Here is the first of the stories reposted for you. The rest will come up one by one as I beta them.
Disclaimer – Nothing's mine. Thanks JKR.
A Life Half Lived
Warning this chapter has a major canon character death.
Chapter 1 – I Have Them
At the end of the lane was a rickety old house that many said was haunted. No one ever went in and no one ever came out. But lights came on and off, chimneys billowed smoke in the winter, and sounds were heard occasionally coming from within.
Several braver, or maybe they were just more nosey, neighbours had thought of knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell but as soon as the thought surfaced, their interest suddenly waned, banishing such thoughts until the next time they surfaced. Local children dared each other to break in through a window but upon getting within yards of the house they quickly remembered something else they had to do.
The man all in black had watched the house for several days, never managing to catch sight of the occupant. Eventually he decided that if the occupant wasn't going to come out, he was going to have to go in. With this in mind he strode from his hiding place across the street and up the front path.
He could feel the weight of the wards pressing in on him, trying to deter him and he fought with them valiantly, using his strength in Occlumency to counter the repelling wards and spells. He raised an eyebrow, impressed at the strength of them. They were stronger even than Hogwarts. He cleared his mind, his single focus on nothing but reaching the door handle, and with a quick unlocking spell he was into the house with door closed behind him and the weight of the wards finally off his shoulders.
'What in the bloody hell are you doing here?' A voice growled from the shadows.
The man sneered. 'Such language, Potter.'
'Fuck off, Snape, and get out of my house.' Harry retorted.
'Get the hell out before the wards throw you out.'
'I got this far through the wards didn't I? So listen here you little brat. I'm not leaving until I've said what I came to.'
Harry stepped out of the shadows and folded his arms over his chest. 'Fine, say your piece and then get out.' He snapped turning on his heel and stalking off back down the corridor.
Snape was stunned for a moment before he was stalking off in pursuit of the younger man. 'Potter, get back here and listen to me.' He snarled.
'You said you would say your piece and leave. You didn't say I had to listen.' Harry drawled, turning left through a doorway and descending a steep staircase with practiced ease. Snape followed a little more hesitantly, brought up short at the bottom of the stairs by the sight of Harry Potter, of all people, dicing newt spleens with the skill of a master as several potions boiled and bubbled in cauldrons around him.
'What in Merlin's name...' Snape trailed off.
'You said you had something to say before you would leave.' Harry prompted without looking up.
Snape watched the young man's practiced hands for several moments before tearing his eyes away. 'Yes, Potter. It's Dumbledore, he's asking for you. I need you to return to Hogwarts with me.'
Harry waved his hand, adjusting the flame under one of the cauldrons. 'I think not.' He said succinctly. 'I've left all that behind me.'
Snape raised an eyebrow. 'I can see that.' He drawled, gesturing at the potion filled cauldrons magically stirring themselves.
Harry glanced up and sighed before returning to his task. 'I can't go back. Why can't you understand that? Albus understands.'
Harry's voice was so filled with pain that Snape couldn't help but take a step forwards. 'Potter...' Snape tried again. 'Harry...He's dying.'
Harry's hand slipped and he swore as the sharp knife sliced into his finger. 'Damnit.' He hissed, grabbing a nearby cloth and pressing it to the wound as blood dripped on the bench.
Snape crossed the final few steps and grasped Harry's hand, pulling the now bloody cloth away and dragging him over to the sink in the corner, turning on the tap and shoving the bleeding digit under the flow of water. Snape felt Harry's forehead come to rest on his shoulder for several moments before the young man seemed to realise what he was doing and pulled away.
Snape cast a drying charm and a healing charm on Harry's hand before allowing the Boy-Who-Lived to pull away. Harry went back to his dicing, picking up the knife and holding it over the ingredient but he didn't begin, instead dropping it and grabbing the edge of the table with both hands, his shoulders hunched and breathing heavy.
'Why did you come?' Harry whispered.
Snape folded his arms over his chest and leant back against the wall. 'Because he asked me to.' The potions master said quietly.
Harry looked up, his green eyes glittering, with anger or tears Snape wasn't sure. 'Why now? Why did he send you now?'
'I told you, Potter. He's dying.'
'Why didn't he just send Fawkes then? Why you?'
Snape watched the young man struggle to regain the tenuous at best hold he usually held on his emotions. 'Fawkes is busy keeping him alive.' Snape said quietly.
Harry looked away, moving back towards the door and slipping nimbly up the stairs, not even looking back as with a flick of his wrists the flames under the cauldrons were extinguished and the potions that had been boiling were disposed of.
Snape waited several minutes but when Harry didn't return he followed, searching the house until he found Harry in the kitchen preparing a salad. The deft movements Snape had seen downstairs continued as he watched as Harry tossed several steaks onto a hot grill next to the sink and continued slicing tomatoes.
The steaks turned by themselves and several minutes later Harry deposited two plates into Snape's hands before picking up two glasses and a bottle of wine and gestured silently for the older wizard to follow him.
They sat at the table on the back porch and began their meal, the sun setting in the distance and making the sky red. Snape wanted to ask the young man just exactly what he thought he was doing but was loathe to disturb the rather enjoyable peace a silent Harry Potter provided.
Not once throughout the meal did Harry speak. He sat sipping his wine in silence as he watched the sun drop below the horizon. Every so often Snape would catch a shadow of something in the man's expressive green eyes but moments later it would be gone.
Eventually it was dark and Snape decided he had to speak. The headmaster was running out of time. 'Harry, I understand how hard this is for you but you have to go. If not for yourself, then you have to go for him. He needs you.' He watched as Harry swallowed heavily.
'I don't want to see him like that.' Harry whispered.
'Harry, please, he's asking for you. Please don't disappoint him.' Snape couldn't believe he had been reduced to begging. He must really care for the meddling old man.
Harry placed his glass back down on the table and scrubbed furiously at his face. 'Why does everything have to be so hard?' He murmured more to himself than to Snape.
Snape placed his glass down too and leant forward. 'It doesn't have to be, Harry.'
Harry looked up. 'I don't want to.' He said bluntly.
Snape nodded. 'I know, but you will regret it for the rest of your life if you don't.' He said knowingly.
Harry's green eyes remained locked on his until eventually he nodded slowly. 'You're right.' He sighed.
Snape's mouth twitched. 'Why, Mr Potter, may I have that in writing.' He drawled sarcastically.
Harry rolled his eyes. 'Shut it, Snape. I just have to grab a few clothes. I won't be long.'
Snape nodded. 'I will be waiting.'
Harry sighed and stood up, quickly banishing the plates back to the kitchen and walking back into the house, lights switching themselves on as he walked from room to room. Snape waited outside in the gathering darkness. He'd knew just how hard this would be for the young man.
The Boy-Who-Lived had left the wizarding world almost ten years before under a cloud of suspicion. He had destroyed the Dark Lord, as he had always sworn he would; but he had also killed more than three hundred Death Eaters that day without any sign of remorse. If it carried the mark he killed it. He did not allow any to be captured and interrogated and by nightfall none had survived.
The backlash had been brutal, many calling for him to be thrown into Azkaban and given the Kiss. It had been Albus Dumbledore who had spirited him out of the country and kept him hidden until it had died down and he was able to return. But the young man had refused. Not wanting to even set foot in the Wizarding World again, and had cut ties with all bar the Headmaster.
It was now ten years later and the Boy-Who-Lived had been almost forgotten. Snape knew though, that that wouldn't last all that long.
'Ready?' Harry's voice startled him and he glanced up to see the young man dressed in a dark cloak, the cowl drawn down over his face so all Snape could see were the glowing green eyes. 'How did you get here?' Harry asked as Snape stood.
'Portkey from the Ministry and then apparated.' Snape told him.
'That will take too long.' Harry replied grasping the potions master's wrist in a deceptively strong grip and tugging him gently down the steps towards the far corner of the garden. Snape knew that the more likely reason was that Harry didn't want to go anywhere near the Ministry but he was still wholly unprepared for when Harry stopped beside him and pulled him close. 'Hold on.' He whispered and moments later that disapparated off with barely a sound.
The surprise continued when they landed in the entrance hall of Hogwarts.
Harry shook his head. 'Don't ask.' He said firmly before gesturing for the potions master to lead the way.
Snape stared at him in silence for a moment before just shaking his head and heading for the hospital wing where he knew everyone would be continuing the bedside vigil. He barely made it through the door when he was set upon by Molly Weasley.
'Where have you been, Severus? We've been looking all over the castle for you. He's loosing the fight and he's been asking for you.' The red headed woman snapped.
Snape just glared and stepped aside, gesturing for Harry to go first. There were several gasps as the cloaked figure walked swiftly across the room to stop at the foot of the elderly wizard's bed. Tears pricked at Harry's eyes as he took in the now frail, pale man. Dumbledore had always been his inner strength, he had relied on the man more than he could ever admit, and Dumbledore had never let him down.
'Harry.' Dumbledore's voice was as weak as he was and Harry quickly reached up and lowered his hood, ignoring the shrieks of outrage from those gathered around the room as he quickly moved to perch on the edge of the headmaster's bed. Snape gestured, both with a glare and his wand, that Harry was to be undisturbed as he said his goodbyes.
'Albus.' Harry's voice was choked with emotion as he took the hand that was held out to him. Dumbledore's skin was icy and Harry knew that it wouldn't be long now. The parchment thin skin felt dry though and Harry lifted the hand to press it against his cheek. 'Albus, I'm sorry.' He whispered.
'You have nothing to apologise for, dear boy.' Dumbledore rasped.
'I do. You believed in me and I let you down. I'm sorry I couldn't have been stronger.' Tears spilled down Harry's cheeks.
'You were stronger than anyone had any right asking you to be.' Dumbledore assured him, his eyes closing as he shifted. Fawkes let out a burst of song and Harry knew the headmaster must have been in some pain. 'Harry, I love you child. Please believe me that all I did, I did to keep you safe. I'm sorry if I made any mistakes but I couldn't stand the thought of loosing you.'
'I love you too, Albus.' Harry whispered brokenly.
Suddenly Dumbledore reached up with his other hand, and pulled Harry's tightly to his chest, closing his eyes. It took only moments before Harry realised what the headmaster was doing and he let out a cry.
'Albus, no. Please, no. I beg you.'
'Harry, you have to.' Albus breathed, his blue eyes opening and pining Harry where he sat. 'You are the only one capable.'
'Albus, I can't. Please don't make me.' Harry was trying to pull away but the headmaster held tight to his hands.
'Harry, please. There is no one I can trust. They will fall.'
Harry couldn't look away from the only person he counted as family. 'I can't. I can't.' Harry repeated.
'I love you, Harry.' Dumbledore gasped. 'I know you can do this. There is no one better.'
'Albus, please, don't.' Harry gave one final plea but it was too late and his head slumped down onto their joined hands. There was a rumbling that rang throughout the castle and the ancient stones seemed to shift in their very beds. Those in the room stared around them fearfully but their attention quickly returned to the sobbing figure hunched over the now departed figure in the bed. The cries Harry emitted were filled with such a desolate sense of grief and they clenched at the heart of those in the room. No one was left in any doubt that the loss of Albus Dumbledore was a no small one to Harry Potter. Obviously the headmaster had remained in close contact with the Boy-Who-Lived even if no one else had.
Soft crying broke out around the room. Most of the staff were there, as were those close to Dumbledore from the Order, even though it had been disbanded over a decade before. McGonagall was being consoled by Flitwick and the eldest Weasleys. Poppy cast several charms simply to confirm what everyone already knew before promptly bursting into tears.
Snape stepped forwards, placing a hand on Harry's shoulder as the boy continued grieving over one of the only people who had believed in him. The potions master's eyes were suspiciously bright but he refused to shed a tear while in the company of others. He would do so later, when he was on his own.
'Come on, Potter.' He said quietly.
Harry rose slowly. There was no sign of the deft, adroit actions Snape had seen over the last few hours. It was as if the young man had aged a century in the last ten minutes. When Harry finally lifted his head and Snape could see into the now dull green eyes the potions master almost stepped back. If he hadn't known the man was in his early thirties he would have place him closer to sixty, seventy even.
'Come on.' Snape said again and gently propelled the young man towards the door.
'Wait.' McGonagall said suddenly, looking around at the castle walls as if expecting them to crumble at any moment. 'What of the wards?'
Harry glanced back at them, his green eyes so dull they were almost grey. 'I have them.' He murmured before shuffling from the room.
Harry wandered slowly around the castle halls in what seemed to be no discernable pattern. Every so often Harry would trail a hand along the wall and sighed heavily. Snape followed him at a distance until they ended up beside the gargoyle to the headmaster's office and Snape couldn't remember for the life of him how they got there.
McGonagall, Flitwick and most of the other staff were there spouting the names of different sweets one after the other but the stone statue refused to move. The others looked stunned to see them there but as if on autopilot Harry just ignored them, placing a hand on the statue and sighing as it leapt to the side, before pushing past those waiting and moving slowly up the staircase.
He walked into the still familiar office. It had been almost ten years since he had stepped into this room. Ten years since Dumbledore had spirited him out of the castle, and out of the country, to the United States where he had remained in hiding until twelve hours ago. He knew Dumbledore must have told Snape where to find him and he knew the potions master would keep an eye on him out of some misguided sense of duty to the elderly wizard.
But Dumbledore couldn't have known how difficult it was for Harry otherwise he wouldn't have burdened him with such a task. To hold the wards of the castle was a momentous task. It would mean he would have to stay here, in the United Kingdom, where he was looked upon with suspicion at best and downright hostility at worst. What on earth had the old man been thinking? It was with that thought in mind that he spied an envelope sitting on the desk addressed to him in the flowing script that was so familiar. He only hoped it held some answers, for he was so incredibly confused.
Harry walked around the desk and reached out to pick up the parchment envelope, drawing out the sheet inside and unfolding it. As he began to read his eyes filled with unshed tears once again.
My dearest boy,
If you are reading this then Hogwarts chose you as I thought she would. Please forgive an old man his deceptions but I knew you would never believe me were I tell you that you were the best man for the job.
I knew the end was coming and I knew I had to act lest the wards on the school fall upon my death.
Since Hogwarts began, headmaster after headmaster has added to the wards until they became so heavy it took a powerful wizard to hold them. Armando Dippet was not especially powerful and after more wards were added at the first rise of Lord Voldemort they became too much for him and they were passed on to me. They are so strong now I knew you would be the only person able to carry them.
Several years ago I started to dismantle those that were no longer needed, but it is a long and involved process. Eventually, when that task is finished, you will be able to pass the wards on but for the time being you will have to hold them.
I do apologise, Harry. I know this isn't what you wanted but I needed you this one last time. Desperately. Please do not hold the ignorance of the wizarding world against them. Do what you can to prove to a new generation of wizards and witches what a wonderful person you really are. I have faith they will see the truth just as I did.
I love you, Harry, like you were my own, and I wish I was there to help you. Just remember you will be able to talk to me when you need to.
Best of luck, dear boy.
Harry, his face pale and drawn, dropped down into the headmaster's chair. 'Albus, how could you?' he whispered, rubbing his eyes wearily as the letter fluttered to land on the desk.
Harry looked up to see most of the staff had filed into the office. 'Hello, Professors.' He said quietly.
'What are you doing here, Mr Potter?' McGonagall asked, rather impatiently. 'We all thought you were dead.'
Harry raised an eyebrow. 'I couldn't be that lucky.' He mumbled.
'Potter.' Snape growled warningly. Harry hadn't noticed the potions master moving to stand at his right hand but he was the only one close enough to hear what Harry had said.
Harry sighed and looked up again. Nothing much had changed over the last ten years. The same professors taught the students of the day as those that had taught him. None of them really looked that much older either. 'Look, I'm not dead and I'm here. That's all I can say at the moment. I have many things I have to work out first.'
'What are you doing here?' Madame Hooch asked bluntly.
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose. 'Albus asked me to come.' He returned, looking down and seeing just exactly where he was sitting and leaping off the chair and several feet away with a yelp that would have been comical in any other circumstance. McGonagall and the others looked shocked at the speed of the flight. Harry just remained where he was, breathing heavily as he stared back at the chair in grief.
'It had been a trying day for all of us.' Snape cut in smoothly. 'I suggest some rest may be in order and we can discuss this further in the morning.'
The rest of the staff seemed to want to protest but the combination of Snape's most acidic glare and Harry's look of stunned melancholy that had yet to be directed at anywhere but the headmaster's chair and they all filed back out of the room, albeit not without grumbling.
When the room was empty Snape moved towards Harry, placing a gentle hand on the young man's shoulder startling him so much he flinched. 'Try and get some rest. I will return in the morning.'
Harry nodded but Snape could see the young man didn't really hear him. He gave the shoulder a final squeeze and moved towards the door.
'Goodnight, Professor.' Harry said softly showing that he had in fact heard the older man.
Snape looked back to see Harry leaning against the wall, cloak pulled tightly around him, his eyes back to the empty chair.
'Goodnight, Headmaster.' Snape replied before disappearing down the staircase before he could see Harry's green eyes flick to him in shock.
The eyes widened as the full reality of what the potions master had just said finally hit him. 'Oh god, Albus.' Harry whispered. 'What have you done?'