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Boundaries - Harry Potter fic for Essie's Birthday

Title: Boundaries
Author: skyblue_reverie
Fandom & Pairing: Harry Potter - Harry/Snape Pre-Slash
Rating: PG-13? R? No overt sexual content, but there are pre-slashy and D/s overtones.
Spoilers: Set generally in OotP, but no real specifics
Warnings: Spanking, underage Harry, author ignorance. (That'd be me, I mean, not JKR obviously. I'm not super-duper well-versed in the Potterverse, so please to be forgiving any errors! Also, I'm American, so any brit-picking is welcome.)
Word Count: Around 2900
A/N: Written as a birthday present for and beta'd by my beloved beta, Essie. Thank you, darling, for everything - you are a beautiful, wonderful, sweet, intelligent, funny, perceptive woman and I'm so privileged to have you as a friend, and, of course, as my one-and-only beta queen. Thanks also to the lovely ennui_blue_lite for cheerleading and boosting my writerly ego.

Severus Snape regarded Harry with an intensity normally reserved only for the most complex potions he brewed. He loathed Potter with a passion, true, had done for as long as he'd known the insolent boy. But usually he didn't stop to examine the brat - Harry knew exactly how to push his buttons and Snape generally responded as expected, with swift punishments ranging from sneering sarcasm to deduction of house points to detention. Still, Harry continued to defy Snape at every turn, even now, in Potter's fifth year at Hogwarts, when he certainly should be gaining some control over his infantile urges.

Today was a perfect case in point. Potions class had just gotten underway and when Potter had failed to produce his assigned essay on the side effects of Veritaserum, Snape had taken five house points from Gryffindor. Potter had muttered something under his breath while looking mutinously at Snape. While Snape hadn't made out all of the words, he'd clearly heard "greasy git" and usually he'd have simply deducted ten more points for disrespect to a professor before continuing with the lesson. In this instance, however, Snape had - briefly, momentarily - thought he'd seen something in Potter's eyes before they had taken to flashing with their usual impudent disdain - something almost like pain, or hope. Or both. He focused his best glare on Potter's face and let it linger there while he decided upon his next move.

He'd always maintained that Potter needed discipline, order, rather than the complete permissiveness employed by the headmaster and apparently every other adult figure in Harry's life. Well, that wasn't completely accurate - during the occlumency lessons he was forced to give Potter, he had learned quite a bit about Harry's borderline abusive upbringing with those disgusting muggles. They had certainly not hesitated to discipline him. Still, it wasn't as if the Dursleys had provided the boy with consistent boundaries and expectations. They had simply punished him and mistreated him seemingly as the whim took them, sometimes berating him, withholding food, or locking him in his cupboard for a certain behaviour, and other times allowing the same behaviour to pass unnoticed, or worse, punishing him for no reason at all. Then, too, they had allowed their son to bully Potter mercilessly - to terrorize the boy both physically and emotionally. Then when he had come to Hogwarts, Albus, Minerva, and everyone else charged with overseeing the boy - excepting himself - had spoilt Potter dreadfully, allowing him to break any rule he wanted and shielding the boy from the consequences of his actions. That treatment was hardly better than that given him by the muggles. It was clear that Potter had lacked a firm but consistent hand which, Snape was convinced, had led to the boy's unmanageable behaviour. And on some deep, no doubt repressed subconscious level, Potter realized that lack, and wanted desperately to rectify it. The real question in Snape's mind was why he cared - well, not that he cared, he amended to himself, but why was he even considering responding to that unspoken plea in the boy's eyes?

Potter was flushed an appealing - where had that thought come from? - shade of red and was clearly putting all of his vaunted Gryffindor courage into forcing his jade-green eyes to stay locked with Snape's dark gaze. His short black hair was hopelessly mussed, as if a highly localised windstorm had attacked his head, and his robes were hanging slightly askew on his compact frame, probably misbuttoned. The ridiculous spectacles looked as if they'd been broken once again and the boy's reparo spell had set them crookedly. In short, he looked slovenly, as usual. In point of fact, he looked like he'd just been thoroughly debauched, although his eyes were much too innocent for him to have actually been engaging in any licentious behaviour. The thought of anyone debauching Potter caused an uneasy twinge low in Snape's belly, and he certainly didn't want to examine that reaction. He realised that he was still staring at Potter, and the entire class had gone completely silent.

"A week's detention, Potter, beginning at 8 o'clock tonight, my office," he snapped, ending the silence. Voices rushed to fill the vacuum - gasps of outrage from the Gryffindors for the harsh punishment, satisfied snickers from his Slytherins. He ignored them all and returned to the chalkboard, continuing his lesson. He did not look at Potter again, and he determinedly kept his thoughts on the day's assigned potion.

When the appointed hour tolled, Snape was sitting at his office desk, contemplating. He still had not completely decided upon a course of action. There were moments in life, he knew, that represented a fork in the road. One would never be the same once one had chosen a path, and there was no going back. His taking the Dark Mark had been such a moment, as had his defection to Dumbledore. Now he was faced with perhaps the most momentous decision of all. Would he take Potter in hand, take charge of him as no one else seemed willing or able to do, or would he leave Potter to his no doubt well-deserved misery? The implications for both of them would be life-altering. Of course, if he took the brat in hand, gave him some sorely needed discipline, the boy would have a better chance of defeating the Dark Lord, which would work to Snape's benefit. He had managed to position himself such that he'd most likely be able to ally with the winning side, whichever that turned out to be, but all things being equal he'd rather be beholden to that daft Dumbledore than enslaved (and regularly tortured) by the increasingly insane Dark Lord.

A bold knock at the door that could only be Potter's broke Snape's train of thought. "Enter," he commanded, and the door swung open. Potter came in, looking both rebellious and nervous. He closed the door behind him and walked to stand in front of Snape's desk with a petulant expression on his face.

"Well, Potter, what shall we do with you?" Snape asked silkily. Potter said nothing, merely clenched his fists at his sides and continued to sulk. Snape allowed the silence to stretch out, enjoying this rare moment of submission - albeit unwilling submission - from the boy.

"Sir?" Potter said after a time, apparently unsure whether the question was rhetorical or whether a response was required of him.

"Something different tonight, I think," Snape continued, answering his own question. "Tell me, Potter, what is the definition of 'boundary'?"

Potter looked unsurprisingly blank. "Sir?"

"You heard me, Potter."

"Er, boundaries are - borders, edges of things, like on a quidditch pitch, sir."

"Inarticulate as always, but I suppose that will do," sniffed Severus. "And why do we need boundaries, Potter - for example, in quidditch?" He sneered slightly as he said the last word.

Potter looked even more nonplussed and scrunched up his face as he put his little-used brain to work.

"Um, so everyone knows where to fly?"

Snape allowed his sneer to become more pronounced. "And why, Potter, is that important?"

Potter paused for a few moments before giving up. "I don't know," he said sullenly.

"Think, Potter. Prove that you're capable of using that head of yours for more than holding up that bird's nest you call hair."

The boy flushed - it really was too easy to get under his skin, and he'd never survive the Dark Lord if he didn't learn to control himself.

"If there were no boundaries, the game could spread all over the school, or even farther, I guess," Potter said eventually. "I'd never find the Snitch and the players could cheat and no one would see them, or someone could get lost or badly hurt and no one would even know they were in trouble, not until the match was over."

"And does this sound like a fun game, Potter?"

"N... not really, sir," Potter said with only a moment's hesitation.

"Why not, Potter? A game with no boundaries - it sounds tailor-made for an independent" - his mouth twisted on the word - "lad such as yourself."

"It... it sounds..." Potter trailed off, looking at his shoes.

"Yes?" Snape inquired with a lift of his eyebrow.

"It sounds scary," said Potter in a small voice.

"Indeed," said Snape, dryly, but with emphasis. Potter looked up at once, face reddening again, as if he expected Snape to be laughing at him, but Severus merely looked at him, one eyebrow still raised. After a moment of silence, Snape continued. "The world is a frightening place, Potter, as you have ample reason to know. Without rules - without boundaries - it is more frightening still. Do you understand me so far?" Severus managed to restrain all but a trace of his usual scorn.

Potter nodded, looking uncertain.

"Nobody has ever given you boundaries, nobody has ever set limits upon you." Potter opened his mouth to issue a furious rebuttal, but Snape forestalled him with a raised hand. "I did not say you had never been treated poorly. You have. As have I. No one escapes childhood unscathed, Potter. But being mistreated is different than having firm, consistent boundaries applied. And Dumbledore - indeed, most of your other teachers - actively encourage you to break rules that apply to other students, in the name of your much-vaunted destiny. But with this freedom comes great responsibility, does it not?"

Potter, dumbstruck, merely nodded, mouth still open.

"I know," Snape continued, his voice low and compelling, weaving its own kind of magic through the room. "The expectations set upon you are overwhelming. The allowances made for you are ludicrous. You are a boy, a child, expected to kill the most powerful wizard in history, with next to no training, knowledge, or guidance. You're frightened. You'd be a fool not to be."

The boy continued to stare at him, mesmerized, something deep within him looking desperately out of those green eyes. Severus kept his voice low, hypnotic.

"I can guide you. I can teach you. I can help you. I cannot promise that you will succeed. I do not honestly expect that either of us will survive the coming war. But I can improve your odds significantly. If you are willing to accept my terms."

A long moment passed before Potter was able to break out of his trance enough to respond. "T-terms, sir?" he asked uneasily.

"Obedience. Respect. Submission." Snape dropped the words like pebbles into a still pond. Potter flinched at each one, and by time the last word left Severus's mouth he was trembling. Snape didn't have to use legilimency to know that Potter was half repulsed and half fascinated.

"And what... would I get in return?" Potter said in a slightly strangled voice.

"As I said. I will train you. I will teach you. Things you cannot learn in your classes. Things that Dumbledore does not wish you to know. Things you will need to defeat the Dark Lord."

"Is that... is that all?" The boy had the gall to look almost... disappointed.

"What else would you require of me?" Snape inquired frostily.

"Nothing; never mind," he muttered, staring at his ratty trainers, and Severus knew he'd get nothing further from the boy. Still, Potter had revealed something with those words - some desire, some need - and Snape filed it away for later consideration.

"Very well, Potter. Those are the terms. Do you accept?"

The boy gulped nervously but nodded with surprising firmness. Snape kept strict control of his features and did not display his surprise. If he allowed a modicum of smug satisfaction to show, well, there was no harm in that. He stood and slowly stalked around and behind Potter, who did not turn to face him but continued staring at his shoes.

"Then I will teach you your first lesson in accepting boundaries. You showed disrespect and disobedience to me in class today, first by neglecting your assignment and then again by speaking rudely to me. Do you deny this?"

Potter slowly shook his head. "No, sir," he said in a voice that was little more than a whisper.

"Excellent. We progress. Now take up your robe, take down your trousers and pants, and lean against the desk."

All of the colour immediately drained from Potter's face as he spun to face Severus, opened his mouth and began babbling a refusal. Snape used his voice to crack like a whip. "Silence!" When he had assured himself that the boy was momentarily, at least, stunned into submission, he continued in a voice that was softer but no less menacing. "You have just committed yourself to obey me, Potter. Does your word mean so little to you, then, that you would break it less than a minute after giving it?"

He could see the struggle as it played out on the boy's face, and he would not have cared to lay odds on the outcome. He refused to reassure Potter or do anything to sway him one way or the other. This was Potter's decision, and he would have to live with the consequences of that decision, one way or the other. They all would - everyone in the wizarding world and even beyond would have to live with the outcome, but it was no less Potter's decision for all that. It was part of what he was here to learn, to accept.

After a heart-stopping moment when it seemed that the world hung in the balance, Potter decided. He turned to face the desk once more before awkwardly hitching his robes up around his waist, holding them in place with his elbows. Then he unbuttoned his too-large jeans and pushed them, along with his white underpants, down around his ankles. This done, he leaned forward and placed his hands against the desk, leaving his pale buttocks and thin legs bare and framed by the black material of his robes falling to either side.

Snape allowed himself a moment to absorb the picture before him. One moment only, though - to push Harry too far at this stage would be disastrous. Harry's seemingly boundless - and foolish - capacity to trust would only hold for so long, especially given his vulnerable position and his past history with the man who had put him in it.

He stepped forward and spoke firmly. "Count, Mr. Potter." Before the boy could ask what he meant, he pulled his hand back and delivered a stinging slap to the pale flesh displayed in front of him. Harry gasped. "Do not make me give instructions twice, Potter," Snape added smoothly.

"One," Harry gritted. As soon as the word was complete, Severus delivered a second blow, just below the handprint left by the first. "Two," the boy choked out. Tears were now running down his face - whether from the indignity of the position, the physical discomfort, or some combination of the two, Snape couldn't be sure. Snape's hand rose and fell as Potter counted out the discipline being administered to him. When he had reached ten, and Potter's buttocks were red and his legs trembling, Snape stopped. He almost involuntarily soothed his hand down the boy's back, once, then stepped back and cleared his throat.

"You may restore your clothing."

Harry wordlessly did as he was bid. His face was a blotchy mess and he looked as if he were about to wipe his nose on his sleeve, so Snape stepped forward and offered him a clean handkerchief. Harry hesitated, but took it, and attempted to regain some semblance of calm while Snape returned to the chair behind his desk. When Potter was done, he slowly looked up and met Snape's eyes. The glimpse of fear and hope that Severus had seen in the boy in the classroom was back tenfold now, and it shone out of his eyes with the fragility of glass. This, this was the difficult part. Severus steeled himself.

"You... did well. I am pleased with your obedience." Snape thought he managed to sound merely gruff, rather than scornful. The hope in Potter's eyes brightened as the fear receded and he glowed as if lit from within - as if Severus had lit him up from within.

"You will return directly to your dormitory and not leave until curfew is lifted in the morning. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, sir," Potter said with remarkably little resentment, although the glow had dimmed a bit.

"I expect you to complete all of your schoolwork, including yesterday's potions essay as well as today's. Is that clear?"

Potter nodded, looking decidedly unhappy now.

"Good. Then I will see you in class tomorrow, and if you wish to continue with our arrangement, you will return to my office tomorrow evening at 8 o'clock. We will begin our studies then."

The glow was back, and Potter murmured an affirmative before turning and walking toward the door with a slight wince for his sore bottom. He turned back just before he slipped out the door, looking swiftly up at Snape with his clear green eyes. "Good night, sir," he said softly, closing the door behind him.

"Good night, Harry," Severus said to his empty office.


Tags: fic: harry potter
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