Blinded at the age of four, Harry Potter only wants to lead a normal life with his family. On his eleventh birthday, he finds out that he can have anything but...
Harry was only vaguely aware of what was going on around him in the common room. Some of the girls were screaming, and he was sure others had fled in fear. Several of the Gryffindors, both boys and girls, had crowded around to get a better view of what was happening. Of these students, most turned and lost the dinner they'd just eaten. None of this really mattered to him at the moment; the entire centre of Harry's universe had become Neville and his injuries.
The other boy was in really bad shape. Harry ripped open Neville's robe the moment he had him on his back, and everyone else could see what the raven-haired boy had already sensed. Neville's left arm had been horribly savaged. Muscle and bone lay exposed along its entire length, including his shoulder. He also had deep scratches on his chest and a huge bloody gash that ran down his entire left cheek.
"Heal him!" gasped a waxen-faced Draco, kneeling unsteadily beside them.
"I can't," Harry replied. "Not enough to do any good. I'm too drained from the fight with the troll." Holding pressure on the artery at the boy's shoulder to slow the loss of blood, he turned his head toward Draco and said, "Go find Professor Snape; tell him what's happened and that we're on our way to the hospital wing. Make sure he knows how bad it is; he'll know what to bring." Calling to Hermione, he said, "Run ahead of us and tell Madame Pomfrey what's happened and we're on our way."
With his friends gone on their urgent errands, Harry had his housemates bring several sheets so he could quickly bandage the stricken boy's arm as best he could. Using a whole sheet they contrived a stretcher. Enlisting the help of several other students, they lifted Neville and went out the portrait hole on the way to the hospital wing.
They had nearly arrived at the infirmary when they heard running footsteps behind them. Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall, moving quite swiftly for their ages, were running after the boys. Not slowing for the professors, however, the Merlins burst through the infirmary doors to where Poppy was running about gathering supplies.
"Bring him here!" she called as she pointed to an examining table by her office. The woman hissed as the boys sat their injured friend on the table and she passed her wand over him. It was then that the headmaster and the head of Gryffindor house entered the hospital wing at a dead run, followed almost immediately by Severus Snape, who was carrying a satchel full of potions.
"Children, all of you go back to your dormitory except Harry." To the boy she ordered, "You go run and grab some bandages from the store room. Albus, I'll need your help and Severus, he needs two blood restorative potions now!"
Running to get the supplies that the Mediwitch needed, Harry barely noticed as Professor McGonagall gathered the protesting Merlins and led them out of the infirmary. Harry stayed through the night, helping dress wounds, and administering potions when asked.
By early morning they had closed most of Neville's wounds, saved his arm, and his life was no longer in immediate danger. As it was, he'd lost the last two fingers on his left hand and that arm would never again be as strong as it should. He would have many scars Most would fade and disappear, thanks to the healing potions, but the damage to the arm and the one on his face were so deep and terrible they would never look quite the same.
Harry sat by Neville's bed, completely spent. The previous day's events, plus several attempts to use his own magic to assist in the healing of his friend, had left him utterly drained. He had nearly dozed off when he felt a familiar presence at the foot of the bed.
"Professor," he said neutrally.
"How is Mr. Longbottom progressing?" asked Snape quietly, with none of his usual sarcasm.
Sighing, Harry let his senses stretch out once again to his friend before answering. "Resting That last painless sleep potion was just the thing, I think."
"Good." The Potions Master paused uncomfortably for a moment and continued, "The boy would have likely died if you hadn't acted as you did. Most first year students would have panicked and just run screaming for their Head of House."
Harry grimaced. "Yes, well, it isn't exactly the first time I had to deal with this kind of thing," he said.
Snape nodded slowly and surmised, "You mean your aunt and cousin." Harry nodded and the professor continued. "She and I had . . . a discussion when you took your little field trip. I found her to be quite a formidable woman."
Smiling tiredly, the boy answered, "You don't know the half of it. She's had to be though. I mean, she raised both Dudley and me since I was four, she works, and she has absolutely no one other than us for family."
There was another uncomfortable pause and Snape spoke again haltingly. "Potter... Harry, I need a favour."
Exhausted and barely able to keep his eyes open, he asked, "What's that, Professor?"
"The next time you write your aunt," mumbled Snape, "ask if she would meet me at the Leaky Cauldron in London on a day of her choice. I have a peace offering of sorts, if she's interested. Some potions that will assist in her son's recovery."
A suspicious expression on his face, Harry answered, "Err... sure, Professor." He cocked his head to one side and asked, "Are you going to have Madame Pomfrey look at your leg while you're here?"
Snape was surprised, but outwardly hid it well. "How did you...?"
The boy waved tiredly at the man "I could hear you limping as you came up to the bed, and I can smell the blood."
"It's nothing Potter, a scratch. Now get some sleep; the sun is almost up."
Harry woke later that morning to feather-light kisses on his ear from Hedwig's tongue. He was still curled up on the chair, but Madame Pomfrey had conjured a pillow and blanket for him at some point. The sound of nearly silent footsteps as they approached the bed alerted him that they weren't alone. Catching the faint odour of lemons, Harry repressed a smile as he lay still and pretended to still be asleep. Opening his inner eye, he marked the expected signature of Professor Dumbledore on the other side of the bed. Remaining motionless, he felt old man's gaze pass over him briefly before turning to Neville.
Focusing his attention on his friend, he noticed that the other boy's aura was much closer to its normal strength than it had been the night before. Harry could also tell that the boy was beginning to wake up.
"Good morning, Neville," said the old man gently. "How are you feeling this morning?"
"M... My arm hurts a bit," said the boy hesitantly.
"As would be expected after your adventure," replied the Headmaster "Tell me Neville, do you remember what happened last night?"
There was a pause while the boy collected his thoughts and he said, "Yes...we were leaving the Great Hall after your announcement when I noticed what looked like one of the professors taking the stairs to the third floor. I know it was foolish, but I also knew all the teachers were supposed to be with you in the dungeons looking for the troll, so I followed him. He went into a room on the third floor and when I snuck in behind him, I saw him and another man, I don't know whom, fighting a huge three-headed dog. I hid behind a column and just wanted a chance to get back out, but the two finally got the dog to back up long enough to make their own escape. I tried to follow but..." Neville's eyes suddenly clouded over again in remembered pain. "I... I don't really remember much of anything after that."
"Relax, my boy. You're safe now," said Dumbledore, patting Neville on the head. "You should count yourself quite fortunate for surviving such a savage attack. And while I applaud your bravery, I must caution you against taking such chances so unnecessarily in the future."
Though there was mild rebuke in the old man's voice, Harry could also sense a feeling that was almost jubilation on the wizard's part over Neville's actions.
"Rest now," said Dumbledore. "I'm sure Poppy will be having you as a guest for several more days, though I'm sure your friends will be coming to check on you soon enough, as young Mr. Potter's presence will attest." Turning towards the door the old man took a few steps, turned back to the boys and said, "And good morning to you as well, Harry."
Caught, Harry straightened in his chair, put on a weak grin and replied, "Good morning to you, Professor," as the old man ambled out.
"It was Professor Snape, Harry," said Neville when the doors had come to a close.
The raven-haired boy turned back to his friend, unsure what he'd just heard, and asked, "What was that Nev?"
"It was Professor Snape I was following last night," the injured boy said. "He went into the dog's room and I found him and Quirrell yelling at each other as they tried to hold off the dog. It was so angry, it actually got Snape on the leg before they could get away. I tried to follow them but...oh, Harry..."
"Hush, Neville," said Harry soothingly. "Try not to think about it too much." Cocking his head to better hear approaching voices in the hallway, he grimaced and said, "Brace yourself, Nev. I think your Gran is here."
Just then, the doors to the infirmary opened to allow someone to enter. Harry heard shuffling footsteps approaching the bed and got a whiff of old perfume, dish soap and fresh-baked cookies. Through his inner eye he saw a strong old woman who'd lost too many that she held dear. She paused halfway into the room, radiating dread at the thought of losing the last of her family. Finally she shuffled forward until she could see the bed and its occupant. Tension flooded out of her as she took in the sight of her grandson, battered and bandaged but fairly whole.
Knowing that the Longbottoms probably needed some time alone together, Harry slipped out of his chair and scratched Hedwig's head as she settled on his shoulders. Moving quietly past where Poppy lay draped over the desk in her office, having her first bit of sleep in more than a day, he slipped out of the infirmary and just let his feet guide him. He didn't feel like going back to Merlin Tower just yet. Answering the thousands of questions his friends would have about Neville could wait a bit...Walking with no real destination in mind, he later he found himself standing atop the Astronomy Tower, enjoying the crisp breeze on his face.
"Feels good, doesn't it?" came a voice beside him as Sal faded into his mental view. "There's nothing like the bite of November air to remind you that you're alive. I understand you had a busy day yesterday."
Smiling weakly, the boy answered, "It's been a busy month. How are you, Sal?" he asked, suddenly remembering the custodian's name.
"Fine as always, lad. I understand you've developed some new uses for your magic. How has the search gone for the room to practice with your senses?"
Harry frowned, "Not as well as I'd hoped. I've found a room shielded from magic like you said, but it's occupied by a beast that attacked my friend." Harry went on to tell Sal about the three-headed dog and Neville's attack. He also mentioned his growing ability to enhance his potions and others spells, as well as his skill as a healer. When he'd finished, he frowned and said, "Sal, one thing that bothers me is that when Neville told the headmaster in the infirmary about his attack, Dumbledore seemed to be as pleased with the whole thing as he was distressed. Why would he be like that?
The wizard frowned and stroked his beard, "You'll have to bear with me on this, Harry," he said. "One of the concessions I made when becoming a custodian of the school is that I couldn't say or do anything to affect the running of Hogwarts or its teachers. Unfortunately, that also includes imparting important information to smart little boys."
"Why would you do a silly thing like that?" asked Harry hotly.
"It's a long story," replied Sal with a grin, "to be saved for another time. For now just believe that Dumbledore has no ill intentions for your friend Neville."
Sal leaned against the parapet, relaxed with his arms folded in front of him. "It's good to see that you've been experimenting with your magic a bit, even if your senses haven't followed suit. Still, why didn't you try and heal your friend when you found him?"
"I told you," Harry said, "I was exhausted from the fight with the troll."
"I see," replied the wizard with a serious look. "I think what you need is a bit of guidance and training. If you'll allow me, I'd like to help. There's a place we can meet Saturday mornings about four a.m. That should give us enough time to get a little work done before breakfast. I expect you to come alone; don't even bring Hedwig unless I ask. We'll also see what we can't do about strengthening your magic and find some proper spell work for you.
"Listen carefully now; Saturday morning I want you to go to the seventh floor and find the portrait of Barnabas the Barmy. Across from it, there's a blank wall. Walk past it three times thinking of a room where you can train your magic and a door will appear. Enter it, and I'll be waiting." Sal turned toward the door and grunted. "Your friends are coming to find you now, so I'll see you Saturday."
Sal faded away and just moments later, Harry heard the clattering of footsteps from the stairway. Moving back to the parapet, he leaned against it and pondered everything the wizard had said.
"Harry!" called Hermione, her tone relaxed but still excited. "There you are! We went to the hospital wing but Neville was with his Gran and they said you'd already left."
"I just needed some time alone."
"So how is Neville, then?" asked Draco. "And how did he manage to get so torn up?
"He's lost two of his fingers on his left hand and he's going to have some scars," Harry said. "Otherwise he's recovering fairly well. As to how it happened, that's a bit of a story."
Harry went on to recount the tale Neville had told him about following Snape into the dog's room, seeing Snape and Professor Quirrell fighting the dog, and the subsequent attack. Needless to say, by the end of the story both of Harry's friends were very pale.
"That's it," Draco said heatedly when he'd finished. "My father was right all along! That old fool is off his tree, keeping such a dangerous monster in the castle. When my father hears of this..."
"Draco, wait," said Harry. "Don't say anything, not yet at least. Dumbledore is up to something and I want to know what it is. If he's got everyone breathing down his neck, he'll get cautious and I'll never find out."
"Whatever," said the blond dismissively, though from emotions that were burning through him, Draco had no intention of dropping it completely. "Anyway, there's another reason we're looking for you."
"What's that?" Harry asked.
"Come on," said the blond with a sly smile "It's a surprise."
The surprise, whatever it was, ended up having to wait until after dinner. When Hermione discovered that Harry hadn't eaten since the Halloween feast she virtually dragged the boy to the Great Hall for dinner. They sat at the Merlin table while she fairly supervised his entire meal.
"Really, Harry, if you keep pushing yourself like this and not eating, you'll end up sick."
Afterwards, when Hermione was satisfied that he'd eaten sufficiently, they went outside the Great Hall and Harry was asked to close his inner eye. His friends led him out of the castle and down a path he didn't remember using before. Unworried but a bit confused, Harry questioned them about his surprise.
"What are you two on about?" he asked as they guided him through a field.
"Don't worry about it," replied Draco. "Besides, we're almost there."
Finally, they stopped him in the middle of a large clearing. He had a suspicion where they might be just from the distance and direction they'd travelled from the castle, but they weren't confirmed until his friends told him to open his inner eye again. Harry found himself standing on the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch.
"What are we doing here?" he asked.
"It was Neville's idea, really," said Hermione. "He noticed how disappointed you were when we all went to flying lessons and you couldn't."
"What then?" he asked confusedly. "I get a tour of the Quidditch pitch?"
Draco walked over to the sidelines and returned with two brooms. "No, you ninny," he said, tossing one of the brooms to Harry. "I'm teaching you to fly."
A look of panic crossed Harry's face as he dropped the broom. "No! I mean... it's really alright, you don't have to," he said quickly
"Nothing to it, Harry. Just pick your broom back up."
"You don't understand," said the raven-haired boy in a strained voice. "When you're blind, when you can't see where your next step is going to land, the idea of being really high up is a bit unnerving."
A look of confusion crossed Draco's face. "I don't understand. What about..."
"The Astronomy Tower is different," Harry explained. "I've got solid rock to hold on to. Up there..." he gestured into the sky with a pensive expression.
"Look," said Draco, pushing the broom back into the boy's hands, "it's not like you're doing this alone. I'll be right there holding on to your broom the whole time. Trust me."
Harry sighed unhappily and said, "I can't really even sense the ground from high up. I mean the grass is alive and everything, but it's so weak I have to be close to pick it up."
"We've thought of that," supplied Hermione. With that she pulled her wand out and cast a spell at the ground, changing the colour of the grass from green to red. To Harry, it seemed as if a plane of light had spread across the field to the very edges of the pitch.
"Now," said Draco. "Put your broom on the ground and say 'up'."
Harry reached out and, even before he said the word, he felt the broom's magic reach out and blend with his own. When it rose, it did so with a solid smack as it connected with his hand.
"Right then," continued the blond. "Swing your leg over and hold your hands... oh you've got it right, you must be a natural like me." A snort from Hermione earned her a death glare from the blond as he went on, "Now just kick off and hover."
Harry did what the other boy asked and locked all his muscles as his feet left the ground. Draco, if he noticed the other boy's discomfort at all, didn't mention it as he swung his broom around and took hold of Harry's just in front of the other boy's hands.
"Here we go then," the blond said. "We'll go once around the Quidditch pitch, nice and slow to get you used to the broom."
Their first time around, Harry held on so tight that his knuckles turned white. He was sure that he would lose his balance and fall to the ground at any second. As he continued to fly, however, he realised that he held his balance as easily on the broom as he did on the ground. By his third lap he had become comfortable enough with it allow Draco to speed them up and begin slaloming gently across the pitch. He was quite enjoying himself with the feeling until the blond stopped them both twenty feet above the ground.
"Alright, Harry, you've got the feel for the broom now. Since you're having no problem telling where I am, let's have you follow me, okay?"
Still nervous about the whole idea of flying, but more than a little excited at the thought of flying the broom himself, he nodded affirmatively to the other boy. Draco let go of Harry's broom and flew out ahead of him.
"We'll start slow," he said. "Give yourself time to get used to controlling it and call me when you want to go a little faster."
The boys did just that. Starting slowly across the pitch, Harry felt all his awkwardness come back and flew jerkily for a time as he fought for control. Draco was looking worriedly over his shoulder debating whether or not to stop the boy before he crashed, but relaxed as Harry's flying evened out. As the raven-haired boy sorted himself out and began to really enjoy it, he realized that flying felt almost as natural to him as breathing. Within minutes he was calling for the blond to speed up again and again. Soon they were racing about the pitch at speeds that had Hermione clenching her teeth in anxiety as they tore past. On an impulse, Harry pulled away from his friend and went into a steep climb, leaving Draco behind.
"Harry!" the blond yelled with concern as the other boy reached an alarming height, paused, and fell into an even steeper dive. Draco's heart leapt into his throat at the speed of Harry's descent and the fact he was showing no signs of pulling up. He turned his broom and raced towards the spot the boy would hit, knowing with a sinking feeling of dread that he would never be able to catch him in time.
Harry was within feet of the ground when he suddenly pulled up and let the twigs of his broom brush through the grass as he skimmed along the ground at breakneck speed. He came to an abrupt stop before a visibly shaking Hermione, who burst into tears the moment he dismounted.
"Hermione?" he asked a little confusedly. "What's wrong? Are you alright?"
The boy got no chance to say anything else as he was tackled by an enraged Draco Malfoy. In seconds, he was flat on his back with the blond boy on top of him, fists clenched.
"Dammit, Potter," the boy choked out nearly in tears. "If you ever pull a stunt like that again, blind or not, I'll pound you to a bloody pulp!"
Feeling very ashamed of himself he apologized profusely for scaring his friends, trying at the same time to explain the feeling he had when he was in the air. Draco, a bit too angry to be enthusiastic about Harry's excitement, put the brooms back in their shed and led an emotionally drained Hermione back towards the castle. Coming up behind them, Harry asked quietly, "So you think we can do this again sometime?"
Draco had just turned to throttle his best friend when they heard another voice from nearby. "Hey, you kids!" Everyone stopped short and turned to see Hagrid come out onto the pitch.
"Harry!" said the giant as he lumbered towards them. "Draco and Hermione as well, I see. What r' yeh doin' out here this late? Sun's almost set and yeh kids are too close to th' forest as it is." Leading them all back to his hut, he made them each a strong cup of tea.
"Hagrid," Harry asked as he thought of something, "what do you know about the dog on the third floor?"
"Err... What dog are yeh talkin' about?" the half giant replied uneasily. "There's no dog in the castle."
"Yes, there is, Hagrid," said Harry tersely. "It attacked Neville last night over whatever's hidden under that trap door."
"Never!" shot back Hagrid. "Fluffy wouldn't hurt a fly!"
"Fluffy?" choked Draco incredulously. "That monster is named Fluffy?"
"Yeh--she's mine. I bought her off a Greek chappie I met in the pub last year--I lent her to Dumbledore to guard the--"
"Yes?" Harry prompted eagerly.
"Nothing," the great man replied. "Now listen to me all three of yeh--yer meddlin in things that don' concern yeh. It's dangerous. You forget that dog an' you forget what it's guardin', that's between Professor Dumbledore and Nicolas Flamel..."
"Who's Nicolas Flamel?" asked Harry innocently.
"I shouldn't a' said tha'," growled Hagrid, obviously furious with himself.