Disclaimer: Not J.K. Rowling, but not for lack of trying.
Notes: First, thank you to lucidity for beta’ing. Second, Harry’s rather tremendously out of character in this, and my only suggestion is to imagine that you’ve underestimated him as badly as he believes everyone else has.
They all think that I’m stupid. Certainly they pander to me – "The Boy Who Lived," and "Dear Harry" – but underneath all their affectations and obsequiousness they treat me like an idiot. And it is obsequiousness, though most of them would be shocked that I know such a long word. They fawn and flatter and try to treat me like a "normal boy," like some sort of dumb prince who’s forced to live among the peasants. Yes, I know what peasants are. None of them bother to see . . . I’m not a normal boy, not by any means. How can I be, with visions of the Dark Lord dancing behind my eyes and a tongue that talks to snakes and with only one memory of my parents that is colored the most peculiarly vivid shade of green? I’m not normal, I haven’t been since a little after my first birthday – but sometimes I think the only one who doesn’t underestimate my intelligence is Voldemort.
I wish I could say he had, but then, I played right into his hands, didn’t I?
Hermione acts like I’m a particularly slow five-year-old. I don’t mind it so much with her – she acts like that with everyone. She speaks very slowly, nowadays, and spent the entire summer reminding me that it wasn’t my fault Sirius died but that I must "start using my head before I go running off to save people." She always frowns when she says it, like she’s not certain I’m capable of using my head. And she doesn’t think I realize that when she says it, she’s telling me that it is my fault Sirius died . . .she thinks if she doesn’t spell it out for me then I won’t notice. She has pretty blue eyes, Hermione – pretty blue eyes full of reproach and I can see right through them. I’m not as stupid as they think I am.
Ron keeps clapping me on the shoulder hard and offering to play Exploding Snap with me. He and Hermione don’t play games anymore – they work on strategies, or look up new spells to protect the dumb prince – but perhaps he thinks I’m not intelligent enough for that. They both whisper to each other when they think I can’t hear them, and stop abruptly whenever I lift my head. Maybe Voldemort is rubbing off on me, or maybe their expressions were always so obvious, so full of guilt and surprise. He could kill them in an instant, if he wanted. He could use me to do it. He used me to kill Sirius, after all.
And Sirius – Sirius didn’t think I was an idiot. It’s funny, because they assumed I didn’t realize. They always do. Dumbledore thought Sirius was becoming brother and father to me – who is the real fool then? How could Sirius be my family when he didn’t even realize who I was? Oh, he managed to call me by the proper name, and style himself my godfather, but the boy he was looking at had hazel eyes, not green. They thought I didn’t realize – perhaps they didn’t realize – but if I can mistake myself for my father, then Sirius most certainly could, considering how much he drank and how even sober he teetered on the brink of sanity. Who am I kidding? He’d fallen into that chasm long ago, and no one knew how I saw him look at me. It’s in the eyes, you know? It always is – my Occlumency training proved that – and I wonder if Remus knew that Sirius had been in love with James. Son and brother to a man who looked at me – but not me, really – with lust and longing in half crazed eyes. Black eyes, wizard’s eyes. Snape’s eyes.
Oh, and there I am wrong. Voldemort is not the only one who sees that I’m not as stupid as they think. There are black eyes infinitely more intelligent than Sirius’. There are large, beetle black eyes set over an even larger nose and a thin, twisted mouth. He knows that I am not stupid; or perhaps it is that he realizes exactly how stupid I am. I had to look into those eyes, for a little while, while they crawled into my mind and tore it apart and spat it back out as though disgusted by it. He knows that my eyes are green and not hazel. He knows that I am not the boy – cruel, arrogant, hazel eyed boy that Sirius loved and that died trying to save my life – who hexed him throughout school, who mocked him and turned him upside down and treated him like dirt merely because he had dared to exist. They think I am too stupid to see that my father was cruel, they think I idolize him and want to carve myself in his image.
You’re so like James, McGonagall always tells me when I have done well, as a form of praise.
Just like your father, black eyes castigate me when I have done something monumentally foolish – like play into the Dark Lord’s every scheme – and I know who is telling me the truth.
I was foolish, once, I suppose. I was foolish enough to believe that my father was wonderful and that I could not see anything but slimy creatures and deadly poisons in Snape’s eyes. And when he looks at me, I can’t, but it is better than seeing the obsidian reflection of my face with hazel eyes.
But he does not look at me, and his eyes give him away. His eyes give him away just as he gave himself away when he was my age, following a werewolf and nearly dying for his own stupidity . . .I see him, when he watches Remus. I see him when I go to the laboratory for Occlumency lessons, and he is flipping through journals that offer cures for lycanthropy, standing over another foul smelling potion that will be just as useless as all the others. I see him when he gathers Remus up the morning after a full moon, when the newly changed man is unconscious and will never know, and rubs healing salve into his torn skin and puts him to bed. I stand in the doorway and watch – but that is the difference, that is how I know that he realizes I am not stupid.
He is not afraid to look back, creepy crawly gaze unashamed as it meets mine, not like Ron and Hermione startling guiltily at my every glance. He does not stop what he’s doing; he does not bother to explain it to me. He does not lie to me about Sirius – told me succinctly that of course I’d killed the cur, but did it really matter when he’d been more of a nostalgic drunk than a godfather anyway? Dumbledore yelled at him, and Remus tried to convince me that it wasn’t true, and black eyes looked through me and saw that I’d already known.
Not just like your father, then, unpleasant eyes approved.
He knows that I watch him, and he knows that I know, and he does not try to flatter me or cajole me as some sort of dumb beast is lured with carrots into carrying the weight of the yoke. I carry the fate of the wizarding world, and we both know it, and he has never called me normal.
And sometimes I am tempted to let him have what he wants, because I see how Remus – the last ‘father and brother’ I can have, the one who is not crazy and does not see James when he looks at me and is good and is kind and is mine – looks at him when he thinks I do not notice. I see how he helps Snape up the stairs when the Death Eater Floos in after another excruciating evening. Yes, I said that on purpose – I am not so careless with my words as everyone thinks.
Sometimes I watch and I know that Remus wants it and I know that Snape has always wanted it, with a quiet desperation born from years of unfulfilled desire and I know that I cannot really stop them because Remus does not realize I am not stupid. He loves me, Harry Potter, but he does not know I stand there watching and see right through him. I am more like Voldemort than they will ever know.
But Remus loves me, and he is the last, and I will not give him up. I will not even share – because I am not stupid and I know that if I share him I will lose him because Snape will consume him with eyes like dark flames and there will be nothing left to love me. And I stand in the doorway as he heals Remus – mine – and he watches me and sees, because he has been reading eyes for longer than I have been alive. He is not normal, he is tied to Voldemort by a mark that throbs and blackens, he is trying to save the world while Voldemort tries to use him to kill us all. I know what you are thinking, and he is not like me, and he will not take Remus from me the way the Veil took Sirius and Voldemort took my parents.
And he knows.
He knows and so is gone when Remus wakes up, surprised to find himself uninjured and sleeping peacefully. He sees my eyes flash – green eyes, Muggle eyes – when he Floos in and so refuses Remus’ helping arm. And I see rejection and loss surface momentarily in Remus’ eyes and for a moment I am sorry because Remus loves me and it is my fault that Snape will not go to him . . .but it is Snape’s fault, for following a werewolf. It is his fault for realizing that I am not stupid and for knowing that I killed Sirius – but that it did not matter, because Sirius never knew I existed anyway – and his fault for trying to take what is mine. I will not lose the last person who . . .who sees me.
I stand there in the doorway, watching Remus attempt to bind Snape’s wounds and clean out the Floo powder and complete something that has been over twenty years unbegun.
Remus does not realize I’m there, and I do not need to see his face to know that he is entirely focused on black eyes clenched in pain.
Black eyes that flicker past Remus to look at me, into me, invading my mind and –
I will not lose him, too!
– and pulling away from Remus’ gentle hands, stumbling towards the stairs on his own, away from the werewolf.
Remus does not know I am standing there, but Snape can see me in the darkness. I am not stupid, I tell myself. I know that I killed Sirius and that Voldemort used me and that I am only a reflection of James to all of them, or a vessel to save the world. And I know that letting Snape have Remus – but it is Remus following Snape, this time, hurrying up the stairs and I do not watch – means losing the last person who sees me, and I will not let him go.
I look over Remus’ head, to where black eyes meet mine. I am not as stupid as they think, I say. And he knows.