Summary: a Snape mentors Harry story; takes place during Harry's 2nd year (CoS); partially AU.
Story Notes: this story will contain a few scenes of (and references to) corporal punishment-spanking administered by a parent or parental figure. Please know that I am not preaching about the necessity of corporal punishment; rather, I approach the character of Severus Snape from how I perceived him in the books—harsh, unfair at times…in other words a less-than-perfect parental figure. But I do consider him to be vastly misunderstood and, indeed, worthy of redemption.
"Potter!" Severus Snape spat from the front of the dungeon classroom in an icy voice that echoed off of the stone walls surrounding them.
Harry's heart thudded. He had just finished stuffing his parchment and quill into his shoulder bag and had turned to flee the deadly silence of the classroom. But Snape's voice, dripping with malice, had caused him to jump and snap his head around to face his irate potions master.
He can't have known it was me, thought Harry as he glared at his professor with a mingled look of anxiety and disgust.
Snape's whispered warning of a guaranteed expulsion loomed in Harry's mind, and the bespectacled twelve-year-old swallowed hard, attempting to relieve the dryness in his throat.
Both of them said nothing for a very long minute, professor and student, each possessing an equal amount of loathing for the other, until Harry finally spoke.
"Yes, sir?" he said weakly, unconsciously biting his lower lip.
"To me, Potter."
Snape shook back a lock of dark, lanky hair that had strayed in front of his eyes and took his usual stance, arms folded beneath his black, billowing robes.
Oh, no, thought Harry. He could feel his legs beginning to shake as he made his way to the front of the dimly lit room. But he steadied himself.
Get a bloody grip, Harry! he thought as he came face-to-face with his professor, straightening a bit and staring defiantly at the familiar sneer. He's got no proof.
"So, you think it's amusing to be the catalyst for exploding potions in my classroom?" It was a statement, not a question.
Harry's knees nearly gave out. His mind scrambled for a response. His tongue felt thick in his throat.
"If you're trying to say that I…"
Harry flinched, his breathing shallow.
"No excuses from you, Potter."
Although he remained much calmer on the surface, his hands were sweating and his heart was pounding in his ears.
He knows…how does he know? I'm going to be expelled, Harry thought, feeling nauseous; yet for some strange, unknown reason, he suddenly got a vision of Malfoy staggering up to the classroom with his engorged, potion-soaked nose, whining a bit as Snape used the deflating antidote. Harry was horrified that when he found himself gritting his teeth together to keep from smirking at the thought.
What a git, thought Harry, but was yanked roughly back to reality as Snape's fingers clutched painfully around his upper left arm, giving him a firm, but brief, shake.
"I saw you, Potter. Don't even think of trying to deny it," said Snape, his dark, penetrating glare burning right through Harry's pupils to the back of his skull.
Harry opened his mouth to protest, his brain desperately trying to conjure up a lie, but resorted to pressing his top teeth into his lower lip once more. He lowered his eyes to the floor, feeling small and stupid for getting caught. For one blissful moment, Harry had thought he'd gotten away with it all. Obviously, he was wrong.
"My office. Now."
Harry stared with wide eyes. He'd been in Snape's office only once that year—the very first day back to Hogwarts. And he knew that nothing good could come out of being dragged in there. Stunned, Harry briefly considered pleading with Snape. He didn't want to give Snape that satisfaction, but Harry couldn't bear the thought of being expelled. Couldn't bear the idea of returning to the Dursleys for good. The musty, suffocating smell of Dudley's second bedroom came back to Harry with a sickening rush.
Suddenly, Snape grabbed the front of Harry's robes, jolting him out of his momentary stupor. He twisted them in his fist, pulling the dark-haired boy towards him so that they were standing less than an inch away from each other.
"What part of 'now' confused you, stupid boy? Go!" As he barked the last word, Snape thrust Harry, stumbling, in the direction of the exit leading to his conjoined office and study.
Harry seethed. He hated being shoved. Hated it! Being pushed around was something he had been grateful to leave back at Privet Drive, and he wasn't about to let Snape make him feel as worthless as Uncle Vernon did. He glanced over his shoulder at Snape. The man was not kidding around. Taking a few deep, shaky breaths through his nose, Harry pulled himself together and made his way toward the exit. He reached for the doorknob, but Snape got there first. Clenching Harry's arm again, Snape pushed open the dungeon door and nearly dragged him through the corridor.
"Dumbledore may allow his precious Golden Boy to bend and break the rules, but you will learn, Potter…you will learn…that is not the case with me," Snape spat at the small boy in his grasp.
Harry said nothing, but instead he worried about what would happen to him once he reached Snape's quarters. He'd never seen the potions master in such state before.
Several people turned and watched as Harry was jerked through the corridor. His face burned hot with shame and rage.
"Alohamora," Snape recited as he pointed his wand at the office door he apparently kept locked, and once more, shoved a staggering Harry in front of him as he turned and slammed the door behind him.
Snape's face contorted in anger as he loomed over Harry.
"Do you realize the damage you could have caused by your thoughtless, ignorant prank?!" Snape's voice was like ice. "You may not give a damn what happens to anyone but your stupid fellow Gryffindors, but I assure you, had I not brought along a vial of the deflating potion—and that was my last vial—your classmates could have been seriously injured!"
Harry was surprised to see Snape shaking and white with rage.
But at the man's words, Harry could feel his temper rising as well. He knew what this was about.
"Oh, and I suppose if Malfoy would have caused a potion to blow up in Hermione's stupid face, you'd be giving him just as much grief…" Harry scoffed.
Snape took a step forward, and without meaning to, Harry cringed. Snape froze for a brief moment. His open hand was splayed in midair as if he were going to slap the boy; Harry gazed at the rigid fingers with wild eyes.
But the hand grabbed his arm instead. An instant later, Snape spun Harry around and clouted him hard across the bottom. Harry gasped at the sudden pain, jolting forward from the impact.
Turning an absolutely startled Harry back around to face him, Snape spoke in a voice barely above a whisper:
"You should count yourself lucky, Potter, because were you in Slytherin, and you pulled a stunt like you just did in my classroom, you'd be eating your meal standing up tonight after I finished with you."
Harry stared, bewildered, his mouth still open as if he were trying to speak.
What the hell had just happened?
"Close your mouth; you look like an idiot," Snape chided in disgust. But it was obvious by the awkward way Snape brushed back his hair that he was surprised by his own actions.
Harry relaxed his jaw, but he couldn't erase the dumbstruck look on his face.
In the past, Uncle Vernon had made a habit of chasing Harry around the house, his belt flailing as he'd clutched it by the buckle in his fat fist. The hefty man usually only managed to land one blow on the side of Harry's thigh before giving up completely, clutching his chest and wheezing as if he would die on the spot. After one of these debacles, Harry always ended up locked in his bedroom for days. The thought of Uncle Vernon and his belt-threats made Harry's stomach boil with anger. Never had any of these "chasings" been justified, as Harry had done nothing more serious than pouring himself a glass of milk without asking.
This was the first time anyone had managed to give him a well-deserved smack.
Harry felt hot with embarrassment, but it was a deeper kind of embarrassment. He felt ashamed.
He'd been in trouble before many times with Professor Snape, and, of course, the man was livid when he'd discovered Harry and Ron had crashed a bewitched car into the Whomping Willow at the beginning of term. At the time, Harry had expected to be expelled or punished by Snape before Professor McGonagall and Professor Dumbledore clambered into the room, saving the two nervous boys from Snape's wrath.
Harry knew very well that he had crossed the line this time with his retort, but he hadn't expected this from Snape. By the gleam in the man's eyes, he would have suspected his professor to be roaring again for his expulsion—maybe even threatening to backhand him or throw him bodily out of his office. But not this.
Harry tried to look away from the charcoal glare of his potions master, but the eyes held him. The sneer was there—painted on the professor's face with familiar ease—but he seemed crestfallen somehow.
Harry's cheeks burned with shame again as his stomach clenched. To his horror, hot tears burned at the corners of his eyes. He didn't cry. He couldn't cry! Why were his eyes watering?!
The swat had stung but was not really painful enough to cause him to weep. The look Snape was giving him made his stomach churn, made Harry felt younger than ever.
Since Harry had been wrongly accused, bullied, and ridiculed by his most hated professor since he had stepped foot into Hogwarts, he had always felt justified in his anger and disgust towards him. Each taunt only fueled the fire of hatred.
This time, though, Snape's accusation had proved true. He'd done something that could have caused injury to many, simply for his own gain, regardless the reason. Harry never did that. Gryffindors could have been sitting behind Malfoy and could have gotten injured.
Harry swiped his knuckles hastily under his eyes to rid his lids of the tears but ended up having to look away. He clamped his lips together feeling the muscles in his face tightening.
"Mr. Potter," Snape said in a quiet, silky voice, "look at me."
Harry slowly shifted his eyes to meet his professor's, barely inclining his head from the direction of the slimy jarred ingredients on the shelves in Snape's office.
The man said nothing for a long moment but stared at Harry, as if he'd never seen the boy in his life. He took a deep breath. "You will be serving detention with me for the rest of the week, as well as Saturday morning."
Stomach still aching, Harry nodded. He'd noticed the gloom that passed across his professor's pale face, but for now, he didn't feel like discovering what that was about.
"Wear something old on Saturday. You'll be doing a bit of…cleaning."
The boy gave a miserable tip of his head once more but added a whispered, "Yes, sir," hoping to finalize the occasion and make his way back to Gryffindor tower.
Snape turned from the boy with a dramatic swoop of his robes, and Harry, taking this as permission to leave, slunk toward the door, closing it softly behind him, the click resounding through the stone corridor. Eyes downcast in thought, he dragged his feet back to his dormitory.
Hearing the door close, Severus inched towards his desk, clutching the edge with his hands.
He didn't know why he had just let the boy go. And he certainly couldn't believe he'd just given Potter a smack, the way he often did when one of his Slytherins was being too cheeky. What had he been thinking?
But once again, as Severus closed his eyes, the ghostly image of the child's bottle-green stare haunted him. He shuddered. The eyes had nearly impaled him. Forcing himself to breathe evenly, Severus pushed away the image of the serene, honest stare. Rather, he allowed his mind to bask in the memory of the way the sun had glimmered on the long, ginger hair. He listened to the methodical tick of his pocket watch against his ribs. Eventually, Severus was able to neutralize his expression entirely, smothering the stray emotions under the porcelain pretense.