Disclaimer: ::gigglesnort:: You have to ask?
A/N: I know I've promised myself that I wouldn't start any new WIPs, but I just couldn't resist the urge. That plot bunny only came to me this morning, and hasn't left me in peace since...
Yeah, this is going to be SS/SB SLASH, but not for yet a few chapters. Prepare for other shocks, though.
The Deepest Bonds
It was cold behind the Veil, empty and cold. He wasn't entirely sure whether he was dead - how could he be? He didn't know what being dead was like - but he knew for sure that whatever he was, he didn't like being it. Memories were haunting him, memories of both good and bad days, teasing him and almost driving him insane, tearing him apart with their tiny claws.
It was cold, and empty, and he felt nothing -
And then, something tugged at him. And he was being pulled away, for a moment, he could again feel the Veil against his face, feeling like silk and stones at the same second.
At the same moment, he was out of the Veil, and alive. Unable to bear the sudden change, Sirius collapsed.
Sirius drew a deep breath, then eyed warily the two men in front of him. "Okay," he said then, "could somebody tell me just what the fuck is going on here?"
He expected at least one, if not both of the men to remind him to watch his language. To his great surprise, neither said anything about it. Instead, Albus cleared his throat, and said, "I believe it'd be better if Severus explained everything to you. I'd only be on the way." And with that, the ancient wizard stood, gave them both an almost pitying glance, and then left the room.
Sirius was just about to again demand for an explanation as he was shocked to the point of almost fainting by Snape's behaviour. The proud Potions Master slid down from his seat without a word, kneeling gracefully on the floor. Then he bowed low enough for his forehead to touch the floor. "I, Severus Snape, present myself to you as your loyal servant and slave, Master. I'm begging you to accept me and my servitude."
The Slytherin stayed like that, his head bowed down to the floor. When he at last rose and sat back to his seat, avoiding all eye contact, Sirius was back to his senses well enough to utter, "What the fuck?"
Snape sighed deep, his head hung down. "I come from an ancient family of Wizarding slaves, Master. I've been a slave to the ancient family of Malfoys ever since the day I was born. A few days ago, Lucius Malfoy, my last Master, passed away in the Azkaban prison. The bond tying me to him was transferred to you by his wish and will. All I ask you is for you to accept this bond." Then Snape shook his head slowly. "That's the official part required from me," he said quietly. "The bastard thought it'd be fun to leave me under my archenemy's rulement." Even though Sirius couldn't see the black eyes properly, he felt rather than saw the flash of anger in them, before Snape subdued to speaking again. "That's what pulled you from behind the Veil. As you weren't truly dead, in the real meaning of the word, the bond what was born between us was enough to drag you back to the world of living... Master." The word was spoken not with the venom Sirius would have expected, and could have handled, but with resignation that was shocking, coming from a man like Snape.
"So, let me get this straight," he said, tapping his fingertips against the arm of his chair. "You and your family were slaves to Malfoy. And now that he is dead, the bond of slavery over you was transferred to me. Right?" As Snape nodded, not saying a word, and certainly not meeting his eyes, he asked, "What about the rest of your family?"
"Most of my family had been already killed in the war against Grindewald," the Slytherin told with an emotionless tone. "By the time Stephen Malfoy died, I was the only one left. Therefore, I was the only slave Lucius inherited from his father."
"I-inherited?" stammered Sirius, not believing his ears.
"Oh, don't be so surprised, Master. Ever since I was born and bound to my master of those times, I've been considered a chattel by the Wizarding Laws, in all means. If Lucius's mastership hadn't been given to you, Draco Malfoy would have got me. I can be inherited like a house or a fortune - although I hardly hold that much value to anybody."
"Well, at least to Albus, you obviously do," said Sirius, trying to keep his emotions under control. He'd known that some of the most ancient Pureblood families were nothing short of bastards, but to discover that something like this could happen - legally - was just unbelievable.
"Ah, Albus," the Slytherin said with a small smirk that made him look a bit more like the Snape Sirius remembered. "Yes, he's been really supportive for me all the time. I think it was partly his achievement that I was originally even permitted to attend to Hogwarts - although of course the Malfoys would want an educated slave. What a pity indeed that Albus's support does little good for my situation, as the bond, once cast, cannot be removed or released, not in any way."
"Although I'm sure Albus will skin me alive if I use the fact that you're officially my slave on my advantage."
"I would think so, too, Master. Even though by law I'm your property, the Headmaster has always been a bit protective about me in all matters possible."
"Oh, please," snapped Sirius with frustration. "Do not call me that, it's a bit unnerving."
"I apologize, Master," Snape said, but according to his tone, he wasn't trying to irritate Sirius. "It's not a thing under my power. By the bond, I'm forced to call you Master whenever I'm addressing you, as well as bear all marks of my slavery."
"Fine, be that way." Sirius leant back in his chair, trying to ignore the headache that was just about to come to him. "What else does the slavery bond force you to do?"
"The magic of the bond or the Wizarding Law, Master?"
"Both of those."
"I cannot lie to you, not even say one untrue word, nor can I hurt you in any way. Whatever you tell me to do, I must obey. Whatever you ask me, I must tell you. If I displease you, I must submit to whatever punishment you see fitting. I'm unable to reveal to anybody, in any way, something you entrust me with as a secret. I'm required to bow every time you enter the room I'm in, and I must under no circumstances walk or stand next to you, but always exactly two steps behind you. I cannot perform magic in your presence without your permission, or any magic at all, should you want to forbid that. Whenever you call for me, I must come to you as soon as possible, no matter what the circumstances are. I cannot leave your presence without your permission, nor can I stay if you tell me to leave. If you decide to bind me to any place or area, I cannot leave it before I have your permission to do so. And I cannot participate in any bond, magical or otherwise, that you're not aware of or do not approve."
The longer the list got, the more anxious Sirius became. What upset him most was not the power he now had over Snape, no, but the fact that the man had been ruled all his life with the same power by the Malfoy family. Nobody deserved that kind of a life. He seriously doubted even Lord Voldemort would have deserved that.
"Stop, please," he said wearily, raising his hand to silence the man. "Anything else I should be aware of?"
"Well, if somebody treats me inappropriately, it's up to you to decide whether they should be punished, legally or otherwise, as well as to decide what that punishment would be. If you attack somebody who's harmed me, it'll be considered self-defence, as if you were the one they'd harmed. However, if you decide to harm me or even kill me, you won't be held responsible of that." There was a tone of bitterness in Snape's voice Sirius couldn't miss, as if the man was expecting him to kill him on his seat. "In all legal and financial matters concerning me, you're the one to decide, as I don't have any legal standing. Basically, you're my owner, like I was a pet, or chattel. I cannot own or even possess anything you don't allow me to. My payment from teaching at Hogwarts will be given wholly to you, and it's your decision how much of it you'll allow me to have, if any. Of course, that'll only happen if you allow me to continue working here - although I do think Albus would prefer it if you did."
Sirius nodded, swallowing slightly. He most certainly didn't like this, not at all. Snape wasn't his favourite person, that was for sure, but even the Slytherin was a human. And no human deserved to be bound like this, be it a spell, a curse, or just a law. "You can have whichever job you want," he said quietly. "And you'll have your whole payment for yourself."
The Slytherin nodded briefly, as if he'd been expecting this, but something in his expression startled Sirius. He'd never seen Snape unsure about anything. Now, however, the man looked almost - afraid.
As the silence stretched, Sirius forced himself to speak. "You said something about marks of your slavery," he started. "What are those?"
Without saying a word at first, Snape simply drew his sleeves back, revealing what seemed to be two tribal tattoos going around his wrists. "These tattoos, and my collar, are the basic marks of slavery," he said quietly. "Any other marks you want me to bear, I will."
"Your collar?" asked Sirius curiously. He'd never seen the Slytherin wear any kind of a collar. For a moment, the mental image of Snape in a dog collar and a leash became overwhelming in his mind.
Again silent, Snape opened the couple of top buttons on his robes, drawing the collar of the robes down. Thus, Sirius could easily see the plain metal band fastened tightly around the paler man's neck. It was obvious that the collar was a bit too tight, making it difficult for the man to breathe.
"Shit," he muttered. For once, he didn't wonder why Snape preferred high-necked collars, had done ever since their first day at Hogwarts. Of course, if he'd carried these marks ever since he was an infant. "That can't be comfortable."
"I can assure you, Master, it most certainly isn't," said Snape dryly, buttoning the robe's collar again. "But at least it doesn't have spikes inside, like some I've worn. Lucius Malfoy was by no means a good man, but he was an angel compared to his father."
Sirius shivered involuntarily at the thought of the child-Snape wearing a collar that had spikes burying into his skin. "I must find a more comfortable one for you as soon as possible," he muttered. "It's too tight by purpose, I suppose?"
"Yes, Master," replied Snape quietly. "I in fact have some older, a bit more comfortable collars in my quarters. However, as only my master is able to fasten or open my collar, I've had no change to better or worse ever since Lucius went into Azkaban."
"And that was when?" asked Sirius just as quietly, knowing full well that it must have been after he'd fallen through the Veil. Some of his memories were still a bit vague, but he sure as hell would remember if someone like Lucius Malfoy had been imprisoned.
"The day you fell through the Veil," replied Snape levelly. "A good five years ago."
Now, Sirius was truly shocked. He'd been "dead" for five years? What had happened during that time?
As he voiced his question, Snape sighed. "If you'd allow, I'd stay in basic points, Master, as it'd be too difficult to tell everything." As Sirius had nodded at this, the Potions Master continued, "To put it shortly, we continued fighting after your death, and eventually, won the War. It hasn't been long - your godson didn't defeat Lord Voldemort until half a year ago, which means that there are still a lot of stray Death Eaters out there. We've lost many, but the Wizarding World is now quickly recovering from the years of War, which were long and dark, and most definitely painful. Nowadays, Potter - who by some miracle managed to survive - is working as an Auror, and will be, I'm sure, delighted to know about your resurrection. Last time I heard of him, he was busy planning his marriage with young Miss Lovegood, if you remember her. Your name has been cleared, by the way. Kingsley Shacklebolt and your dear cousin Nymphadora are also going to get married, and even Mundungus Fletcher has managed to find somebody who's able to stand him. Whether or not that'll become anything else but an affair, we don't know, or even whether it's a man or a woman. Mad-Eye Moody, however, we lost, as well as Arabella Figg, and many others. I shall get you the full list of the casualties among the Order if you so wish, Master."
Sirius nodded, vaguely happy about what he heard. True, he did feel sorry for those who'd dead, but then again, he'd never expected them to win without some sacrifices.
However, something that Snape had said was nagging at him. Or, rather, something he hadn't said. "And - what about Remus?" Sirius asked quickly, a horrible presentiment in his mind. At the same moment as he saw Snape's apologetical expression, an ice-cold feeling set down on the pit of his stomach.
"I'm so very sorry, Master," Snape whispered, casting his eyes down at the floor. "You most probably don't believe this, but I truly am sorry. I miss him, too. After you - well, died, I and Remus managed to achieve something like a friendship."
"How?" was the only question Sirius could blurt out, fighting against the tears that threatened to fall. He'd had too few friends, and now, he'd lost the last person he truly loved as a friend, not even being aware of Remus's death at the moment.
"Almost a year ago," replied the Potions Master, thus answering one of his unspoken questions. "He died in a battle, for the sake of others, just like he'd always wanted to do. I almost think that he searched death, sook out dangers just to be hurt. He'd been seriously maimed as he was previously captured and tortured by some stray Death Eaters. There was no sight left in one of his eyes, and his right hand had been neatly cut from the wrist. It was a lucky thing he was left-handed, but still, he was badly hurt... I guess he just couldn't bear living with it anymore, and didn't care about the danger he presented himself to. And, well, when there was an opportunity to save others with his death, he saw that it was a perfect solution."
Sirius nodded, unable to say anything, and swallowing back tears. Yes, that would have been the Remus he knew. His werewolf friend would have never been able to kill himself, but even without any reason, he'd been always ready to sacrifice himself for others.
And now, Remus wasn't there, the one person who'd always been there for Sirius was dead. He wasn't sure about how he could bear that.
"Master?" he heard then Snape's quiet voice. "May I perform magic?"
"What?" Sirius snapped out of his thoughts, seeing the Slytherin watching him closely, a wand in his hand. Almost immediately, he nodded. Snape muttered a quiet incantation, and suddenly, Sirius felt calmer. The pain of discovering Remus's fate didn't disappear, but it eased a bit. "Why'd you do that?" he asked, astonished.
"To ease your pain," came the simple answer.
"No, I mean, why'd you want to ease my pain? I've never done any good for you, and we both know that."
"You are my Master," the Potions Master said with a quiet, yet calm tone. "I'm required to use whatever skills I might have to make sure you feel comfortable. And that's the best I can do right now."
"Right..." Sirius shook his head, attempting to clear it. Then he looked back at Snape. "Do you always need to ask before performing magic in my presence?"
"Wouldn't it do if I just told you that you're allowed to use magic whenever you please?"
This time, it was Snape who shook his head. "I'm afraid no, Master," he replied evenly. "Situations are different, there has to be always the chance that you forbid me."
"Fine. What about if I told you that you're allowed to do magic in my presence whenever you please, if I don't specifically forbid it?"
Snape hesitated for a moment, then nodded. "I think that could do," he said softly. Then, he glanced again at Sirius. "May I leave now, Master?" he asked quietly. "I've still got work to do tonight, and I understood Albus wanted to have a talk with you."
"Of course you may," said Sirius, blinking a couple of times. He'd probably never get used to Snape asking his, or anyone's, permission for anything. Even less he could get used to see the man being so submissive and quiet. "But I'm still going to visit you either tonight or tomorrow. I have to change that horrible collar, and we have to talk."
"As you wish, Master. It's Saturday right now, so I don't have classes either today or tomorrow. The password to my quarters is 'Aconite.'" And with that, he swept out of the room, his robe billowing behind him.
How was that?
Sirius has a talk with Dumbledore and, later, with Snape.