Severus Snape moaned quietly, when a brutal man opened the barred door a bit and jerked him to his feet with a sudden move. Barely able to move his stiff legs, the former Death Eater followed the guard. The stay in the cell only underlined the pallor of his face and the slimness of his build.
The man stopped before the door, but only with difficulty. The wizard that led him – nearly like a dog on a leash – pointed his wand at him. The noticeable traces of imprisonment disappeared. The guard opened the door and led him into the other room.
The clanking of the manacles brought Severus back to reality. He stood on a small dais and several other men awaiting the same fate were standing beside him. He could recognize some of the faces. For a moment he wondered why Lucius is not among them.
The second door opened. The man he has never seen before during his stay here led in several people. In contrast to himself, they were healthy, rich… and free. If he wanted, Severus would be able to hear their conversations. He didn't do it. The habits of the years of spying were strong, but the fear was even stronger.
One of "them" stopped in front of Severus. He could feel his gaze upon himself and realized again what he must look like. At least he was clean. But his entire clothing was composed of a rag wrapped around his hips. The man coughed.
'What is his name?'
'Severus Tobias Snape. A Death Eater-'
'How much?' the man standing in front of him cut in.
The man unknown to Severus had to be the seller. A shiver ran down Severus's back. It was one thing, to be taught the role of a slave by the way of beatings and torture, a completely another – to be a slave. The man standing in front of him was getting impatient – Snape could see him tapping his foot. An idiotic reflex, he thought, but quickly pushed that thought down.
'Two thousand Galleons' the seller said at last.
Snape heard the clanking of the coins – the man standing in front of him did not hesitate at all. The man that had just sold him pushed a parchment scroll into the hand of the buyer. Severus noticed a brand-new wedding ring on the owner's hand. His owner's.
'Name?' the seller asked.
The buyer made a bizarre sound, something like a cross between a laugh and a sigh.
'Harry James Potter'
Severus was so shocked that he was close to jerking his head up and staring into Potter's face. He stopped himself using his willpower. Since the new law was in motion, Severus had no rights. He was a traitor. A murderer. A slave.
The quill scratched when the seller filled out line after line. Owning a slave was allowed to select few. The few that were rich and well seen by the new Ministry of Magic, or rather, by the blue-collar workers. Severus doubted that it was Kingsley Shacklebolt who thought of slavery.
'Severus Tobias Snape, born on… Hey you! When were you born?'
Snape recited every fact demanded of him in a neutral voice, and then stood and watched as Potter signed the magically binding contract. He closed his eyes. To be Potter's slave! The Boy-Who-Lived passed the document back to the seller. The chains holding Severus disappeared.
'I can do what I want with him?' Potter asked.
'Yes, yes, of course, sir' the seller was rubbing his hands with glee. Severus did not have to see his face to know he'd see a cruel glint in the man's eyes.
Potter reached with his hand and clamped it on Severus's thin wrist. Didn't he know the magic made his escape impossible? Severus bent his head and concentrated on counting his footsteps to stop further thoughts in this vein.
Snape felt a familiar feeling of aportation. His owner was holding his wrist the entire time. A thought flashed through his head, what would Potter do? When he regained his sight, he saw a calm rural landscape instead of the dark walls of a cell. He stood on a narrow road leading to a house that seemed familiar… Severus forcibly stopped this feeling. Nothing good came out of delving in the past.
'That's my home' Potter said.
'Yes, master' he muttered, like he was taught to.
Severus noticed the Boy-Who-Lived took a step back.
'What?' his voice was filled with shock and outrage. 'I am not a master. Not even to Kreacher.'
'You are my owner, master' he replied in a neutral tone.
Potter hissed, frustrated. Severus guessed he is furious.
'Call me Harry' Severus shook his head. 'It can be even Potter, like at school' another shake of the head 'Well, let it be'
Potter walked briskly toward the house. Before he reached for the door-handle, the door opened and the red-haired woman ran outside. Severus, walking towards them, forced himself not to think of Lily. Otherwise he'd go mad. The force of the hug he was welcomed with turned Potter around. Is she Potter's woman? – Severus wondered for a moment, while walking inside behind his owner.
'Can you contact Hermione? You remember that law most of the Ministry were so stubborn about?'
'Of course I do. Slavery, what an idea! One guy tried to persuade Mum to buy a slave. She declined, of course.'
'Look who I found among those poor souls'
Snape saw eyes widening in shock before he directed his own gaze at the floor.
'Headmaster Snape? How? Where?' it seemed the woman had lost her ability to converse. There was something familiar about her. 'Harry James Potter, what is that supposed to mean?'
'I found him. At an auction in the Ministry. I'm sure it's him. I couldn't have left him. He doesn't deserve that.'
'Then why did you buy him?'
'To free him, of course'
'Harry…' the woman softened immediately 'you're an Auror, but that doesn't mean you have to save everyone!'
'Snape has done so much for us all… We'll just give his freedom back and it's all. He doesn't deserve that.'
Severus swallowed. Were he a different man, his eyes would fill with tears.
'Master Potter, I'm afraid it is not possible.'
'What?' a few years back, Severus would have thought Potter's and the woman's reactions laughable.
'The law does not allow freeing a slave, master Potter' Severus said neutrally.
'Even if the owner wishes so?' the woman shouted, gesturing wildly with her hands – Severus noticed a wedding ring.
'There are no exceptions to the law, mistress Potter…'
'Call me Ginny'
Severus blinked his eyes. He knew this name from somewhere. He did not reply.
'He doesn't seem to recognize you. Did you have classes with him?'
'I did. You don't remember Miss Weasley? Ginny Weasley?'
Oh… Severus looked away. Of course he remembered. It seemed she was Mrs. Potter now. A happy wife of the Boy-Who-Lived. From rags to riches and so on. A romantic fairytale for the next generations.
'I remember, mistress Potter.'
'There is nothing to be done for sure?' Potter asked.
Severus shook his head, not daring to look in his face. The Boy-Who-Lived made a choked sound and raced out of the room, his wife following. Severus went in their footsteps… only to find Potter, who was white as a wall, in the bathroom. His skin contrasted with his black, messy hair.
Before Severus understood what he is to do, Potter vomited. Ginny was at his side in the next moment, massaging his back and giving him a glass of cold water that didn't help noticeably. Potter was muttering in a disjoined way between the attacks – Snape caught his own name.
'Shack… Snape… Nagini… memories… look… Lily…'
The boy vomited again, and Severus realized at last that Potter must be seeing Nagini bite him. It couldn't be a pleasant sight. Snape lifted his hand without conscious action to his neck, to the scars the snake's attack left upon him. He barely survived. He came round in the cell…
'Please leave' Ginevra Potter said quietly, and he automatically did as he was ordered to, closing the door behind him.