AUTHOR'S NOTES: I'm starting my series of story rewrites with 'Seen and Unseen', 'Dei Ex Machina', and 'What If…?'. While the third story will be a complete overhaul, the first two will be revisions. Suggestions for how to rewrite the stories are welcome and please respond to the 5 Questions posted in my stories list.
STORY SUMMARY: While Harry deals with a progressive form of blindness, he meets an American exchange student who has a disability of her own.
HARRY POTTER: Seen and Unseen
Harry Potter was tired.
Tired of hiding everything: The medications, the trips to the magical/muggle clinic in London during the summer months… And he was tired of always making excuses for the headaches and eye strain. He either claimed it was his glasses or the lightning-shaped scar on his forehead.
But Harry had no idea how to tell his friends… or Sirius… or even the Dursleys the truth.
When Harry had first needed glasses, no one thought much of it. After all, James Potter had worn glasses as well so it was hardly strange that Harry would also be born near-sighted.
But during one of Harry's many trips to the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts during his second year, the school nurse, Madame Pomfrey, noticed something that she found a bit alarming. Harry's vision was getting worse and after a few tests, she discovered that the teenager's optic nerves were starting to shut down.
A few days later, Pomfrey sent Harry to a healer who worked at a magical clinic in London—Nicole Valentine—who ran several additional magical scans along with various muggle tests including blood tests, an MRI, and other neurological tests. After a few days in a local hospital, Healer Valentine told Harry that there was nothing to be done for his condition and eventually the vision problems would lead to a total and permanent loss of sight and while medication and potions would help, treatment would only delay the inevitable.
After the TriWizard Tournament, Harry's vision had gotten even worse and after much inner debate while on the train ride home, he decided that he had to tell his friends, Dumbledore, and the Dursleys.
It surprised Nicole Valentine that Harry had come to the clinic at the start of his summer holidays. Usually Harry came around his birthday at the end of July and the fact that he'd come straight here was alarming.
Even more alarming was the fact that Harry's aunt and uncle were with him. Over the past year or so Harry had been vehemently adamant about not telling his relatives about his condition and so the fact that the Dursleys were now with Harry meant that they had either found out what was going on or Harry wanted Nicole to tell them.
"Harry, are you alright?" Nicole asked, walking up to her favorite patient and feeling a small sense of relief when Harry turned to look at her. She'd partly been afraid that Harry was with his aunt and uncle because he'd already started aggressively losing his sight.
"Do you have any idea why he dragged my wife and I here of all places?" Vernon Dursley said, shortly, not even bothering with pleasantries. On the way home from King's Cross train station, Harry had insisted that they stop at the clinic before going home to Privet Drive.
Nicole straightened up and looked Harry's uncle in the eye. She doubted the man was acting out of concern for his nephew. "Mr. Dursley, Harry has been coming here for treatment."
"Treatment for what?" Petunia asked, the slightest touch of concern in her voice. While she'd never had any great affection for her nephew, he was still her blood. Did Harry have some sort of medical condition he'd been hiding?
"Please… let's talk in my office," Nicole said, showing the three people into a comfortable office after grabbing Harry's medical file and gesturing for them to have a seat. Nicole looked at Harry who had removed his glasses and was now rubbing his eyes and grabbed a pen to make a few notes on Harry's latest chart. "Harry has a form of progressive blindness," she said, simply. "His optic nerves are essentially shorting out before shutting down completely."
Vernon looked at Harry, confused by Harry's sense of blasé at the news and also angry that the boy had concealed this information from him. "Harry's been informed about his condition," Nicole explained in regards to the unasked question about Harry's attitude. "He didn't want to tell you and due to doctor-patient confidentiality, I couldn't tell you either."
"He's going blind?" Petunia asked, and this time Harry distinctly heard the note of concern in her voice.
Nicole nodded, opening up Harry's file. "We've run every test we can think of and I've been in contact with several doctors and healers internationally but no one knows what's causing Harry's condition. We've been treating aggressively as best we can with a combination of magical potions and muggle medicines, but we're just buying Harry time. The good news is that this neurological condition seems to only be affecting Harry's optic nerves."
Vernon Dursley did not reply to this, but his mind was racing. He never liked Harry and this would provide the perfect excuse to finally be rid of his nephew once and for all. "How long?" he asked, trying to mentally set up a good timeframe in which to get rid of the boy.
"I'm not sure," Nicole admitted, looking at Harry. "We'll need to run some tests immediately."
"I'm being admitted to the hospital again, aren't I?" Harry asked, not meeting his healer's eyes. As bad as it was being in the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts, being in the muggle hospital always seemed to be even worse.
"Again?" Petunia asked, looking at Harry, sharply, wondering why she hadn't heard that her nephew had been in a hospital before.
"I was transferred to a hospital near here for a few days during my 2nd year," Harry explained. "It was just after the Hogwarts nurse noticed a problem with my eyes."
"I'll make some contacts, Harry," Nicole said, trying to be comforting. "We'll get you admitted tonight and hopefully get your tests wrapped up in little less than a week."
Vernon started to protest, thinking about how much it would cost to have the freaky brat in the hospital for a bunch of pointless tests. The boy was going blind. Vernon should just kick the kid out of the house and wash his hands of this weirdness once and for all, but Petunia cut him off. "Go home, if you don't want to be bothered with this, Vernon," she snapped. "I'll see you later."
As Vernon stomped out of the office, Harry muttered a 'thanks' to his aunt. So far this was going better than Harry had imagined it would.
A short cab ride later, Harry and Petunia entered the Holicki Memorial Hospital—a center which catered to witches, wizards, and muggles. After checking in at the reception desk, Harry was led upstairs to a private room. Once he'd changed out of his shirt and jeans and into the t-shirt and sweatpants he'd brought along in an overnight bag and after getting settled in the hospital bed, Harry looked over at his aunt who had neatly folded his clothes and placed them on top of the bag. "You don't have to stay, Aunt Petunia," Harry said, quietly. "I'll be fine."
Petunia wasn't sure of what to say to that, not sure if she should stay or go home. But figuring she should go home to at least make sure Vernon didn't change the locks before Harry got home, Petunia just nodded and headed out without saying a word.
Harry didn't say anything either and he laid back to try and get some sleep but he sat up again when a male nurse came in.
"Hi, Harry," the man, Aaron Franklin, said, setting a tray down on the table nearby. "Healer Valentine wanted to make sure we took some samples tonight. Mind rolling up your right sleeve for me?"
Harry did as told and after a blood draw, lumbar puncture, and having some of the vitreous fluid in his eye collected, Harry was finally left alone to get some sleep.
Hermione was slightly surprised at how soon she'd gotten a letter from Harry. It hadn't even been a week since leaving Hogwarts and already Hedwig was bringing news from Harry. Usually she didn't hear from him until mid-June.
"Oh, Hermione," her mother said, coming in with a basket full of clean laundry. "I finished washing your school things. I…" seeing the owl on the bed and the letter in her daughter's hand, Mrs. Granger said, "Is that a letter from one of your school friends?"
"Harry," Hermione replied, nodding. "I was just about to read it…"
"I'll leave you alone, then," Mrs. Granger said, smiling as she left the basket of clothes by the bed and left the room so Hermione could read her friend's letter in peace. She knew that—although Hermione would never admit it—her daughter had a crush on Harry Potterso if the letter was along the lines of Harry asking Hermione to be his girlfriend, Mrs. Granger figured she'd give her daughter some privacy.
Once Hermione heard her mother's footsteps fade away, she ripped open the letter from Harry, her mind racing with a hundred terrible things that could have happened to Harry to explain why he was writing her so soon. But as she read Harry's words, she felt her heart sinking like a stone.
I know I usually wait until later in the summer to start writing you but I felt that I should get this letter out while I could still write. No, I don't mean that the Dursleys are hurting me. Aunt Petunia has been uncommonly nice to me lately, though that's probably due to my present condition.
I've never told you before, but I've had a progressive neurological condition since I was seven. At least that's what the healers estimate since I was seven when I first needed glasses. I'm not big on technical terms, but basically what's happening to me is my optic nerves are starting to shut down. Even with the different medications—both muggle and potions—I'm getting worse.
I wish I could say something hopeful so you won't worry too much, but I can't deny what's going to happen. I'm going blind, Hermione. Healer Nicole Valentine said that Voldemort using Cruciatus on me last term accelerated the damage and there's a good chance I'll only have minimal vision when I get back to Hogwarts at best.
I know you'll tell Ron, Ginny, and the others, but please don't let the knowledge get too far. I don't want all of Hogwarts knowing too soon.
Also, could you please write to Dumbledore and let him know? I'm still trying to figure out how to tell Sirius.
Hermione couldn't believe what she'd just read. Harry was going blind and he'd been basically losing his sight ever since she'd met him… Why hadn't he ever said anything to her?
Grabbing a quill, some ink, and some parchment, Hermione wrote a letter back to Harry and a separate letter to Albus Dumbledore. Once both letters were sent out, Hermione grabbed her jacket and backpack and told her mother she'd be back later before hopping a bus to the local library to do some research.
Locked in his old home in Grimmauld Place, Sirius felt trapped. All the old memories of his childhood were leeching the life and happiness out of him like the dementors of Azkaban.
Dumbledore had promised to bring Harry here eventually, but was elusive about the exact date no matter how persistent Sirius was.
Other than occasional visits from Dumbledore who was never there long since he had to reassemble the remaining members of the Order of the Phoenix Sirius was alone in the house. The Weasleys were due to arrive soon but until then…
But Sirius's day seemed a touch brighter when an owl flew in through an open window bearing an envelope with Harry's handwriting. Sitting on the stairs to read the letter, Sirius felt his momentary good spirits drop as he took in the words Harry had written in his letter.
I almost didn't want to write to you but the more I thought about it I realized you'd want to hear this from me and not Hermione or Lupin.
It's hard to tell you because you're really the only parent I've ever known and I know you'd want to be with me through this.
I'm losing my sight, Sirius. It's been happening for years but it was only in my second year that I found out how bad it was. Because of last year it's been getting worse faster than ever. I'll probably be completely blind by Christmas.'
Sirius wasn't sure what to make of this news. Harry was going blind? What about school? Obviously Harry would have to give up Quidditch, but how could he do his school work without being able to see? And more importantly, could Harry even come back to Hogwarts if he was blind?
Harry's fingers moved slowly over the pages of the new magical textbooks he'd ordered as he read the Braille letters. It turned out there a few ways to make the transition easier for blind witches and wizards including spells to help quicker retention of foreign languages and to make the words appear in English in his mind. All of which had been helpful once Harry had gotten out of the hospital a couple days ago.
In the hospital, Nicole had insisted on training Harry early for a life without sight and he'd put forth his best effort to working on whatever Nicole had given him. Harry knew full well that the loss of his sight would be a life-altering situation and the more he could do to prepare himself before it actually happened, the better.
Vernon had been hands-off about the whole thing and while Dudley still made fun of Harry, he hadn't taunted him as badly as before.
Petunia, though, had been helpful, although she didn't seem to want to spend too much time with Harry or talk to him.
Not that all this really mattered to Harry. All he cared about at the present time was ensuring that he could at least get by at school until he could get used to being blind.
A sharp pain started up behind Harry's eyes and he closed his eyes as tight as he could until the pain ceased. When he opened his eyes again, he saw Hedwig at the open window holding two pieces of parchment: one from Hermione, the other from Dumbledore.
Wanting to hear a kind and comforting word from a friend, Harry started with Hermione's letter.
I'm sorry about what's happened to you. I can't imagine how you must be feeling about all this. Any idea what's causing this? I've done as much research as I can, but I can't find any similar cases. Is it possible that this has something to do with the basilisk you were bitten by 2nd year? Or some other toxin?
I'm here for you, Harry. And I'm going to help you figure this out.
Harry gave a sad smile. Of course Hermione would attack this news with research. As for the basilisk, Harry had already been tested for a myriad of toxicities, latent and otherwise as well as autoimmune disorders, nervous system disorders, and even cancer. Every test, magical or muggle had come up with nothing. The only thing the scans had come up with was the shutting down of the optic nerves.
There was one other notion Harry was starting to think of but it seemed something of a long shot. Perhaps this was simply caused by surviving Avada Kedavra as a baby. He was the only one to survive the killing curse, so it would make sense that his condition was unique.
The second note was from Dumbledore and was simply to let him know that even with his impending disability Harry would still be invited back to Hogwarts in September.
Harry got up and started working on his room. Ever since returning from the hospital, he'd spent hours cleaning, organizing, sorting, and labeling everything in the room so as to make it easier to find things later on.
Feeling the ache behind his eyes again, Harry sat on his bed and took his glasses off, rubbing his eyes. The headaches had been coming more frequently which—according to Nicole—was to be expected. Even with all the preparations Harry wondered if he'd be ready for what would eventually happen to him.
Nicole Valentine had just finished closing the clinic up for the night when Albus Dumbledore apparated right in the middle of the waiting area. "Criminy! You scared the bloody hell out of me!" she shouted, as she grabbed her bag off of the floor and setting it on the reception desk.
"I apologize, Ms. Valentine," Dumbledore said, cordially. "I didn't mean to startle you. I wonder if we could talk regarding Harry Potter."
Nicole went around to the file cabinets and flipped through until she found Harry's medical file. Withdrawing it, she asked, "What exactly are you looking for?"
"Any indication as to the cause of Harry's condition," Dumbledore replied. "I've been pondering what's happened and I can't think of anything that could have caused such a condition."
"Well, I can't give you any ideas, I'm afraid," Nicole replied, wearily. "We've tested Harry for everything, muggle or magical."
"And you've never seen this before?" Dumbledore asked, looking over the medical file Nicole offered him.
"Well, yes, I've seen patients with the kind of progressive blindness Harry has, but it's always been accompanied by other symptoms," Nicole said, looking mystified. "The only problem Harry has is that his optic nerves are shutting down."
Dumbledore thought for a moment, trying to make this make sense. "What if… this is a… delayed result of surviving the Killing Curse?"
Nicole shrugged, thinking that it was as good an idea as anything else she'd heard so far. "Damned if I know."
"No one else in history has ever survived Avada Kedavra," Dumbledore said, talking out the theory. "James Potter was near-sighted. What if that weakness was…?"
"Made worse by Avada Kedavra," Nicole finished, thinking. "Okay… But even if that's the case… that still doesn't help Harry. We can't undo the damage. And the only thing this gives Harry is the knowledge that the curse that killed his parents is the reason he's losing his eyesight."
"How will Harry's blindness progress?" Dumbledore asked, wanting to know more.
Nicole rubbed the back of her neck, thinking. "Well, right now, Harry's having headaches which, unfortunately, happens to be a common event with the nerves shorting out. Within the next few weeks, his vision will start fading more and more and his eyes will become increasingly light sensitive."
"Light sensitivity?" Dumbledore repeated, not entirely sure he understood what Nicole meant.
"When Harry starts to lose his vision, the nerves that are still functioning will be over-stimulated by even low lighting," Nicole explained. "Harry will have to keep his eyes covered to preserve any remaining eyesight as well as avoid setting off migraines. However, nearer to the end… more intense lights will help Harry see better as his eyesight fades even more."
Dumbledore sat down in the waiting room as Nicole put Harry's file away. "And then?"
Nicole sat next to Dumbledore. "Given the tests and scans and how far Harry's condition has progressed… I'd say by mid-to-late November, Harry will be completely blind."
"Is that the best case estimate?" Dumbledore asked, feeling helpless. He was one of the greatest wizards in recent history and yet he couldn't help one of his students facing a life-altering disability.
"Yes," Nicole said, sadly. "I wish I could say that's worst case, but… And honestly, he could even be completely blind by mid September."