"It was in his nature to do it. The doctor says there are such boys springing up amongst us –
boys of a sort unknown in the last generation – the outcome of new views of life. They seem to see all
its terrors before they are old enough to have staying power to resist them.
He says it is the beginning of the coming universal wish not to live.”
- Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure
No act of aggression is as fierce or as insuppressible as a true act of protection.
His life, he believed, was made up of precisely nothing but servitude. First, to Lily, then to the Dark Lord, then to Albus. All had their flights of whimsy, all found him useful to their agendas, all cast him aside when he had fulfilled his purpose.
His latest slavery is even more insidious, because it is the slavery of choice. In the past, he felt swept along by events, his own insecurities, his anger and helplessness. Now he controls and is empowered by them.
She was the least likely candidate for his next Master, but he has never been able to resist crossing a line in the sand when it is so enticingly drawn at his feet.
The origins of how they came together were so mundane he can almost laugh at them now. A Potions maker, seeking help beyond his means to heal. Almost fifty years of chopping, pounding, stirring, mixing, lifting and pouring. Repetitive Strain Injury, the quacks called it. The one thing he'd ever enjoyed, his first true passion, and he couldn't even do it without pain.
Looking at himself in the mirror, seeing the pitiful excuse of a man, of a wizard, old and dried up and bitter with disuse and despair, he thought that the great cosmic joke that had somehow allowed him to survive Nagini and the war might have finally backfired.
Sitting up all night, a bottle of Firewhisky in one hand, his wand in the other, he waited until intoxication and self-preservation reached a critical equilibrium, then teetered over. He had said the words once, he could say them again. His hatred was even more refined this time.
He didn't know what stayed his hand. Cowardice, probably. It was a word that had followed him like a bad smell. Every person he had ever cared about, or cared enough to hate him, from his father to his first love to the Boy Who Lived, had called him Coward at least once. It felt like his secret name.
He hated Healers. And he mistrusted this one especially.
It was on the tip of his tongue to ask for another. Aside from the fact he hated to show any vulnerability to this particular witch, he knew his rejection would hurt, would cause a stress fracture in her permanently overblown sense of self-worth. His own ego had taken enough hard knocks. He had learned early to be generous with that particular talent.
"I would prefer─"
"I'm sure you would, Mister Snape, but if you're serious about getting this issue resolved, you'll be better off with me," she'd replied with a crooked smile. He could smell her clean scent; her robes were immaculate, her face oval and smooth and almost anonymously plain. All except for her eyes. They had the same thousand-yard stare he'd come to recognise in every veteran of the war.
She sat down in the chair opposite him, until their knees were almost touching. Her back was ruler-straight, her manner equally inflexible. She met his eyes. "Show me."
It wasn't a request, it was a command. Something about it wormed into a place deep within his solar plexus, and spread under his ribcage. He held out his hands, palms down, as if preparing to play the piano. He met her level gaze challengingly.
"Turn them over."
His breathing quickened, and he complied, but slowly, to prove the cost of his obedience. And still her eyes never left his.
An untold number of seconds passed, and he forced himself to quip, "Is this how you treat all your patients, Healer Granger? By glaring them into submission?"
At the last word, she actually smiled. It was a slow build, Mona Lisa smile that both shook and steadied him. "It's working, isn't it?"
Merlin, it was. Her eyes, large and soft and warm, looked right into what was left of his soul, and only the pain in his hands kept him from fleeing. At least, that's what he chose to believe.
"Strange, isn't it?" she said, her voice gentle. "How vulnerable they are." She placed her own hands beneath his, and lifted them, as if to weigh their worth. "The wrists take such a beating. All that work. All that time spent abusing them."
Her fingers encircled his wrists with surprising strength, and Severus felt heat growing in his chest. For some reason he felt as if she was laughing at him, hinting that his injury was of a more masturbatory nature. "I don't require a lecture on human anatomy, Healer Granger," he said tightly, his fingers curling away from her touch. "If you'll just prescribe─"
"Yes, abusing them, Severus. Such tender, vulnerable wrists. Look at them."
Reluctantly, he looked down at his wrists. They were unremarkably ordinary, in his eyes: pale, slender, running toward bony. As he watched, her thumbs gently stroked the veins that ran just beneath his skin. He could feel the flush creeping steadily over his face, and he realised with horror that he was aroused, terribly so, and soon it would be obvious.
"If this is your idea of healing, I'm unimpressed," he said numbly, but it was knee-jerk, an automatic insult, one of many he kept in reserve for when he couldn't conjure true vitriol. What was worse, she seemed to recognise it, and ignored it for the pitiful thing it was.
"You've been through a lot of abuse, Severus," she said, those hypnotic little circles lulling him. "Especially before the war. But you survived. Such tension in your body. You need to release that tension. You need to understand and accept your right to feel pleasure. Why is it that, even ten years on, you aren't willing to just let go?"
This time he did pull away. "I find your comments both inappropriate and irrelevant, Healer Granger. If you don't wish to be struck off, I would suggest you keep your opinions to yourself, or I shall report you."
"Even though you know I'm right? Even though you know I can give you what you need?" Her smile should have stiffened his resolve, should have sent him marching to her supervisor and reporting her for misconduct. Instead, it sent his heart skidding recklessly in his chest, and for an awful moment, he teetered on the verge of kneeling at her feet, and kissing her robe-clad knee.
He had to get out, now, before she ruined him. But before he could, she took one hand, held it palm up, and smoothed her fingers over his wrist. A shiver of both revulsion and pleasure rippled through him.
"As you wish, Mister Snape," she replied smoothly, rising to her feet. "But should you wish true healing, I think I can help you." Those warm eyes met his again. "You have only to ask, Severus."
He managed to leave without another word, banging painfully into the doorjam and bruising his hip. He fled St. Mungo's without looking back.
That night, he looked at his wrists again. There was a gracefulness to his hands; even potions-stained and eerily pale, they had a certain dignity. They were large, and strong. He'd learned to bare-knuckle fight at an early age, and bore the evidence of that experience.
By contrast, his wrists were fine-boned, supple, and reminded him of a woman's. Curious, he stroked over the pulse point, as she had done, and he was overcome by the same shivery arousal as before. For the first time in longer than he could remember, he did masturbate, and he couldn't get the image of Hermione Granger out of his mind.
All that night, he thought of her hands, soft and warm and strong, clasping his, wrist to wrist, as if preparing to make an Unbreakable Vow. He wasn't all that sure he hadn't made one.
The next morning he noticed that the pain was gone. It had been gone since he'd come home.
He returned to her reluctantly. She was waiting for him, and when she told him exactly what she had in mind, he was appalled, and angry, and ready to hex her. Then she took his wrists in her hands, and he melted like a candle, ready to be reshaped into something that he could live with.
She took over his life on his own terms, but he knew he could never say he had true command over it, even with her brand of freedom. There was no aspect of his life she didn't control at first. He had been unable to make proper decisions; she bound him, literally and figuratively, until the surrendering of his decision-making became a power in and of itself.
It had been harder than he expected at first. Not because of the nature of their relationship, but because of her one hard rule: he must learn how to be touched. His adult life had been largely contact-free. He had shunned, and been shunned in return. No one sought him out; his ugliness had been preordained, and even the pitying look of a prostitute was too much for the shrunken remains of his vanity.
Granger seemed completely unconvinced of this lack of appeal. They held hands everywhere they went. Her friends gave them polite but puzzled smiles as she chatted away, her fingers firmly laced with his. It struck him as uncomfortable at first, reminding him too much of holding his mother's hand as they navigated busy zebra crossings on the way to Muggle school.
She monitored his habits, and then announced he had to change them. When she discovered that he would, in intense brewing periods, stay locked away at Spinner's End for days on end, she forced him out in the fresh air. Holding his hand, they would walk pointlessly up and down the decayed streets of his neighbourhood, returning to the house flushed and ravenous. He gained two stone.
At times, some unidentifiable defiance seized him, and he rebelled pointlessly, aimlessly. Hermione recognised this, and disciplined him by turning him over her knee and caning him. Ten strikes. They hurt like hell. She always cried after. Her tears hurt worse than the caning.
But the reward. Oh, gods, the reward for being obedient, for the little victories…
The first time it happened he had approached her, feeling old and used and jaded. The setback was a minor one, and not, he felt, strictly his fault. He placed his throbbing wrists in her hands, and even her touch could not soothe the pain of age, and frustration.
"You've done this!" he accused, near tears himself. He wanted it to be true, wanted to believe that she had chipped away at something vital, something that had enabled him to live without her or anyone. "I wouldn't hurt if it weren't for you!" Stupid, false words designed to hurt, and they did, right down into his stomach.
She suddenly took him in her arms and cradled him like a child. Stroking his wrists, she whispered, "Do you need to suckle?"
His breath left him as she opened her robes. Her breasts were soft, and the colour of sweet cream. The nipple was red, the tip as large as the end of his little finger. It felt velvety and spongy on his tongue. He ejaculated almost the moment his lips enclosed the little bud. He moaned helplessly, humiliated at his lack of control, the shameful stain growing across his robes. She soothed and crooned to him, stroking his wrists until the pain and humiliation eventually sputtered out. She rocked him as he sucked her teat like an infant, and tears dried on his sallow cheeks.
In her arms, under her Dominance, it was so easy to drift, to let go of Severus Snape and his past, to feel her remolding him like clay. It was out of his hands, but he allowed it to be. He wasn't afraid anymore. He wasn't nearly as embarrassed about it the next day as he'd thought he would be. He understood he was being conditioned, and part of him knew he ought to care, but her devotion to his wellbeing was as irresistible as his need to trust in someone.
The first time she bound his wrists, there was a moment of panic, and she immediately untied them. "Do it," he said, breathing hard, tamping down the fear and panic, and obeyed her simple command to watch him. His upturned wrists were encircled in soft, red silk, warmed by his own body heat, like rivers of blood flowing over his skin. She was gentle, and concentrated on the loops and wrappings, until his wrists looked like a gift, beautifully wrapped, ready to be opened by a cherished loved one. She even tied a rather perfect little bow on top.
He was silent as she spelled away his clothing, but he was trembling, afraid of the inevitable rejection or ridicule, and still didn't trust her when none was forthcoming.
She led him to his bedroom like a docile lamb. "Lie down," she urged, and he did. By then, he was inured to do anything she asked. "Raise your arms over your head, and if anything hurts or feels uncomfortable or you are afraid, say, 'stop'."
She looped a final scarf around the others and tied him to the bedpost. As the final knot was yanked into place, he gasped, and his arousal punched into his cock so quickly it almost burst out of his skin.
Lying there, helpless, fragile, he whispered, "Don't hurt me."
She placed a gentle kiss on his lips. "Never."
He had never screamed in ecstasy before. He had never been touched like this, had never felt a woman, or a man, for that matter, enter his rectum, or suck him, or tell him he was beautiful. Legs splayed, as open as a man can be, he reveled in the freedom of not worrying about his inadequacies. He had never before realised bonds could be salvation.
Later, she reached to release his bonds, and he asked her to let him keep them. For just a while.
She gave him a taste of how it felt to be the adored one, the prize, the one sought above all others. It was heady and addictive and incurable.
The turning point for them both came when he greeted her at the end of the day, his wrists wrapped and tied in a perfect bow. He'd spent hours getting the magic right.
Her smile was part pleased and part proud, and he wondered for a moment if she was merely patronising him. Wordlessly, she unwound the silk from his wrists and placed a tender kiss on his pulse points. She held onto him, and guided his hand between her thighs.
She was wet, hot. He'd never simply played with a woman's cunt, swirling his fingers in the slick, silky folds, watching her grow heavy-eyed and panting. The fingers around his wrist tightened as she neared her orgasm. She came with a cry, holding on, letting him support her.
As he picked her up and took her to bed, she whispered, "Now do you think it's all about pity?"
"What caused this obsession with wrists?" he asked one day over breakfast. She gave him a level look, as if weighing something in her head.
"You have lovely hands." She smiled knowingly. "They look lovely wrapped in red silk."
"Yes, I'm well aware of this little fetish of yours regarding my wrists. But that doesn't answer my question. How did you learn so much about this kind of injury?"
"Hands are important things," she replied evasively. "I wanted to learn how to keep them healthy."
Impulsively, he took her wrists in his hands, and playfully stroked her pulse points. "I didn't mean any disrespect, Mistress. I only thought that perhaps you can teach me. We can go into business together─" He ran his thumbs over her wrists, and froze.
She stiffened, and for a moment he thought she would pull away. Then she looked into his eyes. Trust for trust; care for care. Staring down at her smooth, flawless wrists, he understood immediately what he was seeing and feeling. He looked up at her. "Show me."
She nodded, and the glamour that she wore like gloves melted away. Scored lengthwise down each wrist were long, ridged scars, puckered and hard, the skin tough from clumsy stitching.
The shame in her eyes made him angry. Gods damn this war, gods damn Albus and Tom Riddle and every fucking idiot who'd declared war on these children, including himself.
"When?" he asked hoarsely.
She tried to fold her wrists out of his grasp, but he held on, soothing her in that time-honoured way she had of soothing him. "A few years ago. After the war, of course." She shrugged. "All roads lead back to the war."
She had been part of the Golden Trio, the perfect Gryffindor trifecta of heroes, and the end of the war was supposed to mean the end of feeling hunted and misunderstood and exploited. Pity Albus forgot to mention that the end of the war would be just the beginning. Perhaps he hadn't planned on them surviving, either.
Severus leaned down and kissed the heavy scars, running his tongue over them. "Promise me," he commanded, his voice nothing but a growl, "promise you'll never do anything like that again."
He took each wrist in turn, and softly chanted. He had always been able to cure wounds he himself had inflicted. Weren't most scars from this war more or less of his own devising?
He chanted as they walked up the stairs to his bedroom. He chanted as he undressed her. He chanted as he bound her wrists with those lovely silk scarves, and he chanted as he took her, willing all her wounds and all his wounds to be healed, until they were both at last whole again.