Title: The Only One He Ever Feared
Recipient: For Greenie (stiletto), who requested that Voldemort and Dumbledore be switched.
Summary: You've got it all wrong. We're not the bad guys.
Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.
Author's note: Thanks to phineasjones for beta.
In the summer after his fifth year, Harry joins Remus for tea and biscuits every day at 4:00. Grimmauld Place is mostly empty in the afternoons and though they usually only chat; sometimes Remus shares old stories about the Order, and sometimes memories of Harry's parents and Sirius. Harry's glad they're alone, because Remus is more guarded when everyone else is around, and cringes when anyone other than Harry mentions Sirius' name.
Sometimes Remus gets this firm look on his face and Harry knows that it's time for him to pay close attention, because Remus is going to share something important.
He does it today, halfway through the pot of tea. Harry leans forward, his hands on the table, as Remus sets down his cup.
"I want to teach you how to kill," Remus says, the wrinkles growing around his eyes and his mouth bending into a frown.
"You mean the Killing Curse?" Harry asks.
Remus shakes his head. "Oh, no," he says. "There are many other ways to kill people. It depends on knowing them well, knowing their weaknesses."
"I don't want to kill anyone," Harry says, although it's not entirely the truth.
He's been thinking about it every day since he lost his godfather. He remembers trying to cast an Unforgivable at Bellatrix, how she'd laughed at him. He remembers pointing his wand at Sirius and saying he'd kill him for betraying his parents. He couldn't do it then, either, and though he's glad now, because Sirius was innocent, he still feels weak. And Sirius is still gone. He thinks if it's his destiny, if it's prophesied, then he can fight Voldemort, but could he manage to even hurt anyone else? Could he really do it, take someone's life away like that? Make them hurt, like he's hurting now?
"It will be better that you know how to protect yourself," Remus says reasonably. Remus understands, Harry thinks. He really understands. "Not just against Voldemort. What if you meet up with Bellatrix? Or Peter Pettigrew?"
Harry's face flushes with his anger. They're the only two. He could do it, if it was them. "Bellatrix deserves to die. So does Pettigrew," Harry says, his voice shaking.
Remus nods; Harry thinks he sees an odd gleam in Remus' eyes. He decides to consider it pride.
The next day, Harry gets a letter. It's delivered by an owl he doesn't recognize, which flies off immediately after dropping the letter in his hands. There are just two sentences written on the parchment: You've got it all wrong. We're not the bad guys.
It is signed Peter Pettigrew.
Harry burns the letter in the dust bin.
Lessons with Remus begin outside, the humid air of July around them, though they are given a reprieve from the summer sun by the grey clouds that always seem to hang over Grimmauld Place. The yard is full of patches of grass and weeds and uneven dirt. There is odd flowering shrubbery all around the house that Harry tries to avoid. Harry figures even the landscaping here is full of dark magic.
Remus corrects Harry's wand position and asks him to speak the spell again, but Harry turns and sighs.
"Tell me again what happened with Pettigrew," Harry asks. "I thought he was your friend."
Remus nods, and sets a hand on Harry's shoulder. "So did we. Sirius never entirely explained what happened, before...." Remus trails off and looks down unto the yard before continuing. "Peter may seem weak, but he's conniving. He's a terrible man, and I wish we'd never given him our trust. I wish I'd never let him near Sirius." Remus is tense, but some of the anger disappears from his voice when he says, "Try the spell again."
Harry speaks the words Remus has taught him, focuses on one of the suspicious-looking shrubs.
"Good," Remus says, as a branch explodes into fire. Harry has a sudden flash of the letter, Peter's words, burning. The fire flares.
"Good," Remus says again softly. "You can control the burn. This is your power."
Three days later, Harry gets another letter.
Your parents came around at the end, but it was too late. We couldn't save them. I couldn't save them. They sacrificed their lives for you. Because they understood. They saw who Dumbledore really was.
Are you going to continue to believe his lies? Or are you going to stand up for your parents' memory?
The owl waits this time. Harry writes back. "Why are you writing to me? Are you trying to get me to join your side? To join Voldemort?"
Peter's answer frightens him more than anything else.
Yes. It's the only way you'll be safe.
Dumbledore doesn't come by Grimmauld Place often, and when he does, he spends most of his time behind closed doors in meetings with the Order. When Harry does see him, Dumbledore usually just gives him a small smile and asks him if he's having a pleasant summer. Harry has to grit his teeth to make himself smile back
Harry's mind fills with cold glass spheres and fluttering grey curtains when he thinks about Dumbledore, thinks of the secrets Dumbledore's kept from him all these years. When he thinks about why Dumbledore couldn't protect Harry's parents from Voldemort, why he let Sirius die –
It was when he was waiting in Dumbledore's office after the battle at the Ministry that Harry first thought it possible that Dumbledore really isn't powerful as everyone says he is. Now, he's certain at least that Dumbledore isn't as wise.
Harry thinks of throwing out the next letter straightaway, but he hears Remus' voice in his head telling him not to be afraid, to trust himself, and so he opens the letter.
Sirius was always a spy. He never believed Dumbledore, and after your parents died, Dumbledore kept Sirius in Azkaban. When Sirius escaped, and you met him – Dumbledore had to change his plans. Sirius thought if he got close enough, if he became a part of the Order again, he'd be able to protect you. But Dumbledore never trusted him. Why do you think he kept him locked up?
Ask yourself this: why didn't your parents tell Dumbledore about the Secret-Keeper switch?
"Why did you kill him, then?" Harry writes. "Why did you kill Sirius?"
We didn't, Harry. We weren't even there that night at the Ministry. Dumbledore killed him.
The realization hits Harry, alone in his room in the middle of the night. If he believes Pettigrew, then he believes Bellatrix is good. She's one of the good guys. Harry hides his hysterical laughter in his pillow until he's out of breath. He sees her wild hair swinging; wonders if he's ever actually met her. Wonders if any of the Ministry was real.
It makes him panic.
Who knew what, then? He tries to sort it all in his head – his friends had been there at the Ministry, and they saw what he saw, but who was to say Dumbledore couldn't have been controlling them all? Remus was there. Remus saw Sirius die. But they'd never spoken about it, about that very moment. Had Remus seen the same thing Harry had? Or did Remus know something else was the truth?
Harry wakes with a shout – he saw Dumbledore turning into Voldemort, the snake-like eyes instead of Dumbledore's twinkling ones. He saw Sirius coming back through the veil and telling him his parents were ashamed of him. No, it wasn't real. Only a dream.
Remus comes rushing to his room a moment later, wand drawn. "Harry? Are you all right? I'm here."
Harry swallows hard and says, "I'm fine."
Remus comes to sit on the edge of his bed, looking old, tired. "I only want to protect you. I owe that to James and Lily. To Sirius," he whispers.
Harry wants to believe him.
Ron and Hermione come to visit for a weekend. Harry wants to tell them about the letters, but before he can begin, Ron starts in on his own strange letter – Percy has written to him again.
"He's mad, he is," Ron says, gruff, but Harry can hear the shake in his voice. "Talked all about how I'm his brother. He's worried about me. About Ginny. Some rubbish about Dumbledore.... He likes you better this time, though. Says I should listen if you have anything to tell me. So, do you have anything to tell me?"
Harry shrugs. "What I thought," Ron says. "He's nutters."
Harry tells them about the lessons he's been having with Remus. How much he's learning. How much he can do now.
"Scary that," Ron says. "But after what we've seen....I reckon it's good to know."
Hermione nods. "McGonagall's teaching me all sorts of advanced spells. Some of them are frighteningly powerful. But we need to know them, otherwise they wouldn't be teaching them to us. That's what adults are here for, to protect us."
He wants to ask Hermione if she's ever doubted McGonagall, even once, but she misreads the look on his face.
"Don't worry," Hermione says, "We're here to protect you, too."
Ron and Hermione rest a hand on each of Harry's arms.
August comes around and the letters continue, as do Remus' lessons.
Harry is carrying two worlds in his head. One, where everything he knows stays exactly the same. The other, where everything is turned on its head. It's easy to get them confused.
You've never met Voldemort, Harry. Not once. Everything you've told me was put in your head by Dumbledore. Voldemort wasn't defeated – he never existed; Dumbledore terrorized the nation, and when he was threatened by you, he decided to go into hiding. Voldemort is just a name. Tom Riddle is our leader. Dumbledore put the Death Eaters under Imperious, made up servants to a made up dark lord.
Harry destroys half of the yard with one spell. Remus gives him a giant bar of chocolate.
Remus asks him who the owls are from. Harry lies with practiced ease. Luna. Cho. Dean Thomas.
Remus seems pleased to hear it.
Harry writes to Peter, "What about the prophesy?"
You do have the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. Only it's not the Dark Lord you've been taught to believe. You're the only one who can do it. It's why we need you.
Harry writes, "Then why hasn't he killed me? He's had loads of chances before."
He's using you as a weapon, Harry. What better way to keep his most deadly enemy from hurting him than by keeping him close? He's trying to turn your power against us. He can keep alive the threat of Voldemort with the savior of the wizarding world in his care. He's only showing you what he wants you to see, the way he's done this whole time.
Harry writes, "And what if I say I believe you." And has to stop because his stomach roils and he runs to the bathroom to be sick.
Later, he comes back to the letter. "Maybe Remus already knows about Dumbledore. Maybe he's helping me. You can't tell, you can't know, and so you have to let him live. You have to. Promise me you won't hurt him. I'll make him see. I'll let him read your letters. Promise me you won't hurt him."
I promise. The words are so tiny on the otherwise empty piece of parchment, along with Pettigrew's now familiar signature.
Harry's hand shakes when he writes, "Snape is a spy."
Peter writes back. Thank you, Harry.
"There's something we need you to do," Dumbledore says, joining Remus and Harry for tea after hand-delivering Harry's Hogwarts letter. "We know where they are. We'll go there. All of us. The Order. We need you to help us defeat them."
"You can do it, Harry," Remus says, his hand on Harry's shoulder. "You're ready."
He wants to be like Sirius. He wants to be like his parents.
He turns and points his wand at Dumbledore.
"It wasn't supposed to end this way," Harry says, and closes his eyes. He doesn't need them open. He's been practicing the spells all summer.