Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or any of the associated trademarks. Would that I could.
The infinitely little have a pride infinitely great.
Eileen Snape hadn't been one for dwelling in the past.
For the bulk of her days she set her head straight and lips drawn and got on with what needed to be done. Spinners End was miserable enough without dwelling on the endless could-haves of life. Severus preferred it that way. He could deal with The Bastard, rambling on about his usual drivel, but his mum's resolute quiet was his world's last shield. He had spent the bulk of his youth, when it was too cold or wet or horrid to go out, ensconced in the quiet of her kitchen. It was a silence that rested lightly, that carried all that need not be said away and left them, as they liked it- on their own.
It was only after the particularly bad nights that the damn of quiet cracked.
It was in the small hours of the morning, in the tiny kitchenette under a faint white electric light, that Severus had to listen to his mother as the flood of words trickled forth, like the blood beneath the cheap gauzing. He would pretend, valiantly, endlessly, to stay afloat while he listened to his mother choke and splutter on the could-haves should-haves would-haves and watch her drown in the tears she promised him she truly deserved.
Severus had learned to keep his mouth shut. Not to tell her it would be alright, or that they were happy, or that they ever would be. Just to sit and make sure she wasn't left alone. To make sure he could throw himself in the way if The Bastard came back downstairs.
It was in that island of dim electric light that Severus learned of his maternal grandparents- their scorn for their only child. How Eileen Prince was compared with the other eligible pure-blood daughters, and constantly left wanting. Not pretty enough. Not clever enough. About as charming as a lump of clay. It was a shock for Severus when he first arrived at Grimauld Place, to be faced with the formidable portrait of Walburga Black. She looked nothing like the charming, beautiful witch his mother had whimpered over in their kitchen. Eileen Prince had been promised to Orion Black, a marriage contract that had cost her father a great deal of gold and a heavy portion of his lands. The Prince family, by this stage, had a pure blood line but none of the grandeur or titles to accompany it. He'd been 7 when he'd first heard his mother's traitorous whispers of her former, now forbidden life. He'd only fully understood it at the age of 11.
The Bastard had taken the cord of the Iron to her back. Severus had stepped in at the last. He should have stepped in sooner. He was a coward. His mother cried more for his marks than her own though, and while Severus hated the stories of her former life- despised hearing of the path she should have chosen, of the pain she might have never known- he asked for the rest of the story. His mother told him of Slytherin house. How no matter how meek, or plain, or unremarkable you may be, greatness was expected of you. You were respected for the greatness you may one day achieve. It was clear among her housemates that her only greatness was the marriage contract her father had brokered for her. A sold filly, to one day become the Black's fresh brood mare.
How Severus hated her.
Crying, bleeding on the kitchen floor. Washing out his wounds with scalding hot water while her wand lay locked away. All because of her misplaced pride.
He heard her tales of the Gryffindor tarts who'd mocked his mother throughout her school years. He heard of how the great Slytherin daughters, the purebloods who could have been his aunts and cousins, had defended his mother. Had taken in the stupid, plain Eileen Prince despite her shortcomings. How she had believed them her friends, not bought or swayed by the money her father had flung upon his daughters future.
How she had been mistaken. How she had walked in on the pretty, charming Walburga and her intended. How she had left without a sound.
He never asked his mother how The Bastard came into the story. Tobias Snape had blasted the chapter often enough. How he'd been plastered in a pub in London. How he'd found a pretty enough lass crying her eyes out. How he'd taken her in, given her a home, and never questioned the story of her family throwing her out for refusing to marry her intended. How he'd been repaid with a lying, unnatural whore who'd spawned him a freak of a son and cursed the rest of his life.
Severus never asked for her parent's reaction. Never asked if she wished she'd gone along with the marriage. Never goaded her into continuing, no matter how bitterly he sometimes wanted to. No matter how much he longed to hear his mother denounce her choice, to make her apologise for the life they lived. There were no could haves or would haves that would make the faintest bit of difference.
He simply let her tale falter off half finished, let the unspoken words float above the silence once more, and wiped the kitchen down until the blood no longer shone garishly in the dim electric light. His mother would resume her quiet, proud stance the next day and soon enough Severus would leave for Hogwarts at last. He'd always wondered, at night in the dark slytherin common room, whether the light in his mother's kitchen was on. Whether she still let her words spill out, without him there. Whether or not she'd last until he came home for the summer. He tried to tell himself he didn't hate her. That he only hated The Bastard. But he'd had a skull on his arm for the last 20 years that said otherwise.
And now the Granger girl was running off, fleeing from an arranged marriage, from the protection and support of her loved ones and Severus couldn't decide who he hated more: the girl for her stubborn, foolish course of action, The Ministry for their ridiculous interference, or himself.
For caring at all.
For returning to his dark, sparse cottage, the girl's research crumpled in his fist and his mind awash with the events of the past hour.
It was none of his damned business. He'd simply put the research away. Go back to his life. He didn't know why he'd stayed to hear the mess the girl was in at all. It had taken Kingsley three quarters of an hour to explain everything.
A Marriage law.
The ministry actually believed it could enforce a marriage law.
It was ludicrous.
It was barbaric.
It was none of that damned girls business.
Well, granted, she'd be one of the citizens affected but surely she was the only muggleborn witch presumptuous enough to take on the entire ministry of magic single handedly- Presumptuous or proud or a mixture of the two.
The ministry deserved it of course! How dare the rent the newly won peace, the peace Severus had bled, cried and almost died for. Severus could imagine his escaped comrades, the death eater scum still at large, laughing at the newly announced law. One could be forgiven for thinking the war had been lost after all.
And yet, the girl had no part in it. Hadn't he seen the ginger whelp propose to the girl? Hadn't Minerva mentioned they'd been living together since the eve of the battle?
Surely, the girl had options. Hell, Severus wasn't immune to the fame the girl had attracted- Muggleborn best friend of the boy-who-unfortunately-fucking-lived, brightest witch of her age and the brains of the golden trio. She would have suitors lining around the block. Even without all of that, Severus was not blind to the girls other charms.
Stubbornness was definitely not among them. Why was she set about scampering round Europe now?
Kingsley of course had explained the ministries interest in her as a figurehead. A grand wedding, the ministry footing the bill, publication all throughout the press: Two thirds of the golden trio, united in support of the marriage law. A symbol of a post-war world with one thing in mind:
Unity despite blood status, Procreation above all else.
Severus grunted as he shouldered his way through the front door.
The girl was a fool. An idiot. She was wasting everything: Her internship, her good name, her standing with the ministry. Not to mention she was risking her life. The most well known muggle born enemy of the Dark Lord, main contributor to his fall and best friend to Harry Potter, on the run with only a wand and her wits to protect her.
He'd told Kingsley so. The darker man had only let his eyes crinkle as he stared down Severus. He'd been so close to blasting the irritating, grim smile of the man's face with a tirade of angry shouts before the French girl- Miss Delacluer- no, Mrs Weasley, had haughtily stopped him in his tracks.
"What iz eet to you what Hermione does?"
It was nothing to him how the chit ruined her life.
The flimsy sheets of parchment in his hand felt ridiculous.
What was he doing standing in the sitting room of these people.
He would have left then- turned and stalked out without another word, had Kingsley not sat and carried on with his tale.
The girl's theft from St Mungo's. The ministries' use of Caligula. The corruption of the Wizengamot. The man only sighed and looked at Severus searchingly before rubbing tiredly at his eyes. Kingsley expected an emergency call of council tonight. He wasn't foolish enough to wait for an invitation, but he would leave then and track the homes of a few key Wizengamot members. If they left at any stage in the night he would be alerted. If there was any chance Kingsley could divert the process of the bill, to bring the publics attention to the immorality of it all, he would take it. Severus had kept his mouth firmly shut and his face entirely blank. A disgraced ex-minister, the surviving dregs of the Order of the Phoenix, and a 20-year-old soon to be fugitive. The law would be carried out and Severus highly doubted their efforts would count for anything.
Sitting now, in his darkened living room, Severus flung the girls research to the floor. Short of the girl being found, and submitting to marriage, there was no way he'd be able to make amends with her now. The foolish, bleeding heart Gryffindor would continue fighting for the outcasts of the world once more, and he would return to his quiet and his solitude. What did he care if the Wizarding world fell to hell around him? He wasn't forced to marry. He wasn't bound to help those affected. He wasn't a Gryffindor and he was no longer part of the blasted Order.
He'd given enough.
Severus only groaned as the muggleborn's he's seen tortured, humiliated, killed, all flashed before his eyes.
He'd saved all he could.
He hadn't saved enough.
And even now they weren't free.
But what could he do? There was no documented evidence that Caligula was out rightly poisonous, or contributed to still births and miscarriages. Even if he found a way to stop Draco pursuing his plans, to forbid him somehow of supplying the ministry, other sellers would take advantage of the situation. The ministry would find supply one way or another. He himself could work to prove the substance hazardous- but even so.
What was it to him?
Rising from his chair, Severus stalked to the mantelpiece, lit the grate and threw a handful of floo powder into the mix. As the room was filled with green light, his frown was thrown into sharp relief and he concentrated on fighting back the tide of broken faces that flitted behind his eyes.
Severus kept the connection brief. Bending to enter the grate, he didn't pause to notice the drawn, tired face of his godson, or the papers stacked up around him.
"I'll be free to assist in your selection whenever convenient, Draco."
He'd never be able to give enough.
A/N: Not sure I've done Severus' perspective justice, but suffice to say he's more than a little put out. Thanks to all of you for your reviews and comments last chapter, I was overcome to think you guys were still reading this xx