A/N: An idea that played through my head oh…a year or so ago. It's going to be a fairly short story considering I have a number of extensive ones on my hands already.
Harry the Hermit.
That was what the papers started calling the Boy Who Lived To Conquer soon after the final battle. It wasn't that Harry Potter had vanished from the face of the earth – but he did not respond to any questions, any calls, anything at all. He had sold Grimmauld Place, that he inherited from his late, exonerated godfather; with that money he bought a house somewhere, that much was known, but it was Unplottable, warded against everything under the sun and no one even had a clue in what part of the country to look.
The house in Godric's Hollow that had belonged to his parents remained, but inquiries there only resulted in being escorted off the premises by polite but determined house elves. Questioning shopkeepers around Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade made it clear that the elves called Dobby and Winky only occasionally made a purchase in Harry's name, paid in cash and took the supplies with them immediately – no delivery. One or two brave reporters had even entered Gringotts to seek information from the Goblins, and found out why Professor Binns put so much emphasis on the Goblin wars.
It wasn't until one clever journalist decided to pay a visit to Harry's relatives that things were set in motion that would have grave results – and would eventually force Harry the Hermit out of seclusion.
That first journalist accomplished very little. Knocking on the Dursley's door in robes and a Quick Quotes Quill floating behind his ear led to a screaming Dudley, a hysterical Petunia and a purpling Vernon who literally beat the 'freak' from his yard.
This behaviour, however, drew all kinds of questions and two enterprising reporters from the Daily Prophet, both of them with some insight in Muggle matters, donned jeans and sweaters, took block notes and pencils and knocked again on the Dursleys door, pretending to be liaisons from the Muggle government, seeking to investigate the necessity of separating Wizarding and Muggle world.
On this matter, of course, Vernon Dursley had some insights he was more than willing to share. Showing his guests the cupboard where he had kept his nephew until he was eleven, the little prison-like room where he had lived after, and speaking at length about his attempts to 'beat the freakishness out of the boy', the two went away with a very clear idea of how, exactly, the Boy Who Lived was raised.
This, in turn, led to all kinds of questions from their readers, who wanted answers, who demanded BLOOD from the people responsible for the treatment of their hero.
Harry never reacted to either the articles, the questions, or the public outrage. His friends, Ron and Hermione, sneered in disgust at the masses who now were in an uproar when for years, they allowed a child to go through trials not even an adult should have to face, just because he was their Messiah. The masses who refused to see the horrors and impossible choices were thrust upon the people leading a war. They accepted the requests of other European Wizarding governments to serve them as advisors, Hermione researching and lecturing on the cause of the Voldemort wars, Ron working with the Auror departments.
Eventually the questioners turned to Albus Dumbledore, and soon it became apparent that the wizard had known about Harry's treatment there – at least suspected all was not as well as should be. The old wizard lost much of the respect he enjoyed, and while still Headmaster of Hogwarts, he was asked to leave almost every body of government he had taken part in. His words and actions were greatly questioned, and he could no longer protect the one person whose future had depended on his word – Severus Snape. At the very first opportunity, Snape was seized and taken to Azkaban.
The Dementors were gone, but Azkaban prison still stood, now run by Security Wizards. There many of the remaining Death Eaters were locked up to await trial. Three years after the last battle, however, nothing had come of it. Then, Kelvin Broadmoore became Minister of Magic.
Minister Broadmoore had been in the Ministry under Fudge and Scrimgeour, having been taught by the latter. Cornelius Fudge had frustrated him immensely – he detested the former Ministers lack of action and late reactions. He had more faith in the man of action his mentor had been, but felt drastic times called for even more drastic measures.
The wizarding world was in shambles, thanks to Voldemort and his Death Eaters. It would require a lot of money and work to restore it. And there was a workforce in Azkaban, doing nothing, being fed from the tax money of all wizards and giving nothing in return. They were the ones responsible for this chaos – they should be the ones paying to restore the situation.
With these arguments, a proposal was soon made that gained great popularity throughout their society. In effect, it was a slave bill. The remaining Death Eaters in Azkaban would be sold to their fellow wizards to work for them and repay their debt. In the future, this would perhaps be a proper solution for all wizard criminals, and Azkaban would cease to cost the Ministry gold.
Albus Dumbledore, of course, immediately petitioned to buy Snape, but was rudely denied. He should thank his lucky stars, they told him, that he was allowed to keep his job as Headmaster. There would be no more pulling strings for him, no more special allowances because of his status.
It did take some time, of course. The proper formulating of the bill required work. There had to be some protective measures, both for the Death Eaters and the people buying them. They could not tolerate outright murder of the soon-to-be slaves. At the same time, the wizarding families taking them in would need to be able to protect themselves from prisoners who had already proven, in the past, to be capable of acts of violence. So the enslaved Death Eaters ended up a little below house elves in legal status – there was a penalty for intentionally and purposely killing them, but killing them in self-defence bore no charges. A fee would even be paid by the Ministry in that case. 'Natural' deaths because of illness and job-related accidents were treated much the same.
But finally all the preparatory work was done, and the first Death Eaters would be put up for sale soon. Albus Dumbledore, while not getting to buy Snape, had been allowed to visit him off and on the past years.
"There is no turning back now," he sighed to Snape, "I am afraid nothing can be done about it. I am sorry, Severus."
The former Potions Master of Hogwarts tried to sneer, but the closed black eye made it difficult. "I would die first," he proclaimed.
"I am afraid that is not an option, Severus. Spells will be put in place to prevent you taking your own life. It is part of the arrangement, so to speak." The old wizard shook his head sadly, "I must say I am glad, in a way, for that. I still have hopes that you will be free, one day."
"I have never been free, Headmaster, and I doubt I ever shall be. You of all people know that better than anyone."
Snape looked away. He was grateful for the old man's visits – the Headmaster did care about him in some way. Yet he also could not help but feel that his life had never been his own, and the Headmaster had played a large part in that. As conflicted as his emotions always were when it came to the ancient wizard, he had to acknowledge that no one else seemed to care very much – not enough to come visit, at any rate.
"They will not let me buy you," Dumbledore sighed, noticing Snape's flinch. "Surely you do not fear I would abuse you, dear boy?"
"It certainly would not be a very different life to what I was used to," Snape remarked, a trace of bitterness in his voice, "and at the moment, that is the best I can hope for."
Dumbledore winced. He reached out and gently traced the bruise around Snape's eye, casting a small spell to ease the pain somewhat. Magic was not allowed in Azkaban. This cantrip was all he could get away with without the alarms going off.
"I thought they kept all of you separate," he remarked.
"They do. The others would kill me," Snape closed his eyes, "unlike the Ministry, they DO believe I was a spy. Many of the guards…well, let us just say they do not particularly care for me, and now that I am to leave here soon they wish to give me a few farewell presents."
"Time's up!" one of the guards called.
Dumbledore took the thin hand in his own and squeezed gently. "I will continue to do what I can, Severus. I am afraid…"
"That it will not be much," Snape pulled back his hand, "I know. I know you mean well, that you meant well all along, yet here we are. Even if I do not take my own life, my life expectancy will be drastically reduced as soon as I pass into my new owners hands."
He looked up. "Farewell, Headmaster."
Minister Broadmoore was having a good day. The preparations for the auction went smoothly, and it would appear quite some gold was to flow into the coffers of the Ministry. Talk was the Goblin nation would be purchasing some Death Eaters, and while some in the Ministry were outraged at the thought of Wizards enslaved to Goblins, as the pragmatist he was Broadmoore realized the Goblins could definitely pay more than the average wizard family.
A knock on his door heralded the arrival of his secretary, who looked unusually flustered and agitated. Considering her normal calm, cool and competent behaviour, he was a bit surprised.
"Minister, there is…there is someone here for you, to see you," she stammered out, "oh, dear…"
"Calm yourself, Eulalia," he admonished, "people come to see me all the time."
"Yes, but…Minister…this is Harry Potter!" she almost panted, "Harry Potter himself is here to see you."
Kelvin Broadmoore's eyes widened almost comically, had his secretary been in the mood to appreciate comedy at that point. He quickly rushed to his desk, shuffling and reshuffling papers before sitting down, trying to look as important as he could.
"Do show him in, if you would, Eulalia," he waved her away, "we must not keep him waiting!"
Harry Potter stepped into the office moments later, ushered in by a still somewhat red secretary. He seemed a bit uneasy, as if communicating with humans had become alien to him, and something he did only out of necessity.
"Minister Broadmoore," he nodded.
"Mister Potter! I cannot tell you what a delight it is to see you here!" The Minister would have grabbed both of the young hero's hands to shake them if he had dared – if the other wizard had not made it clear by his body language that doing such would most likely end badly for the one attempting it.
Nevertheless, the chair he offered was accepted, and the Minister waited, a little uneasy.
"I have come to ask you a favour, Minister," the voice was deeper, richer than expected from one so young…but Harry Potter was not young, was he? Had never been young, if the reports on his childhood were even half true.
"Of course, of course," the Minister nodded, "you have never asked for, or accepted a reward for your part in bringing down You Know Who, and we surely would not refuse you your just reward when you are ready to receive it…"
"I have heard about your plans. For the prisoners."
"Yes, yes. We are a few weeks away, yet…"
"That is why I am here. There is one I should like to…purchase. I realize I am asking for an exception, Minister, but I would, if possible, like to make a reservation."
"We will give you anyone you ask for…" the Minister began.
"No. I will purchase him – let the gold go to the benefit of the taxpayers."
"Admirable, Mr Potter, admirable. Tell you what – as a favour to you, I will let you purchase your, erm, prisoner, early. I will arrange for the transaction to be made now, or whenever it is convenient to you."
"That would be appreciated," the younger wizard inclined his head, "I am here now. I realize it is very short notice…."
"Not at all, not at all," the Minister waved away the concerns, eager to gain the respect of this man, who would be extremely powerful should he choose to exercise his influence. "Just tell me who you want, and I will make the arrangements."