Hogwarts seemed to have shrunk in the years since the war. Harry knew that it was his perception that had changed rather than the building, but part of him couldn't let go of the idea that somehow the magic in Hogwarts had actually made the castle smaller, as if the loss of Professor Dumbledore and the ravages of the final battle with Voldemort through its halls had made the castle less than it once had been. It was less, though not by any measurable quantity. It was also, at the same time, more and different, no longer the place of adventure and danger that he'd known as a child, but someplace safe and familiar that he could count on while he figured out what to make of the years he'd been left with. Everything seemed different through the eyes of an adult – buildings, people, responsibilities.
Adult. The word seemed so strange. It was a stage of life he'd never expected nor hoped to reach, and now that he was there, permanently stuck there along with all the expectations of responsibility that it entailed, he was lost on where to go. Well, the literal where had been obvious. There was only one place Harry felt he could go – home, not to that small house on Privet Drive with the cupboard under the stairs and locked doors, or to his godfather's old house still full of voices from the past, but rather Hogwarts, the only home he'd ever really had.
Harry let his hand trail along the cold stone walls as he moved through the dark corridors. He felt like a restless ghost wandering the halls, one of the war-dead who kept moving, kept living because he didn't realize he was dead. As he turned the corner, his back stretched, pulling at the mostly healed wounds on his back. He wasn't dead yet.
A small wisp of light, barely more than a candle flicker, floated ahead of him, the light wavering whenever his mind wandered. It felt good to be back at Hogwarts, right somehow, as if Hogwarts had been waiting for him while he muddled around in the outside world, trying and failing to figure out what to do with the remainder of his life. He'd been surprised at Professor McGonagall's – now Headmaster, though his brain had yet to fully associate that title with his former Transfigurations Professor – enthusiastic response when he'd owled to ask if there might possibly be an opening at Hogwarts. He had students of his own now, in a legitimate capacity. Part of him still felt like he was with Dumbledore's Army, like he should be teaching his students in secret from the Room of Requirement.
A smile stretched across his face as he remembered the first years he'd had earlier today. The students were still adjusting to him – the famous Harry Potter, Boy Who Lived and Killed You Know Who – as much as he was adjusting to them. He didn't remember being that young, that bright and eager. He probably hadn't been. None of his students had spent their childhood locked in a cupboard only to learn that the evil wizard that had killed his parents was bent on killing him.
The light flickered and went out. He summoned another one with a thought and strengthened it until it filled the hallway with light. Only then did he realize that he wasn't alone. Harry started. The light flickered but he had enough control to keep it from going out.
"You don't need to explain yourself to me, Potter. You are no longer my student." Professor Snape pushed off from where he'd been leaning against the wall, his presence partially hidden by a stone column.
Harry swallowed nervously and resisted the urge to pick at the dust he was certain had brushed off on his robes. "Right. Sorry. I was just..."
Snape raised an eyebrow expectantly.
His lips flapped ineffectively for a moment before he gave up on trying to finish his sentence with anything logical. "I don't know. Wandering. Both in mind and foot."
"So I'd gathered." Whatever he'd said must have been the right option because Snape stepped closer. He regarded Harry for a long moment, his gaze as cold and scrutinizing as it had always been during Harry's childhood but there was something off about it, something missing. After a few minutes had passed, Snape nodded to himself and turned, black robes swirling about him. "Follow me."
Harry's feet propelled him forward before his brain had time to catch up. Questions bubbled through his head but he bit them back, choosing to say nothing rather than start blathering like a complete fool. With Snape, those seemed to be the only two settings his mouth would fall on.
He followed Snape deeper into the castle. The halls were empty. The students were in their common rooms by now, if not already in bed. He should be too but the urge to wander had been greater. At least his classes were all later in the morning, so it didn't really matter if he stayed out a bit longer. Snape led him down a narrow, slightly dusty staircase the spiraled down into darkness. Harry thought about shifting the light lower, so that Snape could see better, but he didn't seem to have any trouble on the stairs.
They emerged in a hallway decorated with Slytherin banners, though it wasn't one of the ones Harry recognized from his few adventures down to the Slytherin common room as a student. Snape said nothing until they turned down two more corridors and came to a halt in front of a massive serpent carved into the wall. Harry's hand shot out before he could stop himself. The scales felt almost real, definitely stone but slightly pliant, as if there was something living beneath.
Two heads turned to stare at him and the coil under his hand shifted slightly. The stone snake flicked its tongue out, as if tasting the air but its form stayed trapped flat on the wall.
"Hello," Harry hissed.
The snake head started to slither towards him but a sharp cough from Snape brought it to a halt. "Back here, if you please."
The snake's tongue flicked towards Harry once more before it turned to face Snape. Password?
Harry gaped. The snake's voice sounded like the castle, like wind blowing through the eaves or fabric brushing against stone, but there was a distinct voice to it, an unmistakable sense of meaning. It was a wonder he'd never come across the stone snake before. Or maybe he had and had just mistaken the voice for the usual noises of the castle.
Snape cast one last glance over at Harry and then responded. "Valerian."
He fought the urge to smile. Valerian was a root used in creating the Draught of Living Death. It seemed rather fitting as Snape's password, though he had no doubt that Snape would change it as soon as Harry was gone. The snake slithered to the side, somewhat grudgingly, revealing an arched doorway hidden behind its coils. Its eyes followed Harry, tongue flitting towards him.
"Come in." The words sounded more like an order than an offer.
"Thank you," he said, for lack of anything else, and followed Snape through the doorway. The wall closed behind him.
He'd never been inside Snape's personal chambers before. Harry wasn't quite sure what he'd expected Snape's rooms too look like, possibly a Slytherin version of his own, soft and plush, but decked in greens and silver rather than reds and gold. Snape's rooms were dark but not unpleasantly so, full of shadows as befit a man who often worked in or from them. Two closed doors hinted at further depths to the chambers. There were books, hundreds of books, filling the shelves that lined the walls, overflowing on to tables, and flowing around a few cabinets that seemed to have been built around the bookshelves, or vice versa. The only surface that seemed to be clear of books was the mantle of the rather prominent fireplace and the low table set a few feet in front of it. Harry's curiosity drew him towards the shelves.
"Have a seat." Snape waved towards the array of furniture circling the fire and then headed a different direction.
Harry hesitated for a moment and then turned to perch awkwardly at one end of a long, battered couch. He half expected something to leap out at him. The way the couch was scarred made Harry think something had been attacking it, though not recently. His fingers brushed along a stitched-up tear in the cushion next to him. Despite appearances, the couch was quite comfortable and Harry found himself relaxing against it before his mind could catch up, warning him that he was in Snape's chambers. His back pressed against the couch and he barely managed to catch the pained hiss before it escaped his lips. He sat a little straighter and smiled slightly at the memories that the pain recalled.
"Here." A tumbler of something murky red appeared in front of Harry's face, bringing his mind back to the present. He took it and stared between the glass and Snape's face. He hadn't expected Snape to offer anything beyond company.
Snape had a similar glass in his hand, though his was fuller. The liquid sloshed against the rim as Snape sat in a large black-upholstered armchair closer to the fire. His face was half-turned to stare into the fire. If it weren't for the glass in Harry's hand he would have thought Snape had forgotten he was in the room. He tested the strange drink with a small sip before swallowing a larger mouthful. It tasted like warm fruit, tart and slightly bitter but not unpleasantly so.
"What is this?" He asked, his voice quiet to match the atmosphere of the room. He felt out of place, like he shouldn't be here, but it would be rude to try and dismiss himself so early. Besides, he didn't really want to go. So much of his childhood had been spent wondering about Professor Snape, and now that he'd been offered just a tiny glimpse of the man's personal life, he wasn't about to walk away.
Snape turned to him and raised an eyebrow. "Usually one asks that before drinking." Snape took a large swallow from his glass while Harry flushed.
"I think we're past the point where I have to worry about you poisoning me."
Snape's lips twitched, as if he wanted to smile but was restraining himself. "There was a point when you worried that I would poison you?"
It was good to know that even in his adulthood, Harry hadn't lost the ability to feel like an utter child around Severus Snape. "Maybe," he hedged. "I know you wouldn't have. Well, I know now." Adulthood had, at least, cleared away many of the misconceptions he'd held during his school years. The war had ended many of them, and the few that had remained had fallen away in the short span of years since, when he'd tried to figure out his place in a world that no longer needed him.
"Tempting as it would have been..." Snape let his sentence trail off in a drawl. Harry couldn't help but smile. He took another drink while his mind searched vainly for something to say to keep the conversation going.
"I'm sorry," Harry blurted. His face flushed brightly before the words were fully out of his mouth. Snape just stared at him with his usual condescension, but he didn't say anything. Harry forced himself to continue. "I know there are a lot of things I should apologize for. I was a foolish child-"
"Most are," Snape interrupted.
Harry forced himself to breathe. Now that he'd started, he had to finish. "I was foolish and didn't realize that you'd been trying to protect me, to protect all of us, all along. Even when you-" He couldn't bring himself to say it. "Even after what happened in the Astronomy Tower, what he wanted to happen... I'm sorry. I know it was hard for you, and then, now, suddenly, I just walk in and take the Defense Against Dark Arts position that I know you wanted-"
Snape's laughter startled him into silence. Harry's mouth hung open. Words disserted him. He couldn't remember ever hearing Snape laugh like this, an honest, full-bodied laugh that made him shake and drew a ghost of a smile across his features.
The laugh faded seconds later, though echoes of it remained in Snape's voice and his eyes. He missed the sound of it as soon as it was gone. "Do you honestly think that by now that position would still be vacant if I truly wanted it?"
Harry shut his mouth with a loud snap. "I suppose not."
"Make no mistake, Potter. I am where I want to be."
Harry's glass was nearly empty. When it was, he'd have an excuse to leave. He was tempted to drain it, just so he could escape from the awkwardness that seemed to be wrapping around him. He sipped from the glass instead and held the liquid in his mouth for a long moment before swallowing, coating his tongue with the flavor. It didn't taste like alcohol but the way it left a burning trail down his throat and pooled like lava in his belly told him it was. Strong alcohol too, and Harry'd never developed a tolerance to the stuff. He was suddenly glad that Snape had only given him a little. Alcohol made him do and say stupid things, and with Snape there were a number of things that were better left unsaid. Like how many times he'd thought about Snape marking him like David had marked up his back.
Harry blushed and blurted the first thing that came to mind. "Why?"
Snape studied him. He had been for most of the conversation, Harry belatedly realized. Hopefully he'd mistake the blush for an effect of the alcohol. "Why what? Why did I stay as Potions Master?"
He shook his head and shifted slightly, fiddling with his glass until he decided that he'd had enough, possibly more than he should have, and set the tumbler aside. His mind was wandering into areas that it should never have visited. "Why did you invite me in? Why are you being so nice to me?"
Snape turned back towards the fire. "Because we're not who we once were. We each had our roles to play in order to defeat Voldemort, and now that he's gone, for good, those roles are no longer necessary." Snape's gaze shifted back to Harry and for a brief second Harry thought that Snape was reading his mind. But there was no push against his mind to warn him that Legilimency was being used. It was just Snape, watching him as he always had. He supposed, by now, Snape didn't need Legilimency to read him.
"Oh." He felt that he should say more, but the words failed him. He hadn't realized that Snape had felt that way, that they were both going through the same thing. Snape was a spy with no one to spy on or for. Harry felt suddenly better, knowing that he wasn't the only one left adrift by the lack of war.
"I think you've strayed from your bed long enough," Snape said as he stood. He picked up Harry's glass as he walked past. Harry stood as well, and if he was slightly unsteady on his feet, he blamed it on the sudden wave of exhaustion that washed over him rather than the alcohol.
"Thank you, Professor. It was nice," unexpectedly nice, "talking to you."
Snape said nothing as he placed the glasses on a small shelf set against the wall and returned a large, half-full bottle of the red liquid back to a cabinet full of similar bottles. The door reemerged as Harry walked towards the wall. He paused halfway out the door to stare back at his former professor but Snape's gaze was once more fixed on the fire. If he noticed Harry leaving, he made no sign of it.
"Good night," Harry said softly and closed the door.
The stone snake followed him, slithering along the wall beside Harry until he reached his rooms. He fell asleep with a smile.
Harry's back did not feel right. He bit his lip to keep from whimpering as he settled against Snape's couch. It definitely hurt more than it should, the usually comforting pain sliding more into the uncomfortable range. He wondered absently if he'd be able to talk Poppy into giving him something for it without her knowing why. If it got any worse, he might have to resort to a healing spell, and those never worked quite right for him, especially on areas that he couldn't see.
Belatedly, he realized Snape had been talking to him. Harry turned and blinked in confusion, not quite sure what to say now that Snape was aware that Harry hadn't been listening.
"Are you quite alright, Potter?"
"Fine," he lied. Snape's eyes narrowed and Harry knew he'd been caught out. He swallowed nervously and prayed that Snape would let it pass.
Snape stood. "Take off your shirt."
The blood washed out of Harry's face. Despite the fear suddenly coursing through him, some of the blood settled lower in his anatomy. "W-what?" He'd had dreams that started out like this, but in them he didn't feel quite so terrified. "That's n-not necessary. I'm... I'm fine."
Snape gave him a stern look and for a moment, Harry felt like he was a student once more. "Potter, in all the years we've known each other, do you think I haven't learned to tell when you're lying?"
He swallowed around the sudden lump in his throat and turned to look away. He was well and truly caught, and now that Snape knew something was up, there was no way he was going to be able to talk his way out of it. Harry stood and pulled his robes over his head, folding the fabric neatly and then draping it over the back of the couch in a vain effort to forestall the inevitable. He kept his head down, eyes stuck to the floor as he unbuttoned his shirt. That too was folded and placed on top of his robes. He dropped to sit on the edge of the couch. He could feel Snape watching him and he wrapped his arms around his front in an effort to block that gaze. He knew he wasn't attractive, not really. He'd never quite grown out of the gangliness of his youth - too small, too short, too thin.
The cool air at least made his back feel a bit better, as did the lack of fabric pressing against the wounds.
Snape stepped forward, the movement visible in the peripheral of Harry's vision. One large hand settled on his shoulder, gently pushing until he turned to face the arm of the couch. Harry couldn't help the hiss of pain that escaped him as the welts on his back tightened. He winced as Snape's fingers brushed over the topmost welt.
"Who did this to you?" Snape's voice was utterly devoid of emotion. In a way, that made the situation slightly more bearable. For now, he could at least pretend that Snape wasn't disgusted by him.
"It doesn't matter," Harry said softly. There were few times in his life where he'd wanted to the floor to swallow him up more.
"It matters a great deal."
Harry sighed and gripped the arm of the couch. "It doesn't matter because you don't know him. He's a muggle. From London." He could have given Snape a name, David, but it wouldn't have made any difference.
There was a long pause. Snape's shoes thudded against the stone as he walked away. He heard a loud creak as a cabinet was opened, followed by the soft tink of glass against glass.
"And why did you let a muggle do that to you?" There was a hard edge to Snape's voice. It took Harry a second to realize that Snape was mad at him. He winced, knowing that his next words were only going to make Snape madder.
Harry looked up. Snape pulled a jar of a faintly green substance out of a cabinet filled with similar jars and bottles. "Because I needed him to."
Emotion flashed across Snape's face as he turned and then was hidden too quickly for Harry to identify it. They stared at each other for a long moment. Harry was the first to look away, his gaze shifting back to his hands. He forced himself to relax his grip on the couch and watched as his knuckles faded from white to pink.
"Lay down on your stomach." Harry was fairly certain that he imagined the gentle tone underlying Snape's voice.
He turned, hissing slightly at the movement. He was short enough that he fit comfortably along the length of the couch with a few scant inches to spare. Harry stretched his arms up next to his head and wrapped his fingers around the edge of the cushion. There was a rustle of fabric as Snape knelt next to him. He jumped as something cool hit his back, then forced himself to lay still.
"Your muggle is an idiot and an amateur," Snape said as his hand slid over Harry's back, leaving a smear of tingling ointment in its wake. Harry's retort was cut off by a pained whimper as Snape's hand brushed over one of the welts. "Someone who is practiced..." Harry bit his lip to stifle further cries, but he couldn't stop himself from wincing as Snape moved on to the next welt. "...wouldn't have let these get infected."
Harry had nothing to say in his own or David's defense. He'd known David wasn't as careful as he should be, but Harry had liked him, at least enough that he kept coming back. His back tingled where Snape had touched it, the pain of the welts slowly fading. The smell of mint and pine slowly filled the room.
Snape said nothing until Harry's back was liberally coated. Harry's eyes had closed sometime during Snape's ministrations. He opened them again as he heard the lid being put back on the jar. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Snape stand.
"Stay there until your skin stops tingling, and then you may go home."
"Yes, sir," Harry answered obediently. He wondered how long he had to wait for the inevitable lecture from Snape.
He heard another tink of glass as the jar was put away and the cabinet closed. A door opened.
He couldn't see Snape from his position on the couch. "Yes, sir?"
"The next time you feel you need such treatment, you will come to me instead of your muggle."
The door shut before Harry had a chance to answer, leaving him alone in the room. Harry lay frozen with surprise, too shocked to say anything until long after the tingling along his back had faded away. He sat up slowly and stretched. There was no pain, and he was fairly certain that if he looked in a mirror right now, all of the welts would be gone. He felt slightly bereft at their loss but there was something else, another emotion that was welling up to take their place.
Harry dressed slowly and left without another word.
Three days passed before Harry found himself back, shifting nervously on his feet outside Snape's chambers. The stone snake took one look at him and then slowly slithered aside. He'd never been to Snape's rooms without Snape first knowing that he was coming, and he was half afraid that Snape would tell him to go away. He forced himself to move forward and knock on the door. There was no answer. He waited another minute and then pulled at the handle. It was unlocked. Snape watched him from his usual chair by the fire, a large leather-bound book open on his lap.
Harry froze, mouth open, unsure whether he should come in or run away. "I..."
The word barely left his lips before something changed in Snape's expression. He closed the book and set it aside. "Come in."
Harry's hands were shaking as he walked inside. The door melted into the stone wall, leaving Harry trapped inside Snape's chambers. He couldn't bring himself to think that that was a particularly bad thing, but it was unnerving. He'd been here dozens of times before, but the new circumstances wiped all of their slowly building familiarity away.
Snape's eyes were fixed on Harry, like he was cataloging Harry's every move. He wondered if Snape could hear how fast Harry's heart was beating, if he'd noticed the way Harry's was trembling.
His body obeyed automatically, feet carrying in forward until he stood in front of Snape's chair. He dropped to his knees and let his head tilt down, his hands clasped behind his back. He wasn't sure if Snape wanted him like that, but for Harry it was a reflex, one that he'd have to work hard to break if Snape needed him to.
"Obedient," Snape murmured, a faint hint of pleasure in his voice. Harry blushed.
One of Snape's hands ran through Harry's hair. It was longer than he'd worn it as a child, though only by a few inches. Long enough that his bangs hid his scar well enough when he needed them to.
"What kind of relationship did you have with your muggle?"
Harry cautiously glanced up. "M-master... and slave."
Snape's hand didn't pull away but one of his eyebrows rose. "And you let him beat you?"
Harry nodded. His body was slowly starting to relax, distracted from his worry by Snape's gentle fingers.
"Did you sleep with him?"
Harry blushed and tensed, then forced himself to relax. He nodded again. "S-sometimes..."
"Were you the top or the bottom?"
He couldn't keep looking at Snape anymore. He felt like his face was going to burst into flames at any moment. "The bottom."
"And what do you want from me?"
His eyes slowly drifted back to Snape's face. It sounded like... He didn't think Snape was offering, but... "I..." He licked his lips. Snape's eyes followed the movement of his tongue. "I want..." He couldn't seem to stop blushing, but he had to force himself to say it. If there was a chance, no matter how slim of a chance, that Snape would actually want him, would be what Harry needed, then he wasn't going to let himself walk away without saying it. "...everything. Please."
Snape's hand stilled but didn't move away. He stared at Harry until Harry looked away.
The word didn't make sense the first time he heard it. Harry looked up. Snape repeated himself. His hand pulled away as Snape stood.
"Stay," Snape ordered.
Harry relaxed and closed his eyes as Snape walked away. For some reason, Snape was willing to go along with Harry's desires. He wasn't about to question his luck. A few minutes passed before Snape returned again. Fabric brushed against Harry's arm as Snape sat down again.
"Look at me."
Harry looked up. Snape had his wand in hand but Harry's interest was pulled instead to the thick leather collar in his lap. There was a large metal ring set into the front of the collar.
"You understand what you're getting into? I won't be gentle with you, but I also won't be cruel."
Harry nodded. "I understand. I don't want gentle."
"Why?" Snape's gaze pierced through him and Harry knew, instinctively, that if he lied now, this would all be over.
He swallowed and chose his words carefully. "Because I should have died when I killed Voldemort. Because I did die..." It was hard to keep looking at Snape while he talked, but he forced himself not to look away. "...and sometimes it feels like I'm still there, in the forest, and the only reason I'm still walking around is because my mind hasn't caught up to the fact that I'm dead yet." Once he started, it was hard to stop. He trembled. "Because it's my fault that Cedric and Sirius are dead and I deserve to be punished for that." A few stray tears slid down his cheeks. "Because my entire childhood was spent teaching me that I deserve to be treated this way."
Snape reached forward to brush the tears off of Harry's face. "I want you to understand something. I know you won't believe me, but you will, eventually, and I'll keep doing this, because you need it, until it finally sinks into that thick skull of yours. You were meant to live. It's not your fault. You don't deserve cruelty."
Harry stared and shook his head. Words stuck in his throat.
Snape patted his cheek once and then pointed his wand. "Abrogo." Suddenly Harry was surrounded by cool air. Snape set his wand aside and opened the collar. Harry tiled his head forward as Snape fastened the leather band around his neck. His body relaxed slightly as he heard the latch slide in place. The collar fit surprisingly well. The edges of the leather were soft and smooth. If he titled his head forward a little more, the top of the collar would press against his chin.
Snape's fingers wrapped around the ring set in the front of the collar. He pulled until Harry looked up at him. "It's quite fortunate for you that you don't have classes tomorrow." The words sent a shiver down Harry's spine. Snape's eyes travelled possessively over Harry's frame, making Harry's breath catch with excitement.
"Do you know what to call me while you're wearing this?"
Harry nodded as best he could against the collar. "Yes... master."
"Good. And you know that even the slightest disobedience will be punished?"
Harry shivered. One day he would have to test exactly what sort of punishment Snape had in mind. Today was not that day. "Yes, master."
Snape let go of Harry's collar. "Kneel in front of the fire."
He stayed on hands and knees as he crawled across the floor to wait in front of the fire, immensely grateful that Snape's floor was carpeted in layers of thick rugs. He could still feel the hardness of stone beneath his knees but he had a while before it would become uncomfortable to stay like this.
"Head to the floor."
Harry brought his arms up to steady himself as he lowered his head until his forehead touched the floor.
"Shift your legs apart." He blushed but did as he was told. His rear stood up in the air, leaving his ass and his genitals completely exposed. That was likely the point.
Harry jumped as the point of a wand pressed against his back. He hadn't heard Snape move at all. The wand traced a straight line from shoulder blade to shoulder blade.
Harry shrieked as a line of pain blossomed along his back, directly over where Snape's wand had traced. His fingers dug into the carpet. He panted heavily. The tip of the wand touched against Harry's side and he whimpered as Snape drew another parallel line across his back. Snape spoke again. Harry bit his lip to muffle his cry as another line of pain hit his back.
A sharp swat against his bare ass made Harry gasp. "Don't do that," Snape admonished.
Harry nodded against the carpet. He let out a shaky breath and relaxed his hands against the carpet. His back ached with pain from the two previous marks. He could still feel the lines in his skin, but without looking he couldn't be sure if Snape's wand had left physical welts or if it was just Harry's mind that kept the marks there.
The wand tip traced a third line down his back, just below the bottom of his shoulder blades. He cried out again in pain and rocked forward slightly, flinching away from Snape's wand. Tears pricked at his eyes, on the verge of falling. He squeezed his eyes shut and sobbed as a fourth line was drawn across the middle of his back. His voice echoed through the room. He kept his eyes closed through this fifth and six lines. By the seventh, he felt like he was alone, stuck in a void where all that existed was the carpet he clung to and the pain.
He wanted Snape to touch him. He wanted something other than the anonymous trace of a wand across his skin.
The eighth line crossed his hips. He whimpered through the aftershocks of pain. His legs were shaking as he waited for the wand to move lower. It felt like Snape was never going to stop. The wand moved past his hips and traced a line diagonally up his right thigh. Harry screamed and rocked against the carpet. Part of the fabric was bunched up around his head, pulled askew by his shaking hands. Another line up his other thigh, then two more, back down, crossing the previous lines on his thighs. He was going to have trouble sitting for meals tomorrow.
Finally the wand tip pressed against the soft flesh of his ass. Harry sobbed as a line of pain blazed across one cheek, then another. He barely had time to breathe between spells. Snape drew a series of short lines up Harry's thighs and over his hips, crisscrossing his cheeks until all he could feel was one large field of pain. His tears dampened the carpet beneath his head and his breath came in loud, heavy pants as he desperately sucked in air between each spell.
The next strike never came. Harry concentrated on his breathing. His chest ached, but it was dim compared to the pain on his back. He ignored the tears and the way his body trembled, barely able to keep him up any longer, and fought for some small vestige of control.
"Harry." Snape's voice made him shiver. He turned his head slightly to look back towards the voice, resting his cheek against the moist carpet. The edges of red welts were visible along his thighs.
Snape sat on the couch. He'd removed his robes, leaving him in a pair of plain black slacks and a white shirt. His wand rested on the table in front of him. "Come here."
It took Harry three tries to get his limbs to move. He nearly fell twice as he crawled slowly over to Snape. The professor's fingers wrapped around the loop in his collar and encouraged him forward until he was sitting in Snape's lap. Harry whimpered as Snape's clothing pressed against the welts and curled against Snape, burying his face into Snape's shoulder. He sobbed as quietly as he could into Snape's shirt.
Snape shifted slightly, opening a jar on the table next to the couch. Harry flinched as Snape's fingers brushed against his back, spreading salve across a welt.
"Don't." Harry flinched away from Snape's hand. He reached back as best he could, whimpering at the pain the movement caused and caught Snape's arm.
"Harry." The warning in Snape's tone was clear. Harry quickly let go of Snape's arm and shifted until he was once more curled against Snape's chest.
He felt Snape's fingers spread salve across another welt.
Harry clenched his hands in Snape's shirt. "Please don't," he whispered.
Snape's hand stilled for a second and then moved on to another welt. Silence stretched between them for a long moment until Snape spoke again. "It's a weaker version of what I used last time, enough to prevent infection and take away the worst of the sting." Snape's fingers traced a welt along Harry's hip. Harry shivered and pressed tightly against Snape's chest. "The marks won't go away."
"Thank you," Harry said, his voice muffled by Snape's shirt.
The salve was slowly spread across his back, one welt at a time. Snape's fingers were gentle, carefully caressing each mark, making sure it was fully coated before moving on to the next. Harry relaxed into the touch as his tears finally stopped and his breathing evened out. He could still feel the welts, though their presence was faint at the moment. He closed his eyes and let his mind drift.
Snape's hands traced over his skin, not stopping once the last of the welts was covered. They ran over Harry's sides, along his arms and up his neck. He felt Snape shift, reaching for the jar again and then the fingers were back, coated with salve once more. For a second, Harry wondered if Snape had missed a spot, but then Snape's hand moved down between his cheeks. Harry's eyes flew open and he arched up, gasping, as a slick finger pressed inside of him. Harry relaxed his muscles, letting it inside, where it was quickly joined by a second.
He moaned into Snape's shoulder and shifted, twisting his legs until he was straddling Snape's thighs, giving Snape open access to Harry's body.
"Do you want this, Harry?"
He kept his head pressed against Snape's shoulder as he nodded. A low moan escaped him as Snape pulled his fingers apart, stretching Harry from the inside. He pushed down slightly, forcing Snape deeper inside of him. Snape's hand stilled and for a moment Harry thought he was in trouble.
"Do that again," Snape ordered.
Harry pulled away slightly and steadied himself with a hand on either of Snape's shoulders. Slowly, he lifted himself until only the tips of Snape's fingers remained inside of him. His eyes raised to watch Snape's face as he lowered himself down, sinking until he pressed against Snape's knuckled. Snape was staring at him, his lips pressed into a firm line, eyes intent.
Harry repeated the action. He moaned as he sunk down onto Snape's fingers and then kept going without being old. His eyes lidded with concentration, mouth open as he panted softly with pleasure. A third finger pushed in beside the other two, then a fourth, stretching Harry wide. He moaned again but didn't stop moving. Harry could feel himself getting closer and closer to release with each downward push. His head fell back with a loud groan as Snape spread his fingers apart.
"Master, please..." Harry begged softly.
Snape's hand pressed against Harry's hip, stilling him. The fingers slid out. Snape turned him, shifting Harry until he was face down on the couch, mirroring his earlier position. The cushions shifted as Snape stood. Harry stayed exactly as Snape had arranged him, waiting until the cushions dipped again. He moaned again as Snape's hands gripped his hips. Then Snape was pushing inside of him, moving unbearably slow as he filled Harry. He whimpered and tried to press backwards, to push Snape in faster and deeper. Snape froze and swatted Harry on the ass, his hand landing directly on top of one of the welts. Harry gasped and stayed still. After a moment, Snape finally finished pushing in.
Most of Harry's past lovers been rough, almost violent, more interested in the act than the emotions attached to it. They used Harry's body, and he let them, reveling in the hard smack of hips against hips, they way they stretched him, shoved violently into him, over and over until he could barely think. Compared to that, Snape was maddeningly slow. Harry whimpered at the agonizingly gentle way Snape treated him. His body was tense, waiting for the pain that it was used to, but that only made him feel Snape more keenly. Snape rocked against him, his rhythm as constant as rolling waves, one long push in and then a slow pull out. Harry's concentration was focused entirely on the slide of their bodies together.
It wasn't enough. "Please," he begged. He needed more. He was going to go mad if Snape kept up the current pace. "Please."
Harry whimpered. He clenched his hands against the edge of the couch cushion. Snape's erection was hard and thick inside of him. Harry pictured wrapping his lips around it and sucking until Snape's seed filled his mouth. "Please," he gasped. He was getting closer but it still wasn't enough. He pushed back again, just to make Snape smack him again. Then Snape stopped and he realized that he wasn't going to be able to keep that up long enough to get off. "Please." It was hard to think with Snape inside of him, harder still to breathe when he felt Snape sink deep into him. "Please. I need... Ah. Please... master, please."
"What do you need?" It was unfair that Snape sounded so collected, unfair that Harry was the only one left gasping and needing.
"No." Harry shivered at the tone. He tried again.
Harry whined low in his throat. He was so very close. He just needed... he needed...
"Yes." Snape's hand slid down his hip to press against Harry's stomach, pulling him close as Snape pushed into him. Harry trembled against Snape, opened his mouth to beg again, and then the hand moved, closing around Harry's erection and tugging hard.
Harry came undone. His knuckles turned white as he screamed through his release, shouting unintelligible pleas as he came into Snape's hand. Even through his release, he could still feel Snape moving, never varying in that maddeningly slow pace until finally Snape slowed down and stopped entirely. Harry's heart slowed down, his breathing quieted. After another minute, Snape pulled out. Harry felt Snape's hands on the fastenings of the collar.
"Wait." He covered Snape's hands with his own. "Please. Can we leave it on a little longer?"
Snape's hands pulled away. "As long as you like."
Harry smiled and let his hand fall back onto the cushions. He turned, shifting until he was curled against Snape once more, and let his eyes drift close. He was sore and tired, but pleasantly so. Snape's arm wrapped around him, pressing against the welts on Harry's back. He made no move to pull away. The pain reminded him that he was alive, but more than that, it made him feel like he was wanted.
"Thank you," Harry whispered.
Snape didn't answer. Harry didn't need him to. He'd made the right choice coming back to Hogwarts. He was home.