Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, but if J.K. Rowling would like to give me something for Christmas..

A/N: Wow! It's been a while since I wrote fanfic, but it's cold outside today and I did all my homework, so I was drinking hot chocolate and reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame and I got this idea from that one scene. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this, and if you do, please tell me so and I'll continue. The rating will probably rise later. Oh, and one other thing- I don't really know that much about Gypsies, so forgive me if I make a heinous error or two.

~~

Severus stalked through the deserted alley, reaching out with his senses for any sign of suspicious activity. It was a cold evening, and the solitary moon shone brightly in the clear and starless sky.

Headmaster Dumbledore had sent him out to investigate reports that the gypsies had returned to Hogsmeade. The Roma had long since left the wizarding world, instead choosing to wander among muggles and amaze them with the "sleight of hand" and keen divination skills possessed by skilled wizards. They were a different sort of magical people--a race with educational systems and cultural nuances of their own. Severus wasn't sure what their return to the wizarding world could mean, especially since Hogsmeade was such an unusual location for Gypsies. Why had they chosen a place so alien to them? Then again, the Roma had no homeland--the world was their domain.

A tiny noise behind him caused Severus to freeze in the middle of the street. Without moving a muscle, he used the skills he'd honed through his career in espionage (luckily, a career from which had had been allowed to retire with Voldemort's defeat) to alert himself to every movement in the area. Oddly enough, he couldn't hear anything, even though his instincts were telling him that danger was lurking in the shadows. Before he could apparate back to the gates of Hogwarts, Severus heard a heavily accented "Petrificus Totalus" and fell, paralyzed, onto the cold stone street.

~~

When Severus next opened his eyes, he stared blearily at a warm fire surrounded by laughing men and women, speaking in a tongue that even he didn't know--and Severus Snape spoke many languages. Blinking once or twice, he slowly remembered the evening's pervious event, concluding that he must have hit his head on the pavement and blacked out. He was lying on a hard cot and covered with a thin, ratty blanket. When he found he could move his hands, he sighed with relief. He wasn't bound.

Heart beating quickly, Severus slowly reached into his right sleeve, sinking into despair when he realized his wand had disappeared. At least it was heavily warded so they could not break it, and only Severus could master that particular wand. Any unsuspecting thief who tried to use it would be in for a nasty, perhaps fatal, surprise.

"Didn't find what you were looking for, I take it?" murmured a sneering voice behind him. Severus sat up and turned to face a younger man, perhaps in his twenties, with hair and eyes much like his own. "You weren't very difficult to disable, you know. You should work on that before you go sneaking around at night."

Severus felt the anger rising in him, but knew better than to push his luck. He simply inclined his head at the young Gypsy--he had no doubt about whose company he was in--and set about examining his surroundings.

The only potential escape route was the door on the far end of the room, and he could feel the wards that prevented apparition. Besides, he wasn't going to leave without his wand. If he was ever allowed to leave at all.

By now the young man was off, smiling at blushing young women and yelling, "He's awake! He's awake! It's time!" Severus had no idea what it was time for, but he also got the feeling that he didn't want to know. His heart sank even further when swarms of Gypsies crammed themselves into the room, exuding malicious excitement. Severus tried to keep his face impassive and his posture rigid and fierce, becoming the evil Potions Master his students were so afraid of. He knew it was working because his captors kept a safe distance from him, even though some of the children had originally expressed a desire to taunt the prisoner.

Unfortunately, the adults, though obviously nervous, were not so easily cowed. The semicircle surrounding him parted to admit the young man and a few others--some Severus' age and yet seeming shockingly young. Grinning, they stepped forward and unceremoniously grabbed the Potions Master, lifting him up above the jeering spectators and carrying him towards a rudely constructed platform that could serve as only one thing--a gallows. Severus gulped almost imperceptibly. Voldemort may not have been able to kill him, but it seemed as though the Gypsies certainly could.

Once they had forced him to stand on the shaking platform of death, Severus felt resigned to his fate. Unfortunately for him, the excitement wasn't over yet. The dark-eyed young man stepped forward again, grinning mischievously.

"Trespasser!" he bellowed dramatically, "You are sentenced to death on the charge of illegally entering the Gypsy King's territory!" Everyone cheered. "The King, however, is feeling merciful--I will give you one chance to save yourself!" The Gypsies cheered again as a dummy covered with bells was brought to the platform and hung in the noose Severus suspected he would soon occupy.

"You," declared the young man, apparently the Gypsy King, "will pick the pocket of this poor soul without ringing any of the bells! The moment we hear so much as a tinkle, you will take his place on the gallows!"

Severus felt nervous, but slightly better than he had before. Picking pockets? That was easy! He'd tried it dozens of times as a boy, as sort of a game he'd played with his father. Every time he managed to get the elder Snape's wallet and escape detection, he would return it gleefully and receive a sugar quill as a reward for his cunning.

Calmly, delicately, Severus reached into the pocket and was silently drawing out a brightly colored handkerchief when someone clambered onto the platform behind him and kicked--hard. Severus' heart sank as he went flying into the dummy, creating an unbelievable clamor that was audible even above the Gypsies, who began to cheer. Two more men climbed up and forced his head into the noose, while the dummy was hauled away. 'Of all the ways to die...' he thought to himself, and closed his eyes.

His torture, however, still hadn't ended--the Gypsy King had one more amusement up his sleeve.

"Although you have failed pathetically at pickpocketing," he grinned, "I will offer you one more chance to survive this day. If any of these women will marry you, you will be set free and welcomed as one of our own." Severus' heart really sank this time--not only was he unappealing to women, but anyone who chose him would doubtless do so out of pity. Perhaps, Severus thought, it would be better to die.

His shamed increased as the women filed by him, each eyeing him critically and shaking her head, sometimes with a snide comment.

"Don't know if I could stand a nose like that--he might be compensating for other things, if you know what I mean," snickered one, and everyone laughed.

"Looks like he hasn't seen the sun in ages," cackled another. "Nor will he! I can do better."

Finally, the Gypsy King cried out, "Is that everyone? Well, good sir, it seems you have been most unanimously and unceremoniously rejected! You were great entertainment, however--"

"Wait! I will have him!" called a strong but feminine voice from the doorway. Severus' gaze shot towards the door in shock--and that was before he realized who the woman was.