Potter. Harry Potter. On his knees.
Not humble, not even now--there was a strange sort of defiance in the boy's shoulders, in the angry vigour with which he scrubbed the floor. But still. Harry Potter. On his knees...
Severus gripped his quill tighter, tighter, and only realised that he'd bent it when he felt the gentle snap of it between his fingers.
He swung his gaze away from Potter, and laid his quill aside carefully. He chose another from the small stand on his desk, and looked briefly at the essay he was supposed to be marking:
Among Muggles, Asphodel has long been used as an antispasmodic treatment, but when combined with dragon's tears, this ancient herb has properties that are more than merely medicinal.
Damned idiots. Slashing a vicious line of red across the sentence, he wrote: As fascinating as you might find the Muggle uses of Asphodel, Mr Spindle, that was not your assigned topic. Kindly do not attempt to fill the requisite twelve inches of parchment with irrelevant material. Do this again, and your essay shall be returned unmarked.
Page after page of utter inanity. Few of the students seemed to comprehend what they were being asked, and even fewer managed to answer correctly. Those that did well were mostly Ravenclaws and Slytherins--the Ravenclaws because of obsessive research and a moderate amount of intelligence, and the Slytherins because of the rather generous hints Severus had managed to drop in last week's House meeting.
Just as he raised his quill for another cathartic slash, he heard a rustle of clothing--and made the mistake of looking up to see Potter working off his jumper--working off his jumper--letting his shirt rise enough to show a strip of pale, sweat-moist belly.
The second quill came dangerously close to snapping.
Severus should have felt triumph--something along the lines of Too hot, is it, Potter?--but his mouth tasted dry as ashes instead, was as dry as ashes.
The cooling charms on his robes didn't seem to be working anymore.
He's already taken off his jumper, said some strange corner of Severus' mind, taking in that ridiculously large shirt. And the first concession is always the hardest...
But the rest of Severus' mind merely pointed out that a little discomfort wasn't enough punishment--surely Potter's misadventures deserved more of a penalty than that?--and Severus found himself lifting his wand, casting a silent heating spell.
Quickly, before Potter saw him, Severus stood, picked up a book--Slughorn's own Asphodel and its Uses, as it happened--and turned his back.
There were a few, breathless minutes of turning pages. Not that Severus read a single word: his eyes kept seeing that pale strip of belly, and his ears heard nothing but the shifting of young knees on stone. The sounds of the fire, even of Severus' own pulse, seemed muted in comparison.
Finally, it occurred to Severus how preposterous this was--hiding his face like a blushing adolescent, as if he couldn't control--
Enough of this.
Severus quirked his mouth in a sour grimace, turning back to his desk with his mask in place.
No sooner had Severus sat down again, the damned brat decided to--
Yes, said that strange corner of Severus' mind, whereas the rest, it was to be noted, simply fell silent.
Potter finished taking off his shirt.
Wiped his face with it.
Threw it on the armchair.
And returned to scrubbing, even more industriously than before, as if it didn't matter to him that he was--that he was--
What? Exposing himself? Flaunting himself? Making himself vulnerable? Making Severus--?
This was Potter. Harry Potter. Half-hellion and half-child.
Severus was aware, peripherally, that there were three usable quills left on his desk--including the one he'd just been marking with--and that it would be a waste to damage them.
Time seemed to have stopped, caught in the continuous circle of Potter's moving hands. The fire warmed, and warmed further; Severus felt its heat only on his face and hands, in peculiar contrast to the cool confines of his robes. He watched the sweat glisten on Potter's flexing back, the oddly even flush that was beginning to suffuse Potter's face, his chest. Severus watched the sleek, swinging weight of Potter's dark, now-damp fringe--the visible stretch of muscles on Potter's astonishingly thin, bird-like arms.
If he listened carefully, Severus might almost believe that Potter's breathing was heavier now, that the boy knew he was being watched--but Potter wouldn't stand for that, would he? He'd turn around, spitting almost-insults, punctuated just enough with Sirs and I'm sorrys to keep them from crossing the line.
So Severus simply took up his train of thought, as if it were the needle on one of his father's old, Muggle records, and placed it somewhere else.
Among Muggles, Severus' mind repeated to itself, blankly, Asphodel has long been used as an antispasmodic treatment...
Severus waited restlessly for the clock to strike 'Lunch', and the moment it did, he was out of his chair--standing at the door, glaring down at a puzzled Potter, who'd just finished scrubbing the bookcase's lower shelves.
'Well?' Severus asked sharply. 'It's lunchtime. I would have thought you'd cherish the escape.'
Potter scrambled up at that, wincing noticeably--probably his knees--and Severus tried not to stare as Potter stretched, an exhausted, unknowingly sensuous stretch, rippling that slender, seemingly breakable spine.
Blast it all. This had been meant as a punishment for Potter, not as a punishment for Severus himself.
Severus turned to the door, opening it, not moving until Potter had put on his shirt and stepped through first. Severus wouldn't leave the little devil alone in his office; who knew what item would vanish if he did?
He opened his mouth to reprimand Potter for his dawdling, but was silenced as soon as he followed Potter out. After all, the sight that greeted him outside the door wasn't one he was accustomed to: a heat-flushed, pubescent boy with his face tipped upwards and his mouth slightly open, hair dampened with sweat, erection just visible against his trousers, under the border of his shirt.
Hard. Potter was hard. Just--standing outside the office, revelling in the cool air--and hard? Despite... the pain in his knees, if Potter's wincing was anything to go by? Despite the fact that he'd just been punished, and the last thing Potter should have done, damn him, was enjoy it?
No. He didn't feel. He shut the door. Saw Potter walk away, with the same bloody stride that had carried him in, as though nothing had changed; as though he hadn't been humbled at all, hadn't thought about obedience in the least, but instead had kneeled on all fours on Severus' office floor and had... had... enjoyed himself. Let his mind roam. Fantasised, possibly.
Don't be ridiculous, Severus. If there was one thing being a Slytherin had taught him, it was that desire limited and changed one's vision--an alchemy of thought, fulfilling itself with a Midas-like touch, turning all that glittered into gold. Gryffindor gold...
Potter had nearly rounded the corner by the time Severus returned to himself, found himself staring at that familiar, too-short, too-proud back--and Severus realised that mere tasks would not break Potter's pride, mulish brat that he was.
Not mere tasks...
Lunch was a quick affair, with Severus pretending not to listen in on the trio's chatter; it both amused and irritated him that three mere children thought they could upturn a Ministry verdict, and save that forsaken beast's life--Backbeak, was it? Buckbeak.
He'd already promised Potter time to study for the rest of the day, so further punishment would have to wait, unfortunately; not that Severus particularly believed in keeping promises, but he knew very well that when disciplining a child, both punishment and reward had to be dependable. Potter had to know his limits, after all, before he could be expected to conform to them--and Severus was determined to set those limits somehow, despite Potter's every attempt to thwart them.
As he led Potter back to his office, he thought about it. Punishment. What he could and could not make Potter do, in the next two weeks. How he could possibly embarrass him. Tame him into submission.
No more cleaning, obviously, at least not under a heating charm; Severus didn't wish to lose his own mind in the pursuit of Potter's safety. The boy was going to keep his clothes on, damn it, instead of flaunting himself like a trollop--and he was going to learn some manners, even if Severus had to hex them into him.
'Why aren't you hot?' Potter demanded as soon as the door closed, in that same, annoyingly mutinous tone. 'Sir.'
One day, he was going to teach the brat to say his title properly... 'Cooling charms on my robes,' Severus answered, and held in a smirk when Potter's jaw dropped.
'That's not fair!'
'Fair?' What a singularly Gryffindor concept. So pretty-sounding, and so utterly meaningless. 'I rather think the word you're looking for is pleasant. Because punishments aren't pleasant, Mr Potter, but they are always fair.'
It was a wonder that Potter didn't roll his eyes. Severus could almost see the effort it took not to do it; perhaps Potter was learning self-control after all. Those hours on the floor must have had some effect. Apart from--
Severus immediately looked at the clock, for the sake of looking at something else.
'Can I--you said I could study after lunch, Professor.' Ah. Was this Potter's pathetic attempt at being polite? Challenge, still, in every pore of him. As if Potter dared him to break his promise. 'Is it all right if I just read, sir?'
Just read. Severus doubted that Potter could do just anything, but after a glance at Potter's books, and the thought of how much more sane it would keep Severus to see the boy seated and completely clothed, he agreed. 'Very well. It should at least keep you out of my way while I test the potion.' Yes. The potion. Which had been an utter fiction, of course, so Severus would just have to dream up a task for himself--or perhaps he could brew that Pepperup Pomfrey had demanded of him last Monday. It would, at least, keep his classroom free of sneezes once the semester began.
It was easy to turn his back on Potter and do what he usually did; he set up the chopping board and his array of knives on the worktable, each parallel to the other and laid out according to size, gleaming quietly in the firelight. It was easy to ignore the rustle of pages while he Summoned his ingredients, watching the unneeded bottles in his cupboard shoulder each other aside to make way for the eager, emerging ones. Severus had almost forgotten about Potter when he heard a thump on the floor--a thump that thoroughly startled him, that had him whipping around.
But the boy was asleep.
And had dropped his book, apparently, which must have been the noise; Severus stared at it, reading The History of Heroic Hippogriffs upside-down, before looking up at Potter, who was quite oblivious to it all.
Oblivious, and surprisingly... peaceful in that chair--Severus' chair, although Potter was curled up in it as snugly as a hatchling in its nest. That wild hair did look like a hatchling's, as did Potter's thin, gangly frame in that absurdly large, drab-coloured shirt.
Severus took an unconscious step back, before he realised it; he didn't quite know why, except that it was better to return to his brewing. To his potion. Forget about Potter being here, stirring the air silently with breath from that warm, open mouth. Best to forget it, to--
Watched, incredulity growing by the second, as Potter's thighs fell slowly apart--as Potter's head rolled to the side and his lips opened further, letting out what could only be described as a moan.
Another step back, and then another--until Severus had his back against the worktable, its firm, unyielding edge a strange reminder of reality.
Potter's hands twitched on the soft armrests, and he drew in another breath--flushing now, yes, just as he had... oh... just--before lunch. As he had.
Severus' eyes followed, almost without his own consent, the line of Potter's waist until it met with his hip--and from there it was only a short distance to confirm what Severus already knew, that Potter was hard, was hard again, for the second time today in these dank, otherwise unarousing dungeons--and that, for some reason that only Fate could explain, Potter insisted on imposing this fact on him.
He should have woken the boy. Told him to get back to work. Should have, should have, but now it was too late--and Potter was making small, restless movements in that chair of his, getting more caught up by the heated second, letting loose another moan, and another, each one making Severus flinch despite himself. They were sounds Severus was never meant to hear. Didn't want to hear. That wouldn't leave him, now that he'd heard them, now that he knew what Potter sounded like, when--
Was there nothing Potter wouldn't do in front of him?
It was only when Potter's hips began to thrust a little, when his hands began to clench, that Severus realised he had to stop this--stop this now, before Potter did something that would humiliate them both, and Severus had never tolerated humiliation. His skin was burning inside his robes, as if stung by a painful hex--and he was hardening, too, a reflex that couldn't be blamed on him, because Potter had no right sounding so--lost, damn him. So needy.
He wouldn't let the brat see his discomfort by waking him in the guise of another noise; he'd make sure Potter woke up and saw this, saw himself hard and panting in front of his professor, and was so ashamed by it, so humiliated, that he never dared to do it again.
Severus stepped around his worktable before reaching for his wand, hefting it in his palm for a moment before turning it on Potter--taking in one last time the sight of Potter's lashes dark against flushed skin, Potter's ear pressed red against the upholstery.
'Ennervate,' he whispered, and saw Potter's eyes flutter open.
He laid his wand aside before Potter saw that he'd been using it. 'Finally,' he said, and Potter jerked in sleep-shocked surprise, turning to stare at him. 'Are you done entertaining me, Mr Potter? Or would you like to rest a little more?' Severus' voice was cruel, gently mocking, and he didn't have to feign his sneer.