NOTE: This story is set in an alternate universe. Harry is 6 years old and lives at Hogwarts, thanks to Minerva's having instantly vetoed Dumbledore's plan to leave Harry with the Dursleys. Severus is Harry's doting godfather, as is Sirius (who was never sent to Azkaban). There is mild corporal punishment (no abuse), Snape is revealed to have a marshmallow core, and the author's tongue was planted firmly in cheek during the writing of this story. If any or all of these sound unappealing, this story is unlikely to please you.
Encounter with a Squid
The fourth year Ravenclaw looked up doubtfully at the dour Potions Professor. "I was going to bring him to Professor McGonagall, sir, but he insisted we come to you. I could still –"
"No, Miss Cohen," Snape said, glowering down at the messy-haired six year old whose gaze was firmly locked on the floor. "I will deal with this. Thank you for your timely intervention."
"I don't think he would really have gone all the way into the lake," she offered, trying to mitigate the child's offenses. Merlin only knew what the Evil Bat of the Dungeons would do to the poor boy. Maybe she should have just taken Harry to Professor McGonagall's office after all…
"I believe I am more familiar with my godson's potential than you are, Miss Cohen," Snape snarled. "And any more stalling will result in the removal of the twenty points your actions have earned for your House."
"Yes, sir," she gulped. Giving Harry one last pat on the shoulder, she hurried away.
Harry Potter slowly raised his eyes to meet his godfather's, then winced and hurriedly returned his gaze to his toes. Snape meanwhile was taking in his godson's appearance. Harry was dripping wet, slime and weeds from the lake festooned his form and hung from his ears, and there was a long streak of what Snape fervently hoped was mud down one cheek.
"Come along," he ordered, his voice a menacing growl. Harry hesitantly offered up a hand, and it was seized in a strong, cool grip as he was unceremoniously jerked along behind the tall man.
"Hey!" he protested as the billowing robe caught him in the face. He hurried to catch up and trotted alongside his godfather.
"You naughty, foolish, idiotic child," Snape hissed between gritted teeth. "What were you thinking?"
"I just wanted to play wif the Grindylows," Harry protested. "Hagwid says –"
"You know better than to listen to that dimwit!" Snape snapped, his grip on Harry's hand tightening. "And desist with that annoying lisp. You know perfectly well that I am immune to such deliberate attempts to be twee and cutesy."
Reproachful emerald eyes looked at him, and he cleared his throat uncomfortably. He led the way into his private quarters and swung his godson around to face him.
"You do not go swimming in the Lake!" he said sternly. "You could have drowned!"
"Nuh uh!" Harry argued, then clapped one hand over his mouth.
Snape's eyes narrowed. "And why exactly not? Harry?"
The little boy squirmed but under the unyielding glare, he slowly dug one hand into his pocket. "You're gonna be mad," he warned unhappily.
"If you've got what I think you do, you're absolutely right," Snape agreed, black eyes snapping. Harry displayed his handful of soggy gillyweed. "And where exactly did you get that?"
Harry looked away. "It was a pwesent."
Harry looked at him pleadingly. "Pwease don't make me say."
"In other words you asked a house elf to get it for you. If I find that that gillyweed was stolen from my supply closet, your punishment will be doubled," Snape scolded, shaking a finger at the shaggy haired child.
"Okay but pwease don't get mad at de ewves," Harry begged, his lisp intensifying.
"What good would that do?" Snape grumbled. "How will it restore my stocks if they are off ironing their noses or slamming their heads against the Astronomy Tower? It's you who are at fault, you awful little monster."
Harry sniffled. "Yes, Unca Sevewus."
"I told you to stop that ridiculous lisp," he glared. "It has absolutely no effect on me. I wouldn't have punished the house elves anyway."
"Yes, Unca Sevewus." Harry nodded vigorously.
Inwardly, he heaved a sigh of relief. Uncle Severus was almost as easy to manipulate as Uncle Sirius, though he hid his tender heart under an intimidating layer of snark and snarl. Still, by the time Harry was three, he had quickly learned that, one, the man's bark was significantly worse than his bite, and two, Harry was one of the few people who seemed to recognize that. Everyone else took the man at face value, which was very useful to Harry when he needed to escape serious punishment for some bit of naughtiness but have the rest of Hogwarts believe he had been tortured to within an inch of his life.
In retrospect, his plan to visit the Grindylows and mer-people hadn't been all that bright. Even if the gillyweed had worked, he didn't know where in the enormous lake they were, and he hadn't realized the Giant Squid would be so territorial. It had been a good thing that the Ravenclaw had been studying by the Lake and was so quick with an Accio.
"I'm vewy sorry," Harry whimpered. "I know it was wrong."
"You were very naughty," Snape agreed firmly. "Do you want to take your bath first or be punished first?"
Harry sighed mournfully. He wondered if he could get away with suggesting that the bath count as punishment, but he figured even Uncle Severus wouldn't be that lenient. "Punishment first."
Severus seated himself on the couch and studied Harry with a stern eye. "Tell me what you're being punished for."
Harry stepped forward and began drawing little squiggles on his godfather's knee, keeping his eyes down as he began to list his sins. "I asked the house elves to steal from your stores. I sneaked away to go down to the Lake. I was going to go into the Lake wifout permission. And I got Lizzie all wet when she Accio'd me away from the Squid."
"What!" Snape yelped, rearing back. "The Squid nearly got you? Why didn't that idiot Ravenclaw mention that?"
"I fink she didn't want me to get in any more twouble," Harry offered, reprising the lisp just in case. "Don't be mad at Lizzie. She saved my life."
"Don't be mad at the house elves, don't be mad at Lizzie," Snape mimicked. "You understand this means I'll be even more angry with you and make your punishment all the harder?"
Harry nodded miserably, his lower lip sticking out and quivering. "Yes, Unca Sevewus."
Snape saw the trembling lip and mentally kicked himself. You're scaring him! He's only six years old. You can't be so harsh with the child.
Harry noted the look of remorse flit across his godfather's countenance and happily noted that the lip still worked. It was a shame that Uncle Severus had figured out about the lisp, but Harry still had a few tricks up his sleeve.
"For stealing from me – or encouraging someone else to do so – you will spend two weeks working in my laboratory with me," Snape instructed firmly. "I'm sure that squishing bubotubers and pureeing toad eyeballs will make you think twice about making free with other people's property."
"Yes, Unca Sevewus," Harry said obediently, neglecting to point out that he already helped his godfather prepare potion ingredients on most nights. After all, it was not only fun to spend time with the man, learning about all the cool potions and gross ingredients, but also a highly effective way to delay one's bedtime. Still, if Snape didn't dwell on the fact that he was assigning as punishment tasks that Harry already planned to do, it would be rude for Harry to mention it.
"Furthermore, since you obviously can't be trusted alone, you will spend the next five days in the company of an adult."
"Unca Sevewus!" Harry whined. "I'm not a baby!"
"No, you're a very naughty little boy!" Snape shot back. "Would you rather be locked in your room for five days?"
"No," Harry muttered sulkily. He scuffed one toe against the floor in the obligatory show of temper, but he was actually fairly relieved. He had worried that Uncle Severus would order him straight to his room, and though it was unlikely he would have kept him there as long as five days, even an afternoon confined there was torture for the active little boy.
This way, he knew from past experience, he'd be passed among the faculty, and the various supervising adults would all make their usual fuss over him. Even those who felt obligated to scold him for his escapade or assign him chores tended to relent fairly quickly and make sure that he enjoyed his time with them. Not that that was hard to do – cleaning broomsticks for Auntie Hooch almost always guaranteed some flying time with her teaching him new aerobatics; Hagrid never failed to have an excitingly weird creature for him to play with; even Madame Pince made sure to have some new self-narrating books just right for a child his age.
"And for putting yourself in danger like that," Severus forced himself to say the next words, "you're getting a spanking."
Harry's shoulders drooped. "Aw…"
"No arguments, young man." Snape reached for the boy then regarded his wet hand with distaste. A quick flick of his wand and Harry was dry, if not clean. A moment later, the small boy was over Snape's knee.
The wand moved again and the seat of Harry's jeans temporarily vanished, revealing the boy's Spiderman underpants. Snape rolled his eyes. That idiot Arthur Weasley had given the boy some Muggle comic books last Christmas, and this was the inevitable result. Muggles apparently had something called "merchandizing" which translated to the Hogwarts staff buying Harry annoying numbers of Spiderman-related action figures, bedsheets, and now underwear.
Harry wiggled. Uncle Severus had the world's boniest knees.
Snape cast one more spell, then he put down his wand and raised his hand high. "You're also getting five swats with the ruler, you disobedient brat," he announced coldly. "And don't think you can convince me otherwise with your tears and wailing."
He waited just long enough for the woebegone "No, Unca Sevewus" before beginning.
He lowered his hand to just above Harry's bum, then flicked his wrist to land his fingers smartly against the little boy's rear. A deafening THWACK echoed around the room, thanks to his having cast a special sound-amplifying spell. Harry's resultant yelp was equally earsplitting, and Snape smirked in satisfaction. A loud noise scared the little beggars witless and guaranteed noisy tears and remorse.
Snape continued, tapping the boy's backside firmly to the loud accompaniments of both fearsome sound effects and pitiful howls. He made sure to cover the entire bottom before pausing. Harry sounded like he was being tortured with a branding iron, and Snape predicted that his students would be very well behaved for the next few weeks. Previous experience had taught him that sound traveled very well from his quarters to the Slytherin Common Room. "All right, young man, I want you to remember this the next time you think of such a foolish, dunderheaded stunt." Snape admonished.
"Y-yes, Unca Sevewus," Harry whimpered piteously. He risked a peek over his shoulder. His backside didn't really hurt at all – Uncle Severus' light whacks sounded awful but imparted virtually no sting. The playful birthday swats he got from Hagrid stung much worse than these did, though he had no intention of ever telling that to the gentle giant - or the snarky Potions professor.
Harry had a fairly good idea that he wasn't going to get off scot-free though, and one look at his godfather's face confirmed that. He knew that other people found Uncle Severus hard to read, but Harry had never had any difficulty knowing what he was thinking. And right now, he could tell that his godfather was steeling himself to deliver a few real whacks. Harry winced and braced himself. He knew he'd been foolhardy, and he didn't really mind the punishment, as it showed how much he was loved. On the other hand, he didn't really want to have a sore behind either.
"You do not take chances with your safety!" Severus said sternly.
"Yessir," Harry gulped.
Snape gritted his teeth and brought his hand down hard right over the area on which Harry sat.
Harry squeaked in dismay. That one had really stung!
Snape repeated the action twice more, landing each successive swat in exactly the same place, right over one of the irritating Spiderman images that were imprinted on the underpants. By the third, Harry was wiggling frantically and trying not to groan aloud. He had great fun yelling and screaming to put on a good show and make Uncle Severus feel like he was doing his duty. But it was another thing to really yelp because of a smack. Harry had his pride, after all; he wasn't a baby who squalled just because his bum was stinging.
"You've still got the ruler coming," Snape told him, forcing his voice to remain cold and heartless. He would have been dismayed had he known that Harry's heart leapt with relief at his words.
Whew! The ruler! That meant that the real swats were over, and a good thing too. Harry wasn't sure how many more whacks to that one spot he could have endured without whining. He squirmed a bit, hoping that the unpleasant tingle would quickly fade.
Snape Accio'd the ruler from his desk and raised it high. It had taken him months to perfect the charm, but it had been worth it. He wasn't about to use anything harder than his hand on any child – let alone his treasured godson – but there was no doubt that children responded with a very gratifying level of terror to the mere threat of the ruler. It had made his House astonishingly respectful of him, no mean feat when you considered many of his students' backgrounds, but of course he had to be prepared to make good on his promise – hence the charm. It created a thin cushion of air between the student and the ruler, which protected the upturned bottom but still provided a sense of impact. Coupled with the noise-amplifier spell and Snape's pre-spanking snarls and threats, it made for a terrifyingly real experience. The students often worked themselves up into such states of hysteria that it was several hours before they calmed down enough to realize that their backsides weren't blistered. By then, of course, it was easy to assume that the pain had merely faded over time.
Unbeknownst to Snape, however, his godson was nowhere near as suggestible as many of his little snakes. Harry knew perfectly well that Uncle Severus' ruler was nothing more than a lot of sound and bluster. Still, when it descended over his underwear-clad backside the promised five times, his screeches nearly made his godfather's ears bleed.
"Let that be a lesson to you," Snape growled, restoring the jeans and lifting his godson to his feet.
"Yes, Unca Sevewus," Harry sniveled, scrubbing at suspiciously dry eyes. "I'm sowwy."
"There, there," Severus mumbled guiltily, pulling the boy into a hug. He really shouldn't have been so hard on him. It wasn't as if Harry meant to be naughty; he was just a curious, clever child who needed to be kept occupied.
Harry hugged his godfather back hard. He was really lucky. If his Nana had been the first to learn about today's adventures, he would have really gotten into trouble. At the very least he would have received several days of genuine grounding, complete with no flying, no toys, no books, and early bedtimes, not to mention a sound spanking that would have left him smarting. But as strict as Nana was, she also respected Uncle Severus. If Uncle Severus had already punished him, Nana would accept the matter as settled.
They were the only two who really disciplined Harry – Uncle Sirius was pants at punishment, as they'd all discovered. The one time Sirius had tried, after much nagging from the others, he'd ordered Harry to his room for an hour, then felt so guilty that he'd pulled him out after twenty minutes and taken him on a toy-buying spree. Harry hadn't quite understood how his being rude to Mr Filch had resulted in a new broom, toy potions kit, and four books on Quidditch, but he wasn't about to argue. Of course, Nana had instantly confiscated the toys, resulting in real tears from Harry, but after that Sirius was, they all agreed, better off not even trying to discipline the boy. Uncle Severus had sneaked the potions kit to Harry the next day, and eventually Nana had permitted him to have the broom and Quidditch books too, but he'd also had to write a letter of apology to Mr Filch and spend a whole afternoon helping him polish the floor of the Trophy Room.
"Go stand in the corner and think about why you deserved that," Snape ordered, forcing himself to re-assume his stern demeanor.
Harry obediently trotted off to the corner. He knew Uncle Severus always needed a restorative cup of tea, liberally laced with Calming Draught, after swatting him.
Five minutes later, "All right. You can come out now."
Harry turned around and looked dolefully up at his godfather. "Are you still mad at me, Uncle Severus?" he asked in a tiny voice, doing "sad puppy eyes" with all his considerable skill.
"I should be very angry with you for doing such a silly thing," Snape grumbled back, but he bent over and picked up the boy, then sat down in the recliner, cuddling him close. "Did you knock your head and have all your brains fall out?"
Harry giggled, snuggling into the man's black robes.
"Did you even read about the Grindylows and mer-people before deciding to visit them?" Snape asked testily. "Or did you just decide that of course they'd be happy to meet such a badly behaved child?"
"Why wouldn't they like me?" Harry asked with the innocence of a well-loved child. "Are they mean?"
"No, but…" and for the next hour, Snape told his godson stories about the Lake dwellers. They passed the rest of the afternoon in similarly companionable activities, and then it was nearly time for dinner.
"Miserable brat!" Snape exclaimed, looking at the time. "You didn't remind me that you still need to take a bath from being in the Lake."
Harry laughed outright. "Ha, ha! Now it's too close to dinnertime!"
"Ha, ha," Snape retorted grimly. "No, it's not. Come along right this instant." When Harry hung back rebelliously, Snape merely said, "Do you want me to floo your Nana and have her give you the bath?"
That did the trick. Harry scooted ahead of him into the bathroom and was stripping off his clothes before Snape even entered the room. Snape filled the tub with warm water and green foamy bubbles, then helped Harry climb in. He cast a worried eye over his godson's bum as he got into the water, just in case he needed bruise salve, but the man was relieved to see no signs of Harry's earlier punishment. Severus sincerely believed himself to be a harsh disciplinarian and he was always worried that he had crossed the line between punishment and abuse. He constantly fretted that he was too strict with his godson and would have been gobsmacked to realize that Harry considered him a soft touch. Literally.
He quickly scrubbed his godson, ending up – as usual – nearly as wet as the little brat himself. He lifted him from the tub and wrapped him in a big towel. "Go get dressed for dinner while I take a quick shower."
Harry hurried to obey. He didn't want to be late for dinner. The house elves always seemed to know when he had gotten into trouble and made sure to fix his favorite foods to cheer him up.
Harry and Severus arrived at the Great Hall only a few moments after the food had been served. "Ah, there you two are," Dumbledore said happily. "We were just beginning to worry."
"Especially once we saw that all of Harry's favorites are on tonight's menu," Professor Flitwick said with a wink at Harry.
"Hi, Nana!" Harry hurried over to give Minerva a kiss.
"Hello, my love. Have you been giving Uncle Severus problems?" she asked, hugging him back.
"He has," Snape answered shortly, catching Harry by the shoulder and pulling him over to his chair. "This horrid little monster decided to pay a visit on the Grindylows and went so far as to swipe gillyweed from my inventory and go swimming in the lake."
The faculty erupted in shocked exclamations, and Harry squirmed guiltily. "If it weren't for the quick actions of Elizabeth Cohen –" Flitwick beamed proudly on behalf of his House "- the Squid would have eaten this young miscreant for lunch."
"Harry James Potter –" Minerva began angrily, and Harry edged closer to his godfather.
"Happily, Miss Cohen brought him straight to me, Minerva, and I addressed the problem immediately," Snape put in hastily. "Among other punishments, Harry must now be under constant supervision for the next five days, so I would appreciate it if those of you who might be willing to babysit this troublesome brat would inform me of your schedules. I will then put together a roster."
Harry felt bad. Uncle Severus was having to go to a lot of trouble, and the expressions of shock and dismay from the other adults had made him realize just how much danger he'd been in earlier. He sidled closer to Snape, wanting to apologize, his expression miserable.
"Oh, dear. Are you too sore to sit down in your chair, Harry?" Professor Sprout, seated on his far side, misinterpreted his look of dejection. Tender hearted Hufflepuff that she was, she shot Snape an accusing look. "Is the wood too hard for your bottom?"
Harry wasn't the slightest bit sore, but the thought of getting to sit on his godfather's lap during dinner and snuggle close sounded good, so he nodded. He ignored Snape's put upon expression as well as the glares the other faculty sent the man, and climbed onto his lap.
With a long suffering sigh, Snape pulled Harry's plate over. "You manipulative little Slytherin," he muttered in Harry's ear.
Harry knew perfectly well that this was a compliment disguised as a complaint, so he just leaned back against Snape's chest and reached for a piece of fried chicken.
By the time Harry finished his second helping of chocolate pudding, the Hall was nearly empty. The other teachers had left after promising to send Snape copies of their schedules, and Minerva moved over so that she was sitting next to them. "That naughty child," she murmured, looking over to where Harry was scraping up the remains of his dessert. "He gets into more mischief…"
"Indeed," Snape said austerely. "I blame his paternal heritage, of course."
"Are you sure you weren't too hard on him?" she asked, a twinkle in her eye that would do Albus proud. "Although it did seem that he made a remarkable recovery once he sat on your lap."
Two spots of color appeared on Snape's cheeks. "I can assure you, he was soundly punished -"
Minerva leaned over and patted Snape's hand. "I'm sure you felt he was, you big softy."
"Minerva! I am not the slightest bit soft on the boy!" Snape was highly affronted.
"Hmmmm." The elderly witch just looked at him another moment, then chuckled. "You are a very good man, Severus Snape."
Snape huffed in outrage and looked away. How dare she say such a thing? Didn't she know he was the Evil Bat of the Dungeons?
"Come along, Harry. You have homework to do and then I think an early bedtime is in order after all of today's excitement."
Harry looked up cautiously. Was he being punished? But at the smile on his Nana's face, all worries left him and he eagerly took her hand. "Can I have an extra story?"
"Yes," she promised. "I came too close to losing you today. I want to have some extra cuddle time with my little lion."
Harry hugged his godfather good night then left for the Gryffindor Tower with McGonagall. "I didn't mean to be bad," he remarked as they walked. "I just wanted to see what it was like under the lake."
"Then you could have asked Uncle Albus or myself to take you," Minerva pointed out. "I think you wanted an adventure, and that's what got you into trouble."
Harry hung his head. His Nana always knew how his mind worked. "I'm sorry," he said, his voice low.
McGonagall stopped and knelt down, putting her hands on the little boy's shoulders. "I know you are, Harry. But you need to think of how sad everyone would be if anything were to happen to you. How do you think I would feel if you had been injured? Or Uncle Severus – wouldn't he be upset! Or Uncle Sirius? Or the rest of the school?"
"Would you have cried?" Harry asked in wonder.
"Oh, Harry. I would have cried and cried until there were no more tears in the world. And so would your godfathers."
Harry felt tears prickling behind his eyelids. "I din't mean it," he said, his breath hitching.
"We love you so much, child. I don't think you quite know how precious you are to us."
That did it. Harry broke down and sobbed. "I'm sorry!" he wailed, wrapping his arms around his Nana's neck. "I'll never do it again!"
She rose, cradling him in his arms. "I'm sure you won't, little one. But if you do, we'll be here to stop you."
"Do you really love me?" Harry hiccupped.
Minerva smiled. This was one of Harry's favorite games. "Yes."
"As much as all the pumpkin juice in the world?"
"As much as all the stars in the sky?"
"As much as all the lemon drops in Uncle Albus' office?"
Minerva pretended to think. "Hmmm. Well, that is a lot of lemon drops. But yes, I love you as much as that. Do you love me?"
"Yes!" Harry said happily, bouncing in her arms.
"As much as all the nasty pickled eyeballs in Uncle Severus' office?"
"As much as…" Their voices trailed off as they walked down the corridor, leaving the Hogwarts portraits to their evening rest.
A/N: I wrote this as a one shot, but if there is interest, I'd be willing to write a prequel and/or some more stories in this universe, so please let me know if anyone would want to read such things.