I´m glad you clicked on this story and hope you will enjoy it. There are a few formalities to get done with before the fun can start.
1. „Had I known" is SS-HP, but no slash, just a slowly developing friendship. It takes place eight years after Harry should have graduated, that means eight years after he killed Voldemort and vanished.
2. I started to plan this long beore HBP came out, which will thus be mainly ignored. This, and the fact that I slightly changed events of the first 5 books, makes this story AU, so don´t wonder.
3. I will write this only once, but it counts for the whole story: Nothing in the Harry Potter universum belongs to me. I intend no profit with this story and have no copyright whatsoever on this.
4.To the reader of my other story, „When A Lioness Fights": Don´t worry, I won´t abandon that story or let it suffer. Updates to „Had I known" will be as regular as possible, but the „Lioness" comes first.
5. I love reviews! And I love everybody who reviews! I will try to respond to every question, criticism or comment you give, but please review. Just the fact that you´re out there and reading this gives me the discipline to go on...
That said, let´s get on to the story...
Stranger in the Shadows
The Headmaster called them together after dinner.
Snape had followed the request only grudgingly – he hated to leave a potion on its own in the middle of the brewing process, and his research had entered a critical phase, but something in the Headmaster´s letter made him comply.
There was an urgency to it, a strange nervousness he hadn´t encountered in Albus for a long time.
He arrived barely on time, only to be confronted by curious, upturned faces the moment he opened the door to Albus´ office. He gave a general, curt nod in the direction of his colleagues and sat down in the armchair he had marked as his own during hundreds of staff meetings.
Strange. Albus´ note hadn´t stated the reason for this assembly, and from the questioning glances that darted from face to face, he assumed that no one seemed to know the reason for this impromptu meeting.
But it wasn´t lost on them that only the senior staff members seemed to be present, with one, significant, exception.
Nymphadora Tonks, made Professor for DADA only a year before, sat silently with them in the crammed office of Albus Dumbledore. He met her eyes and she shrugged her shoulders to indicate her own confusion.
Why Tonks, Snape wondered and felt the throbbing pain of a headache blooming from his temples. Why not Vectra or Jordan, who had taken over History of Magic three years ago?
He let his eyes travel over the persons present, and suddenly it hit him.
All the teachers assembled here, from the now silver haired McGonagall, the wrinkled Sprout to the pink haired Tonks – all the teachers had been members of the Order during the war.
He could seee Minerva´s thin lips suddenly twitching and thinning even more. So she had realized it, too, and the realization worried her.
He had to suppress a frustrated groan as the headache went from slumbering to full bloom in a heartbeat.
The Order hadn't come together for almost four years. When they had together decided that there was no work left for them, he had hoped, with all his heart, that they would never have to re-establish it again. What had led Albus to assemble them now?
And where the hell was the Headmaster?
The room´s tension had risen to a peak, they were eyeing each other warily, but no one dared ask.
Because we don´t want to know, Snape thought grimly, The war has become a memory, and we don´t want to remember.
Once you had reached the tunnel´s end, you didn´t turn around to watch the shadows. The sun felt too good after the long time of darkness.
As the memories returned to them, the atmosphere in the room changed again and Snape could see the sorrow on his colleague's faces.
They had lost so many, before and after the fall of the Dark Lord. Most of the then seventh and sixth years were gone, the victims of uncountable attacks and their own, foolish bravery.
Remus Lupin, Mundungus Fletcher, Kingley Shacklebolt and Filius Flitwick. Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnigan. Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley.
And where the Wonder Boy himself, the centre of all their attention and hope had vanished, no one had ever found out.
Granted, he had slaughtered the Dark Lord before his disappearance, but still – to vanish into thin air, leaving only a note and a couple of corpses behind, was just unbearably Gryffindor.
Though the fuss everybody had made about his disappearance had been even worse.
Snape had just snorted at the teary speeches and sentimental articles, and a few especially well phrased comments had nearly led to a serious fight with Molly Weasley, who, as she used to say, had not only lost one, but three children when the corpses of Weasley, Granger, and Potter´s letter had been found.
As if she hadn´t enough children!
Snape snorted again and earned a warning glance from Minerva, who seemed to know exactly along which trail his thoughts where wandering.
But where was the Headmaster? Snape´s eyes found the clock. Fifteen minutes already. He never let anybody wait that long. Albus practically lived in his office!
As if he had heard that thought, one of the doors to his left opened and Albus Dumbledore appeared.
It took a long time till he reached his desk, enough time for Snape to let the shock sink in. The Headmaster looked changed. Old, fragile, and – which probably was responsible for the cold, sinking feeling in Snape´s stomach – afraid.
Albus had never looked afraid, not in the thirty-five years Snape had known him. He had confronted dangers untold and not even shunned away from Grindelwald or Voldemort.
If he feared something, it had to be bad indeed.
Slowly, displaying every single one of his many years, Albus sank into his armchair and conjured them tea and biscuits. He was the only one to take a cup, but his hands shook so violently that he nearly spilled the hot liquid.
"Albus, why have you summoned us?", Minerva finally broke the silence, her voice showing nothing of the apprehension her eyes betrayed, "Has there been… another incident?"
They all knew what she meant by incidents, the late night Order meetings, hastily assembled in response to yet another attack, yet another death.
After the Dark Lord´s sudden and unexpected demise, his followers had gone mad. Knowing that all was lost to them, that no claim of blackmail or Imperius could rescue them this time, they had covered the whole of Great Britain in terror.
It had been a gruesome work, to catch and arrest them one by one. All too well he recalled the bitter taste of defeat in his mouth, the despair when they had realized that all was not over, all was not well. That the fight, though more equally balanced now than long before, hadn´t ended yet.
But without their dark, evil head, the Death Eaters had become vulnerable, and, after four years of skirmishes and restless hunting, Order and Aurors together had finally triumphed.
"An incident", Albus´ voice raised Snape from his thoughts, "Yes, I think you could call it that."
Snape groaned at this display of the sphinxism the old man so loved, but this time, no mischievous glint was lightening the Headmaster´s eyes, and his voice sounded tired and frail.
"I received a letter", he continued, retrieving a parchment from his pocket and unfolding it slowly, "A letter I had never believed to come, though I have hoped for it so many years."
He now raised his eyes to the assembled group and examined every face slowly, as if imprinting on them the importance of this moment and its revelations. There had been a time when every gesture, every word of Albus Dumbledore had seemed deliberate, the whole man nothing but an orchestrated enigma to give them hope. But now his voice was unsteady, and his gaze seemed to search for strength, not give it to them.
"I must admit that I was very… flustered by the arrival of this letter. I know not what to say…"
The Headmaster faltered, his eyes darting to the parchment that he clenched tightly in his hands.
"A letter from whom?" Minerva asked impatiently. "What is all this about, Albus?"
The Headmaster sighed, desperation darkening his eyes. "Minerva," he whispered helplessly. "I…"
"Read it out to us, then", a voice from Snape´s left interrupted. Tonks. Insensitive, practical Tonks.
Again, Albus kept his long, indecisive silence, until Snape´s urge to simply snatch the letter from his hands became overwhelming. An intense curiosity had replace the former worry among their group.
Nobody had ever seen the Heamaster in such a state since Potter´s disappearance, and they were all dying to know now what had caused it.
"Perhaps that would be best", Albus finally whispered, cleared his throat and raised the parchment.
"Dear Sir," he began "I assume that this letter will be unexpected to you, as I had never expected to write it, either. In my last letter I told you that you would never hear form me again, and I intended to keep this promise."
Longing and melancholy clouded the Headmaster´s voice. He read slowly, pausing between the sentences as if it was an enormous task he was undertaking. Nobody found the heart to urge him on.
"However, recent developments have caused me to change my mind. I am not well, Headmaster, and would like to see you before it is too late. I could understand if you never wished to meet me again. Be assured that I would harbour no ill feelings against you in such a case. But if you have it in you to grant my wish, I will be at your office at about 8.30 this evening. Feel free to notify me if this meeting should be against your wishes. I remain sincerely, your…"
A discrete knock on the door to his office silenced the Headmaster.
Severus could have strangled the one outside for hits untimely interruption, but the sight of his old teacher turning as pale as chalk silenced him.
"He has come," Albus whispered, gripping the edges of his desk so hard that his knuckles turned white.
Snape wanted to demand an explanation – who was coming? - but the mad chaos of panic and hope that twisted the Headmaster´s face silenced him. Albus was in no state to answer any question.
Then, the Headmaster raised himself to sit straighter, assuming the calm, controlled appearance they had all come to expect from him.
He took a deep, shuddering breath.
"Please enter," he called.
The door swung open, but the figure entering remained in the shadows that had built while the meeting progressed. Nobody had bothered to light a lamp, and, somehow, nobody dared to do it now.
There was such calm confidence in the shadowy form of a man, such power that Snape couldn´t suppress a shiver racing along his spine. Mighty as Dumbledore was, even he had never managed to dominate a room so completely with his mere presence. Only the Dark Lord had commanded such power. But whoever this "he" was, he didn´t possess the threatening aura of the late Voldemort
And when he spoke, it wasn´t in the high, eery whisper of the Dark Lord, but with a voice much younger, deep, and slightly hoarse.
"Good evening, Headmaster," the stranger said "I see you assembled us an audience."
Albus´ mouth opened once, twice, and closed again. Dumbledore, strongest wizard of his age and one of the most unnervingly eloquent people Snape knew, was speechless.
"Won´t you sit down, dear boy?" he finally croaked, and to his amazement, Snape could see a single tear slip down his wrinkly cheek and vanish among the silver hairs.
The man in the shadows sighed and lowered his head.
"I might as well," he said quietly, and the shadows seemed to swirl around him before they disappeared and warm, golden light suddenly glowed from the awakened lamps.
The stranger hadn´t moved a muscle, but now he lifted his head and they could clearly see his face for the first time. Snape could see long black hair, tied together in his neck and eyes the colour of emeralds. But before he had fully taken in the stranger´s appearance, his eyes fell on the man´s forehead and he felt himself stiffen in shock.
Against pale, smooth skin, there shone the dark outline of a scar, shaped in the form of a lightning bolt.
There it is! I hope you liked the start! If you did (or if you didn´t), please click the little button down the left and let me know.
I apologize for any mistakes I might have made - I´m not a native speaker - but tell me about them, for I love to learn ;-)
Next chapter has some real interaction, shocking revelations, a very pissed of Snape and a convulsing Harry in it