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In the Sanctuary of His Eyes

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"Nghgh!"

Snape's fingers tightened over Potter's hipbones, and he watched his cock drive deep into that lithe Seeker's body, liquid heat surrounding him, bubbling through his veins like molten steel. Sweat gleamed on Potter's back, bronzing that beautiful honey-combed flesh, the dark green ropes nearly black in the half-light.

He thrust in again, changing his angle just enough to stab at Potter's prostate, and was rewarded with another sharp cry that shivered down his spine like the soft touch of a lover's fingernails. The boy was beautiful in his helplessness, and knowing Potter could do nothing to stop him powered each sharp snap of his hips.

From out beyond the lights, Snape heard the subtle movement of the crowd, their breathy moans, the susurration of their robes as they moved, some alone, some in tandem with another. Their eyes were rapt, their focus on him and the gorgeous young man who hung suspended over the stage.

He threw his head back, his thick black hair reaching the centre of his back, stark against his pure white shirt. His bollocks tightened; he withdrew and with a sharp cry, spilled over the small of Potter's back. Fist dropping, he wrenched the last of his orgasm out of his pulsing cock, thick ropes of creamy fluid pooling on sweet flesh.

Summoning a flannel, he cleaned himself off before tucking himself back into black trousers, then carefully wiped his spunk off Potter, floating quietly in his webbing, lips slightly parted, green eyes glassy.

Working slowly, he untied Potter's legs, gently straightening them. They'd been bound knee to hip with Potter's heels firmly pressed up against his arse, securing calf to thigh. Potter's arms were likewise folded forearm to bicep, then elbow to wrist over his head. They were next to be released. "Such a good boy," he murmured softly near Potter's ear as he slowly rotated the boy into an upright position.

Potter swayed as he took some weight on his feet and, though his fingers twitched, he did not reach for Snape. "Thank you, Sir,' he said, his voice thick.

Letting him down slowly, Snape stroked Potter's cock as he unlaced the series of knots encasing it and cupped his sac, squeezing it lightly. "You do not have permission to come," he said as he dragged his thumb through the clear fluid gathering at the slit.

Potter nodded with a deep-chested moan, biting his lip in a familiar gesture to keep from thrusting into Snape's hand. He moved his hands behind his back, clasping his right wrist firmly with his left hand.

When the last knot was undone and the strands of green hemp coiled neatly, Potter sank gracefully to his knees, knees spread wide. As the crowd called out their enjoyment, he placed his forehead on the toe of Snape's right boot, missing the fiercely territorial gaze of Snape's dark eyes.

Snape spent the next twenty minutes answering questions, demonstrating knots and pointing out the best places to secure the knots for suspension work whilst Potter remained down and, for all practical purposes, invisible. When the last witch had finished with her questions, he bent and tapped Potter on the shoulder. "On your feet, boy. It's time to get you ready to go home. Do you require assistance?"

Sitting back on his heels, eyes cast demurely downward, Potter shook his head. "No, Sir. Only some water, please." He rose swiftly and followed Snape off the stage, into the small area cordoned off for their use.

Transfiguring a small sofa into a waist-high padded table, Snape patted the top of it. "Up here, face down." Whilst Potter was stretching out, he poured a goblet of water and turned a wash cloth into a drinking straw. He set the beverage near at hand, then walked over to a low cabinet and sniffed the contents of a number of phials before selecting one.

Snape filled a small wide-bottomed flask with the contents of the phial, then conjured a single blue flame under it that danced underneath in a tiny circle. Once satisfied, he returned to Potter and smoothed down the boy's mussed and sweaty hair. "Finish your water, boy. There's another after that."

Potter swallowed and emitted a lazy moan. "Nearly done, Sir." He lifted his head and gave Snape a sunny smile. "You were brilliant tonight, you know. I wasn't sure I'd make it all the way through, but you kept me from losing myself."

Snorting, Snape shook his head. "I've told you time and again, boy, when you're under me you are my responsibility, and I will not permit any harm to come to you, either physically or mentally. I will bring you back, and I will see to your needs when we've finished."

It was the seventh variation of the same conversation they'd had since Snape starting bringing Potter to 'Styx—Gateway to the Underworld' three years ago. Ridiculous name for a fetish club, or any club come to that; Snape suspected it had been named by a Hufflepuff. A Slytherin had clearly had a hand in decorating, however. The floors were black stone that crawled up the walls, the borders undulating slowly down corridors and around corners. Dark, muted colours covered the upper walls, and mirrors were set behind the wood torches to reflect light into the centre of the spacious scening rooms.

"Everything except letting me come," said Harry with a yawn. He stretched, arching one vertebra at a time, then pillowed his arms under his head as his eyes fluttered closed.

"Someday." Snape pulled the flask away from the flame and drizzled a little of the oil into his hand. The scent was clean and refreshing: mint and lime with a hint of evergreen underneath. Whimsy with a touch of innocence and a top note of wistfulness. It suited Potter.

"That's what you always say. Mmmm," purred Harry as Snape's hands began unknotting muscles that had been immobilised for the better part of an hour. "I'm pretty sure there's a potion for this," he murmured, dropping his chin as Snape's thumbs dug into the muscles at the base of his skull.

"Of course there's a potion for this, Potter," replied Snape as his strong fingers worked along the tight cords of Potter's shoulders. "I am happy to brew it for you, should you wish to spend the day after staggering around in a mind-numbing fog."

"Can't you just fix that part?"

"And deny myself the pleasure of watching you behave like your ordinary, dunderheaded self? Please," Snape scoffed as his strong fingers travelled down Potter's arms. "Now be silent whilst I ensure you are fit enough to wield a mop. Someone must clean up after the miscreants tomorrow. No doubt they'll find a way to track mud throughout the halls."

Tomorrow was the Slytherin/Ravenclaw Quidditch match and it was likely to rain as well, thus ensuring hundreds of mud encrusted boots would go parading in and out of the castle. When Filch had been the caretaker, Snape half-expected to return from such matches with the entrance sealed closed against them. For whatever reason, Potter never seemed to mind.

It was a waste, an utterly deplorable waste of talent and ability, and never in a million years would Severus Snape understand what had possessed Potter to take up the position of caretaker when it was so clearly beneath him. The Saviour of the Wizarding World was meant for better things than spending his life cleaning up after other people.

No matter how much Potter protested that he was content, Snape refused to believe him. True, the castle had never looked better. The fixtures shone and the portraits were clean and happy. The tapestries were brighter and nary could a dent be found on any of the suits of armour. Even the dungeons weren't quite as musty. Still, it made no sense whatsoever that Potter was completely devoid of ambition.

Minerva had offered Potter a number of teaching posts, in order: Defence Against the Dark Arts, Charms, Care of Magical Creatures, Muggle Studies, History of Magic, Librarian and Transfiguration but Potter had turned them all down. Being Caretaker and Keeper of the Keys was enough to keep him busy. Plus, he didn't have to worry about taking points and truly did not mind overseeing detention. Snape had no idea what Potter did to the students, but it was a rare day when the trace of tears didn't show upon their faces.

There was a soft growl from Potter, so soft Snape wasn't positive he'd heard it; certainly not enough to know whether to punish him for it. He worked slowly down the length of Potter's body, admiring yet again the strong shoulders that tapered to a narrow waist, the lovely curve of a taut arse, the finely formed legs that ended in a pair of high-arched feet.

"Turn over for me, boy," he ordered with a soft pop to Potter's backside to inspire him to move quickly. Guiding Potter's hips, he got him centred on the narrow table, his dark eyes feasting on his half-hard cock. Such a delightful morsel and one he enjoyed feasting on from time to time.

As he worked his way up Potter's legs, Snape's dark eyes remained glued on Potter's cock, his lips curled in a trace of smile as it slowly unfurled, lengthening and thickening as he watched. "It really is quite lovely, you know," he murmured.

"And all yours," Potter replied as he laced his fingers behind his neck, remaining still as Snape's fingers dug into the tight, hard muscles of his thighs.

"For tonight," Snape agreed. By unspoken agreement they did not discuss the details of their social lives. He had no interest in knowing who Potter might be seeing nor what he did when he completed his duties at the castle. Those matters were none of his business.

Nor was it Potter's business what he did in his free time. The only time that mattered was those precious few hours they spent together on Friday nights where Potter was answerable only to him, providing him with the most intense pleasure he had ever known. Every soft sigh, every deep moan, the way his body trembled and shook as Potter surrendered himself over to his keeping.

The boy was so pliant, so willing, especially during those moments when the world held just the two of them, Potter giving himself completely, Snape taking and taking and taking until there was nothing left but the sounds of their breath, ragged and harsh, often as not tinged with soft sobs of pleasure that Snape consumed as though made of the headiest wine.

Snape worked on Potter's body until he was satisfied the boy would not be sore in the morning. He helped Potter off the table and into his robes before seeing to his own appearance whilst Potter finished dressing. Though Potter had once expressed an interest in assisting him, he had declined and it was never mentioned again.

Once they were ready to leave, Snape escorted Potter to the Apparition Point. "I am very proud of how well you did tonight," he said as he enfolded Potter in his arms.

A faint blush staining his cheeks, Potter smiled up at him. "We're good together," he said simply.

"Indeed."

Seconds later they were standing in front of the enormous wrought-iron gates. Ever since Potter had failed to let him know how tired he actually was and left two fingernails and a tiny bit of ear behind, Snape had Apparated Potter back to Hogwarts to ensure the boy stayed in one piece, enveloped snugly within his arms. It was a safety precaution, pure and simple

They walked back on those rare nights when the weather cooperated, but tonight was not such a night. The clouds were low and sullen, a bad mood threatening to become tempestuous in the blink of an eye. Tucking Potter against his side, Snape escorted him up to his quarters off the Entrance Hall.

"Would you like to come in for a nightcap?" asked Harry, pausing at the threshold to his rooms. "I have a new Port I've not tried yet."

Snape saw the hope that shone in green eyes and paid no attention to it. "Perhaps another time," he said neutrally. "I must get back to the dungeons."

"That's all right," Harry replied, his good humour undaunted. "I should probably make certain no one is out in the corridors. It is after curfew, you know."

"And who better to find the rulebreakers than the boy who was caught out more than any other?" drawled Snape, his eyes glinting. "Until next week, Mr Potter."

"All right. Good night, Professor."

~*~

"This is a travesty," proclaimed Snape as he came to a sudden halt in middle of the corridor that led to the Slytherin common room.

"You're right," agreed Potter from his place on his knees. "I don't know what they were thinking. I was going to send you a memo, but since you're here...I caught Bryce and Cassius attempting to hex each other senseless. They're both scheduled for detention with me tonight."

He watched as Potter scrubbed spell residue off the wall, an Ectoplasmosis if he had to guess, judging from the way it oozed. "Students will be students, Potter. If they're not fighting, they're—"

"Most of them are a bit too young for that, don't you think?" Potter said with a laugh, casting another containment spell at the goo.

"Do not attempt to divert my attention, Potter. This is a waste of your talents. Despite your many failings—"

"You mean Potions," interrupted Potter.

"—you are a gifted wizard. You should be working your way up the ranks of the Auror Corps or chasing after one of those infernal Snitches. Training post owls or crafting wands."

"I wouldn't mind crafting your wand," muttered Potter as he coaxed the slime into a puddle.

"Not wasting yourself as a janitor. You are working as little more than a house elf, wandering around this place and seeing to the messes made by others." Snape's voice bounced off the walls and echoed its way around a corner. He stared down at Potter, his eyes hard.

"You've been saving that up for awhile, haven't you?" said Potter mildly. "Ahh, here we go." He pulled his wand and Vanished the mess, grinning triumphantly when it didn't explode all over him. "My work is important, Professor," he said as he came to his feet. "What's more, I enjoy it, which is more than I can say about being an Auror or a professional Quidditch player."

"And given the off-handed way you dismiss the idea of both," sneered Snape, "I assume you've not tried your hand at either." It galled him to no end how many people had fought and died for Potter, only to have the dratted boy end up as the successor to Argus Filch. Not that Potter himself was the driving force behind that sacrifice; the wizarding world would have done the same for anybody destined to destroy the Dark Lord.

"Actually, I have. I finished Auror training and hated it, so I resigned my commission. Not long after that, I was offered reserve Seeker by the Catapults and was on the roster for a season. Miserable experience."

"But you could be making a difference," argued Snape. He knew at once it was the wrong tack to take. "If you wanted to remain at Hogwarts, you could accept one of the teaching posts Minerva has been begging you to accept for years." He didn't know why he cared, except that he preferred to see Potter live up to his potential.

"And I'll turn her down as long as she continues to ask." Potter sheathed his wand and stepped back to inspect his handiwork. "I'll see you Friday, Professor."

Snape watched as Potter headed off to take care of his next thankless task, momentarily entertaining the fantasy of having him so completely under his control that he could take the reins of Potter's life and develop him into the best Defence Against the Dark Arts professor Hogwarts had ever known. His expression soured. It was no business of his if Potter chose to expend his energy completing menial tasks for thankless people.

~*~

Several days later, Snape found Potter scowling over his morning porridge, his green eyes stormy. The Daily Prophet was flung haphazardly over the staff table and he wondered what those enterprising reporters had written to set off his young colleague, who was now preaching to anyone who would listen.

"Fine, I fully support the proposition, but why the Ministry feel it's necessary to hold a referendum on the question is quite beyond me." Potter bit savagely through a sausage as he waved it around like a sword. "I'm this close to confiscating the Bryces' wands," he said in disgust as Snape sat down.

Bryce Carpenter (Ravenclaw sixth year) and Bryce Westcott (Slytherin fourth year), or 'The Bryces' as they were known collectively, were as an explosive a duo as Potter and Malfoy had ever aspired to being. The Westcotts were an old wizarding family, though not nearly as prominent as the Malfoys had once been. The Carpenters were a Muggle family with a history of producing a competent witch or wizard every other generation or so.

"Duelling in the corridors again, were they?" Snape asked casually as his eyes swept the length of the Slytherin table. Ahh, there she was, holding court in the centre and most likely complaining about whatever horrors Potter would subject her to during her next detention.

"Nothing quite as mundane as that," growled Potter. "Your Bryce had the other Bryce in a headlock and was attempting to bloody his nose."

Snape's eyebrows rose and he gave the hellion an evaluating look. "She is not 'my Bryce', but if she was able to put Mr Carpenter in a headlock, she should be commended. He is nearly a foot taller and is half again heavier."

"It's not terribly difficult to beat someone to a pulp if you've got a full Body Bind Curse on him. Between the two of them they managed to reduce half a dozen suits of armour to pieces. I'll be all day sorting that out."

"Have them do it," Snape suggested as he buttered a piece of toast. He poured himself some tea, adding a splash of milk and very little sugar before collecting the scattered bits of the paper and placing them back in some semblance of order.

"They were fighting about the referendum, and I don't know yet if it's just the latest source of their disagreement or something to keep an eye on."

Though it pained him to admit it, Potter did have a point. Not long after the war, the Board of Governors proposed requiring a comparative course on Muggle Studies and Wizarding Culture. In typical fashion, the Undersecretary for Magical Education involved the Ministry in the decision. The Wizengamot, fearing that such matters could cause yet another conflict between purebloods and Muggleborns, directed the Ministry to hold a referendum on the subject, so now the entire country was up in arms about whether witches and wizards should be required to learn about the Muggle world.

"I will keep an eye on Slytherin House," Snape replied. The boy was observant and uniquely positioned to spot problems the rest of them might not see. For a moment, he almost wished he could award him five points. "You may wish to speak with Minerva if you have not done so already." He did not miss the days when there was a battle between Houses on a regular basis. He preferred their differences be settled on the Quidditch pitch.

"I have done," replied Potter between spoonfuls of porridge. "I think she's planning a meeting for the Heads. If I hear any rumblings in the corridors though, I will let you know." He finished his breakfast and rose from the table. "If you don't see me at dinner, I'll need rescuing."

Snape lifted his eyes from the paper and peered over the top at Potter. "Rescuing? From what?"

"Well, David gets upset if he ends up with Samuel's cuisses. Richard doesn't like Thomas' gardbraces. Edmund's tassets don't fit on William and don't even get me started on what could happen if I get their helmets mixed up."

"Go away, Potter," Snape said finally, turning his attention back to the Prophet. Still, his eyes followed Potter as he bounded out of the Great Hall, ridiculously eager, as always.

~*~

On a blustery Friday in mid-March, Snape met Potter in the Entrance Hall at 8:45 on the dot. Seldom early and never late, the entire castle knew that they spent their Friday nights together. What they did in those few hours they were together was anybody's guess—and guess they did. Everything from drinks in Muggle Edinburgh to secret experiments in the Department of Mysteries.

Shagging was mentioned as a possibility, until Vector pointed out that they went out once a week, and they didn't need to leave the castle to have sex. Besides, they never spent the night together. And who in their right mind would regard Severus Snape as boyfriend material? Three years later, the dots remained unconnected.

As Potter disappeared through a doorway, the tall collar with Snape's mark fastened securely around his neck, Snape requested a list of items from Celia, the witch who kept Styx ticking like a fine watch. Middle aged, medium height, weight and everything else, Celia served as traffic coordinator, equipment manager, mediator and confidant for the members of the club. As a private organisation, they fell outside Ministry control, and there wasn't a witch or wizard on the rolls who wanted their proclivities made public.

"No rope tonight, Severus?" she asked as she Summoned a leather harness, a full set of cuffs and a cock ring. "You know how much he loves being immobilised."

"I've not heard any complaints from him thus far," replied Snape as he examined the equipment, checking for rough spots, worn spots, tears or anything that could cause discomfort to the boy.

"I don't know why you—" Her jaws clacked shut as she caught a flash of anger in dark eyes.

"Which room tonight?" she asked instead.

"Common room. Is it very busy?"

"There's about a dozen in there so far, but it's early yet. He'll be waiting for you." With a wave of her wand, a tiny finch flew past with a thin ribbon bearing instructions for Potter trailing from its beak. "Play safely," she said as Snape walked past the tall oak desk and headed down the corridor.

Entering the common room, a spacious area filled with leather club chairs, low benches, ottomans on casters, brass lamps and the the accoutrements of a fine London gentlemen's club, Snape found Potter naked and kneeling under a stuffed and mounted Hippogriff head. The moment Potter's green eyes made contact, the boy lowered his head to the floor.

Snape stood for a moment and simply admired Potter's form, the strong shoulders tapering down to a trim waist, the curve of his spectacular arse a mere suggestion from his vantage point. Well-muscled arms were pulled back, his left wrist encircled by his right hand as always. His knees were spread far apart and Snape had just caught a glimpse of half-hard cock before Potter assumed his position of pure subservience. As always, his submission was a thing of beauty.

His eyes swept through the room, and a bit of a grin curved his lips as he spotted Iain McCaig, an elderly wizard who kept a string of slaves to see to his every whim. McCaig was one of the founding members of Styx and had trained many of the collared submissives who frequented the place. Possessed of a keen wit and biting sense of humour, he reminded Snape of Minerva
McGonagall.

Walking over, hand extended, Snape greeted the old man. "Iain. It's been months since I've seen you here. Are you well?" He eyed McCaig with a critical eye. The wizard's silver hair was a bit less shiny and his cheeks a bit sunken, though his grey eyes were every bit as sharp as always.

"Those quacks at St. Mungo's are telling me to give up everything I enjoy and placed me on some wretched potion regimen that's supposed to purge all the toxins from my system," McCaig groused. "Ha! I've spent years pouring toxins in. Why would I give them up now?" He waved Snape toward a corner where several chess boards were set up. "Care for a match or two? No one here can give me a run for my money."

"I would love to," replied Snape. Resisting the urge to offer a helping hand—McCaig would show no compunction about removing it from his arm—he followed the aging wizard to the corner and claimed a seat facing the fire.

"Girl!" McCaig made a sharp beckoning movement with his hand and a buxom witch wearing a collar and a corset around her waist rose gracefully and waited patiently next to the chess board. "Fetch a brandy for me and a drink for Severus. What will you be having tonight?"

"A glass of Bordeaux for me." Snape began arranging the board, electing to take black as the girl left to get their drinks. By the time she returned, he was moving his second pawn forward to counter the knight McCaig had opened with.

"Where's your boy tonight?"

"Under Shadowmane." Snape contemplated the board and advanced another pawn.

"One of these days someone is going to snatch him right out from under your nose. Mark my words, Severus, he's a valuable commodity. So willing to please it almost hurts to watch, and a body built for buggery" McCaig's bishop moved up a space.

Snape advanced his knight. "Potter is free to serve anyone he chooses. We've no understanding between us. What potions are you taking?" He took a sip of wine, velvety smooth and filled with the flavour of dark fruits and hummed his appreciation.

The conversation flowed easily between them as they waged a ferocious war back and forth across the chess board, their pieces hurling insults at each other until Snape's king was finally cornered and he conceded the match. "Do you mind setting us up for another match whilst I fetch Potter?"

McCaig snorted a laugh. "Think you'll win this time, do you?" He made a lazy gesture with his wrist, and the girl who had acquired their drinks began moving the pieces back into position, ignoring the sharp jabs of tiny swords and spears the chessmen were giving her.

Walking through the room, busier now than it was nearly an hour ago, Snape paused in front of Potter before bending and touching him on the shoulder. "On your feet."

Rising slowly and in stages to avoid headrush, Potter came to his feet, and waited to be given his orders. The cock ring went on first and he shivered as the corners of his mouth curled up in a smile. Another night where he was unlikely to be given permission to come.

"Turn around, boy," Snape instructed. "Hands on my shoulders."

"Yes, Sir," Potter replied, his eyebrows drawing together in confusion that vanished moments later as Snape helped him into a complicated harness. Leather encircled his upper thighs, his chest, his shoulders and criss-crossed his back. Small rings were set all over it and his breath quickened as he realised the possibilities.

"Figured it out, have you?" purred Snape, his dark eyes glinting. Cuffs went around Potter's wrists and ankles, and then he stepped back to examine his handiwork. He straightened the stylised 'S' on the collar--his mark--and slowly circled the boy, eyes voracious. Such a perfect slave. "Follow me."

Knowing Potter could hardly move his head nor barely see his feet, Snape made sure their path through the room was easily traversed. Setting a low ottoman near his chair, he beckoned Potter onto it. "Kneel there."

Within moments, Potter was folded into a small ball, the collar holding his head up. Short lengths of chain clipped to rings along the harness kept his knees anchored to his chest, and with his arms held crossed behind him, his shoulders were pulled back. It was, by design, very uncomfortable. Positioning the ottoman just so, Snape resumed his place at the table.

"A delectable morsel, Severus," said McCaig as he eyed Potter. "Look at that mouth. It really ought to be put to some use whilst you're busy losing to me again."

"We shall see," replied Snape. Removing a small jar from his pocket, he opened it and set it by his wineglass. "Hmmm, Queen's Gambit. You must be feeling confident." He dipped a finger in the substance, then began working it into Potter's hole.

By the mid-point of the game, Potter was squirming, his hips pumping frantically whilst he fucked nothing but air. Snape's fingers continued to move in and out of Potter, brushing his prostate periodically as he continued to work more of the substance in.

"Whatever are you doing to that poor boy?" McCaig enquired as he castled his King-side rook and placed Snape's queen in danger.

"I'm using a lubricant to which I've added cinnamon oil. It's a brighter burn than fresh ginger. As Potter is not one for pain, I find other ways to amuse myself." He moved a bishop in between McCaig's rook and his queen, to the jeers of his remaining knight who felt better qualified for the square.

Potter's mewls began to fade away as a slight sense of euphoria overtook him, and Snape's gaze grew hungrier and hungrier watching the tension slowly melt from Potter's bones. Looking away from the board for a moment, he gestured to a tall wizard who reminded him vaguely of Kingsley Shacklebolt.

The man untangled himself from the submissive who was dozing against him and made his way over to the corner. "Iain. Severus," he rumbled in greeting. He studied the board for a moment. "I can see why your pieces are angry with you." His dark eyes gleamed as they wandered over to Potter. "Is there a blue moon tonight?" he said with a lascivious grin.

"You'll want to use a condom, Dennett," Snape said idly, stroking his chin with his fingers. "Cinnamon oil."

The web McCaig had woven was getting tighter, but there might be a way out if he sacrificed his sole rook. He moved it three spaces across, removing his fingers from Potter's arse to concentrate on his remaining pieces.

Chuckling, Ben Dennett sheathed his impressive length. "Appreciate knowin' that." Blessed with a sadistic streak a mile wide, which made him a favourite of any number of masochists, he went to great lengths to avoid suffering any pain himself. With a flick of his wand, Dennett elevated the ottoman to proper height and speared Potter with his prick, fucking the boy as though trying to pound a hole through a stone wall.

Snape's eyes flickered away from the board when Potter cried out as he was breached, the lovely sound shivering through his cock until it was throbbing in time with Dennett's sharp thrusts. Feasting on the waves of pleasure rippling under Potter's skin, he rested the flat of his hand on Potter's arse cheek, flexing his fingers periodically to scratch lightly at the skin under them.

"Check." McCaig gazed across the board triumphantly as Snape physically wrenched his attention back to the game.

Watching Dennett out of the corner of his eye, he debated moving his knight, but, ahh, there. To the cheers of his pieces, he took McCaig's last bishop with the rook he'd positioned several moves ago.

"Morgana's twat," McCaig swore under his breath. "Didn't think you'd take it." He glanced at Potter. The boy was moaning softly as Dennett plundered his body, his heavy-lidded eyes barely open, his lips parted in a soft 'o'. "How you can ignore that lovely mouth is quite beyond me. It should be as full as his arse." He advanced his queen two spaces.

Recklessly taking the queen with his knight and leaving the king's flank exposed, Snape leant forward across the board. "Did you fail to note my mark on his collar? Keep your attention on the board, McCaig, not on the boy," he said darkly. He slid his hand forward until it was resting in the centre of Potter's back, the position oddly territorial for someone who had given someone else access to Potter's arse. The slave was his for the night, and he alone would decide how best to use him.

Arching his back as much as his position allowed, Potter panted softly, keening a bit each time his prostate was struck. Moving his hand over Potter's back in slow circles, Snape stood and murmured in his ear, receiving a tiny nod in response. "You're doing so well," he whispered before sitting back down, knowing Potter preferred not to be shared, but accepted it to please him. He had a king to corner.

Six moves later, Dennett came with a sharp grunt, and Snape thought he might be able to play to a draw, provided McCaig didn't manage to wiggle out of the trap he'd set. He scooped up two fingers full of unguent and plunged them into Potter's arse the moment Dennett withdrew, the sharp bite of cinnamon oil bringing a hoarse cry to the boy's lips.

"I thought you said Potter doesn't enjoy pain," McCaig said sharply as his bishop threw his sword across the board at Snape and stalked back two white squares.

"Boy, does this hurt?" asked Snape pointedly, his fingers moving in and out of Potter's stretched hole with ease, twisting in and brushing against his sensitised prostate.

Entire body quivering with a desperate need for release, Potter shook his head the tiny bit the collar allowed. "No, Sir," he gasped. "Please!" Tears gathered, welling up in the corners of his eyes, spilling down his cheeks.

Moving a piece, Snape speared McCaig with a look. "It appears neither of us have anywhere to go. Shall we call this a draw?" Without waiting for a response, he spun the ottoman around so that Potter was facing him. Rising swiftly, he unlaced his flies and exposed his cock, hard and wet. Burying his long fingers in Potter's hair, he fucked the boy's mouth.

Potter's tongue swirled around his length, and as the boy's cheeks hollowed, Snape felt the head of his cock dip deep into Potter's throat. His fingers tightened in the tangle of black hair and he withdrew nearly to the head, moaning as the tip of Potter's tongue delved into his slit, sucking away the clear fluid welling there. Holding the boy's head still, he thrust again, his dark eyes smouldering as Potter swallowed around the tip.

Drawing his hips back, he withdrew again and left Potter little time to draw breath before he was fucking the boy's mouth in earnest. He gazed down at the enchanting sight, Potter's lips stretched wide around his girth, saliva gathering in the corners of his mouth, worshipful green eyes desperate and hungry as they gazed up at him. Throwing his head back, Snape drove into Potter's mouth, spilling thick and heavy over the back of his tongue, holding still as the boy's mouth wrung the last little bit of his orgasm from him.

"Such a beautiful, beautiful boy," Snape murmured as Potter licked him clean. "You are such a gift." Potter rubbed his cheek along Snape's softening length, almost purring at the praise, and in that one brief heady moment, Snape owned Potter completely.

"Oh, do let him have a reward, Severus," McCaig urged, looking over the boys and girls he had at his disposal. One of them ought to be good enough to get a chance to suck Potter off.

Ignoring McCaig, Snape unfastened the rings and pulled Potter up into an embrace, holding him close and breathing soothing words into his ear. Hands made strong from stirring countless potions travelled slowly over Potter's body, gently unfolding arms and legs until Potter was moving on his own. "How do you feel?"

A smile as brilliant as it was weary spread over Potter's face like dawn breaking through a cloudy morning. "Well used. Will you be playing another game, Sir?"

Snape turned enquiring eyes on McCaig, who shook his head, a note of derision in his eyes. Bloody fool. "Take the boy home and put him to bed, or whatever it is you do with him when you've finished," the old man replied tartly before turning to Potter with a warm smile. "Any time you want to leave Hogwarts for warmer climes, boy, I've a place for you."

Dropping his eyes, Potter blushed faintly and shook his head. "Thank you, Sir, but Hogwarts needs me more."

~*~

Debate about the referendum had reached fever pitch, but the issues being discussed no longer focussed on the need for educational reform, but blood purity. Those taking a hard line insisted that Muggleborns shouldn't be permitted to attend Hogwarts, weren't real witches or wizards and would never amount to anything. The opinions of Halfbloods should be disregarded, since their families quite obviously cared nothing for Wizarding culture or traditions.

Once again, the word "mudblood" was being tossed about indiscriminately and by those old enough to know better. The Daily Prophet leaned with the prevailing winds, which were blowing hardest from the wealthiest families. As they saw no reason to disrupt the status quo, neither did the editorial board of the paper. The epithet made its way from newspaper to the dining room table to the Great Hall, which led to the regular exchange of curses between those in favour of modernisation and those determined to preserve the old ways.

As Snape left his room for the Entrance Hall, he was intercepted by a silvery tortoiseshell cat. The cat's mouth opened, and in McGonagall's unmistakeable brogue it said, "Severus. Come quickly to the library. It's the Bryces." He moved quickly through the dungeon corridors and saw Potter waiting for him at the foot of the Great Staircase.

"There's trouble so I am delayed. Go to the club, find someone to play with," Snape instructed in a hurry. "If I am able to extricate myself from the Bryces' latest disaster in a reasonable amount of time, I will see you there."

Potter's brow furrowed. "Perhaps I should come with you instead."

"Don't be a fool," snarled Snape as he started up the stairs. "You need this, as I do. Bear in mind, you owe me nothing beyond the lessons you learnt during your training. Perhaps it's time you realised this." He took the stairs at a sprint, his long black cloak fluttering out behind him.

~*~

Rain lashed the windows harder than any flogger's kiss as one of April's tempestuous storms threw a tantrum at the Highlands. A bright flash of lightning caught Iain McCaig's attention and he turned his head and stared out the window as if trying to see the roll of thunder that was about to strike. The hard chill that accompanied the downpour was wreaking havoc with his rheumatism.

"Did I give you permission to move?" he snapped at the boy serving as a footstool for his aching feet. Reaching for the quirt near at hand, he gave the boy's buttocks a sharp swat as a reminder. This one, Jimmy something-or-other, was far too stubborn to be a worthy submissive. He would have a talk with the boy tomorrow.

A strange fluttering motion caught the corner of his eye, and as McCaig sought the source of the disturbance, the room went breathlessly still. Stark naked except for his glasses, Harry Potter froze at becoming the centre of everyone's attention.

"Well, well, well. Would you look at that," murmured McCaig to Rufus Winickus, his companion for the evening. "I do believe this is the first time I've Harry Potter without Severus Snape's collar on him. Without anyone's collar on him."

"Merlin's scrote. The boy looks terrified." Rufus set down his drink and watched as a number of Dominants began to close in on Potter, circling him as if they scented blood in the water and were about to strike.

The two men looked on as Potter shifted nervously from foot to foot, answering questions with a brief nod or shake of his head. He fought to remain still as foreign hands moved over his skin, inspecting him, manhandling him to determine his fitness.

"Potter, come here," ordered a smooth, cultured voice and, obviously relieved that he'd finally
been told what to do, Harry complied instantly, threading his way through the press of people to kneel at the feet of Lucius Malfoy.

Quite against his will, McCaig looked around for Snape before swearing vehemently under his breath. "Damned fool. He's as much of a dunderhead as those students he claims to teach. What could he be thinking, sending Potter in like this? This will end badly, Rufus. Mark my words."

"It's just for one night. And Lucius is an accomplished top. Potter has nothing to fear."

McCaig shook his head. "If it's all the same to you, I'm going to keep an eye on this." He settled back in his seat, nudging his 'footstool' away. His instincts were warning him that trouble was brewing, and they seldom failed him.

It was no secret that there was little love lost between Lucius Malfoy and Harry Potter, for all that the boy had testified quite passionately on his behalf at the Death Eater trials. Snape and the Malfoys had benefitted handsomely from the Boy-Who-Lived's sense of justice.

Too far away to hear the exchange, he watched as Malfoy led Potter over to a large wingchair and pointed at the floor as he sat. Though Potter rested his head on Malfoy's thigh as he knelt, there was a rigidity in the lines of his body that was noticeably absent under Snape.

Malfoy's hand moved slowly through Potter's hair as he spoke—perhaps to relax him?—and the patrician blond frowned as Potter shook his head slightly. A few more words were exchanged before Malfoy beckoned to one of the attendants. Judging from the way Potter's fingers were flexing, the negotiations didn't go his way.

"Merlin save the idiots from themselves," McCaig said with a sigh. He shook his head as a tray floated over to Malfoy. Next to a tall flute of what had to be expensive champagne sat a thin black collar with the Malfoy crest dangling from the centre ring. A pair of nipple clamps, clovers unless McCaig's eyes were deceiving him, sat next to a length of fine chain.

Rufus pursed his lips. "What's Malfoy playing at? He's never happy unless he's left them all but battered. Carries that great bloody cane with him everywhere and uses it, too. Why's he treating Potter like glass?"

"The question is rather, why is Potter allowing it?" McCaig frowned. "I watched Severus play with him for hours not too long ago during a game of chess. He mentioned that Potter isn't a masochist, so why is Malfoy even interested in him?"

"Maybe because he's Harry Potter?"

"Bah," scoffed McCaig. "We're years past all that Dark Lord nonsense, and I have it on good authority that Potter refuses anyone he doesn't know personally." His eyes narrowed as some of Potter's colour leached away when Malfoy attached the first clamp to Potter's nipple.

Some of McCaig's unease transferred to Rufus, and he took a quick sip of firewhisky to assuage his conscience. He didn't like seeing good submissives walking blindly towards trouble, but, as he reminded himself, Potter was an adult and knew the ropes. "Who else has the boy played with besides Severus?"

"He rotated through a number of Dominants when Severus first began bringing him here. I suspect the only reason Potter cooperated was to please Severus. You know how stubborn that man can be." McCaig snorted. "Severus never has said who he trained with, but I trust him."

"They're both stubborn as the day is long," said Rufus, wincing for Potter's sake as the second clamp went on. Potter's jaw worked as the fist behind his back opened and closed rhythmically.

"Potter? Stubborn?" McCaig's eyes darted to his 'footstool', now serving as an end table for a no-nonsense witch. "Potter is about as malleable as they come. Not a stubborn bone in his body and not one you'll ever find topping from the bottom. Circe! That boy is so eager to please I almost want to reward him for breathing."

"And he's with Severus?" Rufus shook his head. "Not one known for being effusive with his praise."

"You'd be surprised," said McCaig dryly. "Severus had one of those undersecretaries of some Ministry department fuck him he whilst watched. You should have seen Potter melt when Severus told him how well he was doing. It was clear to me that Potter was getting off on Severus' enjoyment. Great blistering flobberworms!"

As the two looked on, Malfoy arranged Potter over what appeared to be a set of uneven parallel bars transfigured from a pair of hat racks. Gripping the top rail with his hands, his hips draped over the lower rail and feet dangling a number of inches over the floor, Potter was relatively helpless to prevent what was coming.

"Why the fuck isn't Severus here?" McCaig snarled under his breath.

"Potter must have agreed for a reason," argued Rufus. "Besides, he's not Severus' boy. As far as I know, they've never even talked about formalising their arrangement." Club gossip was pervasive and notorious for revealing secrets that were nearly always right.

Malfoy set the chain connecting the clamps between Potter's teeth then moved behind him, spelling lubricant into him and working several fingers into his arse. As he ran his left hand over Potter's arse, he lifted a thin cane into the air.

"I'm too old for this," McCaig sighed as the cane fell across Potter's flanks. The boy flinched, lifting his head by reflex and pulling on the clamps, tightening them. "I miss the days when Dominants had their own submissives, each complementing the other. Such a lovely thing to behold, like a pair of perfectly matched pair of winged horses. You don't see that now, Rufus. Instead we get this." He waved his hand towards the display, shaking his head a little each time Potter cried out.

Nursing his brandy, McCaig settled into a morose silence as he and Rufus watched Potter's arse move through the spectrum of light pink to sunburn red. When sharp cries became choked sobs, Malfoy set aside the cane and buggered Potter senseless, his thumbs pressing into reddened flesh. He wrapped his hand around Potter's length and stroked him to completion. Several deep thrusts later, Malfoy's sharp orgasmic cry filled a room suddenly gone deathly quiet.

McCaig inhaled sharply and Rufus let out a soft "oh" when Severus Snape took a step into the room, his face a cold mask, his coffee-black eyes spitting fire as he waged a furious war within himself.

Either oblivious or impervious to the sudden shift of the temperature of the room, Malfoy assisted Potter off the railings and helped him to a nearby couch. Arranging Potter so that the boy straddled his hips, Potter's chest resting against his own, Malfoy Summoned a squat jar of salve for his bruised bottom. As he rubbed the soothing lotion into Potter's bright red skin, he locked eyes with Snape.

It was a war waged with but one casualty, and silver eyes flashed triumphantly as Snape turned on his heel and strode out of the room.

~*~

By the time Snape reached the gates of Hogwarts he was soaked to the skin, his hair plastered to his skull and hanging like seaweed around his face. Pulling his dripping robes around him, he stormed up to the Entrance Hall, slogging his way through every mud puddle he could find. He wanted to be wet. He wanted his boots caked with mud. He wanted to leave small lakes and streams in his wake.

Potter would have to clean it up.

Squishing his way across the stone floor, his boots making a squelching sound with each step, he stomped his way to the dungeons muttering imprecations under his breath. By the time he reached the portrait guarding the door, he was giving serious consideration to dousing himself with an Aguamenti charm just to make Potter's job that much more untenable.

He flicked his wand at the stone wall, snarled his password and banged his way into his quarters. "Incendio." As if sensing his mood the fireplace exploded into flame, the fire all too willing to obey. Throwing his sodden cloak over a chair, he stood in front of the fire, the heat causing steam to rise off his saturated robes, his hands balled in tight fists.

Malfoy! Fucking Malfoy! Balls deep inside Potter.

Three fucking years. No! Almost four! An unbroken string of Friday nights invested in bringing Potter to the point where he no longer required orders to be given, but strove to please his every whim. Years and years of heaping praise on that ungrateful little bastard's head and Lucius Fucking Malfoy simply snaps his fucking fingers and Potter's on his knees.

Incensed beyond reason, Snape pulled his wand and hurled a blasting curse at his desk, eyes alight with savage joy when stacks of ungraded parchment were reduced to confetti. Those fucking dunderheads would just have to redo their essays.

Confringo! His chair exploded into bits.

Reducto! The sofa was reduced to rubble.

It was only when he started hurling curses at the stone walls that Minerva Flooed into his rooms. "Stupefy!" she cried, and Snape was out cold.

~*~

Tartan dressing gown wrapped tightly around her, feet tucked safely into a cosy pair of slippers, a braid of long grey hair hanging over her left shoulder, Minerva surveyed the shambles of what was once a lovely living room.

At least he had spared the books. Severus Snape would never forgive himself if he set his personal library aflame.

Summoning a small army of house-elves, they managed to restore order in a short time. Once the room was put more or less to rights, Minerva levitated Snape to the new sofa and placed him in a Full Body Bind before ennervating him.

"I am quite certain there is a reasonable explanation for your attempt to blow up the dungeons," she said tartly when Snape regained consciousness.

Snape gazed around, bewildered by the question. Then memory flooded back in and his eyes flashed with rage. "Release me at once," he snarled as he fought the effects of the curse.

"Not on your life," Minerva snapped back, leaning forward in her chair. "I've no idea what brought this on, but rest assured I will be speaking with Harry when I'm through with you. If you've harmed a hair on that young man's head…"

Snape barked out a laugh. If she only knew. "I've not touched him." Oh, but he wanted to. He wanted to tear that insolent whelp to bits with his bare hands, wanted to see genuine fear in those ridiculous green eyes of his, wanted to flay the skin off his bones. "Besides, he has nothing to do with this."

McGonagall's eyes sharpened. "It's Friday night."

Another flash of anger burst in Snape's eyes."Yes, it is, but as you well know, I was attempting to quell a riot in Slytherin House after the Bryces' brawl in the library. I was unable to keep our assignation."

"I've seen your temper, Severus. Any time it goes off like this, Potter is generally at the centre of it."

Snape remained mutinously silent.

"Has he been here tonight?" she asked bluntly.

"No."

"But you have seen him tonight?"

Another protracted silence left Minerva certain that Harry was somehow involved in tonight's catastrophe, but knowing how Severus could turn a simple misunderstanding into an act of war, she thought it best not to pursue it.

Weighing Snape's words carefully, including those he didn't say, she gave a tight nod. "Very well, Severus. My report will say that a debate regarding the referendum got out of hand and curses were exchanged. Other than overseeing detention tomorrow, you are confined to quarters until Monday breakfast. The house-elves will be bringing you your meals. I shall be most offended should you hex any of them."

Visibly seething, Snape gnashed his teeth and glared at the Headmistress until he signalled his defeat. "Will you be speaking with Potter?" he said, managing to keep his tone civil.

"Unless you were debating the referendum with him, no," said Minerva tightly. "As you say, there is no reason, as you did not keep your appointment." She came to her feet and walked to the fireplace, reaching into the small cauldron on the mantel for some Floo powder. "Sleep well, Severus."

"Wait," he called. "You've not removed the curse."

With a smile more sinister than Snape thought her capable of, Minerva shook her head. "No, I haven't. Good night." She tossed in the powder and stepped into the roaring green flames, leaving him to stew for the rest of the night.

~*~

The following Friday found Snape at the top of the Astronomy Tower, watching as Potter made his way to the gates around a quarter after nine. He sneered as Potter lingered and glanced back repeatedly at the enormous doors guarding the entrance to the castle. Once the arrogant bastard had Apparated away, he sprinted across the tower and leapt through the crenulations, hurling himself into a mad flight. Wind whipped his hair and stung his eyes, but no matter how fast he flew, he couldn't outrun his fury.

He could picture it now, Potter with that fucking tag on his collar. Nothing discreet like an 'M'. Oh, no. Lucius had to use his house crest—because he could. Because the fucking bastard had a house. Had a lineage. Had Potter.

At this very minute, Potter was probably kneeling under that blasted hippogriff head, waiting for Malfoy to deign to notice him. He'd give that piker one of his sweet, shy smiles, and Lucius would peer scornfully down that aristocratic nose at him as if trying to decide if Potter was worth his time. Potter didn't even have the intellect to know that it was Snape himself who was being judged.

Boudicca's bunghole! That little bastard had best do as he was told without wasting his few meagre brain cells trying to understand what was wanted from him. Snape would not be made a fool of, especially before those men and women who had come to regard him as one of the best Dominants at Styx.

As he streaked through the skies over the Forbidden Forest faster than a swift in flight, an idea erupted into being with the cataclysmic force of adding powdered moonstone to dragon's blood. Over the years he had given a number of demonstrations, always with Potter as his model, and after each session, had been offered any number of lovely young men to sample. It would not be a hardship to let it be known that his services were now available. He would cede Fridays to that snot-nosed toerag and his pretentious leash-holder and use the rest of the week to begin cultivating a long list of boys who would salivate at the possibility of belonging to him.

By the time Malfoy tired of his new toy, he would have moved on, found someone who suited him every bit as well as that gormless dunderhead.

Satisfied with his plan for vengeance, Snape flew leisurely back to Hogwarts and returned to the dungeons. He poured himself three fingers of Old Ogden's and sat in front of the crackling fire, drinking until he was numb from the outside in and the voices in his head were mercifully quiet.

The next morning at breakfast, Snape surprised his colleagues by wedging himself between Sprout and Flitwick and making pleasant conversation with them both. Despite what the students thought, there was no assigned seating at the Staff Table; with the exception of Minerva, they were free to sit wherever they chose. It was custom that put Snape at one end of the table. That and a desire not to engage in conversation unless his life depended on it. Right now, it did.

Black eyes glittered in unrepentant triumph when Potter's step faltered at seeing their accustomed order in disarray, and his lips curled in a mocking smile at seeing how gingerly the boy moved. Lucius had used him hard, it seemed, and Potter was all the worse for wear.

Good. Served him right, the wanker.

"No, I'm fine," he heard Potter say to Poppy. "Must have slept wrong is all. I'll feel better once I've been moving around a bit."

Of course he would. After he'd had a chance to stretch muscles not properly seen to afterwards. After chatting a bit with Filius about the Bryces and promising to speak with 'his' Bryce again, Snape rose from his place, shot Potter a look so dark he wished he had a jar of cockroaches to hurl along with it, and left the Great Hall in a swirl of black robes.

~*~

Snape walked through the dungeons on his way to his quarters late one Thursday night—no, Friday morning now—scrubbing his hand over his face to remove the vestiges of a cobweb he'd just walked through. "Potter, you fucking wastrel," he swore as he batted away the rest of it.

It had been a month since Malfoy had absconded with his boy, and as he examined the corridor with a critical eye, he was appalled to discover the state it was in. The torches were nearly burnt out and in some cases had already died. Dusty cobwebs clung to the corners and mouse droppings were in evidence along the crevices of floor and wall. Several of the portraits were sneezing, and all of them were in foul moods.

"This meagre light is causing my head to ache," declared a spinster attired in stylish Regency dress, "and the deplorable state of our frame simply won't do. Whatever you've said to the young lad, please do make amends." Her eyes narrowed and she wagged a finger. "Or procure a feather duster and see to it yourself."

Snape drew his wand and sneered at the portrait. "The condition of the dungeons is not my affair. If your accommodations are not to your liking, discuss it with the headmistress, you hoyden, or that good-for-nothing caretaker."

"Well, I never," gasped the young woman.

"That, mademoiselle," snarled Snape as he reversed his course and headed back towards the Entrance Hall, "is a surprise to no one."

He didn't know what was happening with Potter, couldn't say he cared, but there was no excuse for allowing the dungeons to deteriorate to their current state. Not even Filch had shown such dereliction to duty—and Potter had the use of magic at his disposal. Why Minerva had not reprimanded the wretch was beyond Snape's reckoning.

By the time he made it to the Entrance Hall, he'd worked himself into a state. He pounded on Potter's door with his fist. "Potter! Potter!" he shouted, his voice echoing through the vast space. He banged his fist again, nearly falling through the doorway when the whelp finally answered.

"Oh, it's you," Potter said drowsily, peering through his glasses with dull eyes. "Is there a problem, Professor?" He leaned against the jamb and yawned, covering his mouth halfway through it.

"Naturally," drawled Snape. "Did you imagine this was a social call?" he sneered, eyes gleaming in malicious triumph as his words found their mark.

If anything, Potter's face paled to parchment. He scratched his chest through the thin fabric of his flimsy t-shirt and dropped his eyes to the floor. "No, Professor." He dragged a hand through his messy hair and bit his lower lip. "How can I help you?"

"Have you completely abandoned your responsibilities, Potter? The torches in the dungeon are inadequate to their task, the portraits are in a state of agitation and," he drew himself up to his full height, "there are rodents."

"Give me a minute," Potter sighed. "You can come in if you'd like," he said off-handedly as he disappeared into his room, stepping into a small area screened off from the rest. He emerged a moment later, with loosely laced boots and tugging his robes over his head. As he bent over a woodpile, the cuffs of his red plaid flannel sleep pants peeped out from beneath the hem, the only flash of colour Potter displayed.

"Do you intend at some point in your life to use what little brain you possess, Potter?" said Snape, his tone scathing. "I was simply bringing the matter to your attention. I did not expect you to see to the matter now."

Potter selected a couple more lengths of wood from the pile and turned to face Snape, his arms full of short, slender logs. "Yes you did, sir," he replied with a soft sigh. "Please close the door behind you on your way out," he added as he trudged out of his room and through the Entrance Hall.

Snape's temper flared. "You insolent, good-for-nothing, misbegotten little snot," he raged as his long legs ate up the distance between himself and Potter. "Do not think by showing even a modicum of obedience that you will earn my respect." He took inordinate joy at seeing Potter's shoulders slump and rained down more insults with every step as he followed Potter to the entrance to the dungeons.

"Harry!" exclaimed the same portrait who had the effrontery to complain to him a short time ago. "My stars! You look terrible. Are you well?"

Rather than continuing to his quarters, Snape hung back to listen.

"'Lo, Abigail," Potter returned, his voice hushed so not to disturb the other portraits hung along the wall. "I'm sorry I've not been by lately. Have there been many mice?"

"Several, I'm afraid," the girl replied cheerily. "I believe they're nesting near Lusty Lucilla. I have been meaning to send word, but we've been enjoying the quiet as they've kept her out of her frame. She's a dreadful gossip, you know."

"She is that," Potter agreed with a faint smile that came nowhere near his glistening eyes. "I see the torches need replacing. Let me see to that, and I'll be back to tidy you up a bit."

Abigail gave Potter a brilliant smile that quickly became a look of disdain when she spotted Snape lurking nearby. "Did that wretched professor send you to do for us at this time of night?" She placed her hands on her hips and lifted her chin. "I see he does not even have the decency to be ashamed of it either."

"No, no. He was right to bring it to my attention," Potter replied with a tiny quaver in his voice. The sound should have brought a modicum of joy to Snape's black heart, but, for reasons he declined to consider, it did not. "I've been tied up with the greenhouses, you see," Potter explained. "But I'll have you all set to rights by sun-up."

Snape watched as intently as he did during Potions classes while Potter cast the set of charms on a piece of wood to ensure it would burn with little smoke, dim automatically after curfew and last much, much longer than ordinary lumber. Extinguishing the dying flame flickering in its sconce, he Vanished the old piece and levitated the new one up to replace it. A wordless Incendio Minimus coaxed a new flame to life.

Potter moved down the corridor to the next torch and Summoned another piece of wood. As he raised his wand to cast the necessary enchantments, Snape pushed his way past and strode down the hall, his ire with Malfoy rising more with each step.

His masterful plan was not working the way he had envisioned. None of the boys he'd used knew their arse from a hole in the ground, and most were woefully inadequate to the task. It was bad enough that few of them knew what he wanted, but that he had to repeat himself ad nauseum and listen to their petulant pleas for relief galled him to no end. Few of them possessed Potter's stamina or flexibility, and even fewer believed him when he said they would be denied the opportunity to have an orgasm, no matter that they had agreed to it beforehand.

It had even reached the point where he was going to Styx to play chess with McCaig rather than avail himself of the opportunity to tie someone up and have his way with him.

"You are cutting off your rather sizeable nose to spite your face, Severus," McCaig had said with his characteristic bluntness. "If you won't invest in them, they will not invest in you, and you'll both be disappointed in the end. Use what you learned from Potter and apply to someone you can stomach for more than ten minutes." He'd then moved his bishop and placed Snape in check.

The problems were twofold: first, he couldn't find anyone who didn't set his teeth on edge within minutes, and second, everywhere he turned he was reminded of Malfoy, that fucker. Malfoy, snapping his fingers and Potter crawling over so obediently, his hips swaying provocatively. Malfoy, bringing his cane down across Potter's backside with a smug sneer. Malfoy, running his fingers over the bright weals across Potter's fair skin, those freakish silver eyes gleaming with possessive light.

He would cut back his visits to Styx. It was unduly frustrating to arrive each night only to leave disappointed yet again. Saturdays would suffice, perhaps every other at that. Besides, he was behind on his brewing and Poppy was starting to nag. The Quidditch teams were going through unprecedented levels of Bruise Balm and Pain Reliever and he truly did need to replenish her stores.

When Snape arrived late for breakfast the next morning, he frowned to discover 'his' seat occupied by none other than Potter. Scowling in a manner that did not bode well for that day's classes, he stormed to the far end of the Staff Table and poured himself a much-needed cup of strong, black tea.

"I've traced it as far as the south wall, Pomona," he heard Potter say. "But I keep losing the trail somewhere near the drainage culvert. We'll find it, though, and when we do, I'll have a chat with it."

Turning his attention to that morning's Daily Prophet, Snape wasn't quite fast enough to avoid meeting Potter's eyes or seeing the misery in the boy's face. Hmph. It wasn't his fault if Potter had made his bed and found it not at all to his liking. He snapped the pages open to read Shacklebolt's drivel on the rapidly approaching referendum, whilst his mind made note of the fact that Potter truly had been grappling with a problem at the greenhouses.

~*~

As May melted into June and the referendum drew closer, Snape found himself haunting Potter the way Potter seemed to be haunting Hogwarts. Not openly, to be sure, but with all the stealth that his years as a spy had afforded him. Potter was back to his old tricks, pacing through the corridors at all hours of the night, stopping every now and then to fix some little thing here, clean some little thing there, but as much as Snape wanted to, he found he took no joy in watching Potter waste away to nothing.

The Bryces had managed to stir up the old enmity between Houses, this time pitting Ravenclaw against Slytherin, with Hufflepuff and Gryffindor all too happy to lend Ravenclaw their support. The students no longer cared about the referendum; they were determined to practise their curses and hexes in the corridors until the teachers were ready to confiscate every wand in the place. The referendum provided them with the excuse to do so.

Brewing finished and detentions seen to, Snape decided to make an appearance at Styx. It was a beautiful night with a soft breeze blowing from the west. Wispy clouds veiled the face of the moon and dimmed a few stars, and Snape decided to walk through Hogsmeade rather than Apparate as was his custom. He needed to escape the bubbling cauldron that was Hogwarts.

Exams would be starting on Monday. The O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. students were at the breaking point. The Quidditch Cup would be decided in the morning and this past month had been a race to the bottom as far as House points were concerned. To all eyes it appeared that Hufflepuff would win by virtue of being the only House with any points at all.

"Severus, how good to see you again," smiled Celia as he stepped through the wards of the club. "Iain arrived a short time ago asking when we'd find him a decent opponent again."

Snape stared blankly for a moment, before he gave a nod of his head. "Ah yes, McCaig. Should I not find anyone to my liking in the common room I shall seek him out for a game or two."

"We've a new guest here tonight," she informed him. "One of your old students, Terrence Higgs." She waved her wand and an image of a sandy haired man with calm grey eyes danced between them.

"They're all my old students," drawled Snape.

Celia laughed. "Not all, Severus. Anyway, he loves it all, from what I'm given to understand. He's up visiting from Bristol and is still available if you'd like to play with him."

"Entrusted himself to your fine care, did he?" he asked as he tried to pick Higgs out of a cloud of memories. Decent at Charms and Potions, hopeless at Transfiguration. Also played Seeker for Slytherin, although that might have been his brother. They all tended to blur together at this point.

"Just trying to help a friend." She laughed as his face darkened. "Send word when you decide what you want for tonight. Now get in there before all the good ones are taken." She handed him an ordinary black leather collar to which she affixed his usual 'S' with an almost imperceptible shake of her head.

Snape stepped into the room, spotting Higgs almost immediately. Unlike most of the submissives, he was still dressed in his robes, though exhibiting a strong deference to the Dominants with whom he was conversing. From time to time he sipped from a goblet containing what appeared to be water. Upon noticing Snape, his jaw dropped and he blushed.

Interesting, Snape mused, wondering what schoolboy fantasies Higgs might have entertained in his younger days. He nodded his head respectfully to Higgs as he placed an order for a glass of wine with one of McCaig's demure girls. Spotting the old curmudgeon sitting near the fire, he gave an enigmatic smile before turning his attention back to Higgs. As he expected, McCaig's eyes followed.

With his booted heel braced against a post, Snape leant back against it and observed Higgs with interest, letting the boy feel the heat of his gaze as he continued to hold court with small group of witches and wizards with whom he was speaking. From time to time Snape's eyes flickered over to McCaig, who was watching the proceedings with far more interest than he usually paid to the chess board.

As Snape lifted his glass from the mirrored tray balanced on the girl's fingertips, his prey finally succumbed to the inexorable magnetism exuded by the Potions Master of Hogwarts and detached himself from the small gathering with an apologetic smile. "Mr Higgs," said Snape by way of a greeting.

"Professor Snape," replied Higgs, nervous excitement making him sound a little breathless. "I'm rather astonished you remember me."

"You were, as I recall, one of our better Seekers. What, dare I ask, brings you to Hogsmeade? I understand from Celia you are visiting from Bristol."

Without thought Higgs placed his hands behind his back and moved his feet slightly further apart. "I work for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. We've recently discovered that several nests of echinemon have been smuggled in from Portugal. Whilst they typically feast on ashwinders and runespoor, they have a particular craving for mandrake. We heard that they might have made it this far into Scotland and thought we should make enquiry with Professor Sprout."

A strange looking creature distantly related to cockatrice, the echinemon was one of the very few magical creatures with no use in potions whatsoever. Its blood dissolved magical bonds between ingredients, its venom curdled anything not made of metal and its skin could explode a platinum cauldron faster than Longbottom himself.

"Indeed," Snape murmured. "I am given to understand that some creature has been wreaking havoc inside several of her greenhouses. As such, I would tender a guess she would be delighted to discuss the matter with you." A knowing expression entered his eyes. "Though I somehow doubt you expected to find her here?" His eyebrow rose along with the last syllable.

To Higgs' credit, he neither blushed nor stammered. "No," he said with a laugh. "I've been chasing leads up the east coast for weeks now and could use a rough shag. To my regret, it is difficult to find unattached Slytherins, and not many others are willing. You know how it is."

"I top exclusively, enjoy bondage and orgasm denial and will, with the right person, employ a bit of pain," Snape stated. "As you left school quite a number of years ago, you may address me as Severus. Or Sir, if you'd rather."

"If we can leave orgasm denial off the table, I'm happy to indulge you," replied Higgs, his grey eyes sparkling with warmth and good humour. They negotiated for a few more minutes before Higgs agreed to meet Snape near the fire, once he'd had a chance to store his clothing and wand.

"Very well," agreed Snape. "I will meet you under the…" His eyes narrowed as they filled with rage. There, under the mounted head of the hippogriff, knelt Harry Potter with Malfoy's collar around his neck. He exhaled slowly and forced his hands to relax as he regained his composure. "Under the hippogriff head. That bay over there."

Higgs nodded. "I won't be but a moment."

Requesting rope, a plug made of fresh peeled ginger, a cock ring and two zippers of six clamps each from the room attendant, Snape walked with measured strides to the chess board where McCaig sat waiting. "Good evening," he intoned as that fucking arsewipe Malfoy led Potter to a raised platform, attached a long rod between Potter's wrists and suspended him from the ceiling.

"Of all the people in this room, Severus, you are the last one I'd expect to label 'fool'," snapped McCaig . I'll take black this time, and if you don't pay attention to the boy you've taken for tonight, I'll have your head mounted next to Shadowmane's. Go collect the boy—Higgins, is it?—and bring him over here. Quickly!"

"It's Higgs," Snape replied with a frown. He set his wine glass down and turned the board, glancing over to see if he was lurking under the hippogriff yet. "And you've no cause that I can see to believe me a fool of any kind."

McCaig snorted. "'As Potter is not one for pain, I find other ways to amuse myself.' You sat in that very chair not four months ago and said those precise words to me." He pointed at the dais where Potter knelt, his upper body held aloft by cuffs and chains. Malfoy, the pisser, was painting red welts on Potter's pale, pale skin with a braided quirt. "That," he continued, "is not the picture of a boy chasing his Master's pleasure."

"That," Snape replied coldly, "is none of my concern." He Summoned the ottoman Potter had used the last time they came here together, made his opening move and wove his way through the room to fetch Higgs.

It took very little time to weave a diamond pattern around Higgs' body with the long length of hemp rope he'd requested. Once that was done, he laid Higgs on his back on the ottoman, slipped the cock ring onto him, hogtied his ankles to his wrists and frogged his knees apart. As positions went it wasn't terribly onerous, but Snape knew Higgs would grow tired of it quickly. He advanced a pawn before scooping up a fingerful of lubricant and working it deep inside Higgs' entrance.

"When was the last time he wasn't your concern?" McCaig asked sharply as one of his pawns turned and shook his fist at him. He advanced it two squares. "You've been tangled up with that boy since you were six years old."

To the disgust of his chessmen, Snape slid his bishop recklessly to the far side of the board before picking up the plug carved from ginger and working it slowly into Higgs' body. "You will alert me if this becomes too much."

"Oh, definitely, Sir," Higgs breathed, his face taking on that blissful look common to those floating on the edge of pleasure. "Doubt I'll need to, though."

One of McCaig's pawns took a single step to his left and slapped Snape's bishop, who promptly stalked off the board and turned his back on the match. "I've not seen such a pathetic opening in years," the elderly wizard declared. "I must have come close to the mark, eh?"

Snape didn't hear a word McCaig said. At the moment, Malfoy, the tosser, was tracing Potter's marks with his finger and sneering something at the boy. Snape moved an inconsequential pawn a square forward. It did nothing to improve his position. "Your move."

"I'd rather make it with the back of my hand," McCaig said sharply. He moved his knight to the centre of the board whilst his queen sat down and began to knit. With any luck, he could put Snape in checkmate within the next dozen or so moves and end this travesty.

Glancing at the board, Snape considered his options and moved his queen diagonally two squares, threatening McCaig's knight. It was symbolic only. If he actually took the knight, he'd lose the queen on the next turn. He began attaching clamps along the join of arse and thigh of Higgs' left leg, smiling maliciously when the boy yelped.

McCaig's kingside knight trotted happily around the board before settling into its square next to a pawn. "Judging from your expression, I can't quite decide whether you're dreaming up ways to poison Malfoy or determining which bits of Potter you can add to your potions."

"The night's young." Snape moved another pawn, who turned and tried to skewer his finger with his spear. Apparently, the piece wasn't happy with his new position on the board. Snape drummed his fingers on the table; his knight shot him with an arrow. Snarling, he yanked the string of clamps off Higgs; the hoarse cry of pain was music to his ears. His cock gave a half-interested twitch before his eyes slid back over to Malfoy, that simpering pillock.

"Very true, but the club does have prohibitions against murder, mayhem and maiming." McCaig's knight took a pawn, which thanked him profusely for ending his tour of duty early in the campaign. "Unless, of course, the maiming is consensual."

"Of course." Snape attached the set of clamps on Higgs' right leg, then pondered his position on the board. It was a disaster. He reached for his remaining bishop and froze as Malfoy repositioned Potter on the dais. Instead of being treated to a three-quarter view of Potter's arse, he was able to see the angry welts that criss-crossed the boy's abdomen and chest.

Snape came swiftly to his feet, the chess piece clutched tightly in his fist, biting and clawing at his hand in a frantic attempt to escape. He took a step forward as he tossed it casually into the centre of the board, but a hand on arm impeded his progress. Drawing up short, he peered down his nose at McCaig.

"Do you remember saying this is not your concern?" said McCaig, nodding towards Malfoy. "Malfoy has his collar on Potter, and he'll thank you not to get involved." He glanced at the platform as Malfoy brought the quirt down hard across Potter's back. The boy jerked as the leather kissed his flesh, rolling his shoulders to ease the ache.

Potter lifted his head, green eyes glazed and unfocussed as he stared unseeingly out into the common room. The tails whistled through the air and landed with a resounding thwack and for a moment, there was life in Potter's face, but it vanished almost instantly, replaced with the same blank expression he was wearing a moment ago.

"He is not," intoned Snape. "If this is what he wants…" His voice trailed off as Potter's dead eyes met his, and the colour drained from the boy's face. The blood rushed in his ears as the busy Friday night noise fell away until all he heard was the driving rhythm of his heart. Inexplicably, tears filled Potter's eyes and spilled down his cheeks as Snape stood rooted to the spot.

The rigidity of Potter's body melted away, replaced in an instant by graceful, fluid lines. Like a plant towards sunlight, he turned towards Snape to the extent his bonds would allow, arms seemingly outstretched in supplication.

A hush fell over the room as time hung suspended between them, fragile as strand of silk sparkling with dew on a summer's morning. Penitent and reconciled, the prodigal returned to the fold—until Malfoy stepped between them, the pretentious swine, and the moment was lost.

"You are a fool," McCaig hissed as Snape collapsed back into the chair like a marionette whose strings had just been severed. A resounding slap filled the silence and Potter's head snapped back, a bright red palm print rising almost instantly on his cheek.

With a snarl on his lips, Snape sprang to his feet, only to be yanked back when McCaig tugged on his robes with far more strength than Snape thought possible. Fury twisted his features; didn't McCaig understand that Harry...that Potter...?

Struggling to his feet, McCaig interjected himself between Snape and Malfoy. "Go home, Severus. I will see to Higgins." A sigh whispered out as Snape started. "I thought you might have forgotten about him. Don't worry, your head is safe for tonight. Just do a favour for me, will you?"

Snape took a deep breath and turned his full attention on his opponent. Reaching over, he tipped his king on its side, conceding the match. Conceding everything. "If it is within my abilities," he replied stiffly. Did no one else see that Malfoy was not who Potter needed?

McCaig laid a gnarled hand on Snape's arm. "Reflect upon what you have seen. Better yet, place your memories of tonight in a Pensieve and watch them carefully. You are a Potions Master, Severus, a trained observer. Set aside your anger and pay attention with all of your senses. Do this for your own sake."

Nodding wearily, his dark eyes darting over to get another glimpse of Malfoy, that strutting popinjay—oh, who was he kidding? He wanted another look at Potter—Snape worked the ginger plug out of Higgs and carefully unfastened the string of clamps strung across the back of his right thigh.

"Terrence," he said softly. "This is Iain McCaig. He, or one of his harem will be seeing to you for the rest of the night." Snape bowed his head and closed his eyes, hoping to ward off the massive headache that was blooming behind his eyes. "I regret I am unable to complete the terms of our agreement. A..." He paused for a moment, "personal matter has arisen that requires my attention."

As Higgs struggled to understand what was happening, Snape began untying the ropes that held him still as he assiduously ignored the goings-on around him. There had been so much—too much—in Potter's eyes, things Snape needed time to consider. "You are in capable hands," he murmured before rising to his feet. Without a backwards glance, he left the room, leaving the collar with his initial on Celia's desk.

~*~

Mind too muddled to risk Apparition, Snape walked back to the castle, his purposeful stride nowhere to be seen. Lost in thought, he failed to notice Minerva exiting the dungeons as she made her final check on the Houses for the night.

"Good night to you too, Severus," she called to his retreating form, her brow furrowed as she considered the Potions Master's odd behaviour. It was most unlike Snape to walk past a colleague without so much as a nod of his black head.

Upon reaching his quarters, Snape removed his Pensieve from the low cabinet where it was stored, his dark eyes sweeping over a collection of memories he kept alongside it. Most were scenes he'd had with Potter; the others were of him performing some mundane task not knowing he was under observation. He honestly did not know why he'd bottled those.

Selecting a fresh phial, he closed his eyes and concentrated on everything that had happened from the moment he crossed the threshold into Styx until the moment he left. When he was certain not a detail would be omitted, he placed the tip of his wand to his temple and extracted a thick cloud of memory, swiftly bottling it before a single impression had a chance to fade. Rather than watch it tonight when his stomach was churning with both anger and worry, he decided to put off viewing it until he was able to do so with a clear head.

After a fitful night's sleep, Snape awoke the next morning to a blinding headache. He dosed himself with Headache Remedy, then threw on a set of serviceable robes, brushed his teeth and dragged a protesting comb through his admittedly greasy hair. Feeling far older than his forty-five years would suggest, he stumbled into the Great Hall and took his post at the Head Table.

The tension was oppressive. The blood purity issues had reached the boiling point, and when a Ravenclaw tripped as he walked between House tables, thirty hexes and jinxes had followed in his wake, resulting in 255 points, spread between all four Houses, vanishing from the enormous hourglasses displayed along the wall.

"Enough!" Harry's amplified voice rang throughout the Hall and Snape's head shot up. He watched as Harry moved gingerly towards the front of the room, his green eyes blazing with fury. "This is not what I died to preserve. Every single student here has detention with me tonight. Eight o'clock, sharp. No wands will be permitted. I can also assure you that if so much as a Jelly-Legs Jinx is cast during today's match, the results will not be pretty."

The Hall was silent as Harry limped his way to the table and sat down next to Septima Vector. "Would you please pass the marmalade?" Harry said quietly as the light in his eyes faded once again.

From the other end of the table, Snape studied Harry's every move, noting the way his hand shook as he reached for his tea, the way his eyes never left his plate. It was as though having called attention to himself, he now longed to be under his infernal Invisibility Cloak and disappear from view.

When it was time for the Quidditch match to begin, Snape found himself a seat in the Slytherin section of the stands. By unspoken agreement, the professors spread themselves out with only Minerva, Filius and Harry in the Teacher's Box. As usual, Rolanda Hooch was officiating and, from her body language, Snape surmised that she was letting the players know that she would be swift to levy penalty shots if she even suspected an infraction of the rules had been committed.

It was the cleanest match in Hogwarts history, and Snape couldn't help but think that, having been denied their usual arsenal of dirty tricks, his Slytherins had forgotten how to play the game. After an hour and a half, Hufflepuff had won, 310 – 20, without a single penalty having been assessed. The Hufflepuffs in the stands barely clapped. No one cheered.

Harry Potter had put the fear of Merlin in them all.

Spending the rest of the afternoon preparing the ingredients that would be used for the O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s, Snape quite forgot about viewing the memory he had extracted the previous night. Finally giving himself a moment to catch his breath, he cast a quick Tempus and realised dinner was about to start. He scrubbed the worst of the dirt off his hands from the scrubbing he’d given his laboratory and left for the evening meal.

When dinner was finished, Snape hung back to observe the detention that the entire school would be serving. Moments later, it became apparent he wasn't the only one with that thought in mind. As the professors gathered at the back of the Hall, Harry surprised them all by coming over to speak with them.

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you all to trust me, and leave them with me," he said, gazing at Minerva with ancient eyes. "I promise you that I will do little more than talk to them."

Assessing him with cool grey eyes, Minerva pressed her lips together before giving him a tight nod. "It's the 'little more' that concerns me, Mr Potter. Is there anything I should know?"

Harry offered her a wan smile. "They need to understand what we fought for, what I died for. Some of them might have nightmares." He shrugged. "They'll survive. I do."

Interesting. Snape filed that piece of information away as he found himself ushered from the Hall along with the rest of the staff. The great doors closed behind them, and Snape was inwardly pleased to discover Harry had warded them as well. Seconds later, he, Filius and Minerva all started as they felt their monitoring spells cancelled.

Minerva lingered a moment. "I don't mind saying I am gravely worried about him. He's not been himself lately." Her sharp eyes raked over Snape. "Of course, you know nothing about that, do you Severus?"

A sneer curled his lips. "Whatever you imagine his problem to be, it has nothing to do with me. Harry Potter is the same wastrel he has always been, nothing more, nothing less. Now if you will excuse me, I have examinations to write." With that, Snape stalked off, his black robes fluttering behind him like a cloud of bats.

When he reached his rooms, he pulled out his Pensieve and stared at the bottle of memories, haunted by thoughts of the war they'd fought and his own role in it. He drew a shaky breath, assailed by vague stirrings of guilt, and discovered to his chagrin that he was not ready to face any memories of Lucius Malfoy. Not tonight. There were too many of his own ghosts present to witness yet another of his failures.

It was a very subdued group of students who took their places in the Great Hall for breakfast the next morning. Conversations were conducted in hushed whispers, and most paid attention to little more than the plate of food in front of them. Whatever had transpired last night was clearly between Harry and them as no one was forthcoming with the details.

Though unremarked upon, Harry's absence was noted, and Snape found his eyes drifting repeatedly to the doors, slightly disgusted with himself for watching for the bloody idiot in the first place. In the harsh light of day, he acknowledged that Minerva might have been right—Harry had changed, and not for the better. Vowing to make time that night to watch the memory, he left the Great Hall to begin his day.

As with all best-laid plans, Snape's fell apart moments before dinner. Crossing through the Entrance Hall, he was blindsided by someone charging through the doors and nearly knocked off his feet. Scrambling for his wand and fighting to maintain his balance, he snarled with outrage. "What is the meaning of…Pomona?"

"Oh, Severus!" she exclaimed as she nearly toppled off her feet. "Thank goodness. I need you to fetch Hagrid," she panted as she adjusted her hat. "Send him to Greenhouse Three. Hurry, Severus, there's not a moment to lose." She turned and ran for the doors. "He's in the Great Hall," she called over her shoulder. "I've already been to his cabin."

Wasting a moment to blink, Snape combined speed with almost preternatural calm and moved with ruthless efficiency to the Staff Table. Launching himself onto the dais, he walked swiftly to where the gamekeeper sat gnawing on a turkey leg. "There is a problem in Greenhouse Three. Pomona requires your presence immediately."

"Ahh," Hagrid said as he lurched to his feet. "Sommat's been gnawing on the toes of the Mandrakes. Wonder if Harry's caught it, then." He moved with surprising speed, and Snape found himself at a near run beside him. Recalling the conversation he'd had with Higgs two nights before, he kept his wand at the ready. From what he remembered, echinemon were nasty creatures. Four-legged, with skin covered in sharp spines and a whip-like tail, the tiny beast was capable of incapacitating a dragon.

Either he had offered himself up as a bait or the creature had him well and truly cornered, for Harry was pinned behind a flat of Snapping Dragons and bloodied from head to toe. "Don't try Stunning it," he shouted as Snape pointed his wand. "It's impervious to magic!"

The creature opened its mouth and spat a stream of steaming venom in Harry's direction, then chittered in rage, a high-pitched shrieking sound that was nearly as a bad as a banshee. With three more people to distract it, Harry fired off his Patronus, and three became five as Minerva and Filius joined in.

"There's four more of them in here," Harry warned as Minerva started to transfigure a watering pitcher into a crate. "That won't work. It needs to be glass, natural glass. Hagrid, do you have anything we can use?

"Duck!" Harry yelled as another beast dropped from a girder, just missing Filius' head. "I've entrenched the entire greenhouse so they can't dig their way out, but I've no idea what to do with them now. They're hungry and they're mean."

"I have something that will do, Potter," Snape called out before Hagrid could say anything. He dropped behind a snarling Tiger Lily, its pointy leaves extended like claws as an echinemon's tail nearly caught him full across the face. "I've a glass box."

Making certain he didn't let any of the little horrors out with him, Snape left the greenhouse and returned minutes later with a large glass box with brass fittings, which included a sturdy latch and padlock.

Then the fun began.

By the time they limped up to the Hospital Wing it was well past curfew, but the entire nest of echinemon had been captured and secured. As Poppy treated their burns, bites and scratches, house-elves delivered platters of hot food and pitchers of tea, pumpkin juice and hot chocolate for all who wanted any.

Harry, Snape noted, sat alone. Every so often he thought he felt eyes on him, but when he looked over, all he saw was the top of Harry's perpetually messy head. As they discussed ways of keeping unwelcome pests from gaining entry again, Snape found his attention drawn repeatedly to the corner where Harry ate quietly.

"And what are your thoughts, Potter?" he asked, his voice as cold and cutting as it had been back in Harry's fifth year.

Harry's head came up and his face drained of colour as he met Snape's eyes. He looked away. "I think I still have a lot to do tonight so that everything is ready for tomorrow's exams," said Harry. He set his plate aside and rose to his feet. "O.W.L. Defence and N.E.W.T. Transfiguration tomorrow morning, right?"

"Yes, Mr Potter," Minerva replied, her voice kind. "Thank you for your work tonight. It was very well done of you."

The smile Harry gave her came nowhere near his dead eyes. "All in a day's work," he replied with a shrug. He made his goodnights and ambled slowly out of the infirmary.

No one said a word after that. The house-elves collected the dishes and the party, such as it was, broke up for the night, each of the professors making their way to their respective parts of the castle.

~*~

The referendum passed by twenty-seven votes. Immediately after the election, witches and wizards on both sides called for a complete overhaul of both the Ministry of Magic and the Wizengamot. As long as there was one issue the people could rally behind, thought Snape, there might yet be a lasting peace.

With the matter settled, Harry seemed to fade into the stonework, rarely seen during daylight hours. Slender and fair-skinned by nature, he was growing gaunt and pale, seemingly subsisting on tea and the occasional bowl of porridge. Unless asked a direct question, he rarely spoke. Every Friday night, though, he Apparated away promptly at nine o'clock.

It wasn't until he was marking his last exam that Snape remembered he'd not yet watched the memory he had so carefully preserved. Leaving enough red ink on the parchment for it to be at home at a particularly grisly murder, he gave it a well-deserved 'D' for Dreadful, flirted with the idea of reducing it to 'Troll', and decided it wasn't worth changing. Then, transferring the marks into his grade book, he rose from his desk and retrieved his Pensieve from the other room.

As he had so often exhorted Harry to do, Snape cleared his mind before lowering his face into the swirling cloud of thought. Unlike mere recollection, Pensieve memories captured all the detail the mind recorded and stored without ever having been used. Whispers of conversation, images dancing on the periphery of vision, subtle aromas and fragrances were all displayed, and a true master of the Pensieve was free to wander into places his body never went.

He watched himself chat with Celia, paying particular attention to the sadness in her eyes when she handed him the collar so similar to the one he once fastened with care around Harry's neck. Following his memory-self into the common room, he stood where he'd have full view of the dark hippogriff head that served as a marker for their meeting place.

He hadn't noticed Harry when the boy walked in that night, nor Malfoy either, but Harry had spotted him straight away. There was a slight stutter in the boy's step, a flash of—what? Sorrow? Regret?—in his deep green eyes. He watched as Harry knelt, not with his usual precision, but with his body angled slightly towards where his memory-self stood. It was a subtle cue, one that Snape had missed entirely when he saw Harry that night.

A dozen emotions flitted across Harry's face in the few seconds their eyes had met, but Snape had been too blind with rage to see any of them. Here in the Pensieve, though, each one was painted in stark relief: fear, resignation, yearning, and underneath it all, a nearly desperate plea for recognition, for approval. From him.

Malfoy strode over, his walking stick tucked under his arm until he stood before Harry. Whipping the cane around with an underhand motion, he struck Harry solidly between the legs, a cold gleam of satisfaction shining in his silvery eyes when the boy flinched. "On your feet," he ordered coolly, and Snape's hands balled into fists as he watched. Harry was too fine a creation to be treated with such callous disregard, too beautifully responsive to have his reactions dulled.

As his memory-self arranged for that night's toys to be delivered and began his chess match with McCaig, Snape wandered the room, relying on the ambient magic to fill in the missing details his own prodigious memory had not captured. He watched himself sneer with contempt as Malfoy began to stripe Harry's skin, observed the way he pointedly refused to look in Harry's direction as the quirt fell again and again. It now filled him with unease.

Harry was, at this point, facing away from him, and as Snape moved through the memory to find a place where he could see Harry's face, he caught a snippet of conversation that gave him pause. Changing direction, he stood between the two witches engaged in fuelling the club's notorious grapevine.

"I have to admit I was rather shocked when I read the invitation. Do you suppose Snape knows?" the first witch asked, her eyes sliding towards the fire, where he heard himself saying, "That is none of my concern."

"I can't imagine he cares either way," said the second witch.

The first witch turned her full attention on memory-Snape. "He cares," she concluded. "He's all wounded pride, he is. If he knew poor Harry had accepted Malfoy's collar, he'd level the entire place. He has quite a temper, you know."

Snape reeled and he nearly left the memory then and there. Harry was collared to Lucius Malfoy? His Harry? This must be why McCaig rightfully believed him to be a dunderheaded idiot. As he started to lift his head out of the Pensieve, he heard the second witch ask, "When is the ceremony? Midsummer Night? Do you suppose he's been invited?" Recalling one of the hardest lessons of his past, he changed his mind and lingered a bit longer.

The first witch shrugged. "It'd be just like Malfoy to invite him out of spite." She turned back in her seat and leant towards her companion. "I hear Harry refused the bonds, though. It's supposed to be a temporary arrangement."

The second witch snorted a laugh. "With Malfoy? He'll find a way around that, mark my words. Harry will be bound to him one way or another." She watched as Malfoy laid a perfect line of welts down Harry's abdomen. "They were magic, you know," she whispered as the room fell silent. "Harry and Severus. I used to come down to watch them."

"They were," the first witch agreed mournfully. "I reckon we'll know on the twenty-first if he'll show. They've set the ceremony for nine o'clock." A look of sadness filled her sherry coloured eyes. "I don't mind telling you, Griselda, that I can't help but hope Harry stands him up. I have a very bad feeling about this."

Nine o'clock on the twenty-first. That was tonight. Pulling out of the memory, Snape cast a quick Tempus and recoiled. It was already 8:51. If he hurried he might, just might, arrive by nine. Sprinting through the corridors at a pace for which he'd have assigned a week's worth of detentions and docked fifty points, he ran to the enormous wrought iron gates as fast as his legs would carry him. The instant he hurled himself through them he Disapparated, arriving at the entrance to Styx just at the stroke of nine.

"Where is he?" panted Snape as he burst through the ornate doors.

"Second floor chapel," replied Celia, "but you're not on—" she shouted at the back of his robes as he bounded up the stairs. "The guest list," she finished with a sigh. Private parties were just that—private, but in a contest between those employed to provide security for these events and Severus Snape, she'd wager on the Potions Master every time.

After petrifying one guard and wrapping the other from head to toe in magical rope, Snape yanked open the doors to the chapel and strode up the centre aisle, his dark eyes fixed firmly on Harry's naked form. A gasp went up from the congregation, and as a low buzz filled the chapel, Lucius Malfoy turned, a triumphant light in his eyes.

In the chancel before the altar, Harry Potter knelt near the feet of Lucius Malfoy. Between them stood Pius Thicknesse, erstwhile Minister of Magic, serving as officiant. Behind them on a beautiful altar carved of mahogany and topped with white marble sat a golden chalice, a coiled whip, a jewelled silver collar and Harry's glasses.

"Come to witness his vows, have you, Severus?" drawled Lucius, sneer fixed in place. "You are too late. His loyalty is pledged to me." He reached out with his hand and cupped Harry's chin, forcing the boy's mouth open. With a wave of his wand and a softly murmured charm, Thicknesse handed the chalice to Malfoy, offering Snape an oily smile as he did so. As Snape approached, Lucius poured a steady stream of wine from a golden chalice into Harry's mouth.

"Spit it out, Potter," commanded Snape as he continued to walk towards the altar. "Now."

Jerking his chin out of Malfoy's hand, Harry spat the wine out as ordered and rose to his feet, blinking in confusion. The guests fell silent as Lucius snatched the collar off the altar and yanked on Harry's arm, pulling him off-balance and sending him crashing to the ground.

"Expelliarmus. Accio Harry's collar," shouted Snape with a quick flick of his wand. The collar soared into the air and flew into his hand, and his eyes narrowed at feeling the powerful enchantments roiling off the band of metal. "If this is what Potter truly wants, Lucius, you have nothing to fear from me. But if I discover you have played him false, your life is forfeit."

Wand and eyes trained on Malfoy and Thickness, Snape offered a hand to Harry and helped him to his feet. As Harry stepped behind him, Snape noticed Iain McCaig, Ben Dennett, Rufus Winickus and several other men coming to their feet as well. The small band surrounded Lucius and Thicknesse and ushered the pair off to the side.

"Give them their five minutes, Malfoy," growled McCaig. "You owe Severus that much at least. You've set to work ruining a lovely boy, one Severus had a hand in creating. Let them have their goodbyes before you destroy Potter completely."

Gazing down into Harry's eyes, Snape reached out and laid a warm hand against the smooth skin of Harry's cheek. "Just tell me why, Harry," he whispered, his voice roughened past speech. "Why are you giving yourself to Lucius Malfoy? Help me understand this, and then I will go."

Harry's eyes glistened and he covered Snape's hand with his own. "It's all been for you, Sir," he said past the lump in his throat. "Every bruise, every welt, every lash of his cane. It's all been for you."

"For me?" Snape stared, shaking his head as if it would change what he was hearing. "How is this for me?"

"You sent me here, the night the Bryces caused that uproar. I didn't want to come without you, but you ordered me to," Harry pleaded. "Malfoy was first one to give me an order to follow, so I went with him. I don't like pain, but I knew I could tolerate it, so I allowed it. Then you walked in and you saw me and you left me there. You left me. With him.

"Lucius told me you were angry with me and I didn't know why, I didn't—I don't know what I did wrong, I don't know what I'm still doing wrong, but I don't want to reflect badly on you, Sir, so when you didn't come the next week, I came back to try harder, to get it right so you'd be proud of me, but it doesn't matter how hard I try or how much I give to Malfoy, I can't make you happy. I can't, and I want to so much.

"What am I doing wrong, Sir? Why don't you want me any more?"

"Damn fool," McCaig muttered, earning a "Shhhh" from those nearest to him.

Snape gazed into Harry's face, those agonised green eyes nearly destroying his soul. "You've done nothing for which you require my absolution. But why Lucius? I know what you think of the Malfoys."

"He's the only one who wants me," said Harry brokenly. "All I ever wanted was to belong to you. Just you, Sir. To wear your collar. To wear your mark. To live at Hogwarts with you. Friday nights if that was all I could have. Anything you were willing to give me. That's why I became the caretaker there. So I could be with you. If I had accepted one of the teaching posts, Minerva was going to make me Head of Gryffindor House, which meant I couldn't ever live with you. So I thought if I could just learn to be perfect for you, that one day you'd offer for me. But you never did."

Feeling the blood drain from his face at hearing how wrong he'd been about Harry, Snape gathered the quaking boy in his arms and held him close. "Forgive me, Potter," he whispered. "I have been such a fool."

Harry shook his head and Snape felt his heart stop. It was, he reflected, what he deserved. "I understand," he managed, setting Harry carefully away from him. "I've one more question before I leave you to the rest of the ceremony: what did you promise him?"

"What?" asked Harry, dazed and shaken. He reached back for a chair as his knees gave out, but as there were none behind him, staggered and fell to the ground. There was another gasp and several congregants moved to help him, but Snape waved them off as he dropped down beside him. "No, Sir!" he choked. "You've done nothing wrong! It's my fault, not yours!

"The first rule, the very first rule you taught me. Do you remember it, Sir?" Harry didn't wait for Snape's answer. "'To be truthful and honest, especially about my needs.' I never told you that I need to belong to someone. I never told you I wanted you for my Master. I led us to this. It's my fault."

"Harry..." began Snape.

"No, please? As for what I promised, I agreed to a year of obedience. There was a set of spells that were to serve as reminders of Lucius' rules for me, but that was it."

Looking over his shoulder at Lucius, who was nearly white with rage, Snape pointed his wand at the collar and said, "Revelare Incantatum."

At hearing the spell, both Malfoy and Thicknesse lurched and broke away from the small group. At a run they Apparated away, leaving chaos in their wake. Violet light surrounded the collar and Lucius' voice could be heard casting powerful bonding charms compelling Harry's obedience, loyalty, and silence in perpetuity. A near-constant need for sex and a full restraint on Harry's magic had been woven into the filigree strands of the ornate collar as well.

Harry's jaw worked but no sound came out. His entire body shook as he realised how close he'd come to being Malfoy's plaything for the rest of his life. He closed his eyes for a moment as his fingernails scrabbled for purchase in the cold stone floor.

Once the light-headedness had passed, Harry climbed slowly to his feet, clinging to Snape's arm for support. He stood in the centre of the chancel until the roar of conversation died. "I regret," he announced in a whisper of a voice, "that the ceremony has been cancelled. There's probably some food downstairs, though, if you're hungry." He turned to Snape and bowed his head. "Will you—do you mind helping me back to Hogwarts? I'm not sure I can make it there on my own."

~*~

Harry sat silently in the armchair Snape had guided him to, his wide eyes staring and unfocussed. His fingers clutched the arms of the chair, and he drew his shoulders in as he shivered. The chill running through him had nothing to do with the dungeons, though Snape took note and started a fire for his benefit. He had only the wispiest recollection of their journey back to Hogwarts and remembered nothing of walking through the dungeons to Snape's rooms.

The spells Lucius had cast on the collar were barbaric, and he heard Lucius' cultured voice echoing through the sanctuary as the moment played again inside his head. Harry couldn't help but wonder how long he'd have managed to keep his sanity if Lucius had succeeded in fastening the collar around his neck. His hand came up and he touched his throat, a gesture that was not lost on Snape.

"Drink this." A mug of tea appeared in front of him and Harry reached for it, but did nothing more than hold it. "Drink, Potter. Tea and Calming Draught. One of Albus' favourite concoctions. You were betrayed by someone you trusted. Do not pretend for my benefit that you've not been affected."

Harry's eyes came up as Snape sat opposite him, a tumbler of firewhisky dangling haphazardly from Snape's fingers. "What makes you think I trusted him?" he asked, his voice rough and far too quiet for the circumstances. "I agreed to a year with him, nothing more than that. His rules were simple enough, but he wanted reminders for me, like I said." He lifted the tea to his lips with shaking fingers, sipping at it as it sloshed in the mug.

"You would agree to serve a man you didn't trust?" asked Snape with a slight frown.

A note of uncertainty entered Harry's eyes for the first time since Snape led him into his rooms. "There are rules, right? They're supposed to protect me from being pushed past my limits, and the Dominants are supposed to respect them. But Lucius..." Harry choked for a moment and he gulped at his tea as his heart began to race. The ramifications were beginning to sink in, and his stomach began to roil. Compelled to silence, compelled to obedience. It would have been hell on earth.

"What are you going to do to him?" asked Harry. The Calming Draught was taking effect and he was able to think more clearly, as though he were taking a step back and seeing Lucius' perfidy from a distance. "You weren't serious, were you? I don't want anyone to die because of me." He leaned back in the chair, the teacup resting precariously on his thigh.

"What he tried to do, what he nearly succeeded in doing, is a violation of every principle that governs our lifestyle," replied Snape savagely. "I can do nothing with you without your consent. I can push you so far, but no farther than you give me permission to do. I know you too well to believe you would ever consent to live a life where you had no voice, no limits, where you were a thing to be used, handed from person to person with Lucius' permission to do whatever they wanted to you."

Harry gulped more of his tea. "No. Not that. I don't like being shared," he said, though his brow furrowed. "That's not quite right, though." He frowned, his eyes clouding as he tried to sort out his feelings on the subject. "You've given me to other men."

"Never," exploded Snape, his eyes flashing. "I have permitted others to bugger you, but only for my own pleasure and only under my supervision. Any man who has had you is under me as well. They are nothing more than an animated dildo I wield for my own use. Do you think I have a care for them beyond duty?"

"But—" protested Harry, bewildered.

"It is important you understand this," said Snape. "Were I to give you to another Dominant for a period of time, he would be responsible for you and my involvement would be minimal at best. Any orders he had for you that did not counter my own would have to be obeyed. Had Lucius succeeded in locking that infernal collar around your pretty little neck, he could have given you to his friends for a night and slept like a baby, neither knowing or caring what he got back come morning. You would have had no safeword, no protections, no one to ensure your needs are being met. I would not have that happen to you."

"How is that different from sending me to Styx all alone?" asked Harry, feeling a knot loosen somewhere deep in his chest. Snape and Lucius could not be more different, and if Lucius ever gave him more than a moment's thought, Harry would be amazed.

Snape gave him a long look. "I will attribute the inanity of your question to the trauma you suffered earlier this evening. You chose the Dominant you served; I had no part in the decision." For a moment Snape appeared pained. "Why Lucius Malfoy? Of all the men there…" He sighed. "It's over."

Harry's heart stopped for a moment. Over? What was over? "Lucius was the only one who didn't treat me like a piece of meat," he said into the oppressive silence. "I refused him at first, when we started working out the scene, but he reminded me how disappointed you would be if word got out that I'd been uncooperative. I did my best, but when Lucius was done with me he told me you'd been there and how furious you were when you left."

"If you knew I was angry at him, why did you return to him?" asked Snape in the measured tone Harry despised. The years had taught him that tone meant Snape was holding onto his temper by a thread and Harry was too frightened, too heartsick to endure being lashed by it.

Harry's breath caught and his blood ran cold. He had gotten it all wrong by making it all about himself, and he'd reaped the consequences a dozen times over. "I didn't know until just now that you were mad at him and not me," said Harry in a dull voice. "And then you shut me out, Sir. It was like I was being punished without knowing what the infraction was, but it went on and on, and no matter how hard I tried, nothing I did was right.

"All I wanted, all I've ever wanted since we began this was your approval. This might be hard for you to understand, but hearing 'Good boy' or 'I'm proud of you' from you is better than an orgasm. To know I've pleased you is the best I can aspire to."

Snape held Harry's gaze until Harry started to lower his head. "Look at me," he said, and when Harry's head came up he pointed at a spot on the floor.

Harry swiftly removed his boots and knelt in the place indicated, resting his head on Snape's thigh, relieved to be given something easy to do. When Snape's fingers moved through his hair, his sigh held a hint of tears. This is where he needed to be. This is where he felt whole. Until last April, he had lived on Friday nights and set the rest of his life on hold for the remainder of the week. Now, having found his way back home, he was resolved not to lose his way again.

"Now we are complete," murmured Snape as he carded his fingers through the mess of Harry's hair. "I believed I had no claim on you," he said into the quiet. "I believed us separate and told myself it was better for both of us. I have always been a solitary man and believed it for the best to remain that way.

"When I saw you with Lucius, I allowed my jealousy to prevail, and once it had free rein there was no room for anything else. Lucius has always been able to take from me with impunity, and seeing you with him unleashed the very worst of my nature.

"I did not know until then that I had come to regard you as my own, and I truly believed I had lost you to him without recognising I had presented you to him on a gilded platter. Had you been with anyone other than Lucius, I would have waited until your top released you, then examined you to assure myself you had been well-treated." Snape sighed. "At least, that is the lie I tell myself to assuage my guilt. I have always rescued you from yourself, but this time I failed you. You may find it within yourself to forgive me for my egregious lapse of judgment, but it will take some time until I am able to forgive myself."

Harry looked up and searched Snape's face before lowering his head and resting his cheek back against Snape's leg. "I've wanted you since I was sixteen years old," said Harry in a rough voice. "And if our Fridays were all of you I could have, then I made myself happy with that." He lifted his head again and gazed up at Snape. "If I may, Sir, I think you needed to know you wanted me for me. I mean, I know you've never wanted a slave to have a slave, but if you want to have me…" He coloured a bit, still uncomfortable with the thought of asking for what he wanted in spite of the earlier horrors of that day. "I don't want to be yours on Fridays. I want to be yours, full stop."

"Then we are in accord," replied Snape gravely. "I've never shared my life with another, so I warn you now there will be challenges ahead for both of us."

A weary smile broke over Harry's face. "That's why there are rules, Sir. And discipline." And to his relief, Snape's stern visage softened and he nodded. Harry closed his eyes, let go of his fear, and continued to use Snape's leg for a pillow. Finally at ease, he drifted off.

For the first time in their long association, Harry slept in Snape's bed.

~*~

After the term ended, Snape sat down for a long talk with the headmistress to iron out a few details of his contract for the upcoming school year. "I would like you to give Potter the Defence Against the Dark Arts position," he began with no preamble.

Minerva sighed as she poured tea for the both of them. "I've offered Potter the post for five years running. He's declined every time. Why should this year be any different?" She seated herself in the overstuffed chair beside Snape and added a lump of sugar to her cup.

"Because this time, he will accept, provided," Snape added, "I have your guarantee he will not be made Head of Gryffindor House, nor any other House, come to that. A simple professorship, no strings attached." He added a splash of milk to his tea and sipped it appreciatively as he waited for Minerva's inevitable protest.

"But Gryffindor House needs him," she sputtered. The current Head, Archibald Pimms, was proving to be a lacklustre choice at best.

"That may well be," said Snape, "but Potter does not need them. It is why he continues to fritter away his talents by serving Hogwarts as her caretaker, instead of providing the little hellions who pass through her gates with instruction."

"But Harry loves Gryffindor House," exclaimed Minerva. "I need not tell you how rewarding it is to serve as Head of House, to shape the children Sorted into it as the embodiment of the values embraced by each Founder. You are seen throughout the wizarding world as The Slytherin, much as Harry is seen as The Gryffindor, despite not claiming what is rightfully his."

"Claiming what is, as you said, rightfully his would deprive him of what he wants most."

"What rubbish," she scoffed. "Being Head of Gryffindor House would deprive him of nothing."

"Except living with me."

Penetrating grey eyes studied him intently as her lips pressed into a thin line. "I presume you understand this presents us with a number of difficulties. Permission must be sought from the Governors, and I don't mind telling you what—"

Snape held up a hand. "The rules will be satisfied with a bond of servitude. We request only a Fidelius charm to maintain the secrecy regarding the nature of our relationship."

Thus began a lengthy discussion, with Minerva becoming privy to far more information about Severus Snape than he had ever wanted her to know. The only point he could not win was gaining her permission to allow Harry to move into his rooms prior to their ceremony.

"Not until after you've been properly bound in magic," she declared, leaving him with no choice but to acquiesce.

"Very well," he grumbled, rising to his feet, Harry's new employment contract in hand.

The lines in her face softened, and for a moment he was reminded of how she had appeared before Harry Potter walked through the Entrance Hall for the very first time. "Severus, whilst I may not understand or agree with what you and he have chosen, I will admit you make him happy. Bring me proof of the bond, and I will have the castle make the necessary arrangements.

The days flew past and, before long, the day of their ceremony was upon them. In the chancel before the altar, Harry Potter knelt near the feet of Severus Snape. Between them stood Iain McCaig, serving as officiant. Behind them, on a beautiful altar carved of mahogany and topped with white marble, sat a golden chalice, a coil of green rope, a simple collar of stainless steel and Harry's glasses.

The chapel was packed, with those unable to find a seat standing up along the walls. Unlike the prior occasion, this time Harry was aglow, his body relaxed, his form perfect, and when he pledged Snape his undying fidelity and loyalty, he did so in a clear, strong voice. McCaig spoke the enchantments over the chalice of wine and passed it with great care to Snape.

"In all things," Snape said, one hand resting lightly on Harry's head, "I am first. I come before family. I come before friends. I come before Hogwarts and your career there. From this moment forward, you shall not know the touch of another without my consent. Do you so affirm?"

"This is my most solemn vow," Harry replied in a voice nearly breathless with excitement. He lifted his head and watched as Snape took a sip of wine, which was then transferred to his mouth. His cock, already hard, gave a powerful twitch as he swallowed.

McCaig picked up the heavy coil of rope and spoke another series of spells before passing it to Snape's waiting arms. Snape offered his hand to Harry, delighted when the boy refused the offer of assistance. As he stepped back, he unspooled the long, green rope and began weaving a knot at the midway point.

Positioning himself so he was facing the congregation, Harry stood silent as Snape wove the rope around his torso. Another section of rope bound his arms behind his back and secured his hands behind his neck. The position was gruelling and gooseflesh pebbled Harry's skin. Once Snape had finished crafting a series of diamonds down each leg, he knelt again. More rope held his ankles together, and by threading the ends of the long skein through the patterns, the only thing he could move was his head.

"In all things," Snape said when he was finished, "I am your Master. My will prevails. Your obedience in all things is to me. Should any task conflict with a rule I have given, my desires come first. Your behaviour reflects upon me, and anything you say or do that casts me in bad light will be punished accordingly. The use of magic is forbidden to you—"

A hushed murmur rose like an eddy and swirled around the chapel before dying almost as quickly as it was born.

Snape arched a brow, gazing out at the witnesses with disdain. "—except as required to preserve your life or fulfil your duties to me. Do you so affirm?"

"This is my most solemn vow," gasped Harry, the tension in his arms and shoulders, the tightness of the ropes around his middle, making it difficult to draw a full breath. His cock throbbed, a single strand of pre-come glistening from the tip. Snape touched his wand to the knot at the nape of Harry's neck and began a lengthy incantation. The rope smouldered and burned before sinking into Harry's skin, leaving dark lines on his flesh where it had once rested.

Once again, McCaig turned to the altar, this time picking up Harry's glasses. With a severing hex, he cut them apart at the nosepiece and handed both parts to Snape.

"As your Master, I will provide for you in all things," said Snape before Vanishing the pieces of Harry's glasses. "From this moment forward, everything you eat, everything you drink, the roof over your head, the clothes you wear, any potions or care you might require will come from me. All your possessions are mine and may be used with my permission only." He tilted Harry's face up and gazed down into Harry's beautiful green eyes. "Should you require anything, from a knut to a special dispensation from the Minister himself, you will tell me at once."

A pretty blush spread across Harry's cheeks. He knew why Snape had included those words as part of the ritual and lowered his eyes as he waited for Snape to complete this part.

"Look at me." Snape waited until Harry's eyes met his. "Do you so affirm?" he asked gently, the warmth of his dark eyes stealing Harry's breath.

The world fell away and Harry's words came from his heart. "This is my most solemn vow."

Lifting the collar from the altar, McCaig touched the tip of his wand to it, splitting it in two. Moving to the front of the chancel, he faced the assemblage and held the halves aloft. "You have borne witness to the promises made by Master Severus Snape to his slave, Harry Potter. In exchange for Master Snape's protection and care, the slave gives his obedience, his fidelity, his magic, his body and his heart. The enchantments placed upon them are irrevocable and fully enforced through the power of magic.

"You have chosen to be here. As a witness to their vows, you likewise have agreed to add your magic to the bonds that hold them. I invite you to stand and pull your wands and say with me the final incantation."

As the crowd came to their feet and extracted their wands from sleeves, pockets, holsters and sheathes, McCaig handed the pieces of Harry's collar to Snape. With tremendous care, he fitted the sections together around Harry's neck. "In good times and bad, in full acknowledgement of your strengths and weaknesses, I accept you into my heart and into my keeping for the rest of your life and all the lives to follow."

McCaig touched the tip of his wand to the join of Harry's collar. He nodded to the congregation and together they spoke. "Requirum a vobis ut pollicitus." A kaleidoscope of magic swirled around them, a bright sparkling rainbow of good wishes that illuminated the charmed lines of Harry's body and outlined Snape in a shimmering aura of contentedness.

The collar sealed shut, Snape's stylised 'S' hanging from the ring set in the centre. Crooking a single finger, Snape beckoned Harry to his feet, his dark eyes smouldering with possessive fire. Cupping Harry's face with his elegant hands, he pressed his lips to his boy's, claiming them in a hungry, demanding kiss.

As his hand drifted over Harry's bare skin, Snape's tongue mapped Harry's mouth, thrusting deep as Harry's hips rocked against him. Conjuring a tall bench, he assisted Harry over it, guiding his supple body into position. Snape moved Harry's feet to the outsides of the back legs of the bench and instructed him to hold the base of the front legs.

"Yes, Sir…I mean Master." Harry's face, upside down though it was, was wreathed in smiles. "Master. You're my Master now. Oh Merlin, how I love that word! This is my Master." He was so giddy he was very nearly babbling.

"Hush, boy, before I decide to Silence you after all," Snape growled, but from the light in his eyes, those remaining to watch knew the odds of that happening were infinitesimally small.

"Shutting up, Master," giggled Harry, nearly euphoric.

Stripping off his shirt, Snape knelt behind Harry, parting his arse and exposing the tight rosebud hidden there. He nuzzled over the smooth skin with his long nose, then drew the tip of his tongue slowly along the crack, from the base of Harry's bollocks to his tailbone. Licking slowly, steadily, he lapped along the crevice, soft little kitten licks that made Harry shiver.

Gasping, Harry wiggled and squirmed, the tiny hairs along his arms and legs standing upright. He moaned and tightened his grip on the front legs of the bench as he tried to will his hips into obedience. He raised his head and mewled as his body started to tremble.

Snape's tongue circled around and around Harry's puckered entrance, teasing lightly at the skin there. When Harry danced away, he gave his arse a sharp slap. "Settle down," he ordered before lowering his face back to his boy's beautiful, pert arse. Reaching between Harry's legs, he squeezed Harry's bollocks as his tongue burrowed into his boy's hole. The needy whimpers were music to his ears.

Whispering a quick lubrication spell as he came to his feet, Snape opened his trousers and gave his aching cock a couple of hard tugs before lining up and pressing the crown against Harry's entrance. For all the times in the past he'd had the boy, knowing Harry was his made it a thousand times better. As he breached the ring of muscle, a tingle of magic raced through him and he felt the weight of his promises settle around his heart. To guide and protect. To care for and cherish for all time.

"With all that I am, Potter," Snape cried out in a loud clear voice as he thrust deeply into Harry's body, "I promise you sanctuary. This is my most solemn vow." Fingers gripping Harry's hips hard enough to leave bruises, he pounded in again and again, angling for his boy's sweet spot. It was bliss, surrounded by tight velvet heat, knowing this was his.

His bollocks drew up tight and his punishing strokes became shorter, harder. As the tight coil of pleasure unspooled, he threw his head back and roared, claiming Harry Potter in a voice that thundered off the ceiling. Cock pulsing, he spilled deep, his seed painting the walls of Harry's channel. A circle of runes suddenly appeared on each biceps and as he watched, a corresponding set encircled Harry's wrists and ankles.

Withdrawing carefully, he gave Harry a moment before helping him stand upright. Summoning a robe, he cast a quick Cleaning Charm and helped him into it. "How do you feel?" Snape asked quietly as Harry smiled softly, the Ghost of Orgasm Yet to Come lingering in his green eyes.

"Wanted," Harry replied. "Cared for. Loved?" he ventured.

Snape lifted Harry's hand to his lips and kissed it. "You are, boy. You are."


THE END