Title: As the Darkness Clears
Summary: Harry returns the summer after his fifth year to discover the Dursleys are no longer afraid of him. What happens when their abuse goes too far, and Harry ends up permanently blind? Of course, it is only when Harry can no longer see the world that he begins to 'see' it as it truly is.
Disclaimer: I own Nothing!
A/N: Thanks to Jikan no Owari for reminding me about the disclaimer! Also, Peruser pointed out that Harry wouldn't know much about Dumbledore's secrets that Voldemort didn't, and couldn't be much use to them blind, yet Voldemort told his followers that Harry would be useful. And he will be : ) Just in different ways. Also, sorry for the short chapters, but I prefer to do short chapters with frequent updates then long chapters every once in a while.
Harry had settled in somewhat nicely to his new home at Riddle Manor, despite his lingering nervousness and confusion over his alliance, and the truth of the war as well as of his past. It was now the very end of July, but his birthday was the very last thing on his busy mind. Now, on this brilliantly sunny morning, he sat at a small table that was set up at one end of his room – which he'd discovered was actually pretty fast, now that he'd had the time and inclination to explore it. He was currently dressed in simple jeans and a green t-shirt, which were covered by the flowing black wizard's robes he's discovered in the wardrobe. Gally, the house elf who'd brought his food, had insisted that everyone around the manor wore the robes, and to tell the truth, he felt more comfortable in them then in anything else.
Harry had had an interesting time of learning to eat the breakfast Gally had brought him without his sight. After a couple of missteps, he'd found that it was not nearly as difficult as he thought it would be. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. Harry glanced towards it, but hesitated before inviting the person in, guessing it was probably Voldemort. The night before, he'd done a lot of thinking about what he was going to do about all this, and he wasn't entirely sure. On one hand, several years of having it drilled into his mind that he was a follower of Dumbledore, of the light, made him want to flee from this place as soon as possible, or else figure out how to get his wand back and kill Voldemort before Voldemort could kill him. On the other hand, the Light hadn't been doing all that well by him lately, and all his instincts were telling him to go along with this, to trust. His instincts rarely led him astray, but he'd learned the hard way that trust was a dangerous thing.
Finally, however, he called out, "Come in!" and waited for Voldemort to speak.
But it was not Voldemort who approached the table. Already, Harry was learning to identify people by their footsteps, though the only people he had to practice with were Voldemort and Gally. Still, he knew that Voldemort's tread was light, almost airy, as if his mind were not used to controlling a younger, more human body, and simply floated him along. Around him at least, his footsteps were also hesitant, as if he approached a flighty animal. These footfalls were different. They sounded quick, excited. With some nervousness, Harry pressed back against his chair, not used to being approached so quickly, especially when he didn't know who it was approaching him. Apparently, whoever was walking towards him recognized his anxiety, and the reason for it, because the person spoke.
"Harry. You are okay. They told me -"
Shock coursed through Harry, quickly replaced by bubbling excitement. In the last two years that Harry had known Remus, they'd gone from being simply student and teacher, to friends, and finally to something like a paternal relationship. In a strange way, he had considered Sirius and Remus his family for the majority of the last year – after all, he had no one else aside from the Muggles, and they had been his father's best friends at Hogwarts. Launching himself out of his chair, Harry shot towards the sound of Remus' voice. Remus grabbed him and hugged him hard, his surprised laughter sounding in Harry's ear.
"Hey, Harry." Remus said, releasing Harry at last, "I thought you might be needing to hear the voice of someone you trusted. The last few days must have been pretty hard on you."
Harry put a hand out and settled it on the back of one of the chairs, to orient himself as much as to steady himself.
"Remus..." He said shakily. "I don't understand. What are you doing here?"
""You mean, what am I doing in the home of the darkest wizard of all time, when I am, in fact, a member of the Order, and, by all appearances, on the side of the Light?"
Harry only nodded mutely.
"Well, that's a bit of a long story. Why don't you sit down and finish your breakfast, while we talk?"
Harry really couldn't care less about his breakfast at this point, but he nodded and returned to his seat, skipping his hand lightly along the backs of the chairs to get to his, and settling into it easily.
"You're getting good at that." Remus noted. "It's impressive. I can't imagine how strange it must be..."
Harry offered a humorless half-smile. "It seems more like a cosmic joke to me." He murmured, picking at his food. "Golden Boy of Hogwarts blinded by a fat Muggle. I managed to defeat Voldemort five times, but I couldn't stop my own family."
There was a long pause. Finally, when Remus spoke again, his voice sounded hoarse. "You have no idea how sorry I am, Harry, that I didn't show up and stop all of this long ago. But Dumbledore sent Tonks and I on a mission for the Order in the north right at the beginning of summer, and we didn't get back until late last night. That's when I heard everything from Severus."
Harry shook his head. "It's not your fault." He whispered.
Remus hesitated again, as if he planned to argue with Harry, but apparently thought better of it. With a soft sigh, he said, "To address your question, Harry, I have been working for Voldemort since I stopped teaching at Hogwarts – at the end of your fourth year. Tonks just joined me a few months ago."
Harry lowered the fork that he had risen to his mouth and looked in Remus' direction in surprise. An entire year? How could Remus have been working for the other side for an entire year with out someone noticing something was different? Then again, Tonks must have noticed, if she started working for the Dark Lord after Remus did.
"Why didn't you tell me?" He asked, getting strong flashbacks to the end of last summer, when he learned his friends had been with the Order for weeks, while he had been suffering at the Dursley's. Harry didn't believe for an instant that the reason was the same; he did trust Remus, and knew that if it was a simple matter of someone else telling him not to tell Harry, he would anyway, especially if Harry was in a bad situation. So Remus must have had some other reason.
"I wanted to, Harry, but... there were several reasons I couldn't. For one thing, at that point you were completely and totally devoted to Dumbledore. It took me a while to believe everything that Voldemort told me about Dumbledore, and even when it made sense, when I realized it was the truth, I knew how much harder it would be for you to accept. Nearly impossible, I believed. I didn't tell Sirius either, because he was of the same mindset. He'd had a bias against Slytherins and dark magic, and everything since he was a child, not that I can blame him, the way he grew up. Besides, last year Voldemort was still a tyrant. He knew that... things were different, since your blood transfusion, but part of him was still as mad as he had been before."
Harry looked more confused then ever. "What do you mean, mad?"
Remus shrugged. "When this war began, many believed that Voldemort's side was just as valid as Dumbledore's. That's how he got so many followers. Despite the fact that he practiced dark magic, and had some unconventional ways of thinking, but he wasn't as evil as some thought him to be. However, when he tried to kill you and was nearly destroyed, he went... mad. Everything got messed up in his mind, and he was more bent on destruction. He forgot a lot of the things he was fighting for in the first place. When he took some of your blood at the end of your fourth year, it restored his sanity as well as his human, and more youthful, appearance. It just took a while for all the effects to take place."
Harry pushed his plate aside, trying to take all of this in. It made sense, in a way. He tilted his head in thought.
"Why did you join in the first place?" He asked. "I mean, why then?"
"Well, after your meeting with Voldemort in the cemetery, rumors started flying that Voldemort was back. In smaller, more select circles, the rumor was that your blood had restored his sanity. I was already feeling out of place – I didn't agree with a lot of Dumbledore's policies, or his manipulations, and there was no place in his world for people like me – werewolves, that is. I guess I joined for the same reason a lot of people did when Voldemort was first starting out. I just felt I had no place else to go. Since then, I have learned a lot more about the truth of the war, and about Voldemort's side of it all. I know I made the right choice."
Remus' voice went soft, suddenly, and intense in it's sincerity. "But that doesn't mean I'm going to force you to make it, Harry. If you still believe that Dumbledore has the right of it, then I'll get you out of here, even if Voldemort tries to keep you here. No matter what, I'm on your side first."
Harry nodded. He trusted Remus – aside from Sirius, he was the only person Harry really trusted. If Remus believed in the cause Voldemort was fighting for, believed that a world under Voldemort's rule would be better then one under Dumbledore's, then Harry was inclined to believe him. Especially considering all he had learned about Dumbledore – and Voldemort – in the past year.
"Anyway," Remus said, "I want you to come downstairs with me. It's about time you left this room. Tonks wants to say hello of course and... if you're up to it, Voldemort's closest circle of 'Death Eaters' are at the manor today – they have an important meeting scheduled tomorrow that I believe Voldemort wants you to attend. So you can understand his side of things a bit more. Still, it might be easier for you to face them today, before the meeting."
Harry felt himself pale, as fear danced through him. He'd managed to have a civil conversation with Voldemort just the day before, but somehow it seemed even more frightening to face the men and women who had fought so hard under Voldemort's order to kill him. And Bellatrix Lestrange was part of that circle. How Remus could stand being around her, he didn't know, though now that he thought of it he supposed Remus hadn't had to endure her company much since she killed Sirius, if he had been gone all summer for the Order. Still, Harry didn't know if he could stand meeting her.
Then a flare of his old determination and somewhat foolish bravery shot through him. Blind or not, he was still Harry Potter, he said, as he'd had to remind himself again and again the last few days. And if there was one thing Harry Potter could do, it was face off against Voldemort and his Death Eaters with the same reckless courage that had led him into so many of Dumbledore's traps in the past. He could handle this. Setting his jaw, he nodded firmly. Apparently guessing at his thoughts, Remus said gently,
"Harry, they're not going to hurt you. Voldemort wouldn't allow it."
And that was another thing entirely wasn't it? Why Voldemort was so determined to keep him safe? The Dark Lord's explanation had hardly been satisfactory. But Harry didn't bother asking Remus any more about Voldemort's change, or the other man's feelings towards him. He had the feeling Remus would say he wasn't the one to tell Harry that. Harry also wasn't entirely sure why the Death Eaters would accept Voldemort's word so easily, and just let Harry live, after everything they'd gone through the past few years, and everything Harry had done to them and to their Lord. But he did trust Remus, and if Remus could face him then so could he. Before he could second guess himself, he stood and moved away from his chair, determined to get this over with. Remus hooked his arm through Harry's, and they walked together out of the room.
It was the first time Harry had walked any great distance since being blinded, and he walked haltingly, even with Remus leading him. Sooner or later, he would have to learn to walk these halls on his own, but he was glad for Remus' presence at the moment, when he was certain he was going to bump into something with every step he took. Not entirely used to living in darkness yet, and still in an unfamiliar place, part of Harry wanted to attach himself to the wall and crawl along at snail's speed, ensuring there was no way he could hurt himself. On the other hand, it was easier then he thought it would be, to just walk. Once more sensing Harry's anxiety, Remus started speaking again.
"Harry, you really shouldn't worry about meeting the Death Eaters. A lot of them joined for the same reasons I did. The entire reason they tried so hard to get at you was because Voldemort ordered them to do so. Now that he has ordered them to leave you alone, they will. Above all, Voldemort values their loyalty to him. It is what has kept him above Dumbledore, somewhat. He doesn't hide his true plans from his followers, he doesn't manipulate them. Besides, whatever his other reasons are for wanting you alive, I know Voldemort believes you can be of use to them, and I'm sure he told the Death Eaters that as well."
Harry frowned, baffled. "How can I be any use to anyone?" He asked bitterly. "I can't even walk on my own, let alone cast spells properly, or duel."
Remus' voice took on the excited tone Harry remembered from when Remus was his professor, when the werewolf would get overly fascinated with one theory or another.
"That's the thing, Harry. We think you can be useful. You have heard that when people go blind, their other senses tend to heighten over time? Well, for a wizard, that is true on a bigger scale. The core magic within every wizard could, theoretically, replace the use of a wizard's sight by giving enhanced magical ability. There have been a few cases of it before, but you see, it's not very often that a wizard is blinded so completely that no form of magic can restore his sight, so I'm not sure how it would manifest itself. Each previous case seems to be different. But the point is, we believe it's possible that you could be much more powerful then you were before. Or rather, that the power you've had all along could finally have an outlet."
Remus paused, then gave a small embarrassed cough. "I'm sorry, Harry. I'm not even really supposed to be talking to you about this. The last thing we want is for you to believe that we only want you here because of your potential power. That was Dumbledore's reason for taking you under his wing, not ours."
Harry skipped right over that. He didn't even care if it was the reason he was there, though he believed Remus when he said it wasn't. Excitement had filled him at the very idea that he might be useful again, might be able to fight as he had before, and use magic despite his disability. He didn't reply to Remus, to lost in his overwhelming thoughts to formulate an answer. He wasn't sure what he would say, anyway. But when Remus hesitated outside the door to the meeting hall, Harry vanquished all feelings of excitement and hope, schooling his expression into a blank mask. He could hear quiet chatter on the other side of the door. Remus squeezed his arm slightly, a gesture of support, then led Harry into the room. As he entered, silence fell, but a moment later, someone stood from the table and approached him. Harry tensed, then recognized Voldemort's steps and relaxed.
"Harry. You've come down."
Because Remus hadn't yet released his arm, Harry felt the slight tug as Remus bowed low to Voldemort. As Remus straightened beside him, Harry hesitated, thinking back to all he knew, all he had learned over the past several days. With his face still blank, he pulled his arm from Remus' and bowed as well. He heard Voldemort's breath catch in surprise, and a collective murmur went through the room. He straightened, and Voldemort said quietly,
"You did not have to do that."
Harry only titled his head to the side and replied, "I know."
There was a silence again as all thought about what that bow had meant, exactly, Harry included. The conclusion Harry came to was that while he wasn't entirely certain he trusted Voldemort, he knew that he no longer trusted Dumbledore. Not after everything the old man had done to him, not after hearing that Remus no longer believed in Dumbledore. Whatever Voldemort's side was, exactly, there were many who believed in it, Remus and Tonks included. For that, at least, Voldemort deserved his respect, even if he didn't know if he wanted to fight for Voldemort's side yet. He imagined it was somewhat like bowing to someone at a duel. There were two ways the duel could play out; a friendly contest between allies, or a battle between enemies. He just wasn't sure yet how this duel was going to go.
A moment later, someone else bounded up to them, apparently unable to withstand the silence.
He smiled in recognition, committing the prancing, happy step to memory. "Hey, Tonks."
Tonks gave him a hug of greeting, then turned to her boyfriend. "Oy! Took you long enough to fetch him!" She chided cheerfully.
Harry felt some of his nervousness fade away as he listened to Tonks chatter. She'd managed to dispel a lot of the awkwardness in the room, though Harry had no idea who else was there. He'd been able to adjust to his lack of sight pretty well over the last couple of days, but he hated not being aware of his surroundings. It made him nervous enough on its own, never mind the fact that he was in the home of the man who had been his sworn enemy for the last several years. Finally, Tonks bounded away from Remus and back to Harry. Harry heard a catch in her step, and the woman stumbled. She must have stumbled into Voldemort because he heard the Dark Lord muttering at her before he turned to walk back to the table. Harry blinked in surprise, amazed that Voldemort hadn't blasted Tonks for her clumsiness. Tonk's only reaction was a friendly, "Sorry 'bout that!"
Remus was laughing quietly at Harry's side. "She was afraid of him for all of five minutes after she joined." He informed Harry under his breath. "She's one of the only ones who can get away with it."
Harry smiled again at that, but his smile faded as he reluctantly followed Tonks towards the table. She was holding his arm, but less to lead him and more to hurry him along in her excitement, just as she would do if he could see. She tugged impatiently on his sleeve.
"Come along, Harry!"
Tonks dragged him over to the table, and Harry hurried to catch up to her, forcing himself not to hang back. It was important to him now, to appear brave, even with the icy pit of fear in his stomach. She stopped at one of the chairs, and Harry stood up tall, his eyes towards Tonks, because he didn't know where else to look.
"You already know Severus, of course."
"Potter." Snape said quietly, his tone as cold as ever.
Harry glanced down at his potions professor, wondering what Snape's part in all of this was. Was he truly a Death Eater, or was he Dumbledore's spy? And what did he think of Harry being at Riddle Manor? Even if Harry could see, Harry doubted he'd be able to tell what Snape's thoughts were just by looking at him; the man never showed emotion if he could help it. Unsure how to react, he just gave a small nod of his head and said, "Professor."
Tonks hurried him along. "And there is Lucius Malfoy, of course, Draco's father. Draco's in the manor, though he isn't here, along with Theodore Nott, Gregory Goyle and Vincent Crabbe. You know them, don't you Harry?"
Harry nodded, but didn't bother replying, wondering how Draco would react to Harry, by all appearances, switching sides. He remembered Draco's offer of friendship in the beginning of his first year, and closed his eyes slightly as regret washed over him. What if Draco had the right of it all along? How would his life be different if he had accepted Draco's friendship, instead of Ron and Hermione's? He forced himself to pay attention as Tonks proceeded to introduce him to Avery, as well as the elder Crabbe, Goyle and Nott.
"And last but not least," Tonks continued, oblivious to Harry's sudden anxiety, "Bellatrix Lestrange, her husband Rodolphus, and Rodolphus' brother, Rabastan."
Harry pulled back on Tonks' arm as she tried to lead him up to the three Death Eaters, but even with the overwhelming terror and fury pounding through him, this meeting was the least confusing of any of them. Over the last several minutes, when he'd been whisked from Death Eater to Death Eater by an exuberant and apparently oblivious Tonks, a couple had seemed to genuinely welcome him, while the others had forced a friendly greeting or ignored him entirely. Bella's reaction somehow calmed Harry the most, because it was the one he had been expecting. The moment Tonks and Harry halted in front of her, she gave a low cackle of laughter.
"Ah, little bitty baby Potter made himself some new friends has he?" She crooned, "Abandoned his old professor for the taste of some evil?" Bella jumped in close to him, making Harry stiffen and step back from her. "You don't know what you're getting yourself into boy. You don't belong here."
Though Bella had moved closer, Harry didn't take any further steps back. He stared straight ahead, his expression set in forced calm. He wouldn't show her any fear, not if he could help it. A moment later, Voldemort was at his side. Harry felt his presence, his strength and his power. Harry instantly recognized it, and, to his surprise, he did not draw back in instant fear or shock this time. He actually felt some amount of relief that the older man was there. Despite his brave front to Bella's verbal attack, he was quaking inside, partially with fear, partially with fury. This was the woman who had killed Sirius.
"Bella, enough." Voldemort hissed darkly. He took a quick step towards her, like a wolf leaping at it's prey, and Bella fell back.
"Forgive me, my Lord," She whispered, though her voice was practically brittle with anger and hatred, and before anyone could say another word more, she turned and left the room, her husband and brother-in-law close behind her, though they hadn't yet said a word.
As if nothing had happened, Tonks tugged once more on his arm, dragging him back to where Remus stood. Harry let himself be pulled away, wishing he knew just what to do about all of this.
Voldemort himself had insisted on taking Harry back to his rooms an hour later, when the boy finally seemed exhausted and entirely unable to deal with his interaction with the Death Eaters anymore. As they walked down the hall, Harry's hand light and tentative on Voldemort's arm as the older man led him down the hall, Voldemort felt a tug of guilt for forcing Harry to go through all of this. Then he almost laughed aloud at his folly. He had so much more to feel guilty for then just forcing the boy to meet his worst enemies face to face.
Then again, Voldemort was not a man who was used to feeling guilt at all. He wasn't used to it, but he was past the point of trying to avoid the new feelings and emotions within him. Voldemort realized that he hadn't been human in quite some time. His new appearance, as well as all these new emotions, were what made him human once more. His humanity was essential to him winning the war, just as it was essential for him to lead the life he had imagined living when he was at Hogwarts himself.
He glanced over at the boy. He had a lot to make up for, if he ever expected Harry to feel near the same feelings for him as he felt for Harry. He wondered if Harry remembered tomorrow was his birthday. Probably not. He had a lot of other things on his mind. Maybe this was his chance to convince Harry he meant him no harm. To give him the kind of birthday celebration he deserved. Voldemort smiled wryly. Him, Voldemort, the Dark Lord of the age, planning a birthday celebration for a sixteen year old boy. It was absurd. But it meant he was human. And that was what mattered.
To his surprise, Harry, who'd remained perfectly silent the entire walk, spoke up. "I don't understand."
Voldemort looked down at Harry, a slight frown on his face. "You don't understand what, Harry?"
"Any of this!" Was the instant and slightly angry reply. "I know you tried to explain this to me yesterday. Why you've suddenly decided not to kill me. To... take me in, or whatever. But I don't understand. Why save me? Why trust me with, all of this?" He waved his hand in what he hoped was the direction they had come, back towards the meeting hall.
Voldemort sighed. "Harry, you wouldn't believe me if I told you. For now, you'll just have to... go along with it, I'm afraid. Tomorrow, we will have an official meeting with the Death Eaters, to discuss our plans. I hope that will clear up some of your questions. As for the rest... there is one thing I haven't told you yet."
Harry waited patiently, but Voldemort spoke hesitantly, clearly not looking forward to this conversation.
"When Lucius, Severus and I saved you from your relatives house, I killed your relatives; your aunt, your uncle and your cousin. But... Severus was there when Dumbledore found out you were missing and went to your house. You are being blamed for the death of your family."
Harry froze in the hall, staring at Voldemort in disbelief. "What? Dumbledore believes I... How could he believe that?"
Voldemort was silent for a moment. Eventually, he said, "One thing I have learned about Albus Dumbledore, Harry, is that he fears those who have greater power then him. You may not believe it now, but the core of magic within you is very strong, even if you haven't been able to harness all of that magical energy yet. Dumbledore sensed your power when you were very young, that was part of the reason he was so determined to make you humble, to make you believe every word he said and trust him implacably. Recently, he's been able to tell that the trust is fading, you no longer believe in him, worship him, as you once did. And he's afraid."
"What... what are we supposed to do?" Harry murmured helplessly.
"What you are going to do is leaving the worrying to me." Voldemort insisted. "If I know your headmaster, and I believe that I do, he will try to paint you in a similar shade to me. Disturbed teenager murders his family, he must be the next Dark Lord." He rolled his eyes. "But don't worry Harry. I will think of something in time for you to return to school. I swear it."
To Voldemort's further surprise, Harry looked as if he believed him. The boy nodded, and started down the hall once more. Finally, they reached Harry's room, and Voldemort left him at the door. Before he left, however, he smiled down at Harry and said,
"One more thing, Harry."
~ Call me Tom ~
Tomorrow: Find out more about Voldemort's side of things, learn Voldemort's plan to keep Harry safe from Dumbledore and the Ministry, Harry's birthday, and Harry and Voldemort grow a little bit closer : )