Chapter One: In which a deal is made and the future is unset

"…and sold for 1,500 galleons to bidder number 72. Thank you sir, please go to the gate to receiver your property. Next we have item number fourteen. Bidding starts at 100 galleons. 100 galleons, thank you sir, do I hear 150? 150? Do I hear…"

The auctioneer rambled on, his voice tumbling from price to higher price, beckoning the bidders to pay more, and more, and more. Beyond the boom and jumble of the auctioneer's voice, there was a soft buzz that filled the chamber from the chatter of the bidders, reminiscent of the buzz of a swarm of flies around a particularly ripe piece of fruit.

A commotion was started in the back of the chamber, but the auctioneer prattled on, either oblivious or uncaring as raised voices rose louder, as a menacing crackle of magic filled the room. The buzz of the bidders silenced; the still before the storm. Heads turned to look at the source of the disturbance.

"You do not understand the consequences of your actions. These are human beings and that man is innocent. If you continue down this path, you will condemn an innocent man to…"

"Albus, you really must try to understand this from our point of view," the minister interjected, her face coloring from her struggle to remain composed. "These men are all dangerous criminals and the Ministry has decided that this was the best course of action. The public practically demanded it. Since this decision, public approval of the Ministry is up by nearly ten percent. And anyways, your man has proven himself to be…"

"He has proven himself to be loyal and trustworthy," Albus averred, his calm voice belied by his obdurate blue eyes.

"He has proven himself to a danger to society, and you and your people cannot be trusted with his custody. My decision on this is final. Severus Snape is to be sold with the rest of the Death Eaters and he will be under the control of the upstanding citizen who purchases him. If you continue to press this matter, I will be forced to suggest your removal from Hogwarts. You obviously do not have your priorities straight and your judgment is questionable at best."

The minister turned on her heel and walked away, slightly too hurried to be dignified, but she wished to be away from the seemingly omniscient headmaster and the oppressive weight of his eyes and magic. The minister decided that she would go to her office and go over some paperwork, maybe smoke a cigar or two and put her feet up. Then she could forget all about Albus Dumbledore and his condemning words. It was all for the best.

Severus Snape stood stiffly in the corner of the holding cell; his back was against the wall and his cold, black eyes trained on the locked door. He studiously ignored the iron manacles clamped tightly around his wrists, weighing heavily on his arms and soul. A life of bad decisions had led him to this place, and, no matter how he strived for oblivion, visions of missed opportunities, could-have-beens, and never-will-bes crept unwanted into his mind as he prepared himself for death.

The door slammed open and a red-robbed Auror stomped in, making an almost unbearable amount of noise, intruding on a condemned man's last moments.

The Auror cleared his throat and began to speak as though reading from an unseen and uninteresting script.

"Eh-hem. Death Eater number twenty-three, you are to follow me to the antechamber. You will then be escorted to the auction stage. If you resist, deadly force will be used. The iron cuffs about your wrists prohibit you from using magic and cannot be removed. You will stand silently on stage until you are purchased. Upon which time, you will be presented to your owner. Should you dissatisfy your master in any way, he or she is permitted by the Ministry to use deadly force. You will serve your master until such a time that you are no longer useful. Should you attempt to harm your master in any way, the bond cast upon you will kill you instantly. Follow me."

Severus strode forward with his head held high, barely sparing a glance at the Auror. He would not be stunned and dragged into the chamber like livestock up for sale. He would go under his own power or not at all.

He followed the Auror into the antechamber where he was then received by a Ministry paper-pusher who was rubbing his hands together while pacing up and down the room.

The Auror cleared his throat again, and the office worker looked up, startled eyes taking in Severus and his guard.

"Ah! Yes, yes, they're just a-a-about done wi-with the last one. H-h-he'll be up in ju-ju-just a moment," the paper-pusher stuttered out, running a disproportionately large hand through his already disheveled hair. A sound not unlike the chime of a small, glass bell rang through the antechamber, and the wooden door at the far end of the room slid open.

"Richards," a voice called from beyond the door. "It's time for the next one. Send item number twenty-three in please." Richards, for that was the name of the ministry worker, jumped like a startled rabbit as he turned to the Auror.

"Th-that'll be him then. Pl-pl-please proceed."

Before the Auror, the paper-pusher, or the voice beyond the door could address him, Severus stepped fluidly into the auction chamber, his head held high and his mind as blank and heavy as the abyss.

He was led to a slightly raised platform in the middle of the stage and the auctioneer began to rattle off in the garbled language unique to his kind.

"Item number twenty-three. Bidding starts at 100 galleons, do I hear 100 galleons?"

Severus gazed out into the crowd, his eyes half-lidded in defense against the lights glaring down at him and the hungry eyes of the audience glaring up.

A red-faced man in the third row lifted his wand, bidding 100 galleons.

"100, 100, do I hear a 200?"

"400 galleons," called out a cold-eyed man near the back.

"400, 400, can I get a 600?"

A blond-haired witch with a sneer on her face raised her wand.

"600, 600, can I get…"

"1,000 galleons," bellowed a thick man who was taking up at least two seats.

"1,000! 1,000, can I get…"

"2,000 galleons," interjected a grim-looking man leaning against the far wall. "I'll pay 2,000 galleons for the miserable bastard."

The auctioneer stood with his mouth agape for a second or two before visibly gathering himself. "That's 2,000! Can I get 2,100? 2,100? 2,000 going once, going twice, and sold to bidder number five. Thank you sir, please go to the gate to receiver your property. Next we have item number twenty-four. Bidding starts at…"

Severus was led off stage and he stumbled for a moment, the heavy weight of his future pushing down tight on his chest. An Auror in crimson robes, apathetic to the fates of those around him, led Severus towards the gate.

Evan Harold Lilison. The name felt strange and bitter, even after nearly half a year of use.

Harry James Potter was dead. He had disappeared five months ago in a freak-accident at the ministry. Five months ago for Harry, and nearly twenty-five years in the future for the rest of the world.

Evan Harold Lilison had risen in the past from Harry's ashes.

Evan was a freelance guard, curse-breaker, and general handyman from Australia. He had grown up in Kent, and had been shipped off to some relatives in the down-under when his parents died. Most of the files on him had been lost in a niffler incident at the ministry a few years back, and he had never bothered to re-file. Not many people knew Evan, and those who knew him, knew little about him. Evan planned to keep it that way. He could easily accept the life of the undistinguished and unmemorable.

He couldn't, however, allow Severus Snape a man who had saved his life countless times, a man who had given up his life to defeat Voldemort, and was a generally ornery, spiteful, and undeniably dependable bastard, be sold like beast for slaughter.

Evan had been gaining a bit of a name for himself around the Ministry as the go to man when you needed something taken care of discretely. In exchange for his skill and silence, he had a fairly decent referral system going. He also had something of an information system. Very few of the ministry workers excelled at holding their tongues. Nearly all of them were more than willing to blab about the latest office projects and scuttlebutt. Most often, the information was inconsequential little tidbits, but every so often, something big would come up. The auctioning off of the lower-level Death Eaters to the highest bidders was big. The auction was only open to those specifically invited by the Ministry, and the general public was only aware that the auction would occur, not where and when.

When Evan learned of the auction from a loose-lipped accountant, he set about making small suggestions of how he had a grudge against all Death Eaters, and if he ever got a chance to own one, well, he would show them the consequences for their actions.

Two weeks later, Evan had received an invitation to the auction from a ministry official that he had worked for a few days prior, and he had responded immediately that he would be there. He nearly emptied his admittedly sparse Gringotts accounted and flooed to the ministry a full two hours before the auction was to begin.

There had been too many young, frightened faces on the auction block; too many who had made the same decision, and for many of them, it would be a death sentence. Evan felt his stomach clench and churn. His hand tightened around the wand in his pocket.

There had been too many eager, spine-chilling stares in the audience; too many who hungered for the destruction, the demise of anyone who could be blamed, guilty or not. Evan felt a cold sweat chill his body. He bit down hard on the words threatening to spill from his mouth.

Finally, Severus Snape came up to the block, his grime-coated robes swirling defiantly around him, his eyes half closed as though he were dismissing the audience as unimportant and beneath his notice.

Evan allowed himself a small smile as he leaned against the back wall, reassured that Snape was still an irritable, impossible, unbroken man.

2,000 galleons was almost all of the money that Evan had, but he felt no distress in spending it to buy Snape's freedom. He already knew, however, that the man wasn't going to make the ensuing days easy.

"If you will not free him, you will at least give me the right to bid. This auction is open to all 'upstanding citizens'. You will not deny me this right." Albus's face was tight, his blue eyes infinitely angry and infinitely sad at the same time.

"I wish I could Albus, but you and your colleagues cannot be trusted to keep an eye on the Death Eater as you should. I'm sorry Albus, but you are not allowed to bid, and neither are those close to you. Now if you will excuse me…" The minister began to turn away. She had tried to retreat to her office earlier, only to be cut off time and time again by Dumbledore. She took one step forwards, only to be pinned in place like a beetle pinned to a board by the weight of the raw magic crackling off of Dumbledore.

"You do not wish to do this Millicent. Severus Snape is an innocent man, and if you proceed down this path, you will lose the…"

"Mi-Mi-Minister Bagnold!" Richards shouted as he jogged down the narrow hallway. "Minister Bagnold!"

The minister took a gulp of air as the oppressive force of Dumbledore's magic finally released her. "Yes, what is it Richards?" She questioned in a slightly high pitched, pinched tone.

"Th-the auction ha-ha-has ended and w-w-we need you to sign off on s-s-some of th-the pa-pa-papers," Richards said, his eyes darting quickly between the minister and Hogwarts's headmaster, never once looking much higher than their knees.

"Ah. I must apologize, but I am needed elsewhere. If there is anything you wish to discuss, please contact the ministry through the proper routes and schedule a meeting." Millicent all but ran out of the hallway, Richards following on close on her heels.

Dumbledore closed his eyes and sent up a small, hopeless prayer for Severus's safety until he could be recovered.

Gods help whoever dare harm one hair on the young man's head.

Severus took in the appearance of his new 'master' with an internal sneer. He felt an odd sense of detachment from the entire situation. It seemed queer that, after surviving so many adversities, demons, and devils in his life, this unimposing man would be the one to finally kill him.

The man was shorter than Severus, only coming up to about chin level. Dark brown hair with a red tint to it was pulled into a sloppy ponytail at the nape of the man's neck, and brown eyes with flecks of green stared challengingly out from behind wire-rim glasses. The man was thin, but from the way his robes hung around his frame, he was well muscled. He didn't give off a feeling of power, wealth, or status. The man was completely mundane, and for some reason, that fact unsettled Severus more than anything else he had faced that day.

The Auror leading Severus summoned a scroll bound by a light blue ribbon and began to unroll it. "Mr. –," he began, before looking up at Severus's master.

"Lilison. Evan Lilison," prompted the man. Severus visibly flinched at the man's first name, so close to the surname of the friend he had so recently lost forever; a reminder of all of the pain he had caused her, of what he had done.

"Right then. Mr. Lilison, this item that you have bought today is a registered Death Eater. By signing this scroll, you are taking responsibility for this man. He will be your property, and you are authorized by the Ministry to treat him as such. Should he disobey you, you are authorized to use deadly force. The iron cuffs around his wrists prevent him from using magic of any sort. Should you wish to remove the cuffs, you must tap them with your wand with your intent in mind. The cuffs are irremovable otherwise. Should you wish to re-apply the cuffs, you merely need to snap them around the item's wrists. Once you sign this scroll, the item's bond will transfer from the Ministry onto you. This bond will allow you to know where your item is at all times, and if the item attempts to harm you, the item will be killed immediately by the bond. If you have any questions, you may ask me now, or contact the Ministry at a later date. Do you wish to proceed?"

The man, Lilison, nodded, and the Auror summoned a quill.

"Before you sign, do you have any questions?"

"Should I be expecting any check-ups from the Ministry?"

"You may receive a survey, asking about your satisfaction with the product and the process, but beyond that, the Ministry will not contact you on this matter unless you contact them."

Lilison nodded and rubbed the back of his neck with an open palm. "Will the Ministry, ehm, keep tabs on how I use my item?"

Severus couldn't completely contain the shiver that went through him at those words.

The Auror smirked slightly and shook his head. "Once you sign the scroll, the Ministry will have no contact with your item. There will be no Ministry interference unless your item breaks Ministry law, upon which time, you may be held accountable. Other than that, you are free to use it how you will."

"I'm ready to sign," Lilison declared, the corner of his mouth turning slightly up in a way that made Severus's stomach churn.

With the scratch of a quill on paper, Severus's life was signed away.

The scroll disappeared with poof, and the Auror dismissed Severus's new master with a nod before walking back towards the chamber.

"We will be flooing to my house. Stick close to me," Lilison said, not even bothering to look Severus in the eyes.

Severus wanted to spit on the man, just to prove that he was still free. He clenched his teeth instead.

They had almost made it to the Ministry floos when a slightly balding man called out to Lilison.

"I see you got the invitation I sent you. Glad you decided to show up and even buy yourself a little present. How long do you think it'll be before you break the bloody bastard? Given what I know about you, you'll have the damn thing sobbing for death within a week, eh?" The man chortled and patted Lilison on the shoulder. "Hope you at least get your money's worth."

The man walked off and Lilison brushed off his shoulder. His eyes were hard and cold.

"Let's go," he ordered Severus. "I'd rather not be delayed again."

Severus walked as slowly as he dared, his muscles all screaming at him to run.

Evan threw a handful of floo powder into an empty fireplace and the fire turned a brilliant emerald green. He grabbed Severus's wrist as they stepped into the flames. Severus wanted to pull his arm away, to shout at the man for touching him, to wake up from the nightmare.

"Daffodil Place," Lilison commanded, and the floo whisked them away.

Severus pretended that the sick feeling pervading his body was due to the spinning of the flames and chimneys.

All too quickly, the floo spat them out onto the hearth of a dimly lit parlor. Severus landed on his feet, but was pulled to the floor by Lilison's grip on his wrist.

Lilison stood up and pulled his wand out, training it on Severus. Severus glared up at the man, staring him in the eyes, daring him to cast a curse, to do his worst.

"Put your wrists out."

Severus stood up, his wrists held closely to his sides.

"Now!" Lilison's eyes had a hard edge to them. "Please," he added as an afterthought, grimacing slightly.

Baffled, Severus held out his wrists. There would be time to test Lilison's patience later.

Lilison tapped his wand against the iron manacles and they fell to the floor with a resounding crash.

Author's note: This story will be of indeterminate length and will be updated weekly on Sunday by 8:00 p.m. EST. Thank you for reading.