry. He scared the hell out of me. He started screaming at me about owls in the house and about me being a freak and all sorts of other stuff. He said he'd fix me and he grabbed the back of my shirt and dragged me upstairs to my room. He started ranting again and then, before I could do anything, he opened Hedwig's cage, grabbed her and broke her neck."
Harry was forced to stop here as he gasped out strangled sobs of loss and pain and clutched at his ribs. Remus stroked his hair and made soothing sounds as tears soaked into the bandages covering his eyes. He slowly got himself under control and continued, his voice sounding young and bewildered. "I…I don't know why he did it! Hedwig never did anything to him!" Harry stumbled to a stop again and struggled to get himself under control.
"I lost my temper and started yelling at him. I shouldn't have, it was really the wrong thing to do. His face turned a really weird shade of purple and he punched me. He grabbed me by the back of the shirt again and dragged me back into the kitchen and hit me again. Aunt Petunia and Dudley weren't there anymore. I don't know where they went. I pushed away from him and he completely lost it. I'd pushed him back against the bench and he grabbed a glass that Aunt Petunia had left there. It was cracked because Uncle Vernon had slammed it down on the table too hard during dinner. I didn't know what he was going to do with it but I didn't expect him to throw it at me. It hit my glasses and shattered and my glasses shattered too. They'd been getting pretty fragile in the last couple of years what with everything that's happened to me." Harry stopped again, breathing heavily, swallowed hard and then continued. It was clear he wished to get through this as quickly as he could.
"It hurt so much. My eyes just burned and I could feel the blood on my face. I couldn't open my eyes so I didn't see Uncle Vernon come at me. He started hitting me and when I fell to the floor, he started kicking as well. I think I started screaming and then I blacked out." He stopped again and thought hard. "That's all I remember, Remus, until I woke up here."
Harry relaxed back into the pillow and gestured towards the bedside table. Remus, correctly interpreting the gesture even through his shock, picked up the glass of water and let Harry drink. The remaining adults stared at each other in disbelief. They were still frozen in shock when Harry handed the glass back to Remus.
"Remus," he asked hesitantly, "are…are my eyes going to be okay?"
Remus nearly dropped the glass on the bedside table and shot a look towards the Headmaster. Dumbledore patted Harry's feet through the blanket and said to Remus, "Perhaps the truth would be best, Remus."
Harry stiffened a little as Remus sighed.
"You're right, Albus," he said, running a hand through his greying hair. "Harry, your eyes have been badly damaged. There was glass in them and though Madam Pomfrey managed to remove it all, the damage had already been done. There is a possibility that you may retain some sight but Harry, you must be prepared for the worst. It is far more likely that you will be blind." He stopped and watched Harry carefully; unsure as to how he would react.
Harry swallowed once but otherwise lay still, trembling slightly. Remus looked up at the others and could see that they too were concerned at Harry's so far passive response. They had expected anger and denial; to get nothing was unnerving.
Remus placed a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Harry?" he asked. "Is everything alright?"
The bitter laugh surprised them all. "Alright, Remus? How could things be alright?" Harry whispered scornfully, angrily. "I am lying here thinking nothing could be worse than feeling like I have been beaten to a pulp and then you tell me I'm probably going to be blind. How can I possibly be alright? What am I supposed to do now? I can't use magic; I can't see what I'm supposed to be using magic against. And how am I supposed to confront Voldemort now? Unless that bloody prophecy is wrong then I'd say Voldemort has just won, hasn't he? Leave me alone! All of you!"
By the end Harry's voice had risen to a hoarse shout and he collapsed back into his bed in exhaustion and pain. Remus opened his mouth to argue but was silenced by Dumbledore's raised hand. Dumbledore looked at Harry, his eyes full of sadness and worry and gestured for Snape and Lupin to join him in Poppy's office. Poppy hovered over Harry for a moment and went to join them but settled into the chair Remus had vacated at Dumbledore's nod. He shut the door after him and Remus, who had been pacing as best as he could in the small office, whirled to face him.
"Why did you shut me up?" Remus half-yelled.
"Because, my dear boy, it would not have done any good," Albus said calmly, "Harry is not in any sort of mood to listen to reason right now. He is in pain and has just had his entire life turned upside down."
"So we just let him wallow in self-pity then?" Snape queried sarcastically.
Dumbledore eyed him benignly. "Yes, Severus, for now we do. He must come to terms with this in his own way." He paused and gave Severus an amused little smile. "However, if his self-pity threatens to drag out for far too long, I'm sure we can count on you to snap our Mr Potter out of it. A pithy comment or two from yourself would no doubt bring him around."
Remus and Dumbledore chuckled as Snape glared at them and Remus glanced towards the closed door as though he could see through it into the ward. "Yes," he said with a weak laugh, "I'm sure Harry would leap to do things if you told him he couldn't."
"I'm glad I am of some use then," Snape snarled half-heartedly, knowing he had walked himself right into this one.
Remus sobered and shook his head. "Harry's right though, Albus. How the hell is he supposed to take on V…Voldemort if he is blind?"
Dumbledore smiled gently and the twinkle came back to his eye. "I believe I may have an answer to that," he said indulgently, "but it will have to wait until we know whether Harry has any sight left. My solution will only work if he is indeed blind. If he retains some sight, we may be able to work things the normal way."
Dumbledore would say no more and Remus turned to the other subject that had been worrying him all night.
"Albus," he said hesitantly, "what are we going to tell the Order and in particular, what are we going to tell Molly and the rest of the Weasleys and Hermione. You know Molly's been agitating to have Harry stay with them at some point this summer. Ron's going to know something's wrong when Pigwidgeon comes back to him with that letter undelivered. If the summer before Harry's second year is anything to go by, the Weasleys are liable to take some action."
"The Order will be told that Harry has been hurt and is now at Hogwarts. We will say nothing to them about his blindness," Dumbledore said. "It can serve no purpose other than to demoralise them. I hope that by the time we have to tell them of it, we can leaven it with good news. As to the Weasleys and Miss Granger, I shall speak with them today. Miss Granger has been staying at Headquarters with the Weasleys so we will not have to disrupt her holiday plans too much." Dumbledore held up his hands to forestall Remus' protests. "Peace, my boy, I will not allow them to come to Hogwarts just yet. We must give young Harry some time to get used to his new state of affairs but both you and I know we will not be able to hold them off forever."
Remus gave a weak smile as Snape muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like 'Gryffindors' and Dumbledore chuckled. "Now I suggest we leave here and give Harry some space," he said. "Remus, you need to get some sleep. Poppy will watch over Harry and Minerva will relieve her this afternoon. Severus will no doubt need to start restocking some of the supplies that were used on Harry and I must gird my loins to face the many Weasleys and the equally formidable Miss Granger."
Dumbledore ushered the two men out of the office and out of the hospital wing, all three of them sparing a glance towards the still form on the only occupied bed. Harry appeared to be asleep and truth be told it may even have been true.