Harry toyed with a thick splinter on the desk, pressing the center of his thumb against it until the pain grew sharp and then pulling back to let the pain recede. Snape was finishing up what was supposed to be the last Potions class of their third year, and the old bat decided to take his time with it.
Every since Harry had rescued Sirius and had (accidentally) knocked Snape out in the Shrieking Shack, the man had been ever so slightly short with him. Harry had responded by taking the path of avoidance, going about cheerfully as if the whole world was one colorful carousel of love and friendship. Harry knew once they got home, back to the small house where Vampyre would be waiting, that Snape would unleash a fury of scolding and punishments and threats that would put Voldemort to shame in comparison.
Harry didn't understand how he got himself into such trouble, and so he was doing his best to pretend that he wasn't in trouble. He had once pretended that he was a Victorian schoolboy – pretending to be a version of himself not in trouble wasn't that hard.
Except . . .
Snape looked at him sternly, and Harry blanched for a second, forgetting how he was supposed to act.
"The fourth year of potions," Snape went on, glaring at the rest of the class who didn't understand what they had done to deserve such glaring, "is much more difficult than the simple potions we have performed here this year. Unlike most of the third-year potions, fourth-year potions often require rare ingredients that have irreversible effects. One small wrong step can lead to even worse problems, and the result of such errors is often . . . catastrophic."
Harry gulped, but he often thought it was unfair that Snape should use the class to subtly lecture him.
"In cases such as these, I will personally make sure the guilty party pays for his deliberate wrong-doing."
"But sometimes it isn't their fault," Harry spoke before he could stop himself. "Sometimes, things just happen and they don't mean to cause trouble."
The whole class had turned to look at him.
Snape sneered. "Once again, Mr. Potter has decided to be the center of attention. Our dear hero can't keep his mouth closed, even when he knows what's good for him."
Harry knew Snape had to keep up the act – only a handful of people knew that the man had adopted him – but it still stung.
"At least I'm a hero," Harry retorted, once again his impulses taking over his common sense. "Unlike other cowards in the room."
Draco gave him an ugly look, thinking that the comment was directed at him, but Snape's eyes narrowed.
"Ten points from Gryffindor."
"Who cares? I'll get them all back," Harry said, ignoring the prickling of his eyes at being so mean with Snape there.
"Mr. Potter will stay after class," Snape looked over the rest of the class, indicating that the argument was over. "As for those of you deciding to come back, your abominable skills must improve." Here he looked at Neville who sank down in his seat. "I will be giving you lists of required reading over the summer."
Harry looked back down at the splinter and let Snape's words turn into indistinct mumbling. Two more days, and they had a whole summer together. Last summer had started rough, what with his actions in the Chamber and then lying to Snape about being sick, but after that, they had had a rather nice time of it. Snape let him play for most of the day, and he got to go down the road about a mile to play with some children his age who were staying for the summer. All Muggles, but they had had a fun time playing with Vampyre, wading in a nearby creek, and exploring the woods.
But now, this summer, Harry had betrayed Snape's trust and chosen to save Sirius over obeying Snape. Sirius had even asked him to come live with him, as he was Harry's godfather, but Harry had avoided the question and had promised he would see Sirius later.
A few minutes later, the students filed out of the Potions classroom, and Harry was left alone with Snape.
"Come here," the man crooked two fingers at him.
Harry lifted his head momentarily and then dragged his feet over to Snape.
"What was that?" Snape demanded.
Harry gave a small shrug. "Dunno."
Snape let his breath out sharply. Then he pulled Harry towards him, tucked him against his side, and smacked his bottom hard.
"Ow, don't!" Harry protested. "They'll hear!"
"I hope they do," Snape smacked him again. "Don't you ever talk back to me in my class like that again, or I'll spank you in front of the whole class. You're got ten more coming and you can decide if you want to fight me and double that number."
Harry immediately let his body go limp and he was held against that black-robed side while Snape spanked him. Each spank seemed to resound against the stone wall, and Harry grimaced with each one, though he was careful to keep quiet. Towards the end, he made small, whining noises, but he held himself together until they stopped. At least he had a finite number. The worst was when Snape hauled him across his lap, and Harry had no idea how long his punishment might last.
"There," Snape stood him up, "are you going to behave now?"
"Yes," Harry looked away sullenly, feeling his bottom lip pressing out as he swallowed hard.
"We do not have time for me to deal with you about what you did in the Shrieking Shack," Snape went on. "So, we're going to have to wait until we get home. Then I'll take care of you, young man."
"It's two days," Harry objected. "I can't wait two days."
"You should have thought about that before you went charging after Black."
"I didn't think you'd find out about that."
"I find out about everything."
"No, you don't," Harry drew himself up. "You didn't find out that Ron and I had been passing notes all year in class."
"Yes, I did because you just told me."
Harry scowled at Snape's quick thinking, but Snape went on, "Passing notes? I'm going to add that to your list of crimes."
"List of crimes? You make me sound like a criminal. I'm not. I'm a good person." The tears were not far off, but Harry kept swallowing, trying to hold them back. "I am a good person. Trouble just finds me."
"Well, you don't exactly try to hide from it," Snape scoffed. "No, that's enough – put that sad look away. You know I can't have you giving me cheek in my class, and I certainly can't have you running around putting yourself in danger. Are you sure you feel fine after facing all those Dementors?"
Harry nodded, sniffing back any sign of tears. Even worse than a stern punishment was the fear that Snape was angry with him. Snape always had a dour, crusty demeanor and he never smiled enough for Harry, but there was a huge difference between Snape being angry and Snape being Snape.
"If I think you are hiding feeling the least bit sick, I will drag you up to Madame Pomfrey by your ear and I'll go home to fetch those bunny pajamas," Snape threatened.
Harry smiled and he leaned forward to hug Snape briefly. "I'm fine."
"You better be, despicable boy. Though I wouldn't mind having you walk around Hogwarts in bunny pajamas for a few days."
"We're home!" Harry hollered as he ran through the door.
"Not so loud," Snape frowned as he followed Harry inside.
Vampyre bound down the hall and jumped on Harry. They tumbled to the ground, and Harry wrestled with the dog, rubbing his ears and squashing his great head against his chest in playful affection. He hadn't seen Vampyre much since last year; Snape had transformed the dog to a smaller animal and brought him to Hogwarts for some weeks and the dog had boarded at a nearby kennel other times. But to be back for good for the whole summer – Harry and Vampyre understood the joy of that in a way that Snape couldn't.
"Must you be so rough in the house," Snape carried one of their trunks into the house. "Harry, go get your – Harry! Get back here!"
Harry had raced through the kitchen, unlocked the back door, and dashed into the backyard.
Vampyre galloped after him, and they ran in large circles around the backyard like they were being chased by Death Eaters. Snape made no comment – just went to start dinner.
The night flew by and Harry found himself glad to fall into bed with Vampyre on the ground beside him.
The next day was full of cleaning the house, washing clothes, and rearranging new books on the shelves. Last summer, Harry had finally persuaded Snape to put in hot running water in the kitchen. Snape had thought of every excuse why they shouldn't, but in the end, Harry wore him down enough that he contracted plumbers (wizard plumbers that Harry didn't even know existed, but he guessed that wizards needed houses built like everyone else). The chores went faster with hot water, but Snape was still particular about Harry cleaning every corner as if their small house would be on display for some kind of wizard tour of homes.
Harry had memories of cleaning Aunt Petunia's house, and he wondered what Snape would say if Harry told him that he thought the man would look fitting in a frilly apron. But since Snape had been in a reasonable mood for the most part, Harry saw no point in rocking the boat.
In fact, he kept waiting for the lecture to start, for Snape to light into him – hell, Harry had been expecting the punishment to start the moment he walked into the door. But that was Snape for you – never predictable, never doing what you thought he would.
"Loves torturing me," Harry muttered as he poured water on the hallway floor and started scrubbing it with the scrubbing brush. "Every summer – time to torture the great Chosen One. I never get a –"
"Harry?" Snape leaned around from the kitchen.
"Yes, sir?" Harry leaned back on his heels, giving Snape his best hard-work-innocent-son look.
"Are your knees hurting?"
"No, sir, not at all. I haven't been kneeling very long."
"Make sure you clean the edges well." Snape disappeared back into the kitchen.
"Evil," Harry shook his head. "Just loves to keep me on edge."
The work was draining, and by suppertime that night, Harry felt like his eyelids were heavy and it took a great deal of energy to lift the fork to his mouth.
He hoped Snape would choose tonight to punish him, when he was really too tired to care and Snape was too tired to smack too hard. Harry still clung half-heartedly to the idea that he might not get spanked, but he knew Snape too well to suppose that Snape would choose another form of discipline when, in Snape's words, "it works so well for our little Prince." The only good thing about getting spanked was that once it was over, it was over and done with. No long grounding, or restrictions, or hostility that went on forever – a punishment over in about five minutes.
Maybe that's why Snape chose them – short and to the point, with clear terms that Harry could understand.
"I hate that I can understand why he does it," Harry scowled over his food while Snape went to get them cups of tea.
"Eat your food and then straight to bed," Snape set a cup in front of him.
"No, it's only seven o'clock."
"I'm old enough to decide when I go to bed. I'm almost fourteen."
"You're a child and I'll decide when you go to bed."
"You're a bully and I'm not going to bed."
"Do you really want to have me start here now?" Snape raised an eyebrow.
"I thought the cleaning today was my punishment," Harry lied, wanting to feel Snape out.
"Today was a warm-up. You've been good and respectful which helps tremendously. But I think we'd better wait until tomorrow to start. I want you fresh and rested."
"What are you going to do?" Harry demanded. "I've waited three days now – this is cruel and inhumane."
"No, what I wanted to do to you when I found you lying unconscious by the lake beside Black was cruel and inhumane," Snape replied. "What I plan to do to you now is very, very fair and deserved. And once we are done, I guarantee you will be agreeing wholeheartedly with me along with everything else that I say."
"Evil," Harry glared down at the rest of his food.
"No, just very thorough. We are done with you getting into trouble and disobeying the rules."
"I don't mean to get into trouble."
"That, my boy, does not matter in the least as you keep getting into trouble every time I turn around. What about sneaking to Hogsmeade in that infernal Invisibility Cloak?"
"You punished me for that! You spanked me and then made me clean cauldrons for hours, sitting on that hard stool."
"I should have taken that Cloak away from you just like I did the Map."
"It's mine," Harry insisted. "You can't take my things away."
"I can if you don't use them responsibly. I don't understand why I ever took in such a horrid little bother."
"Because you like me," Harry shot back.
The edges of Snape's mouth twitched for a second, but he wore his usual sneer as he scoffed. "As if anyone could like you. You are far too much trouble, and you take up too much space and you eat too much all the time."
"I haven't even finished my food," Harry gestured down to his plate.
"You're not getting up until you've finished every single bite," Snape ordered. "I've tried to put some meat on your bones, but you stay thin and scrawny, just to spite me."
Harry grinned impulsively. "It's good to be home."
"You'll think 'good' tomorrow once I'm done with you. Finish eating."
Harry knew he should be worried about the next day, but he felt too tired and satisfied to get too upset. He finished eating and went upstairs. He took a long bath, brushed his teeth, and lay on his bed in pajamas, reading a Quidditch book until the words blurred before him. He yawned.
The book was yanked out from under his gaze, and Snape snapped it shut.
"I told you to go to bed."
"I'm in bed," Harry yawned again as he rolled over and got under the covers. "You didn't say go to sleep. It's not even nine yet."
"You need sleep. You should be hitting a growth spurt soon, and if you don't get enough rest, you'll stay short forever."
"Oh, low blow." Harry grinned. "That's funny. Short and low blow? Puns are fun."
He snuggled on his side as Vampyre padded inside and Snape turned the light out before walking out.
Harry felt he had only been asleep a few moments when he heard the dog give a short bark.
"Shh," he cracked an eye. "Still nighttime."
Harry closed his eyes to go back to sleep when the dog barked again.
"Ugh," Harry rolled on his back. "You need to go out? Go ask Snape. I'm asleep."
Something scraped against the window. Harry shot right up in bed and looked towards the window. Ever since last year when he had climbed out in the bunny suit to escape, Snape had threatened to lock the window shut, but the man had never carried through with his threat. As far as Harry knew, the window still opened.
A shape was at the window, and Harry gave a soundless cry as he stared at the face of a man with wild dark hair. A split second later, he realized it was Sirius.
Shocked, Harry tumbled out of bed and went to the window. "Sirius?"
"Harry," the man smiled as he held onto the window edge for balance.
Vampyre gave a low growl.
"Shh," Harry motioned for the dog to be quiet. "What are you doing here, Sirius? I thought you were going into hiding."
"I am. But I heard from Dumbledore that you were here. I didn't realize that you were staying at Snape's house, and I came as soon as I could to rescue you."
"Rescue me?" Harry blinked. "But I'm not in danger. I live here with Snape. Snape . . . Snape adopted me."
The smile dropped from Sirius's face. "What? How could you agree to that? How could Dumbledore let that happen?"
"I dunno," Harry dropped his gaze for a second. "Two years ago . . . I kind of ended up here for the summer, and it wasn't good at first, but then it got better. Then got even better, and at the end we decided I should stay."
"What kind of mind-controlling potions has he been giving you?" Sirius asked. "I'm your godfather. You belong with me. I was best friends with your father and mother. They named me your godfather. You can come and live with me and get away from this maniac."
"Snape's not a maniac," Harry protested. "He's a good a person. Yes, he has flaws, but I'm not perfect either. In fact, I'm in big trouble for what I did in the Shrieking Shack."
"I've come to take you away," Sirius said. "It's what your father would have wanted me to do. You belong with me. Get your clothes and climb out and we'll go far away from here."
Vampyre growled again, but Harry didn't move. "I – I – I –"
"What is going on in here?" Snape's loud voice rang out, and Harry jumped.
Snape stood in the doorway, holding an oil lamp, and the moment he saw Sirius, rage flashed over his face. Vampyre gave an angry bark.
Sirius reached in and grabbed Harry's shoulder with one hand. "Harry belongs with me."
Harry looked at Snape, wondering what his response would be.