Disclaimer: I do not own anything to do with Harry Potter. That privilege belongs to J.K. Rowling, her publishers and Warner Brothers Studios. Thanks to all of them for allowing those of us who love the stories to enter this magical world.
This story is canon until Deathly Hallows. It is mainly compliant with that book but I have ignored various character deaths to suit myself. Although the main outline has been done before, I haven't seen one which has this exact mix of characters in relation to one another. I have written for other fandoms but this is my first Harry Potter story so I'd be grateful for any feedback.
Severus Snape poured the slop into the feeding trough and quickly retreated from the sty. He closed the gate and stood watching the eager piglets feeding greedily while, in what had become a nervous habit, he ran his fingers through the bristly stubble that was all that remained of his hair and brought them down to the heavy iron collar that bound both his magic and his freedom. As ever, memories of the events that had brought him to this pass flashed through his mind.
To his immense surprise he'd survived Nagini's attack thanks to the quick thinking of Hermione Grainger. Although she'd believed him to be a loyal Death Eater at that point she'd searched his robes and found the bezoar she'd guessed he would be carrying and stuffed it in his mouth, then cast a stasis charm on him before hurrying out of the Shrieking Shack after Potter and Weasley. Then later, after the fall of the Dark Lord, she'd returned with Poppy Pomfrey and a small group of other students. The gentleness with which they had treated him and Poppy's muttered reassurances had indicated that Potter had seen his memories, finally understood his loyalties and motivations and made them public knowledge.
As he'd lain in the hospital wing, slowly recovering, he'd been visited by a steady procession of people, including an embarrassed Minerva McGonagall, an apologetic Potter and the newly proclaimed Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt who'd assured him that his assistance in defeating Voldemort would be recognised.
His lips parted for a second in a cynical smile. To think he'd allowed himself to believe for those heady few days that they'd be a place for him in this brave new world! He and Minerva had even begun discussing changes they wanted to make to the school curriculum and operation!
He should have known it was all too good to be true and, sure enough, on the very day that Poppy was about to discharge him, a group of Aurors led by Dawlish had marched into the ward and arrested him. Poppy had protested, of course, and Minerva had threatened but both had been ignored. Appeals to Shacklebolt had proved useless. Rumours of Scrimgeour's death had apparently been greatly exaggerated. He'd been found alive in one of Azkaban's deepest dungeons and had emerged angry and vengeful. Joined by Cornelius Fudge, who had returned to mainland Britain from his bolthole in the Channel Islands, they had preached a message of retribution that was instantly seized upon by the gutless wonders that formed the majority of the U.K's wizarding population. Having cowered in their beds when the Dark Lord was at the height of his power, now they were safe they screamed for the blood of anyone connected to him in any way like the carnivorous sheep they were. Public opinion had forced Shacklebolt to stand aside for the man the Daily Prophet had called the real Minister of Magic. All bearing the Dark Mark and anyone who'd collaborated with the Death Eaters were to be sentenced to Azkaban for life.
They'd been trials of course. Severus remembered the farce that had been his. Potter had spoken in his defence with the same passionate intensity he'd once declared his total hatred and contempt for him, and the look on his face as the Wizengamot had ignored their darling's pleas had been one of the last things to give him genuine amusement for a long time. As he'd fully expected he'd been condemned to spend the rest of his days in the hellhole in the North Sea. A fate made even worse by the fact that his fellow lifers were now alerted to his treachery to their cause. That had been ten years ago. Ten long years of hunger and cold and deprivation. Although the Dementors had been replaced by human guards, conditions had been no better. Humans did not suck out the souls of their prisoners but they were so much more imaginative in thinking up other ways of destroying them. The regular beatings, the staged fights for the amusement of the warders, where starving inmates kicked and gouged each other for the privilege of the winner being tossed an additional crust of stale bread, the rapes by other convicts and sex starved guards posted to the Rock for months on end. The Ministry knew about this, of course, but didn't care as long as there was no scandal. He'd resigned himself to enduring all this for whatever remained of his life until a few months ago.
The Ministry had been unprepared for the number of people being denounced as collaborators by their neighbours and so called friends. In the first few years after his arrest and conviction Azkaban had been bursting at the seams. Although even the Ministry knew that most of those arrested were probably the victims of spite or revenge, given the public mood they didn't dare release anyone until a full investigation into the allegations had been carried out and the Aurors and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement were run ragged. People waited for months, even years before their cases could be investigated.
Faced with the equally unpopular possibility of having to raise taxes to pay for additional prison spaces the Ministry had come up with an innovative solution. Convicted prisoners nearing the end of their time would be auctioned off as indentured servants to, as the press release had it, "reputable" witches and wizards for the balance of their sentences. With their usual hypocrisy they had trumpeted this as a rehabilative measure. There had been some opposition to the idea mainly from those who felt the prisoners were getting off lightly and a few who condemned the proposal as a modern form of slavery but most witches and wizards liked the idea of getting cheap labour, especially as, initially, those released were mainly petty thieves and drunken broomstick riders.
The Ministry had soon cottoned on to the fact they had accidentally created a galleon spinner. They not only received the auction price of the convict but an annual set fee from the purchaser for every year or part year their "servant" remained with them. At the same time, the cost of maintaining Azkaban decreased. Slowly they had expanded the scheme until only those who had proved themselves too difficult for their masters to manage actually went to Azkaban at all and, after a taste of the treatment there, most were begging for another chance after only a few weeks. Even the convicted collaborators had now been sold off. The Ministry had experimented with various control methods, strengthening and improving on them as the seriousness of the offences had increased until they had concluded that they were sufficiently robust and, more importantly for them, it was politically safe, to auction the Death Eaters themselves.
Finally they had made the announcement. On the 10th anniversary of Voldemort's defeat, as part of a year-long series of celebratory events, the services of 10 Death Eaters would be put up for sale. One for each year of the Ministry's "benevolent and successful post-war leadership" as the press release had put it. The rest would be auctioned on a regular basis throughout the remainder of the year. No-one had bothered to tell the prisoners of course and newspapers and visitors were banned, the news had, however reached them through overheard conversations between the guards and "servants" returned for "attitude re-adjustment". It had come as no surprise to him, therefore, to find himself sitting on the hard stone floor of a cage in the very courtroom, where ten years before he'd been sentenced to Azkaban, waiting his turn on the block, the control … or slave collar, as he thought of it tight around his neck. For him and the other lifers, the distinction between servitude and slavery was one without a difference.
His lips curled in a sneer as he remembered the atmosphere; the Ministry official acting as auctioneer describing in detail the crimes of those being sold, assuring prospective bidders that the security measures put in place now rendered them completely safe and harmless, followed by the humiliating descriptions of the each "lots" temperament and possible areas of employment for them. The behaviour of the crowd had been even worse; jeers and insults had flown long and loud as each one had stood awaiting their fate. The hatred and anger directed at the convicts had been palpable and oppressive, almost a living thing. Most of the bidders it was clear, didn't want servants, they wanted an outlet on which to vent those feelings. He'd watched the Ministry officials and had realised they knew this and didn't care. Albus, he'd thought, if you'd known the people you protected were going to turn into a howling mob and the execution of justice sold for galleons would you still have done it?
Crabbe and Goyle were probably the lucky ones. Their build had given them an advantage in the staged fights and allowed them to threaten other prisoners for their meagre rations so they retained some remnant of their previous physical strength. They had been bought by a hard faced man almost as thickly built as they were. He'd been one of the few who had shown no sign of personal animosity towards the prisoners. He'll work them till they drop but won't deliberately torture them, had been Severus' judgement. McNair had been less fortunate, he'd gone to a witch referred to by the auctioneer as Madame Bode, probably by her age, the widow of Broderick Bode, one of his victims. The look on her face as he'd left with him to sign the paperwork, left no doubt that his primary function in that household would be to suffer for her late husband's murder. Lucius Malfoy had been the subject of particularly spirited bidding, finally the wand had fallen on a bid of 1800 galleons and Amos Diggory had come forward to claim him with a vicious smile on his triumphant face.
Then it had been his turn, he'd left the cage rather than be subjected to the indignity of being dragged out or used to show off the security measures the Ministry had put in place for "the safety and security of the decent, law abiding wizarding population" and stood on the wooden platform beside the auctioneer, his eyes cast down; one of the additional features the Ministry had built into the collars, especially for the Death Eaters. Afraid they would intimidate potential bidders, they'd placed a curse on the collars ensuring that all those wearing them could not look at anyone not wearing a collar without suffering agony of Cruciatus like proportions. The guards had taken great pleasure in demonstrating that and the other features to him and the others during their "orientation" sessions. The jeers of the crowd rose to new heights as he'd taken his place and the auctioneer had had to cast a Sonorus to be heard above the noise.
"Wizards and witches," he'd begun, "Severus Snape, the murderer of Albus Dumbledore and betrayer of Emmaline Vance, one of the worse Death Eaters there was! Yet look at him now, standing here all quiet and submissive, thoroughly tamed and controlled by the complex system of charms and curses set on this collar by the Ministry's finest spellcasters." As proof of this the auctioneer had struck him hard in the solar plexus with the side of his wand, just as he'd done with the others. "See." He'd added, as Severus had gasped and doubled up.
"Yeah, but the others weren't Potions Masters." someone in the crowd had yelled, "What does it matter if he can't murder us in our beds when he can poison us instead?"
"The Ministry has already thought of that!" the auctioneer had replied, "A special restriction has been placed on this collar, preventing Snape from even touching potions ingredients. Watch!" He'd taken a dried Shivelfig from his pocket and Severus had felt the pain already begin to build behind his eyes. He'd steeled himself against what he guessed the man would do next but it did no good; as soon as he'd brushed the plant against the exposed skin on his chest where the prison issued shirt hung gaping open, the pain had exploded into agony and he'd collapsed, the sounds of his dry retching echoing through the packed room. "There!" the man had cried cheerfully, "the restriction doesn't prevent him handling ordinary cooking ingredients so his previous experience would make him an asset in any kitchen. No more forcing the kids to peel spuds without magic witches, he can do it instead and if there are any restaurant owners out there, think of the what you could charge customers for guaranteed hand prepared veg by your very own Death Eater!. Now, who'll start the bidding at 500 galleons?"
He'd ended the Sonurus and turned to Severus, still lying on the platform, "Get up scum and look lively!" he'd hissed. Afraid of the collar punishing him for disobedience, Severus had dragged himself upright and stood swaying as the bidding continued. The opening offer was actually 300 galleons but soon reached the original suggestion with several people in contention. At 1000 galleons, most dropped out, at 1500 galleons only a man and a woman remained. Still unable to raise his eyes, Severus thought he vaguely recognised the male voice but couldn't identify it.
The raises were lower now until finally the auctioneer had called out. "Going, once, going twice, going three times!" He'd brought down his wand, which emitted a blue flash, "Severus Snape sold to Mr. Arthur Weasley for 1675 galleons. Come down Arthur and sign the contract to claim your servant!"