Harry was not having a good summer thus far. Three weeks shy of his twelfth birthday, and everything had gone wrong. He had come back to the Dursleys happy and content from his first year at Hogwarts, and he kept telling himself that he could make it for two months. Two months – just two months. How hard could it be?
But already things had gone from good to bad to worse to awful, and before he knew it a little house elf had wrecked his aunt and uncle's dinner party. His uncle had thrown a fit, and Harry had dashed out of the house before he could get locked in the room upstairs.
As so he found himself at ten o'clock at night, standing outside in the warm July air with absolutely nowhere to go.
He wasn't quite sure how he got there. One moment Uncle Vernon was screaming about Harry's behavior, how he had ruined everything and Uncle Vernon would never work again and this was the end of his career and they would starve in the streets. The next moment, Harry found himself running towards the front door.
He didn't even remember opening the door or reaching for the handle. But the front door had flung itself open and Harry kept running.
He had no idea where to go. He must have run a good mile before he jerked to a stop, panting and shaking from coming so far.
He was at the edge of Little Whinging, Privet Drive far behind him.
Harry flopped down on the curb, just wanting to stop and rest for a few minutes. He would have to go back eventually; he really had no place else to go. But his uncle had looked angry – angrier than Harry had ever seen him, the man's fat face turning an ugly shade of red and purple as he had shouted at Harry.
Harry scuffed his toe in the dirt at the edge of the street. His sneakers looked gray and faded under the dim street light. He felt tired and hungry and miserable and all alone. He wished he could see Ron or Hermione or anyone from school. If only he had something to remind him that the summer wouldn't last forever, that he had another home, and that someone cared about him.
The air smelt damp. The wind began to blow clouds over the sky. Harry didn't mind – he could rarely see stars anyway. Little Whinging was too close to London, and the glare of lights from the city blotted out any sign of stars.
Absentmindedly, Harry began drawing his name with the toe of his right sneaker. He knew he had to go back shortly. Hedwig was still at the Dursleys – he couldn't risk them hurting her, and his wand was still buried at the bottom of his trunk.
All so unfair – at school everyone looked at him and whispered about him, and here no one cared. Completely unfair. But his life had always been unfair, an expectation that things would be bad, tinged with apathy and hostility toward him. Going to Hogwarts had been the best thing to ever happen to him, and he only wished that the school would let him stay there year-round.
Huffing a little, he stood up, ready to make the long trek to the Dursleys. He would go back and apologize and offer to clean up. Even if they locked him up, he could make it.
He stood up, wiping his hands on the front of the trousers that nearly swallowed him whole.
A dog barked.
Harry glanced around quickly. He wasn't afraid of dogs, well, not really. He didn't mind them, and he liked Hagrid's Fang, but Aunt Marge's Ripper chased him up a tree once. And he couldn't forget the three-headed dog at Hogwarts.
Then, Harry saw a dog running towards him, a big hungry-looking gray dog with its ears back and its teeth bared in a snarl.
Harry started running, hurrying towards the edge of the street where several large trees stood. The dog was closing in on him, but Harry pushed himself to run faster, a little faster, just a little more.
Gasping, he jumped up and grabbed for the lowest branch. His hands wrapped around it, and he pulled himself up off the ground.
And then something bit into his shoe. A sharp, pinching pain that caused him to loosen his grip. Harry kicked his trapped foot, but the dog held on, biting through the shoe with savage strength.
"Help me!" Harry cried out into the quiet night.
On the other side of the trees, Harry thought he saw something move, a dark shadow under the trees.
"Help!" Harry cried again.
The dog gave his shoe a vicious tug, and Harry lost his grip on the branch.
He felt himself falling backward, and he kept falling and falling, spinning in the air. Finally, he hit the ground with a thud, rolling over several times before he came to a halt.
"Ow," he moaned, but the dog didn't stop. It growled at him and kept gnawing at his shoe.
"Stop it," Harry cried. "Go away. Leave me alone. Stop!"
Surprised by his yelling, the dog let go of his shoe, and Harry tried to get to his feet, but the dog pounced again. This time it leaped on his torso, pinning Harry to the ground while the dog worried at his chest with its nose and teeth.
Harry thrashed back and forth, sure the dog would rip his throat out if he held still for a second. Above him, the stars shone brightly in the sky, glowing down at him while he got mauled to death.
"Get off!" Harry yelled. "Don't eat me."
"Vampyr!" a stern male voice called out. "Heel!"
The dog lifted its head, its ears perking up. It stepped off Harry and drew back, still watching with gleaming eyes.
Harry rolled over and scrambled to his knees. He was filthy – dirt and bark clung to his clothes, and his shirt was ripped and covered in dog slobber.
But Harry got up, ready to run if the dog went after him again.
A figure was coming – Harry could see the dark shadows dragging closer, and he had a sudden dread that Voldemort had found him.
Harry turned to break into a run when a sharp voice ordered, "Hold it right there, Potter!"
Harry froze in his tracks, his mouth falling open. Snape? That was Snape's voice, but it couldn't be because Snape belonged at Hogwarts and not here in Little Whinging so close to Privet Drive.
But the figure came closer, and Harry saw Snape step into the light of the street lamp. The dog stood beside him, watching Harry carefully.
"Sn-Snape?" Harry said uncertainly.
"That's Professor Snape to you," Snape said crossly. "What are you doing out here?"
"I'm – I'm – none of your business!" Harry retorted. He felt very brave and foolish at the same time, but he didn't see why it was any of Snape's concern. They weren't at Hogwarts.
"What did you say to me?" Snape asked, an ugly gleam in his eyes.
"I'm going home," Harry announced. "I went out, and now I'm going back."
He tried to walk, but the dog jumped in his way, blocking his way.
"Make him move," Harry looked at Snape.
"Why should I?" Snape smiled coldly. "There is no Dumbledore for you to cry to now. It's just you and me and the dog."
Harry swallowed. His worst nightmare was coming true. Alone with Snape on a dark street.
"Help!" Harry yelled out. "Someone help me!"
"No one will come," Snape smiled again. "There's no one for miles."
Harry opened his mouth to yell that they were in Little Whinging and there were loads of people around. But when he looked to point at the way he had come, the street had disappeared. The houses were gone, too, and all Harry could was a dark road under a single street light. Here, the stars were clearly visible above the dark line of the trees and stretching across the heavens.
"Where am I?" he asked, trying to hide his fear. He was not going to act like he was scared in front of Snape, Snape who he hated because Snape hated him.
"I was on watch for you tonight," Snape said. "I followed you on that ridiculous run, and I used the collar on Vampyr to act as a Portkey."
"A what?" Harry demanded, starting to panic.
"An object used to transport people and animals from one place to another. As soon as he grabbed you, I activated it and then I Apparated as well."
"So . . . what?" Harry challenged. "Now you're going to give me over to Voldemort?"
"All in good time," Snape's smile was positively evil. "But first I'll have my own fun with you."
"I'll get away from you," Harry threatened, edging backward. "And I'll tell Dumbledore. And McGonagall. And Hagrid!"
"Be my guest," Snape invited. "After I'm through with you, you can run and tell whomever you like. Who will believe you? You ran away from home and were abducted by your potions master? No one will listen to a word of that nonsense."
Harry wanted to shout that Snape was wrong, but he thought about the past year when he believed that Snape had wanted the Philosopher's Stone. No one had listened to him, not even Dumbledore. And Harry had no idea of where he was now except that they were far from Little Whinging.
Harry turned, ready to run, but Vampyr jumped in front of him. The dog gave a sharp bark and snap at Harry. Harry yanked his hands back just in time to keep from getting bitten, and he heard Snape chuckle from behind him.
"Ah, Potter is a slow learner, Vampyr. Very, very slow. But let's escort our guest home, and see if we can't give him a better welcome."
The dog began growling, baring his teeth and rushing forward at Harry in short lunges. Harry stumbled back, afraid of the dog's sharp teeth. Harry's foot ached, and he guessed the dog had bitten through his shoe and sock into his foot.
Vampyr leaped again, and Harry jumped far back. A hand closed around his shirt, drawing so tight Harry grabbed the front of the collar to keep himself from choking.
"Shall we go?" Snape sneered behind him. He began to pull Harry forward, walking so fast Harry could barely keep up. Snape seemed to take one step to Harry's two, and Harry hurried along on his hurt foot, trying not to limp. Vampyr ran behind, barking and pretending to bite every time Harry almost fell.
"Poor Potter," Snape sneered. "Is he hurt? Is he unable to keep up? Tragic if the dog had to rip out his throat for not following his teacher's instructions."
"Please," Harry begged as they kept going. "Please take me back."
"Beg all you like, Potter," Snape told him. "No one cares about you here. You are truly at my mercy now, and I assure you I have none."
Snape jerked to a stop, and Harry looked up to see a small house. It was old, run-down, almost Victorian with broken shutters and chipped paint.
"What do you think?" Snape sneered. "A man's home is his castle. Is this a castle, Potter? Or is it a fitting place for a poor potions master to hide away during the summer?"
"I don't know," Harry cried. "But don't take me in. Let me go – let me go, and I won't tell anyone."
"Ha!" Snape spat the word out, and he drew his wand out. He pointed it at the door and said "Alohamora!"
The door swung open, and Snape pushed Harry up the stairs into the dark house, Vampyr following close behind. As soon as they stepped over the threshold, candles flared to life. and Harry found himself standing in the middle of a shabby, yet cozy room with old chairs and books stacked up at random. The walls were covered in faded wallpaper, and numerous candles lit the small room up.
Snape pointed his wand at the front door. It swung shut and locked itself.
"Now, Potter," Snape swung him around so Harry could look him in the face. Unfortunately, Snape was much taller, and Harry had to gaze up, up, up to see Snape's dark eyes. Harry's panic reached near terror, and his heart hammered in his chest.
He thought of all the Muggle news stories where young people were kidnapped and tortured or killed, stories on the front of newspapers that had seemed so horrible that he had always glanced away from them. A constant terror that hid on the edge of his awareness that there were some adults who were monsters. The last year in the wizarding world had only added to that fear in the peripheral: there were some adults who were monsters and also could use magic to hurt others.
"I'll show you to teach me some respect," Snape held him by the shoulders as Harry tried to pull away. "What should I do with you? Curse you? Hex you? Hit you? Show Dumbledore's darling prince just how special he is?"
"I'm not a prince," Harry protested, still trying to yank away. "My relatives – they aren't nice to me."
"Oh, really?" Snape scoffed. "You complain because you aren't worshiped at home like at school? Poor pathetic child."
"Let me go! Dumbledore will know if you hurt me. He'll see the curses, and he'll know I'm not lying."
"You're right," Snape agreed, but his cruel smile unnerved Harry even further. "We can't have Precious Potter showing up with any sign of distress. I can't even hit you across the face, or they'll know."
"Yeah," Harry drew in a breath shakily. "So take me back, and I'll act like this never happened."
"Or I'll hit you somewhere they can't see," Snape said.
Harry blinked for a moment, unsure of what Snape meant. A second later, terror flamed inside him as he imagined Snape cursing him so his insides exploded, or giving him a poisoned potion, or using magic to make him hurt himself.
Snape caught his arm and pulled him over to a chair. The potions master took a seat and pulled Harry between his spread knees.
Harry stared at him, frozen as he waited for brutal torture. His mind scrambled for something to defend himself—the lamp on the table, books on the shelves, anything!—but he couldn't think, and now he was trapped and –
Snape grabbed him by the elbows and bent Harry down over his left leg and held him down with his left arm.
Staring down at the floor with his equilibrium off balance, Harry braced himself for pain. What if Snape used magic to start breaking the bones of his back?
"No, Snape!" the words burst from Harry. "Don't! You can't."
"No one's here to stop me," Snape said.
Harry felt Snape's knees pin against him, and wild terror jumped up in Harry's throat. He heard the whoosh of something moving through the air, and then something hit Harry's bottom hard.
For a second, he was stunned. Had the man just –
Another smack came down with a loud thwack and stung his bottom.
"No!" Harry yelled. "No, you can't spank me!"
Snape hit him again, slapping his hand down hard on Harry's bottom.
It hurt – it hurt with a hot sting. His relatives had never hit him across the rear though his uncle had slapped him across the face. But this – Ow! There was another one – this hurt, and it was absolutely humiliating that he would be spanked over someone's knee.
Snape kept landing hard smacks no matter how Harry tried to wiggle free.
"I'm telling," Harry threatened, wincing as another hard blow came down.
Snape said nothing, and Harry couldn't turn his head back far enough to see the man's face. But the spanking continued.
Harry felt at a loss as to what he should do. Snape was bigger than he was, and Snape had locked the door. Harry knew struggling would do no good, and he couldn't seem to talk Snape out of it. So, Harry tried to let his body go limp and just lay there. Maybe if he didn't fight Snape, Snape would get tired of hitting him. But as the spanking went on, Harry found it hard to stay still. His whole bottom was aching horribly, and Snape occasionally had smacked the back of his legs, and still the smacks kept coming in even sharp slaps.
Harry felt his eyes prick with tears, and his bottom lip began to tremble. He tried to bite down on it, knowing that almost twelve was too old to cry over something as childish as a spanking. But the terror he had felt had changed, twisted inside him, and all the feelings rushed over him. Relief at not being killed or tortured, anger from getting a spanking, worry over his trapped position, vulnerability after all the events of this awful night.
Snape slapped his hand on a spot that had been spanked at least half a dozen times, and Harry lost it.
"All right!" he cried. "All right, all right, you win. I'm sorry! I'm sorreeeeey!"
The spanks did not stop.
Harry felt tears well up in his eyes, and he couldn't help crying a bit more. "Please, Snape, please, please!"
An almighty slap landed, and Harry's whole body jerked forward. He kept crying, his tears coming harder and harder.
And then Snape shoved him to the floor.
Unprepared, Harry fell forward. He couldn't catch himself in time; his right arm hit the wooden floor first, and his wrist bent painfully as the rest of his body fell on the arm. His right hip hit the floor too, and the pain was overwhelming. Harry couldn't push himself up. He lay there in misery, choking on his own sobs.
He turned his head enough to look up at Snape, looked at him with bright green eyes full of suffering.
Snape stopped, his own dark eyes widening with some emotion Harry could not understand. And Harry did not want to understand. He sobbed again, a sad sound deep from his chest, and the tears rolled down his red cheeks as he lowered his head.
Harry tried to push himself up, at least to all fours so he could crawl away, find a corner to curl up in, and cry out his pain.
Two iron hands grabbed him under the arms and pulled Harry to his feet. Harry swayed for a moment, nearly losing his balance, but the hands would not let go. Harry cradled his throbbing wrist to his chest, trying to calm down and suck in enough air.
"Serves you right," Snape snarled. "You don't feel like such a hero now, I wager."
"No," Harry moaned in distress. "No, I'm sorry."
Snape said nothing – he pulled Harry over to the side and opened a cabinet. Grabbing a small red vial, Snape uncorked it and forced it to Harry's lips. "Drink it, Potter, or I'll really give you something to cry about."
The potion tasted nasty, strong and bitter, and Harry nearly threw up. His stomach churned, and he felt dizzy and weak, and he knew he would be sick. But the potion reached his stomach, and a warm sensation came over Harry. The pain in his wrist faded away; the ache in his right hip and foot disappeared as well. But the throbbing of his bottom barely changed, and it still hurt, causing Harry to reach back and rub with one small hand.
Snape grabbed him by the back of the neck and marched him towards the hall. "We'll see a how few weeks down in the coal cellar suit you. I might even let you eat Vampyr's dog food."
Before Harry had a chance to react or start crying harder, Snape had him in a tiny hallway. However, instead of shoving him down a flight of stairs, Snape went towards an upward flight of stairs, and Harry mounted the stairs with him, utterly confused and miserable. Vampyr trotted behind him, his paws clicking on the wooden floor.
Snape pulled him into a bathroom that looked like it hadn't been updated in fifty years. Metal chains hung from the ceiling for the loo and the bathtub that stood on rusted iron feet. Snape pulled on one chain, and water began to flood into the tub.
Harry stood still, watching the water pour down. Surely, surely Snape would not drown him.
The dog had slunk to a corner, laying down, but still watching Harry with a hungry look. Snape ripped the tee shirt off Harry and began to undo his pants. Harry pushed once at Snape's hand, but Snape slapped at his wrists hard, and Harry dropped his hands immediately.
Snape stripped him down to his underwear, grabbed Harry, and dropped him into the tub. The water felt hot, but not scalding, but it kept filling higher and higher. It was awful to sit there in the water, still wearing underwear in front of a fully-clothed Snape, but Harry couldn't think of anything to say. The water felt good, even to his sore backside, but he was too overwhelmed to think coherently.
I've been spanked by my teacher. The thought kept repeating in Harry's head. I've been spanked by my teacher, and now he might drown me in the bath. How did I get here?
Snape began rolling up his long black sleeves, a look of anticipation on his face. "Suppose we now clean the Golden Boy until he's spotless and perfect?" he grabbed a bath brush and a bar of soap, plunging both into the water.
Harry closed his eyes as he clung to the edge of the tub. He knew it was about to hurt, and two big tears squeezed out of his eyes as he waited for Snape to scrub his skin raw. He didn't have to wait for long; Snape began scrubbing his back first.
But rather than digging the bristles into his skin, Snape kept the pressure firm but not excruciating. And once Snape finished his back, he grabbed Harry's wrist and pulled his arm up to scrub his side.
All the dirt and sweat were scrubbed off, but thankfully the man left the skin under his underwear alone. Ten minutes later, Snape pulled a wet Harry out of the bathtub and sat him on a stool.
"I'll finally get rid of this awful hair," Snape decided, snatching a straight razor blade from a small table.
Harry looked fearfully at the blade and tried to get off the stool. But Snape kept him down with one hand and began hacking at Harry's hair with the razor. Harry watched tearfully at wet chunks of his dark hair that fell to the ground. His aunt had once cut his hair the same way, but his hair had reappeared the next morning. Harry wondered if it would do the same thing when a wizard cut it, but he doubted it.
A few minutes later, Snape pulled him up from the stool. Harry caught a glimpse of his reflection in the tiny mirror on the wall; he barely had any hair left. Before he had time to take in the humiliation of it all, Snape had pulled him into a tiny room, barely bigger than a closet, with an old-fashioned, iron-stand bed covered with a quilt and a rustic washstand beside the bed.
Snape pointed his wand at Harry, and Harry felt his underwear dry. Snape grabbed a long nightshirt from the end of the bed and draped it over Harry's head. Harry automatically put his hands through the sleeves, but his hands couldn't reach the end of the sleeves. Snape spelled the nightshirt smaller, and the garment shrunk until it was only slightly too big.
Harry's tears had mostly faded, but he couldn't keep his bottom lip from trembling as Snape pushed him towards the bed.
"I should keep you up all night doing chores and cleaning caldrons," Snape growled as he yanked back the quilt. "But I can torture you just as effectively in the morning. Get in bed."
Harry crawled in and lay on his side, shuddering as he tried to gulp down deep breaths.
"Arrogant little brat," Snape snapped from above him. "Just like your father, thinking you own everything and everyone, you rude, conceited, horrid, little monster."
Snape shoved Harry over onto his stomach and delivered two very hard swats to his nightshirt-covered behind. Harry burst into more tears and buried his face into the soft pillow. He hugged his arms around the pillows, sobbing and hoping Snape wouldn't hurt him anymore.
"Yes, cry all you like," Snape growled. "Not one single person cares. You're all alone, and no one's coming to help you."
Harry felt a terrible ache from deep in his chest, and he stayed still on the soft bed and prayed nothing else would happen. He felt the quilt being pulled up and covering his body.
"And just so you don't think of leaving," Snape continued, "I'll let Vampyr sleep by your bed. He might be hungry so I wouldn't move too much if I were you. I would hate to come back in the morning and see that he used you as a bone. Have a nice sleep."
Snape went out and shut the door behind him, turning the room nearly pitch black save for the moonlight from the lone window. For a few minutes, the only sound in the room was Harry's labored breathing. He tried to turn over, but the bed began to squeak with any movement. Vampyr came close to the bed, sniffing, and Harry went very still, trying to play dead.
The dog seemed satisfied that Harry was not going anywhere, and Vampyr settled down beside the bed on the old rug. Harry couldn't even begin to think where Snape had gotten the big dog, not that it really mattered. Though why Snape would want such a fierce dog after Fluffy had nearly torn off his leg . . .
Harry felt exhausted, barely able to keep his eyes open. He wanted nothing more than to relax into the pillow and let himself sleep. He was scared and terrified, and who knew what Snape would do to him in the morning. The dog could eat him at any moment, but Harry felt himself slipping slowly into darkness.
The last thing he heard was the gentle rumble of Vampyr's breathing as the dog watched him fade into sleep.