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Again and Again

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AN: I started writing/posting this story back in 2011.  For anyone who followed it back when I was posting consistently, you probably know that it sat utterly stagnant for about 2 whole years before I updated again.  Life has a way of getting in the way, but I've recently managed to slow things down a bit and I've picked writing back up.  I'm kind of bouncing around between different stories, but I intend to keep bouncing back to this one, so hopefully it'll keep getting updates.  They'll just be slow.

– – –

Title: Again and Again

Rating: Eventual Mature

Pairing: Tom Riddle/Voldemort x Harry Potter

Themes: Do-Over fics, political intrigue, time-travel-sort-of?, Slytherin!Harry, SLASH, eventual romantic relationship between two men

Summary: Harry Potter vanished from the Dursley's doorstep. Dumbledore couldn't find him. He appears just before his 1st year but he's a cold and aloof child. Sorted into Slytherin-a prodigy? So many questions & an answer no one would guess.

– – – – – –

Machiavellian

Ma·chi·a·vel·li·an

adj.

1. of, like, or befitting Machiavelli. 

2. being or acting in accordance with the principles of government analyzed in Machiavelli's The Prince, in which political expediency is placed above morality and the use of craft and deceit to maintain the authority and carry out the policies of a ruler is described. 

3. characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty: He resorted to Machiavellian tactics in order to get ahead. 

– –

Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil.

Niccolo Machiavelli

– – 

November 1981

He didn't understand how it had happened, but Albus Dumbledore was in a panic.  He had left the young Harry Potter on the Dursley's doorstep with a nice warming charm and under a heavy sleeping spell, so it simply didn't make sense that he could have up and wandered off, but the Dursley's insisted they'd never seen the boy.  They found the basket and the letter, but no baby, and no blanket.

They'd thought the whole thing some sort of sick joke, and were none-too-pleased when Albus Dumbledore had come to their doorstep some week later when his little spindly devices told him that the wards he had erected had not took.  

His worst fear was that little Harry Potter had been taken, and as tracking spell after tracking spell failed, his fears grew and grew.  He had to be behind wards of some sort for such a thing to be possible, which meant he was with a witch or wizard.  The only consolation he had was that his instruments still told him that young Harry Potter was alive.

January 1982

He had just received word from the goblins of Gringotts; Harry Potter's vault had been accessed.  He had rushed to the bank to ask his questions, but the results were frustratingly limited.  The only way a person could gain access to the vault without the key was to provide a sample of blood that matched their magical records for Potter blood.  And somehow, the person who had entered the bank, had done just that.  But the person that the goblins said had entered the bank had been an adult – or at least, he had appeared to be an adult.  The goblins refused to give him a memory of what the man looked like.  They did say that the next time he came in, they would do one of their standard security checks on the man, but that was all.  He wanted them to notify him immediately if the man came in, but they refused.

It was outrageously frustrating.

October 1984

The man had come and gone a few more times at the bank, and that was the only clue that Albus Dumbledore had towards Harry Potter's continued existence.  His instruments still said the child was alive, but his tracking and scrying spells continued to turn up nothing.  The goblins had informed him that the man who was coming into their bank and occasionally withdrawing money from the Potter vaults was probably under Polyjuice, or possibly using glamours.  Every time he came, he looked a little different, but every time he passed the blood test and was able to enter the vault.  

He didn't come very often; no more than twice a year, and generally he made vaguely sizable withdrawals – although not all that large with the total vault size taken into account.  Just enough for a person to live in relative comfort without having to work.  It would probably be a modest amount for a single person to live off of.  Another curious thing was that the person in question always had the goblins convert the majority of the money withdrawn, into muggle money.

It was very little to go off of, and he knew his worry and frustration was obvious to others.  Minerva still hadn't forgiven him for losing Harry Potter in the first place, and still often ragged on him needing to come clean with the Ministry so they could properly enlist their assistance in the search.  

He was not willing to do that, however.  Minister Bagnold wasn't exactly a bad leader, but she didn't get on well with Albus, all truth be told, and Albus was even more wary of the man who appeared to be in the lead for the next election.  The last thing he was willing to risk was the Ministry sticking their nose into the raising of Harry Potter.

But perhaps Minerva had a point – even the Ministry might be preferable to the mystery man who had Harry Potter now.

July 1991

Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, had gathered with his Deputy Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall, in the tiny tower room where an enchanted quill wrote the addresses on the envelopes for the letters that were sent out to the students each summer.  The quill had just come to life that morning and always started with the new first years.  It wrote the muggleborns names with blue ink while it wrote the wizarding children's names in green – it was one of the ways Minerva knew which draft of the letter to include, and whether or not the child should get a home visit.  

The pair of them stood with bated breath as the quill made its way through the alphabet and drew ever closer to the name Harry Potter.

Albus knew he was still alive – at least, all of his spells said so – and the slow bi-annual withdrawals had continued all these years.  The person making the withdrawals had continued to use disguises – coming into the bank looking like a different person every time – and Albus had continued to be stumped in his efforts to find out who the man was, or where Harry Potter was being kept.

There had been a few occasional sightings of Harry Potter over the years, and Albus had always rushed to investigate any of them, but he could never be sure if they were real sightings, people out for attention, or people just imagining things.  And none of them had ever lead him to any useful information.

Now it was only two months until the start of what would be Harry Potter's first year at Hogwarts, and his only hope was that the quill could now tell him where to find the boy.

“Albus!” Minerva gasped as the quill began writing 'Mr. H. Potter, #16  Veronica Gardens, Streatham Vale, England'

He could have laughed, he was so filled with relief.  If only he could have somehow gotten this ruddy quill to cooperate sooner, but the magic that governed it was beyond even him.  It was such an ancient and powerful artifact – crafted by Rowena Ravenclaw herself.

Albus grabbed the envelope and made to leave with it in hand when Minerva stopped him, dragged him down to her office so that they could put the actual letter into the envelope, and then insisted that he take her along with so that she could see for herself just how Harry Potter had grown up.

Minerva had been to Steatham Vale before, while Albus had not, so she was the one that apparated the pair of them to the nearest location to the address.  They appeared relatively near the Steatham Common Station and the pair then walked through the plainly muggle neighborhoods until they reached Veronica Gardens.  

Number 16, it turned out, was a ground-level flat in a building that held six flats – three ground floor, and three on the second floor.  Number 16 was on the end, with a small private garden and the pair quickly made their way down the small path to the front door.  Albus knocked and waited with baited breath for any sign of life beyond.  Two long minutes passed before the door was pulled open and a bleary-eyed young man with messy black hair and thin-rimmed round spectacles appeared beyond it wearing nothing but a pair of pajama bottoms.  He blinked at them several seconds before heaving a rather resigned sounding sigh.

“Mr. Potter?” Dumbledore asked.

“That's right,” the boy said stepping back and motioning the two inside.  Minerva and Albus shared a brief look before stepping inside.  Harry Potter closed the door behind them and waved his hand lazily towards the open reception room's small couch before walking into the small kitchenette area that was part of the room at the back wall.  From what they could tell, it was a very modest little 1-room flat.  Just beyond the kitchenette were two doors, both open, showing a bathroom and a bedroom.  From a quick glance into the kitchenette, Dumbledore was almost positive he could see a small wizarding cauldron hanging over the gas stove.

“Mr. Potter, I –“

“Do you want tea?” Potter asked flatly, cutting him off.

“Ah... yes, please.  Thank you,” Dumbledore said, blinking in surprise at the suddenness of the odd situation.  

Potter spent the next few minutes arranging a small tray with hot water, tea, milk, sugar and some biscuits before bringing it over and setting it on a small circular end table between two of the arm chairs that currently housed Albus and Minerva.  He had to shove a few bits of rubbish and a few opened letters off, which he then took into the kitchenette and and setting it on the counter and the rubbish into the bin.

“Be right back,” he called out before disappearing into the bedroom and reappearing a moment later with a wrinkled t-shirt and a pair of gray trousers on.  He let himself fall heavily onto the couch and just looked at the two professors with resignation written all over his face.  

The two professors exchanged a brief look before turning their attention back on the young man in front of them.  Dumbledore cleared his throat.

“Mr. Potter, is your... guardian available?”

“No.”

Dumbledore blinked in surprise at the abrupt response.

“No?”

Potter just raised his eyebrows, somewhat questioningly. 

“Er... when will one be available –“

“I live here on my own.”

“On your own?!” Minerva exclaimed.

“You're here about Hogwarts?” Potter said, rather than really asked, ignoring their obvious confusion and disbelief about his guardian situation.

“Yes, we are,” Dumbledore answered hesitantly.  “But –“

“I already know about the school.  I don't need the muggleborn house visit, and I can get my own supplies.  Do you have the letter with you?” Harry said, again cutting him off.

“Mr. Potter,” Minerva said in a somewhat scolding tone, “please do not interrupt.”

“We have been searching for you for a great many years, Mr. Potter,” Dumbledore began, “and I'm afraid I must insist on meeting who it is thats been looking after you these years.”

“There's no one to meet.  I've been taking care of me.”

“You can't seriously mean that you've been living here alone?  For how long?” Minerva exclaimed.

“Long enough,” Potter replied coldly.  “Do you have the letter?”

The two professors gaped at him for a moment before exchanging another silent look.  Dumbledore reached into his robes and extracted the heavy parchment envelope and handed it over.  Harry broke the wax seal, pulled the sheets out and skimmed over the letter before moving onto the supply list.


“Do you need a written response?” he asked absently as he read the list.

“Excuse me?” Minerva asked.

“It says to write back by July 31 st, stating whether or not I'll be attending, but since the two of you are here, will my word be enough, or do you need a written response?”

“Your word will be sufficient,” she said haltingly.  “But we would still need to speak with your guardian –“

“I don't have one.  I live by myself.”

“You're only ten!”

“Hasn't been a problem so far,” he said in a bored tone.

“Well it's a problem now.  Now that we know where you are, I'm afraid that you must be placed in a proper home,” Dumbledore insisted gravely.  “You are not safe here, especially not by yourself.”

“I've been safe so far,” Potter replied with a single arched eyebrow.  You couldn't find me, could you?”

“A ten-year old child cannot live alone!” Minerva insisted sharply.

“If you try to force me to live somewhere that I do not wish to live, I will vanish, and you will never find me again,” Potter said coldly.  “If you want me to attend your school, you will leave me to do as I like for the two months out of the year that I am not in attendance at Hogwarts.  If you insist on meddling in my personal affairs, then I will not be attending Hogwarts, and you will never see me again.”

Both professors stared at him, utterly dumbstruck and mute.

“I will be remaining here, until the end of August.  I will be ending my lease and putting my furniture in storage, seeing as how I see no purpose in paying rent on a flat that will remain empty for ten months.  I will live at Hogwarts for the school year, and most likely rent a temporary flat next summer,” Harry stated with a sense of stubborn finality.

“You can not live alone for two whole months!” Minerva exclaimed.

“I can, and I will, unless you do not want me attending your school.”

“You cannot blackmail us, Mr. Potter!  It is not only unethical to allow this living arrangement continue, it is illegal.  A ten year old boy cannot live –“

Potter stood up abruptly, glaring at the two of them coldly.  “Get out.”

“What?” Minerva squawked. 

“You are not welcome in my home if you are going to make threats.”

“Now, calm down, Mr. Potter,” Dumbledore said, raising his hands appeasingly.  “I'm sure that we can come to an understanding without the need for threats.”

“If I were anyone else, the two of you wouldn't even be here, and you wouldn't be paying the least bit of attention to my living arrangements,” Potter said flatly.

“But you are not, anyone else,” Dumbledore said kindly.  “Are you aware of your standing in the wizarding world, Mr. Potter?  There are certain individuals who would wish you harm, and I fear for your safety in these living arrangements.  It is only for your own health and well being that we worry.”

“I'm perfectly aware of my 'standing' in the wizarding world, and I have taken sufficient precautions against anyone who would wish ill to my person.  You couldn't find me, and you actually had some of my hair, and maybe even a bit of blood.  If you couldn't track me down all these years, given such a strong and unlikely advantage, do you honestly think that some old death eater who escaped prosecution could find me?”

Again, Dumbledore and Minerva appeared rather lost for words.  

“Perhaps we could reach a compromise, at least for the remainder of this summer's arrangements.  I could station someone to observe your dwelling to make sure that you are sufficiently safe?”

“Unnecessary,” Potter said flatly. 

“You would never even know they were there.  They would be incredibly discreet.”

”I have no desire to allow complete strangers to spy on my every movement for the next two months.”

Dumbledore blanched.  “They would hardly be spying on you, Mr. Potter.  They would be – bodyguards, of a sort.  It would be their job to observe the area surrounding your flat for any signs of someone who could have harmful intentions.”

Potter closed his eyes and took in several slow, deep breaths, as if he were trying to reign in his temper.

“That will not be necessary.”

“Please, Mr. Potter – for my sake, and the sake of my state of mind – I would feel monumentally better, if I knew you were safe.”

Dumbledore looked up at him with pleading, sparkling blue eyes, holding the cold steady gaze of the ten-year-old boy standing before him for several long moments.

“No.”

– – 

A prince must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves. Those that wish to be only lions do not understand this. 

Niccolo Machiavelli

– – 

Severus Snape would reluctantly admit – if only to himself – that he had a lot of preconceived notions in his mind as to what to expect from Harry Potter.  He hadn't even met the spawn yet, and yet he was already convinced that the boy would be a carbon copy of his father.  He had made an effort over the past few years to to keep himself as distanced as possible from all things Harry Potter.  

When Albus somehow managed to lose the boy-who-lived and then went on his eternal crusade to try and track the boy down, Severus still tried not to get involved.  Sure, he got roped into some bits of the search – mostly, he had been responsible for subtly keeping an eye and ear open for any whispers of members of his old crowd having acquired him.  But after several years had passed without even the slightest hint or indication as to where the boy might be, he basically stopped even trying.

The fact that a man, in disguise, but apparently of Potter blood, was accessing the spawn's Gringott's vault told Severus that the boy was clearly not in the hands of a Death Eater.  Chances were that Potter's bastard of a father had some sort of illegitimate relation that Albus simply didn't know about, who had realized that Tuney Evans was a horrid awful bitch, and had rescued the brat from Albus' ill conceived plan to leave the boy with muggles.

Admittedly, Severus had been a bit surprised when he first learned that this had been Albus' intended destination for the child.  If he had honestly known about it before hand – and if the child had actually reached that destination and stayed there – he probably would have raised a bit of a stink.  No matter how much he despised James Potter, he couldn't have, in good conscious, allowed Lily's son to be raised by her awful bitch of a sister.

But instead, he had apparently been raised by some unknown Potter relation, in secret.  This fact only cemented Severus' expectation that the boy would show up to Hogwarts, acting as if he owned the place; just as arrogant and obnoxious as his father had been.  Straight to Gryffindor; destined to be the Headmaster's favorite little pet, and allowed to get away with murder, while he snubbed the rules left and right.

When he learned that Albus and Minerva had in fact, found Potter and paid him a visit, it only cemented Severus' belief that all of their excessive panicked searched had been a monumental waste of time, and was glad he had stopped his involvement early on.  The fact that Potter had apparently refused their insistence for some sort of security guard, only cemented his belief that Potter was an arrogant little snot.

Of course Albus had ignored the boy's refusal and had rounded up a few volunteers from the Old Crowd and sent them to watch the boy's home, only to find it empty.  And once again, Albus had spent a ridiculous amount of his time scrying for the boy, all over again.  Of course, he hadn't found him, and now he was basically in a panic, convinced that Potter wouldn't even be coming to Hogwarts.

Severus, in contrast, was firmly ignoring the whole ridiculous drama, and instead focusing on preparing for the new school year, like the headmaster should be.  

So when September first finally rolled around, Severus was quite determined to not spare even a moments thought about the blasted boy-who-lived-to-make-his-life-overly-complicated.  Albus had, of course, had someone stationed at Kings Cross to watch for any sign of the boy, and had made quite a show of being excessively relieved when he got word that Harry Potter had shown up and boarded the Hogwarts Express.  But still, Severus was not going to let it take precedence in his mind.  

When the students showed up that evening, and he found himself sitting at the head table watching the first years being led in, single-file, by Minerva, he did not search out the boy in the crowd, because he didn't damn well care.  When his eyes just happened to fall upon him, a sneer instinctively spread across his lips as he was greeted with exactly what he'd expected.  A miniature James Potter, in every way possibly visible.  The messy black hair and spectacles; the same facial features Potter had in his first year; the same everything.  Well, except his eyes.  But from the distance Severus was sitting at, it was fairly easy to ignore the painfully familiar eyes, when every other feature was taking clear precedence.

The boy clearly was as arrogant as he expected, too.  Where his peers were gazing around the Great Hall in awe and amazement, Potter actually looked bored.  His expression was closed off and cold, which Severus would admit was not the sort of expression that Potter, Sr. would have had at this moment.  That snot would have been grinning like pompous loon, and probably laughing about something at someone else's expense.  

He might have even tried to trip someone as they walked past him to sit on the stool and be sorted.

Because he was just that sort of bastard.

But Potter never one laughed or even smiled at any of the other children.  His expression remained bored and indifferent during the entire first half of the sorting.  He didn't once speak with any of the other children standing in line, and didn't seem to even be paying attention as his year mates were sorted.

When his name was called, the hall was filled with excited whispers, and the students all craned their necks and leaned in various directions, attempting to get a look at the famous Boy-Who-Lived.  Potter's head remained held high and arrogant as ever as he strode forward, not bothering to so much as acknowledge those around him whom he had clearly deemed irrelevant.  He sat on the stool and Minerva lowered the hat.  Severus waited, expecting a quick sorting, straight into Gryffindor.  So when the hat began to move, and the rip in it's side opened up to speak, less than ten seconds after being placed upon the boy's head, Severus was not surprised in the least.

He was surprised, however, when the hat called out 'Slytherin!'.

It was as if the world had just cracked and shattered.  There was deafening silence in the hall, except for a few gasps of shock.  Then there was applause.  But only from the Slytherin table, and only from certain portions of it.  A number were quite enthusiastic, and puffed in with pride at having acquired the famous Boy-Who-Lived for their often-sneered-at house, but there were also quite clearly some among the table of green and silver that were scowling quite deeply, and then some others that just looked bewildered.

It was the rest of the tables that looked the most stunned however.  Clearly, no one had expected The Harry Potter to end up in Slytherin.

Least of all, Severus Snape.

Potter had stood up with calm and grace, handed the hat to a stunned Minerva, and then strode just as calmly over to the still applauding Slytherin table.  He'd sat down next to Daphne Greengrass and across from Draco Malfoy.  He then proceeded to pointedly ignore everyone.  This continued on through the rest of the sorting, and then on even further through the actual feast.  

He had looked up at a few people who had addressed him with questions, and seemed to nod on occasion.  He even appeared to speak once or twice, but they were always very short exchanges.  He apparently didn't deem any of his new house mates worthy of his attentions.

Arrogant little snot.

Severus was definitely not spending his entire meal watching the Potter spawn, because he still didn't give a damn about the brat.  And he most certainly didn't give a damn if the little shit was now his responsibility.  In fact, he was pointedly not thinking about the fact that he was now the boy's Head of House, because that thought would be awful.

Some might think that he would enjoy having such power over the boy, but Severus took his Head duties seriously.  When a child was in his house, they were his responsibility.  He was their surrogate parent for the ten months out of the year that they were at Hogwarts, and while he was certainly not one to coddle them, he did still care about them.  He was invested in every one of them, no matter what it appeared to the rest of the school.  And he did not want to be invested in Harry Potter.

Quirrell made a few half-assed attempts to engage him in conversation during the meal, but Severus became too frustrated with the man's idiotic stutter to endure it for very long.  Minerva seemed to have shut down a bit – no doubt she was horribly disappointed at not having the latest Potter progeny under her care – but she was still a better conversationalist than the stuttering fool.  

Finally the meal was done and Albus made his annual welcoming speech.  This one included a warning to all the students to stay away from the third floor unless they wanted to die a horrible death.  That wasn't sure to bring about disaster at all – Noo, of course not.  It was never a bad idea to tell children where not to go, via threat of danger and adventure.  Severus would be surprised if they didn't have at least one or two horribly maimed Gryffindors by the end of the week.

They'd probably be identical, and have red hair.

Finally the students were dismissed and Severus watched as his newest batch of Slytherins were lead out by this years new fifth year prefects.  Fifteen minutes later, Severus entered the Slytherin Common Room down in the Hogwarts Dungeons and found himself standing in front of a group of tiny eleven-year-olds – most of which looked at least somewhat terrified.  Those that didn't look terrified, clearly still were, but were trying not to show it.  Well, Draco didn't look terrified.  He looked smug.  Like he already knew he owned the place.  Blast it all, but Severus knew that his godson was probably going to give him trouble.  Lucius was a proud man and had been firm in his raising of his son, but Narcissa had spoiled the boy rotten.  Hell, even Lucius had spoiled him.  There had never been a thing Draco wanted that he didn't get.

Potter, was the only other exception.  He didn't look terrified; nor did he look overwhelmed or intimidated in the least.  He still just looked... bored.  It was quite infuriating.

Severus decided that, at this point, he would simply ignore Potter and give himself a few nights to try and figure out how exactly he wanted to approach this latest unexpected complication to his life.  So he gave his standard welcoming speech, complete with threats of miserable detentions scrubbing cauldrons for anyone stupid enough to get caught with one toe out of line, by any of the other Professors.  Finally he dismissed them all and left to the sanctuary of his own private quarters, and a sifter of strong brandy.

– – 

A prudent ruler ought not to keep faith when by so doing it would be against his interest, and when the reasons which made him bind himself no longer exist. If men were all good, this precept would not be a good one; but as they are bad, and would not observe their faith with you, so you are not bound to keep faith with them.

Niccolo Machiavelli

– – 

Draco Malfoy watched as Potter calmly walked through their new room, straight to the bed that now had his two identical trunks stacked up in front of it, and extracted his wand from up his sleeve.  A simple flick of his wand and one of the trunks moved off to the side and popped open.  He reached inside and pulled out... a piece of parchment?

Draco's eyes narrowed and he stepped closer to better observe this new enigma.  Potter turned and faced the room at large, waiting only a moment before clearing his throat rather loudly.  Theo stood up from where he'd been bending over his own trunk, and Vince and Greg turned to look at him blankly.  Blaise, like Draco, had already been observing Potter curiously.

“I have a proposition to make,” Potter stated in a cool, calm tone.

“A proposition?” Blaise echoed with incredulous amusement. 

Potter used his foot to kick his closed trunk out into the open center of the room and then took the piece of parchment he was holding and slapped it down on top of it.  “I propose that what happens in this room, stays in this room.  This is a magical contract.  It will only take effect if we all sign it.  I had my solicitor write it up to make sure there's no loop holes – you're all welcome to read it, of course, before you sign it.  It's nothing as serious as an unbreakable vow, or even a magical oath.  You don't die, or lose your magic if you break it, but you will experience pain if you attempt to break the agreement, and if you fully break it, your skin will turn green, you'll become violently ill, and you'll break out in painful boils.

“The agreement states that anything that any of us hear, see, or perceive in any way, while in the privacy of this room, is secret, and cannot be relayed to anyone outside of the occupants of this dorm.  Not to the teachers, not to gossip to the other students, not to the press, and not to any law authorities.

“And why, exactly, would any of us want to sign something like that?” Nott asked incredulously.

“Because right now, I only theoretically know that four of your father's bare tattoos on their left forearms.  Certainly nothing that could hold up in court.  However we are going to be sharing this room for the next seven years.  Do you honestly want to live ten months out of the year, for seven years, constantly paranoid that I might witness something incriminating?  Or overhear you say something I shouldn't overhear, and repeat it to the wrong person?  Do you want to spend the next seven years hiding any forbidden paraphernalia?  Any Dark Arts books?  Any questionable artifacts?  Do you want to have to hide it when you celebrate the Sabbaths or the Solstices because you're afraid that one of us might report you to the Ministry?  No, of course not.  Living like that would suck.  This is our dorm room.  We should all feel safe here.  Comfortable and secure in the knowledge that while we are in this room, we are safe.  Safe from any backhanded spying, or having our actions watched and reported to others.”

“So whats the benefit for you then?” Draco asked, staring at Harry through narrowed eyes.  “This sounds like it protects us from you being able to rat on us, but what do you get out of it?  It seems to me that someone who would offer up something like this, has something to hide.”

“Of course I do,” Potter drawled, rolling his eyes.  “But this also means that I'm protected against any of you lot selling photos of me taken while I'm in my pants, or giving out private gossip about me, to the press.  I don't have to worry about you selling out information on me for the sake of attention, or money or blackmail.  Of course, anything that happens out of this room is still fair game, but at least we all know that when we're in this room, we're safe.”

Draco continued to stare at Potter with speculative suspicion, but slowly a smirk found its way onto his face.  “You know, I wondered if maybe the Hat had gone cracked when it sorted Harry Potter into Slytherin, but I think it might have known what it was doing after all.”

Potter just cocked a single eyebrow, daringly, before jerking his head down towards the parchment on his trunk.

“Gonna read it?”

Draco made an amused sort of scoffing noise but did walk over and pick it up.  It was obvious that it had been made by a professional.  Draco had seen magical contracts constructed by his father's solicitors before.  In fact... he held it up to the light and saw the faint watermark in the parchment, bringing a snort and another smirk to his lips.  It was the same firm that his father employed.  

Potter clearly knew what he was doing if he'd hired them.  All the more reason to read it over, thoroughly.  Potter opened up his other trunk and pulled out a few more sheets of parchment, telling the others that they were extra copies that they could read over, but that only the original would bare their signatures.  They each took them, with some level of cautious distrust, and the boys set to reading over the contract in silence.  Greg and Vincent muttered a bit in confusion, and asked Draco to clarify a few words that were too big for them to understand.  In the end, Draco decided the contract was free of any hidden trap doors or loop holes that Potter could use to stab them all in the back.

He wasn't sure that he really wanted to be prevented from telling others – especially his father – about the things that Potter did while in their room, but in all honestly, how big of a difference could it make?  He'd still be able to talk about anything he saw Potter doing when not in their dorm room, and it would be nice to not have to be so damned paranoid about the things his room mates saw or heard him do or say.  Not just Potter, but any of them.

He wasn't sure if it was a good idea for him to sign the thing without consulting his father first, however.  But then Potter went and muttered something about Draco being his own man, or if he was just going to hang on the coat tails of his father's name and power his whole life.  Draco knew he'd flushed with anger at that.  He knew he was probably being manipulated.  That didn't change the fact that he signed the paper shortly after that, anyway.

Greg and Vincent followed a moment later.  Then Theo Nott did the same.  Blaise hesitated the longest, but eventually, even he signed it.  As soon as Potter had signed it, it glowed blue, shot out little lights to each of them that flashed for only the briefest moments before disappearing, and then the parchment vanished.  Potter let them each keep copies and included a sheet that detailed what firm they had to write to if they wanted to request viewing the original.  It would apparently be stored there for safe keeping.

Part of the contract stated that they could openly talk about the contract's existence, so if anyone ever asked Draco a question about Potter that he couldn't answer because it would be confidential information, he could at least still explain to them why he couldn't answer.  Apparently it was even an admissible reason in court for not testifying about something.  One of the Ministry's laws forbid forcing anyone to testify on a subject matter that they had made an unbreakable vow, or similar oath, that could jeopardize their health or magic, should they violate it.

That was one of the final points that got Draco.  Now he could literally perform illegal Dark Arts, right in front of Harry Potter's nose – so long as he did it within the confines of their dorm room – and not have to worry at all about being reported to the Headmaster or the Ministry.  And no matter how awful a thing Draco did, Potter couldn't do anything about it.  He couldn't tell anyone.

Draco actually thought he was being pretty clever in having signed the contract.

Right up until the moment that Potter reached into his second trunk and brought out a small glass aquarium tank, set it on the corner of his desk and pulled out a tiny little snake – which he then proceeded to have a conversation with.  In parseltongue.

Harry Potter was a parselmouth, and Draco couldn't tell a soul.

All Draco could hope was that, at some point, Potter would speak to the thing outside of the safety of their dorm room, because he knew his father would be furious with Draco for not telling him such a huge discovery.

– – 

Dear Father,

It pleases me to write to you with the expected result that I was sorted into Slytherin.  Not that there was ever any doubt on the matter.  What was of some significant surprise was that Harry Potter was also sorted into Slytherin.  The Harry Potter is now my room mate for the next seven years.  You should have seen the look on the Headmaster's face when the hat called out Slytherin.  The whole Hall was shocked stupid.  It was laughable.  

I do have a matter of potential problem to admit to, however.  Upon entering our new dorm room, after Uncle Severus' greeting speech, Potter addressed the other five of us to make a 'Proposition'.  He had a professionally drafted magical agreement that stated, basically, what happens in the dorm room, remains in the dorm room.  It prevents any of us from revealing specific events that have been witnessed, heard, etcetera, in the privacy of our dorm room, to anyone outside of our group, for any reason.  

The way he presented it was quite appealing, I must admit.  He made it sound as if he were only doing it for the sake of preventing us from selling private information about him to the gossip mongering press, or the student body at large.  He is a celebrity, after all, and it seemed like something he would be reasonably concerned over.  In exchange for him not having photos of him in his shorts sold to Witch Weekly, we would be guaranteed safety should Potter ever, during the course of the next seven years, witness or overhear something of an illicit nature that could implicate any of the rest of us. 

This would mean that I could perform the personal sabbath rituals in the privacy of my dorm without worry of being reported to Dumbledore, or even worse, the Ministry.  It would mean I wouldn't have to be quite so paranoid about reading potentially questionable books in the privacy of my bed.  Having Harry Potter as a room mate does, obviously, put me into a bit of an annoying position, as far as how comfortable I can be in my own room.

So the proposition seemed quite appealing.  I thoroughly read the contract for a good long while, searching for any potential loop holes.  It's quite air tight, and does not appear to overly benefit Potter in any imaginable way.  It is equal protection, for all of us.  The solicitor firm that drafted it for him is Dodge, E. and Dodge, E. R. – the same firm you yourself use, so I know it's solid.  You can write to them and request a copy of it, and a consultation from them for their opinion on it.

Here is where I must admit I am now concerned.  I suppose I really should have consulted you before signing it, and I beg that you are not too overly upset with me.  I thought that it would make you proud that I was taking such a precaution, however now I worry that you may in fact be disappointed.

I cannot say much – in fact, just putting my quill to the parchment at this moment is causing me a bit of a headache – however Harry Potter does not seem to be what I would have thought him to be.  I rather doubt now, having seen a few things already, that his sole reason for presenting us with the contract, was for the sake of protecting himself from gossip and reporters.

He has secrets, father.  Big secrets.

And now I am in a position where I cannot tell you what they are.  Only that you should pay attention to Harry Potter.  He isn't the sort of person people expect him to be.  If ever there is anything that I can tell you that happens outside of the dorm room, I will, right away.

Please do not be too angry with me, Father.  I was only doing what I thought would protect you, myself and our family.

Give mother my love.  I will write again soon.

Draco

– – 

Severus Snape left the cool comfort of the dungeons and made his way towards the fourth floor where the teacher's lounge and conference room was located.  It was one month into the new school year and it was once again time for them all to gather so that they could gossip and brag about their students to one another.  He sneered in anticipation of how much he was going to hate the next few hours.  He always despised these meetings.

He rather preferred not to talk about his Slytherins and their problems with the other professors.  On the occasion when he discovered one of his students showing signs of home abuse, or some other such problem, he would discreetly discuss it with Albus on a one-to-one basis, or not at all, and would just go straight to the parent to make his threats in secret.

Slytherin problems were dealt with, within Slytherin house.  He saw no point is airing his snake's dirty laundry amongst his faculty peers.  He also rarely saw much point in trying to brag about them, since the rest of the teachers were all biased against Slytherin and never seemed to pay him any attention when he tried.

But then again, he supposed he did have one student this year that the others would probably be talking about a great deal.

He entered the room to find it was already mostly filled and seated himself in the empty chair between Minerva and Filius, and unfortunately, across from Quirrell.  The stench of garlic was eye watering, and most entirely unpleasant.  He tried to spend as little time as possible in the man's company these days, but he was beginning to suspect that there was something decidedly wrong with the man.  It was one thing for him to come back from a years sabbatical unreasonably frightened of everything, but there were also other things that didn't quite sit right with Severus.

It was only another minute before the last of them finally made her way into the room – Trelawney always took the longest to get to their meetings.  She seemed eternally set on spending the rest of her days in that tower, and Severus was honestly perfectly happy with her staying up there and never coming out, thank-you-very-much.

Albus called the meeting to order and as was standard, it started with the four heads of house and discussions of how their new first years were adapting to life in a boarding school.  Pomona went first and as was also standard, spent quite a bit of time talking about which of new Hufflepuffs had cried on her shoulder the most with insipid homesickness. The others would contribute their observations on members of her house – mostly very little was mentioned, although some did point out that Zacharias Smith was proving to be a bit of a minor bully, and Pomona might want to keep an eye on the boy.

Gryffindor once again had another crop of mediocre morons for boys, as far as Severus was concerned.  He informed Minerva just how pitiful her lions were performing in his class with special emphasis on just how many cauldrons Neville Longbottom had already managed to melt.  Weasley was a considerable disappointment.  As much as Severus loathed his twin brothers for their excessive trouble-making tendencies, he had to admit that they were annoyingly brilliant potioneers.  Percy Weasley, who had made prefect this year, was also quite accomplished academically.  Severus wouldn't say the boy had any special talent for potions, but he was adequate and tried hard – if possibly a bit too hard.  Billius and Charlie had also both been at least reasonablely adept at his subject, but it appeared that Ronald wasn't even vaguely interested in trying.  He was just awful.

Minerva had grimaced when the Weasley boy was mentioned and admitted that he didn't seem to be the most academically inclined of her group – by a long shot – but at least he didn't seem inclined to get into nearly as much trouble as his third-year brothers.  She said that she feared he felt overshadowed by his numerous brothers, and would take some considerable encouragement in his courses.

As far as Longbottom was concerned, she suspected that Agusta Longbottom had been rather harsh on the boy and his self esteem.  The boy was certainly nothing like his father, Frank, had been.  Severus hadn't exactly liked the man, but he'd never been a prat.

Fillius mostly beamed and preened about his new crop of Ravenclaws.  He thought they all had great potential.  Severus thought they were all stuck-up little brats with an over-inflated sense of their own intellect, simply because they had been sorted into the house for 'smart students'.  Which was rubbish, and everyone on staff knew it.  Being in Ravenclaw most definitely didn't make you smarter than your peers.

Hell, that annoying little Granger twit from Gryffindor was probably smarter than even the second year Ravenclaws – put together!

But no one could beat Severus' own house, for sheer brilliance, and loath as he was to admit it, but the most glaringly obvious example of this was in fact, Harry Potter.

When discussion finally got to Potter, everyone was eager to share their observations, and Albus was also quite obviously eager to listen.

He was so quiet.  So proper.  So smart.  A prodigy, Fillius had said.  A natural!  Not a single question had been posed to the boy that he couldn't answer correctly, and yet the boy never offered up his hand when questions were asked.  Severus had discovered this early on – if Potter were going to contribute to class, Severus himself would have to call on him to do so.  He never volunteered on his own.  Never raised his hand of his own prerogative and never volunteered to demonstrate something in class.  Not like the Granger twit who would raise her hand at every blasted opportunity and shake it around like a manic intensity that gave Severus' headaches of disgust.

As much as Severus hated the mere idea of awarding points to Potter's blasted spawn, he had also learned that it was a remarkably easy and effective way to gain Slytherin house mountains of points.  They were already hugely in the lead, and no one could accuse Severus of unfair favoritism.  In fact, he'd developed a lovely system of asking Weasley, or Longbottom a question first, knowing full well that they had no idea what the answer was, and when they failed to answer it, he would pose the same question to Potter, who would get it right, and then proceed further along the same line, asking more and more questions, of increasing difficulty, until he'd gotten nearly fifty points for his house.

It was quite satisfying, honestly, and it turned Weasley's face the most horrid shade of red.

Oddly enough, Potter did not seem to revel in the attention, or even take any pride in it.  He never attempted to show off, as Severus had expected the boy to.  As his father would have done.  Instead he was always subdued, and often times bored.  But Severus had noticed an amused glint in Potter's eyes after the third time Severus had followed the same pattern in class with his questions to the Gryffindors and then to Potter.

It appeared that Potter knew exactly what he was doing, and found it somewhat funny.

The moment of satisfaction Severus got was quickly clouded by his own strong desire to not like the boy, no matter what.

The others had noted Potter's frequent looks of utter boredom in class, and all mentioned it.  They feared he wasn't being challenged enough, and that his work standards might fall behind if he became too bored.  Or worse yet, he might act out if he wasn't being kept mentally stimulated. 

His written work so far had also been impeccable, and Severus had mentally noted that it was clear the boy had been writing with a quill for many years.  In fact, he had better penmanship than some adults he could think of – let alone an eleven year old child.  Others had noted things that would indicate that he was clearly raised in a wizarding environment.  Several even suggested that he had to have had private tutors before now because no matter how brilliant a student is, it was simply not normal to get every spell right on the first try, every time.

Certain movements were just too clumsy to perform smoothly until one had developed the proper muscle memory – which only happened after having performed the movements, repeatedly, for many years.

Potter had that muscle memory.  Even Severus, who only taught the boy potions, had been able to see that.  In fact, Potter was one of the few students, along with Draco, that he allowed to make use of his wand in his class.  Generally he considered it too dangerous for any of them to even have their wand accessible during brewing.  But there were certain spells that did smooth along the brewing process – automatic timers, stirring spells, magically controlled temperature gauges for the flame, etcetera – that Potter was clearly familiar with.

Albus definitely looked concerned by all that the faculty had been saying about Potter – deeply concerned.  He asked them how Potter was doing socially, rather than just academically, and the general consensus was that the boy was an introvert.  He just didn't talk to people.  As far as anyone could tell, he didn't have a single friend, although Severus had seen him conversing with his dorm mates genially enough.  It was about as friendly as many Slytherins ever got with each other.  There was never any real trust – a limited friendship – the friendship of acquaintances – but only so far as the arrangement was beneficial to both parties.  

At least he didn't seem to snub his dorm mates.  And curiously enough, they weren't snubbing him either.  Well, some of the girls had seemed to in the beginning, but it seemed as if Potter had done something, very early on, that hat earned him the respect of his dorm mates.  What that thing was, he had no idea, and apparently never would, if what Lucius had told him was true.

Severus considered bringing up the Contract Potter had conned his room mates into signing, with Albus, but as yet, had decided not to.  It would only bring further paranoia to the old man, and greater scrutiny on the first year boys and their dorm.  No matter what, Potter and his dorm mates were still under Severus' protection, and he would not sell them out so easily.  As far as he knew, there was nothing to be concerned over anyway.  The wards that he himself placed on the dorms prevented anything too illegal from being kept within the dungeon dorms without him being notified, and nothing in Potter's two trunks had set off any of his alarms.

Goyle's trunk had, and he'd already had a talk with the boy about being more discreet with what he kept with him at school.  

Albus asked the teachers to try and encourage Potter to be more social with his peers – perhaps they could try more group assignments and try assigning Potter with different people in hopes of finding a good match that might grow into a friendship.  Severus was rather positive it would all be a wasted effort.  Potter simply did not want to be friends with anyone.

When it became obvious that they could not waste any more of their time focused on a single first year student, Albus was forced to move things along to other matters, but an hour later when the meeting was finally drawing to a close, Albus asked Severus and Minerva to remain behind for a bit longer and the discussion was once again drawn back to Harry Potter.  This time, on more private matters.

Albus had apparently not given up his attempts to find out the secrets behind Potter's last ten years, but had been ultimately unsuccessful at finding anything.  He still had no idea who had raised the boy, and as such, had no idea what sort of ideology the boy might have been raised with.  Was he pro-light?  Was he pro-dark? Who had taught him?  What had they taught him?  How had he gotten a wand so young and not been discovered using it?  For that was the only reasonable explanation for his advanced level.  

He asked the two of them if they could make attempts at gaining the boy's trust.  Severus had scoffed at the mere idea of it, but Albus had been insistent.  Severus was the boy's Head of House now, and someone that the boy was supposed to be able to turn to.

Minerva wasn't sure how exactly she could reach out to the boy – she wasn't his head of house, after all – but Albus suggested that she try pointing out her relationship with his parents.  Perhaps the boy would like some more information about them?  He also suggested this route to Severus who had loudly balked at the idea.  He was obviously the last person who should be telling Harry Potter about James Potter.

Albus and Minerva both agreed, however, he was a good source for information on Lily.  After all, Severus had known Lily for even several years before they started Hogwarts.

This suggestion did not sit well with him at all, but he also found himself unable to snap back some sort of sharp retort to shoot the suggestion down.

He still didn't think it would work.  He didn't think that Potter was stupid enough to be manipulated into giving out sensitive secrets, simply because he was offered scraps of information about his long dead parents.  As much as Severus hated it he had to admit that he'd come to hold rather high opinion of the Potter brat's intelligence.

He had also long ago stopped questioning the Hat's senses on its decision to put the boy in Slytherin.

He was a Slytherin.  There was simply no denying it.  It was fact.

Having secured both Severus' and Minerva's reluctant promises to try and breech the boy's cold rock-hard exterior, and form some sort of trusting relationship, Albus heaved a sigh and dismissed them, muttering about how things could have possibly gone so very wrong.