The cold from the stone floor seeped into Harry through his knees. He could feel it deep in his bones, tracing like poison through his veins to chill his naked skin. There was a fire smoldering in the fireplace scant feet in front of him but it did little to warm him. He kept his head down, breathing slowly and evenly through his nose. His jaw ached from the gag that filled his mouth, pressing against his tongue and forcing his mouth open wide, but the pain was offset by the feel of the leather bindings tracing across his cheek like a constant caress. A leather collar circled his neck, thick enough that the top of it pressed against the base of his chin as he kept his head lowered. Matching cuffs bound his wrists and ankles together, a strap running between them to hold him in position.
He wasn't sure how long he'd been kneeling on the cold stones. It felt like hours, though he knew it couldn't have been all that long. Less than four, likely more than two. He was going to have bruises on his knees tomorrow. Thankfully he didn't have to teach for the next two days. He hoped to acquire a few more bruises before the night was through.
The room was quiet, leaving Harry little to concentrate on besides his thoughts, the occasional crackle of the wood on the fire, and the wisp of page against page as Snape read from his chair by the fire. He could see Snape out of the corner of his eye. Harry's placement had been deliberate, allowing him to see his master while Snape watched him, though so far Snape had appeared, at least outwardly, entirely uninterested in Harry's existence. It was entirely possible that Snape was ignoring him. He'd done so before, but the extended length of time between the turn of each page made Harry wonder. He thought Snape was reading slower than normal, but that could just be an illusion, a trick of the senses as time stretched out with nothing else for him to focus on.
His muscles ached. It felt wonderful. Not nearly as wonderful as fresh lash marks or the imprint of a hand on flesh, but enough to ground him. He was alive. Sometimes, often, he needed a reminder of that, a reminder that, despite everything Voldemort had thrown at him, despite the fact that he had actually died, if only briefly, he had survived all of it. Many others hadn't, and this was his self-imposed penance, his atonement for the lives the war had taken, for the many he couldn't save.
Harry jumped as Snape snapped his book shut. He fought the urge to look up. Through the fall of his hair, longer than it used to be but Snape had asked him not to get it cut and Harry liked that Snape liked it this long, Harry watched Snape stand and step over the carpet that had been rolled aside to create a bare spot of stone floor in front of the fire. His robes whispered against each other, like a faint warning of Snape's approach. Snape stopped in front of him, blocking the only source of light in the room and leaving Harry momentarily blind.
Fingers lifted Harry by the chin. Snape's face was haloed by the glow from the fire. The fingers moved up, tracing the line of a leather strap across his face until it connected to the gag. Snape traced the outline of the gag against his lips. Harry's mouth reflexively opened, wanting to suck the fingers into his mouth but the gag prevented him. The fingers moved on after a few minutes and carded into his hair. Harry closed his eyes and relaxed into the caress.
"That's enough." Snape's voice echoed in the quiet.
Harry opened his eyes again as Snape reached back and unfastened the buckle at the back of his head. The gag was slowly pulled from his mouth, Snape's fingers replacing the straps against his cheeks and gently rubbing the soreness away. Snape knelt and Harry leaned against him, eyes closing once more as he relaxed against the man who took Harry's control away and helped him forget the outside world and its many demands on The Boy Who Lived. His limbs were freed, one by one. Gentle hands massaged the ache away. The collar stayed on, a secure weight around his throat.
An arm slid under Harry's knees and he was lifted. They settled on the couch, Harry curled in Snape's lap while he floated, lost in the feeling of his body reawakening. He felt like he was made of pins and needles, delicious little pricks of pain and pleasure shooting along his entire body. Snape's hands wandered over his skin, barely pressing down but the faint pressure was enough to send lightning bolts of feeling along his nerves everywhere Snape's hands went.
The tingling eventually receded, still there but too faint to cause real discomfort. Harry could have easily fallen asleep in Snape's lap but he couldn't shake the feeling of expectation. He wanted more, and that want made him feel ashamed at being so greedy.
A sharp slap on his thigh brought him fully back to alertness. "Stand." Harry scrambled to his feet, wobbling slightly as he did so. A quick tug on his collar brought him around to the side of the couch. Snape walked away. "Bend over." Harry fought the smile that threatened to cross his face as he bent over, fingers automatically wrapping around the cushion they'd just been sitting on, overlaying faint scratches in the fabric from previous sessions. He heard Snape return and waited with bated breath until something supple and sharp – a leather lash, his mind supplied – smacked against his back. He shouted in pain but stayed in place.
The pain made him feel alive.