I've picked up this story again. Here is the incomplete version by the writer I was in 2018, I'll start posting the much improved rewrite in late 2022.


Warnings: Vulgarity, Explicit R18 gay sex, grey-consent, highs and drug use, mentions of underage sex, unhealthy coping mechanisms, depression, people being human and making mistakes.

Inspired by: Bluemaple's HP and the Road not Taken, FalconLux's The Dead Master, and Enchanted Nightingale's The Housekeeper.


Caveat: This fanfiction is not a fairy tale. Harry and Severus both come from abusive homes and have issues.

Childhood abuse and redemption-through-romance fanfiction is rarely realistic. My story has been inspired by my experiences, and the trauma of some very close friends. (If you're a friend IRL, please don't read this.)


xoxox Thank you Eider Down for betaing xoxox


It was impossible to point out where exactly the beginning was.

Perhaps it was with a young seer in a seedy pub, ordering sherry to calm her nerves before what might be the most important interview of her life.

Maybe it was before that, when a young Slytherin, convinced that four bullies were up to no good, went sneaking out after dark and almost got mauled by a werewolf. Before that even, on a playground, watching an angel of a girl floating off the swings.

Possibly it was in the more recent past, when a potions master found himself begging for a second chance, at endless trials proclaiming I was young, I was stupid, I made a terrible mistake. Please.

In all likelihood the beginning was here. In the middle. This ending of the first in a long line of thoroughly wretched days.


Chapter 1 Book One: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Severus knew, from the first time he laid eyes on the boy, that he hated him.

Albus had evidently wasted all these past years chasing loose ends, hoping to find the baby he'd left on a doorstep.

Secretly Severus had been glad Potter had never reached the Dursleys. He wasn't so naive to believe the hateful, bitter, resentful Tuney Evans would have mellowed with age.

But the boy was here now, obviously safe. He looked just like his father.

Severus was grateful he hadn't been involved in Albus' search for the thrice-forsaken Harry Potter.

Minerva called the child's name then, and looking rather like he was basking in his moment, Potter strutted the short distance to the stool. Severus felt his lip curl into a sneer.

The hall filled with whispers—hundreds of voices building into a crescendo like a wave crashing under its own weight.

The hat-brim opened to utter silence.

SLYTHERIN.

Severus was already clapping half-heartedly when it caught up to him. Slytherin.

Slytherin? Was the hat mad?

Potter, the boy who lived to be one of Severus's snakes—and though Severus hadn't thought it possible he suddenly hated the brat so much more.

Polite but restrained applause accompanied Potter's flounce to the Slytherin table, where he slid onto the bench across from Draco Malfoy.

This was going to be a long seven years.

xoxox

Throughout dinner ("And how was your summer, Min—" "Oh, I do love to see all their happy little face—" "W-w-well, you see, th-there were these v-va-vampires—") Severus cultivated a careful plan: he would ignore Potter's spawn to the best of his abilities.

For seven years.

It was, admittedly, not the best plan, but his Dark Mark kept twinging, and Quirinus' prattle was deeply annoying, and why must Pomona be so excessively happy? It was downright distracting.

What was it they said about plans? Something about not surviving contact with the enemy? But that was a muggle saying, and he had his Occlumency to help him.

Severus stepped into the Slytherin common room, and the first thing his eyes did was seek out Harry Potter.

It couldn't be helped. Up close Severus could see those eyes, bright green, taking a careful look around. Just like Lily's, his mind provided oh-so-helpfully.

A school of minnows was flashing past the porthole windows and Potter turned to watch them, snubbing Draco in the process. There were ink stains on Potter's grimy little hands, and his robes were the Malkin standard—the rest of his snakes had chosen to wear finer dress robes for this night of first impressions.

Potter had the arrogant aloofness down pat, inherited from his father no doubt, ignoring the rest of his classmates to better take in the view. Already the older students were watching him with speculation, and Severus could tell that his Slytherins were finding this boy quite…lacking.

He was going to be eaten alive. Not that Severus cared, really. Well, there was that vow, of course, but stopping some schoolyard bullying wasn't what Severus had meant when he'd sworn to protect Lily's son.

Severus stepped out of the nook from which he'd been observing—not hiding, never that. A mere boy couldn't intimidate Severus Snape into cowering by a trick door. The upper years who weren't settling into their dorms had gathered around, watching, waiting.

Circling like eager sharks.

Meanwhile the first years were pretending they weren't huddled in their midst, practising their masks in the face of their trembling terror.

Except for Potter again, who'd spun around to look at Severus' covert entrance. This alerted Draco—and therewith everyone else. So much for swooping in and startling the children.

And now he was letting an eleven-year-old child upstage him. Pathetic. Utterly pathetic.

Severus affected calm, because if Slytherin had taught him one thing it was to pretend. He delivered his usual speech on the nature of house pride, Slytherin integrity, and not being an embarrassment. He finished with an invitation to consult with him, his office hours, and a sarcastic wish for their pleasant night.

Unfortunately Potter had seemed to catch that, and found it funny. Somehow Severus' satisfaction fell in correspondence with the boy's smirk. As if the child had any kind of power over him. Severus strode out again quickly, his robes billowing. Then he disillusioned himself and snuck right back in again.

While Slytherin must by necessity be civil outside the dorms, tonight would be war.

xoxox

Each Slytherin had a private room, unlockable by a simple Alohamora. Most children were mean, spiteful, jealous, greedy—every one of these knew how to cast unlocking charms. It was left to the students to ward themselves safe.

It was a perverse tradition endured by each successive generation, hearkened back upon fondly by the meanest of them all. Any attempt to abolish it would result in Severus being laughed out of the room. Besides, this ritual from the Founders' days prepared the children for the ugliness of the world.

Severus could not—would not—prevent the heartache, thievery, blackmail and punishment that would occur tonight. But he made sure to protect every one of them from one particular fate. They were children, after all. They should be able to keep their innocence.

By the time he reached the first year boys' dorms he was approaching magical exhaustion. Least at-risk, he always saved them for last. And if he intended to throw up a few extra protections for Draco and Potter, nobody would know.

Draco's wards weren't bad—Lucius had been tutoring his son all year. A competent sixth year could disassemble them, but likely nobody would deliberately antagonise the Malfoy heir. A quick intent-alert ward was all Severus added.

And then came Potter's room, surrounded by a web of protective magic so strong it was almost glowing. A diagnosis showed very advanced, elegant wards on par with Severus' own casting, and though they weren't deadly they were definitely malicious.

Ingrown hairs, boils in unfortunate places, strip-and-freeze…there were more, but Severus was too exhausted to care. Potter had come knowing about Slytherin's traditions, had expected his placement in this house. Severus found himself revising his earlier opinion, suddenly wondering if this boy wasn't perhaps the most Slytherin-ready of them all.

Somewhere between relieved and exhausted, Severus resigned himself to brewing another batch of Boil Cure before tomorrow morning. He leaned against the wall and started to weave his own usual intent wards into Potter's matrix.

Then the door opened, and Lily's eyes were staring right at his own disillusioned form. Potter closed his eyes and frowned—dunderhead, why would he do that?—before the brat pulled out his wand for a wards diagnostic.

As Severus had stopped casting when the door opened, his spell was slowly collapsing, failing to take root in Potter's complex web. Like a disappointing cake, minutes out of the oven.

Wonderful. This was not his night.

Potter's wand flicked back into a quick-draw holster—then the boy held out a package he had pulled from his pocket. Stunned, Severus took it, absently wondering how bizarre this must look. The muggle cardboard box in his disillusioned hands proclaimed Nike Shoes, 50% Sale! Size 8, but gave nothing away.

The boy spoke, voice lilting. "I do appreciate it Professor Snape, but my own wards will cover all kinds of ill intent, including that. The only thing I apparently wasn't prepared for was someone improving my wards." And the spawn of his enemy smiled at him in a wry, self-deprecating way.

Severus was glad he was disillusioned, so that nobody could witness his own incredulous expression. Not to mention the fact that his mouth had been gaping. He rectified this immediately, teeth clicking shut.

Potter was still talking, "If it's important to you that I have that particular ward up, I can cast it myself from the schematics? I can't imagine the drain of warding every student's room."

Severus nodded absently, realised that he was disillusioned—and then remembered that he hated the boy. But Potter was smiling again, warmly this time. "Thank you, Professor. If that's all, I'd like to go to bed now. I wish you a good night, sir."

He stared. The boy stood there, head cocked adorably—by Merlin where had that thought come from?—head cocked questioningly, that quirked smile directed right at Severus. After a minute, Potter nodded politely, almost a bow actually, and closed his door.

Severus shook himself. Potter was bizarre. Scruffy image, excellent perception and advanced wards were one thing, but manners? Since when did Potters have manners, the odd antiquated kind preserved by the British pure-blood aristocracy, and involved bowing to people?

At a loss and for lack of anything better to do, Severus returned to his rooms and opened the shoe box. It contained neat racks of vials, hand-labelled Boil Cure, Hair Regrower, Exfoliator—three rows each to cure every ugliness Potter's wards would inflict.

He popped a seal at random and sniffed. It was perfect, better than most apothecaries would provide. Most likely, this was self-made.

Potter was an enigma, but he could take care of himself, was polite, and he'd been taught by a competent brewer. Perhaps having him in his house wouldn't be so awful after all.

xoxox

The next month passed in a blur of classes, exploded cauldrons, supervised detentions, docked House Points, and copious Headache Relievers.

Draco was Severus' godson, and of course Severus had seen a fair bit of the child growing up. Specifically, he'd seen how Narcissa had coddled him while Lucius spoiled him. It was no surprise that Draco had never had an original thought in his life.

But by the Gods, the child was proving himself a poorly-socialised nightmare. Draco's sense of entitlement stretched all the way from the dungeons to Gryffindor tower.

He was alienating his peers with alarming efficiency, entirely unsubtle in his cries of my father this and...that was about it, really. Draco would not stop talking about his father and getting into hotheaded fights with anyone who tried to disagree with him.

Naturally Severus had tried talking to the boy, but Draco thought himself far too good for advice from his half-blood Head of House.

After all, he was a Malfoy—the world should prostrate itself at his feet.

Today the boy had landed himself in his third detention. Any more would put Severus in the rather awkward situation of having to write a letter to his parents.

Dear Lucius, your child is a spoilt brat, how did you manage to fail him so thoroughly?

Dear Lucius, when you taught your son about the Houses did you mention the cunning of Slytherin? Or did you focus only on brash, brainless Gryffindors pushing themselves headfirst—

No, no, that would not do. Which was what had led Severus to this point: he was going to delegate.

Although his face twisted into a frown when Potter approached his desk, his heart just wasn't in it. The vial of Vanishing Solution the boy handed in was perfect, the exact violet shade it should be.

This wasn't a surprise. It had barely taken a week to determine Potter's brewing capabilities were at least at OWL level—talent and skill utterly wasted in a first-year class. This lesson Severus had paired him with Longbottom, in hopes of mitigating that particular mess. And indeed, Potter's timely intervention had prevented three mishaps.

Despite its eggplant colour, Longbottom's Solution would be able to remove ink stains, at the very least.

It was what had inspired Severus' current desperate stroke of genius, actually. If Potter could manage Longbottom, then perhaps he could achieve similar results with Draco.

Potter, who was still standing right there, vial extended on a flat palm.

Like he was feeding a horse. Severus was tempted to nicker, just to see the expressions on all their terrified little faces. "Stay after class," he told Potter, already testing a drop of the gel-like potion on a corner of his desk.

The brushed oak's surface bubbled, then gleamed. "Adequate," he professed—and studiously ignored Potter's beaming.

xoxox

Deliberately continuing his grading, Severus didn't look up until the students had finished filing out of his classroom.

He regarded Potter carefully, testing him for fidget. The robes were still standard, the ink stains multiple—was that a quill in his hair?

"Professor?" Potter asked quietly, unknowingly passing the test of Severus' purposefully quelling glare.

The child was remarkably calm and composed for an eleven-year-old, he couldn't help but think.

"There's a quill in your hair," Severus blurted. Oh Gods. Had he really just said that? How humiliating.

Potter smiled, presenting the hairpiece-slash-writing-utensil eagerly.

It was a lovely quill, obviously expensive. Severus handled it carefully. This was the kind that Family Heads presented to their heirs, the kind that might be engraved, cost a month's worth of his salary and should be carefully kept in a designated box.

Harry Potter kept his tucked neatly behind an ear like a muggle's fag.

In that moment Severus decided he needed a smoke, and that tonight he would ignore his marking and all his obligations to go out. He knew just the place.

He had still been holding the quill while his mind drifted, for too long now to just pass it back. Severus' mind stumbled for an appropriate action. Who handed their ridiculously expensive quill to their professor? More importantly, who kept an heirloom like that in their hair?

Or any quill in their hair, for that matter. And why could Severus not get over that?

Potter had remained standing, straight-backed and smiling. Drawing his wand, Severus cast a diagnostic.

Ever-sharp, linked to an inkwell, warded heavily against theft and—a hair sticking charm?

He stifled his laugh. What an odd combination. "Did you cast these yourself?"

The boy nodded. "It's not like I can buy one like that, and my Paterfamilias is...unavailable."

Go on, Potter. Make a joke about your dead father. That's not callous at all.

In light of that, Severus glossed over that the boy had cast magic so far beyond his level.

You're a bit of an odd duck, aren't you, he wanted to say, but didn't. Who taught you magic? Where were you all these years when Albus was turning every stone search of you? Why are you so Slytherin, so different from the Gryffindor Golden Boy everyone was expecting?

What happened to you?

Severus had long learnt not to follow his initial impulses. He let out a long, silent sigh and returned the quill. The boy was an excellent source of House Points, well-mannered, and had successfully babysat Longbottom. While he hated the boy for his mystery, Severus was willing to wait, observe, learn. He wasn't some Gryffindor.

Besides, Potter might have the solution for the Draco Malfoy Situation.

The quill went back to its place in Potter's flyaway mop, the hairpin charm doing an admirable job of taming it.

"What did you think of today's lesson?" Severus found himself asking. They were going to be late to lunch because Severus was struggling with coherent thought.

The boy started gushing about reactions, and combinations, and what he thought about the instructions—all using NEWT-level terminology.

Minutes later Potter was showing no sign of slowing down, nor of wanting to leave. It was almost as if he actually enjoyed standing there, jabbering about Vanishing Potions.

Until Severus drew his wand, causing the boy to cut off mid-sentence. He had to admit it'd been a good sentence, debating the usefulness of an overly effective Vanishing removing more than the targeted stain. The boy's hand twitched, an aborted motion for a wand.

Purposefully and with exaggerated movements, Severus conjured a chair. He found he didn't have the heart to end the boy's contented babble, and they still had a fair amount to discuss.

After calling a House Elf to deliver lunch, he directed Potter to sit.

"Sorry, sir. I'm sure there's nothing I can say about Vanishing Potions that you don't already know. Was there something in particular you wanted, besides for us to have lunch?"

And didn't that just sound wrong. Severus Snape did not have lunch with students.

Barring Harry Potter, because as of now Severus apparently was having lunch with a student. "You shared your workbench with Mister Longbottom today," he opened.

There was a minute grimace there, replaced quickly with blank neutrality. "Yes, sir. Were you planning on making that a permanent arrangement?"

For a moment it tempted him. Severus wanted so much to say yes, to hoist the Longbottom problem onto Potter and finally have some time for other students in the class. But Potter looked so resigned, quietly miserable.

Today's potion had been perfect, but based on the thoughts he'd just shared, the boy was capable of so much more.

Severus swallowed the another bite of a sandwich. "Though you did an admirable job of supervising Mister Longbottom," he began thoughtfully, and why was the boy beaming at him again? "I have a proposal that could be beneficial to us both."

The smile turned wry, prompting Severus to check that his own incredulity wasn't written across his face.

"What can I do for you, Professor?" In an older student that might have been flirtatious, but Potter seemed rather an odd child already. Severus mentally filed it away under ridiculousness-of-Potter.

Deep breaths, Severus reminded himself. Then, a fortifying sip of tea. "Mister Malfoy is—" Diplomacy dissolved on the tip of his tongue like an ashen Cokeworth snowflake, he should have prepared a speech in advance. This was a pending—

"A pending disaster, sir?"

The boy had read his mind. What the fuck. He checked his Occlumency; it was airtight, this should not be possible.

Oh. He was an idiot. Severus long prided himself on his intellect and his superiority, and here Potter was taking it from him like clumps of lost hair. Oddly, he didn't entirely mind, which made continuing this conversation even more of a mess.

"Indeed, Mister Malfoy could be described as a pending disaster. Although, as Head of Slytherin and his godfather, I would of course never describe him as such." Where was his composure? He was Severus Snape, Slytherin Dungeon Bat, first years' worst fear.

Now new-and-improved, bantering with the eleven-year-old Potter.

Ridiculous.

He amended his plans for tonight: he was going to get drunk, get laid, and then smoke the cigarette he was craving while basking in the afterglow of a satisfying shag.

Potter summarised the issue succinctly. "You want me to prevent Malfoy from shaming our House and alienating himself from every political ally he might have, ever."

Potter was remarkably observant and extremely intelligent. If anyone could do it, it would be him. Severus decided to nod.

Nodding was safe, it would prevent all manner of stupidity from coming out of his mouth.

"And in return, you'll pair Granger with Longbottom next class, sir? You said we'd both be benefiting."

Severus was still nodding, even before the words had really registered. Then he stopped to think about it. Putting Granger with Longbottom might be an acceptable solution. The bossy girl could impart some knowledge upon the Longbottom embarrassment, and they'd both be preoccupied with each other. It would free Severus up to better teach the rest.

But he had wanted to give something to Potter, not just withhold what would have been a punishment. Severus hoped to nurture some of that skill, or was it Lily's talent?

"Additionally, I thought you would brew me something beyond the first year curriculum. Whoever taught you previously prepared you adequately for higher level reactions."

While it had initially been obvious the boy could brew well, today he had shown a much greater skill. Following and adapting a recipe was one thing, but knowing how to neutralise Longbottom's recurring mistakes in a way that made the potion usable? That showed true comprehension.

Potter was beaming again. "Really, sir? I'm honoured."

It was almost as if the child was glowing, radiating his contentedness. It should not be physically possible to appear so happy. Especially not here, in the dungeons, talking about being assigned more work.

Severus could not recall the last time anyone had looked at him like that. As if he were…good. It filled him with a twisting guilt—and an odd desire to be worthy of his good opinion.

Nodding, because that was still safe, Severus pushed the plate with the last cucumber sandwich over to the boy. Potter liked cucumber sandwiches.

To his dying breath, Severus would deny having knowledge of the boy's sandwich preferences. He reminded himself, rather firmly, that the plan was still to ignore Potter.

While having lunch together.

Severus very much wanted to shake his head free of cobwebs, but abstained. Now, how to do this?

The school would be watching. He could not show Lord Voldemort's 'vanquisher' undue attention without letters being sent home.

"In the next staff meeting, your teachers will complain about you having been distracted." Severus decided. Nobody could argue with him punishing misbehaviour. "I will then assign detentions, wherein you will demonstrate your level of brewing. Any Points you lose, will be earned back yourself. I am sure you are quite capable of it."

Severus sighed. Now, entirely by accident, he had complimented the brat—all because Severus was unable to stop his most inane thoughts from tumbling out around one Harry Potter.

The boy continued to look delighted. Severus groaned silently, his capability for denial having trickled out entirely, like sand in an hourglass. Private brewing time was the opposite of ignoring him. "Well, Mister Potter?"

"Yes sir, thank you sir," he rattled off, rising to his feet, "see you, sir."

Severus waved him away like he would an errant fly buzzing around his Cokeworth living room. A mild annoyance, full of the connotation that the neighbours had failed to put out their bins.

Something odd, unpleasant, not-quite-right.

Thudding against the window repeatedly until he let it out—Lucius had always complained Severus was soft. It tempted Severus, every time, to bare his teeth, but he never did.

The Elf returned to clear away the dishes, and Severus chanced a look at the dregs in their teacups before they were swept away. He saw only muddled goop. Though Divination had never been his strength, he'd somehow expected something momentous of this accidental lunch with the Wizarding World's Saviour.