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Severus Snape took his seat at the high table with grace. He was a proud man. He was wearing the same black robes it seemed he wore every day.

He absent-mindedly pushed a lock of greasy hair out of his eyes. To his left, Minerva McGonagall, now Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, chuckled. "Not nervous now, are we, Severus?"

"Of course not." He grumbled. "Why should I be nervous? I have only been teaching for eighteen years. Why? Indeed."

Minerva just smiled, placing a hand over Severus' cold thin one. She had known Severus for many years, and was one of the few that could see past the cold and vindictive mask he put assumed. "The students will not think any less of you for the events that happened last year."

"I assure you, they could not." Severus snapped. "Not that it is a matter of concern to me, as the more students are afraid of me, the less I have to deal with-"

The doors of the Great Hall opened and students began flooding in, all dressed in black robes that were identical, save for their House colours on the underside of their hoods. Of all ages, shapes, and sizes, the twelve through eighteen-year-olds appeared excited to be back at school, and seemed to have shed any bad memories of what had happened in the Great Hall just months before.

That is, some seemed to have forgotten. Others seemed barely able to hold in tears.

Severus could read people well. He always had been able to. A trait of a child with an abusive father, he supposed. He had learned at a young age to tell how much his father had had to drink, or what he was thinking. Now, Severus had very good Legilimency skills, and could probe into people's minds at will. He did not usually bother to look into his students' minds though, as there was usually not enough there to look through.

"Potter is here," Minerva murmured.

"So I've seen." Severus sniffed. The short, black-haired boy stood calmly at the Gryffindor table, chatting with his Weasley friend. He caught Severus' eye and, to Severus' surprise, nodded in greeting.

Severus ignored him.

He had never liked the Potter boy. Severus had gone to school with his father, James, and they had hated each other. Severus had never done anything to James to make him hate him, but Severus had had good reason to hate James. James, along with his best friends, had played pranks on him and embarrassed in just about every way possible. As if that were not enough, James married Lily Evans, whom Severus had loved. Only two years later, Lily and James had died; Severus would never forgive James for marrying Lily, and for not protecting her from the Dark Lord. And he hated Harry for being a replica of the man he despised. Hero, indeed.

James and Lily's son was the image of James, except for the eyes. Harry had his mother's eyes. Hidden behind glasses, they shone a bright emerald green. Severus often found himself staring into those eyes and thinking of Lily, before snapping out of his daze.

Since Potter had likely seen it fit to share his memories with his fellow Gryffindors, Severus was anticipating humiliating remarks from students who thought he was out of earshot. Students often mocked him, thinking he could not hear them. Nevertheless, he always did, as he had very sharp ears. He was very aware of the jokes about his greasy hair, but those jokes, like any other joke made by a student, never bothered him. If "slimy git" was the worst thing he was ever called, he would be much luckier than most.

The doors of the Great Hall burst open again. Hagrid, the half giant, was leading in a bunch of first-years. Tiny and scared to death, usually in brand-new robes, the first-years were all the same.

Severus gave them a hard stare, and enjoyed seeing most of them look away in fear. There was little better in his job than scaring first-years. He got sparse enjoyment from his job as Potions teacher, and whilst he loathed students, he actually enjoyed the teaching itself. He still wanted the Defence Against the Dark Arts job – he had gotten a taste of it before, but wanted to do it his way, and not under the eyes of the corrupted Ministry.

He liked how Potions was precise – if you stirred this root with that weed clockwise thirty-three times, you would get the same Potion every time. It was something that was true, that always stayed the same. One never had to worry that four Leeches, sixteen scruples of Fluxweed and fifteen blades of Knotgrass, and certain other things, would not result in Polyjuice Potion. It would be. It had to be. It was relatively simple.

Simple was not always better, however. People were relatively simple as well – wizard, witch, or Muggle, most humans did not realise how boringly predictable they were.

"A penny for your thoughts?" Sylvester Malinghan, the new Defence Against the Dark Arts professor asked.

"Look at them." Severus said. "They are just the same – every single one of them. The first-years are just like the seventh and eighth-years were at their age."

"They are children, Professor." Professor Malinghan reminded the Potions Master. "Surely-"

"Look at that small one." Severus interrupted as if Professor Malinghan had not even spoken. "That second-year, in Hufflepuff. Watch her. She is about to look over at the Slytherin table and grin."

Professor Malinghan set his eyes on a petite black-haired girl who indeed glanced over at the Slytherin table and grinned.

"Now she will whisper something in her friend's ear, and look up towards our table."

The new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher watched in amazement as the young girl did exactly that.

The Sorting began. Professor Malinghan did not have a chance to reply to to Severus, but did not have a chance due to Minerva's speech. Severus enjoyed watching him twitch umcomfortably out of the corner of his eye.

Honestly, if predicting the actions of a small child worried Malinghan, what was he doing teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts? Now that the position was no longer cursed, he would have to have another word with Minerva on the subject.

That said, he was sure the new professor had heard stories about Severus, which made his concern more understandable. Given the events of the past year, any new staff member had to be briefed on why Severus Snape, former Death Eater, was allowed to still teach. He knew Fillius was having fun spreading rumours about him to the new staff in order to discredit the Death Eater stories. It had gotten back to Severus that he was apparently both a bat and a vampire. That day, Minerva had addressed the rumours at a staff meeting Severus had chosen to attend incognito. She assured new staff that they were all false, including the rumour of his being a Death Eater as it had only partially been true.

The new assistant groundskeeper had then asked why he was so ornery, and no one who knew Severus attempted to refute or explain that.

Just as things began to calm down in the Great Hall, students properly Sorted and food on the tables, the large doors of the Great Hall swung open. Three Aurors came in. Severus stood and brandished his wand on reflex. Nearly every other staff member stood as well, though concealing his or her weapons.

The Great Hall, normally full of chatter and laughter, fell silent.

"We're here to find Severus Snape." An Auror announced in a thick accent. "Professor Severus Snape."

What? Why? Severus kept his expression carefully guarded, as he did at all times. He often had little control over events, but he could control his reaction to them. If he never showed emotion, that he was happy, angry, or surprised, he was not weak.

Severus caught the eye of the lead Auror. "Ah, Mr. Snape." He pointed his wand at Severus, the other two Aurors following suit. "Stringy black hair, pale, on edge... I think we've found our man."

"May I help you?" Severus said coldly. He hated to be the centre of attention and to be so in front of students was even worse.

"Lower your wand, Mr. Snape." The Auror ordered. "You are under arrest by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, a branch of the British Ministry for Magic."

"Am I?" Severus challenged, not lowering his wand, ignoring the strangled gasps from around the Hall. "Under what charges?"

The Auror smiled menacingly. "For conspiring with You-Know-Who, and consequently, for multiple murders, rapes, and use of all three Unforgiveables."

At those words, Severus saw Potter jump to his feet, aiming his wand at the Aurors. "He did no such thing!" Potter yelled in Severus' defence. "He-"

"Thank you, Mr. Potter," Severus said, using a calm monotone voice. However, he felt anything but calm. Former Death Eaters were guilty until proven innocent, and were often arrested and punished in haste as Aurors and the Ministry wanted to take few chances with them. "I see. However, I am sure you have made a mistake, Mr...?"

"You will call me 'sir' and 'sir' only." The Auror sneered. "We have a warrant for your arrest. Come along with us, now – we haven't all day."

"I am sure that you have received the necessary papers from the late Professor Dumbledore and the Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt?" Severus inquired. "I assure you, I have been cleared of all-"

"Petrificus Totalus," the Auror said simply, before Severus could react.

Severus felt his legs come tightly together and stiffen, his arms coming to his sides in an equally rigid position. He immediately fell to the floor, stiff as a board, hitting his head on a chair on his way down.

Chapter Text

They came into the Great Hall... I was speaking of something and then... what happened after that? Severus closed his eyes tightly. He could not remember what happened; the events in the Great Hall were all a blur. Had they cursed him, or did they do a shoddy job of removing the memory?

Perhaps it was his head hitting the chair on the way down that was responsible for some of the memory loss.

Ignoring the throbbing pain in his head, he shifted position. Though his hands were secured behind his back and the light in the room hurt his head too much to open his eyes, he could assess the situation. He was in a wooden chair. His hands were tied to the back of the chair, as he could scarcely move them. He was unable to move his legs as well; he could feel a rope or bracket around each of his ankles.

The pain in his head was horrendous. Not a dull ache, but a throbbing pain that felt like knives stabbing into his skull. Severus tried to open his eyes, but the bright light in the room was unbearable. One eye was crusted shut with dried blood.

Taking a deep shaky breath, Severus tried to stand up, failing. He was tied too tightly to the chair to move. His robes did not make him any more comfortable as the fabric twisted, restricting much movement in the small chair.

"Ah... Severus Snape." Severus jumped at the deep voice.

"What is it that you want?" Severus rasped. His throat was drier than it had been in a long time.

"Just a confession and you will be out of here before you know it." The man said. "Were you or were you not working for You-Know-Who?"

No! Dumbledore left behind proof of my loyalty... Shacklebolt is the Minister for Magic... The pain made it difficult to be coherent, but he needed to be; Dumbledore was no longer there to advocate for him, and he had no guarantees anyone else cared enough to speak on his behalf.

"I was not." Severus stated. "The Dark Lord thought I was his most loyal, but in reality, I was working against him. I worked with Albus Dumbledore, as well as Harry Potter, and used my supposed status as a Death Eater to gain inside information. I did not-"

"-but is it not true that from 1978 through a majority of 1980, you were a follower of You-Know-Who?" The man pressed.

Severus hoped his face was as guarded as he would like. That statement was true. He had hoped that he had redeemed himself in the years that had followed. "Where is it that you get your information?" He answered with another question.

"That is irrelevant." The man stated. "Answer the question, Mr. Snape. There will be no getting out of this, as you are wandless and I am not beyond using torture to get a confession out of you."

"I would like to speak to the Minister for Magic." Severus stated. "He is a friend of mine." 'Friend' was not an accurate description of their relationship, but it would do. If namedropping Dumbledore and Potter had not caused the interrogator to blink, he was most certainly in trouble.

The man snorted. "That's what they all say."

"Hypothetically speaking, what if I was a Death Eater for two years, many years ago?" Severus challenged. "What would you do to me? Send me to Azkaban?" Severus was not afraid of Azkaban the way most Death Eaters were. Obviously, he really did not want to go, but if he were sent, he would find a way to die before long. He was now more alone than he ever had been, without a real purpose for living, so he supposed Azkaban could not be much worse.

"Are you saying that you did work for You-Know-Who?" The man interrogated. "We have three men who were under the Imperius curse. They have testified that you indeed worked for You-Know-Who."

"And who are these three men?" Snape refused to admit that he, in foolishness, had joined up with the Dark Lord for two years, before changing sides, about which the Dark Lord had never known.

"What is it to you?" The man growled. "Just answer the question!"

They turned in circles, figuratively, for hours. Severus was beginning to feel exhausted, but he did not let down his emotional or Occlumency guards.

If I say 'yes', they will send me to Azkaban. Severus mulled over his options. However, I am saying 'no', and they do not believe me!

"Give me some Veritaserum!" Severus shouted hoarsely hours later, his one eye wide open, the other still crusted shut from the blood of the wound on his head. "I will prove it to you! I will tell you that I was nothing but a spy!" He shook his head desperately. "If you want the truth, I will tell you!"

"Death Eaters have been known to lie through Veritaserum." The interrogator reminded Severus. "Nothing will get you out of this one, Mr. Snape. We have too reliable of sources to-"

"Who are your sources?" Severus willed himself not to struggle against the bonds that held him to his chair. If he did, it would be a sign of weakness and defeat. "If you want names of Death Eaters, I can give you a whole list of names! I already have before! Nicholas Vance, Alecto and Amycus Carrow, Monique Hagen, Barty Crouch, Jr..." he paused. "Gregory Goyle, Vincent Crabbe, Lucas Plading, Lucius Malfoy!" Severus shook his head. "I have hundreds of names of Death Eaters, dead and alive, from dozens of countries!"

"And you will give us that list." The man said, a smile on his face. "After we go through the appropriate measures necessary to punish you. After all, you have given us proof that you were a Death Eater – how else would you know those names?"

Merlin! Severus was Head of Slytherin House – he did not make mistakes like that. He always managed to evade the truth. However, after hours of interrogation, he had faltered. "I was his right-hand, his favourite Death Eater, but I was not really a Death Eater. He thought I was, but I was a spy for the Light, as Minster Shacklebolt has surely informed you."

"Sure," The man drawled out. "Those names you gave us, Goyle, Crabbe and Malfoy? They are all alive and well, you realise. The Imperius curse has left its scars, of course, but with time, perhaps they will get their lives back in order."

Severus' mouth dropped open. He was too tired to stop it from doing so. "Lucius?" He rasped. "That bastard is one of your 'reliable sources'?"

He felt a slap across his cheek. "Yes!" The man said. "We have looked into his memories with a Pensieve – so many thoughts and memories show you placing inappropriate curses on people and-"

"The Dark Lord taught him how to show you select memories and false memories!" Severus shouted. "The Dark Lord taught his servants many tricks and Dark Magic! He-"

"That is untrue!" The man slapped Severus again – hard. "Using false memories in a Pensieve is impossible! Silencio!"

How is it possible that such idiotic dunderheads can possibly run our world?  Severus wondered, not for the first time in the past eight hours of interrogation (he could tell by the oversized pocket watch the interrogator wore).

The Auror questioning Severus turned on his heel and marched away, securing Severus in the small locked room alone. Alone and too exhausted to plot how to get his way out.

Time stood still in that room. With the walls painted white, no windows or clocks to speak of, with no one in there other than Severus, time did not move. Severus could not tell how long he had been there after the interrogator left – it could have been five hours or five days.

What is happening to me? Surely, this is all a mistake. I am not a criminal. I do not deserve this. Severus was not a conceited or vain man, but nor was he overly modest. He had made many mistakes in his life, but he had also suffered through a lot. He deserved the life he had, the tedious teaching, the obnoxious students, the lack of a partner or family.

He had killed people when working for the Dark Lord, but never in cold blood. And unlike all the other Death Eaters, he had never enjoyed it. And whilst many of the Death Eaters did not kill the women right away, but would rape and then kill them, Severus had never done that. The idea had always sickened him. Severus did what he had to do to survive when he was working for the Dark Lord, and since the early 1980s, had shown compassion to any victim of the Dark Lord's whenever possible. He had even managed to help a few Death Eaters run away, and let countless victims escape, all under the Dark Lord's nose, without him ever suspecting.

He had been convinced over the years that there had been enough redemption to spare him. Dumbledore had assured him that he would not get in trouble with the Ministry, that the Ministry would learn the truth and forgive him. Dumbledore had had it all planned. Apparently, Dumbledore had not taken into account Lucius Malfoy, who could worm his way out of anything, even if it meant selling out a fellow Slytherin.

I am scared, Severus realised with shock. Severus had known fear in his thirty-eight years – plenty of fear – but had never had time to dwell on it as he was now. He had never been afraid of something he was helpless to fix. When he had realised that Lily was going to die, he had had only moments to be afraid before he realised that it had happened. When he was going to be killed by Nagini, he had only had seconds to think on it before Potter had stunned the snake. He had never had hours to actually consider the horrible situation he was in, and now that he did... it was unpleasant.

His stomach felt like it was turning inside out. His teeth hurt. He wanted to vomit, but he could not show his fear outwardly. Some people had trouble hiding their emotions, but not Severus. Severus had trouble showing them. And he hated to show them, because that was what people wanted to see. The Aurors were intent on seeing Severus suffer, and Severus would not give them that joy. He refused.

"Why, Severus Snape..." Lucius Malfoy's voice jerked Severus out of his thoughts. Severus immediately Occluded his mind, to make sure no one could penetrate. For the most private part of his body was his brain, and he would protect it all costs.

"Malfoy." Severus spat. Or tried to. No sound came out of his mouth.

The interrogator put a silencing charm on me, Severus had forgotten. He not going to continue to try to talk. Struggling against binds he could not possibly escape would only give the Aurors and Lucius Malfoy happiness. A sick sort of happiness, that he would not give them.

He glared up at Lucius. Tall and pale, his blonde hair cascaded past his shoulders. His steel grey eyes looked down at Severus, his head held high. An amused smirk rested on his face.

"You never thought it would happen, did you?" He hissed at Severus, who stared back, not blinking. That had a tendency to unnerve people, and that was exactly what Severus wanted to do to Lucius. If he couldn't use his words to insult him, he could use his eyes.

"Ah, but you are not amused?" Lucius continued to taunt. "Perhaps this will amuse you – I am here to see your punishment take place, Severus Snape. That's right. My reward for assisting in the capture of one of You-Know-Who's most violent sidekicks – aside from more Galleons than you have ever seen – is getting to watch you suffer."

Severus had seen many people receive the Dementor's Kiss before and whilst he knew it was a horrible fate, he took comfort in the fact that the misery only lasted a short while.

"I had a long discussion with the Head of the Auror Office," Lucius continued. "It seems that he agrees that Azkaban is not such a terrible punishment any longer, not as it was before, and so would not suit a Death Eater. A true Death Eater needs to suffer, not die or lose his mind. He must really feel the pain."

Hypocrite, Severus thought, angrily. If anyone was a true Death Eater, it was you. Truth be told, Lucius had not been well-liked by the Dark Lord, who seemed to sense his hypocritical attitude, but Lucius had honestly believed all of the beliefs the Dark Lord had fed him, about killing off Muggle-borns and such. If that did not make a true Death Eater, Severus didn't know what did.

Lucius grabbed Severus' chin and jerked his head up, forcing Severus to look at him. "So what punishment did he decide on? What do you think, Severus?"

Being under the Imperius curse? Severus wondered. The Imperius curse forced people to follow orders. Those under that particular Unforgivable were in their right minds whilst under it, so if one were told to sit on a bed of nails, even if their mind screamed "no!", they would still sit down on it without question. Severus had it placed on him many times, in order to learn how to fight it.

Or perhaps rotting in jail somewhere else? A concentrated Cruciatus? Severus tried to think of a punishment that the Ministry would deal out. In the past, it had been warnings, suspending of magic, a normal prison or Azkaban. How would they punish a 'Death Eater', if not in Azkaban?

"We're ready for him." An Auror stepped into the room.

"Finally." Lucius dropped Severus' chin. "Finally, we'll see some justice for all those lives lost." His eyes flashed angrily at Severus.

Severus had to hand it to Lucius; he knew how to put on a show. Then again, he was a Slytherin. Most Slytherins knew by the time they came to Hogwarts how to make up a lie and tell it well, and if they didn't, they quickly learned.

The Auror waved his wand and uttered a spell, freeing Severus from his restraints. He then pointed his wand at Severus in a threatening way. "We have Aurors positioned outside this door, down this hall... all over this building. If you dare try anything, you will be punished for that as well. Understood?"

Yes – no matter what, I am being punished. However, they won't kill me, because that would be too easy.

The man stuck his wand into Severus' cheek in a menacing way. "Understood, scum?" He growled.

Severus had not heard the man release him from the silencing charm, and he was not about to give anyone the satisfaction of seeing him struggle against it. He merely nodded as a response, angry that he had just responded to the title of "scum".

But what else can you do? He reminded himself as he was led out of the room. True to the Auror's words, the hall was filled with Aurors, all with wands pointed at Severus. The last thing you need to do is make them angrier.

He wished he could say something to appease them, to perhaps talk his way out of the situation. However, he had never been one to talk his way out situations, Slytherin or not. He was cunning and clever, but talking his way out of situations had never been his strength. He had no charm. He always preferred not being caught over having to worm his way out of consequences.

He was led into a small room, flooded with Ministry officials, Aurors, and reporters. Nowhere did Severus see Kingsley Shacklebolt.

"Where is the Minister?" He demanded. His words were not heard as the silencing charm was indeed still in effect.

Does Shacklebolt even know what is going on? Severus wondered as he was led to the front of the room. Shacklebolt does not like me, but he will not allow this – whatever it is – to happen. Shacklebolt knows where my loyalties lie. And he knows that Lucius Malfoy was not under the Imperius curse in any way! For once in his life, Severus was desperate to see the man.

"On your knees, scum!" The Auror who had led him to the room snarled.

Severus looked around the room. All the reporters stood, quills in hand, waiting for Severus' response. The flashbulbs of cameras were going off. Aurors looked expectantly at Severus, some angry, some excited, some even appeared bored. Severus did not look at Lucius Malfoy, but knew even so that the man looked smug at Severus' situation, likely proud that he was responsible for putting Severus in such an awful situation for betraying the Dark Lord.

The ironic part was that Lucius was getting out of the punishment he deserved unscathed.

"On your knees!" The man screamed at him.

No. Severus glared at the man. I will not get on my knees. That is the equivalent of bowing. Of bowing to you, your colleagues, these reporters... I will not. Kneeling in someone's presence was reserved for being in the presence of a very important person. One might bow to a powerful wizard, such as the Dark Lord or even... Potter, but Severus would never do it again. He had only bowed to the Dark Lord to save the world (although Potter got sole credit) and would never bow to another breathing being again. He had dignity and self-respect that he fully intended on keeping.

Run away. He looked around the room. There were far too many armed Aurors to transform into his Animagus form and fly out of the room, or to fly using that Dark spell the Dark Lord had created. They would kill him in an instant. Was that preferable to his fate? He didn't know

Two Aurors stepped forward. One began forcefully pushing down on Severus' shoulders while the other kicked Severus in the back of the knees; Severus fell down in a kneeling position with a loud thud!

Severus resisted the urge to cry out, although his cries would not be heard due to the silencing spells anyhow. Being pushed to his knees with such force was very painful. At thirty-eight, Severus was still young for a wizard, but his body had seen much trauma in those years. He did not know how much force his knees could take.

"Bow your head, hands crossed behind your back, knees spread apart!" The man barked.

A chill ran up Severus' spine as he tried to remember. He had read something on this once. Something about being in that uncomfortable position seemed familiar. He had never done it before, but he had read about it or heard about it... On his knees, his bent legs spread as far as possible, bowed head with hands behind his back... where had he read of that before?

A man, not an Auror, but from the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, the Being Division, began to read out a scroll in a clear voice.

"Severus Tobias Snape, under the charges of murder, rape, following You-Know-Who faithfully for twenty years, amongst other charges, is convicted and sentenced to a lifetime of servitude to the Wizarding population."

Servitude? Merlin! Severus knew that none of his surprise or horror was showing on his face and for that, he was grateful. The last thing he needed was for the reporters to have a picture of him breaking down to put on the cover of The Daily Prophet. Servitude? As in slavery? I cannot – I will not! He tried to stand up in protest, to attempt to escape or be killed in the process, but was shoved back down by the Aurors standing at his side.

"Your rights as a slave are few." The man continued. "You must do anything and everything any wizard tells you to do, unless specifically told not to by your current owner. You will refer to your owners as "Master" or "Mistress" and every other being above you as told. You will not earn an income, but anything you do earn will be turned over to your owner. In addition, anything you currently own or may be given in the future is the property of your owner. If given permission, you may use the items, but you do not own anything. You can make no important decisions for yourself. You must submit yourself to any punishment chosen for you, whether or not you consider it to be justified. You have no legal status, except as property, and may not sign any legally binding contracts, unless given written permission by your owner. You may not get married, nor may you reproduce without permission from your owner. Failure to comply with any of these rules can and will result in punishment from your owner, in any way your owner deems acceptable. If you attempt to harm your master, you will be killed instantly by the Enslavement curse..."

Severus was beginning to feel numb inside. He could scarcely pay attention to the list being read to him, much less the people surrounding him, staring and whispering. Slave? Owner? It did not make sense. Severus understood that, unlike in the Muggle world where slavery was illegal in most advanced and modern countries, it was perfectly legal in the wizarding world. Most people resorted to the use of House Elves, for they were easier to manage as they had little will of their own. They were also smaller - easier to feed and punish - and were much more magical than your average wizard. However, human slaves were not unheard of.

The man reading from the scroll held his wand to Severus' temple. Made of elm, roughly twelve inches long, Severus tried not to flinch away at its touch.

He squirmed, in an effort to escape the Aurors pinning him down. Death was preferable to this. He regretted not trying to escape when he had a chance.

The man began to utter a string of words, French words that Severus did not understand. Contrary to what the Muggles believed, Latin was not a dead language, and several powerful wizards spoke it fluently, Severus included. However, French had never seemed essential to learn. Now he wished he knew what was being said in this ancient French spell.

Just as the man finished speaking, Severus felt a burning pain in his forehead. Nearly unbearable. It felt just as bad – or worse – than a concentrated Cruciatus. Not that Severus had ever experienced a concentrated Cruciatus – but he had experienced a normal one and this pain was worse. He could not breathe, or think... it took everything he had not to move, to keep from writhing on the floor and screaming. It felt like knives cutting his forehead open, stabbing his forehead. It was like being branded with hot rods all over his forehead. Only practice at keeping his emotions hidden prevented Severus from screaming for death, just to rid himself from the pain.

Then, just as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. Severus fell the rest of the way to the ground, exhausted from the seconds of pain. Because really, that was how long it had lasted. Seconds, thirty seconds at most. However, it had felt like hours. Hours of excruciating pain.

The two Aurors jerked Severus to his feet. "Are we correct to assume that he can now be taken to Nigel Mering?" One Auror asked the man from the Being Division.

The man nodded. "If the collar is in hand, yes."

With a firm grip on Severus, one of the men Disapparated, taking a frightened Severus with him to Merlin-only-knew-where.

Chapter Text

Severus disliked Apparating with people. He preferred to use his own magic, his own wand. He hated relying on other people. When Apparating with others, you ran the risk of getting lost, splinched, or worse. He had been Apparating on his own, without even a minor incident, for twenty-one years. He did not need a sitter.

They were outside a house. The house was on the large side, with three levels. It looked to be old and not well-maintained, for it needed to be repainted, the garden weeded, the shingles and shutters reattached.

The Auror waved his wand, taking the silencing charm off of Severus. "Listen, slave," he sneered. "If you know what's good for you, you will behave here. You will say 'yes, sir' when prompted and nothing more. You will do whatever you are told by whomever asks. Understood?"

Severus clenched his fists. "I will do what I please, regardless of any orders."

The Auror slapped him – hard – across the cheek. "Do not speak to me that way!" He shouted. "Need I put the silencing charm back on you?"

"You might." Severus said vaguely, earning him another slap. He didn't care. He was not going to stoop to the level of a slave. He felt so vulnerable without his wand. However even if he had it, he could not hex the Auror; whether the Auror counted as his master or not, he did not know, but Severus was not a Gryffindor. He would not take his chances.

To Severus' surprise, the Auror began to chuckle. "Ah, you will lose your little attitude soon enough." He began to march towards the front door, his strong hand gripped around the nape of Secerus' neck, and his wand pointed in Severus' direction.

'Little attitude'?  Severus hadn't been so insulted since that unnameable incident with Sirius Black in 1978. How dare he call refusing to submit to his every order a little attitude? Severus' snappy remarks and sarcastic demeanour was not an attitude he ever put on; it was a way of life, a survival mechanism that he had learned growing up in the household he did, with a father who abused his mother and shouted much too often.

Fly! Severus had a premonition as they approached the house. He realised that once he went inside, there was a very strong chance he was not coming back out. If he was going to die, he would prefer to die outdoors, in escape, than in the manner that this man had in mind. He had little time to think – he had to act now.

Effortlessly, he changed form. As a teenager, he had discovered that James Potter and his gang were unregistered Animagi. Not to be outdone by his enemies, he too began to study and learn, and consequently became an unregistered Animagus. It was illegal, but what fifteen-year-old boy cares if he breaks the law? Then he joined in with the Dark Lord and in the years that passed after that... registering was the least of Severus' worries.

His form was that of a raven. The raven was dark, but graceful. Most Animagus forms did suit wizards well, and were not as random as many believed. Severus had long ago valued the ability to fly as the greatest benefit to his form.

"What the hell?" The Auror shouted, frantically trying to grab onto Severus. Severus changing form was the last thing the Auror had expected. Unregistered, no one but those whom Severus chose to tell knew that he was an Animagus. That said, the only living people who knew was... no one.

Because Severus had never trusted many people and whomever he had had died.

Severus flapped his wings, rising over the Auror's head. He had never been the most fantastic on a broom, preferring to stay on the ground whenever possible, but when he was in his Animagus form, it was a different story. As a raven, he could fly, soar in the sky, without gripping onto his broom for dear life. He never worried about falling, and if it were not for Muggle telephone wires, aircrafts, and bigger birds that dared to attack him, he was safe in the sky.

Severus landed near the top of a tall oak, trying to hide himself amongst the branches. Thank Merlin it was still the early stages of fall, so that the trees were covered with leaves. What date could it be? September 2nd, September 3rd? Surely not many days had gone by since the Hogwarts feast. Severus was not that hungry and had not eaten since lunch of the 1st, so it could not have been long.

"Accio bird!" The Auror pointed his wand in the air.

Except that I am technically a human, and you cannot summon a human, Severus thought, haughtily as he ruffled his wings and prepared to take flight again. He could hide behind the chimney of the house next door before deciding where to go next. He was better off going short distances until he got far enough away from the Auror. Flying out in the open was not a wise idea, as the Auror could still Stupefyhim or something similar. Although-

Severus did not get the chance to finish his thought. Still in raven form, he hurtled through the air, towards the Auror. Not flying by using his wings, but as an object did when summoned through a summoning charm.

He landed at the Auror's feet, but before he could struggle away and fly off again, was pinned to the ground by the Auror's foot. Severus gasped in pain, the sound coming out as a horrifying squawk! The weight of the Auror's boot, which was sure to be light overall, felt crushing to Severus. His bones were fine and easily breakable as a raven. His chest felt as if it were being crushed, and he felt as though he was suffocating.

He transformed back into his human form, gasping for breath, as the Auror took his foot off of Severus and pointed his wand at him. "Crucio."

The pain that ran through Severus' body was unlike any pain he had ever felt before, though of course he had. Cruciatus meant "I torture" in Latin, and with reason, for that is exactly what the curse did to its victims. The pain was so intense, it felt new each time. Severus had witnessed many of its sufferers beg for death before the curse was lifted. The pain alone had been known to be enough to kill people. Frank and Alice Longbottom were famously driven insane by it. Severus had fallen victim to the curse many times in his Death Eater days, but was not afraid of falling to the Longbottom's fate. He would never go insane, nor would he beg for death, as the result of pain. That was for the weak, and the weak only.

"Have you had enough?" The Auror screamed at Severus, who could not help but writhe from the pain of the curse. He did not let a sound escape his lips though – that would only further inform the Auror that Severus was suffering, and Severus would not give the Auror that enjoyment. "Have you had enough?"

One effect that that particular Unforgivable had on its victims was that they were often unable to talk due to the pain coursing through the body. Even if Severus had wanted to answer the Auror, he couldn't have. Surely Auror certainly deemed it a rhetorical question he was asking.

The Auror lifted the curse, leaving Severus gasping for breath, even more than he had been moments before. His limbs jerked involuntarily.

The Auror bent down and jerked Severus to his feet by his high-collared robes, nearly choking Severus in the process. "Have you had enough?" The Auror shouted at Severus, though Severus was only a few inches from the Auror.

Severus took a deep shaky breath. "For now," he managed to say before the Auror knocked on the front door of the house.

The man who opened the door was a fair four or five inches shorter than Severus. His leathery face was tanned, his blue eyes cold, and a little grey hair on top of his otherwise shining bald head. He wore chocolate-coloured robes that were simple, but in good condition.

"Ah, come in." He husked, letting the Auror in, dragging Snape with him.

Snape tried to resist, but the Auror pulled hard and it was either follow or fall flat on his face.

Surely this place is not lived in. It is not liveable for individuals with the lowest of standards. Severus wondered as they stepped inside.

The main room was covered in dusty old furniture, with cobwebs in all the corners of the room. The floor was caked with dirt. Off the main room was a kitchen with a double basin sink piled high with filthy dishes. The windows were so dirty Severus could barely see through them. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what was down the hall, or up the stairs (that were missing a few boards on the steps).

Severus did not show his worry on his face. He would come through this. He had come out of worse situations before.

Slave. He reminded himself. They have turned you into a slave. Damn! Why did you never read up on slavery in the United Kingdom? Why? He knew that in the Muggle world, the United Kingdom had outlawed slavery, but in the wizarding world, it continued to thrive. He knew that there were not many slaves considering the number of wizards in the world, but he had not a clue why. He had never cared to learn about it, as only a few very rich Pureblood families could afford to own a slave. Growing up in Spinner's End, with a poor, drunken Muggle father and an abused, depressed wizarding mother, he hadn't ever seen a slave until his third year at Hogwarts; one had come to deliver a forgotten book to its master, a fifth-year Slytherin. He had had few encounters with slaves after that.

With the wealth of knowledge at your fingertips at Hogwarts...Severus silently cursed himself for never taking an interest in the subject. He wished he knew the slightest about the situation into which he had been placed. From the sounds of it, from what the Ministry had announced before they had cast the spell on him, he would "have" to do whatever he was told. Except with Dumbledore gone, Severus Snape never "had" to do anything, did he? What was the worst thing that could happen if he chose not to?

"So this is the slave." The leathery man, probably in his sixties or seventies, spoke to the Auror as if Severus were not in the room.

"Yes, Mr. Mering." The Auror said respectfully, handing over a rolled piece of parchment. "Here are the papers."

"Thank you." The leathery man, Mering, said. He looked up and down at Severus, then barked. "Bow your head, boy! Do not dare look eye to eye with your master unless told otherwise!"

Severus continued to stare intently at the man. I will bow my head to no one.

Mering, to Severus' surprise, chuckled at the Auror. "Seems this one has some spunk left in him."

"We explained that he was directly from the Ministry, did we not?" The Auror questioned. "One of the Death Eaters. We only just got him last evening, twenty-four hours ago."

A sick smile spread across Mering's face. "So he has not been broken in at all? Normally the slaves that get brought to me have been broken in somewhat and just need a bit of a reminder of their place."

The Auror shook his head. "Brand new to his position, sir. We were wondering who could break him properly, and your name was unanimous."

Severus tried not to gag as he glared at both men.

He took in his surroundings. All the windows, dirty as they were, were closed. There was a back door off the kitchen, which was closed and likely locked. Severus would not dare to try and escape through any door that he was not absolutely sure was unlocked without alarms. There was no apparent means of escape thus far.

Just wait it out, Severus, he reminded himself. He was more likely to escape if it was well thought out, rather than just running to action like a foolish Gryffindor.

The Auror handed Mering a piece of rigid leather; no, it was a leather collar.

Severus felt his throat constrict. Collar? Collars are for dogs, for animals! 'Slave' or not, I am a person!

Mering shook his head in disbelief. "You cannot possibly think that a simple collar like that will be of use to me." He brandished his wand. "Accio steel collar!"

Flying out of the kitchen came a shiny steel piece of metal, wrapped in a circular position. "It is far stronger than any leather collar." Mering informed the Auror, holding the steel collar in his hand. "It is also more uncomfortable, so that if the slave deserves it, it can be tightened, restricting movement and breathing."

Severus gritted his teeth. Death Eater or not, no one deserved the kind of treatment the two men were discussing, yet the Auror and Mering were talking as if they were discussing Quidditch or the weather!

"On your knees, slave," Mering hissed at Severus.

Severus did not budge. He looked down his long nose at Mering. "Excuse me, were you speaking to someone in this room?"

"Crucio!" The Auror shrieked.

Instantly, Severus fell to the ground, trying not to hiss in pain. The pain of burning knives twisting into his body. He shuddered on the ground, in seizure-like fashion, unable to help it. Normally he had self- control over that type of thing – he could control his facial expressions, his words... but when it came to the Cruciatus, Severus had yet to meet anyone suffering it who did not shake on the ground like a mindless idiot. It hurt too badly to even think about not doing it.

The Auror released him from the curse, Severus now sprawled on the hardwood floor.

"Thank you, Auror Jennings." Mering did not sound sincere at all. "Next time, let me be the one to torture my slave."

"You cannot use the Cruciatus on him until you are officially his owner." Auror Jennings reminded Mering. "I find that the Cruciatus-"

"Who is the one who does this professionally?" Mering snapped. He turned his attention back to Severus. "On your knees, slave!"

Do. Not. Do. It. The after-effects of the curse lingered as Severus took deep, quick breaths, struggling against the ghost pain he felt all over his body. He took one look at Mering and spit in the man's face.

He had expected the man to react violently. To kick, to scream, to cast another curse. Not chuckle. Yet that was what Mering did as he wiped the spittle off his face. "Ah, a fighter." He chuckled. "I am not going to tell you again, slave – on your knees."

Slave. The words burned in Severus. Slave. He could not stand being called that. It was not as if he were... were an object! He was a living, breathing person, and would not be talked down to as if he were a mongrel!

"No." He managed to rasp, his throat dry from lack of water and from the horrible pain he had endured twice in ten minutes.

Mering turned to the Auror. "An Imperius would do us good right now. Just to get him on his knees."

Block it. Severus thought, trying to get himself under control as he continued to writhe on the floor, still feeling the throbbing pain of the Unforgivable though it had been lifted. That was the problem with extreme pain – even once it left you, sometimes you still felt it.

The Auror gaped at Mering. "He told you 'no'! Just because you are not rightfully his owner yet does not give him the right to tell you, or any other witch or wizard, 'no'!"

"If we punish him too much by pain right now, I might never get the chance to thoroughly break him." Mering said calmly, ignoring Severus on the floor, with the ghost pain the Cruciatus had left. "There is an art to this; punish them enough, but not too much. To resort to the Imperius when there has been enough punishment. Eventually, they learn." He paused. "Have I ever turned out a slave that has needed to come back for more training?"

Auror Jennings was silent for a moment. "You're right, Mr. Mering. Imperio!"

One thing that had always set Severus Snape apart from others was his true appreciation for the Dark Arts. He was not necessarily an evil man; when he had started reading up on the subject at nine-years-old, he had never actually intended on understanding, acting on, or defending himself with Dark Magic, but as he had gotten older, he had found it useful. He knew more about the Dark Arts as perhaps any wizard currently alive. One result of that knowledge was knowing not only how to use Dark Magic, but how to fight against it.

He Occluded his mind, banishing any thoughts from his mind. He concentrated on nothing but darkness, while pushing the Imperius out of his mind. He felt himself slowly rising to his knees.

Do not let them, Severus! He warned himself. He fell back to the floor, exhausted.

Auror Jennings stared in shock. "Blimey! He-He- how did he-"

Mering just shook his head. "I have never met a slave that could resist the Imperius. But he was also a Death Eater, was he not?"

"No, I wasn't!" Severus spoke up, struggling to speak. After dealing with so much pain and the exhausting experience of resisting the Imperius, all he really wanted to do was curl up and go to sleep. "I was not a Death Eater! I was a spy for Albus Dumbledore. The Dark Lord was planning to kill Harry Potter-"

"The Dark Lord!" The Auror laughed in a shrill voice. "You see, Mering? No one but a Death Eater would call You-Know-Who such a name."

"Except for someone who spent years posing as a Death Eater!" Severus argued. "Could you not give me a fair trial? There are-"

"Your slime does not deserve trials." The Auror snarled, kicking Severus in the stomach.

"You will kneel." Mering said firmly, making eye contact with Severus. "Now. If not, expect a concentrated Cruciatus in your gut. And you still must kneel in front of me."

Just do it, his sensible side told him. Do it and get it over with. They are going to make you do it eventually, like they did earlier. Severus understood that sounded like good advice, but was it? A concentrated Cruciatus in your stomach will kill you quickly. Your stomach will dissolve or explode... it will stop functioning in short order. You cannot let that happen.

You will never kneel in front of anyone again, Severus told himself firmly. They will have to kill you first. So what if they kill you? If you kneel, you're giving up. Then what is the point of life any longer? "I hardly care what you do to me." Severus said, his voice strong. "I will not kneel to you."

"Very well." Mering said, nodding at the Auror. "Until I give my word, and not before."

Severus screamed. He could not help it. It felt like his insides were boiling, tearing apart. It felt like his stomach was being turned inside out. He tossed and turned on the floor, screaming. He didn't know what he was screaming, nor did he care. He knew then why all of those weak people suffering the concentrated Cruciatus had begged the Dark Lord for death. He knew then why that student in sixth-year had never psychologically recovered after that acidic potion was spilled on him... Severus could not really think or hear anything whilst under the curse, so he could have been mistaken, but he thought he heard someone say, "Welcome to hell, Severus Snape".

After what seemed like years, the pain stopped. Severus was then jerked to his knees. The only thing keeping Severus from sobbing with pain from the horrible churning and burning he still felt in his stomach was practice. Years of practice. Severus had not cried in decades. He had decided on October 31st, 1981, to never shed another tear. He had largely been successful. He wasn't even sure if he knew how to cry any longer.

He barely noticed Mering clamping the steel collar tightly around his neck. This is a nightmare, just a nightmare. You will wake up and find yourself in your own bed... He knew that this was not true, for he could secernate nightmares from reality.

Unfortunately, there hardly seemed to be much difference in recent years.

As Mering held his wand to Severus' forehead and chanted the French spell, the only feeling Severus was aware of was the blinding pain in his forehead once again. The pain was too much for him after all the pain he had endured in the past fifteen minutes; he fell to the floor, landing in an ungracious slump.

Chapter Text

"You need to sign here. And here." Severus heard the shuffling of parchment. "Here. Here. Here. And here. Oh, here. No, there. Here. Here."

How many papers does it take to legally own another human being? Severus couldn't help but wonder. He did not budge from his position on the filthy hardwood floor. If he so much as twitched, Mering and the Auror might know he was awake. How long was I out?

"No, don't wake him." Mering said. "We have a few things to discuss, and I want to be able to do it without watching him from the corner of my eye."

There was silence for a few more moments, except for the sound of quill against parchment. A simple sound, but one of Severus' favourites. It was oddly comforting.

"What are the odds of me being able to sell him at Henderson's next month?" Mering asked casually.

Sell me? Sell me where? Severus understood that slaves were sold but... sold? Him? He was too exhausted to think clearly, but he had no choice.

"A month?" The Auror sounded dumbfounded. "I was under the impression that it would take a few months at least just to break him. He is a new slave, you realise, and a servant of You-Know-Who, on top of that."

Mering just chuckled. "I think that within a month I will have him begging to serve just about anyone. Do not underestimate my abilities."

Severus Snape does not beg for anything, Severus wanted to snarl, but didn't.

"Well, if he truly is broken by Henderson's... I suppose it will be allowed." The Auror relented. "The Ministry has very strict rules on the Death Eater slaves."

Broken... Severus hated it. Livestock got broken.

"Do not forget, it says right here that I get sixty-three percent of the profit made on him." Mering pointed out. "At Henderson's, I always get paid much more for my merchandise than I do anywhere else, and Henderson's only comes once a year."

"I have never been to Henderson's Slave Auction." The Auror admitted. "I am afraid I do not make enough income to buy my family one from there. What sort of quality do they have?"

"The best. All strong, well-trained, obedient, usually good-looking..." Mering's voice trailed. "This slave here..."

"Snape?" The Auror supplied a name.

"Was Snape ever married?"

Severus felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. At a young age, he had had his heart set on Lily Evans, the only person he had ever thought he loved. And more importantly, the only person who evertruly cared about Severus in any way, shape or form. Even after he had called her a Mudblood, she stood by him. She wrote him letters once a week, every week, like clockwork, until the day she died. He had never written her back. She did not love him like he loved her, but she did care for him, as a brother or best friend, that much was obvious.

Now, he was angry at his old self for insisting the relationship had to be of a certain nature. What he would give to go back, to cherish that friendship? Just one more hour with Lily, to hold her, to bury his head in her fiery red hair, to breathe her scent. He would even endure the constant company of Potter and co., just to spend more time with her.

"There is no record of him ever having been." The Auror said.

Of course he would know. Every record that has ever existed on me has likely been pulled out and examined. Except for the ones declaring me innocent, of course.

"No records of much of a family at all. Only child. His mother killed herself when he was thirteen; Muggle father has not been seen in twenty years."

Severus gritted his teeth. That was all true; he would never forget walking into the house one summer afternoon and finding his mother dead on the kitchen floor. His father disappeared only days afterwards. Severus had been placed in an orphanage and hadn't seen his father since. He hoped he was dead for all the pain and grief that he had caused Severus and his mother.

"So no children?" Mering continued to inquire. "It would raise his sales price if we could prove he was fertile, beyond test and spell results. A breeder, I am sure, would buy him if no one else would."

A breeder? Severus felt sick to his stomach. Surely they did not breed people like they bred owls... surely not. Surely he was not expected to... because he wouldn't.

"Well, he certainly won't be sold for pleasure." The Auror commented with a laugh. Severus felt him push a lock of his hair away from his face and had the urge to slap the man away. He continued to Occlude his mind and feign sleep. As a Slytherin, he knew he had to endure a little to gain knowledge he would otherwise crave.

"What makes you say that?" Mering was still scratching his name away at the forms, from the sounds of the quill.

The Auror scoffed. "Well... look at him! His nose is abnormally large, his skin is unnaturally pale – and that hair is horrid! That alone will-"

"When it comes to existing for pleasure, they often don't even care what they look like. I wouldn't rule out that aspect yet."

Severus fought back the vomit that worked its way into his mouth. The idea was completely illogical; why would anyone who could afford a slave buy an unattractive one? It was far more practical to hire a prostitute. Knockturn Alley attracted the young, wealthy men for a reason.

"We did not give him a thorough physical examination." The Auror admitted. "He has no weapons on him, nor does he have his wand. We are certain he bears the Dark Mark, but other than that-"

"I will take care of it." Mering assured the man. "Is this his wand?"

That's mine! Severus wanted to yell, though with his eyes shut, he couldn't even be certain. He needed his wand. He needed it like most needed water or air. Without it, he was too vulnerable. Unsafe. He needed it to protect himself.

"I won't be giving it to him, except on a few occasions." Mering stated. "It is not that I do not trust my slaves with wands – every slave I sell has a guarantee – but it is hardly necessary. Except to prove he knows spells or to teach him spells he does not know, he will not need it. Nearly everything I ask of him will be done the Muggle way. It is much more difficult, and induces the obedience aspect." Severus could hear more parchment shuffling. "Is this it?"

There was a long pause as the Auror shuffled paper. "This is it. I would love to stay longer, to witness your expertise, but I have a family I need to get back to."

"I understand." Mering said.

"Oh!" The Auror exclaimed. "I completely forgot. Your papers say that he is not an Animagus, but in fact, he is. He takes the form of a big black bird. He tried to escape from me when we were coming up to the house. You will want to keep an eye on him."

"Two eyes at all times." Mering assured the Auror. "You are going to register him as an Animagus, are you not? Go ahead – it will raise his value. Good day, sir!"

Severus heard the front door open and shut. He heard footsteps on the hardwood floor, walking away from him. Where is he going? Severus wondered, not daring to open his eyes. Certainly he is not going to leave me on the floor here. Perhaps-

The footsteps came closer again. Severus heard the man stop right next to him. Severus tried to breathe normally, Occluding his thoughts to quell his emotions, hoping that the man would continue to leave him alone.

He heard a crack! and before he could wonder if the man Disapparated somewhere else, he felt a sharp pain on his back. Like someone had lit a piece of his back on fire.

Severus, startled, jolted from his lying position on the floor and stood in one fluid motion.

"I was wondering if you were really out or not." Mering smirked at Severus' glare. He had his wand pointed at Severus with one hand, a leather whip in the other. "Eyes to the floor, slave. You will do that at all times, unless you are alone or there are only slaves in the room with you."

Severus could not describe the hate that rose in him at that moment. He really hated this man. "No," he hissed. "I will never-" The whip cracked again and hit Severus across the cheek. It brought a sharp burning sensation to the area it hit.

Just listen to him! He is just going to keep doing this until you listen! Just listen for now until you can find a way out! Severus brought his eyes to the floor, his body shaking with the anger he felt inside. He had not felt this angry in years. He would not be talked down to. He was not a slave. He was a Potions master, head of Slytherin House...At one time, the two most powerful living Wizards, the Dark Lord and Albus Dumbledore, had him on their sides. He was no mere house-elf that one could order about as they pleased!

"Better." Mering approved. "Now, slave, time for our first lesson. What are you to call me?"

Severus hesitated. They said 'master' at the ceremony earlier. Never again will I call a man 'master'. "I do not know." Severus played it safe. Only until I can come up with an escape plan. It will do me no good to be next to death right now. If I stay healthy, the easier it will be to sneak out.

"You're to call me 'Master', under no uncertain terms." Mering stated. "Now, say it; 'yes, Master'."

Severus' voice caught in his throat. "Yes, Master." At least you are not kissing the hem of the Dark Lord's robes, he reminded himself. That had been much worse.

"And suppose I had a wife – what would you call her?"

Ugly. Harebrained. Desperate. "Mistress, I suppose," he said dully. You played the part of a loyal follower of the Dark Lord for years. Play the part of a slave for a mere day or two, just until this is over.

"How are you to address all of my friends, assuming you know their names?"

I haven't a clue! He hadn't been told that one. In the ceremony, they made mention of the use of "sir" and "miss", but they hadn't been clear on usage.

"I do not know, Master." Severus choked out the word "master". He had actually called the Dark Lord that more times than he could count, but that was only playing a part. He hadn't meant it. And that is exactly what you are doing. Just playing a part.

"You will refer to them as 'Master' or 'Mistress', followed by their last names." Mering said patiently. "Otherwise, 'sir' or 'miss' will be fine. That is also how you are to address anyone whom you do not know. Even if you were to go into a shop and someone was to talk to you, you are to call them 'sir' or 'miss'. Understood?"

Unfortunately, yes. "Yes."

The whip cracked, bringing the searing pain across Severus' shoulder. It did not hurt as badly there as it did on the face, thanks to the robes he wore. "'Yes, Master.'"

That took Severus back a couple years, to when he had had a discussion with Potter. Severus had corrected Potter by saying "'yes, sir'" and Potter had responded, just like his father would have, by saying "there is no need to call me 'sir', Professor'." As much as Severus hated to give Potter credit for anything, in hindsight that remark had been, while disrespectful, amusing.

Severus bit back the revised version of the comment. As much fun as it would be to say it, he was not looking forward to being further marred by the whip. "Yes, Master."

Mering nodded with approval. "Now, when you do something wrong, which, Merlin forbid, won't be often, what do you say in apology?"

It is not right to quiz me on what I have not been taught! Severus immediately admonished himself for thinking that. Too many students had said the same thing to him. "I suppose..." he trailed. He rarely let his voice trail. "I suppose 'I am sorry'?" Severus had rarely apologised in his life. His actions were nearly always justified.

"You are to kneel on the floor, bow, and say 'I apologise for my actions. I have shown much disrespect for my Master. Please punish me as you see fit'." Mering recited. "It is showing respect to your Master, and to those you have offended. You will then accept whateverpunishment is given to you." His eyes glinted dangerously. "Whatever punishment."

Severus shifted his weight uneasily, not knowing how to respond to that. What types of punishment did Mering mean? Not that it mattered. Severus would not be obeying Mering much at all, so he would soon find out what punishments Mering had in mind, assuming Severus actually might submit to them.

"Do not think of the bowing and kneeling now; you will learn how to do that later. In this household," Mering continued. "You are expected to obey my every word, as well as the word of every other occupant. Be thankful I am not currently training any other slaves because, if I can devote all of my time to training you, you will be broken in short order."

You cannot expect me to thank you for that, Severus wondered. He hated being unsure about anything.

"You are to get up in the morning and have breakfast ready for me by seven. You are to ask before you drink anything, swallow a morsel of food, or defecate. The proper way to ask is by saying 'Master, please may your slave…'."

"You will then go about your day, doing whatever chores are needed. In the beginning, I will have your day scheduled for you, but later on, you are expected to know what needs done, without me telling you. Lunch at exactly twelve-thirty, and supper at six. You are not to go to your bedroom until every other occupant has gone to theirs. Then you may go to sleep until the next morning, when you will start everything over again."

Severus nodded. "Yes, Master," he said quietly, turning everything over in his head. He was a half-blood, his father being a Muggle. He knew how to cook and clean the Muggle way. At least he would not have to learn, like he imagined most did.

"What you are going to learn tonight is obedience. The way things are going to be done tonight is not the way you may be expected to do things in the real world, but it will teach you to obey every order given to you, regardless of whether you like it or not." Mering stated, walking over to a filthy sofa and sitting on it. He turned on a wireless radio to a classical music station. "Kneel in front of me, take off my shoes."

Severus involuntarily shuddered. No. He had done a lot of things to serve the Dark Lord, but those things were not done under the same circumstances. Those things were done for what Albus Dumbledore had liked to call "the Greater Good". It made kissing robes and bowing at feet less humiliating. But there was nothing to reassure oneself with here. If he knelt in front of Mering, that was giving up his free will completely. He would never do that.

"Tsk, tsk, Snape...Are you really going to make me force you to come?"

You cannot force me. I can resist the Imperius. You cannot force me to do anything. Severus tried to ignore the prickling feeling he had begun to feel on his forehead.

"I am waiting, Snape. Do not think I will let this go without punishment as it is." Mering continued to taunt Severus from his relaxed position on the sofa. He crossed his arms behind his head and stretched out comfortably.

Severus shifted his weight, but did not move. Just go to him and do what he says. The more he trusts you, the easier your escape will be! Taking a deep breath, further ignoring the urge to wipe at his forehead which now began to ache with pain, he got down on his knees and started unlacing Mering's sturdy boots.

Before Severus could react, he was thrown across the room, hitting the Muggle television set, from the force of Mering's foot. He had kicked him in the stomach across the room.

"That is for your hesitation." Mering said, his voice strangely calm for someone who had just kicked another across a room. "Continue."

Breathe. In. Out. In. Out. Severus felt a heavy pain in his throat as he crawled across the floor and began untying the laces once again. He would not cry. He never cried. Crying was for the weak only. Just obey him until you can find a way to escape. Like a true Slytherin.

He gently pulled off the boots to reveal feet clad in grey socks. "I could really use a foot massage." Mering stated. "Begin, Snape."

For the Greater Good. For the Greater Good. The Greater Good as in making sure anyone who has participated in this monstrosity gets a lifetime in Azkaban. Severus kept his face expressionless as he began to rub at the feet before him. Do not think about the task. Just about getting out of here, which you can do as soon as you have a proper layout of the house. You need knowledge of how the windows and doors operate, of what charms he uses to lock them. He mentioned giving me my wand on a few occasions; a simple stunning spell could be my way out. As tempting as a Killing Curse would be, I do not need proof of an illegal hanging over my head... he ignored the rule of "harm your master, you die instantaneously" - it would not improve his mood.

"Ah." Mering signed in contentment as Severus rubbed the muscles in his feet.

I am innocent. Dumbledore and Shacklebolt guaranteed it. Why would they believe Lucius Malfoy over the word of Albus Dumbledore? Severus already knew the answer to that. Even though Fudge and Voldemort were both gone, the Ministry was just as stupid and flawed as ever. It didn't seem to occur to them that someone could block off parts of their memory, adding some memories that hadn't been there to "prove" anything. Severus could create memories for his mind that might insist that he was actually a Wrock star, but that did not make it true. Plenty of Death Eaters claimed that they had been under the Imperious!

Just by adding a few false memories, and no doubt sleeping with quite a few people, Lucius Malfoy had put Severus in slavery. And why? He never said why! Severus had never done anything to hurt Lucius, or his family. On the contrary, he had saved his sorry arse so many times... and Draco. What about Draco? Draco would have been dead one hundred times over, and blamed for the death of Dumbledore, had Severus not intervened. And this was how he was thanked?

"A little angry, are we?" Mering interrupted Severus' thoughts. "Rubbing very hard."

"I apologise, Master." Severus muttered almost automatically, his concentration still on the motives of Lucius Malfoy. In his frustration, he had been giving a bone-breaking foot massage. Not that he would have minded breaking every bone in Mering's foot, but-

Mering bolted upright and pressed his wand to Severus' forehead. Immediately, searing pain spread over Severus' forehead, making him hiss in pain without realizing it. "How are you to apologise to your master?" Mering questioned.

What did he say to say?  Severus had a fine memory, but what with all the stress and pain he had been dealt, he faltered. "I apologise for my actions. I have shown much disrespect for my Master. Please punish me as you see fit." As if this is not punishment enough. If I had my wand for only one moment, I could Disapparate to Bolivia and easily never be found...

Mering removed his wand and placed his hand on Severus' forehead. As fast as the pain had come, it left. Mering resumed his relaxed position on the filthy couch. "Continue."

It is not as if it is ridiculously hard to use a Pensieve. I would gladly sacrifice any memories to get out of massaging- Severus' furious thoughts at the entire wizarding world were interrupted by Mering's voice.

"You may stop."

Severus immediately took his hands off Mering's feet and sank back on his heels, regretting moving as soon as he did, though the movement was slight. The continuous kneeling was killing his knees, and the weight shifting only reminded him of that.

"Clean my boots." Mering said easily. "No magic, no rags, no polish or potions – your tongue and your tongue alone." At Severus' shocked face, he chuckled. "I told you that this lesson was on obedience, did I not? I never said you would have to use these things. These instructions may be as outlandish as I see fit."

Severus bit his tongue, biting back his response. He had many responses he would like to employ. He hadn't practised holding in his sarcasm in years, since he left school. He hadn't needed to bite his tongue in the presence of the Dark Lord as no sarcastic comments came to him then, as the situation was a life-or-death one at all times. But in any situation less than that, he used sarcasm as a survival method. However, clever wordplay wouldn't work as a survival method here...

"This is illegal on many counts." He spoke before he talked himself out of it. "I am an innocent man and I demand to be treated as such. Even with the death of Albus Dumbledore-"

"-which you are responsible for."

Severus ignored him. "-there are many ways to prove my innocence. One would simply have to speak to several people, using Legilimency if they must. You could use a Peniseve – I would not mind giving several memories, if it meant-" he stopped short, not willing to show how desperate he was. "There is a portrait of Albus Dumbledore at Hogwarts – you could simply speak to the portrait and he would tell you that I am innocent. I spied for him, for the good of the entire world. I never harmed anyone."

"Are you finished?" Mering said, surprisingly calm once again. Severus had expected to be interrupted as he spoke in his defence and yet, Mering had listened intently. Had Severus not had the ability to read people, he would have thought that perhaps Mering was not so evil. But he could tell from the gleam in Mering's eye, from the way his mouth quirked upwards, that he was not about to cater to Severus in any way.

"I will have you know that you were a Death Eater for two years, and that is why you have come here to be punished. Regardless of how you behaved after you claimed to leave You-Know-Who, you still wore the Dark Mark and harmed many people from 1978 until-"

"I did not delight in it as someone else in this room does." Severus never had to raise his voice. Even kneeling on the floor in front of someone, it still carried well. "I did cast a few Imperius curses, and I recall casting the Cruciatus during those two years. The others did as I have been accused – they did steal, kill, and assault many women; however, I did none of those things. I merely stood by and watched."

"And yet here you are, under an irreversible enslavement spell." Mering spoke. "The Ministry gave permission for everyone bearing the Dark Mark to be punished accordingly. Whether in your mind you are innocent or not, your master believes you to be guilty and the master is always right." He pressed his wand to Severus' forehead, from which point a sharp pain bore. Blinding pain so that he could not help but shut his eyes.

He would not cry out in pain, he would not show signs of being in pain, yet he couldn't help but let a hiss escape through his teeth. The anger, oh, the anger he felt at Mering, at the Ministry, at the world...

Mering removed his wand, the pain leaving straight away as he brushed his hand across Severus' forehead. "Now, I believe I told you to clean my shoes."

You must obey, if only for tonight. He is lying through his teeth. There is no irreversible enslavement spell. Though the look on Mering's face when he spoke of it had been highly convincing. Severus had not once in his life been told a lie and believed it.

Gingerly, Severus picked up the filthy boot. Potions ingredients, he thought suddenly. Potions. If there was one thing he knew aside from wordplay and Dark magic, it was Potions. All he had to do was concentrate on Potions. He needed to completely focus on Potions. Whatever he did, he would not think about the task at hand.

The ingredients to make a Contineo potion are a pinch of dragon hide flakes...

Chapter Text

It took Severus well over one hour and one-half to clean the boots. As dirty and dusty as they were, as large as they were, as dry as his mouth became as he cleaned them, it was quite a job. He had begun to gag several times against his will, and it was only the reminder that he had seen much worse things happen that kept him from vomiting when he spotted an unidentified object on the shoe.

Remember this the next time you are giving out detention, he told himself. That not even Potter deserves this. For the most part, he concentrated on Potions. By mentally reciting the recipes and ingredients of the most complex potions he knew, he kept from standing up and knocking the man unconscious. It would be in the Muggle way, of course, by throwing a punch. He understood that in order to escape, he had to hold on and wait for the most opportune time. If he did not try to run away every chance he got, it was likely that Mering wouldn't keep as close an eye on him.

Mering glanced over the boots carelessly as Severus set them both neatly down on the floor. "I suppose no one will have to know that my shoes are now covered in slave spit."

It's your own fault, Severus wanted to retort, but didn't. He instead just looked down at his hands, which rested in his lap. His knees were killing him. Severus was not old, merely thirty-eight, and was reasonably fit, but it did not stop his bones from aching. Kneeling for that length of time was torture on its own.

"Stand. Take off your robes," came Mering's next order. His eyes were wide open and he was casually sitting on the couch rather than lying down; in other words, he was no longer resting.

No! Everything in Severus screamed against the man's orders as Severus stood up. He had a great deal of pride and dignity. He was what many of his students referred to as "old-fashioned", but he had been born at the end of an era. People simply did not take off their robes in front of one another casually; even in school, where students had worn uniforms underneath, students did not take off their robes in front of one another when Severus was young. Many people Severus' age had adapted to fit in with the younger crowd, but Severus had not. He preferred some of the Victorian ideals that were thrust upon him at a young age.

"Excuse me, Master, but may I inquire to as to why this is necessary?" Snape looked down his nose at the man. He was glad to finally be standing.

Mering just chuckled. He seemed to find a lot of things amusing that simply were not. "Do my reasons matter, slave?" He emphasised the word "slave", no doubt to remind Severus of what he considered Severus' place to be.

"I am sorry, but I must decline." Severus said, once again feeling prickling on his forehead. Actually, I am not sorry at all. You are an evil, twisted man to do this to human beings, apparently on a regular basis as well.

"'I am sorry, but I must decline'." Mering mimicked Severus in high-pitched volume. "Do as I say or you will face punishment." His steel blue eyes met Severus' dark ones. "Surely you do not want more of that, do you?"

Severus paused, desperate for a way out. Do not beg; Slytherins never beg. Do not show him defeat.

Mering snapped, pointing his wand at Severus. For the first time that night, he was losing his calm facade. "Crucio!"

Severus fell to the floor, his body shaking with the effects of the Cruciatus. Will it never stop? Severus screamed inwardly. Just grow numb to it, already! Severus had a way of not being affected by pain, by being able to ignore it for the most part, but never the Cruciatus. He didn't think anyone could ignore that stabbing pain. It was the worst pain he had ever felt in his life, multiplied by thousands. He had once speculated that getting hit by the Hogwarts Express and surviving could not surpass the level of pain the Cruciatus inspired.

The moment the curse was lifted was hard to identify. Whenever one is in blinding agony and the source of the agony goes away, it is often as if the source never did. For example, sometimes people lose limbs to painful experiences. Even years later, after the stump has healed, they still feel pain where the limb used to be. Ghost pain. A pain that exists only in your mind. The Cruciatus often left that kind of pain in Severus, and many others, he suspected. An invisible pain that could go on for hours afterwards.

Mering stepped over to Severus and placed his foot firmly against Severus' chest. Severus could not help but stare up at the man, the only thing keeping the fear from reaching his eyes being years of practice.

"Take. Off. Your. Robes," Mering said firmly, pronouncing each word as a sentence alone.

Without thinking, as if automatically or under the Imperius, Severus stood up and his shaky hands began to unbutton the tedious buttons on his cloak. He more often than not used a simple charm to unbutton them, so to undo each by hand was unimaginable. The tedious unbuttoning was not the torturous part, but rather the facts that he was being watched, and that this was just prolonging the inevitable, was torturous.

Eventually, he was able to slip out of his cloak. He laid it on the overstuffed (and filthy) armchair behind him and faced Mering.

"Eyes to the floor." Mering reminded him, his calm facade back in place. Not wanting to be hit with another Unforgivable for so minor a request, Severus complied.

"You will be clothed in the same garments all my slaves have been." Mering stated. "Continue."

Somehow, I get the feeling he is not urging me to continue simply staring at the floor, Severus inwardly grimaced. "Continue with what, Master?"

Mering made a motion with his hand. "Continue removing your robes."

Severus did not feel like it was time to argue. Just do it and get it over with. He reached for the top button of his black robes and began unbuttoning them.

"Have you ever owned a slave, Snape?" Mering asked as Severus' shaky hands moved down his robes.

Oh, of course. Who hasn't? We simply had thousands. So many, in fact, we had to give them away. Pity, pity. "No, Master."

"Have you ever met one? Made conversation with the owner of one? Or perhaps a slave even?"

Severus removed his robes before he could convince himself to do otherwise and laid it on top of his cloak. He did not cross his arms in front of his chest like he had the urge to as that would convey a sort of vulnerability he surely did not want to convey. "Once upon a time or two." He replied, staring at Mering.

"Eyes to the floor." Mering reminded. "And continue, Snape."

I was afraid he would say that. Severus began removing one black shoe, one black sock at a time, as he stood in front of Mering, not making eye contact with the man.

"I would have assumed the Dark Mark would have left people's bodies once the Dark Lord was defeated." Mering leaned forward, a glint in his eye.

"You assumed wrong then, Master." Severus had gotten over hating the Dark Mark on his arm. It looked grotesque whether one knew the meaning behind it or not, but it was there to stay. Not even tattoo-removing potions could get rid of it, Severus had learned from reading various publications. Severus himself had never tried as he had a feeling that even though he hated what it represented, it, like the scars that covered his body, had a story to tell. A memory behind it. If he got rid of it, he would likely regret it.

"Does it hurt?" Mering asked, looking closely at the Mark.

Severus restrained from giving the man the look he reserved for first-year Muggleborns who exclaimed "this is like science class" during their first Potions class. "No longer, Master. After the defeat of the Dark Lord, it is no longer a spelled Mark, but a mere permanent design on the skin."

Mering was silent for a moment, watching Severus remove the final bits of clothing. He could not help but give Mering a defiant glare; if he showed any signs of self-consciousness, Mering would likely only be happy to see that, to see Severus humiliated. Severus would give him none of it.

"Interesting." Mering purred, walking around Severus several times, examining his body. "Where did this come from?" He ran his finger across a long scar on Severus' upper back.

Severus tried not to flinch at the touch. He expects me to remember where every single scar came from? I think not. However, he did remember where that particular scar came from, for he had worn it with pride when he was younger as he had considered it a battle scar. "An accident." He replied vaguely.

"Accident? What type of 'accident'?" The man continued examining the many scars on Severus' body with a frown on his face.

"A sword. I was a mere child at the time."

Mering raised a brow. "A sword?"

"I am skilled with the blade." Severus stiffly said. He felt as if he were losing control. There was nothing more he wanted to do right then than to kick Mering, knock him unconscious, and Apparate away. To somewhere. To anywhere. But he couldn't. He would remain in control. So long as he controlled himself, he was still in control of the whole situation. And he would notact on impulse; he was not a bloody Gryffindor, for Merlin's sake.

"You know how to sword-fight?"

Severus gritted his teeth. Mering made it sound like child's play. "Yes." As a Slytherin, he had quickly learned how to duel not only with his wand, but with a blade. It had come in handy countless times over the years. And to think Lucius Malfoy was the one who convinced me to learn in the first place.

"Well then, they're battle scars! Perfect!" Mering was positively glowing at that.

Well then, do not burst his bubble by telling him that many of the others are the result of various curses and not a blade, Severus thought wryly.

"Accio slave's clothes." A piece of brown cloth came flying to Mering's hands.

At least, it looked brown. It could have been any other colour. It was filthy, covered in Severus did not know what, but he certainly was not going to wearit.

Mering handed it to Severus. At noticing Severus' curled lip, he gave another sick smile. "Be thankful; the last slave I trained had his clothes taken away on day one and didn't receive anything to put back on."

At that, Severus snatched the cloth from Mering and hastily wrapped it around his waist the best he could. Think of potions ingredients. Name all the students you have taught in the past. Concentrate on anything. Do not let him get to you; he wants a reaction.

Severus followed Mering down a long, steep, narrow staircase, into a dark basement. "This is where you'll sleep most nights." Mering stated, going into the far-back corner of the basement.

Severus grimaced as his tender bare feet crossed the damp floor. Covered in dirt, rat waste, and other unidentified objects, it was highly foul. Just be thankful you do not have a weak stomach, he reminded himself. His methods of coping were wearing thin. It was quite obvious that there were no means of escape in the dank basement.

Mering seemed to be reading his thoughts. "Yes, this basement is completely secure. You will not be going anywhere." He pointed his wand against the wall. "Stand against it."

The wall was covered in grime, slime, and other matter that Severus did not care to think about. He was also not blind to the shackles that were strategically placed where his ankles might be, where his wrists might be.

You could transform in these shackles and likely be able to fly away. But did he really want to suffer the humiliation of getting shackled in the first place?

"Master, I shall not run away." Severus chose his words carefully. Do not beg!Never beg! "Surely your training tonight has been enough to trust me unchained in the basement. Or do you not trust your training abilities?"

Mering just scoffed. "It's not my training abilities I don't trust' it's your Death Eater slime. Against the wall before you regret it."

He is going to punish you for baulking, anyhow. The pricking feeling returned to Severus' forehead. "I-"

Mering placed his wand at Severus' temple, and blinding pain immediately took over. Severus could not help but release a gasp of pain as he stumbled over to the wall, spreading his body out against it so that Mering could shackle him to the wall. His arms outstretched, his legs stretched out, he felt overly vulnerable, but could barely process that thought – if the pain in his head lasted any longer... he did not know how a concentrated Cruciatus in the head felt, but it could not be worse than the stabbing pain Mering was causing him.

Mering removed his wand from Severus' head and shackled him against the wall. Severus wasn't able to do anything in reaction except sigh in relief that the pain was gone from his head.

"Now, about our feathery little problem." Mering tsked after observing his handiwork. "Let's see... how do we keep our unregistered Animagus from flying away on us? Quite simply, we're not. We are going to let him try to escape if he wants. Once he finds out our little punishment for that, he will never try again." He smiled and tapped his wand towards Severus, uttering a locking charm for the shackles.

He realises that you can transform and escape from these shackles as well. "I hardly see the point of you shackling me here if you know I am capable of escaping them." His deep voice wasn't granting him the favours it normally did. Normally, his voice was a commanding one – Merlin, his presence was a commanding one if around students. But it did not take an Order of Merlin to realise that one who was wandless, nearly nude, and chained to a wall was not a very intimidating person.

Mering chuckled. "You are an intelligent one." He stood close to Severus, bringing his face close to his despite the vast height difference. Severus wrinkled his nose with distaste as he smelled the man's foul breath. "But these shackles put you in your place. Remind you what a disgrace you are to this world. How truly worthless you are."

"Forgive me, Master, but if I am so worthless, why have you decided to continuously grace me with your presence?" Severus retorted dryly, and got a slap on the face as a result.

"You worthless piece of filth!" Mering spat in Severus' face before spinning on his heel and leaving the basement. Severus heard several scraping and clicking sounds as the door was being locked not only with charms, but the Muggle way as well. Then there was silence.

Almost silence. The basement was pitch-black. Had Severus been able to lift his hand in front of his face, he would not have been able to see it. A miserable darkness that felt like a Lumos Maximus would fail to light up the room, which Severus was unable to try to light it with wandless magic as his hands were shackled. Suspended on the wall, his feet a few centimetres from touching the ground, he almost felt like he were dangling in space. He heard the steady drip! drip! of water and the scurrying of rats or other possible creatures. He heard his own shallow breathing as he attempted to lift himself up a bit against his shackles to take each breath. It was as if he were in a dark cave or tank. Alone. Miserably alone.

Severus normally had no qualms about being left alone. Quite the contrary, he usually embraced the time he had alone. For years, all of his time had been spent teaching, preparing necessary potions for the school, and spying. During the summer, he had had to spend much time at various tasks, preparing potions, and materials for his classes. He had hardly gotten a moments peace for years, it felt like. But under the circumstances, he could not just lie back and relax. Even had he not been suffering one of the most difficult and mortifying experiences of his life, being in the clammy, dismal basement was too unsettling.

"I should have known that this should happen to me somehow." He muttered. He pulled his left arm towards his body, in vain, trying to get it out from the steel ring. It was biting into his skin and hurt like hell.

You could transfigure into your raven, he reminded himself. But did he dare? If he transfigured into his Animagus form, he would not be able to get back into the shackles if he failed to escape.

He is going to harm you regardless of what you choose to do, he reasoned. You might as well make it worth it. In any case, Severus Snape had not gone through the trials he did to spend the rest of his life shackled to a mouldy wall. He had not.

Chapter Text

Severus loved being in raven-form. As a raven, he could fly and soar without having to worry about getting knocked off a broomstick or being spotted by a Muggle. There was something about having wings, feeling the wind on both sides of each wing, that was exhilarating. Severus had never had extreme talent on a broomstick – oh, he could fly. He even had refereed several Quidditch matches a year, when Madame Hooch was unable to. But he had never quite mastered the gracefulness that many had. Or at least, he did not believe he had.

There was something about his form being a raven that he clung to. Ravens were beautiful creatures that soared, something he did not see in his own self. It gave him hope that perhaps he was not all bad. Ravens were also known for being sneaky, clever, and even dark; that was why his form was a raven.

Severus changed into his raven form, freeing himself from not only his shackles, but his collar as well. He began batting his wings as silently as he could, hoping against hope that Mering could not hear his wings from wherever he was in the house. Severus swooped around the room, trying to assess his situation. It was next to hopeless; there were no windows that he could see, the door was securely locked, and aside from the shackles and himself, the basement was absolutely empty. Not even boxes filled with Mering's old things.

Reverting to his human form, Severus untied and retied the cloth around his waist, hoping to make it cover more than it did. It ended far above his knees; he was not used to having his body exposed in that way.

If I could only see! Severus thought as he used his hands to guide his way back to the far left corner, where his shackles were. In raven form, he could see much better than he could in human form.

Involuntarily, he shuddered. The room was so cold. The dungeons at Hogwarts were not as cold as one might think – magic kept everyone dry and warm – but apparently Mering's basement had not been subjected to the same spells and charms.

Minerva will get me out, he decided as he found the shackles and tried to pry them open. If he could only put himself back in them, Mering would never know he had tried to look for an escape. But alas, they were sealed tight with the spell Mering had used to lock them. He did not know a counter-spell, much less how to do it wandlessly. They were so small, it was impossible to push hands and feet through without breaking them.

Fooling Mering was not worth deliberately breaking bones.

Feeling rather defeated, he sat down on the rat faeces covered floor and brought his knees to his chest.

The whole school saw me taken by the Ministry. The whole school has heard of my innocence, though whether they believe it or not is questionable. Minerva knows and will try to help. So will Fillius and- the entire staff knows! Members of the Order... I will be out of here before breakfast in the morning.

He leaned his head back against the slimy wall and closed his eyes. They will get me out of here if I do not escape before they can. As much as Severus hated to be helped by anyone, he saw his situation realistically. He might not be able to help himself, but someone would be able to help him. And they would come to his aid, he knew it. Severus had a hard time trusting people in general, hence why he had formed so few friendships over his lifetime. But he trusted with absolute certainty that someone would come for him. He had always come to their rescue, and now it was their turn.

He had much to think about. Since he had slept last, he had gone from being under arrest, to slave, to being put under two of the three Unforgiveables several times- Severus had lost count - to losing his clothes, to being shackled to a basement wall. He had to think to bide his time until he could escape, of what he would do once he escaped. Of how to maintain any false sort of dignity around Mering, of how to avoid punishment without actually doing the degrading things Mering had him do. Severus had a lot to wrap his mind around, but quite honestly, the amount of trauma he had endured over many hours was starting to sink in, and he fell into an uneasy slumber.

"Crucio!" A harsh voice rang out over the otherwise silent room.

Before Severus could even react, remember who he was, where he was, or what he was doing, he was hit with anguish that words quite simply could not describe. He was too shocked to even groan as he writhed in pain, wishing that the pain affecting his entire body would go away.

"I did not shackle you to the wall so that you could sleep comfortably on the floor!" Mering shouted at Severus, as if Severus were able to listen to him. One could not hear, do, or think anything, whilst under the Cruciatus. "You worthless, good-for-nothing!"

The pain subsiding, Severus quit the humiliating writhing and peered up at Mering from the floor. His memory returned. Captured. The Ministry. Slavery.

"On your knees and bow, slave!" Mering sneered. The light from the open door and his wand showed his face as Gryffindor-red, his eyes blazing with fury. "You're to greet your master every morning!"

Severus quickly got to his knees and lowered his head on the floor in front of him. "Good morning, Master," he managed to croak. His throat felt so dry. He felt humiliated, deplorable. He did not even consider not listening to Mering. The pain that had woken him... oh, the pain...

Do not give in! Severus reminded himself, furious, as Mering clipped the collar back on him, uttering words in a language Severus did not recognise. You are doing exactly what he wants you to do; don't give up!

"Follow me to the kitchen, slave. On your hands and knees, mind you." Mering spun on his heel, the way Severus was fond of doing, and walked towards the basement door. Only Severus had an air about him when he spun like that, and he knew it. His cloak billowed, his face hard, and students cowering... Mering managed to look a complete dunce.

Numbly, Severus followed Mering, trying to ignore the lingering pain he felt from the previous day, and the curse he had just endured. He recited thoughts to himself, to remind himself of why he was crawling, practically nude, behind the man as if he were a dog.

Just keep up the act. So long as he thinks he is "breaking" you, you are succeeding. No doubt there are people left and right planning your rescue, invading the Ministry to get you legally freed and Lucius Malfoy in Azkaban. Once Mering thinks you are further "broken", he will trust you more, which leaves you more of a chance to escape. And you need to escape. For... he pushed that thought back in his head. Ever since the fall of the Dark Lord, he had wondered why he even needed to exist any longer. A lifetime of trying to take down the Dark Lord, and after it happened, what did he have to show for it? It was not as if anyone but Potter received the credit, and even if Severus had gotten any credit, it would not have done him any good. No one needed him, no one cared for him, no one wanted him.

They will come and get me! Severus thought, determined as he followed Mering up the hardwood stairs, through the living area, where they had been the night before, to the adjacent kitchen, connected by an open wall.

"Breakfast." Mering stated. "I expect it in fifteen minutes. Non-poisonous, because I expect you to eat it first." He smiled, that sick smile that reminded Severus of the Dark Lord before he swooped in for the kill. "Fifteen minutes and it will be on the table, understand?"

Severus nodded numbly, remembering to avert his eyes to the floor just in time. "Yes, Master."

Mering seemed satisfied. "I will be upstairs. Do not even think of trying to escape, because I assure you that I will know. There are many a ward and locking charm on this house, not to mention the painful burning sensation you will get if you disobey my orders."

Painful burning sensation? The Cruciatus? "Yes, Master." Mering gave a satisfied nod and left the room, leaving Severus to his own devices.

"Breakfast?" He muttered to himself, rising to his feet in a fluid motion. "What in Merlin's name do I make for breakfast?" Severus had rarely made a meal in years. Never whilst at Hogwarts, rarely while as a Death Eater (nor as a spy). He had a knowledge of how to cook, from fending for himself from the age of four but he hadn't made anything in years. He was not sure if he even knew how any longer.

He opened a cupboard to be greeted by empty, dusty shelves. Well, empty except for the upside-down long-deceased cockroach on the middle shelf. The next cupboard revealed a similar result, only he found a half-empty, open bag of flour with two beetles scurrying out. The milk in the refrigerator had a curdled look to it. Years of mixing potions had left Severus with a highly sensitive nose, and the smell was positively revolting.

The whole house smelled revolting, actually. It was thick with dust, rotten food, and the smell of Muggle mothballs. Severus wondered if there had been other "slaves" trained there before – the house certainly did not look like it.

I need a wand, Severus thought desperately. I need to see if I can get this milk to not be so curdled, to perhaps de-age this egg a little... Merlin! What do I do? All in all, he had an egg of questionable age, the old milk, flour, lard that had a sort of green tinge to it, and, of course, water. That wouldn't make much of anything, let alone something worth eating.

Severus took a deep breath and put the pan he had washed on the stove. The dishes piled in the sink and on the counter were filthy, and so had the pan when he found it. Covered with grease, mould, and Merlin only knew what else, it took quite a long time to scrub out, and Severus was not certain it was even clean then. But it was all he had, and he was running out of time.

Taking a bowl that was not completely clean, Severus guessed at how much of each ingredient to add before mixing them. He tried to remember if Muggle cooking mattered how you stirred; did you need to stir it counter-clockwise or clockwise? How many times each way? He settled for fifty each way, hoping not to ruin it, and hoping that Mering had a bad nose. Perhaps he would not notice the foul smell coming from his breakfast.

Severus poured the mixture into the now hot pan in neat circles. Please let them resemble pancakes. They did, sort of. If you squinted one eye, tilted your head, shut the other eye... They were far thicker than standard British pancakes, and lacked caster sugar which was the only reason most bothered even with the things. It was too late to change anything, however. He could hear Mering coming down the stairs.

Hastily, Severus put a few pieces of his disaster on a plate he had carefully washed and put it on the filthy kitchen table, along with clean utensils and a clean glass filled with water. He did not know where to find the serviettes, so he hoped Mering was not accustomed to having them. Perhaps he would not notice them missing from the table. He stood back and had his head bowed and eyes to the floor just as Mering stepped into the room.

"The... food... is ready." Mering stated in disbelief, as if he hadn't expected Severus to really cook.

Really? What a relief. I did nothing and just waited for it to happen on its own. Severus wanted to scoff, but didn't. He needed to please Mering for his own sake. If Mering was pleased and trusted him, he might not try so hard to keep Severus restricted from his wand, or might not deem it necessary to lock every window. It was all part of a plan. No, not the type for which he was known, not an elaborate scheme that made him swell with Slytherin pride, but sometimes the most basic plans had the best effects. Severus did not have too many options with which to work. It was either disobey and be in pain all the time, or obey and perhaps not be watched so closely. It required little thought to make the choice, though sometimes it was hard to go through with it.

Mering seemed to recover and sat down at the head of the table, where the food sat. "It smells odd," he observed, eyeing Severus carefully.

"If you had given me more to work with, it would not. In other words, you are lucky to be getting what you are, given the ingredients."

To Severus' surprise, Mering just nodded. "On your knees, next to my chair."

As if I am your common everyday dog. It was an insult. Dogs were not even magical creatures in the slightest. But magical creatures did not kneel beside their owner at the kitchen table.

Swallowing his pride, Severus obeyed. Mering picked up a piece of the lumpy pancake and held it to Severus' mouth with grimy fingers.

What am I to do? Severus did not know what was expected, but he knew it sickened him. He reached out a hand to take the food from Mering, only to have his hand slapped away.

"With your mouth, Snape," Mering urged, not angry sounding, but calm. Severus preferred that he yell.

So do your students. Severus hesitated. Just like a dog! He expects me to literally eat out of his hand!

"Eat it!" Mering bellowed unexpectedly.

Severus quickly ate the offered bit from Mering's fingers, the only thing keeping him from purposefully biting the man's fingers the speed with which he took the food. If he had gone any slower, he would have bitten the meaty fingers. On purpose

The food, if one could call it that, tasted horrible. Severus' gag reflex came into play, but he ignored it as he forced himself to swallow the undercooked cake that tasted exactly like what it was – sour and rotten unbaked dough.

His eyes watered from the silent gagging as he looked up towards Mering. "It will not kill you," Severus assured him, secretly hoping that perhaps it would.

Mering seemed amused. "It is a good thing I ate an hour ago," he stated. He offered another piece to Severus. "Eat it."

He ate an hour ago? Severus' thoughts spun. He never intended to eat this in the first place? Then why have me make it in such a short time limit? He had never worked in that kitchen before, and had had no clue as to what to make.

Mering was absolutely mad.

Severus took the second bite from him and tried not to gag. It was more difficult than the first time. Each of the following foul-tasting bits made his eyes water even more. He wanted to spew it out, but strong determination kept Severus going. If he audibly gagged, he would fail. For as far as he was concerned, he was still in control of the entire situation at hand. Mering just did not know it.

After five bites, Mering stood, throwing the leftovers into the overflowing trash bin. "Enough of this for now. Start with the kitchen. I am going out until lunch. If the room is not clean by the time I get back..." his eyes glinted hazardously.

"Understood," Severus said quickly. "I assume you will be giving me my wand." He did not know how he could possibly clean the kitchen without magic. He had never learned many housekeeping spells, but any he did know would prove most helpful in cleaning up the largest disaster he had seen in a long time.

"Not quite." Mering scoffed. "You will learn to do everything not only the wizarding way, but in the Muggle way. It is possible that your future owners may let you use magic, or not expect you to perform these type of chores at all, but just in case." He smiled. "And if you finish the kitchen before I get back, you're to sit in this corner," he pointed towards a filthy corner of the kitchen, "until I get back. No excuses. You're not to go wandering the rest of the house. Understood?"

"Understood," Severus confirmed as Mering left out the kitchen door and performed a locking charm on it. Understood, but it is not as if I am going to obey.

He looked over at the pile of dishes. Both sides of the sink overflowed with them, and the counters were covered with stacks. From the state of the food left on the plates, it looked as if someone had thrown a large party fifty years ago and had simply never cleaned up after themselves. The dishes themselves were coated with dust.

You might as well start on them. It will do no good to leave a mess when you are going to be living here for a short while. Severus could not stand things to be untidy. His quarters at Hogwarts were clean, but lived in. They were in just the right amount of disorder. Severus could not imagine how Mering tolerated living in such a pig sty.

With a reluctant sigh, he picked up a tall stack of plates and sat them on the table. He needed to clear off the counters before he could wash the dishes. Give Mering fifteen minutes before you start working on your plans, he told himself. In case he forgot something or wants to peek back in to make sure you are obeying him.

Severus worked on his plan as he walked back and forth from sink to table. Find out where you are, he told himself first. You are still in England, you can assume. Mering sounds as if he is from Devon perhaps. That is not outrageously far, like Spain might be. And even if he is from the Devon area, you might not be there. He could have been simply raised there. He glanced out the back window, which was covered so thickly in dust he could barely see out it. It didn't matter, for all that stood in the backyard was an old shed, with a sagging roof. Instead of grass, there was loose dirt. The backyard was surrounded by a Muggle chain-link fence. It provided no clues to his location.

Next, find an owl. See if you cannot persuade it to take a letter to Minerva. And perhaps one to Kingsley Shacklebolt. Shacklebolt will intervene, I am sure. Though he and the man were not friends, they did have a common respect for each other. They had fought side by side against the Dark Lord. Surely he would not let Severus rot in his newly-found hell.

And search for your wand. He reminded himself as he began filling the sink with hot water and soap he had found under the sink. If you have your wand, you can simply stun Mering when he comes back and make a break for it. He had a feeling it would not be that easy though, and did not hope enough to find his wand to hinge his plan on it. Nor did he have a death wish, as stunning Mering would supposedly kill Severus. If Severus were weak, it would be an easy way to kill himself; however, he had come this far. He would not resort to such.

He looked down into the sink and gasped with surprise at his reflection in the water. He looked the same as he always did, he supposed, though decidedly more pale, likely due to the stress he was under. He hadn't expected to see the elaborate staining on his forehead. For there was a black tattoo, spread across his forehead, in an elegant design.

Severus put his hand to his forehead. It did not feel any different. This is where my head pain has been coming from, he realised. The burning sensation. He did not know how or why the burning occurred, but he would make it his mission to find out.

Severus spent the rest of the day in a whirlwind of activity. After (finally) getting the kitchen to a suitable state, he fixed Mering a sandwich (thanks to the few supplies Mering brought home), which this time, Mering actually ate.

Mering did not give him any.

Afterwards, he started on the sitting room, which was quite a job. The heavy drapes needed taken down and beaten, the windows washed, cobwebs swept down, all the furniture dusted... but Severus kept his mind busy by coming up with different plans of escape.

You could find his Floo powder – it is not as if you need a wand to use that. He mulled over the idea as he wiped furniture polish on the coffee table. You could always speak to Minerva or Shacklebolt via Floo. Or even Floo to Hogwarts or Shacklebolt's office. He assumed that his best chances of getting out laid with his long-time friend, Minerva McGonagall (with her clout as Headmistress), or Kingsley Shacklebolt, former Auror, now Minister for Magic.

"Slave!" Mering barked, coming down the rickety staircase and pointing his wand at the living room and lifting a ward. "I expect supper in half an hour!"

Severus bit his tongue so hard that he tasted blood. He could feel himself trembling with anger as he stood from his knees and dusted off the cloth around his waist. "Yes, Master."

He hated to not be in control, and to be bossed around was most certainly degrading. It took everything he had not to shout at Mering, to give him a piece of his mind before throwing him through the large (and filthy) glass windows of the living room. But he did have control – self-control, which he willed himself to use. Losing his temper would only result in a Cruciatus or worse.

He had had enough of the Cruciatus for a lifetime.

He had tried to open the windows that afternoon, but had been greeted with a horrible shock in his hand and the burning in his forehead. He hadn't bothered with the doors, as certainly Mering would lock those. He had also tried to explore the house, looking for an owl or any clue to his location, but was blocked at the kitchen door by a ward. Wherever he was working, Mering had a ward put up that only he and he alone could take down.

Severus trudged into the kitchen and looked blankly at the items on the table. Mering had brought several items with him from his outing, but had not expressed to Severus what they were. And at the time, Severus hadn't cared. But he now realised they must have been food.

He picked up a small aluminium tin of diced tomatoes and let the memories run over him. As wizards did not buy their food in tins, he had not seen these since before his mother passed away. As his father refused to let her use magic, she cooked the Muggle way. As it was cheaper to buy food canned rather than fresh, there were usually a few cans laying around.

Most of the other tins were filled with beans and tomato juice, as their labelling suggested. Which would make an excellent soup, if only...

Do not ask him for help. Severus was determined to get the cylinders open by himself. But as much as he pushed, pulled, and prodded one, it would not open. Severus rarely asked for help with anything. He preferred to try and solve his problems himself, and he only asked for help when he knew he could not manage on his own. He was likely not going to be able to escape Mering's cruel claws by himself, but he would be able to open the bloody tins.

"It does not even indicate which end is which!" Severus growled in frustration. He could only assume that the tin was upright when the labelling was, but you could never tell with Muggles. He prodded it with a fork, trying to open it, and only succeeded in stabbing himself.

He glanced at the clock whilst wiping his blood unconsciously on the loincloth. He had wasted five precious minutes trying to open the bloody cylinder. Perhaps there was no trick to it. Perhaps...

Grabbing the steak knife he had found whilst washing dishes, he stabbed at the top of the tomato juice cylinder. It bled tomato juice.

Severus rarely smiled, but he needed to. One could only go through so much hell and not find a small victory satisfactory. He chuckled, feeling triumphant, as he stabbed at the tin more, until the tomato juice ran freely from the tin into the pot he had on the table.

"Having fun?" Mering came up behind him as he pried the top off the first tin of kidney beans.

Severus froze. "Not particularly," he responded. He Occluded his mind as soon as he could. He did not know if Mering was a skilled Legilimens or not, but he was not willing to risk it. He emptied the tin into the pot, ignoring the large slice on his finger from the jagged aluminium edge.

"There is an easier way to do that, you know."

"I am well aware," Severus said stiffly. He was not, actually, but would not give Mering the satisfaction in knowing that. "I will have you know that the simplest ways are not always the best ways. It would do you good to remember that." He often told his students that – it rarely worked.

Mering chuckled, though for the life of him, Severus did not know why. Perhaps Mering realised how much angrier Severus became when he chuckled and relished his difficulties. He seemed sadist enough to provide more than physical pain to Severus.

"Then I assume you expect that supper will taste good tainted with your blood? This is a tin opener." He shoved the object into Severus' bleeding hands. "Use it. You have fifteen minutes before supper is to be heated and on the table. Do not expect me to come help you again."

I wouldn't dream of it. Severus put down the tin opener and continued using the steak knife on the can. How was Severus supposed to know how to use the can opener? It was not Severus' fault that he avoided the Muggle world and their ways of doing things like one might avoid a plague of painful boils.

His mind wandered to what it normally did when he was starting to feel exceedingly angry: control. Mering did not know it, but Severus was actually quite in control. Severus was actually manipulating Mering, and Mering didn't know it. So yes, Severus was cooking and cleaning, seemingly obeying Mering's every word without complaint; but in reality, Mering was being woven in a web he couldn't possibly see.

The more Severus obeyed without hesitation, the more Mering was satisfied in his training abilities. The less likely he would be to watch Severus, and the more likely Severus would find a perfect chance to escape, which he was intently watching for.

On top of that, Severus was in control of what he did. He did not have to obey Mering – he chose to. He did not have to sleep shackled to the wall – he was going to choose to. He didn't have to use a knife to open the tin – he could use the tin opener if he chose to – but he simply did not feel like teaching himself how. He knew it was not much, but he clung to every bit of control he had.

As the soup cooked, Severus stared out the back window to the dirt-covered garden. He felt so near and yet so far from it – all he needed to do to escape was get out of the house, and yet... that was going to be close to impossible.

Chapter Text

"Master?" Severus dared to speak up as he knelt by Mering's side at the supper table. He tried to ignore the gnawing hunger pains in his stomach as Mering ate, as Severus smelled the meagre soup.

"Don't speak unless you're spoken to," Mering cautioned casually, not even sparing Severus a glance.

It is foolish to even ask. To him, it will show signs of acceptance. Of accepting your new-found position in society. Do not give him that. Severus concentrated on nothing, pushing everything out of his mind. Occluding when someone was trying to penetrate your mind was hard work, but Occluding just to relax? That was an exercise Severus had started long ago and had never cared to stop. It was what kept him sane sometimes. During Death Eater raids, Slytherin versus Gryffindor Quidditch matches, and everything in between, he would Occlude his mind. When concentrating on nothing, carefully layering his thoughts and memories, it was easier to rein in self-control, even if he could not control the events surrounding him.

"But you were saying?" Mering prodded, much to Severus' surprise. He hadn't expected Mering to let him finish his question.

"You would not happen to have any books on slavery, would you?" Severus tried not to appear too interested, though he was desperate to get his hands on any type of reading material to help him understand his new surroundings. He wanted to know the laws (and, consequently, their loopholes), what was expected of him, traditions, rituals, everything. He needed to be prepared. He was shaming himself as a Slytherin, having had such poor progress in escaping, not to mention shaming himself as a person bowing to Mering's every word.

Mering eyed Severus warily. "Why?"

Do not make eye contact; it will only make him angry. Severus, as a Slytherin, knew a certain amount of eye contact, but not too much, was essential in telling the perfect lie. However, he would have to make due without. "I am thoroughly uneducated on the subject, quite ironically."That is true enough. "If I am expected to act a certain way, to do certain things, it would be easier for me if I could read up on the subject."

"Just continue to do as I say and you'll be fine." Mering brushed Severus off, taking a bite of the soup.

"It would not require much on your part." Severus continued. "A simple Lumos in the basement, and perhaps my being chained to the wall rather than shackled, so that I could read." He was not about to push his luck on not being chained at all. "My work would not falter due to a lack of sleep, I assure you. And I am well aware that the more educated one is, the higher the price they will go for at an auction."

He also knew that anyone who wanted to buy him for his brains would likely not violate another part of his body. His brain, his most precious possession, was his own and no one could ever take it from him. He could protect it more easily than he could the rest of his body. Whilst he could be physically locked up, restrained, his brain could not be, nor could it be broken.

Mering shook his head. "You are not about to trick me with your nonsense."

"Master, you cannot deny the facts," Severus reminded him. "The more educated one is, the more valuable." He knew that much without knowing anything about slavery. "True enough, the fact that I am-"

"The fact that you are a former Death Eater will reduce your price quite a bit. Very few people would be willing to take on a former Death Eater," Mering stated. "You are still a danger to this world, regardless of being a slave or not."

"I was never a danger to this world," Severus scoffed. "I did nothing but stand by and watch, then report to Albus Dumbledore everything that happened. That is how Harry Potter was able to take down the Dark Lord – because of my help!" Not that Potter would ever recognise that.

"Sure. And I'm the King of the Hippogriffs," Mering drawled. "Tell me, slave; if you're so innocent, what was your excuse to the Dark Lord for not helping him murder innocent people?"

"I brewed him powerful Potions," Severus revealed. "I informed him that many Potions required that there be no blood on my hands, for the hands to be cleansed of such matter. He accepted it."

"I see." Mering paused to flick a kidney bean at Severus, which he caught and put in his mouth without thinking about it. He had resigned himself to eating what he could as escaping would not be any easier if he were starving. "Didn't you find it odd that you were not even subjected to a fair trial? Did you not wonder why?"

Severus did and he did not. He hadn't known how Lucius Malfoy had convinced the Ministry of Severus' guilt as well as he had, but he that the Ministry was prone to hastily putting Death Eaters away.

"Lucius Malfoy." He said grimly.

"Excuse me?"

"The man who reported me to the Ministry," Severus explained. "He was a Death Eater and not under the Imperious as he claimed. Malfoy is capable of convincing the Ministry of anything; I imagine he had innumerable people that he was threatening to blackmail, or whose memories were tampered with."

"But why would he degrade you, specifically, below the level of a house-elf? Not that I am feeling any pity or anything."

I never thought you were. But below a House-Elf? "Below the level of a House-Elf?" Severus repeated.

"Oh yes," Mering said with glee. "Are you not aware? You are not even legally a human any longer, but a slave as a breed. As rock-bottom as you can get. At least house-elves can be freed and have no restraints on their magic." He chuckled. "You must listen to everyone, not just your master, unlike a house-elf. You must obey human, house-elf, vampire, or werewolf alike."

"Werewolf." Severus gritted his teeth. Hard. All those years of shoving it in the Wolfman's face that he was much above him had come back to bite him. Now if Remus Lupin were still alive, he could order him to do anything and Severus would legally have to obey. Not that he would. Severus, as a Slytherin, held the rules in high regard. Particularly, he held his rules in high regard, as he had never held the law in too high of a regard.

"Yes. Werewolves are occasionally sold as slaves, but it is highly inconvenient to have them, what with their cycle and tendency to become feral." Mering shrugged, taking another bite of soup. "Go to the basement."

Severus' breath caught in his throat at the order. No, not the basement. "The basement, sir?"

"Yes, the basement," Mering snapped. "As in 'where the scuzz that I permit to live in my house sleeps'. Do not tell me you have forgotten your little escapade last night of escaping your shackles? Now."

For the cause. Until you can find a way to escape, just obey. Severus stood up and made for the basement without a backward glance, ignoring the sinking feeling in his stomach, which was only magnified by the lack of food inside of it.

He cannot expect you to obey the slightest order given unto you if you are famished to the point of death, Severus thought, pacing back and forth in the basement. He had had less to eat in the past twenty-four hours than he could get at an entire meal at Hogwarts. A few bites of a doughy pancake and a few kidney beans were not enough to survive.

Even worse, he had had little water granted to him. He drank some out of the spigot whenever Mering was not around as he was not about to ask Mering for any. If only I had asked him about that blasted tattoo marring my forehead...

He had been at Mering's for twenty-four hours. Away from Hogwarts for forty-eight hours. It was the evening of September 3rd – what was taking everyone so long to deliver him from the hands of Mering? Surely, by now Kingsley was fully aware of what was going on. The man was much too noble to let Severus suffer at the cruel hands of anyone. He would deem the Ministry's actions unethical and set Severus free, of this Severus had no doubt.

He unconsciously pulled at the collar around his neck, which refused to come off. The collar was hardly necessary. Severus had noticed while cleaning the mirror in the living room that it read "Personal property of Nigel Mering", but as Mering was so careful to keep tabs on where Severus was at all times, it was just an inconvenience. It made Severus feel like the lowest of all animals – one never put collars or bridles on magical creatures, only common non-magical ones, such as dogs and horses.

I suppose I should be honoured, for they are likely 'above' me, as well, Severus thought wryly.

He had never put much stock in bloodlines, or "who is above whom". He actually found the whole process of keeping the Purebloods away from the half-bloods disgusting. He had never failed to remind Black that Black's parents were actually cousins, and how that could explain any birth defects Black had, the worst one being his mind. He had hated the idea of Muggleborns earlier on, but had soon gotten over that after he switched loyalties; Albus Dumbledore had rubbed off on him too much.

That said, even when he did hate the idea of Muggleborns, he would have married Lily Evans in a heartbeat.

Lily, do this for Lily, he reminded himself. At all costs, stay alive for her. Live for the both of you. He had spent years ensuring her son's safety, and now that he was (hopefully) out of the worst of it, it was time to save his own neck. Unfortunately, it did not seem it would come easily.

Hearing Mering's footsteps start to descend the staircase, Severus quit pacing and waited for the man. Mering had to be at least sixty. Not very old, but older than Severus. Old enough to take his time on things such as walking down stairs, even when you had a slave waiting for you that was so completely petrified over the set of circumstances he was in. Not that Severus showed that he was frightened at all. He kept his chin up and glared at Mering as he walked into the room. If anything, it might seem that Severus was frightening Mering instead of the other way around. If I just had my wand for one instant...Severus thought.

"Against the wall," Mering ordered, malice in his voice, a venomous grin on his face. His eyes twinkled dangerously. His face was lit by his wand, which held a Lumos. The rest of the basement was still as dark as ever.

Severus swallowed back any nervousness he had, keeping his voice and expression cool. "And why would I do that?" The collar around his neck tightened, restricting airflow. His dark eyes widened as he discovered he could only take small, shallow breathes. Any tighter and the collar would kill him. You have not survived all of these years to die alone in this dark basement.

"You might remember me threatening you last evening," Mering asked, "about transforming?"

Numbly, Severus just nodded. He did remember. 'We are going to let him try to escape, if he wants. Once he finds out our little punishment, he will never try again,' Mering had said.

"You intend on suffocating me?" He barely managed to whisper. His head began to feel light; he was not getting enough oxygen. Do not talk, just focus on breathing.

"Oh, Merlin, no." Mering shook his head, mockingly. "Where is the fun in that? Stand against the wall."

Severus backed up against the wall, the wall with the shackles, not taking his eyes off of Mering. Mering had a wand – he could throw any curse he pleased at Severus. Severus would not be hit in the back by a hex he never saw coming. At least if he knew what curse he was to be hit with, he would know the counter-curses if he had a chance to cure himself.

"Face the wall," Mering commanded.

Well, there goes that little dream, Severus complied, feeling possibly more vulnerable than he had the entire time he had been there. Whatever he has planned, do not cry out. Keep the impassive front. Do notgive in.

Severus knew, realistically, that if he cried out in pain, if he showed looks of fright and shame, that Mering might be more satisfied with his efforts and might go easier on him. But might was the key word. He also might hurt him even further, encouraged by Severus' pain. And Severus would also lose his pride. His pride ranked second in importance to him after his brain.

"I spent the day deciding on an appropriate punishment." He heard Mering say as he shackled Severus to the wall. With Severus' back facing Mering, he could only guess what Mering might be planning on doing. "Starvation did not see like an ideal punishment; if I want you sold in a month, you cannot be too malnourished. Extra chores might work further on in your training, but as it's only the first full day..." Severus shackled firmly to the wall, Mering released the tightness of the collar, letting Severus breathe easier.

Mering's voice travelled around the room as if he were walking.

Severus wouldn't succumb to this man's punishment, he would not. He would give in as much as necessary, but only until he could escape. As Mering said, it was only the first full day.

"There are thousands of methods, of course," Mering continued. "Punishing slaves can be a practised art-form, really." His voice grew nearer.

Could he really be that demented? Severus wondered.

"This punishment will have to do." Mering sighed. "I'm getting too old for this kind of physical labour."

And then, with a crack, Severus felt as if he had been slapped hard. A burning sensation on his bare back. He couldn't help but flinch at the unexpected and sudden pain.

That damned whip! He realised, thinking back on the previous night.

"Ah, but it hurts, doesn't it?" Mering said. Severus could just envision a twisted smile on the man's face. "Let's see if fifty lashes don't convince you not to escape."

Severus gritted his teeth as the next blow hit. Let's see if fifty lashes do not encourage me even further to find a way of escaping. He then reverted to the process of concentrating on a single image, of closing out every thought, every feeling, every memory. If he could just Occlude throughout the process...

"Seven," Mering called out as the whip tore into Severus' skin. "Eight. Nine."

He could only shut his eyes tight and endure. He had few, if any, other options.

He no longer was really there. He merely... existed. Not much different from receiving the Dementor's Kiss, really. He was there in body, but his mind? Gone. Blocked. Asleep. No matter how you worded it, Severus barely noticed as Mering continued to hit him, whilst calling him names such as "filthy vermin". Oh, it hurt, all right. But when Occluding, he was too focused on not focusing to cry out in pain. He barely noticed when Mering struck the fiftieth blow.

"And that's for trying to sneak away!" Mering exclaimed, breathless. Apparently beating someone to a pulp was strenuous work. Mering stalked out of the room, slamming and likely locking the door behind him, leaving Severus alone in the dark, dank basement.

Severus opened his eyes and arched his back, trying to relieve the horrible pain. He hadn't cried out during the beating, but it hadn't been easy. He had seen men crack under less torture than that. Severus wouldn't cave. He had quite a bit of self-imposed dignity, and would not be giving any of it away for Mering's sadistic pleasure.

Speaking of dignity... he realised with mild horror that the cloth around his waist had fallen at some point, as he hung on the moist wall. He could feel blood trickling down his back, down his leg...

Do not give in. He wishes to see you humiliated. Embarrassed. Horrified. In pain and hopeless. Humble and weak. You will not give him any of that, ever. If a few beatings is the price to pay for staying strong, so be it.

Chapter Text

The next few days went by excruciatingly slowly for Severus. They all seemed to be endless replicas of each other.

Every morning, Mering would unlock him from his shackles and have Severus follow him to the kitchen, though thankfully on his feet and not crawling. Whilst making breakfast, out of a meagre amount of food items that appeared on the kitchen table each morning, Mering would continue to insult Severus by making fun of his appearance or position, by taunting him with how 'no suitable owner would want a Death Eater', or by flat-out referring to Severus as "filth", "scum", or "worthless". Not that the insults bothered Severus much, as he knew he was an unattractive person, that being a slave was sure to be a temporary position, that being a Death Eater was far better than being a slave owner, and as for the other insults... he had heard better insults from Hufflepuffs, and that was saying something, as Hufflepuffs were supposed to be the loyal ones.

Perhaps growing up as a Slytherin, and after raising quite a few of them as House head, he had grown accustomed to more clever insults.

After breakfast (in which he was indulged if he had behaved thus far), he would be sent to do various chores. The living room had taken an extra day to finish, and he had fixed the stairway in the hall the Muggle way (and had a very badly bruised thumb to show for it). The downstairs hallway and bathroom (both disgustingly dirty) were eventually cleaned in non-magical ways as well. He still hadn't yet had a chance to venture upstairs, but he hadn't given up hope. Surely there was some clue to his location up there, and perhaps an owl, though he hadn't heard one. There was also the matter of finding Floo powder and a fireplace connected to the network. He was not dense enough to assume that the downstairs fireplace was connected to it, but perhaps an upstairs one was.

The time after supper was his least favourite of the day. After supper was when he was expected to submit to whatever punishment Mering felt he had deserved. Every night it involved some sort of flogging with different materials. Severus had discovered that Mering was well-equipped with different sorts of whips and rods, and also that he knew every spell in the world that could possibly hurt another. Severus had knowledge of those same spells – he was not a self-titled Dark Arts expert for nothing- but he had not actually expected to have such spells used on him before. He knew many a spell to defend himself against such attacks, but now could do nothing. Without a wand, such spells were pointless. As far as wandless magic went, he could not perform those spells without a wand. And even if he could, he could not perform any type of spell against Mering; Mering ruthlessly reminded him of that every chance he got.

He was at Mering's mercy, a thought that did not comfort him.

But unlike the first night, the beatings no longer took place in the confines of the basement, nor was Severus released to go to bed afterwards. No, he would still have to complete tasks that he could hardly stomach. He had no qualms in cleaning the atrociously dirty house, in making meals, but the other tasks he was given, akin to foot massages and licking shoes clean? Mering seemed to enjoy coming up with those sorts of tasks when he got bored, tasks that no one in their right mind would relish.

Severus found himself getting into the habit of Occluding, simply so he would not have to think. It was relaxing, in its own way. Not when someone was trying to penetrate your mind, of course, but when you were not blocking anything but your own thoughts, it was. He was yet again very glad he had had the idea and abilities to learn Occlumency at the young age he had. He hadn't had a clue at the time how much he would need the skill.

"After cleaning up breakfast, you are to go upstairs, to the third door on the left-hand side, to clean and organise the room," Mering stated as he shovelled food into his mouth one morning.

Severus could only imagine what was in the room. It would likely be a wreck as the downstairs had been until Severus had cleaned. "Yes, Master." He closed his eyes and breathed deeply after speaking those words. He would not react.

His plan involved taking Mering by surprise, and in order to do that, he needed Mering to trust him. If he fought every chance he got, Mering would only be more cautious around him, making escape more impossible. Escape already would be hard enough, what with the wards Mering cast to make sure Severus only stayed in designated rooms at designated times; without a wand, he could never escape. Therefore, his goal was to either find his own wand or take Mering's. He could likely tear down the wards easily.

Merlin knew he had had enough practice.

As he hadn't a clue where his own wand was kept, Mering's wand was his best option. A wizard could make any wand work for him, just some not as easily as others. But Mering, like every adult wizard, kept his wand on his person at all times. One had to keep in mind that Mering might be capable of wandless magic as well. Whatever attack Severus planned had to take little time.

He had to take Mering by surprise whilst Mering had his wand out. That alone would be tricky, for whenever Mering had his wand out, he was usually torturing Severus with it. The matter of how to take him by surprise without having the Cruciatus or another form of punishment put on him was also tricky.

He could not harm Mering in any way possible. The most obvious choice to take him by surprise was a swift and sudden kick in the groin, but would the enslavement curse see that as harm? Likely so. But any sudden movement, and Mering would likely curse him... Severus knew he was not the first slave Mering had attempted to break. He knew Mering, for years, had successfully trained many slaves before him. Mering would be prepared for any sort of stunt Severus tried to pull.

That was discouraging, but he had to at least try.

"The wards are set in that room to allow certain spells from your wand," Mering continued. "You will be able to summon objects and Scourgify them, but that is it. You will not be able to Apparate or do anything else. If you try, I'll know."

"Yes, Master," Severus said, his heart lifting. He was allowed to use magic? What if he conjured a Patronus? Yes, Mering had said he would not be able to, but that was advanced magic. And it was not as if Mering expected him to use a Patronus, as Patronuses were usually used for self-defence against certain Dark creatures. It was only because of Dumbledore that the Patronus had any other purpose. He had devised a way for the Order to contact each other using their Patronuses. Certainly he could cast a few for Minerva, Shacklebolt... any other member of the Order who might wish to seek him out and help him. It would not be much, of course, but it would prove he was alive and was waiting for their help.

Severus was familiar with warding of areas, especially wards that prevented magic from being used. Those were generally complicated to cast, and normally a Patronus would not be included in the spells prohibited in the area... the Patronus was a quite random charm. Few knew how to properly cast them, so why waste time and energy making it so that one could not cast one in a certain area?

"Master, I do have an important question regarding my enslavement and self-defence." He chose his words carefully. Mering was strict about Severus never initiating conversation, but he hadn't exactly initiated this one.

"And that would be...?"

"I am not to use my wand to protect myself against my Master, I understand," Severus said. "Or any other witch or wizard, correct?"

"Unless they are trying to cause you bodily harm that your master would not approve of, no." Mering eyed Severus suspiciously. "Why?"

"I taught Defence Against the Dark Arts for a year, Master. It is only my nature to want such questions answered." Severus was not lying as that was the truth. "But if a creature, such as a troll or Dementor, were trying to harm me, I could use a spell to stop them or ward them off?"

Mering nodded. "Unless your master instructed you otherwise, but since most do not want their slaves having their souls sucked out..." he paused. "Not that any of this is normally a problem. Do you intend on crossing paths with a troll any time soon?"

Severus chuckled. It would make his asking about it more plausible. "No, Master. But after a lifetime of fighting against the Dark, one can never be too careful."

Fighting against the Dark. I did, you realise.

Mering led Severus into the room. The room, much to Severus' surprise, appeared to be a small study. There was a medium-sized bookshelf on the wall and a desk in front of a window, overlooking a side street. The room was filled with junk and other clutter. It was dusty, and had the smell of mothballs to it.

"You may use magic," Mering reminded Severus, reaching into his pocket and pulling out Severus' ebony wand. "But remember, only Accio and Scourgify. I will be able to tell if you've tried to use anything else. Once you've finished, you're to go downstairs and wait in the corner. Understood?"

"Understood, Master," Severus confirmed, reaching out and gripping his familiar ebony wand. He had gotten it at Ollivander's when he was eleven-years-old. When he had come to Hogwarts, everything had been second-hand, at best - his books, his trunk, his robes... but not his wand. His mother had scrimped and saved for years to get him a wand at Ollivander's. Severus had not known how much wands cost at the time, but he had assumed that they were very expensive. Now that he had gotten older, he realised that, as they were necessary for a wizard, they did not run too cheaply nor too expensive. They were actually somewhat reasonable.

It reminded Severus of just how poor his family had been, even if he had not realised it at the time.

He loved his wand. It had been his only constant throughout the years. No matter what, he always had it. He had had it when he was at school being taunted by James Potter and his gang, he had had it when he joined up with the Dark Lord, he had had it the moment he found out Lily had died, he had had it throughout the quiet but dark ten years where he taught as Potions master before Harry Potter came along. He had used it to rescue Potter over and over, he had used it to kill Albus Dumbledore... His wand had been there with him no matter what. And gripping it now, he realised how much he loved it. How much he needed it. Depended on it.

Mering nodded. "I will be going to meet a colleague of mine. She will likely be coming for dinner one day next week." At that, he turned on his heel and left.

Severus did not stop to ponder Mering's words. He did not care where Mering went or what he did, or who his colleagues were. He had a feeling that Mering said those kinds of things to his slaves to make him feel superior, because he had things to do, because he was going somewhere while Severus had to stay behind. Perhaps he did not realise that those sorts of things did not bother Severus in the least.

Conjure a Patronus! He told himself. You can do it easily enough - it will be a sure sign that you need help. But as much as he hated to admit it, and would never admit to another, he was afraid. If Mering caught him, it could end very badly...

He turned and looked at the titles of the dusty books on the shelves. All

(surprise, surprise)

were on slavery. Slavery in History was one, Laws and Orders of Slavery in the Wizarding World, Punishing Slaves: The Art, and more. It was rather sickening to read the titles, let alone...

Severus glanced cautiously behind him. Mering had gone, had he not? He hadn't heard a door slam or the familiar crack of someone Apparating, but it did not mean Mering hadn't left. There were probably sound wards from downstairs to upstairs.

He grabbed Laws and Orders of Slavery in the Wizarding World and flipped it open. The dust in the book got in his nose. He resisted a sneeze as he thumbed through the pages. It seemed to be more than laws - the book was practically a how-to guide for owning a slave.

A how-to guide for owning a slave could be the how-to guide for being a slave, if one applied reverse psychology.

Slytherins were resourceful. Out of all the houses at Hogwarts, Slytherins would be the most likely to survive any circumstance, simply because they knew how to take what they had and make it work. For example, if you locked a person from each house alone in a dark room, with no windows, no door, no wand, and gave them a pine cone, a piece of pie, and a piece of string to get themselves out, it would likely be a Slytherin to get out first. What he learned from the book, combined with a Patronus or two, would have to be Severus' pine cone, pie, and string.

Severus set the book aside and looked at his wand. Think of a happy memory, he told himself. When was the happiest you have ever been? Conjuring a Patronus had never been the easiest thing for him. He did not have many happy memories to work from.

The happiest he had ever been had not changed since the beginning of his fifth year though. He had been serving detention for hexing Potter in Herbology. Of course, no one had listened to him that Potter had pulled his wand out first, and that Severus had only been acting in self-defence. So there he was working, and who but Lily Evans came up behind him. She, as a Prefect, had pulled some strings and gotten him out of detention. They had stepped out of the greenhouse into the absolute pouring rain and just stood there, getting soaked. One thing had led to another and she had kissed him... that moment stayed with Severus for the rest of his life. When he had first conjured his Patronus, he had thought of that moment, and as his life hadn't exactly gone uphill since, he hadn't had another memory to even consider changing to. He was not a depressed person by nature, but he was not a happy one either. He had few happy memories to choose from.

"Expecto Patronum!" He bellowed, pointing his wand out the window. He focused all his attention, all his energy on that memory and Kingsley Shacklebolt. And to Severus' great relief, a doe came leaping out of his wand, out the window, and disappeared out of sight.

He took a few calming deep breaths before beginning again. "Expecto Patronum!" Another doe came leaping out and went the same direction as the other, only this time to Minerva McGonagall.

Well, while you are at it... "Expecto Patronum!" He sent towards Arthur Weasley, yet another member of the Order.

The Patronuses served little purpose except as a sign, a sign that he wanted help. Surely they would understand that with one look at his Patronus... He was running out of ways to manipulate Mering. The little game Severus was playing that could be entitled "How Long I Can Control Mering Without Giving Orders" was getting old fast. It did not take an Order of Merlin to realise that any webs he tried to weave were not working, and that he was next to helpless in his current situation.

Reading Laws and Orders of Slavery in the Wizarding World did not improve his outlook much at all. The writer of the book stressed the fact that the irreversible spell would severely knock a slave out or even kill him if he attempted to harm his master, through magic or not. It also dwelt quite a bit on the slave tattoo, which interested Severus greatly:

The Mark of a slave, an elaborate tattoo shown here, serves many purposes. Not only does it alert shop-owners and others nearby that the person is a slave (slaves are forbidden by law to make purchases unless their master has given them permission – see below), but it also serves as a way to both punish and reward a slave. To punish the slave through the Mark, all the Master need do is hold his wand to the slave's head and a burning sensation will ensue. If the Master is not present and the slave disobeys, his forehead will slowly start to burn, to ensure the slave does little wrong. On the other hand, the Master's touch to the slave's forehead proves to be a very rewarding touch, akin to arousal, and many slaves are concupiscent towards simply feeling their Master's touch.

Severus unconsciously reached up and traced the blank design on his forehead. It did not hurt right then, but he knew what the book was talking about. The prickling feeling he got when he outright defied Mering, how it soon transferred into a painful burning... yet that did not bother him as much as the Master's Touch. The book made it sound like he would... enjoy getting touched on the forehead by Mering?

Severus shook his head. Hardly. He would never enjoy being anywhere near the man. He read on.

For slaves to be able to legally make purchases, they must be taken to a trained Ministry official, who will cast a spell on them. The spell, shown on page 329, renders the tattoo nearly invisible. However, the slave can and will still feel the burning and rewarding effects of the tattoo.

Severus set the book back on the shelf after applying a Scourgifying spell on it. The book had told him all he needed to know. The spell was irreversible and his only hope would be someone from the Order purchasing him. If that happened, he would be able to live a semi-normal life. Still, no matter how much freedom said Order member ever gave him, he would still have to obey all their orders, direct or indirect, or suffer the burning sensation on his forehead. He was unable to fight back. In short, he had been chicaned and there was nothing he could do about it.

Life was unfair, he had learned that long ago. However, acceptance was a different thing altogether.

Chapter Text

Severus arched his back, trying to get the stiff feeling out of it. The pain and soreness that shot through his back were not worth getting the muscles stretched; Severus was starting to seriously wonder how much skin he had left on his back.

Sleeping in the shackles was not comfortable, but yet, it was Severus' favourite time of day. Alone, in the darkness, he did not have to worry about any sort of indignity, or keeping his emotionless façade.

He was alone. Completely alone. It was the only time of the day he could truly think without having to worry about not doing something right, about going too slow, about not coming when called...

He had lost track of the amount of time he spent in the basement ever since that day that Mering had come home and used a simple form of Priori Incantatem to see what spells Severus had used in his absence. He had been furious, of course, and had flayed Severus within an inch of his life. Ever since then, Severus had been in the basement. It could have been hours or days ago. He had no way of knowing.

Severus had not been surprised, nor had he been emotionally hurt by the act. He knew full-well when he had cast the Patronuses that Mering did not make idle threats, but they had been his only hope. They still were. He could not escape from Mering on his own, that much was clear. Even if he did manage to escape from him, the burning on his forehead would grow so unbearable, it would likely boil his brain. Though attacking Mering and dying instantly had sounded tempting during his punishment, it had not been tempting enough to seriously consider it. Though he was trying to accept the situation he was in, that he was helpless to help himself, he still had his pride. He would not become weak.

On the note of a new owner, Severus had decided that if it came to that, he really preferred someone buy him because of his knowledge in potions. If someone wanted him to brew for them on a day-to-day basis – maybe for an Apothecary or something of the like – he could do that. It would not hurt his brain at all – it would only stimulate it – and it would mean that he was not harmed in any other way.

And as for the "pleasure" aspect... Severus could hardly stand to think on it. He had seen the people on the dark streets at night, offering their "services", and could only shake his head at the thought at the time. He had chosen an celibate lifestyle. He had fallen in love once and had had his heart broken; he was not about to risk any further damage to it. The fact that two humans could engage in such an act with no strings attached, without knowing each other's names... he was not one to randomly spout advice, especially on that particular topic, but that seemed like a very idiotic thing to do. He supposed the world really was going to the gutter, or he really was as Victorian as accused. Perhaps both.

But to be bought for that sole purpose? Severus had to swallow the bile in his throat just thinking about it. He was very glad he was unattractive for being merely thirty-eight. The tolls of his hard life made him look older than he was. Even though he had convinced himself that he would be sold (if sold at all) for his brains or for hard physical labour, the thought of "pleasure" still worried him.

You really should sleep, a little voice reminded him. All of this not sleeping is doing you little favours. But since waking to the Cruciatus that first morning, Severus could not sleep. He couldn't bring himself to close his eyes and truly sleep. He needed to be awake. Alert. Ready for whatever Mering had planned. And since he had been in the basement for at least two days, he imagined, Mering was due to come down at any time... he liked to come down at random intervals, just to taunt Severus.

Whatever Mering has planned... Severus had to fight with himself to not talk back to Mering, but it was growing more difficult. He hadn't a trifle of respect for the man. All the 'yes, Master's were making him sick to his stomach.

Sometimes Severus felt like he was giving in. He knew he wasn't; he was counting on Minerva and Shacklebolt, but the fact alone that he was counting on them made him ill. He knew that there was nothing he could do to escape, that he could only count on someone else intervening, but they were not seeming to. Why not? Surely they would –Shacklebolt was too noble to sit in the office as Minister for Magic and not do anything.

And Minerva. Minerva had been in his life since he was young. As she was the Gryffindor Head of House, it was unusual the amount of attention she provided to Severus, but looking back, Severus realised that she had noticed something the other professors had either failed to realise or chosen to ignore. She realised that he needed help. Guidance. A friend, other than Lily, of course. She had provided it as best she could, without once making Severus feel as if she pitied him. That had been exactly what he needed. Even though he had joined ranks with the Dark Lord as he grew older, she had had an incredible influence on his life. An influence he supposed took the place of his mother at the time.

He needed something. Anything. A sign of hope. He felt as if he were living in a dark tunnel. He needed to know what was going on in the wizarding world, of how the rest of the world was reacting to such an outrageous punishment come to pass. Unless no one knew... but he knew without a doubt that they did. There had been reporters there, taking notes and pictures as he was forced to his knees and had the enslavement spell put on him.

Hearing footsteps on the basement stairs, Severus immediately put his head up and pulled against the shackling restraints to be as straight as possible, ignoring the feeling of the edge of the shackles cutting into his skin. He would not look at all like he had been weak – he would not slump nor would he bow more than necessary. Mering could quite legally and magically take away Severus' free-will and his clothes, but he could never take away his pride.

"Awake, I see," Mering commented, pointing his wand at the shackles and silently uttering a spell.

The shackles opened, Severus falling to the ground. He hated that the shackles left him just high enough off the ground to ensure he would not fall as gracefully as he would have liked.

Severus glared up at him, rubbing his inflamed wrists as he stood. Red, swollen, and painful, he could think of quite a few potions that would instantly fix his wrists and ankles. Potions Mering would likely refuse to bestow on Severus, nor would let him brew. Severus would not ask. It would be as if he were admitting that he needed Mering's permission to do anything and everything, when quite frankly... do. Severus realised as he numbly followed Mering up the stairs. If you do not obey him and honour him the way he wants you to, he will just hurt you until you finally decide you have had enough and try to kill him... there is no way out. You are his slave until the Ministry intervenes... there is no way around it.

He supposed he should have come to that realisation on the evening of September 2nd, when everything started, but he had been too busy looking for ways out. Now that he realised there weren't any, it took everything he had not to retch on the floor he had taken great pains to polish. He was bound to obey every word of Mering's – there was no way around it.

"I thought we'd do something different today," Mering said casually, leaning on the now-clean kitchen counter.

Severus just looked at his own feet. Still pale as ever, they were not quite as tender as they were a week ago, when he had been taken by the Ministry. All the walking barefoot seemed to have toughened the soles of his feet, and definitely dirtied them. He smelled so very horrid. Contrary to the students' beliefs, Severus actually had very good hygiene habits and hated feeling as filthy as he did.

Has it been only a week? It feels like so much longer.

"I am tired of bringing in food everyday from home," Mering stated. "I am taking you to Hogsmeade, where we will purchase some groceries."

Hogsmeade. Severus looked up in surprise – and in dread. Hogsmeade would be the perfect place to escape, except... except everyone there will know I am a slave, from the papers and from the tattoo...And what day is it? It is... he glanced at the calender behind Mering, Friday. Good, so at least the students will not be out and about. The last thing I need to suffer is the humiliation of them seeing their dreaded Potions master in a loincloth... but people I know will certainly be there. No one you know well enough to try and rescue you. Oh Merlin, let Minerva decide to go to Hogsmeade today on a whim...

"Of course, you will have to change. You're not appropriately dressed for Hogsmeade," Mering continued.

Severus coughed. "I see. And coming from someone who believes appropriate attire at any case is a filthy scrap of dish rag, what would you designate me to wear to Hogsmeade?" He needed to choose his words carefully, as he found he could get away with insulting Mering if he did so carefully. Mering said that no one liked a slave with no personality, which Severus supposed was good for him. As long as the insults were not direct or particularly rude, he was fine.

"Oh, if you feel that way, we could come up with something else for you to wear full-time?" Severus did not like nor did he trust the gleam in Mering's eye.

"I would rather not take my chances, thank you," Severus said shortly.

Mering just chuckled. "You're to go into the bathroom and wash up. Your clothing is on the back of the toilet. You've fifteen minutes."

Severus did not bother to waste a second thanking Mering, like his punishment-induced impulses said he should.

Forget your impulses, he told himself, shutting the bathroom door behind him. You are not going to thank a man who has permitted you to cleanse yourself of a week's worth of grime. He realised the mere thought of thanking Mering, without prompting, should frighten him more than it did.

"And, for Merlin's sake, do something with that hair!" Mering called through the bathroom door.

What do you expect me to do with it? You've given me no soap, no potion to work with... regardless, Severus did not care. The feeling of the warm water over his body as he showered was good enough for him.

He stared at the noticeably dirty, bloodstained water as it drained. What did you expect to wind up as? After the war ended, what did you really expect? He knew that sounded pathetic – he was not a hormonal fifth-year! It was difficult to wrap his mind around the idea that this could really be his fate. After years of fighting, for an admittedly selfish cause, could this be where he ended up? Did he really have nothing to live for, now that no one needed him? Certainly, no one cared for him. He did not have too many illusions about the extent of Minerva's fondness for him, and anyone who might have searched for him for moral or sentimental reasons – Dumbledore, and even his nemesis but the compassionate Lupin came to mind – was dead.

It would be a bit far-fetched to assume everyone had forgotten about him, as he was sure Hogwarts was struggling to find a Potions master to replace him, but they soon would, if he was left in the hands of Mering too long. They all would.

Stop that now, he snapped out of it, trying his best to rinse his hair out. He stared at the dead spider he saw sliding down the drain. Regardless of whether anyone needs you or not, you will not pity yourself. Now or ever. Nor will you let anyone pity you. Today at Hogsmeade, you will hold your head high and make anyone who wishes to stare or pity wish they hadn't.

Turning off the water, he immediately regretted the fact that there were no towels. He knew there were none as he had checked after spilling something earlier that week. But then again, Mering's wording was not lost on Severus when he said "I am tired of bringing in food every day from home". "Home" meant "where Mering lived". Mering left at night after he locked Severus down in the basement. He had somewhere else to go. A warm place to put his head, plenty of food to eat, likely a family... the man did not deserve any of that. Severus did admit that it made sense; if one wanted to train a slave, of course they would use magic to make the place filthy, and make the slave clean it up. No one in their right mind would let their own house get that filthy. Supplying the cabinets with towels were likely not on Mering's mind. Severus could not help but wonder how many other slaves before him had encountered the same towel issue.

You are not a slave, he reminded himself, doing his best to rinse out the cloth he had worn that week in the sink. He might as well try to get the excess dirt off of that while he could. Regardless of what the law currently says about you, you are a human being. One far above anyone who tolerates this sort of behaviour from people like Mering. He had never been completely against the practice of slavery, but he had always been against treating someone indecently. He used Lupin's status as a werewolf as an excuse to treat someone he disliked as inferior; however, he did not have a problem with relatively harmless creatures in general. The slavery issue was worse than that, because at least werewolves were of a different species. The slavery curse, as far as Severus could tell, did not cause a change in species. The so-called 'change of species' was simply arbitrary. He could change Harry Potter's status from "wizard" to "squib", but it wouldn't change the fact that Harry Potter was easily one of the most powerful wizards alive.

Potter. Why did it always have to come back to Potter? Not even in the rest of the world, but in his own head? Severus felt like hitting his head against the wall for that as he wrung out the cloth and settled it over the shower curtain rod. Then again, he had spent the last seven years making sure that nothinghappened to Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived. Actually, he had spent the last eighteen years guaranteeingthat. Because Harry Potter was all that was left of Lily, and as much as Severus despised the child for being so much like James Potter, he had made a promise to himself, to Lily, to protect the boy.

And this is what I get in return, is it, boy? He glared at the neatly folded robes on the back of the toilet. A life of servitude? Why can't you get your sorry little rump over here and hex Mering for me?

Stop it, Severus – you're really out of sorts if you are wishing for Potter to come help you.

He was also out of sorts if he spent his time arguing with himself.

He slipped on the robe. It was too large for him, and an tan colour that contrasted oddly with his pale skin, but it would have to do. Much better than the cloth he had been wearing around his waist. He would rather be seen in the robe than practically nothing.

He ran his fingers through his hair. Though free of loose dust and dirt, for the most part Severus was still filthy. He had scrubbed off what he could with his hands, but that did not help the odour that was attached to him. Yet what Mering wanted, Mering was getting. Had he really cared that Severus was clean, he would have done more to ensure it.

Severus opened the door to find Mering standing right outside it, tapping his foot. "Let's see it then." Mering said, motioning to the robe.

Severus gritted his teeth and complied, stepping out of the bathroom door and letting Mering see how the robe fit him.

"A bit too big, but it'll have to do. You-Know-Who didn't feed his army enough, then? All right, let's go." He held his arm out to Severus.

He paused. What does he expect me to do? "You are well aware that I can Apparate on my own. It is one of the many skills the Dark Lord taught his army." Severus spoke each word with extra diction, hoping to get his meaning across to Mering. It was so hard to though, without letting his eyes speak for him. It was something he had taken for granted for years; the ability to use one word combined with one glare, to have everyone understand. Without being able to effectively use his eyes, without having any authority, he was lucky he garnered any attention from Mering.

Mering just chuckled. "I am hardly going to let you Apparate on your own. And I am not going to let you use your wand again yet, especially out of my sight." His eyes narrowed. "Remember that spell I mentioned last night? That will make you feel as if you are falling into glass shards? Grab hold."

Severus did recall mention of that spell, and though he had never heard of it before, had no doubt that Mering knew it and would use it. At least he is taking you with him. He could be leaving you here even longer to rot. "If you dare splinch me, I will make-"

They Disapparated with a crack!, Severus never getting to finish his sentence.

Severus immediately breathed in the the familiar smell of Firewhiskey. He stood outside the Hog's Head. Severus did not drink often, but desperate times occasionally called for desperate measures. More than he cared to admit, in the past he had downed a little bit of Ogden's Old just to survive the day.

It hadn't been easy following the Tri-Wizard tournament. He woke up to teach a dangerous subject to rambunctious children who quite frankly did not want to be taught, and tried to sleep be disrupted by the burning of the Dark Mark, which meant having to get up and go somewhere, to be on edge and alert, afraid for his life. Drinking a bit certainly hadn't been the healthiest of coping methods, of course, and could have been a hazard as it lowered his inhibitions. Dumbledore had not been at all pleased with his coping methods.

Of all times, I sure could use enough to get me drunk now, Severus thought. A bottle of Firewhiskey and I won't know left from right, much less that I am being ordered around by someone who likely has less education and less authority than I do.

"Smells good, don't it?" Mering grinned at Severus, who immediately looked to his bare feet and sniffed. He would not let Mering think he wanted or needed anything; Mering would only use that as means to taunt him, and Severus knew it.

"Of course we're going there first – I need something in my stomach if I'm expected to run around Hogsmeade all day." Mering started for the door. "Follow three paces behind me, and don't even think of running. I have eyes in the back of my head."

Purposefully, he followed four paces behind Mering. It was trivial enough for Mering not to notice or care, and a way for Severus to still be in control. He dreaded going into the inn, surrounded by people who very well knew who he was. As Potions master at Hogwarts, he had been a hermit in his own right, preferring the dungeons to the company of people. However, that was not to say he did not enjoy the occasional visit to the nearby village. The people in Hogsmeade would know he was Hogwarts' former Potions master, a former Death Eater turned slave.

Do not show any sort of humiliation – act as if you are here on Hogwarts business, or on leisure.

He knew why Mering wanted to take him to Hogsmeade. He had known that the moment Mering had told him. Mering wanted to test Severus, to see if Severus was ready for the "next step"; h wanted to see if Severus was getting settled in his ways as a slave. Severus was not yet sure what he wanted Mering to think – if Mering thought "no, he is not ready", then Severus only faced more punishments and was less likely to be auctioned off at Henderson's, which was obviously the best thing he was going to get if someone didn't help him soon. But to get Mering to think he was broken, he would have to submit to orders in public, which was something Severus was not thrilled to be doing. To him, it was a sign of defeat.

It is a sign of control, Severus reminded himself, carefully avoiding a sharp rock on the dirt road. You are still in control, manipulating Mering. He found himself having to remind himself of that more often, which he did not appreciate. It had become less clear; how exactly was he manipulating Mering now? Before, he had been fooling Mering into thinking he was being broken, but now what? He was obeying him left and right if you forgot the Patronus incident. Broken meant trained to obey...

"You're to kneel beside my chair, out of the way, understood? Remember the spell I promised you? The pit of glass shards?" Mering questioned Severus outside the Hog's Head.

Severus nodded before murmuring "yes, Master". He had known better than to hope for a bar stool of his own. Not that he really cared. He was ashamed to admit it, even to himself, but he was feeling lucky that Mering was bringing him into the bar. He had half-expected to be chained up out front like an animal.

He resisted the urge to finger the collar around his neck. Thanks to the low-cut style of the robe, the collar was on display for anyone who wanted to look at it. He noticed many people milling about the street did, in fact, stare. But they quickly turned away when they noticed Severus' sharp glare.

Of course, the man wants to mortify you even further. Severus was not an idiot. He knew the reason Mering consistently dished out insults towards him. The lower Severus thought of himself, the more likely he would be to obey. Severus was not going to give Mering that satisfaction. It was unfortunate that the consequences for disobedience were so high.

Mering sat down on a bar stool and began to idly chat with the man seated next to him. Severus paid them no attention as he knelt on the wooden floor.

Occlude. Life manages to be so much more liveable when you are not aware of where you are. He found himself wishing it was a Saturday – if it was a Saturday where the Hogwarts students were permitted to visit Hogsmeade, surely some of the Slytherin students would have hexed Mering for his treatment of their Head of House. Or a Gryffindor, as much as they hated Severus, would attempt some brave act that would either help Severus escape or end up making matters worse for him. A Hufflepuff would wind up crying all the way back to Hogwarts in pursuit of Minerva, who in turn, would do something to help... Severus could not believe he was fantasising about his students seeing him in such a deplorable position, but he was otherwise beginning to feel hopeless. It had been a week – plans took time to execute, he understood from experience, but seven days was a bit too much.

He felt too much of himself gone in what should have felt like a relatively short period of time.

"Severus Snape?" The man behind the bar gasped in astonishment.

Severus looked up from his lap at hearing his name for the first time since being taken from the Ministry. "Yes, sir?" He asked, conscious of Mering's trained eyes on him.

Get me out of here, he stared at the man behind the counter. What was his name... Jerry something. He had had a son in Slytherin years back, and had been worried about his Charms grade. Severus had had many long conversations with the man, as his son's Head of House.

"You're... I heard the news, but I thought it was just more of Rita Skeeter's rubbish!" He exclaimed, his eyes more on Severus' tattooed forehead than his eyes.

"You thought wrong, then, sir," Severus said, reverting his eyes back to his lap. Just to be on the safe side.

The man shook his head. "So, is it true then? You were a Death Eater?"

Oh Merlin... Severus eyed Mering, who seemed to be just as curious about Severus' answer as the man behind the bar. He was giving no clues as to what to say. "For a short time, I served the Dark Lord, before coming to my senses and doing everything I could to defeat him." He paused, wondering how much information to disclose. More, in this case, would be more beneficial than less. "Shortly before the death of James and Lily Potter, I approached Albus Dumbledore and asked what I could do."

"However, there was nothing he could do to redeem himself after two years of devoted service to the Dark Lord." Mering shook his head. "Can you imagine the lives he took in two years? The lives he ruined?"

"I did not hurt anyone," Severus muttered, knowing that whatever he said now to contradict Mering would only end in punishment..

"Er... would you like to order, sir?" Jerry's attention went to Mering, who was beginning to look a bit impatient.

As Mering ordered what was bound to be a meal for himself and not for Severus, Severus stared defiantly at anyone who cared to look. He might be kneeling on the floor, but overall, it was nothing to stare at. Most of the people began to turn away at his harsh glare.

Mering placed a bowl of water on the ground next to Severus. "Drink it; you look awful."

As Severus cupped his hands and began drinking the cool, clean water, he Occluded his mind. If he could just exist, and not be there, not really, perhaps he would be all right.

Chapter Text

"You're to cook it properly," Mering emphasised. "Our guest likes steak done medium-rare, and if not done right..."

Severus just nodded, tuning him out as he looked at the floor. His feet were finally properly clean.

Mering had been going on for three days about a special guest that he was having over, likely the colleague he had gone to meet the day of the Patronus incident. Mering had wanted everything to be just perfect, it seemed. Even Severus. He had provided the soap and such for Severus to clean himself with, and had even given Severus a perfectly clean cloth to wear. That alone silently taunted Severus; he was so pleased to be clean, to be wearing clean clothes, that it tortured him. He knew that it was his right as a human being to be clean, and that what he was wearing around his waist hardly constituted clothing... yet, in the back of his mind, he was pleased.

Mering continued to drone on, with Severus only half-listening. He understood perfectly what was expected of him. He was to use the supplies Mering provided him to cook a fine meal for Mering and his mystery guest. Severus would be allowed to join them (kneeling beside Mering, of course). The excitement that brought Severus put another pit into his stomach. He was looking forward to the prospect of kneeling beside someone, eating food out of their hands or even worse, off the floor when Mering felt too lazy to actually hold onto the scrap. But Severus could not deny that he was. He had missed so many meals that having the promise of one was terrific.

Perhaps this guest is someone from the Ministry, Severus thought, his mind racing. Perhaps it is Shacklebolt!That would be an important guest that Mering would want to please. Surely it is someone coming to help me. Severus had become absolutely sure of that from the moment he found out about the special guest. It only made sense, as Mering was really looking forward to the guest coming and Mering was very much a fan of the Ministry. Surely the guest really had alternative motives for coming, such seeing to Severus' rescue.

In a few hours, I will be in my quarters at Hogwarts, never to take another order from Mering again.

Severus gripped the wand Mering had returned to him. His wand. One thing that had also made him happy over the past week was the continued allowance of Severus using his wand. When he behaved, he got to use his wand more often. It was quite the godsend for making meals, and when Mering was not looking, Severus was able to employ a few cleaning spells on himself and his surroundings. To not have to manually scrub the kitchen floor again would be wonderful.

He is breaking you,a voice in his head reminded him. His goal is to make you happy in your position. Remember what he told the Auror, that within a month, he would have you begging to serve people?

I do not beg for anything.He argued.Is it so wrong for me to accept that there is nothing I can do to escape? The windows and doors are locked securely. If I try to change into raven-form, the collar now changes size with me and weighs me down so I cannot fly. I cannot Apparate without making noise and even if I could, the Ministry would receive notice. I am not giving up; I am merely biding my time.

Severus had discovered a lot over the past week. Since going to Hogsmeade, he had employed certain tactics. Saying things around Mering such as "I could Apparate there and back for you; it would make things much easier for you" led Mering to believe Severus was far more "broken" than he was. It also gave Severus the chance to learn of his disadvantages. For example, he know knew that a slave had to be cleared by the owner to Apparate and until they were, it was illegal to do so. It was rather like a sensor, not unlike the one for under-age magic. Severus had a feeling that Mering did not mean for all the information to slip that did, but Severus was grateful for the way he got the information. The Slytherin way. He was not at all broken. A slave would not manoeuvre around their master like Severus did Mering.

Regardless of a permanent spell, and the fact that Severus would always have to be legally owned by someone, he was still hopeful. Surely someone from the Order would purchase him and let him simply move on with his life. They would not expect him to serve anyone or anything. They might expect a refund for the amount of Galleons they spent on him, but Severus could pay them back someday. As a Potions master at Hogwarts, he was not significantly wealthy, but neither was he poor. He was not a materialistic person, so had plenty in his vault at Gringotts... not that the Ministry hadn't taken every last knut for "damages" from the War. It would not take him long to save enough Galleons to pay someone back, however.

How much does a slave cost? It must be a substantial amount, as usually only the wealthy own slaves. Surely someone in the Order has that much. Arthur and Molly received an award from the Ministry that would allow Arthur to quit his job...He was not normally willing to accept charity, but he had pulled the Weasleys out of many grim situations. He expected something in return.

And of course Potter has his hero-complex. He could afford to-he grimaced. He would rather die than be rescued by Harry Potter again. It was simply too humiliating. James was probably laughing about it, wherever he was.

The doorbell rang. "Get that, slave!" Mering called from upstairs.

With a flourish of his wand, Severus performed the spell that would properly cook the meat before heading to the front door. Mering often alternated between "Snape" and "slave" as forms of address for Severus. Severus was perfectly aware why he did that; Mering did not see Severus as a human, so he was undeserving of a name. On top of that, being constantly reminded of his status would only aid in breaking Severus. Severus had ignored Mering when he called him "slave" the first few days, but quickly found it not worth it. A painful spell that involved boiling boils had taught him that is wasn't worth it.

Severus opened the door to a woman in her fifties or older. Her bright red hair looked to be unnatural, especially for a woman of her age. She wore far too much make-up. Her frame was on the larger side. Her eyes looked to be almost lavender – Severus was not sure if that was a spell, the light, or the woman's make-up, but the colour was definitely not natural. She wore extravagant tortoise sequinned robes that glittered in the setting sun. The impression she gave was not a comforting one; she was clearly manipulative, calculative, shrewd. Whilst Severus endorsed those characteristics in Slytherin, they were not supposed to emanate as an aura. People who had a manipulative aura about them were up to no good, end of discussion.

Severus swallowed the bile that built in his throat in the split second it took to analyse and pass judgement on the woman. His years as a spy and in Slytherin made any extra time unnecessary. "Come in, miss," he said, stepping back and bowing his head as she entered.

Why is it, that after making such a big deal that I behave properly in front of her, that Mering did not teach me how to answer the door? Severus would have done that first thing. First-impressions were generally everything.

"Where's Nigel?" She snapped at Severus, who shut the door behind her.

"Upstairs, miss. He should be down shortly." Be polite, be polite... how do you politely invite someone into your home?Severus rarely had company and when he did, he rarely took the pains to be politic. "May I offer you something to drink? Dinner will be ready shortly."

She looked at him critically. Severus tried not to show his discomfort as he felt her lavender eyes appraise him. He resisted the urge to snap at her or use Legilimency. Surely whatever the woman was here for, it would not prove beneficial to him. Perhaps she was someone from Henderson's? Or worse, someone from the Ministry that would be intent on making him more miserable? The Ministry had a tendency to do that to him.

"A glass of water," she said shortly.

Severus nodded. "In a moment, miss."

He made a mad dash for the kitchen, glad to get away from her critical eyes. He checked on supper as he filled a glass with water, chilling it with a quick spell. The spell he had on the meat was still ongoing, as was the spell mashing the potatoes. He would need to supervise the rest of the food soon. Even with magic, he was proving to not be a very talented cook. It was not much like potions.

Mering had better be pleased,he tried to ignore the worried feeling in his stomach that Mering might not be. A failed meal would not be working Severus any favours; impressing the woman seemed to be important to Mering, and if Severus failed, punishment would definitely be in order.

He delivered the glass of water to her wordlessly.

"You're here!" Mering exclaimed, coming down the stairs much faster than he did whenever Severus was dreading his presence.

Severus silently excused himself back to the kitchen as Mering kissed the woman on the cheek and sat down with her on the sofa. Unfortunately, the kitchen and the living room were very well connected, without a wall separating them, and he could hear every word spoken. Rumour at Hogwarts had it that Severus could hear an extra screwt eyeball land in a cauldron from one hundred paces; it was barely a stretch of the truth.

"Your new slave has been trained well," the woman commented.

Severus gritted his teeth at that as he cut the ends off the asparagus. He was not trained at all. He was simply biding his time.

"He is," Mering agreed. "He is still very stubborn though, and has a streak of sarcasm. I'll have the stubbornness beat out of him in another week though."

As if I am a potion he is brewing, Severus set two plates on the table, one at each end. 'Oh, I'll just not put in this ingredient for the time being'. As if he could control- I am not stubborn. I merely refuse to obey his every word.

"Is he aware of why I'm here?" The woman inquired.

Mering chuckled, a chuckle that always put fear in Severus' heart. It was a sadistic, evil chuckle. The chuckle Mering always had right before a beating or other punishment, or whenever Severus did something wrong he would later be punished for. It was an amused chuckle, but a frightening one for Severus. "Of course he doesn't know. Why would I tell him? I never tell any of my slaves. And he can hear you, so please mind what you say."

Severus looked down at the counter, furiously cooking the vegetable. Of course Mering had to know he was listening! Why did he always have to act like Severus was so predictable? That was another thing Severus hated about Mering. He was creating a list in his head – so far, he had three hundred forty-three things he hated about Nigel Mering. The fact that he treated Severus like a five-year-old sometimes would be three hundred forty-four.

She is certainly not here to help you. He placed the platter of steak on the table, the bowl of potatoes floating next to him until he could place it next to the steak. He summoned a spoon to serve them with and pushed it into the potatoes before setting the bowl on the table.Do not further delude yourself thinking that she is. She is here for something that has to do with me... probably to determine me ready to sell.

Well, if that were the case, he had to prove himself ready. Another day in Mering's company and he might have to find out whether it was possible to Avada Kedavrahimself. Severus did not take that thought lightly; he had considered it seriously several times in his thirty-eight years, often times the only deterrent from it being defeat. Killing himself would say he was weak, that he could not handle life. And he could, even if he had to suffer living to prove it.

He stepped into the living room, his eyes to his feet, as much as he wished to glare at Mering and his company. "Dinner is ready," he announced.

I wish I were a house-elf. At least they get surge of pride when they make such announcements.

The Hufflepuffs I taught in 1985. Name all the Hufflepuffs from 1985. Barbara Kissinger, Lucas Treadaway... It was not easy, but reciting useless information such as that were the only distractions that could save Severus. By focusing his concentration on something he had long forgotten, or did not think about on a regular basis, he was able to perform whatever tasks he was given.

Sometimes eating could be a task all of its own.

Severus forced himself to swallow the wad of fat Mering had given him. If he refused to eat it, he wouldn't be given anything else, and Severus knew he had to eat. He could not afford to refuse anything. He was already not consuming enough as it was.

"She asked me if I liked it!" The woman at the table shrieked, her mouth full of potatoes. "Can you imagine, Nigel?"

Ten points from you for talking with your mouth full, Severus wanted to say.

"I honestly can't," Mering said. "Snape, hand me the wand."

My wand.He hated how Mering refused to call it "your wand".

Severus looked at the wand in his hands, suffering the inward battle he always did when handing it over. He knew it was because Mering did not trust him with it for long periods of time, and that he was not likely to be punished for anything if he handed it over without complaint. It still bothered him, though. It bothered him to hand over what could be his salvation were he idiotic enough to try to Apparate or otherwise disappear with it.

He handed the wand over, suddenly not trusting himself. If left alone too long with it, he very well could get it into his head to Apparate away. And that would only bring the Ministry further into the mess. He would also have to spend even longer at Mering's, which he needed to avoid if he wanted to escape the experience with his mind intact.

"Go upstairs. The second room on the left. I need to speak with Medusa alone."

"Yes, Master." Severus got up in one fluid motion and crossed the kitchen, through the living room, and to the stairs.

Medusa. He chuckled to himself. It would make sense, that. Medusa was the name of a vain witch who was cursed, and had her hair turn into snakes. An evil, manipulative woman.

He began to tentatively climb the stairs, shooting cautious looks towards the direction of the kitchen.

Once upstairs, he stopped outside the first doorway, which was on his left. He peered in – it was an empty room. Though dark, he could see from the light in the hall that the floor and walls were stained in a rusty brown.

He was certain it was blood.

Do not let yourself wonder what happened in there.Severus was no stranger to painful and bizarre forms of torture – the Dark Lord was as evil and sadistic as people came – but now he was in the position of having to dread it happening to him, instead of merely witnessing it. It made the entire experience quite different.

The second room on the left was properly lit. The walls were painted white, the hardwood floor scratched, but clean. There was a single double-hung window directly across from the doorway and between that and the left wall, a simple double four-poster bed, not unlike the one Severus had slept in at Hogwarts. There was a simple dresser to the right, and a bedside table below the window. Upon further examination, Severus found that the room had both a walk-in wardrobe and a loo.

Did he say 'the second door to the left'? I am sure he did. Surely Mering would not send Severus into a comfortable room just to get out of his way? Perhaps he meant to send Severus into the first room on the left – but there had to be purpose for getting sent upstairs, otherwise he would have just sent Severus to the basement.

He got a cold feeling in his stomach that he desperately tried to ignore.

He peered out the window. He could see the family in the house across the street gathered in the living room, playing a game while laughing.

He felt his stomach twist involuntarily. Had things gone differently, what were the odds that that could have been him? What went wrong, exactly, to cause that to happen? He had long ago accepted that there was nothing he could have made Lily done to return his affection. Was his mistake continuing to pine over her as they grew older? Was it pledging his allegiance to the Dark Lord? He wished he could define a single moment; it would be so tempting to obtain a time-turner and go back, if he knew that he could have that same sort of happiness.

Not that he wanted children, or a spouse. He liked few people, and it was extremely difficult to earn his trust. He would be lying, however, if he said that he was no lonely. He had never had a family of any sort. Now he never would.

You are rambling. In your own head. Severus could not stand people who rambled. You will spend the next two hundred years alone, which should be fine. You cannot miss what you never have had.

"Hem-hem." He heard someone cough behind him.

He whirled around, eyes wide, expecting to see Dolores Umbridge behind him. The last thing he needed to see was that woman, that monstrous, nauseating, vile, priggish woman. He had spent a year in hell with her already, three years ago. But no, it was not her signature fake cough. It was Mering's guest, Medusa.

"A bit on edge, I see," she said in an overly sweet voice, like sugar mixed thick with honey.

He took a step backwards against the window, not lowering his eyes to the floor like he knew he should.

"Can I help you, miss?" He asked coldly, his standard monotone seeping in. He had tried to be less himself around Mering and company, but slipped when startled.

"Oh, no; I'm fine." She gave an overly fake sigh as she stood in the doorway, her hands on her stomach. Very Umbridge-like.

"Ah... if you and Master are indeed through eating, I shall go clear the table-" He started past her, but she did not give him room to pass.

"Oh, Nigel already took care of that. A flick of the wand and it is finished, you know." She paused. "Actually, Nigel already left. He had to go to Italy to remind a client's slave of his place."

Severus never thought he would find himself wishing for Mering to be there. "Ah... am I to presume that you are here to train me in his stead? To be the one to shackle me in the basement, to... ah, punish me as you deem fit?" He hoped not. Umbridge had had cruel methods of punishment, and he could only imagine that this Medusa woman would be much worse. He would not submit to her punishments. He refused to be whipped and beat by her. He only let Mering punish him because Mering was legally his owner and if he attacked, he would die, which would be defeat. Medusa was not his owner; if he wanted, he could break her neck and...

...and inevitably suffer the consequences when he comes home.

She smiled. A smile, like Mering's chuckle, that went against the normal emotions a smile conveyed. Her smile showed malicious intent. "I am not going to shackle you in the basement, you silly slave."

'I am not going to shackle you in the basement',his Slytherin mind read between the lines. "Where are you going to shackle me?"

She raised a brow. "Nowhere, if you behave." She pulled out a wand which, like Umbridge's, was remarkably short, no longer than seven or eight inches. A flick of the wand and heavy eggplant coloured curtains appeared on the window, covering the window so that they could not see out and no one could see in.

Severus just stared at her, his eyes glittering of coldness and malevolence.

She stared back, her eyes invoking ill will.

Just probe a little. Just enough to get a sense of what she wants, but not enough for her to realise what you're doing.He entered her mind, fearful of what he might find, but before he could even get his bearings in the woman's mind, she slapped him, causing him to lose all concentration.

"If you were supposed to use Legilimency on your superiors, someone would have told you so." She snapped.

Severus shot her a look of pure venom. "And what makes you think I have the skills to use Legilimency? Quite plainly, I-"

"Oh please. You served He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named. Of course you can use Legilimency. Now, slave, we can do this the easy way or the hard way." She took a step forward, waved her wand and the doorway disappeared behind her, leaving no way out.

Severus backed up again. It did not take an Order of Merlin (which he had very well deserved) to start to piece together the woman's intent. It would, however, take quite a bit of manoeuvring to escape. "When will Master be back?"

Medusa stepped up to him. He backed up so quickly that he knocked himself into the bedside table and still, there was not enough space between them.

She was getting closer... he felt a surge of magic rush through him that he had not felt since he was a child. He took deep breaths and closed his eyes tightly. He would not perform accidental magic, he would not. That would only end up disastrous at best.

"I'm not going to hurt you if you behave," she cooed, tracing his prominent cheekbones with a dry, scaly hand.

You're going to hurt me regardless of what I do. I cannot win. I might as well postpone it."Perhaps Master will come back from Italy earlier than expected," he tried, easing his way down the wall, away from the woman.

She laughed, a high-pitched squeal, really. "Do not think you can slip and slide your way out of this one, slave. I come from a long line of Slytherins, and spent years getting paid by rich people for the service you will be getting, free to you, tonight."

His heart began to beat faster. "You were in Slytherin? What years did you attend Hogwarts?" Distract her. Do anything to distract her.

"Does it matter? I left school and began working the streets in fifth year. Evading, are we?" She gripped his left wrist. "Come, slave."

Resist. But do it subtly; it will do you no good to resist so forcefully.He abandoned the urge to grip onto the wall or window and numbly followed her back to the centre of the bedroom.

"You left school in fifth year." He had to keep her mind off the task at hand. "It must have been hard." He thought of the people standing in the dark streets, striking deals with the lonely but wealthy. Those people looked like they had very hard lives.

She shrugged. "You survive. I wound up making a deal with Nigel many years ago, just as I left my prime. I break his slaves, I get some of the profit. Come now, you're a man; you ought enjoy this. Permission for the first time in weeks to feel some release." She reached underneath his loincloth.

Severus leapt away, unable to hide how shaken he was. "Let us not and say we did," he argued as she tried to tug him to the bed. He kept his feet firmly planted on the hardwood floor. "That way you still will get paid and I..." He leaned forward to speak in a low voice, "Master deemed it suiting to punish me by covering certain parts of me with painful blisters, if you catch my meaning."

Her eyes narrowed. "Let me see."

"I'd rather you didn't." He stepped backwards, gripping his hands firmly on the cloth he wore. "It is rather humiliating and I dare say I've suffered enough. If on the off-chance I am sold for pleasure purposes, I assure you, miss, I know how to make people happy."

Actually, I haven't a clue, but please do not try to teach me.He had lost his virginity at nineteen after a one-night stand with someone whose name he could not quite recall. Any sex he had had since then had been equally as meaningless. He did not form emotional attachments to people, and once he began working for Dumbledore, it became dangerous to put himself in compromising situations. The physical sensation was something he could achieve on his own, thank you very much.

She nodded. "Thank you for sharing, but on the matter of getting sold, half of the purpose of engaging in this act with you is to promote obedience." She brandished her wand. "Now disrobe or I might feel the need to increase the amount of blisters that you have."

He swallowed. "Please, miss, I will do anything else. Anything." Do not beg. This is tremendously close to begging.

She shook her head. "I will not use a disrobing spell on you, slave. You will obey me if it takes a week of orders and Cruciatus."

You cannot use an Unforgivable on me. You are not my owner. He did not bother to remind her of that fact though. Unforgiveables were not traceable, and Mering probably would not care if she used the Unforgiveables on Severus.

He did not know what else to say. He would not beg, he would not suffer the Cruciatus yet again, and he would not get in bed with that woman.

She stepped very close to him, running her hands down his arms, neck and torso. "Loosen up," she whispered into his ear. "You're supposed to concentrate on making this pleasurable for me, nothing else."

I would not even begin to know how. He had few memories of the times he had had sex, and the ones he did have involved him being drunk, awkward, and clumsy. He supposed that he would have learned how to make the women he slept with more satisfied had he cared enough about them. That could clearly be attributed to his lack of emotional maturity, and his selfishness, at that time in his life.

He took a step back. "Surely we can negotiate-"

"No negotiating," she said, gripping his wrist forcefully. She reached for the knot that tied his cloth and when she touched it, shrieked and jumped back.

"What did you do?" Medusa screeched at him.

He blanched involuntarily. "I do not know, miss. I would call that 'accidental magic'."

Her eyes flashed angrily. "'Accidental magic', Merlin's foot! People outgrow accidental magic as children!"

"But perhaps it comes back at times of need," he suggested, not able to help but feel relief now that she was at the opposite end of the room.

"Disrobe," she said icily, "or you will reap the consequences. A beating that will tear up body parts you did not know you even had."

It is hopeless. You are at the mercy of Mering, of this woman... of the entire world. Shacklebolt, Minerva, the Order... it has been two weeks. They are letting it come to this. Are they never coming? He was starting to doubt they ever would. Perhaps they were glad the cynical, greasy-haired Potions Master was gone. He had served his purpose as Dumbledore's spy, Dumbledore's murderer, protector of both Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy... no one needed him any longer. People always abandoned him after they had exhausted his uses. He was as good as dead to them.

Hands shaking, Severus' long thin fingers began to fumble at the knot in the cloth. He had tied it tightly in the first place for good reason. Once untied, he took a quiet deep breath and put it over the bedside table. He then turned back to face Medusa, his eyes full of defiance and anger. He buried the fear and anxiety deep within him, refusing to let it show.

"Tsk, tsk," she said, surveying him. "Do you realise how many slaves I have had try to lie their way out of this?"

"Surely you cannot blame them for it," Severus said evenly. The sight of the woman burned his eyes; he doubted the experience would be any less horrible if she were easier on the eyes but that said, who was he to talk?

She stepped close to him. It took everything Severus had not to flinch at her touch. "Just lie back and think of England," she whispered. "Make this as pleasurable as you can and I might not find it necessary to punish you..."

Images flashed through Severus' mind as he tried to remove her robes. The first time he saw the Hogwarts Express. Smirking with Lily behind Slughorn's back. Sitting against her and talking of dreams under a tall oak tree. The day he called her a "mudblood". The day he first saw her snogging Potter. When he found out he was responsible for her death. When Nagini was about to bite him and he thought all was lost... he had gone through so much, and this was how he was repaid? Why couldn't Potter have just let Nagini kill him? He would have died then and been pain-free. But no, Potter and his hero-complex... he was too wrapped up in his memories to focus on the task at hand, which Medusa obviously noticed.

"You have never done this before, have you?" She smirked, her now unclothed body reminding Severus of just how cruel fate was. Why was it that James Potter got Lily and Severus was left pleasuring people with no way out?

Medusa was right. His limited experience has occurred so long ago that he was starting over. He was not an idiot. He fully understood the mechanics of the act. But how it was done to be pleasurable for women, he was not quite certain. Everything had made sense in the fantasies he had had when he was younger, but when the time actually came...

"Just don't think," she told him, pushing him gently onto the bed.

Do not think. Occlude. Forget where you are, what you are doing and just act on impulses. That was easier said than done for a Slytherin – forgetting yourself and acting on impulses was for Gryffindors – but he would.

That would be the only way he'd survive that night.

Chapter Text

"I heard that you were pretty difficult to get into bed last night." Mering commented the next day as he leaned against a tree, watching Severus go through the slow and tedious process of sprouting grass in the backyard. Even with his wand, it was difficult. Unless one had a natural affinity for Herbology, it could take hours.

Severus did not answer. He was focused on remembering the incantation, and used that as his excuse not to speak, as he most certainly did not feel like speaking. He had avoided speaking to Mering the entire day. He did not want to think about last night, about the past two weeks, about his current situation, about any rescue plan... he just wanted to focus on the spells he was allowed to perform, or on cooking, which he had discovered was as close to working with potions as he was going to get at Mering's.

If he allowed himself to wallow in memories or his current circumstances, he would also begin to wallow in self-pity. He could not allow that to happen. He was sinking further into despair; perhaps no onewascoming. Perhaps he really was worthless, like Mering said. He had already fulfilled all his uses at Hogwarts and for the Order, so why would they come try to help him? They had no reasons to.

"I suppose we'll have to set you up for a few more obedience lessons." Mering chuckled.

He would not survive another obedience lesson if it involved Medusa. Severus had endured many horrific experiences in his life; however, few had been as traumatising as being raped by that woman. He knew he would find himself trying to figure out how else he could have escaped the situation, so he refused to replay the images in his mind. Why had he let himself be forced into it? He was stronger than that, smarter than that, more determined that that... but wouldn't it have been useless? He knew that regardless of how long he had fought her off, that through whatever means he had used, she would have bested him, as Mering would have bested him. He had to do what Mering said, what anyone said. If he was not quick to heed, he would simply be punished, and then forced to do the original task. He could not win; what was the use of fighting them off?

"I received an angry letter from the Minister last week," Mering continued as Severus used every bit of strength he had to bring forth a patch of dead grass. "It seems he disagrees with the Auror Department's decision to force you into slavery, along with the other Death Eaters. Seems to think that you're innocent."

Was he innocent? He was not sure of that any longer. It might seem as though he was. He had never relished in hurting people, and had only joined the Dark Lord's ranks because he needed something to keep his mind on and to prove him worthy. The charismatic Dark Lord had acceptedhim. When he did work for the Dark Lord, his deeds were among the less severe deeds performed by Death Eaters. Severus had convinced the Dark Lord early on that his hands could not have blood on them in order to brew his potions. If that were not enough, Severus had given so much as a spy, and would have died in the name of Light had Potter not interfered.

However, with all of that said, Severus was not innocent. That word had never described Severus, not even as a child.

"He offered quite a sum of money for you. Eight thousand Galleons." Mering sighed, as if in longing.

The Minister – Shacklebolt – wants to buy you. Eight thousand Galleons. Mering would not sell me to him. Not if he knew the Minister – Shacklebolt – would treat me well.

"I told him to attend Henderson's." Mering continued. "That he could purchase you there. That you are not trained well enough to be bought just now."

Shacklebolt was going to buy him. Severus was not sure if that was a good thing any longer.

Would he treat him well? He was a noble man, but he was also firm, and had shown little mercy to many people in the past. Severus would have to do whatever the man said. How would the man punish him? What types of duties would he expect Severus to perform? It made Severus sick just to think about – suppose the man was still angry over the incident with that Weasley's ear. Suppose Shacklebolt wanted to take Severus' ear in return. Suppose he let Weasley do it.

In the back of Severus' mind, he knew he was being irrational. He knew he was simply upset over how the previous night had turned out. He had been hopeful that the guest was going to save him, and the guest turned out to harm him. But not so much in the physical way that the guest had thought she had harmed him. No, she had harmed Severus' hope. She had made him realise how virtually hopeless his situation was, of how little choice he had in the matter. Of how dependent he was on other people to have pity on him, to have mercy.

Severus had always been independent, with little tolerance for pity. Now he needed it to survive.

He knew, in the back of his mind, that Shacklebolt would not harm him. No, he would make sure there was a roof over Severus' head and food for him to eat. He would likely even give Severus a warm bed to sleep in. He would likely avoid ordering Severus around, and might even allow him to return to Hogwarts to teach. But that seemed a bit unlikely, that someone would do that. Why wouldn't Shacklebolt try to use Severus' lack of free-will to the best of his advantage? Anyone else would, so why wouldn't Shacklebolt?

"So then I asked myself, 'what can I do to make this slave trained well enough to be bought in two weeks'?" Mering continued. "After all, it does not take an Order of Merlin to realise that if you are beat too much, you will begin to weaken. And the Cruciatus needs to be used sparingly, or you will lose your mind... then I realised that it does not matter how I choose to punish you, because you will soon obey my every word, won't you, slave?" He chuckled.

Severus did not even hear the man. He was concentrating too hard on bringing forth another patch of grass, which he did successfully. Why was the grass dead though? He could perform various spells to make it green again, but he did not know those spells well. He had never thought he would need them. He had taken it upon himself at a young age to learn obscure things, like how to remove body parts and exchange them with foreign objects, or how to make someone go mad with pain, but had never learned many of the basic household spells. He never honestly thought he would have a house that he would care to take care of. Oh, he took care of Spinner's End, he supposed, but he never went through the work of keeping its appearance up. Hadn't cared enough to. He was the only one who lived there. He had no one to impress with his house.

Not your house. The house. You no longer own anything. He wondered what would happen to that godforsaken house. Bulldozed over for a Muggle parking lot, if they had any sense.

"I spoke with Henderson yesterday. He seems to think you will sell well, regardless of being a Death Eater. Says that a few other former Death Eaters will be there, but not many, and will not sell for as much. Aren't very well trained, you see. Plus they are older, or less capable of controlling themselves." Mering sighed, as if pleased with himself.

My self-control is the result of years of practice, years of being taunted for my emotions, years of knowing that conveying emotions only made one weak, Severus thought. It is nothing you taught me.

"Medusa seems to think that you have had a lack of lovers in the past." Mering said suddenly. "She also is sticking adamantly to our deal of 'one per slave'. I try to get her to do more each time we sign a contract, but she insists and she's too good at her job to replace. It's a shame, really, that I'm forced into this position; I don't want someone to buy you for that purpose and regret it."

How many people bought a slave solely for that purpose? Severus did not want to know. If someone wanted a slave to cook and clean, they would just buy a house-elf.

I suppose I cannot just transfigure the dirt into grass, he stared at the dry soil surrounding him. Mering said to 'create' grass, not to transfigure it.

"Get in the shower." Mering said suddenly.

Severus looked up and stared at Mering, surprised at the words that came out of his mouth. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me. Get in the shower. Use the soap and shampoo I put in there yesterday. Do not leave the bathroom until your hair is clean, mind you. What are you doing, staring at me? Hand me your wand and hop to!"

Hastily, Severus handed his wand to Mering and made a mad-dash into the house. He found himself not caring what Mering's intentions were; he was told to do something that he wanted to do, and he was not about to argue with it, or give time for Mering to change his mind. Hesitation could also be punished, which he was in no mood to risk.

He shut the shower door behind him and quickly turned on the hot water. He needed to get the horrible feeling of that woman off him. She had touched him... all over... the thought just made him cringe.

At least she could not harm your brain, he thought, stepping into the shower. Remember what you told yourself when you first got into this mess, that so long as your mind was functioning and intact, you would be fine.

And after 'mind' comes 'pride',he listed the next most important thing to him as he viciously scrubbed himself with the flannel Mering had provided the day before. He paused in his thoughts. Had Mering made his lose his pride? His self-worth, self-respect?

Not necessarily,he told himself. The only reason you're questioning your self-worth at all is because of the Order's reluctance to come help you. And the idea that you would need help at all is rather pride-shattering on its own, if not realistic.

He fumed as he washed his hair. How dare Mering make such a huge deal over his hair! It was not that bad, actually, right then. Too much washing would make it even greasier. Why would Mering tell him to wash it? Furthermore, why would Mering tell him to get in the shower when he just had one yesterday? It was true enough that after the incident with Medusa the night before, he had smelled rather foul. Of sweat, of... her. However, he had smelled worse the entire two weeks and Mering hadn't said anything.

If I were Mering, what would I be up to?Truth be told, he could not even begin to wonder how Mering thought. How could Mering so mercilessly own another human being? Let the things be done to him that were done? Do those things to him? He knew the simple answer was that Mering did not see Severus as a human being, but why not? It was not as if he were a werewolf; he did not have an underlying animal nature, nor did he become a monster at every full moon. He was just like everyone else, at all times.

Only you have never felt like anyone else, a voice reminded him. Severus had always felt different from other people his age. Even when he was a child, the other children just seemed so carefree and happy, and viewed him as a fly on the wall. He had always been just that, a fly on the wall. He only got noticed when someone wanted something, such as Dumbledore's murder-suicide, or Mering's Galleons, which he would receive when Severus was sold. He always felt like he was being woven inside a plot. Or even worse, a plot inside a plot. He had nothing against plots themselves – he was a Slytherin, which meant before going to Mering's, he plotted on a regular basis – but only the ones he got caught up in, that he couldn't control. Those plots seemed to always had something to do with very powerful wizards; the Dark Lord, Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter...

I wish I had a time-turner,he thought. He stared at his thigh and frowned before scrubbing harder. I would go back to being eleven-years-old and ask Lily to be mine, forever. I would have hexed James Potter straight away so he would know not to mess with me… he could have Lily, if she wanted. Anything, as long as she survived and was happy. When I got to be a bit older, I would go to one meeting with the Dark Lord, pull out a Mandrake, and killed him that way. None of this would have to happen.

What he would give to just know Lily was alive and breathing. Not that he had anything to give – he was already giving a lifetime of servitude to someone, whoever it was that was buying him – but it was still wishful thinking.

Wishful thinking that you have refused to indulge yourself in before. Wishful thinking that you will not allow yourself to indulge in now. All wishful thinking does is lead to bitter disappointment, in your life.He turned off the tap, knowing that regardless of how much he scrubbed, he would probably never feel clean again.

Towelling off (he denied himself wishing for his wand so he could perform a simple drying spell), he tied his cloth around his waist, not really knowing what good it did him. It was not as if Mering was letting him keep any of his dignity as it was...

Stepping out of the bathroom, he glanced into the living room. Mering was standing there, watching him, waiting for him. His eyes surveyed Severus critically, his lips pursed.

"Come here." He instructed.

Severus wordlessly complied. He unconsciously tried to cover the Dark Mark with his right hand; he hated to bear it so openly.

"Clean enough." Mering approved. "Kneel." He began to loosen his belt buckle. After the previous night, Severus immediately had no doubt of the man's intentions.

I cannot do that! he inwardly whimpered. He had seen many victims be forced into such by cruel Death Eaters before they were killed. Severus had never been on the giving or receiving end of the act, and had never cared to be.

He cannot force you to do anything. If you say 'no' enough, surely he will just give up?Unfortunately, Severus knew better than that; Mering had endless patience, and would punish Severus all day until the act was completed. Once an order was given, he was going to have to follow through.

He kept his eyes on his own long pale fingers, which he was resting on his knees. Occluding was the only thing that still worked. If he concentrated long and hard on nothing, he did not really have to exist. He could go through just about any task whilst hardly being aware he was doing it.

"Begin." Mering simply said, lowering his trousers. "Be mindful of your teeth."

Severus began to breathe heavily. He did not want to this. He wanted to be anywhere – anywhere – but there. He would give anything – anything to avoid-

No. If you refuse, he will touch his wand to your forehead. That was Mering's preferred motivation for Severus to do anything. That cannot be good for your mind, pain in the head. Just obey. After last evening, it is not-

He did not get to finish that thought, for he felt blinding pain in his forehead. He shut his eyes tight and hissed. Mering hated hesitation. He was constantly yelling at Severus to "hurry up and do".

Forcing himself to open his eyes, he eyed Mering's member and forced his mouth on it. He did not know what to do, exactly, and he did not care. He was just grateful the pain in his head was going away, as Mering removed his wand.

"Stop that choking." Mering breathed heavily as Severus' gagging muscles came into play.

Severus forced himself to comply and as he did, felt tears silently fall down his face. He did nothing to stop them. Who was he trying to fool? There was no reason to pretend he was strong, worthy of something. He was nothing special; he was just a slave, now.

And just like that, whether Severus quite realised it or not, his pride was gone.

Chapter Text

After a Fortnight...

Severus woke up with a gasp, clutching the steel collar around his neck. He hated how it had started to burn every morning when it was time to get up.

He looked dully at the chains that had fallen off his wrists. Master had spelled them to fall off every morning at six, at the same time his collar started to burn. That meant that it was time to get up.

Wearily, he pulled himself up and blindly began to feel his way through the darkness, to the door. He wished, not for the first time, that Master would leave a torch lit for him, but he did not bother wishing too hard for it. He had given up on not wishing for things roughly two weeks ago as he collapsed on the filthy basement floor, bleeding, hungry, dehydrated, without a wand or hope. Eventually, when one was on a downward trajectory, they reached the bottom. At that point, they could not help but wish for things. As long as he did not wish too hard for the impossible, he would be all right. He would not waste time wishing for the things he would not get, but for the things he knew he might if he behaved.

He opened the basement door and made his way into the kitchen. He blinked. How had he gotten to that point? To the point of hopelessness, of being so stuporous that he just went through motions without actually feeling or thinking? He was not quite sure.

He was also not quite sure that he cared.

Was it only a month ago that he had sat at the head table at Hogwarts, proud and looking down at students with disdain? It seemed like a distant memory; it seemed as it were not even his memory, but someone else's. His life seemed to be separated into parts – pre-Hogwarts, school, Death Eater, spy, now. He could remember that after the Dark Lord was first defeated in 1981, but before he attempted to return in 1992, he was somewhat normal. Somewhat. Not really. He could not even recall much in those ten years, actually. Nothing substantial had happened in them.

Almost automatically, he padded over to the refrigerator and pulled out a few eggs and some sausage. He could not really remember what he had made the day before; he had made porridge for Master at some point. Was that yesterday? The day before? He hadn't made eggs and sausage in some time, so surely Master would not complain over having it too often.

You have lost your mind, he told himself as he turned on the water and splashed some on his face.

No, stop that. Do not think that. He began to submerge himself deep into his mind again. Occluding was what made him so quiet and withdrawn, as well as impaired. If he concentrated long and hard enough on nothing, nothing was what he became. The pain of his beatings diminished, as did the pain of Master's insults. He deserved them – every lash, every insult – but Occluding somehow helped them hurt less.

It was ironic, how in the desperate attempt to spare his sanity and his life, he wound up losing both. However, he could not help it, for if he allowed himself to think, he would start to plot, and if he started to plot... eventually, somewhere in the plot, he would hurt Master. As a result, he would die. He rarely remembered why that was such a bad thing now, as he never allowed himself to think too much before Occluding himself into semi-oblivion.

Things were improving for him. Master had stopped shackling him to the wall. Moreover, he had stopped taking Severus down in the basement in the first place. He trusted Severus to go down and chain himself. If Severus allowed himself to dwell on it, he felt a strange mixture of pride and shame. He rarely did so, however, as he allowed his mind to rest most of the time, free of thoughts, as he went about his daily routine.

Night was no longer Severus' favourite part of the day. He detested it. If he slept, the nightmares came. Even if he Occluded properly, if he slept deep or long enough, the nightmares came. Luckily Master was never there when he had nightmares, or he would get punished for the noise, as he nearly always woke up screaming.

Now, his favourite times of the day came when Master told or allowed him to sit on the floor, in the corner. He would stare at the wall or out the window... if he was careful and did not allow his mind to wander too far, he would imagine what the people outside did on a regular basis. He wondered what their names were or what they did for a living, but would not allow himself to imagine much beyond that.

If, at any time, he began to think about Hogwarts or anything that reminded him of his past life, he would revert to Occluding. Thinking about his past life as a Death Eater, as a spy, and especially his life before both, made him ill. It made him want to retch or propel his head against the wall. Master would get angry if he saw Severus actually do either of those things, and so he did not do them.

Severus did not look up when Master came in. He checked to make sure nothing was going to burn before kneeling and bowing.

"Hello, Master." He said softly. He knew it used to bother him to say that, but he couldn't remember why; it was easy to say, and if he didn't, he would get a beating or worse.

"You may rise. Continue doing whatever it was you were doing." Master breezed through the kitchen and descended into the basement, likely going to check to make sure Severus had slept in the basement last night.

Severus did not know how Master was able to tell if he had slept down there or not, but he did not have to worry about it. He slept down there and chained himself, just like Master instructed. He could not get punished for obeying, could he?

Perhaps he could. There had been that day last week where Master had began punishing Severus and would not stop. Severus still did not know what he did. He suspected that Master had had too much to drink, but generally when someone was that drunk, they did not remember their actions afterwards. However, Master continually acknowledged the incident. Master did like to punish Severus; maybe he had done it for fun? The thought made Severus shudder. It was more than a little frightening to think about that. It was incredible that one could enjoy hurting someone like that, especially someone who could do nothing to defend himself.

You could defend yourself if you had a wand... or you could attack him the Muggle way. His eyes widened when he realised what he just thought and began Occluding. He could not entertain the thought of hurting Master-

Master. When did you start to think of him as 'Master'? Severus was not sure. He had thought of the man as 'Mering' for a fortnight, but after that... oh yes. After that was the night Master had made Severus constantly call him Master, over and over, for hours. If Master's intent was to make Severus call him that and begin to think of him as that, it had worked. Severus had not even been aware he was doing it.

The amount of control Master had on him was frightening, but he tried not to think too hard on it. There was nothing he could do about it, after all.

"Be sure to make plenty of food." Master came up behind him. "We are heading out to Henderson's today, and I am going to need extra food in my stomach if I'm expected to-" he stopped and his eyes narrowed as he looked at Severus. "Remind me to tell you to comb your hair out before we go. I am not going to make as much if my slave is a wreck."

Henderson's. Today was the day. The day everything would change. After Severus was sold, he would never see Master again. The thought cheered Severus up slightly, though he knew it was probably wrong of him. However, the idea of who would buy him? Now, that frightened him.

He tried to remain optimistic on the subject. He had worked as a Potions master at Hogwarts for years, so surely that would raise his price. Severus felt his insides twist as he remembered his years teaching. There were few words to describe how greatly he missed the dungeons, the bubbling of a potion, Minerva's comforting advice, the student's smiles which he would always scowl at...

He blinked furiously. He would not cry. He told himself that the other night was the last. Master had pounded into him and it had hurt more than it usually did; in fact, he still hurt. Master had noticed his tears and had laughed at him, and so Severus recommitted himself to the promise to never cry. Never again.

But with his knowledge of potions, and his experience as a spy... that had to count as something. Perhaps someone wanted to order him to make potions or perhaps do something that required planning, stealth, Occlumency, or something of the like. Perhaps his abilities to defend himself or use the Dark Arts would be useful to them. He was not thrilled with the idea of someone wanting to use his knowledge of Dark Magic, but magic was only Dark if it was truly used for Dark purposes. That was why there were only three Unforgiveables, despite a large number of Dark spells.

He still clung to the idea that he would not be sold for pleasure. Master used him a lot now. He hated it as much as he did the first night with Medusa, but he no longer resisted. That tended to only get Master more aroused and more eager, which never did Severus any good. He was better off doing his best to please Master, as he was often rewarded by getting to go down to the basement early, or receiving more food than usual.

Sometimes, Master took the time to touch Severus' forehead as he used him, which Severus both loved and loathed. The enslavement curse made Master's hand feel like velvet and was a very soothing and wonderful feeling. It was something one would lust after; if it could be bottled, that person would make many Galleons. However, he also loathed the feeling because he could not control it or himself when experiencing it. He could not stop himself from moaning with pleasure or nuzzling against Master's hand... he had tried not to, but it was impossible. The effect it had on him was worse than the book had said.

Master only touched his head when he was being pleasured, and as Master also pointed out to Severus often, Severus looked nowhere near his age. While he was only thirty-eight, he was not attractive no matter how old one thought he was. That was usually important when being sold for pleasure. Sometimes people did not care, however, Severus hoped that everyone at the auction didcare. As much as he wanted to get away from Master, he did not want to be at someone's disposal, day and night, for that sole purpose.

That said, if he was bought for that purpose, would his new owner touch his head?

Severus shook the thoughts out of his head by Occluding his mind. He would not think about that.

He arranged the eggs and sausage neatly on a plate and poured Master a mug of coffee. He stepped into the sitting room with his head bowed.

"Master, breakfast is ready," he announced, trying to keep his voice from shaking. He would not forget the time he had failed to make breakfast suitable, even with plenty of ingredients in resource, and Master had punished him by pushing him down the stairs and casting the Cruciatus. He had been lazy; he learned his lesson, though, and vowed to never let it happen again.

After Master sat down, Severus knelt at his side, his eyes to his knobby knees. He really was too thin. He was not certain if he had lost much weight since being at Master's. He hadn't lost a substantial amount, he knew. Master was adamant that Severus not look weak at Henderson's. However, he had always been thin – scarily so. It was not that he did not enjoy food as much as the next person, but he had always been too busy studying or working to eat, and had spent so much time concentrating on a plan, on fooling the Dark Lord, or on his school work, that he burnt off anything he consumed by using his mind.

In an odd way, that made Severus proud, he realised, as he delicately picked up a piece of a sausage Mering had thrown on the floor for him. He was a very smart person. Exceedingly smart, as he had managed to fool one of the darkest, one of the smartest wizards in history, for years. Albus Dumbledore had frequently sought his counsel. And even Potter... he had attempted to teach Potter many things over the past few years. Not that one of them had gone over well, but that had had little to do with his own intelligence.

Odd. He had known and interacted with three very famous Wizards on a regular basis. Three. For being as worthless as he was, he had been rather fortunate. Not that he had actually enjoyed knowing the Dark Lord or Potter, but he had known them, which was more than most could say. It was enough to garner some respect amongst potential buyers, wasn't it?

"Tomorrow is the auction. Today we're just going to get papers signed and other shit." Master explained, tossing more food on the floor. He rarely took the time to feed Severus out of his hand now, which was fine by Severus. Severus wouldn't dare say it out loud, but the floor was much cleaner than Master's grimy fingers.

"Yes, Master." Severus answered, picking up the food and putting it in his mouth before Master could find a reason to deny it to him. Master had done that several times in the past.

Master eyed Severus carefully. "You're to keep your mouth shut and only speak when required of you. No smart-arse answers, either."

Severus nodded, his eyes to his knees again. "Yes, Master." He didn't dare insult anyone at Henderson's. They were his best hope to get bought by good people. He hoped that someone would buy him and treat him relatively well; he no longer dared to hope that Kingsley Shacklebolt or any other member of the Order would come to the rescue, but if someone just fed him two or maybe even three times a day... perhaps gave him a blanket... he would be happy.

He did not want to go to someone like Master, or worse.

Master returned to his food. "It's been a month and we've both survived." He chuckled. "For awhile there, I was convinced you were going to drive me potty."

You're not the only one.Severus did not know how to reply, but he could not ignore Master. That would only warrant a beating. "Yes, Master."

"You were so convinced that you would 'win', that you would never get broken. And now look at you!" Master continued to chuckle as he did whenever he found something amusing. Severus had decided to pass his master's sense of humour twisted at best and no longer considered it.

"But then you realised, thanks to me, of course, that you were much better off shutting up and obeying." He smiled down at Severus. It was not a comforting one, but one that made Severus shrink back in fear. Master always smiled that smile before he used the Cruciatus.

But he did not pull out his wand. Instead, he began petting the top of Severus' head. "You're going to prove to them that you're a good slave, aren't you?" He said in a voice that almost pretended to care.

Severus stared, stone-faced, down at the floor in front of him. Master. Was. Petting. His. Head. It took every bit of resistance Severus had not to shudder away as the man stroked his fingers through Severus' greasy hair, as if Severus were a common dog. Severus knew that in the eyes of the world now, he was no better than a dog, but he still did not appreciate the sentiment. He knew Master was just trying to taunt him, so he Occluded and tried not to think too hard on what Master was saying.

Master hand-fed him a bit of sausage, which Severus silently choked down. He knew better than to turn down food, as he needed it to keep up his strength, and if he denied it, he could only imagine how Master would react.

"The people at Henderson's are going to look through some papers, and probably ask you a few questions, which you will answer truthfully – understand?" At those words, he gripped Severus' jaw with a firm grip and forced him to look into his steel eyes.

Severus nodded, his throat tightening. "Yes, Master." He croaked.

"At some point, you'll undergo an examination." Master let go of his tight grip and returned to his food. "If they ask about your scars, they are all from sword fights, all right? Every single one of them."

Severus bit his lip. Did that include his most recent ones? He was not overly sure how his back looked, but from what he could see of it, it was mostly torn and scarred one hundred times over from the past month. He knew better than to ask, though; if Master said to say it was from swordplay as a child, they would be from swordplay.

"I've no problem with you conversing with other slaves, should we come across them." Master paused, his fork in mid-air. "But only in private. And there will be no planning to rebel. Quiet conversation, and that is it, you understand? Not in anyone's presence but another slave's. Should I hear different..." He let his voice wane, but Severus knew the threat stood firm.

"In the presence of anyone else, you are to bow your head and stay quiet, unless told otherwise." Master continued, taking a bite of his food. "I realise you have not had the opportunity my other slaves have had to experience many social situations. That is on purpose – I had never trained a Death Eater, and was not about to take on more than I could chew."

My behaviour was hardly one of a Death Eater. If you take on another one, you're in for a surprise. Severus had no doubts that if Master began to train more Death Eaters, he would wind up regretting it. He couldn't say he felt too bad for him.

"Yes, Master. I understand." He leaned forward to gently pry the food from Master's fingers with his teeth, but Master snatched his hand away, food in hand.

"During the auction, you will resist no one." Master put the food in his mouth. Occasionally he pretended to offer the food to Severus to just snatch it away. Severus used to not see the point in that, as it only made Master seem barbaric, eating with his hands, but he was not about to argue with Master's table manners. "It does not matter that I am likely not going to be in sight; the people at Henderson's are above you and you will respect them. You will bow your head, confirm anything that needs confirmed, and allow yourself to be led anywhere. If anything goes amiss, I will hear about it and you will be punished. If not by me, than by the people at Henderson's. And don't think that they will be gentle about it. Compared to them, the way I punish you is nothing."

"Yes, Master." Severus affirmed solemnly, taking the food offered to him, but unable to swallow. He could not forget that curse that made him feel like he was in a pit of sharp, broken glass. He had endured it once and, if he ever had the chance, would dispose of the memory through use of a Penseive or something similar. He would still be able to remember it, of course, but it would be vague.

Master abruptly scooted his chair backwards, running over Severus' fingers. Through the sharp pain, Severus jumped to his feet and bowed his head; he was to be the last one to sit and the first one to stand at all times.

He resisted the urge to tuck his pinched fingers into his mouth, as Master would see that as a sign of weakness and be sure to taunt him with it later on, somehow. He had always hated to show signs of weakness, and though he had been of late-

He would not think about that. It would only make him upset. He forced himself to focus on clearing his mind, on practising Occlumency. He was eternally grateful that the ability came so naturally to him. If he had to endure actually thinking the thoughts he wanted to think, or letting Master's words get to him, he would have found a way to kill himself the first week.

Oh, but he couldn't have. That would have been a weakness. Sometimes he forgot that.

Chapter Text

After letting Severus attempt on disentangling his hair for a solid quarter of an hour, Master banished the knots away himself. He eyed Severus. "You look decent enough, I suppose."

He pulled Severus close to him by the wrist. It took everything Severus had not to recoil. He could not bear it when people touched him, as whenever people touched him, they hurt him. He had so much fear of being close to Master, as whenever he was as close as he was at that moment, Master had a sexual activity or punishment in mind.

"Say 'goodbye' to your safe haven." Master chuckled, his foul breath making Severus' nostrils flair involuntarily. "Time to discover what a picnic you've been living this past month."

Severus felt the familiar sensation of side-along Apparation as Master's grip tightened around his wrist. And then they disappeared, gone from the place that held Severus prisoner for one month.

One month might not have seemed like a long time to most people, but most people were not aware of just how rapidly one's life could be altered. Severus unfortunately understood that concept all too well.

Going places had never been one of Severus' favourite things. He had always preferred the quiet company of bubbling cauldrons or a close friend to loud strangers. He never dreaded trips into Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade, and made no attempt to avoid them. However, going out was something he did not wish to do every day, if at all possible.

His feelings about going in public were amplified an untold amount after being on the receiving end of the enslavement curse. People in Hogsmeade, where he had made several trips with Master, knew all about the punishment invoked on Death Eaters. With the tattoo the Ministry for Magic had placed on his forehead, he received many stares. He often got dirty looks and spat at by people who had lost someone in the War, which Master allowed. In response, Severus could do nothing but bow his head and ignore their insults, or Master would punish him.

Worse, some people looked on with pity. It was one thing to be insulted, as Severus could pass that off on ignorance, but pitied? Pity was something he hated; he knew he looked deplorable, and that his situation was lamentable, but that did not mean that he was to be pitied.

He found himself hating trips into Hogsmeade with Master as much as he hated being in Master's house. At Master's house, he was surrounded by walls that had seen the torture of not only himself, but other slaves as well. He spent every moment dreading Master's intentions – would Master make him do some horrible task? Would Master order him to grant him sexual favours? Would Master threaten him with punishments? In Hogsmeade, however, he was at the mercy of the civilians, who often didn't have mercy or had too much.

They Apparated outside a large old warehouse. People were milling about left and right. It was quite easy to guess who was a slave and who wasn't, as the slaves walked behind their owners, head bowed. Their faces were long, in attempt to look expressionless. The other people walked tall and purposefully. As if they knew where they were going, what they were to be doing. Some seemed happy, while others seemed quite frustrated.

Severus bowed his head, following Master as he trekked to a small building a short distance away from the old warehouse.

This is Henderson's Auction,he took in his surroundings. His eyes darted about, though he held his head still. He had been a spy for many years – too many years to simply drop his instincts altogether. Even though he was not going to escape, he wanted to understand the people around him. What they were thinking, what they were doing... and he could know it all, just by observing body language, by poking around in their minds a bit. Eye contact was necessary for Legilimency, and Master had forbade him early on to have eye contact with anyone above him unless instructed otherwise, but he could always observe how they moved, how often they blinked, even. Such subtle details gave away much information.

He grimaced as he stepped on a sharp rock that pierced his foot. His feet were still tender, though they were starting to become less so. His heels had become harder, and he was able to withstand walking barefoot outdoors better than before. That was not saying much, however, as Severus had never spent a day barefoot in his life prior to having the enslavement curse put on him.

Perhaps my new master will permit me to wear shoes, he wondered as he stepped inside the cool building. He was careful to walk three paces behind Master. The rush of cool air hit him and he immediately had to resist the urge to shiver, though he got goosebumps in response to the sudden cold. He had spent years dressing in layers, whether in robes or Muggle clothing, due to the chill of both Hogwarts and Spinners End. To be as unclothed as he was, with only the cloth around his waist preserving any dignity, was humiliating. It was made even more humiliating because he was surrounded by many wizards and witches, and most of the slaves that he had seen wore more than he did.

Inside the small building was a simple office, where a young witch sat behind a desk. She wore big spectacles over her preoccupied eyes. Her russet hair was pulled up in a proper bun. She wore far too much make-up, and simple black office robes.

"Ah, Mr. Mering, it is good to see you again." She reached across her desk and shook hands with Master.

"Another year." Master had a smile on his face as he shook his head. "My thirty-third year, actually. I've sold one hundred and seven here."

One hundred and seven? Master has sold one hundred and seven slaves here? The thought made Severus ill. That meant Master had owned, at some point or another, at least one hundred and seven slaves. All sold at this auction. How many had he sold at other auctions? And what about the slaves he kept for a few weeks to train and return to their owners?

The woman eyed the Dark Mark on Severus' pale skin and her blue eyes widened. "You've got a Death Eater, Mr. Mering!" She exclaimed with shock, recoiling with horror at the sight of the ugly snake and skull sign.

Not a Death Eater. A spy. Though I was a Death Eater... I suppose I am a Death Eater. Severus had come to understand that he was being punished not for the years he spied on the Dark Lord, but for the time he did not. He was a slave for the mere amount of months he that he was truly loyal to the Dark Lord, while the time he had spent trying to save the world

(and yourself)

was disregarded entirely.

A lifetime of enslavement seemed like a harsh punishment. Severus was still trying to decipher whether he thought he, or others, deserved it. He had done many wrong things in his past, as Master always reminded him. He was different from everyone else, and not safe in freedom, for he could harm anyone with a few uttered words, with or without a wand. However, was that worth a lifetime of enslavement? He was not quite sure.

"Yes, I do." Mr. Mering stated, grabbing Severus' arm tightly and pulling him closer to the desk so that the woman could get a better look.

Severus kept his eyes to the floor, willing himself to keep the colour out of his cheeks. This was a young woman, no older than twenty! That she was looking over him, in his nearly naked state as she was was-

"Professor Snape!" She gasped.

At those words, Severus' eyes darted up. He had not been called "professor" in a month, but years of habit were hard to break..

The woman... she had been one of his students, apparently. He would never be able to remember all of his students' names and faces. Despite all of the concentration he had used when he licked Master's shoes, crawled behind Master, washed dishes, and bowed, he could never remember all their names.

"Do you remember me?" She dropped back into the swivelling office chair, hand on her heart. Her eyes wide She was clearly shocked to see him.

Severus glanced at Master, who nodded.

She would have been at school in 1991... you spent a lot of time reading the roster for that year... Slytherin, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, or Hufflepuff? She was not a Slytherin, I would have remembered. Nor was she a... oh, but a Ravenclaw! She was John's older sister, sorted into Ravenclaw three years before he came to Hogwarts.

"Larson," he spoke, rearranging his face in the closest he could get to a sneer without Master slapping him. He kept his head slightly bowed as he spoke. "Ravenclaw, class of 1995. Got a 'T' in your O.W.L's for Potions. I remember... you had a tendency to use fragmented sentences in essays, as well as spill your cosmetics on your homework prior to turning it in." He had always hated her for that – had it never occurred to hear to use a simple spell to get the stain off her parchment?

She glared at him before turning to Master. "You could not school his mouth, could you?" She pulled out a form and began filling in the blanks with her quill.

Master just chuckled. "I told you last year when you first came to work here; you can't beat them to death. Corpses don't sell. He'll lose his mouth shortly."

Severus watched intently as she filled in the blanks of the parchment. She appeared to know what she was doing as she filled in Master's name, his own name, Master's home address (which he discovered, by reading upside down, was in Surrey), and more.

"How old is he? When is his birth date?" She directed towards Master.

"Ask him the questions, by all means." Master nodded towards Severus.

"Snape?" She asked, eyebrow raised expectantly, hatred in every feature of her face.

"Thirty-eight," he said quietly. He had been one of Hogwarts' youngest Potions masters in history when he had gotten the job in 1981. He was twenty-one at the time, a mere child. "January 9th, 1960."


"I am a half-blood."

She scoffed as she wrote down his answer. "Kind of ironic for a Death Eater to be a half-blood."

Severus snarled. He was proud of his heritage. As much as he hated his father, he was not ashamed at all to be a half-blood. "I'll have you know that the Dark Lord himself was a-"

He stopped short, as Master began holding his wand to Severus' head, invoking the sharp pain on his tattooed skull. Even if Master did not do that, if Severus directly disobeyed him, the tattoo would start to prickle and eventually burn. The wand was more effective, however, as a touch to the tattoo always brought the pain full-strength instantaneously.

As she asked the next question, Master took his wand away from Severus' forehead. Whether they were on the form or not, they were highly personal questions that Severus hated to answer, as he was a private person. He was relieved when Master turned and sat down in one of the chairs that were arranged waiting-room style around the desk.

Severus knelt down on Master's right side, growing more chilly by the moment. He wished he could rub his arms to warm himself, but he couldn't. To do so would be a sign of weakness that he still was not ready to show, and perhaps more importantly, Master would not like it.

It seemed pointless to avoid showing signs of weakness. He was, whether he liked it or not, at everyone's disposal. Acting proud or dignified did little for him except earn him more punishment. Now, avoiding showing signs of weakness was about control. He had to call Master by his proper title, or die as a result of endless punishment. The same applied to obeying his every word. He had a choice over so few of his actions; for example, he could choose whether to attempt to warm himself or not.

"So, she's a student of yours, eh?" Master spoke, his cruel eyes staring at him, his mouth formed in an amused smile.

Severus nodded. "Yes, Master." Yes Master, mock me right in front of her. Of course you want to take away any pride I might have in front of a former student.

Master chuckled. "An odd turn of events, don't you think? Now think about it – if any student you have ever taught were to come up to you now and tell you to roll over like a dog, you would have to do it."

The image made Severus' stomach plummet. "Yes, Master." He said quietly. Before he lost his nerve, he spoke again. "However, the obedience to every wizard and witch is your order. Perhaps my new master will think differently."

That was one hope Severus had clung to; when the man had been reading the rules and laws, before the enslavement curse had been cast, he had said "You must do anything and everything any wizard tells you to do, unless specifically told not to by your current owner".Did that mean, that though his current Master insisted his obey everyone above him lest it contradict another one of his orders, his new Master might be more firm and have limits on who he was to obey?

Master stared at Severus. "Yes, that's true." He said slowly. "But do you really think that he or she will care who you obey? As long as you perform well for them and do not go making a spectacle of yourself, I highly doubt they will care if you have to obey someone else's orders along the way."

"Yes, Master." Severus sighed, leaning back further on his heels. Kneeling was painful, and he doubted he would ever get used to it. Severus had done so for hours at a time before, and had had sore knees and legs as a result. He wished Master would permit him to sit in a different position, but Severus was not about to ask, for he knew Master would not budge. He was kneeling to show his status and respect for his Master.

Respect. Did he have respect for Master? He supposed he did. He had a very high respect for someone who could at any moment perform the Cruciatus on him and laugh as he writhed in pain. He had respect for Master in the same way one had respect for a dragon that could easily kill you in an instant. You moved cautiously, carefully, around the dragon, and did nothing to provoke it. Though he had that high respect for Master, he also feared him as he would a dragon, for he would be lying if he said he was not afraid of the man.

He was not afraid for the reasons one might think. He was not afraid of Master because of the number of beatings he gave out, the various types of cruel and unusual punishment, or the orders that normally surrounded them. No, he was afraid of Master's attitude and Master's temperament. Of how Master chuckled when Severus moaned, or laughed hysterically when he screamed. Of how Master could kick an already weak and bleeding Severus in the stomach and think nothing of it, and of how Master could order Severus into his bed without once thinking about how Severus might feel about it. Master did not see him as a human being, but as a slave, which was similar to the way many thought of house-elves. House-elves, however, were not humans. They were a breed all of their own. They looked different than humans, acted different than humans, and had different magical abilities than most wizards. That said, perhaps they did not deserve to be treated as badly as they often were.

Severus understood that his legal status had changed. In moments, it had gone from "wizard" to "slave". He was classified as a slave, in the same way Lupin was a classified a werewolf or a house-elf a house-elf. He was a different breed than most wizards now, but he still was one. He still had human blood - magical blood - flowing through his veins. His ancestry had not changed, nor had his past experiences and circumstances. Yet something had changed, which, despite Severus' intelligence and knowledge, was a hard thing to comprehend.

A harsh buzz sounded in the room.

The Larson girl looked up from her desk and nodded at Master. "You can go in now, Mr. Mering."

Severus leaped to his feet and bowed his head, backing away to give Master plenty of space. It was an endless game of trying to stand before Master could. It was a strict order, but not easily done.

Master took a copy of the filled out form from Larson and nodded at Severus, signalling for him to follow.

Severus' dirty feet slid on the hard tiled floor. Severus watched his own feet take each step.

Two men walked past them; one was evidentially the other's slave. He was dressed in off-white patched robes and though clean, his body was battered. He gave Severus a curious look as they walked past, but Severus pretended not to see it.

Master stepped inside a small room, where a woman stood waiting.

"Mr. Mering!" She exclaimed, shaking his hand. "I thought you would be coming in today!" She glanced over at Severus. "Just one? When I heard how they were punishing select Death Eaters, I assumed you would be training them all."

Master shook his head. "The Ministry did not allow people to own more than one. Didn't want us biting off more than we could chew." He handed the copy of the form to the woman, who was dressed in pale blue robes, a medical symbol woven onto them. She was a healer that appeared to be in her mid-thirties. He black hair was tightly pulled back and her skin was the colour of coffee with just a touch of milk.

The woman examined the form with pursed lips, nodding and muttering to herself. "He doesn't look thirty-eight."

No, he didn't, but one who had had the stresses of his life would not look his age. He was lucky his heart hadn't stopped beating due to the stress years ago. His appearance hardly mattered to him, in any case.

Mering shrugged. "He is."

She just nodded. "Sit down, Mr. Mering. This should only take a few moments." She directed her attention at Severus. "Stand up against the wall."

"Yes, miss," he said softly, standing up against the white wall where she directed. Her eyes were watching his every move carefully – it made him feel like he was under one of the magnifying glasses he kept in his office at Hogwarts.

"Stand up straight," she ordered. "Head back."

Biting his lip, he did so. Master said for him to always bow his head, but if she said otherwise in Master's presence and Master didn't argue, it seemed he should comply. He stared at the wall across from him, not wanting to make eye contact with anyone.

He made a sharp movement as she placed her cold hands on his right shoulder.

She gave him a reproachful look. "Stay still."

He shut his eyes tightly and gritted his teeth as she ran her hands down his arm, feeling the muscles, examining the scars. She picked up his arm and began flexing his wrist and moving it in a circular motion. "Extend your fingers."

His long slender fingers came unclenched and she began examining them one by one before letting go of his arm and repeating the process on his other arm.

"Have you ever had any health problems prior to coming here?" She asked him, lightly pinching some of the skin in his arm as she worked her way down his arm.

Health problems? Colds, the flu, normal childhood diseases... "Nothing substantial, miss." He tried not to wince as she turned his head to the left and began feeling around his neck.

"Have you ever broken any bones?"

"Not intentionally." He returned, keeping his tone level. It was everything he could do to not throw her across the room. She was small, so he could easily through strength or accidental magic. He worked hard to reign in accidental magic. After literally shocking Medusa, and doing it yet again to Master the first time he tried to take him, he knew that if he didn't keep his defences down, the magic in his body would try to take over. He was far more powerful than most wizards he would ever encounter, and needed to contain his magic, as would only earn him punishment.

"What bones have been broken?" She began shifting his jaw.

Too many to count.His father had broken Severus' arm and jawwhen Severus was five, but Severus had healed them on his own through accidental magic. His father had broken Severus' leg when Severus was twelve, but Severus' mother had healed that. Courtesy of James Potter and his gang, he had had his nose broken twice, jaw broken once more, a few collarbone injuries, and a sprained wrist... and that was before he began to service the Dark Lord, who, like Master, seemed to have a sadistic pleasure in hurting people.

He sighed reluctantly. "My left arm, my left leg, my nose, jaw, collarbone, a few ribs, and my head." Madame Pomfrey had likely not told him everything every time, wanting to spare him the frustration and humiliation that went along with the company of James Potter and the Dark Lord.

"Dare I ask how you received those injuries?" She began feeling his chest, making the goosebumps return and his nipples harden. The only person to ever touch him this much prior to the Medusa incident was Madame Pomfrey. Since that happened two weeks ago, he had come to decide that any attention his body was to receive was always going to be negative in nature for him, whether through unwanted sexual contact or injury.

"Quidditch," he lied. He could count the games of Quidditch he had played (though not refereed) on two hands. He was hardly going to inform the woman, especially in front of Master, that he had spent his life being punished in one way or another. He had a feeling Master would find that hysterical.

"And the amount of scars you have are from Quidditch as well?" She asked, waving one of the many wands she had sitting on a counter.

Severus' clothes, what little he had, promptly disappeared.

Severus closed his eyes even tighter than he had before. He would not lash out, nor would he react to the fact that he was once again unclothed. If being unclothed in front of Master was not bad enough, being unclothed in front of a strange woman was torture. If he made any attempt to preserve his dignity, Master would only laugh and punish him. It would only make things worse.

"That, and from the duration I spent training with a sword," he kept with the lie Master had told him to tell the first night. He briefly wondered if he would be rewarded for that. Once he realised what he was thinking, he felt horrified.

"You will be able to remove the scars I've inflicted on him this past month, I presume." Master spoke up as she continued her examination.

"I can see."

Severus did his best to Occlude as she continued to examine him, whilst trying to pay attention to the conversation. He needed to know everything Master had planned, and needed to be aware if he was asked a question. However, if he spent too much time dwelling on his examination, he very well might do something he'd regret.

But there was no further conversation. The silence was awkward for Severus as it continued to prevail, only interrupted by commands from the woman, who eventually began to scan his eyes, ears, nose, mouth, chest, groin, and every other inch of his body with several different wands. He wanted more than ever to be anywhere – anywhere – but there.

He turned around as she instructed and pressed his nose hard against the wall. To have his back turned was always awfully horrible to endure – he would rather have his eyes open and see one's intentions than to be blind to them. He felt an cold sensation run down his body that was so cold that it stung.

He did not react. He couldn't. He would not allow himself to do that.

"You may turn around." She said suddenly, as the cold sensation disappeared. With another flick of her wand, his cloth was back in place.

She turned her attention back to Master. "Physically, he is no no immediate danger, but he is underweight and undernourished."

Master nodded. "Not enough to affect his price any, though?"

She began writing on a form."Not by much, if at all, no. The scars I can heal are healed. The other ones will take more intense medical procedures that I don't offer for slave auctions."

"Of course." Master said. "The scars are the least of my worries, appearance-wise."

"On that note, I have cast several cleansing spells on him, but the only thing that is going to fix the nose are again, medical procedures that I do not offer to slaves unless privately paid for by their owner." She looked up from the form. "That is normally done by brothels. They will purchase a slave for a cheap price, and pay to have their problems fixed. In his case, it would likely be his nose, and perhaps a few charms on his hair."

Insult my appearance as if I am not in the room.

"Of course, slight tanning of the skin is usually done, but the pale look is in now, I believe, so that would be a plus, in his case, if you intend on selling him to a brothel."

Please, no, Master. I will do anything but work somewhere like that. I cannot. Severus would beg beyond all reasoning to not be sold to a brothel. Severus was fairly certain he could not control where he was sold, and that he would have to obey his new owners in the same way he did Master, but... he just could not. Medusa the one time, and then Master, was bad enough, but no one else. Even though he did not tie the emotions he felt during sexual activity with anyone in particular – he had no pleasant experiences to compare them to – they made him miserable.

"I have no care in the world where my slaves are sold." Master said. "As long as they sell for a high price, that is. I will normally buy them back myself if they are not going for high enough. Of course, with all the rules surrounding owning a Death Eater, I shouldn't be surprised if a specific type of crowd shows up to buy. How many Death Eaters have you seen so far?"

She shook her head. "None yet, but it is not even lunch yet. I expect we'll see five-to-ten though. There is not supposed to be many – the Ministry insists that most trainers keep them longer than a month."

Master just nodded, taking a revised form that the woman magically copied onto another another piece of parchment. "I will see you next year, then." He began walking out of the room.

Severus pulled himself away from the wall, bowed his head, and followed him, hoping that the worst was over, that he could go back to Master's until tomorrow, where he would be sold for the first time in his life.

Little did he know that yes, tomorrow would be the first time he was sold, but it would be far from the last.

Chapter Text

They Apparated outside a warehouse. For it being merely October, it was cold. The weather was often like that in England in October. George found himself grateful for the weather, as it was not as cold as it normally was in Scotland that time of year, which is where he had spent a majority of his Octobers in recent years. However, it was drizzling rain, which made George wish he had brought a cap with ear flaps. Not that he had a right ear to get cold.

"This is Henderson's, huh?" He turned to the elder Weasley.

Arthur Weasley was forty-eight years old. He stood tall, almost as tall as his lanky son. He had burnt red hair, not fiery red like George's. He was neither thin nor overweight. He had once been as thin as his sons, but he had filled out as he grew older.

His expression was grim as he looked around his surroundings. "I imagine so. We have done plenty of research on it of late, but I've never seen any pictures. The slaves are supposedly kept in a large warehouse of sorts-"

"There." George pointed with his wand, which held a ball of light at the end. It was two in the morning, and dark.

Arthur nodded. "Silence now, George. Remember to Stupefy anyone that sees you. Show no mercy. They will have guards. They expect misinformed radicals to show up to attempt to free people, and will assume we have similar intentions without pausing to ask any questions."

"Right." George nodded. "We're going in, find Snape, figure out exactly where to go from there, and leave for the night."

George was known for his humour. He was renowned for it, really, becoming famous in all of Great Britain for his joke shop, which he had founded with his twin brother, Fred. However, the wear and tear of the War caught up with him after it ended. After Fred died, George found himself as a depressed recluse for a few short weeks, before deciding that Fred would have beat the living daylights out of him for moping. He moved on and continued with the joke shop, which was more successful now than ever. He now understood though, as he had matured in the last few months, that there was a time and a place for joking around, and serious rescue missions were not it.

Not to say that he didn't secretly enjoy being on a secret rescue mission; it made him feel like one of those characters in a wizarding wireless station show. He could almost hear spy music following him as he darted around corners, tumbled to avoid hexes-


"Yeah, Dad?"


"Of course."

They quietly began to head for the warehouse. They couldn't apply disillusionment charms on themselves, as they needed to be seen once they found Snape, but by Snape only. That would involve plenty of Stupefying and Obliviating, but those were simple hexes and charms that the two men could handle. They had fought in the very crux of the War, the last Battle - they could most definitely handle a few guards and slave owners.

"Stupefy!" Arthur hissed at a shadowy figure walking outside the warehouse.

The figure stopped and immediately fell to the ground.

"Good one, Dad." George smiled broadly, hurrying over to the figure and giving it a gentle nudge with his foot. "He's out cold. He won't be up for hours, I reckon."

"Hush, George." Arthur rolled his eyes, but his grin was as wide as his son's.

Rounding a corner into the warehouse, they quickly Stupefied the three guards that stood in there, dodging a few body-bind and petrifying curses as they were spotted.

"All right, George. You go into one of the rooms they were guarding and see if you can't find Severus. Stupefyand Obliviate anyone else if you have to, but don't hurt anyone. I'll be in one of those other rooms."

The warehouse was separated into one large room and three small ones that appeared to be locked the Muggle way, with padlocks, but the Weasleys were not stupid. They knew full well that they also had wizarding locking charms on them, and possibly even alarm systems.

George made his way over to the door on the far right, whilst Arthur made his way to the door on the far left. Whoever got finished looking for Snape first could search the middle room.

George waved his wand and muttered a simple Alohamora. That would take care of the Muggle locking charms - it did, in fact, as they fell open. The doorknob uttered a series of clicks as well.

Muttering another spell, any break-in device or charm became deactivated. Another cancelled nearly all wizarding locks and charms, and yet another cancelled the rest.

He couldn't help but grin to himself. Snape really owed him now - not only had Snape hexed George's ear off, rendering him holey for the rest of his life, but here George was saving Snape's arse? Yes, that sounded like life-debt material.

He peered through the frosted window of the door. He couldn't really see much due to the texture of the window but he could make out huddled shapes. People were in there, just as Kingsley said they would be.

The slaves at Henderson's were brought in the day before the auction to be examined and such, and kept overnight, for the auction started really early in the morning, at six o'clock. It apparently put the original owners at ease, so they would not have to worry about rushing to the auction on time. They could just get there afterwards, gather up their pay cheque and leave.

The thought made George's stomach turn. He had always wanted a slave for the Weasley family, simply because his mum worked hard and deserved a little bit of rest and relaxation, but in his mind, it had always been some sort of arranged deal. In his mind, the slave wasn't necessarily forced, but part of the family. And that meant de-gnoming the garden, polishing the floors, moving heavy furniture, and other chores that Mrs. Weasley hated to do.

He had learned a lot about slavery in the past month. When he had learned about Death Eaters turning into slaves, first he felt a little smug. That was what the Death Eaters had wanted, wasn't it? To serve someone? They had been slaves to You-Know-Who, so now it was time to be slaves to You-Know-Who's victims. But he hadn't counted on Snape being one of those Death Eaters. Yeah, Snape had been an outright bastard, but slavery? That was a bit extreme. The man already had it bad enough, what with having a big nose and greasy hair. Surely that was punishment enough!

Snap out of it. Rescue time.Taking a deep breath, George gripped the doorknob.

He eased open the door and cautiously peered inside. The room was pretty small, and dark. The only light came from the light at the tip of George's wand. He realized with horror that everyone in the room was shackled to the wall. They were sprawled out on the floor, their feet clamped together by a hamper. They were literally hanging from hip-level... the idea of being in that position brought bile to George's throat.

He began passing over each person's face with his wand, searching for his former professor's familiar features. Pale face, big nose, black glittering eyes, greasy hair, all complete with a glowering sneer.

Some of the people were asleep, others just gazed at him with a lifeless gaze. Alive, conscious of the fact that there was a twenty-year-old man peering at them, but not caring. It was like they were on some heavy potion they were waking up from.

"Weasley?" He heard a hoarse voice whisper behind him.

Wand brandished in the air, he whirled around at the voice. It came from a figure chained to the wall, that, to George's horror, he realized was his evil Potions professor.

Only evil Potions professor, he appeared to be no longer. The man dangling by his arms, lying halfway on the floor, had little if any resemblance to the intimidating man George remembered.

Severus Snape, to George, had always been tall, brooding, manipulative, sneering, hateful, glowering, and snide. He had the presence to make a roomful of people shut up just by walking in it, and one glare from him could make you regret you ever spoke. The Potions professor had never been a good looking man by far - he had been one of the ugliest George had ever seen, until he had seen You-Know-Who and his snake nose, of course, but the man on the floor made what Snape had looked like before like Prince Charming.

His face, if it could have been called "pale" before, was positively white, the colour of brand new sheets. His black hair laid over his face in a greasy mess, in further disarray than it was when George had went to school. His whole body in general looked too thin; George had never seen the man wear anything but billowing black robes, but surely he had never been that thin. The Dark Mark stood out boldly on the man's limp arms as he hung from the wall. George tried to keep his eyes off it and his eyes on the professor's face.

"Yeah," he said quietly, coming nearer to the man and kneeling down so that they could be on eye level. "Remember me, George Weasley? Your least favourite student? Well, aside from Fred, that is. You always wrote T's on our papers, but we found out later that you were really giving us O's and E's. Sneaky Slytherin."

He stopped rambling as the professor's eyes lifted to meet George's. They, like the other people in the room, were kind of dead-looking. Lifeless. There was little emotion in them.

To George's surprise though, a chuckle escaped Snape. A dry, almost angry sounding chuckle. "Now you're hallucinating. Magnificent. Add that to your list of troubles, right on top of talking to yourself, why don't you?"

George stared at the scowl on the man's face. Not an angry scowl like George had aimed at him countless times, but a sad one. One of someone who was in despair. Just looking at it on the man's gaunt features made George shudder.

"Right." George said, standing up. "I'll be right back, Professor. I've just got to go get my dad."

Without another look at the man, George hurried out of the room and into the middle room, where he saw his dad looking at various people's faces, trying to find Snape, much in the way that George had been.

"Dad, I found him." George said.

Arthur looked up, his wand lighting up his face.

"You did?" He asked, hurrying out of the room and beginning to restore the locks and charms on the door, to make it appear as if there had been no intrusion.

"Yeah. He's alive." That was blatantly obvious, of course. George would not have found him in that room had he not been alive. "But he thinks I'm an hallucination or something."

Arthur looked at George in alarm. "He does? What makes you say that?"

"Well, he was talking to himself... he just said so." George tried as he followed his dad into the room that held Snape.

"Severus." Arthur said, going over the the figure George pointed out and kneeling in front of him. "Severus, can you hear me?"

"Salazar save me, if I am going to have hallucinations, at least let them be of people other than Weasleys." Snape muttered under his breath, so that George could hardly hear him.

"Get him some water, George." Arthur said. At his son's hesitation, he snapped. "Now!"

George deftly reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of string. Transfiguring that into a glass, he let water pour out of the tip of his wand into the glass. He wordlessly passed it to his dad, who lifted the cup to Snape's thin dry lips.

"Drink it, Severus." Arthur urged Snape, who, with a wary look at Arthur through the curtain of greasy hair, began swallowing as the cup as tipped backwards.

Arthur banished the now empty cup and lifted the hair up and away from Snape's face without hesitation. George would have shuddered if he had had to touch the greasy hair, but Arthur didn't miss a beat.

Snape, however, flinched violently at the touch.

"It's all right, Severus. We're here; it's all right." Arthur's voice was not one George had expected to come out of his father's mouth. It was his father's "comfort voice", one he was no stranger to. He had heard his dad use than tone of voice to comfort his mum when her sister died, to comfort Bill when Bill was nine and his first girlfriend left him, to comfort Charlie when he had practically ripped off his own arm in the summer of Charlie's fifth year, to comfort Percy when Percy got an 'E' in Transfiguration, to comfort George when Fred died, to comfort Fred when he had nightmares, to comfort Ron when he had nightmares about George and Fred, to comfort Ginny over the guilt she felt of opening the Chamber of Secrets... no, George fully knew his dad's "comfort voice", but he had never expected to hear it used on Snape. Not at all this past month, when a plan had been formulated for George and his dad to sneak into wherever to help Snape had George expected Snape to need or want any comforting.

But his dad seemed to think that he did.

This is not a little mission like at school,he realised. This is not a late-night break into Honeydukes. This is serious, a life-or-death situation. He wasn't sure why the gravity of the situation took so long to hit him.

Arthur's attention was fully on Snape, who looked at Arthur with fear in his eyes. "You remember me, Arthur Weasley? Severus, can you hear me?"

There was a long silence as Snape's eyes began to narrow, a scowl soon coming over his face. "That is just cruel, something you will take as a compliment, I am sure. Using Polyjuice Potion to morph into someone that you think I can trust, just to see if I will break or attempt to escape. I am not an idiot. I'll not just go and-"

"Severus." Arthur interrupted Snape's blabbering rather harshly. "You're being too loud. I am Arthur Weasley." He paused. "We had Order meetings at 12, Grimmauld Place, which Sirius Black inherited from his family. Professor Dumbledore was the original secret keeper. You were adamant about not letting Harry, Ron and Hermione know about Grimmauld Place because you thought, with how vulnerable Harry was to You-Know-You, You-Know-Who might be able to somehow read his mind. You wound up being rather right about that later on."

Arthur paused, looking at the man in front of him. "Then you continued to inform my wife of methods of torture that Death Eaters use, such as skin being lifted off and rape, and we almost lost the vote to bring them."

"Weasley." Snape sighed, all signs of scowling gone from his face. Now he simply looked like a tired old man.

A grin spread over Arthur's features. "We've been planning on getting you out since day one. Kingsley agreed to let Death Eaters be punished in that fashion, to get them under control without the use of dementors, but he never dreamed they would include you, after being cleared. By the time he got wind of it, it was too late. They had already Apparated away with you." Arthur reached out to place a hand on Snape's bare shoulder. "I promise you, had we-" he stopped.

Snape gave another violent shudder as Arthur touched him.

"Merlin's beard, you're like ice!" Arthur said, pulling his wand out of his inner robe pocket and aiming it towards Snape.

Snape, continuing to shock George, closed his eyes tightly and began to tremble. He turned his face away from Arthur.

Arthur took this in stride. "I was just going to cast a warming charm on you, Severus." He said quietly, stuffing his wand back into his robes. "See, look, no wand."

"Look, Professor." George broke in. "We're trying to help you. Tomorrow, me, Bill, Professor McGonagall and Dedalus Diggle are all going to be at the auction. We're going to make sure we buy you if it takes all the Galleons in Gringotts."

Arthur placed a hand on George's forearm, silently signalling for him to stop. "George, why don't you go stand watch outside?"

George felt the urge to argue, but didn't. His dad could help Snape out more than he could. Standing watch would probably be a good idea... he stepped over many sprawled out legs to go stand outside to keep watch... and hoping to God that things could someday go back to the way they were years ago, back before a single maniac nearly destroyed the world.

Severus eyed the man warily. It was Arthur Weasley, he knew this. It had to be a member of the Order, to bring up that debate they had once held, or someone who used Legilimency on a member of the Order. But, realistically thinking, no one at Henderson's wanted to torture him enough to go through all that effort. Master wouldn't have even gone through all of that effort. It had to be Arthur Weasley, except... except why was he here?

"Severus, what happened? You look terrible." Arthur said, reaching up to push back the hair the had once again fell over Severus' face.

Severus shied away from Arthur's hand. Arthur Weasley would not hurt him, he understood that well enough. He did. But... but he did not want to be touched. Just... no. His mind felt really hazy, but someone touching him was not good and must be avoided, he knew that. Besides, he liked the hair over his eyes. It made him feel as if he could hide... like when he was a child and he covered his eyes, thinking that since he couldn't see his father, his father couldn't see him...

"Severus?" He realized that Arthur was waiting for a response.

His brain began to make crucial connections through the fog in his mind. Arthur Weasley being there was bad. If anyone saw him talking to Severus...

"You must go." Severus said, finding that the water Arthur had given him took away the hoarseness of his voice. He had done a lot of screaming that day and hadn't been given any water.

"It's all right, Severus; we've got hours." Arthur shifted, obviously uncomfortable on his knees. He apparently had never spent hours at a time in such a position.

"It is not all right – you must go." Severus insisted, panic beginning to set in. "If Master finds out you have been here... if anyone finds out... I cannot do it again, not again... no, you must go... you-"

Severus was too caught up in his racing thoughts to notice the alarm in Arthur's eyes. "Severus, take a deep breath. You're completely safe right now. I promise, no harm will come to you because of this visit."

He cannot promise that. No one can promise anything like that. Not even Master. He said that everything would be fine at Henderson's and all I would have to do is let them look me over and everything would be fine but it wasn't fine and Master left me with them and let them hurt me and-he once again became aware that Arthur was speaking.

"-hex? Did they hex you, Severus? You need to breathe. You need to calm down. The sooner you do, the sooner I can leave."

Severus looked up. Master said for him to obey everyone unless it contradicted his orders... did that include Arthur Weasley?

It is not worth the pain in your forehead if it does and you do not obey. He nodded, trying to focus on Arthur. He tried to breathe and calm down as Arthur ordered.

Arthur smiled a smile which looked very forced to Severus. Not that he wasn't used to that. No one ever smiled at him unless they wanted something, felt bad for him, or was smiling at his expense. "Severus, I need you to tell me something; last month, an Auror brought you to someone named Nigel Mering, correct?"

Nigel Mering... who is... Master! Severus nodded. He didn't know what he was supposed to say in reply to Arthur, so he did not say anything. He just put his eyes down at his lap.

His head felt like it was made of fog. It felt like he had smoked some herbs without the giddy side effects. He knew he wasn't supposed to make eye contact with someone he was unequal with. He absent-mindedly noticed that the cloth that was still tied securely around his waist was hiked up, leaving little to the imagination. In the back of his mind, he supposed he should care, but he didn't really. It was too hard to even be aware of what was going on, much less to do anything about it...

Arthur followed Severus' gaze and quickly pulled the cloth back over Severus before Severus could flinch at his touch.

"Severus," Arthur's voice was soft. It sounded like a pillow. Soft, like it could put you to sleep. "What did they do? Tell me, what happened today?"

Severus looked up and carefully examined Arthur's face. His brows were furrowed, the lines in his face deep as he looked over Severus... he looked concerned. "Do not worry; I will sell for a lot tomorrow." He assured the man.

"I'm not worried about that, Severus. I need to know what happened today. What time did you get here?"

"Morning." Severus answered. "It was morning and I made sausage and eggs because Master had porridge yesterday. Master fed me a lot because it would be busy day and it was. It was a very busy day." He looked back down at his lap. His hands were hanging above his head... how did his cloth move?

"How was it a busy day, Severus? What did you do?" Arthur pressed.

"Master made me look into their eyes and they tried to perform Legilimency on me and they thought they did, but they didn't because I Occluded really well and put up fake or futile memories," Severus said with pride. However, the proud look on his face quickly crumbled. "Please don't tell Master, or he will be angry and hit me and make me hang off the bar and then make me let them use Legilimency on meagain!"

He hated it when Master made him hold onto that really high bar in the basement and made him hang there. He wouldn't allow him to let go and it was hard to hang there for hours and hours and it made his fingers cold and whole body ache because his muscles were sore.

"I won't tell him, I promise." Arthur assured Severus quickly. "What else happened?"

"A woman gave me an examination. She took away lots of scars and ran a great deal of scans and took away my cloth but she gave it back." Severus said. A beetle was crawling on his leg... was the beetle as cold as he was? "Her hands were cold."

"What else?"

Severus thought a moment before speaking, but he did not take too long to gather his thoughts, even though it was hard too because his brain was foggy. He couldn't let Arthur wait too long, as he was expecting an answer. "Master made me go with these men. They asked me lots of questions and made me do lots of things for them. And Master didn't go with me! He just said 'behave' and left and he hasn't come back! Did I do something wrong? Why did Master not come back for me?"

"Why did Master not come back for me?"

"You are supposed to stay overnight tonight. That happened to all the slaves." Arthur winced at his words. He did not want to group Severus in with slaves, but it was the reality. He thought it would have bothered him less if Severus behaved more like his old self; the way Severus was acting took him by surprise. "What did those men tell you to do, Severus?"

"Lots of exercises, and bring them things from across the room, and from the lobby in the other building and other things." Severus said. "They were testing me to make sure I was a good slave and I did not beg to serve anyone like Master said I would." He paused. "And when they asked me a question, I gave an answer they didn't like and they hurt me." Hurt was evident in his eyes. "I said the truth and they were mad! I do not know what I did wrong! Master is going to be angry! He-"

"Then what happened?" It was like pulling teeth.

"They locked me in this room and soon other slaves came and got locked up too. Whoever talked got hit with on the head and I didn't talk very much or very loud." Severus, once again, sounded pleased. "Did you know that most people here are born as slaves and that there are only a few Death Eaters here?"

"What else did you find out?" Arthur asked. This is what he needed to know. He needed to know anything about slavery he could - the books Hermione Granger had brought over and studied were helpful, but anything he could find out from Severus would be more helpful.

They also needed to find out how much Severus was expected to go for - slaves sold from 500 to 75,000 Galleons usually – a wide range - and they needed to make sure that they had enough money to buy him. They needed to make sure he was not too sick and if he was, with what, so they could set him up a room in Grimmauld Place to recover, with all the necessary potions brewed. They needed to know the best tactics that would enable them to walk away with the highest bid. And they needed to let Severus know they were coming. He was a Slytherin, and would be able to form an unstoppable plan.

At least, that was what the Order had thought. Severus' condition left him far from his normal state, and Arthur highly doubted Severus would be able to plot well.

"Nothing else." Severus said. "See that man? He was being sold from a brothel. He got too old. He was only thirty-two, but they like their workers really young, so it did not matter. He was sold there when he was nine, so he lived there a long time though he didn't start working until he was sixteen because-"

"All right." Arthur didn't need a biography on someone he could not afford to take pity on. They barely had enough money to purchase one slave, much less two or three... or everyone there. "How much do you think you will be sold for? We need an estimation, at best."

"Master thinks I will sell for a lot." Severus said, proudly. "Even though I am a Death Eater."

"You're not a Death Eater." Arthur felt the need to point out. "You were posing as one, but you are not one. Not really."

Severus cocked his head. "But I serviced the Dark Lord. I stole and I hurt Muggles and I tortured people and-"

"All right." Arthur said, holding his hand up. He didn't want Severus to embark on another rant. The longer he went on, the louder he got. They could not afford loud. "Severus, tell me. Was it before or after they shackled you to this wall that they gave you a potion?"

"After." Severus verified. "When it was dark and the room was very full and the slave wouldn't stop laughing and yelling and saying bad things, they wouldn't stop hitting her with the cane and they finally dragged her out and made us drink a potion. It was made of Cornflick seeds and Guisefide flakes, and ground up Grindlow beak and-"

There was no way Arthur would be able to remember all of those ingredients. "But what does it do?" He interrupted.

"It makes you really tired for eight hours." Severus stated. "I used to put it in James Potter;s pumpkin juice so he would fall asleep and miss classes or mess up his homework if he stayed awake and he never knew." This time, he smiled showing all his teeth. Arthur could not notice that the teeth that were normally yellow were much whiter. Snape's appearance had gone from bad to worse in one month, so the improvement in his teeth was certainly an oddity.

"That's really creative, Severus." Arthur said, noting how Snape seemed to preen with the compliment. "So it was supposed to make you and everyone else fall asleep?"

"It worked." Severus stated. "I woke up because I don't sleep." He frowned, as if realizing that statement didn't make sense.

"You don't sleep?" Arthur inquired.

"Not really. I close my eyes and try to rest, but I cannot sleep. Never sleep. It's always good to be prepared in case Master tries to use an Unforgivable or another spell so I can fight it off or not scream." Severus explained as if he were explaining a simple concept instead of a horrid reality.

"How much do you think you will sell for?" Arthur silently admonished himself for getting off-track.

Severus shook his head. "How much do slaves sell for? I once tried to read a book about it but there was so much information in it and so little time and I did not get very far. Did you know the mark on my forehead is-"

"Yes, I know." Arthur said. "Are you hungry?" He pulled two ginger biscuits out of his pocket. "These are really soft – Molly just made them this afternoon. I realize you cannot use your arms, but if you do not mind eating out of my hand..."

He winced. Of course Severus would mind eating out of his hand! He might be on a potion, but that didn't mean he would bend to such demeaning actions if he could prevent it.

But to his surprise, Severus tilted his head forward and captured the biscuit in his teeth. A chuckle escaped his frame as he chewed and swallowed the biscuit, evidentially pleased with taking the biscuit from Arthur or the taste of the biscuit.

"Is it good?" Arthur couldn't help but pityingly smile.

Severus' chuckles immediately subsided. He swallowed the biscuit hard before looking back down at his lap. "Yes, sir. You must go, please, sir? It's not an order – never an order. I am supposed to take orders, never give them."

"I will leave in a moment, Severus. Would you like the other biscuit?" Arthur held the last ginger biscuit out to Severus, his insides twisting at being called "sir" by the former Potions master.

Severus hesitated. "Master might get mad. He never said I could."

"Surely he wouldn't object. It is just a ginger biscuit. He never said you couldn't, and he doesn't have to know, does he?"

"Slytherin." Another smile spread over Severus' face before he took the biscuit into his mouth.

Arthur had a feeling it would take a lot of biscuits to make Severus gain enough weight to be healthy. Even though the man had always hidden under voluminous robes, he had been a thin man for as long as Arthur had known him. But surely he had never been that thin. He was not skeletal like some of the people the Death Eaters had taken prisoner during the War, but too many more days in the harsh treatment he was under would result in a similar state.

"The plan for tomorrow is for Minerva, George, Bill, and Dedalus to arrive at the auction separately. Kingsley was determined to come as well, but we talked him out of it. Everyone knows that the Minister has a lot of money, and we cannot afford to have your price inflate beyond our means." He paused, unsure if Severus was listening to his, for he was humming under his breath, but he continued, for he was running out of time. "We're going to try and buy you when the time comes. Your goal is to go for the least amount of money possible, all right? Do whatever it is you need to do – even if you get hurt or in trouble doing it, in the long run, it'll be better."

That had Severus' attention. "I must go for as much as possible!" He stated, his voice undeniably louder. "Master will be angry! He told me I must go for plenty or he will buy me back! I must behave – that is what he told me to do! The last words he said to me were 'Snape, behave', so I must! He called me 'Snape' – he only does that when I am in trouble or if he is very serious! If I do not obey him-"

"Calm down." Arthur tried to quiet the man's frantic cries. "All right, obey him. Forget about going for a low price. Calm down."

Severus immediately quieted.

Arthur slowly got to his feet. Being on his knees for that long was killing him; he wouldn't last in that position another moment. "I see we're getting no further tonight."

The evening escapade felt like a let-down. He had banked on finding a desperate, conniving Snape with thirty equally clever and complex plans on how to escape. Instead he had found an incoherent, frightened, starving man with his thoughts never wandering very far from punishment and survival. It was very disconcerting.

"We'll be back tomorrow and you'll be eating a home-cooked meal in a nice warm bed by sundown." He assured Severus, who looked up at him blankly, the glazed look still in his eyes. "Just whatever you do, do not tell anyone about George and I coming here."

"Yes, sir."

Arthur turned around and made quick work of Obliviating the conscious slaves in the room before once again promising Severus that he would be all right. He then left the room and quickly locked it, before waking up the guards and performing complex memory charms on them so that they would never recall missing any time and would only think that time was passing by faster than they thought. He then Apparated back home, ignoring all of his son's questions.

Severus Snape was alive; that was good news. However, that was the only good news. He hoped that the man's state was just because of the potion, but he was not entirely certain. The Severus Snape he knew was a strong, brave, headstrong person – he could not be turned into a mindless servant, especially in one month.

When he told his wife this, she quietly asked him if perhaps they were overestimating him. After all, everyone had a breaking point. It sounded reasonable for most people, but Snape? A breaking point? That idea seemed ludicrous, and yet, after the night he had... not quite so.

Chapter Text

He woke up with a harsh kick to his ribs.

Severus blinked and shook his head, trying to clear his head. Where was he? What was he doing?

His head hurt and could barely think. His head felt heavy. Everything looked hazy. It was hard to process his thoughts, and he felt as though he had either slept too much or hadn't slept in days.

Vaguely aware of someone talking, he turned his head toward the sound of the voice.

"-behave. There is to be no noise, no screaming, no complaining. You are to comply with every order we give you, everything we do. You're not to argue with anything. Don't think we're beyond hitting you with the cane up in front of your potential owners, because we're not, I assure you." The man sent a meaningful look to the young boy chained across from Severus.

The fourteen-year-old had made it clear the previous day that he was not fond of the idea of being sold. His master had apparently raised him like a son, but had died of old age (247, the boy had stated proudly). He was experiencing a bit of culture-shock, being thrust into the world he was in.

Severus could empathize with him, as he had felt the same way a month ago. He could not help but feel a bit angry at the boy's master; why hadn't he had a will and expressed who he wanted the boy to go to? Owners could do that - slaves were their property and could be given to anyone they pleased. Surely at the age of 247, one would have formed a will... that was just irresponsible.

It was also not lost on Severus how foreign these thoughts would have seemed only last month.

"No glares, no snorting, nothing." The man's booming voice made Severus' head hurt even more than it already did.

He shrank back and shut his eyes tightly. His head felt like it was going to explode... why did it hurt so? He half-wished Master would come touch it, as that usually made it feel better.

At the same time, he hated it when Master touched his head because he used it against Severus. Severus could not help himself when his head was touched by Master; he could only moan, sigh with contentment, bunt his head again Master's head, or exhibit similar behaviours that were both humiliating and involuntary. It was remarkable how a touch could feel good all over; it could only be described as the polar-opposite to the Cruciatus.

Normally when his head normally hurt, it was because he had spent a great deal of time defying Master. The burning would last for however long the enslavement curse deemed appropriate; most of the time, Severus was better off approaching Master and asking him to touch his head, as that would immediately relieve the pain. Severus had only done so once, but hated it so badly that he was content to endure the burning. To approach his master and ask for forgiveness... it felt wrong, shameful... though Severus' head felt so foggy and heavy, he couldn't remember why it felt wrong or shameful.

He licked his dry lips, and swore he tasted ginger. Had he recently eaten ginger? He could not remember. They had given the slaves each a bite of a dry piece of bread that was supposed to fill you up with one bite (and did). Severus knew all about those, as he was raised on them. However, those tasted dense, dry, and tasteless.

Not like ginger.

Ginger. Weasley. He had a dream the night before about Arthur Weasley. Something about being rescued, wanting to know how much Severus would be sold for... but it had been just a dream. Arthur Weasley would never come try to rescue Severus. He was likely too angry at him for taking off his son's ear, for... for... hadn't another Weasley child, or even two, died? That was likely Severus' fault, too.

His head was too heavy. He was really tired...

"Hey, you. Death Eater?" The woman chained beside him spoke to him.

He blearily turned his head to her. "Yes?" He asked, his throat dry.

"You're going to want to wake up; they are going to start the auction soon, and the more awake you are, the better chance you have of being sold," she said. "You're going to want to look alert. If you go out there and look like you look now, they are going to think you are mentally slow or something."

Mentally slow? He felt that way, but he knew that he wasn't.

He did not have any words of response for her, as her thinking seemed logical. Instead, he pulled against the shackles and arched his back, in an attempt to wake himself up. Stretching his muscles was not worth the pain caused by the shackles cutting into his wrists and ankles.

"Thank you," he finally obliged her. His nose itched. He wished he had a way to scratch it.

"Are you scared?" She asked, her blue eyes betraying the fact that she was. "I've never been sold at all before. My mother belonged to a man who lent her to Master until she got pregnant. A couple days after I was born, they gave me to Master, and I've been with him until now. I don't know if-" she flushed. "Sorry. I'm ranting."

"Indeed." Severus sighed, licking his lips again. The ginger taste was gone now, but he was sure it was there earlier. Was it though, or did he just imagine that? "No, I am not frightened of being sold. Why should I be?"

"Why?" Her eyes widened, as if Severus' question was ridiculous. "You don't know who you're going to be sold to! They could be evil! They could be twisted sadists who just enjoy watching people in pain! They could want you simply because they have a female they want to impregnate! They could want you to do some awful task, like murder someone... so that you would get caught, and they wouldn't and-"

"That is ridiculous." He closed his eyes, trying to ignore the pounding in his head. His thoughts were becoming clearer now that he had a conversation to focus on. "Owners are held responsible for their slaves' behaviour, by law. If you were to murder someone, your owner would be put on trial. In the circumstances you describe, your owner would likely go to Azkaban. That would leave you to whomever he or she designated in her will, or to the Ministry." He liked being able to say clear facts. It made him feel something he hadn't felt in a long time, as it made him feel proud. He knew something she didn't.

"You're missing my point." she sighed.

"I am not." He stated. It wasn't as if it mattered, in any case. "You are worried about who you are going to get sold to. I am asking you why you are worried about it. It is not as if your worrying will change anything. If anything, you will start to worry and it will show when you are being sold."

At her raised brow, he continued to explain. "Your demeanour could influence some potential buyers to not buy you, or influence a sadist, for example, to buy you. Of course, this is assuming that the sadist wouldn't buy you if you walked out confidently."

"That's not fair." She frowned.

"As you said, it is important how you behave. Be alert and be confident, although not cocky. It could change your outcomes drastically. Of course," he said, closing his eyes, "you will likely never know."

"What are you, a philosopher or something?"

That prompted a chuckle. "I should like to think that, although I have a feeling that most would-"

The pain in his head increased ten-fold.

He opened his eyes to see a large figure standing over him, holding a cane in hand.

"Are you done talking?" The man bellowed, hitting Severus on the shoulder with the cane. Had he hit him with any more force, the cane or Severus' bones would have broke.

"Yes, sir." Severus gritted his teeth. He exercised more self-restraint as a slave than he ever had before. How he wished he could berate the man for his nonsense; how were quiet whispers to a frightened girl any worse than the man's loud bellows?

He stared defiantly at the slaves around the room. They were either smirking at him, pretending not to look at the idiot who just got himself punished, or looking at his Dark Mark with outright distaste.

He watched as two men burst into the room and, with waves of their wands, removed the shackles from one of the slaves. They pulled him to his feet and dragged him out of the room.

Severus could hear a lot of people bustling around the outside the warehouse, but couldn't understand what they were saying.

"It's time." He heard someone mutter to another.

It was time for the auction. Any moment now, the rest of his life would be sealed. And as much as he tried to delude the girl with his changing fate stories, he was a little frightened. Even though he tried to remember that he did have control in terms of how he behaved, he was not actually missing the larger point. He could not control the fact that he was being sold and that any decisions regarding his future were not in the hands of the person who might be most compatible or kind, but in the hands of the person who was willing to pay the most Galleons.

It had been a potion.

He knew that the big burly men that served as guards had made him drink a potion the night before. They made everyone drink a potion. Severus had drank it simply because had had no way out of it. He knew what it was; a simple Potion to make one drowsy and fall asleep. If the person resisted trying to fall asleep, they would slowly be driven insane. It was not tightly regulated, difficult to obtain, or challenging to brew. As a teenager, he had slipped it into James Potter's food on more than one occasion.

It was likely the potion that had made him dream about Arthur Weasley. He had likely dreamed the insane idea that Weasley, of all people, was coming to save him. If it were a Weasley, they would have used their Gryffindor impulses and simply freed him then. They wouldn't have rattled on about nonsense about buying him.

He could not remember what he said in the dream. It was all so unclear that he wouldn't have been sure he even had the dream if he did not have the idea in his head... maybe he just thought he had the dream?

He watched as slaves were dragged, one by one, from the room. The slaves in the room had little in common - they were male, female, old, young, from all parts of Europe.

However, they all had one thing in common, aside from being slaves; as they were dragged from the room, a look of intense fear flashed across their faces. For some people, it was a brief flash in their eyes before they resumed a calm façade. A few had panic attacks accompanied by hyperventilation. Most seemed resigned to their fate, and seemed relatively calm.

The burly men came over to him and waved their wands. The shackles holding up Severus' hands opened, leaving Severus' arms to fall down. He didn't realize previously just how numb his arms were, or how sore his shoulders were. If he did not have such a high pain tolerance, he would have groaned or even cried out at the sharp pain he felt.

He tried to stand up on his own with as much dignity as he could, but the men were too quick. They grabbed him by his upper arms, their meaty hands nearly wrapping all the way around his thin arms. They pulled him up and took long strides to the door.

Severus kept his face completely calm as the men dragged him from the room.

Breathe. Stay calm. It was easier said than done. His fate would be decided in a matter of minutes... at least, he thought it would take a few minutes. He had little information to go on, as he hadn't a clue of how long it took to sell a human being. He was basing his guess on the amount of time it took for the men to take one slave for the room and to come back for another. Three to five minutes, ten at most.

He had an insane idea to ask the men what to expect, but quickly dismissed that idea. They would laugh at him, or even slap him. It was really not worth getting his jaw dislocated. That had happened to someone the night before, but the guard had fixed it after the slave went though what he deemed enough pain.

After all, you had to be broken to sell, but not physically broken. If you were physically broken, you wouldn't sell. You were not worth it.

"Okay, listen, slave, because I'm only going to say this once." Someone hissed as they climbed a short set of wooden steps and stood against the warehouse, outside a door.

It was Master, waiting for him.

Severus nodded. Any information or advice would prove to be most valuable, even if it was not very good advice. As long as it was not an order, he could sort out what was good advice and what was bad, and choose to act accordingly.

"You're going to go out there and keep your head bowed." Master instructed him. "You are not going to fight, complain, or say anything if they don't tell you to. A lot is riding on you selling for a high price, and I'll not have you ruin thirty-two years of good business. If you do not sell for at least 10,000 Galleons, I will buy you back myself and train you until you sell for more." He grabbed Severus by his hair and jerked his head back, forcing eye contact. "I have a feeling that you're too smart to have to go back, aren't you?"

Severus shivered as Master traced his jaw. He hated it when Master performed mock gestures of care. He hated looking into Master's eyes; he had been punished numerous times in the past four weeks for making eye contact, and now that he was supposed to...

"I understand, sir." He murmured.

"What's that?" Master pulled his hair even harder, intensifying the headache.

"I understand, Master." Severus choked. The pain in his head was horrible, and it was hard to talk with one's head craned back so far. "I understand, Master. I will behave. I will be good. I promise."

Master let go of his hair, a smug smile on his face. "Good." He nodded to the guards, who tightened their grip on Severus' arms. "Whenever you're ready."

Severus did not have time to let the nervous pit in his stomach grow. The men just opened the large wooden door, causing a large amount of sunshine to pour through the open doorway.

The guards walked out, leading Severus with them. Severus hid himself behind one of the guards.

"Sold, for twenty-five thousand!" The auctioneer exclaimed. "Your property will be on this left side of the warehouse. Please have any other owners present, as well as your wand and another form of identification present when picking up your property." The auctioneer turned and nodded to the guards, who walked forward.

Severus tripped on an uneven piece of wood as he stepped forward and did not allow himself to grimace in pain at the big splinter in his toe. He tried to keep his eyes on his feet, but that did not keep him from taking in his surroundings.

He was on a makeshift stage, or at least, not a very well built one. It was made of wood that no one had bothered to smooth out with a simple spell or charm. There was a place to shackle people in the centre of the stage, with brown stains all around it. Blood, it seemed. Luckily, it did not appear as if they had been using that that day.

Many people surrounded the stage. Enough people to call it a crowd. Severus could not look over the crowd very well without raising his head, but it was safe to say that everyone there could certainly afford a slave. Most of them were, without doubt, rich Purebloods with money in their Gringotts vaults screaming to be spent.

Someone out there is going to be your owner. He tried not to shudder as the goosebumps went up his spine. It was really quite terrifying, really, to-

"-Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." Severus was distracted from his private thoughts by the man's words. A few words caused him to snap to attention, no matter who spoke them or the context; Lily, Potter, Dumbledore, Dark Arts, The Dark Lord... "Hogwarts" was another one of those words.

"He also served as a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher there for one year, and Headmaster for another." He paused. "All of you know him to be the murderer of Albus Dumbledore, but I assure you, he is perfectly tame. He has been in training for quite some time now, his trainer being none other than Nigel Mering." He paused as a buzz went around the crowd. "Now, he could not hurt a fly. Unless, of course, you tell him to."

The crowd chuckled. Apparently that was funny? Severus did not see the humour in the comment.

"He is a half-blood, but do not let his heritage fool you,as he could likely brew or invent any potion you need. He has been known to invent quite a few spells."

Severus knew at that moment that the auctioneer was indeed a Slytherin. The auctioneer did not let the audience stop to dwell on the fact that he was 'only' a half-blood, and he did not mention that most of the spells he invented were for the use of the Dark Lord.

"Look up, slave." The auctioneer tapped his hand none too gently on Severus' chin.

He raised his head up, looking over the audience. Over, not at. He could not look at them, or Master would get angry... though there was nothing he would have liked more to do than give them defiant stares. Defiant stares were less humiliating than just going with what the auctioneer and his master wanted.

As the auctioneer droned on all the good hereditary features he possessed (despite his appearance), Severus noticed a flash of carrot red that startled him, and quite frankly, sent his world into a tailspin. It was not carrot red... it was Weasley red.

He turned his head slightly and peered at the individual. It was a Weasley twin... the one that was alive... without an ear. Yes, he was missing an ear. It was most definitely him.

Severus' stomach did a somersault. Last night hadn't been a dream. That hadn't been an idea of a dream. That had been reality. Arthur Weasley had come last night. Severus felt like he deserved a beating at that moment - why hadn't he made the most of it? Why hadn't he shared plans he had thought of with Arthur? What had he said? Did he say anything helpful? Likely not.

The young Weasley nodded in Severus' direction. The child had evidentially done a lot of maturing, or was putting on a convincing act. He was there, and he was going to buy him.

He let out a breath he didn't realise he was holding. As much as he detested the idea of being owned by a Weasley, he could not help but be relived. Perhaps it would not be that bad. They would likely feed him whenever they could afford to - maybe their leftovers - and they definitely had room to house him. Molly Weasley would never allow anyone to sleep in the cold cellar. Their punishments would never be too harsh, as they would never tear Severus' skin open, heal it, and begin again. No... they would not beat him hard, and they wouldn't need to. Severus would do everything they asked. Living with them would be heaven compared to living with Master and most others who could potentially buy him.

The former Potions master was so caught up in his thoughts, the possibilities, and of how close he was to salvation, that he did not notice to bidding had begun until a familiar voice shouted out "15,000 Galleons!"

It was not the voice of a Weasley, however. He peered in the direction of the voice – it was Minerva McGonagall. He would recognise her grey pinned back hair, pointed face, and tartan hat anywhere. She was a sight for sore eyes.

"Minerva." He whispered. They had a plan the whole time. They were not able to pull him out of Master's, as that would have been illegal. They realised that the only way of getting his life under control was for someone in the Order to buy him.

It soon became apparent that the Order was battling against a single person. Minerva, Bill Weasley, Dedalus Diggle, and the unnamed Weasley twin were in separate parts of the crowd, bidding separately, but never against each other. They were trying to make the person they were bidding against, a tall man with long silver hair and a nose that was reminiscent of a pig's snout, think that too many people were bringing up the price and give up.

And then, he would be theirs. The thought would have sickened him one month ago, but now he could barely hide his glee. One had to be realistic; with a permanent enslavement curse upon him, he would always belong to someone. It was simply a matter of whom.

"15,500!" The silver haired man called calmly.

"15,600!" Bill hollered.


"16,400!" Minerva called out again.


"17,000!" Fred or George, whichever one it was, shouted eagerly.

The Order was evidentially trying to purchase him for the lowest price possible. Severus shifted nervously on his feet. How much money did the Order actually have to purchase him? 17,000 Galleons was quite a large amount of money. He did not make that much money in a year – not in two years, even. Slaves commonly sold from 5,000 to 75,000 Galleons, depending on their worth. Balancing out his expertise in Potions and the Dark Arts (and ultimately, defence against such) with his Death Eater history, he would still come out high-priced. Master had wagered on 23,000 Galleons, and Master was always right.

No, he is not. Severus corrected himself. Whenever Master says something, even if it is wrong, you are to act as if he is right. You are to say he is right. But it does not mean that he is right!

"18,200!" Minerva called out, against the silver-haired man's 18,000 Galleons.

The crowd was silent. You could have heard a pin drop. Severus once again shifted on his feet, his heart beating fast, so excited his teeth hurt. He was so close... in a few hours, he would be just fine. He would likely be owned by Minerva, who would likely take good care of him. As headmistress of Hogwarts, she had the ability to dictate who resided in which room; she might even permit him to take up a room of his own, and perhaps a bed.

"18,200?" The auctioneer called out. "Does anyone care to raise 18,200 Galleons for this intelligent and completely harmless slave? Going... going..."

"20,000 Galleons!" A new voice shouted out. The voice was firm, confident, sure of himself.

The entire crowd turned to see who this new voice belonged to. Severus kept his head bowed, teeth gritting, in a near panic. It had to be Dedalus Diggle... it had to be. No, that was not his voice, but perhaps-

"Sold for 20,000 Galleons!" The auctioneer flashed a smile to the audience. "Your property will be on this left side of the warehouse. Please have any other owners present, as well as your wand and another form of identification present when picking up your property."

Chapter Text

Severus, numb with shock, allowed himself to be led over down steps off the side of the stage. He shouldn't have been, as he hadn't expected to be bought by anyone he knew, however, he had come so close.

Why hadn't the Order raised the bid? Yes, the auctioneer hadn't given them much time, but surely...

"On your knees," the guards instructed before turning away and walking away.

Severus glanced at the slaves near him and followed their example. Master had taught him that normally, he was to kneel by putting his weight on his heels. However, on special occasions that required him to behave more submissively, he was to position himself differently.

It was more uncomfortable to kneel with your knees spread apart while leaning forward. However, that was to be expected, as it was uncomfortable being submissive.

"Head down," a woman warned him, grabbing a fistful of his hair and jerking his head further down so that it neared the ground.

He inwardly swore, not daring to display his anger or frustration. He needed to cut all of his hair off, as it was only a hazard. Although most grown wizards wore theirs long, most did not have to frequently endure others yanking it without prior approval.

"Severus!" He heard a panicked voice.

He jerked his head up. A simple rusty Muggle barbed-wire fence kept the kneeling slaves separated from the unsold ones. The fence did not appear to be well-monitored, however, few slaves would be idiotic enough to try to escape. The brands on their foreheads also served as tracking tools, attached to their owner's magical signature.

The four Order members stood surrounding the fence.

He looked back down to his knees. He couldn't look at them. He couldn't. Not kneeling, barely clothed, having just suffered the humiliation of being sold.

Why did you even bother coming?He wanted to ask them. I was fine with this - absolutely fine with it! You raised my hopes and let them fall to the ground and shatter.

He could not say that. He could not say anything. He was likely not allowed to, and while he was still technically owned by Master, he was not going to do anything that could merit punishment. And who knew what his new owner was like? Perhaps he was a sadistic monster, just like the girl next to him had described.

"Severus?" Minerva tried again. "Severus, answer me!"

His head jerked back up. His eyes narrowed. She was ordering him around, now. Did that mean he had to answer? He was not willing to take the chance, even though he would have much rather ignored her.

"Hello, Minerva." He said dryly. "Nice day, isn't it?"

The dry comment felt better than it should have. For a moment, he felt a sense of normalcy, which was quickly dashed with a kick from the woman serving as their only guard, who stood behind him.

"Is that any way to talk to a lady?" She scolded him. She looked up at Minerva apologetically. "Some are trained better than others, as you can see. Have you purchased someone?"

Minerva numbly shook her head, from what Severus could see out of the corner of his eye.

He could hardly look at her. He had just been kicked - hard - in the rear by a woman he had never even met, and he could not do anything about it. He had suffered much humiliation in the past weeks, but he would gladly get in Medusa's bed every night for the rest of his life to avoid having Minerva, Dedalus, and a couple of Weasleys see him in such a position.

"Then I will have to ask you to clear away from the fence." The woman said, not as nice as she was previously. "We need to clear the way for traffic."

"We need to speak with him," Minerva said, urgently. "It is very important."

"You are perfectly welcome to ask his owner when he or she comes to finalise the purchase," the woman said. "But I am afraid that while he is in my charge, he is to do nothing but kneel and silently keep his slave eyes to the ground." She rammed her foot none too gently into his lower back.

Minerva reached out and grabbed a tight hold on the younger Weasley's wand arm, which was extended and pointed towards the woman. "No, George. She is just doing her job. Let's just wait until his..." she stopped.

Owners, Severus wanted to spit out. It was a word. There was no harm in saying it. Avoiding saying it only made it more humiliating. He agreed with Dumbledore that fear of a name only increased the fear. He used the words "Dark Lord" merely out of habit, as he had needed to keep up his cover as a spy and refer to the Dark Lord as such. If he hadn't needed to, he would have taken pride in uttering the word "Voldemort" and watching others squirm.

He shifted slightly, as a sharp rock grinded into his bony knee. There was not a lot of things he could do to move the stone; if he moved too much, the woman would likely punish him, and his arms were still chained behind his back.

A stylish man and woman approached the guarding woman, who had now moved down the line, scolding a four-year-old slave for sneezing.

"We're here to pick up that one." The man nodded towards Severus. The man was tall and slender. He wore his hair short, trimmed to the nape of his neck like most Muggle men kept their hair.

"Ah. All right. Do you have your wands?"

Wands were supposed to tell you a lot about a person, if you knew what to look for. Severus was not sure what to make of nearly identical wands made of a wood so pale, they seemed white.

White, however, seemed to be his new owners' favourite colours. Her hair was piled high on her hair, and was so blonde it was almost white. Her robes were also an elegant white. Her skin was quite pale, which one could easily see as her choice of clothing left little to the imagination; he hadn't known robes were sold in that low-cut of a style.

He forced his eyes back to the ground before he could scrutinize the man. They were supposed to be his new owners. He could not pass judgement on them like that. That would be wrong. Against the rules. Against everything he had learned while at Master's. And he knew as well as he knew anything else that he did not need to go back to Master's.

He stole a glance at Minerva and the other three Order members while the woman guarding the slaves and his new owner exchanged proof of who they were and such. The look she was giving him was nothing short of pity. Pity.

"Look up." The guard grabbed his hair and forced his head up to look into the faces of his owners. The man's eyes were not the essence of warmth, but they were not cold, either. He had a thin brown moustache, curled up at the corners. He had perfectly aligned teeth. The woman wore make-up, and whilst Severus did not know the name of whatever she had spread over her eyelids, it was blue and made her look like a-

Do not think anything negative about them! You cannot let yourself get in the habit of that!

"Touch your wands to his forehead as I say the spell." The woman said. "Do you want the brand to be visible or not?"

"Invisible." The couple said at the same time.

The woman nodded and began speaking the French words Severus knew all too well. Though he had only heard them spoken twice, he had them memorized, permanently etched into his brain. He doubted he would ever forget them.

The burning that overtook his body took away his breath. He had forgotten about that part. The ownership of his body and magic was being transferred again. It did not only hurt the ego, but it had to start burning at his head and quickly spread throughout his entire body.

He fell into the loose dirt in a heap, just as the burning stopped.

"Severus!" Minerva gasped, bringing her hand to her mouth.

Severus tried to sit up, spitting the dirt out of his mouth, but he could not. Not with his hands still shackled behind his back. He was forced to lay on his stomach, on the ground. He hoped that he did not get any more dirt in his eyes, and that the back of his cloth had not flown up.

The man - his new owner - chuckled and grasped Severus' arm, half-helping, half-pulling Severus to his feet. It was not a haunting laugh like Master's, which was promising. It was a more friendly laugh, as if he found something genuinely amusing. Hopefully that something was not the sight of Severus flopping around on the ground because if he were laughing at that, surely...

Severus' eyes narrowed. He did not like to not be able to read people. It was disturbing, to say the least.

"Excuse me," Minerva called to his owners' attention. "Excuse me, may I have a word?"

Severus' new master walked with Severus over to Minerva, who was standing with Bill Weasley outside the barb-wire fence. Severus' new mistress had just went off to the powder room.

"Severus," Minerva did not bothered to try to hide the tears welling in her eyes as she gripped his shoulders.

"Severus, I am so sorry this happened. We tried... but we did not know what to do! We only had 18,000 Galleons between all of us... we would have done anything - anything - but we could not possibly bid any higher than what we did!"

He kept his eyes on his feet. He did not want to look at her face.

"It is fine," he said, well aware that his master was watching him. The last thing he needed was to embarrass his master with improper conduct. There was no sense in exchanging meaningless words with Minerva. "Please do not apologise."

"Look at me," she demanded.

He did, though it was hard. He did not know what expression to put on his face. A scowl, a sneer perhaps? No - that would only result in a punishment. He did not want to look pitiable either. His best bet was to just keep his expression blank.

"Severus, we need to know what else to do. We're mostly Gryffindors, mind you." She blew her nose as she bitterly laughed. "Albus would have been able to come up with a fine plan, but with him gone... What do we do? We want to help."

What was he supposed to say? His master was standing right there, listening to every word! And there was nothing they could do, not unless they had more than 18,000 Galleons. "Please do not feel bad. You tried."

He did not mean a word of it, and Minerva clearly knew it as her face became a hardened scowl. "Severus Snape, I realize this is hard for you, but you need to be honest with me. You need to tell me what we need to do, how we failed. Please." she paused. "Call us 'foolish Gryffindors' or 'dunderheads'. Please?"

Severus bit his lip. "I cannot. You're not."

"Where are you?" She gently shook him with her hands. "Severus? Severus, you've only been gone a month. It was only a month ago that we were sitting at the head table, conversing about the students... surely in that length of time, you have not-"

His head was starting to spin. After having his magic and physical being bound to someone else, he was exhausted. The lack of sleep, plus the pain he had endured, equalled being very dizzy. Not to mention the experience of his hopes raised and dashed... and then to have it dangle in front of him and being able to do nothing.

He turned to his master, his head still bowed. "Master?" He tested it out. It felt odd calling him that... he was not the Dark Lord, nor was he Nigel Mering. Yet he did not even know this man's name.

"Yes?" the man inquired.

Severus shifted uneasily on his feet. "May... may I..." he did not even know what he was asking. "I do not know what to say." He admitted.

He reached out and caught himself on a wooden post that held the fence up. He could not fall down just after being bought. His new owners had been forgiving over the first fall, but would they lose their patience at a second fall? Likely.

"Excuse me, madame, but it looks like the missus and I should be getting home. It is already noon in London, and we have reservations at one."

"Of course." Minerva said, though she looked like she could not possibly care less. "I am Headmistress at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, you see, and I was wondering, what are the odds of our Severus being able to pop in occasionally? Just to speak on potions or perhaps just for a meal or two. We will pay dearly for his time."

Severus could have kissed her. The worst his master could say was "no" and forbid Severus from ever speaking to Minerva again, but at this rate, he was not likely to see her again anyhow.

Severus' new master seemed to weigh this decision. "I'll think about it." He said finally, casting a wary look at Severus. "If you send him an owl, it will go to me first, you realise. I will read every letter you send to him, and I do not have time for a lot of that. I don't have time to make sure he Floos there and back on time, either. He belongs to my wife and I."

"I understand." Minerva said, quickly. "I would appreciate it if you do think on it, though. Perhaps as a reward for good behaviour?"

Severus inwardly winced. There were no rewards for good behaviour. Good behaviour was expected of him. You were expected to be completely submissive and obedient. If you were not, you were punished. Never rewarded. Did Minerva know anything?

"We'll see." His master said, though his heart did not sound in it. He nodded to Minerva. "Good day, madame." He turned on his heel and began walking away. With one last hopeless look at Minerva, Severus turned and followed.

Master, Master, Master.He turned the words over in his head. Whenever he thought of the words "master", he immediately thought of The Dark Lord and Nigel Mering. Now he had someone else to add to that list.

And "Mistress". He had not had to use that term before. He hadn't been in close enough contact with women that past month...

Mistress. The term made him wince.

"We agreed to meet here." His new master said, leaning against a tall oak tree.

Severus nodded, not knowing what he was supposed to add to that. Apparently his new master was trying to make conversation, so he obliged. "Yes, sir."

The man raised a brow at him. "So, a Death Eater? I'm sure you have plenty of interesting stories. My son would probably love to hear them."

No stories that children should hear. Stories of torture, death... nothing Severus cared to repeat. "How old is your son, sir, if you do not mind me asking?"

"Sixteen. He just turned sixteen a few months ago." His new master pulled out a cigar and lit it with his wand. "He is in Durmstrang's foreign exchange programme. Hogwarts is just simply too rustic for our tastes."

Rustic? Rustic? How is Hogwarts 'rustic'? "I see." Severus replied. "Durmstrang is a fine school." He looked down at his toes.

His mistress floated up to the tree. "Are you through, darling?" She asked her husband.

He nodded. "Why don't you go ahead and Apparate home? I will follow with him." He nodded towards Severus. "He does not have Apparating privileges yet."

Nor is it possible to Apparate to a place you have never been, Severus wanted to retort.

The woman nodded and quickly popped from view. His new master held out his arm and grimaced when Severus touched it, as if he were carrying germs.

Severus heard a familiar pop!

They melted away.

Chapter Text

"Severus!" A woman's voice called from the sitting room.

Severus looked up from his work. He had spent the last hour going through the flat, applying polishing charms to every piece of furniture that there was. However, when Mistress called, he was to go to her without hesitation.

His stomach turned as he thought of what she might have in mind. She had not required him much that day, and he had hoped that trend would continue for the rest of the day.

It is nearly five o'clock. Master will be home soon, so it is unlikely, he reasoned as he pocketed his wand, went down the hall, and into the brightly lit sitting room.

Mistress was lounging on a chaise in front of a very large window overlooking a part of the city Severus previously never been wealthy enough to enter. She had a catalogue in her lap and was smoking a cigarette.

"Mistress." He bowed as deeply as his balance allowed. He did not need to kneel, as that was simply a waste of time, according to his new owners. They said that he could show his respect just as well without getting on the floor.

"Get some of my fine parchment and my best quill. I need to pen a letter to Mrs. Galini. She has invited us to her grandson's wedding in three months, but, of course, we cannot attend. We already have reservations in Italy that week."

"Yes, Mistress," he said, rising from his bow and padding into the bedroom she shared with Master. Inside her desk were various pieces of parchment that had fine designs around the edges. He selected an inkwell and quill off the desk and returned to her side.

He knelt on the white carpet and with a wave of his wand, conjured a small stool to place the parchment on. He positioned the quill, ready to copy her words down.

He was personally looking forward to the Italy vacation. They were taking him with them, of course, but they would likely spend so much time touring, going to fancy theatres, expensive restaurants, and visiting famous people that he would not have to spend much time with them. They would more than likely to leave him alone in their hotel suite for a vast majority of the time.

It would be perfect because he felt as that he wanted a vacation, too. He thought he could use some alone time. He was rarely guaranteed any time to just sit down and sort his thoughts out, or to relax. Of course, as a slave, he was not allowed such time, nor did he need it. He was alive to serve Master, Mistress, and their son, Master Nathan.

"Dearest Selena," Mistress began in her nasally voice, flicking her cigarette's ashes into an ashtray which magically banished all the ashes to the waste bin straight away. "Congratulations on finding a match for dear Landon."

Severus began carefully copying her words down in a fancy script. His handwriting had always been bad – small and cramped - but in the past three months, since being owned by Master and Mistress, his handwriting had drastically improved. Mistress had him copy letters down for her at least four times a day, often to kings, emperors, presidents, and very influential figures, both Muggle and wizarding. It was crucial that the handwriting was very fine.

"We are so very thrilled to hear of his engagement to Princess Fidelia. May they bring you plenty of happiness and enjoyment throughout your years," she continued. "Richard and I, unfortunately, will be unable to attend the bonding ceremony. We excavated an important three week trip to Italy of the utmost importance. We would stay behind if we could, but you understand how things are."

As she droned on with meaningless words that could be much better summed up in a simple "we are not going to the wedding", Severus bit his lip. Mistress often put words in her letters that did not convey what she intended to say. "Excavate" had no purpose in that sentence, and it would only serve to confuse the recipient of the letter. However, it was not his duty to question Mistress. If she wanted to send a letter that did not make sense, it was her decision.

It was now late December. He had quickly learned to adjust in his new owners' home. They lived in a large luxurious London flat that was carpeted with expensive white carpet. They had other slave, Carita, who was 119 and served as a cook. She was not extremely well-skilled in chores other than cooking, hence the purchase of Severus. Severus was, apparently, an anniversary present for Master and Mistress that they agreed on. They both had their reasons for wanting to buy him, though some of the reasons Severus knew they had not shared with one other.

Master was an owner of a very prestigious company. He did not actually go to work every day, but just the same, he left very early in the morning, and did not get home until five-thirty in the evening or later.

Severus knew that he did not go to work every day. He knew that he spent quite a large amount of time at his brother's house, where they drank, had parties, or fucked various slaves that Master's brother owned. Severus knew because on multiple occasions, Master had taken him with him. On those occasions, he made an effort to hide in the kitchen with the house-elves. He did not care to witness what he witnessed on a regular basis, for whenever Mistress got the urge, she did the same thing to Severus, forcing him to pleasure her. Whenever Mistress was absent, Master did the same. As she did not leave the flat frequently, he often made up excuses of why he needed Severus at work.

Severus hated to be used by either one of them. Pleasuring Mistress was a lot of work, and Master enjoyed using him in some of the most painful and untraditional ways imaginable.

Mistress was happy in her oblivion to her husband's activities. She spent her mornings usually lounging around the house in expensive satin dressing gowns, smoking, pretending to eat food that she did not eat, reading catalogues, and composing letters. She spent hours shopping in various places, in various countries. Sometimes she dragged Severus along to carry her purchases, which was really unnecessary as she could use a Feather-light charm and a Shrinking spell as easily as he could. However, he could not deny that he did enjoy getting out of the flat every now and again.

He copied words down onto the parchment, mindful not to drip any ink spots on the carpet, the parchment, or his clothing. He was better clothed as Master and Mistress' than he was at Master Mering's. He wore a simple white shirt and black trousers every day. No shoes or robes, but he could not complain. After parading around in that filthy loincloth for a month, he would wear anything without complaint.

He signed the words "sincerely, with all my love, Mrs. Christina Jacqueline Diana Johnson Weston" with a flourish. He then performed a simple drying spell, to keep the painstakingly copied words from smearing. He looked up at Mistress, who was gazing out her window and contentedly smoking.

The letter was complete, and he was to send it. He did not mind writing the letter, but sending it was another matter.

He stood up and sent the stool back to his cupboard, where it was kept. He rolled up the parchment and brought it to Mistress, who, with a lazy touch of her wand, put her seal on it. He then walked over to the large cage by the window, which held a large white owl.

"Hello, Bianca," he greeted the owl in what he hoped was a friendly voice. He opened the cage. "Mistress has a letter to send to Mistress Galini."

He tentatively put his arm in the cage, with the intent of having Bianca to jump on it so he could help her out of the cage, but she would have none of it.

She took a harsh bite out of his skin, taking a great piece of flesh out of his hand.

Severus gritted his teeth. Bianca was Mistress' owl, who happened to hate Severus with a strong passion. He could not insult the bird or treat it badly, as Bianca was Mistress' familiar, and like it or not, was above him. He had to treat her with respect, even though he hated her.

"Mistress would be very pleased if you could send this letter." He withdrew his arm out of the cage and gave the owl plenty of room to fly out.

And fly out she did. She flew out, landed on his shoulder, and promptly took another chunk of flesh off his brow.

"You hostile bird!" He growled, snatching her off his shoulder and none-too-gently placing her on the windowsill, despite her loud squawks of protest.

"Don't you dare manhandle Bianca!" Mistress said shrilly from her position on the chaise, just now looking up to observe the interaction between her slave and her Familiar.

"I am not, Mistress." He scowled, tying the letter securely to Bianca's leg, despite her even louder protests. "Bianca hates me. Perhaps if you were to give her the letters to send for now on, she-" he opened the window and practically threw the bird out. If he were lucky, perhaps she would get lost and not return for a week.

He turned around to see Mistress staring at him, her ice blue eyes narrowed. "In the kitchen." She barked. "You're to put your wand hand on a hot burner until you're sorry you ever laid your eyes on my baby."

Severus immediately got on his knees. "I am so sorry, Mistress. I am. Please forgive me."

Sometimes Mistress was forgiving and did not hurt him. He craved those moments. Moments of mercy were the few that made it seem like his life was not one of complete pain. He knew he deserved to be in pain when he was, and that he was very fortunate to be owned by Master and Mistress, people who actually fed him, clothed him, let him bathe and sleep...

"You're not sorry. You're sorry you got in trouble." She pointed to the kitchen. "Go. I don't want to see your face for the rest of the night!"

His face burned as he stood up. "Yes, Mistress." he said quietly, pushing open the kitchen door and letting himself in.

The small kitchen was full of rich smells, of roast lamb, with carrots and potatoes cooked in its juice. There were three loaves of bread rising on one counter, and a fancy white cake in the pie safe, along with what appeared to be a cherry pie.

Carita stood at another counter, her pale wrinkled veiny hands snapping the ends off fresh green beans with ease.

She raised her brow. "Mistress punish you again, child?"

"I would rather not speak of it." He muttered, using his wand to let a burner light. Mistress, unlike Master Mering, let him use his wand all the time; why did he have to be so ungrateful?

"You really should be less chatty." She continued snapping the green beans, as if he hadn't spoken. "The only words to leave your mouth in their presence should be 'yes' and 'no'. After all this time, you think you would have learned that."

She paused, watching him as he put his right hand tentatively on the burner, only to pull it back, hissing in pain. "What did you do to have her tell you to do that? Do you realize that Mistress has never punished me? Never. Not once in the twenty years she has owned me."

"Good to hear," he said through gritted teeth. The flesh was already blistering on his hand. In a way, it was almost worse than the Cruciatus, which thankfully, Master and Mistress had never performed on him. For the pain to be so concentrated in a single spot...

He bit his lip and put his hand back on the burner before jerking it back again as reflex once more.

"Are you going to tell me what you did?" Carita returned to her green beans.

"Bianca." It was enough of an explanation, as Carita was familiar with the sitution. "Why they keep that dratted bird is-" he stopped and replaced his hand on the burner, this time determined to keep it on there for more than a millisecond. He lasted perhaps two.

Carita chuckled. "After she let you raid her book collection last evening, you insult her Familiar? Child, when will you ever learn to-"

"I am glad that my guilt and pain is so amusing to you." Severus snapped, waving his wand with his good hand to shut off the burner. "Would you like me to hex myself as an encore?"

The slave stopped laughing and eyed Severus carefully. "You brought this upon yourself."

He sighed, wishing to run cool water over his burning hand. He bit his lip to keep from letting the tears that automatically welled in his eyes at the pain from falling. Outside being used by Master, he hadn't cried since Master Mering's and was standing by his vow to never do so again. "I am such a wretched slave."

Carita didn't argue. "Well, you have plenty of time to learn, child. The methods you are using to learn, however, are not good ones. You keep insisting on holding onto whatever it is you had before you became a slave. You need to just do what they say and not question it. Make the focus of everything on making them happy, not on how you feel."

"Because you would know all about it, wouldn't you?" He snapped. Perhaps he could approach Mistress later that evening and ask her to heal his hand. Even though she did not inflict the injury, she told him to, so therefore the enslavement curse would not let anyone else heal him. If he tried, the injury would just hurt worse.

"I was trained by Mistress' great-grandparents." Carita said with a simple shrug. "Just because I was born a slave does not mean that I do not know all about it."

Severus opened a cupboard and began digging through it with his good hand. "You would not happen to have any potions to heal my hand? Perhaps later tonight, if I bring Mistress a vial of potion, she might-"

"Not tonight." Carita told Severus. "She has her Ladies Club meeting."

Severus froze. "Tonight? Already? Did she not just have one last week?"

Carita gave a wry smile. "Child, that was already two weeks ago."

"Damn." Severus shut the cabinet and leaned against it, his large nose squashed up against the wood. "Master Nathan is here. Master wouldn't-"

"He is not the type to teach his son to do such things, no, he is not." Carita confirmed, reaching for an onion and beginning to slice it up. Her slices were not as even as Severus would have been able to make them. "But it doesn't matter, does it? Master will do whatever he wants; there is no sense on dwelling on it."

She paused. "There is no sense in feeling humiliated – you are not yours, you understand. Your body, your magic, your mind, your soul... everything belongs to Master. Just because he takes perverse pleasure in seeing you in pain does not mean-"

Severus knew that. It was not as if he was not reminded of it every day. He would not protest, or hesitate, any longer if he didn't know that displaying a struggle pleased Master. "It's not sadism," he said quietly. "Master just does it to punish me."

His statement caused Carita to pause in her slicing and raise a brow at Severus. "Really?"

Severus nodded. He hated to speak of this, but he had to make it clear. "I deserve what Master does to me. He does it to make me learn, to punish me for all the things I do wrong."

"Hmph." Carita returned to her slicing. "Someone been messing with your psyche, child?"

He pushed off the cupcoard with his head and started for the kitchen door. He couldn't tell Carita the truth, that he had to convince himself that the hours of torture Master put him through was for punishment and punishment alone. If he thought it was anything else other than that, he did not trust himself to not fight fight back. It was still an odd form of the control game he used to play at Master Mering's, only this time it was so much more important.

He could not die at the hands of the enslavement curse. He could die of old age, of getting hit by a Muggle vehicle, of an illness... but not because he tried to murder his master. That would be defeat in itself.

Once every fortnight, Mistress was sure to leave the flat in the evenings. She would go to her Ladies Club, where, Severus assumed, they pretended to eat their expensive little cakes and drink their teas. They likely talked about absolutely nothing of importance, and did nothing of importance.

Severus normally did not care what Mistress did. She, unlike himself, was her own person and could do what she pleased. However, when she left in the evenings, Master was home alone. And Master, whilst he normally treated Severus extremely well, he played games while Mistress was gone.

They were much worse than things Master Mering had him do.

Master would seek Severus out after he ate, and start by pulling out a wealth of "adult toys", as Master liked to refer them to. He would then restrain, tie up, plug up, gag up, twist, tug, pull and push every part of Severus until finally, after hours of watching Severus squirm, moan, beg, and plead, pound him into the floor. Following that, he would simply leave after removing just enough of the "toys" for Severus to remove and Scourify everything, redress himself, and pretend that nothing had transpired.

Severus hated every moment of it, but yet, he was no stranger to the strange practices of Pureblood marriages. He understood how Pureblood marriages worked. Most Pureblood marriages were arranged through "matches". Once a Wizard was about eleven or twelve, their parents started to find them someone to marry. At about the age of seventeen or eighteen, the wizard and witch would marry, someday have children, and so on.

Some of the marriages were happy marriages, but most of them operated on appearing to be "the perfect couple" in public, and infidelity behind the scenes. Of course, some couples agreed on being unfaithful to each other, others just pretended it didn't happen.

Severus' owners fell into the latter category. Severus and Carita knew about the men Mistress had over when Master was gone in the afternoon, and they also knew about the both men and women Master was with whenever he was not at home. Master and Mistress never spoke of it to each other, of course, and even made up lies to tell each other where they had been.

Mistress rarely had other men over. While she was what most men would consider to be attractive, she seemed to be content to either use Severus or engage in her extramarital affairs outside their home. Master, on the other hand, was not particularly attractive, but that did not matter, for he preferred people who were either desperate and he would never see again, or slaves that his brother or colleagues owned that had to do his bidding.

Unfortunately, Master's love for all things bondage fell on Severus. As he owned him, he could risk physically and permanently harming him.

The first couple of times, Master had been content to use Severus in the cupboard that Severus slept in. However, he shortly got to the point where it did not matter – Master toyed with Severus in the cupboard, in the sitting room, in the room he shared with Mistress, in the bathroom... anywhere and everywhere. He never failed to come up with more strange things to do to Severus, each one worse than the previous.

Apparently, Master thought something was thrilling about another person being tortured. For example, two weeks ago, he had restrained Severus with his adult objects and watched him go about normal chores. He had to fight against the restraints to extend his hand, and when he bent down, he revealed a plug. It was all more humiliating because he was completely vulnerable and unwilling, but that was Master's intent. It aroused him, Severus knew, but for the life of him, he didn't know why.

It was nearly Christmastide. Master Nathan had arrived home from Durmstrang the previous day. Surely Master would not parade his sick fantasies (Severus) around the flat with his son in it. It was unlikely, even Carita had agreed to that. Perhaps Severus was truly in for a gentle, quiet evening. Perhaps Master would be content to listen to the radio or read a book.

Perhaps he might even let Severus read; Mistress had let Severus read a bit from her bookshelf the night before and it had been glorious. She had had nothing but Muggle romance novels meant for women, but that did not stop Severus. A book was a book these days, and he would embrace any chance he had to read one. Master's books were mainly fiction and still nothing of great interest to Severus, but they would likely be more interesting than Mistress'...

Snap out of it. Do not delude yourself into thinking this is going to be a pleasant evening. It could possibly be not a bad one, but that does not mean it will be a pleasant one. His pleasant days were few and in between. As the previous night had been so enjoyable, tonight could not possibly be such.

The front door busted open and Severus quickly made for it. It was Master Nathan, along with two other boys.

"Master Nathan." Severus bowed low. "Sirs." He reached out and helped Master Nathan slip from his coat, ignoring the blistering pain in his right hand, then turned to hang the coat on the coat rack.

"He really is one of them then, isn't he?" One of the boys asked Master Nathan. The boy was very tall for a sixteen-year-old, as he was as tall as Severus. He was just as muscular as he was tall, with short black hair shaved close to his head. His English, though flawless, had an unmistakeable Norwegian accent.

Master Nathan nodded eagerly. "Show them your Dark Mark."

Severus ducked his head. He had gotten used to covering it up again. It was not something he wore with pride. However, as Master Nathan was to have what he desired, he pulled on the sleeve to his left arm and revealed the ugly black skull and snake design that had unfortunately not died when its creator did. It would be there for the rest of Severus' life as a constant reminder for his biggest mistake he had and would ever make.

"Whoa." The other boy said. He was shorter than both Master Nathan and the other boy, but with more bulk. He was just as muscular or even more so. His hair was shaved just like the other boys', and his accent was unmistakeably English. "Can we touch it?" He asked Nathan, who nodded.

The two boys began to molest Severus' arm, examining the Dark Mark. Master Nathan had already done so the previous night after he arrived from Durmstrang, and so he acted indifferent to his friends' excitement.

Severus stared into space, trying to ignore his feelings. His feelings did not matter, and so he did not need to bother to feel them. He slipped into using Occlumency almost without realising it.

"I'll bet he knows lots of cool magic he can teach us." The shorter boy said to Nathan, as if Severus were not in the room. "The other kids at school will be so jealous when they find out we know how to use magic they don't."

"Do you know how to use the Unforgiveables?" The tall boy asked Severus.

How Severus wished he could lie. He was not about to teach three sixteen-year-old boys Unforgiveables. That was wrong, irresponsible, and- "Yes, sir," he said, obediently.

Master Nathan glanced around the flat. "Is mum still home?"

"Yes, Master Nathan. She is getting ready for her Ladies Club." Severus informed his young master. Master Nathan had no authority over Severus legally, as his wand to Severus' head did nothing to harm him, nor did his touch to Severus' forehead bring him relief or pleasure (which Master often afforded him. Mistress only touched his head if she were using him). However, he was still the son of his owners and was to be treated with just as much respect as Master and Mistress.

"Let's go to my room." Master Nathan announced, walking down the hall with the other boys. "You come too, Severus."

Severus' feet felt like lead as he rolled down the sleeve of his shirt, hiding the Dark Mark once again. His right hand stung as if it were on fire. It was not every day one was ordered to cauterise their own hand. He wondered if Master would take advantage of his injury that night, and use it to torture Severus while Mistress was at the Ladies Club.

The Ladies Club. He would much rather be in a room with three young, curious wizards who could not use magic outside of school than be alone with Master for the evening. Master was not beyond locking himself and Severus in Master's bedroom and putting up a Silencing charm, after all. And even though he knew it was wrong and selfish, he would rather teach Dark Magic to children than spend the evening with a gag in his mouth and a plug up his arse.

Minerva McGonagall unwound her dark grey hair, feeling much older than she was. The meeting with the Board of Governors had been a complete waste of time, as far as she was concerned. What was so wrong with wanting to buy a slave to use as a teacher? The idea seemed very practical to her, as the school would save much money in the long run, not having to pay a teacher's salary.

Potions masters were paid a significant amount of money. Albus had taken advantage of Severus; he was woefully underpaid, especially as he headed Slytherin in addition to his other duties. It was not easy to get a skilled Potions master, and given the performance of students under Hogwarts' new Potions professor, it made sense to bring Severus back.

According to her calculations, Severus would pay for himself in roughly nine years time, perhaps a little more. As he would not be your typical employee, he would also be able to assist other teachers when needed, head Slytherin and brew infirmary potions as he had previously, and there would be potential to rent him out to good families during the summer. While Minerva did not want to see Severus placed in that situation, surely he would recognise that was one of their few options.

It was a good plan. Minerva thought so. The Order of the Phoenix thought so.

The Board of Governors hadn't thought so. They had several problems with the idea. One, a slave as a teacher? Many parents would object to that. It just was not done, they had said. It was crude, even.

Two, the students simply would not listen and respect a teacher who was a slave. No matter how many detentions given or points lost, the students would treat the teacher badly, in both verbal and physical disrespect. Minerva disagreed; Severus would have had the students in line in a week. He had had Slytherin line up, by height, marching, like soldiers, every year.

Three, what if a student told the teacher to take a jump off the Astronomy Tower? Then what? The teacher would do it and there would be a waste of 30,000 Galleons. That had been an argument easily won by Minerva, as Severus was not under that type of enslavement spell, which could be proven. He was not required to obey anyone but his legal owners, which would be Minerva and the Board of Governors, respectfully. The other teachers or students could not have that sort of access to him.

Lucius Malfoy, the Minerva's slight surprise, had completely agreed with her and even fought for the purchase of Severus. She knew that Severus had always looked up to Lucius with childlike idolisation, ever since Severus' first year at Hogwarts, but she had assumed their friendship had waned after You-Know-Who had killed the Potters. Apparently not so. The fact that Lucius would vouch for having a slave teach was encouraging, even. Perhaps there was hope for him, if not any for the poor former Potions master.

Chapter Text

The boys lumbered onto the large bed in Master Nathan's room.

Severus knelt down on the ground. It was only on very rare occasions that a slave was permitted to sit in a seat in the presence of their master. Severus had not sat in a proper chair since he was blindfolded and in questioning at the Ministry.

"Teach us something Dark," The large blonde-haired boy whined to Severus. "Something they won't teach us at school."

Severus bit his lip. "You attend Durmstrang, do you not? Your school is very thorough in their Dark Arts programmes." He had wanted to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts back when he was a normal person, as he had believed that people needed to use skill and knowledge to render Dark practises useless. Although his opinion was now useless, he was still free to believe as such unless ordered otherwise.

To teach Dark magic to these boys was a conflict of interest. Yet, if the boys ordered him to do something, he must... and, if he did not, he would be available to Master when he got home.

"Their programmes have been the pits all year." The boy crossed his arms. "Now that You-Know-Who is dead, they don't want any more Dark wizards emerging from anywhere. I wish Headmaster Karkaoff hadn't died; my father says that he was the best thing that ever happened to-"

"Quit your whinging, Carl." Master Nathan rolled his eyes. "Teach us the Imperius curse, Severus."

Severus blanched. "I am sorry, sir, but I cannot. You cannot use magic outside of school lest you get expelled." That was not his reason for avoiding teaching an Unforgiveable, but it was a very good reason all the same. If Master Nathan got expelled on Severus' account, Severus' life would go to hell.

Master Nathan rolled his eyes. "Oh, please. We're in a flat with three fully-trained adults, four when Dad gets home. It's not like the Ministry is going to hunt us down or anything."

When did children get so intelligent?It must have happened over the summer. They certainly were not intelligent last year. Perhaps Master Nathan was the exception. Incredible. It was Severus' lucky day.

"Master Nathan, the Unforgiveables are-"

"Non-traceable, and you can only get in trouble for using them if you are reported. You can't report us." Master Nathan pointed out.

"I cannot cast an Unforgivable on any of you." Severus pointed out. "To do so would not only be illegal, but also disrespectful and a danger to-"

"Fine, just show us how and we'll practice on you." Master Nathan shrugged. "Don't worry; no Killing Curse."

Severus swallowed hard. He could resist the Imperius, but it was not as if he did not have to do everything the child told him to do, anyhow. He could teach them a fake spell, and pretend. If they demanded the Cruciatus... perhaps he could summon some spiders to teach that.

"You must promise to never actually use these curses." Severus began, his voice strong and clear, even though he felt like curling up into a trembling ball. "If you do, it could ruin the rest of your life. Just because your parents are who they are, just because you are children, does not mean you cannot end up in Azkaban."

"Show us." Master Nathan said, his eyes narrowing.

Severus pulled his ebony wand out of his pocket and performed the complicated flourish that he was familiar with. The three boys pulled out their wands of various sizes, cores, and wood and followed suit.

He closed his eyes. This really is a bad idea.

"The Imperius curse is an Unforgivable because it cannot be used for good, regardless of how you use it. The curse, when cast successfully, causes whoever you curse it on to do your bidding. It could be as simple as going across the room to get your book, or to murder someone." Not that he wanted to give them any ideas.

"However, an poorly placed Imperius could cause much damage. If you are not absolutely sure of what you are doing, you can addle one's mind," he made sharp eye contact with the boys, "permanently."

Severus had not signed up to be a teacher. He had not aimed to become one, nor had he applied for the job opening. He had done exceptionally well as a student, due to a mixture of hard work, talent, and luck. Albus Dumbledore had insisted he take the job as Potions master, and while Severus had never thought that he enjoyed his job, he now realised how much he missed it.

"Get off it." Master Carl, the short blonde one, scoffed. "Just tell us what to do."

Severus raised his brow. "I shall in due time, sir. If you wish to do this successfully, you must listen to me."

A slight burning in his forehead immediately began. Master had told him to obey Master, Mistress, Master Nathan, and their friends. He did not have to obey every wizard and witch he came across, but only the ones that Master and Mistress knew. Telling Carl - no, Master Carl - to do something was wrong, even though he was trying to help him.

He continued. "Because of the risk it places, I cannot permit you to practise on each other. I will be forced to go straight to Master. He told me before you came home, Master Nathan, that I was to immediately run to him if you were to do anything dangerous. His orders override yours."

He chose his words carefully, as to not be disrespectful, but to annoy Master Nathan. It made him feel good; even though the boy could kill him legally (though would likely get in trouble via their parents), Severus was still superior in his knowledge and in this case, some of his orders.

"We'll practise on you." Master Nathan shrugged.

"If we hurt his mind, your parents will be angry." The quiet Norwegian boy spoke up.

"Yeah." Master Carl spoke up. "He's got a point. Your parents would be so pissed off."

"Fine." Master Nathan sighed. "What are we supposed to practise on then? We just can't practise on thin air."

Severus bit his lip. He could suggest spiders and other insects that they could easily summon from the foundation of the flat, but it made him feel bad to think about it. The spiders could not save themselves, and it was not right to risk hurting them just to teach children Dark Magic. Just because they were small and could not hex you did not give you a right to harm them.

A year ago, he would have not given a second thought to it, but yet, here he was, empathizing with spiders.

"I can teach you the correct way to cast and lift the spell, but you should not actually attempt it." He said. He hoped that the enslavement curse would interpret that as a suggestion rather than an order.

Master Nathan cocked his head. "We could always find Muggles to practise on."

"No." Severus said hurriedly. He had no special fondness in his heart for Muggles, or for people without magic blood. However, it would be wrong to practise on them; not only would the Ministry arrest them for performing magic, illegals no less, on Muggles, but the Muggles were defenceless.

"Your parents would be very displeased. Think of the Ministry. They would be notified immediately if curses were placed on Muggles."

"But I don't want to practise theory!" Carl whinged once again. "We do enough of that at Durmstrang!"

"What did you learn on?" The Norwegian boy asked, his black eyes fixed on Severus.

"Spiders." Severus admitted. "However, it is not as simple as that. We cannot simply summon spiders and practise on them."

"Why not?"

He did not have a convincing excuse prepared. "The spiders might not be spiders. For all we know, they could be wizards in their Animagus forms and-"

"Really? Do you think a wizard would be stupid enough to stay in their Animagus form when picked up by a slave and three teenagers?" Master Nathan barked in laughed. "We can summon them, because wizards can't be summoned, even when in animal form."

True. The only reason Severus could was because Severus was a wizard/slave, not a wizard/human. "It would be wrong." He insisted.

Master Nathan and his friends began laughing wildly. "You're a Death Eater! You honestly care about-"

"-I was not a Death Eater." Severus burst out, ignoring the pain in his forehead that could now compete with the pain in his hand. "I learned many Dark Arts and joined the Death Eaters because I was a child. A child and a dunderhead. I left as soon as I found a way out."

"Go find us spiders, Severus." Master Nathan said in between laughs. "Don't tell anyone what we're up to, either."

Teaching magic was not as simple as teaching someone how to wave their wand and what incantation to utter. Teaching someone a spell could take hours, day, weeks... even years, depending on the spell. One could try to teach someone how to produce a Patronus for years, day after day, month after month, and in the end, that person very well might not be able to perform that branch of magic. It was just the ways things were.

Some wizards were more powerful than others, some cleverer, others more focused, and others more devoted. Severus happened to be one of those devoted wizards with power, wit, concentration. He did not have the powers of say, Grindelwald, but he was not a mere "average" wizard. He could perform quite a bit of magic, casting complicated charms, hexes and curses with quite a bit of power.

However, there were always your Peter Pettigrews who could simply not grasp simple concepts, such as "waving your wand in a mindless fashion is not good enough. It must be waved in a certain pattern, in a certain way, for the spell to actually work".

One thing about Dark Magic was that it could not be produced mindlessly. Whilst Severus could summon an object or use a Lumos with next to no thought, he needed to concentrate – hard - on Dark spells. The Imperius, granted, was not as hard to cast as the Cruciatus or the Killing Curse, but it was very difficult. He doubted the children would actually be able to cast anything substantial - their curses would be weak at best - but he was also not going to underestimate them. They attended Durmstrang - two of them in the nearly impossible-to-get-into foreign exchange programme. Their skills in Dark Magic were not going to be mediocre.

He returned to their room with a small box full of stunned spiders. "Before you begin, I must tell you how much concentration is required for the Imperius. You really must focus when casting it. You may have to focus more than you ever-"

"We're learning Occlumency this year. I think we can handle it." Master Nathan abruptly interrupted.

"That said, please do not feel alarmed if you feel pressure on your mind when you're preparing to cast the spell." Severus continued as if he hadn't been interrupted. "When dealing with spells that require much mental concentration, it is always best to train and practise with a skilled Legilimens. You-"

"You're not going to look into my mind." Master Nathan said, his blue eyes narrowing at Severus.

Severus sighed, getting down on his knees. He was not going to stand up for the entire argument he was going to have to have. "Master Nathan, with all due respect, it is simply not safe for you to be casting this spell without guidance. I know how to do it, and you do not. If you would please let me guide you..."

"I'm not letting a slave read my mind," Master Nathan affirmed. Master Carl looked just as adamant, whilst their Norwegian friend looked apathetic, at best.

"Then I cannot teach you." Severus said. "I will be forced to tell Master what you are having me teach you."

"You can't." Master Nathan smirked. "That's an order, by the way."

Severus shook his head, his dark hair falling in front of his face. "Your orders mean nothing to me when they risk your well-being. Master requested that I tell him whenever you are getting into trouble or danger. The strain this can have on your mind is not worth it. Many wizards have suffered breakdowns when learning Dark Magic. I simply will not teach you unless you let me guide you."

It was not as if he wanted to be in Master Nathan's mind. Quite the contrary. Using Legilimency on someone, with the intention of teaching them, was quite intimate. You had to get to know their mind and be able to gently push it in a certain direction. It was hard work, and took time. Severus did not mind time-consuming labour, but he doubted Master Nathan would be patient enough for him to properly-

"Fine then, but I'm Occluding." Master Nathan huffed.

"It would do you well not to block me out completely." Severus warned. "I am going to need to get a feel for your mind to help you push it into intense concentration."

"Fine." Master Nathan said, getting off the bed and squatting down at Severus' level. His blue eyes looked into Severus' dark ones. "Ready."

Severus looked away. "First I must teach you the incantations, Master."

He found it best to always teach how to pull the victim out of the curse before teaching how to cast the curse. That way, if anyone got carried away and starting casting spells about, they would know how to immediately rectify the situation. It was something that many professors at Hogwarts failed to do, and-

No, he would not think about Hogwarts. Minerva had all but promised to write, and yet, he had not received one letter. One bloody letter. He was not going to think about them. They betrayed him. They used him for what he was good for and left him to rot, which was fine. He had never expected anything in return, other than the safety of Potter, anyhow. He had always existed just to do as people bid, whether it be his father, the Dark Lord, Albus Dumbledore, or an owner.

"It would do you well to practise the incantation for quite some time before you move onto actually performing the spell." He stated after teaching them how to take someone out of an Imperius. It was not as simple as Finite Incantatum; the Unforgiveables had their own spells to cancel spells out, the exception being the Killing Curse, of course, because not even magic could raise one from the dead.

"We understand it." The Norwegian one said. "We learn at Durmstrang to learn spells quickly."

It would be that way anywhere, wouldn't it? "Just the same, before you practise-"

"They are spiders! What's the incantation for the Imperius?" Master Nathan cried out.

"Imperio." Severus said reluctantly, looking down at his hands.

"And you say we have to really concentrate on the spell to get it to work?" Master Nathan asked, taking the small box from Severus and pulling out a small spider, enlarging it a bit to see more clearly.

"Yes." Severus replied. "I'm going to have to get into your mind; look at me, if you would, sir."

Master Nathan's mind, though mostly Occluded, Severus found was not a pretty thing. He knew he could likely break down any Occlusion barriers had set up, as unless Master Nathan were an exception to most wizards, the barriers were likely weak. However, he had no need to, nor did he want to get into trouble.

His mind was very disorganized; there was no purpose, no method to his madness. Severus had long ago determined that most people in the world - Muggle, witch, wizard, Squib, pure-blood, Muggleborn, half-blood - were all mad to a degree, but most had a method to it to make it appear not so, a method they were likely not aware they even had. Master Nathan had no such method, as his mind was as disorganized as they came. If anyone ever asked Severus what they thought a teenage boy needed for their birthday or Christmas, he would, for now on, answer with a Pensieve.

Potter's had been organized, Severus reminded himself. The boy had had his mind set up in such a way that he had memories he did not even know about, or memories he had blocked.

No, he would not think about Potter, Lily, the Order, or anyone else he knew before September 2nd, 1998. Life was simpler that way.

His life as a student, Death Eater, his life as a spy, were all past lives. There was nothing he wanted more than to separate himself from them, and he was doing a fairly well-done job of it. He was starting to be able to look at his past life as if he were looking at someone else's memories in a Pensieve, as if he had never really experienced them. He was even starting to lose any emotion attached to those memories, and he liked it that way. Someday, a day would come when he would think of the Order with no sense of loyalty or betrayal either way, or where he would be able to think of Lily without a dull pain in his chest.

It was as if he was starting over. The best part was that he was free to do so, as there was nobody telling him not to do it.

"I've got a headache!" Master Carl whinged half an hour later, after only succeeding on killing two spiders, by stepping on one and sitting on another.

"Suck it." Master Nathan said gloomily, watching Master Anton make his spider walk back and forth across the room. Master Nathan hadn't been able to put any spiders under the Imperius, either.

Severus was sitting crossed-legged on the ground, by the foot of the bed. His knees could only take so much kneeling, and whilst he had done it for hours at a time before, he was not going to do it for long if it were not necessary.

It had been a pretty easy Dark Arts lesson, as far as Dark Arts lessons went. Whenever the Dark Lord had him train new Death Eaters by teaching them Dark curses, most failed miserably and wound up having Severus heal all sorts of broken people and body parts. Training three impressionable sixteen-year-olds was surprisingly a breeze, though it appeared only one had any special abilities in Dark magic.

"Teach us something else." Master Anton to Severus, cancelling his Imperius.

He raised his brow. "Really? After your friends failed to grasp the Imperius? That is easier than the Cruciatus."

Actually, it wasn't. The Cruciatus was the easiest out of all the Unforgiveables for most wizards, simply because it involved wanting to cause someone pain. As long as the caster truly wanted to cause the other person pain, the Cruciatus would work. The Killing Curse worked in the same way, except that your average wizard usually did not feel the need to kill someone strongly enough. The Imperius was easily the most difficult, because it required such intense concentration.

"To take someone out of the Cruciatus-" Severus began reluctantly, but he did not get to finish his lecture.

"Just tell us!" Master Carl whinged. "We don't care!"

"If you succeed on casting the Cruciatus, you will need to take the spiders out instantly." Severus pointed out. Lecturing students really was like giving orders all the time; no wonder Severus missed it so-

-no, don't think about Hogwarts, he admonished himself.

Ignoring the burning in his forehead, as the only thing that could take it away now was Master's or Mistress' touch - something he was not so keen on receiving - he continued. "These common spiders have very low pain tolerance. More than a few moments of the Cruciatus will kill them."

"So?" Master Nathan said. "They are spiders, Severus. Not people."

"You're missing my point." Severus sighed. Obviously trying to appeal to Master Nathan's humane side was pointless. "If you kill them all, we'll run out, and then-"

"And then you can go get us more." Master Nathan pointed out. "We can send you spider hunting all night." That led the boys into a conversation that was evidentially highly amusing about spider hunting. Severus did not see the humour, nor the sense the conversation was making, but did not interrupt. He just sat silently, waiting for Master Nathan or his friends to address him again.

"So who cares? You seem to think we won't be able to cast it, so where's the harm?" Master Nathan finally turned back to Severus.

How to explain himself? "I have always taught a certain way, Master Nathan. Many people have disputed many of my teaching methods, but not this one. It is always best to teach the counter-curse before the curse itself, as one should know the counter-curse better than they know the curse. It is merely a precaution that I refuse to do without."

"Fine." Master Nathan rolled his eyes as he spoke a in a monotone voice, clearly meant to show him boredom with further arguing with Severus. "What's the counter-curse?"

Severus went on to tell them and explain the wand movements and thought process, but he had a feeling the boys were only half-listening. It might have had something to do with them chuckling and poking the stupefied spiders with their wands.

"And the curse?"

"Must I tell you? Is this not enough Dark Arts for one evening?"

"Tell us."


"Crucio?" Master Nathan repeated.

Severus nodded. "Master Nathan, please do not-"

"Crucio!" Master Nathan pointed his wand at a no-longer-stupefied spider, which immediately began to writhe in pain. Master Nathan and his friends laughed with glee, as if the spider being in pain was the funniest thing they had ever seen.

They. Were. Laughing. The pain of the Cruciatus was something Severus was very familiar with. He had once undergone it for four minutes straight, after displeasing the Dark Lord. It had been the longest four minutes of his life. It had only taken seventeen to put Frank and Alice Longbottom into madness.

Severus pointed his wand at the spider and with a bellow, uttered the counter-curse. The spider stopped writhing and immediately crawled under the bed and out of sight.

The three boys stopped their laughing abruptly and turned to Severus, their eyes narrowed. "What'd you do that for?" Master Nathan yelled. "I did it! Did you see?"

"I saw." Severus said coolly. "The Cruciatus is not a form of amusement. It is painful beyond your imagination, and if you-"

"Crucio!" Master Nathan pointed his wand at Severus.

Coursing pain shot through Severus' body, pain that he had experienced countless times before, pain he would never get used to. He was aware of the boys staring at him in shock as he writhed and grunted on the floor, trying to keep himself from screaming. He was aware of the boys trying to remember the counter-curse and how to cast it. He was aware of the boys hurriedly running out of the room, making plans on how they could avoid getting in the huge trouble they knew they would get into if Master Nathan's father found Severus... Severus was aware of being alone, and in the worst physical pain one could ever feel.

He bit his lip and closed his eyes as tight as they would go. He forced himself to breathe through his nostrils as his body involuntarily jerked back and forth on the white carpeted floor. Hot, burning knives... all over his body... he felt his mouth filling with the bitter taste of blood and was vaguely aware that he had bitten his lip clean through in trying to avoid screaming.

He could only go so long writhing in silence... but he could not scream. Mistress had likely already left for her Ladies Club, and as far as he knew, Master was not home. Screaming would only alert other wizards in the vicinity, who knew about him being a slave and therefore would not take him out of the Cruciatus, because they would think he deserved it, and Muggles would...

He could not think. He felt like his skin was starting to melt over his bones, that his eyes were going to pop out of his skull. His bone were melting.

He screamed.

Chapter Text

Richard Weston was a busy man. His schedule was very carefully planned out, so that he was rarely present at home. It had to be that way; as his marriage was a conventional pure-blood arrangement, he was not fond of his wife, and took great pains to avoid her.

He loved Tina, he supposed, but at the same time, he also suspected he rather hated her.

As the owner of Glorified Broomsticks, it was necessary that he spend some time at work. There were some decisions that even the best employees could not make, and there was always something needing micromanaged. Without fail, he was at the office at least three long days out of the week.

That, however, left five days free. He often spent his evenings, and even late afternoons, perusing various pubs in both the wizarding and Muggle world. He often wore a disguise, or swallowed an expensive potion to alter his appearance. It would do him no good to be recognised, or for his activities to be reported in the newspapers. While Tina never read the Daily Prophet, she would certainly hear of any scandal through one of her silly socialite papers.

He would be the first to admit that he spent far too much of his time at his brother's home. As Richard had fulfilled their parents' wishes by having a child with a pure-blooded woman, Raymond was able to remain a bachelor and live his life while disregarding the rules of society.

Raymond's home was filled with naked women. Richard had long ago lost track of whom was free and whom was enslaved, as the faces and bodies changed all the time, and he had rarely taken the time to get to know them by name. At any given moment, there were multiple women available to pleasure him, or that he could take into a bedroom to do with as he pleased.

Tina was largely oblivious to all of this. Of course, Richard suspected that she suspected, but nothing was ever said. After marrying, they had quickly discovered that their sexual interests deviated from each other's. Tina wanted doted upon, and was far more interested in foreplay than the act itself. While Richard also enjoyed foreplay, his interests were far from traditional, and he knew better than to try to pursue them with Tina.

They lived by the idea of "don't ask, don't tell". After quietly agreeing that they would not have sex together again after the birth of their son, they never spoke of it again. 'Together' was the operative word, of course. He was not an idiot, and was almost certain that she had men over while he was gone during the day. He, unfortunately, could not give her enough credit to assume he was also going outside their marriage, and knew her well enough to avoid broaching the topic.

Lately, however, Richard made more of an effort to stay at home. At a anniversary gift, Tina had agreed that they would purchase another slave. Carita, the slave they had received as a wedding gift, was fine to prepare meals and keep Tina company, but as she got older, she was unable to perform housekeeping tasks. Tina had mentioned a desire for someone to act as something of a personal assistant, and so Richard jumped at the idea.

The problem with fucking other wizards was that they often knew who he was, and were often competent with magic. Muggles were more frequently not fond of what Richard had in mind, and using anObliviate on them carried consequences with the Ministry. He could use the slaves his brother owned, and frequently did; however, they were all female, conditioned to submit to his orders, and as they did not belong to him, he had to be more careful not to leave any damage.

With their new slave, Richard was able to try things he hadn't been able to in the past. While he left the slave at home a majority of the time, he had so far taken him to Raymond's a handful of times, and had hidden him in his office one work day. Every so often, Tina would leave for her Ladies Club meeting, which meant he had the entire house – and the slave – to himself.

Severus had been a Death Eater. He had been a free man, once. That had intrigued Richard from the start. Someone who had once had agency to do as they pleased would always loathe what Richard had planned, which was exactly how he wanted it.

However, Severus had also been trained well. The first chance he had had to take Severus was two days after they had purchased him. Tina had gone to her Ladies Club. Severus had been in the kitchen, putting away stacks of dishes by Levitating them across the room. Richard had asked Severus to go to his closet. Severus complied with every single one of Richard's orders, though the fear and loathing in his eyes had been evident. When Severus had tried to hide it, it had been even more thrilling.

Richard had originally pitied the idea that none of the Death Eaters they had seen up for auction were attractive at all. Though they had done their best to get one that was at least not too old, Severus looked older than his thirty-eight years. However, the amount of resistance Severus put up was worth his price.

Now that Nathan was home for Christmas holidays, he would have to change his plans. He would have to satisfy his sexual urges in a different way with Severus tonight.

He waved his wand and opened the front door. It would only open to his wand or touch, Tina's wand or touch, Nathan's touch, or Carita's. Severus hadn't yet been added to the locking charms yet, but he would, soon enough. They had years to add him to it.

The flat, at first glance, was empty. Tina had likely already left for her meeting, which started at six-thirty.

He glanced at the clock. Damn. It was already six-thirty, so he had lost time. If Nathan was out with friends, perhaps he could-

An agonizing scream jerked him out of his thoughts. What the hell was that?

Raising his wand, he started down the hall. He had attended school in France, where he had met Tina. Their self-defence programme had not been the best, but he knew enough hexes to send any intruder out on their-

He stopped outside Nathan's room and pushed open the door. The stench of sweat, vomit and urine filled his senses. Spiders were sluggishly crawling out of a small box on the bed, and on the floor was Severus, squirming on the floor.

The black-haired man let out another scream, wrapping his head into his arms and curling into a shaky ball before screaming again.

"Finite Incantnum!" Richard pointed his wand at Severus.

Severus did not seem to even notice his master's presence; he continued writhing and moaning, occasionally letting out a scream.

The Cruciatus? Richard had never seen the Cruciatus curse before. He knew the proper curse and counter-curse, of course, but had never needed to use them.

He uttered the counter-curse and waited. Severus did not stop writhing, but he also did not scream. He just curled up tighter in a ball, a dry sob escaping his throat.

"Severus?" Richard took a step forward, standing over the slave on the floor. The slave looked very pitiable lying on the floor.

"M-M-Mas-M-Master." Severus said, breathlessly. He awkwardly and stiffly rolled from his side onto his knees, in the best kneel it looked like he could manage, which in that case, looked more pitiful than the slave himself.

"What happened?" Richard bent down to get a closer look at the slave.

Severus' face was paler than usual, so ghastly pale that it was grey. His eyes were rimmed with red and pupils dilated. Cold sweat drenched him as he trembled, looking up at his master.

"A-A-Acc-Accident." Severus stammered. "F-F-F-Forgive me, s-sir."

Richard waved his wand, cleaning up the vomit and urine that was all over his son's floor. "It was the Cruciatus. Who cast it?"

"M-M-M-Master N-Nathan did n-n-not kn-now the counter-c-curse." Severus' trembling did not decrease as he fumbled to a more proper kneeling position in front of his squatting master. "He and sirs t-t-t-told me t-to t-teach them. I-I-I tried to t-talk them ou-out of it."

"I see." Richard grimaced, trying not to show his anger. He grabbed his slave by the forearms and pulled him to his feet. "And how did that result in the waste on the carpet?"

Severus looked ashamed. "T-The curse. M-m-my muscles, s-sir. I-I just lost control of m-my muscles. The curse d-d-does that after pro-pro-prolonged..." He reached out and leaned against the wall to help him stand.

"Let me help you to the loo, Severus." Richard said. He was not a cruel man - Severus obviously needed a bath right now, not only to clean off the stench that covered him, but also to soothe any muscles that needed it. The Cruciatus was illegal in most cases for a reason. Richard was not overly familiar with what the curse did, but certainly a hot or cold bath couldn't hurt.

"I-I can m-m-make it." Severus tried to take a step.

Richard grabbed him before he fell. "No chance, slave." He chuckled humourlessly.

He helped Severus into the pristine bathroom, and let Severus lean against the sink counter whilst he turned the knobs on the clawfoot bathtub. "Hot or cold water, Severus?"

"H-Hot, sir, please," Severus said quietly, his body still shaking uncontrollably as he fumbled with the buttons on his long-sleeved shirt.

Richard turned his attention to his slave and waved his wand, uttering a spell he was more than familiar with: a spell that removed all of one's clothing.

"Get in." He directed his slave, who now seemed unashamed in his nudity, unlike he had been when Richard had first bought him.

No, in early October, Severus had turned a noticeable shade of slight pink whenever seen without clothing, but now, it did not seem like he cared. That was not necessarily good; once Severus lost his ability to be humiliated, he would be substantially less fun to play with.

Richard held out his arm to his slave who took it before slipping into the steamy tub.

"You wash up." Richard ordered. "I'll go see that supper is ready, and get Carita to clean out the smell in Nathan's room. Accioslaves' other clothes."

A pair of neatly folded clothes came into the room, which Richard put on the counter. "Put those on when you're clean and come meet me in the dinning room." He turned to walk away, but paused. He turned to look at his slave, who was emerged in the tub, staring at him with emotionless eyes. "Are you okay?"

"Yes, Master," the slave said, looking down, his deep voice so soft that Richard had to strain to hear his words.

Richard nodded. "Good then."

His plans would definitely not go as planned. How could Nathan have done such a stupid thing? The Cruciatus, of all curses? What had Severus done to deserve that? The way Severus had said it, he had been teaching it to the children, who undoubtedly had ordered it.

He left the loo and stuck his head into the kitchen, giving Carita her instructions before sitting down at the head of the table, his head in his hands.

As much as Tina demanded that Nathan not be punished for anything he did wrong, this was a Hippogriff of a different colour. Severus was not a mere lamp that could be broken and fixed with a Reparo; he was extremely valuable property that it would be an sad waste to permanently maim.

Severus stared blankly at the back of the door. Master had drawn him a bath, helped him in it, and told him to meet him in the dining room when he finished? That was it? He did not complain about the mess Severus had made in Master Nathan's room, nor did he complain about... anything. He was being nice.

That was not unusual. Severus had only seen Master angry a handful of times. Master was, when it came down to it, a very nice man. He treated Severus much better than Severus would have been treated elsewhere. He let Severus eat three full meals a day, in the kitchen, with a plate and utensils. In his closet, which was much warmer and dryer than the basement as Master Mering's had been, he was allowed a blanket to cover himself up with when he slept. He was not shackled or handcuffed at all, except when being used, of course. Master allowed Severus to shower every three days. Not the long luxurious showers that Master and Mistress both indulged in on a daily basis, but hot ones nevertheless.

Yes, Master was very good to him. But even at the disaster Severus caused? If Severus were a father, he would have been furious if his slave taught his son Unforgiveables, and then proceeded to not only vomit and eliminate on the white carpet, but scream - loudly - whilst doing it, likely alerting everyone on the block. However, Master only treated him with care.

Severus ducked his head under the water and emerged. There was not a lot of bathing he could do without his wand. Normally he used his wand to create suds to wash both his hair and body, as it was both simple and practical.

"Accio wand." he whispered. Moments later, the door creaked open just enough to let his wand through and glide through the air, landing in Severus' hand. That was another nice thing about being owned by Master and Mistress; they let him use magic, both with his wand and wandless.

The pit in Severus' stomach grew as he cleansed himself, hoping the foul smell was leaving his body. His muscles were still tense. His movements were still clumsy. He, no matter how hard he concentrated, could not stop his hand from shaking. The effects of the Cruciatus were not very concealable ones.

Master probably intends on taking you tonight. He will not appreciate it if you are shaking under him. However, with Master Nathan home, he may not...

Master Nathan. He was not a very bright child, and would not have never made it in a Slytherin. Certainly wasn't smart enough to-

He gripped the sides of the tub. No, he could not think badly about Master Nathan. He slapped himself as the burning in his forehead crept on. Master and Mistress would be very angry if they knew what he was thinking.

He unsteadily rose to his feet and performed a quick drying spell. Unfolding the white shirt Master had placed on the counter, he recognized it as the shirt Master had requested he wear when they went to Master's brother's. These were his "good" clothes, as opposed to his everyday clothes. Certainly Master had given him those to wear because the clothes he had been wearing were stained with his bodily fluids and needed quite a few spells to become clean again.

Certainly that was it. Certainly, Master was not taking him out anywhere. Salazar, save me...

He slipped on the clothes and paused to look at his reflection in the mirror. His hair badly needed cut; it was an inch or two past his shoulders now, but he did not know if Master and Mistress would like it if he cut it. They might get angry, if they liked it long. Master liked to grip Severus' hair when he made Severus pleasure him with his mouth, and Mistress liked to grab Severus by his hair when she was mad.

No, he could not perform a trimming spell on it without permission. He settled for a spell that took out the knots, and after consideration, transfigured a loose thread on the rug into a piece of string to tie his hair back with. He added a quick and simple spell for his teeth that Master Mering had used on him every day. It kept his teeth clean and strong. He would be less valuable, and be able to pleasure Master less, if his teeth were chipped or had fallen out.

Another quick spell rid him of any stubble he had accumulated in the past twenty-four hours or so. He always needed to be clean-shaven, at all times, for Master. Although Severus did not know what it felt like to have someone have their face that close to you, he knew people didn't like it when said face had any scratchy stubble on it. So he took special care, like Master Mering had during his training, to make sure he was clean-shaven.

There, he thought grimly. Now whatever Master plans, I cannot say I did not try to look my best, whatever my best may be. He knew Master would be embarrassed if he took Severus somewhere and Severus looked bad. His owners had an image to keep up, and like it or not, Severus had a part in keeping that image up. He could never humiliate his owners, not after they were so good to him.

They are not so good to you, or they would not rape you or-

He slapped himself again - hard. He could not think thoughts like that about his owners! They were good to him, and they did not rape him. When Master asked him if he liked it, he always answered "yes". They were doing what they wanted when they used them, which was their job. It was not safe for him to not be free, to make his own decisions. He needed someone else to make his decisions for him. After so many years in the Dark Lord's service, surely his judgement was tampered. It was best just to have owners and obey what they said.

He stepped into the dining room and immediately got to his knees, facing Master, who sat alone at the head of the table.

"Master, thank you." Severus quivered, his head bowed. What would he have done without Master, had Master not rescued him? Severus had been Crucioed for longer than four minutes that time - he had never felt the sensation of his body melting before - and could have descended into madness.

Master saved him.

"You're welcome, Severus." Master said easily, reaching out petting the top of Severus' forehead in an affectionate way. He did not touch his forehead, which would have felt impossibly good and would have possibly made Severus involuntarily aroused. "You must forgive Nathan and the boys - they didn't know what they were doing, I'm sure. When Nathan comes home, I'll be sure to punish him."

"If that is what you wish to do, Master." Severus said quietly, trying to keep his body at still as possible. He did not want Master to get mad at him for trembling. He would likely be feeling shaky and weak for several days.

Master did not seem to mind. Instead he stopped petting Severus' head and reached out to grab a glass of champagne, which he took a small sip of. "Get up, Pet, and sit down." He motioned to the chair on his direct left.

Severus hesitated. Sit down? Sit down at the table? With Master?

He awkwardly stood up and stood behind the chair, holding onto the back of it for support lest his legs weaken. "Sit, Master?"

"In the chair." Master nodded.

What does he want me to sit here for? Like an equal! I'm not his equal! He is so far above me and- He sat down, his back straight, and his body tense. There was a plate in front of him. One of the good china plates that the family ate off of. On the white china plate was an assortment of cooked vegetables, a piece of roast lamb, mashed potatoes, and other food. Judging from the steam rising off of it, it was even hot, something that Severus was not always guaranteed when he ate from the kitchen.

With his hands in his lap, he glanced up at Master, who took a bite of his lamb nonchalantly. What was he expected to do? Certainly not...

"You may eat, Severus. I haven't poisoned it." Master chuckled. As if to prove his point, he used his fork to stab a vegetable off of Severus' plate. He winked at Severus.

Severus allowed himself a small shy smile. "I trust you, Master." He said quietly, tentatively picking up the fork and going straight for the vegetable, as that was what Master was eating right then. If he just followed Master's lead, eating the meat when Master ate the meat, the starch when Master ate the starch, the vegetables when Master ate the vegetables, he would be all right.

"How are you feeling?" Master inquired.

The question sent Severus off-guard. Who was he to have Master inquire about his health? "Much better, sir, thank you." Severus said, just as quietly as he had spoken before. He was not supposed to be at the table with Master. He had not sat at a table since he had sat at the head table on September 1st; it all felt wrong.

"Good." Master reached for his glass of champagne. "I had other plans for us tonight, but after considering it, decided that we should stay in. You look to be in no shape to be gallivanting around London."

Severus mimicked his actions, surprised to find his glass also full of champagne. He had not had anything but water for months, and he did his best not to choke down the small sip he took.

"I got another letter from Hogwarts today." Master mentioned casually.

Severus' fork fell to his plate with a clatter, which he quickly recovered. Master did not seem to notice though, or at least he pretended not to notice. "Another letter, sir?"

"The headmistress has been writing me weekly since Tina and I purchased you." Master said with an eye roll. "She is always making up various reasons why you should come to Hogwarts, or even why she should come here. 'The Potions Master fell ill and there is no one else to teach', 'the children just want a chance to say goodbye', 'there are some things of his that need sorted through'... her request today took the cake! 'A portrait hole won't open, because he is the only one who knows the password!'". He shook his head. "If she wanted to buy you so badly, why didn't she purchase you? She could have gotten a loan from Gringotts."

Severus did not know what to say to that. Master had heard Minerva tell him that they did not have much money between them.

It still came as a surprise. Minerva had been writing? Every week? It made him stomach clench, the food on his plate much less desirable, though he did not know why. "I do not know, Master."

"Would you like to go to Hogwarts for an afternoon, Severus?" Master asked him seriously, pausing in eating. "If they truly need your help with something, I suppose we could spare you for an afternoon."

Did he want to go? Severus weighed that. Was Master actually offering?

What good would going to Hogwarts bring him? It would bring back painful reminders of things he was trying to forget; the familiar castle walls, laughter, potion fumes, the respect of-

No, he would not get respect if he returned to Hogwarts. He was a slave, and everyone there knew it. He would more than likely spend his time getting humiliated. If he were at Master Mering's and Master Mering gave him the option to visit the school, he would likely say "yes", for he had endured regularly beatings and punishments there, but he was safe at Master and Mistress'. They never severely hurt him.

"Severus?" Master prodded.

"No, sir, I would not like to." Severus found himself saying. If he went to Hogwarts, he would only hurt more when he left. He was a slave, lower than everyone else, and he could accept that now. Hoing back and being reminded of his past life would only invoke self-pity in him, and pity in others. He did not need pity.

"Very well." Master seemed pleased. "You're to write the response, Severus, and tell her that you do not want to go. I tried telling her such things, but she does not believe me. Perhaps she'll only believe it from you."

"Yes, Master." Severus said.

"I'll have to read over it before you send it, of course." Master said. "I trust you, Severus, but I cannot risk her thinking badly of Tina and me. It is important that we keep every good connection we can, and the Headmistress of Hogwarts is a very good connection to have."

"Yes, sir." Severus said, taking a sip of his champagne, once again following Master's lead. Except, whilst Master's right hand held his champagne glass, his left hand...

Severus gasped, spilling a bit of champagne on his shirt.

Master chuckled. "Feeling a bit tense?" He squeezed Severus' thigh again from underneath the table.

"I apologise, Master." Severus said, looking down at his plate. "You may punish me, if you-"

"Unfortunately that will have to wait." Master chuckled, squeezing Severus' thigh again. "What I had planned for tonight cannot take place after finding you underneath that bloody curse. You would pass out from exhaustion."

"Yes, Master." Severus whispered. "Thank you." He didn't know why he added "thank you", but it felt appropriate. Master could tie, gag, restrain, put Severus into all sorts of ridiculous positions... but he wouldn't.

Because Severus would be too tired.

"Now, about Paris..." Master's hand trailed up and gripped Severus' groin. Nothing showed on Master's face that would make any person observing them think anything out of the ordinary was going on – even though they were alone, apparently Master was enjoying himself, because he could not seem to keep his hand off of Severus.

"Paris, sir?" Severus tried not to gasp. He hated his body's reactions to what Master was doing. He did not enjoy what Master was doing to him in the slightest, though his body suggested otherwise. The enslavement curse made his body react to his owners' touch the way it would a lover's, which was quite unfair.

"Surely you know of Tina's plan to vacate to Paris for a week?" Master waved his wand and cleared the serving dishes away, which were replaced with the cherry pie Severus had seen in the kitchen earlier. "We're leaving on the thirty-first, the day Nathan goes back to school."

"Yes, sir." Severus said.

"Tina will likely want to brave the snow and go see all her friends in the fashion industry." Master scoffed, taking a delicate bite of pie.

Severus followed his lead, timing his chews to Master's, trying not to think about that hand that gave him one more squeeze and abandoned him.

"Yes, sir." Severus responded.

"Of course, I have no intentions on going with her all the time, so it'll just be you and me in the hotel, day in and day out." Master looked smug at the prospect, whereas Severus felt as if he were going to sick up.


Chapter Text

Harry paced back and forth in front of the gargoyle. Outside the pain left by the loss of Dumbledore, his death had also caused an inconvenience as passwords were no longer predictable. He used to be able to shout "lemon drops", "ice mice", and "peppermint squares" until he guessed the right sweet, and the portraits or gargoyles let him through.

He didn't have a clue what the passwords were when Snape had been headmaster, but they were probably something like "pure-blood". However, what would McGonagall, of all people, make her password? She didn't have any close family members or a Familiar that Harry knew of, and she probably hadn't named her Animagus form like his father and his father's friends had... but what else would she make the password? An assortment of random nonsense words? That didn't seem very McGonagall-like.

It was the fourth of January and classes were just resuming at Hogwarts. Harry hadn't returned to the school until the day before, as he had spent Christmas at the Weasley's. They seemed intent on adopting him into their family, and refused to let him spend the holiday anywhere else.

While he appreciated their love, he was desperate for a chance to talk to Professor McGonagall. He had been dying to know if there had been any updates on the Order's mission since the break began in December. He knew that there had been a board meeting, and that McGonagall was going to petition to buy Snape. For all Harry knew, Snape could be in the castle right then! It would be a great weight off his shoulders, if that were true.

It wasn't an official Order mission, of course. "The Order" had now broken up, hopefully for good. There were no more regular meetings or heated discussions amongst well-informed and scared adults. No, this mission included Harry, Hermione, the Weasley clan, Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, McGonagall, Kingsley Shacklebolt, and precious few Order members. It involved getting Snape out of slavery, which was apparently a whole lot easier said than done.

When the Aurors had arrested Snape, Harry had been angry. No, he had been furious. He had been looking forward to this school year in a way he never had before. This year, there would be no adventures. No Dark Lords. No missions. No horcruxes. No life-or-death rule breaking. It would be what other kids considered "normal".

He also had been looking forward to getting to interact with Snape. Snape had saved Harry's life, and then, Harry had saved Snape's. Harry knew Snape would still hate him, but thought maybe he would soften up at the topic of Harry's mum, whom he apparently knew a lot about. Harry wanted to know everything about her, as he didn't know much. Sirius and Remus hadn't talked much about her.

After Snape had been taken by Aurors, Harry had immediately gotten up from the table and sprinted to the head table, where McGonagall was already leaving. She had gone up to her office, the trio hot on her heels, and Firecalled Kingsley Shacklebolt.

Or tried to, at least. He hadn't been in his office, or at home, so they sent him an owl. They found out later that he had been at an important meeting with the leader of magical people in Cuba, and so by the time they got to Snape, it was too late.

Snape had been legally given to a man named Nigel Mering, who trained slaves for a living. By "trained", he taught things such as manners and rules. He was supposed to be "the best in the business", which was not too comforting a thought. At finding this out, Harry had wanted to go into Mering's and bust Snape out, but was told that would have been illegal and ultimately harmed Snape more than it helped.

Snape was stuck in the Death Eater Slave system forever, apparently. Harry didn't understand all the mechanics of it, and didn't care to. All he knew was that someone had been dealt a wrong, and that he would not rest until it was fixed.

The plan had been to go to an auction where Snape would probably be sold and buy him. The plan had seemed fool-proof to Harry; Harry had thousands upon thousands of Galleons between his parents' and the Black vault, and he knew Kingsley was relatively wealthy, as well.

However, Order had made a big stink when Harry had offered his Galleons to buy Snape. They hadn't wanted Harry to actually go to the auction, which he understood, because knowing Harry Potter was there would only inflate prices, but why couldn't they use his money? It was Kingsley's stupid idea head, as he didn't want Harry to waste his money on something the adults could manage.

No need to say that McGonagall had had words with Kingsley when buying Snape did not go as planned. Kingsley was no longer allowed to help rescue Snape.

"Potter, are you going to try to wear a hole in the floor or do you have a reason for being here instead of being in Potions?" Professor McGonagall came up behind Harry, her pointed face stern.

"I wanted to talk to you," Harry said.

"Evidentially," she said. "Is this something we cannot discuss in the halls, or must we go up to my office because I have to teach second-year Hufflepuffs and Slytherins in a moment, and that is a combination that, Merlin forbid, should not be left alone for a moment."

Harry began walking with the busy professor to her Transfiguration classroom. "I was just wondering if you'd made any progress on Snape yet?"

Professor McGonagall stopped and gave Harry a harsh look. "I thought I told you to stay out of it, Potter." She said.

"I'm eighteen. I have every right to know any updates!" Harry pointed out. He was tired of being left in the dark. He had spent far too many years letting Dumbledore keep him in the dark about things. He'd be damned if it happened again.

"Yes, Potter," she sighed, continuing her quick pace. "The board meeting did not go as I had hoped. I presented them an extremely reasonable plan, and they shot the idea down. The only one who voted for it was Lucius Malfoy."

Harry stopped dead in his tracks. "Malfoy?" he sputtered.

"Yes, Potter. Shut your mouth before a fly gets in," McGonagall said, not stopping her pace. "I then wrote another letter to Mr. Weston and got a response from Severus. He let me know under no uncertain terms that he was fine and wanted to be left alone."

"You mean Snape actually wrote back? Not that Weston bastard?"

McGonagall gave him a glare. "Mr. Weston, Potter. The man has done nothing illegal and is being very negotiable. Yes, Severus wrote back himself."

"And said he didn't want our help?" Harry scoffed. "Sounds like him. So what's the plan? Ron and I have a free period and-"

"I created your class schedule, Potter. You have Potions right now, I know as fact."

Harry shrugged. "I'm skiving off. Permanently. Hermione is helping me study theory and all that, so I can pass my NEWTs, but I'm not learning anything in that damned classroom."

"Language, Potter."

"So the plan?"

McGonagall turned sharply as she stepped into her Transfiguration class, which silenced immediately as she stepped in. "We will discuss this later, Potter."

"Just a hint? Ron and I could go to the library and look up any-"

"Did you not hear what I told you, Potter?" McGonagall scorned him. "Severus has quite blatantly said that he wanted to be alone."

Harry's jaw dropped. "But you're not giving up?"

"What do you expect me to do?" She asked, sounding much like her seventy-three years all of a sudden. "It's a permanent spell, and there is no way we can get his owner to sell him for an amount we could actually afford. The Board of Governors did not accept my petition to buy him, even with a well-organised profitable plan."

"We could give him a fair trial!" Harry exclaimed. "We could publish interviews in the Prophet! We could make the Ministry admit they made a mistake to the-"

"The Ministry will never admit such a thing, even with Kingsley Shacklebolt in charge, Potter." She said. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have a class to teach."

Harry wasn't about to be deterred. "Could you at least-"

"No, Potter. Five points from Gryffindor! This conversation is over. Now if you will please escort yourself out of my classroom..." She turned to her class and began lecturing them on the subject of Transfiguration, Harry forgotten.

Harry turned and blindly ran through the maze of the halls, up various stairs, around complicated corridors. He hadn't lived at Hogwarts for six years of his life to not know where he was going. Of course, he could always get lost, but that was not too likely. He had spent too many hours consulting the Marauder's Map for that.

He burst into the Gryffindor common room, where Ron and several other seventh year boys were lounging about.

"Ron!" He said harshly, causing the redhead to look up in surprise. "We need to talk."

Ron awkwardly got up from the floor. "What is it?" He said in a low voice, as worry creased his forehead.

Harry bounded up the steps to their dormitory, and Ron followed, shooting the other seventh years a warning glance that clearly said not to follow.

Harry flopped down on his bed. "We've got to do something. McGonagall is giving up."

"On Snape?" Ron asked, sitting on the bed beside Harry.

"Yeah." Harry could not remember ever feeling so furious. He crossed his arms stubbornly across his chest. "Apparently she got a letter from him that said for us to bugger off, so she's just going to let it be."

"Oh." Ron said awkwardly. "Well... if that's what he wants, then-"

Has everyone gone mad?"No! It can't be what he wants!" Harry sat up and starting pacing. "That Weston probably made him write that shit. There's no way Snape - the Snape we know - would ever be happy in a life of slavery. Ever."

Ron was quiet for a moment. "Maybe it's not the Snape we know, Harry. I mean, we don't know Snape."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Harry fumed. He understood that they did not know Severus Snape outside of the professor/student relationship, but that did not mean that they shouldn't care.

Ron shrugged. "You heard what Dad and George said. He was babbling and scared and-"

"He was under the influence of a sleeping potion!" Harry cried out. "I know you haven't spent as much time in the Hospital Wing as I have, but you have to know how those things work. You wake up, you're all groggy, and you start babbling things you don't mean..."

"But the next day, he wasn't." Ron pointed out. "George and Bill said he was on his knees and chained up and everything and didn't fight it. No glares, or anything Can you imagine the Snape we know willingly get up on a stage and get auctioned off? 'Cause I sure as hell can't."

Harry shook his head. "He was probably just doing it because he thought we were going to buy him. He wouldn't be sold if he didn't cooperate."

"If he wanted us to buy him, he would have made an arse of himself," Ron said. "He would have sold for much less if he hadn't been on his best behaviour."

Ron had a point, Harry had to admit. "But there's a reason for it, I'm sure. If we could only get a chance to bloody talk to him... and damn McGonagall! The bloody Order! We could have afforded to buy him a thousand times over if we could have just used some of Sirius' money!"

"Your godfather will be spinning in his grave if you use a knut of his money for that."

"He hasn't got a grave." Harry felt the need to point out.

"Did you ask her if you could see the letter?" Hermione asked Harry in the library after supper. One of the conditions on working with Hermione was simply trying to get into her busy schedule, as she took many, many classes, rarely had a free period, and when she did, used them to study. "What if there were a lot of ink blots on it? That would be a sign of struggle. Mr. Weston probably did make him write the letter."

"I don't understand why we can't just break down the wards." Harry moaned, flopping his head on a table in the library, his glasses getting pressed up against his face. "If we've got Kingsley on our side, why can't we just go to Weston's and-"

"It would be breaking the law," Hermione said, briskly. "We can't just walk in and take Snape. As inhumane as it is, legally, Snape is Mr. Weston's property." Her face showed disgust.

"And Mrs. Weston's." Ron added. "Don't forget - they are both registered as his owners." Ron paused a moment. "Hey, I've got an idea!"

"What is it, Ronald?" Hermione sighed. Ron's ideas were few and far between, and his good ideas were rarer than that.

"Why don't we just offer to buy him ourselves? Behind McGonagall's back, you know?" Ron asked. "The Order got angry when you offered, Harry, but now if they've all given up-"

"He can't do that, Ron." Hermione argued. "His parents and Sirius gave him that money. He needs it."

"Noint." Harry mumbled against the table.

"For goodness sakes, Harry! What'd you say?" Hermione asked, frustrated.

Harry lifted his head up from the table just high enough to speak. "No, I don't."

Hermione stared at him incredulously. "What do you mean you don't?"

He shrugged. "I don't need it all. I'm going to be an Auror, anyway, and they make loads of money. Besides I couldn't run out of Sirius' inheritance if I tried; I could buy a million Snapes and still have three times the amount of money that has ever passed through anywhere else in Gringotts."

Ron snorted. "Yeah, that's the last thing we need. A million Snapes. So, if you do buy him, what are you going to do with him, Harry?" His eyes lit up. "Bloody hell, you'd have total control over him then. He'd have to call you 'Master' and-"

"Shut up, Ron!" Hermione flashed back. "He's not going to do no such thing! He'd treat Snape the same way he always did."

Ron chuckled. "Well, Snape'll still have to practically kiss his feet every time he sees him. Isn't revenge sweet?" He sighed dreamily.

"I don't believe you! The man saved Harry's life; he's a war hero! If it weren't for him, we'd probably all be dead!" Hermione shrieked at her boyfriend.

"Well, he was a right git for years, to all of us. I think it would be-"

"You're impossible! How would you feel if-"

"Shut it!" Harry slammed one of the many books on slavery shut. As much research as they did, they could not find a way to undo that slavery spell. It was an ancient one that had been refined, taking out all loopholes. It was purely irreversible, that much was true. "I'm going to go to bed."

"Harry, it's only seven-thirty." Hermione said quietly, nodding towards the large clock on the library wall.

He shrugged. "I don't know. I just need some time to think"

As he trudged back to his room, his mind whirred with thoughts. He did kind of hate Snape. Ron was right, Snape had been a git for the entire six years he had been Harry's teacher. He had loathed Harry from the moment he laid eyes on him. He had gone out of his way in every lesson, at every interval, to insult Harry, Harry's father, and the rest of the Marauder's, in order to humiliate Harry.

Briefly over the summer Harry had wondered if the hatred had just been a cover. Hating Harry was necessary in order to be a spy for the Order...

But, no. He did hate Harry. He really, really hated Harry. He had hated Harry initially because Harry looked like his dad, but after that, found new things to despise. He hated Harry's personality, smell, grades, that he was The-Boy-Who-Lived. He doubted it had to do anything with the idea that the whole reason Harry's mum had died was because of Harry, as Harry's mum probably would have been killed that night, anyhow.

Despite how much as he hated Harry, he had saved his life on several occasions. If it hadn't been for him, the War could have gone drastically different. Hell, they might have never made it to the War. Snape at least deserved a little bit of respect for that. Harry couldn't imagine how much stress Snape must have been under, trying to be a spy and all.

All in all, Harry felt like he owed Snape. Snape had done so much for him, however reluctantly. Snape was in a situation much worse than just a little jam, and much worse than being on a jinxed broomstick; Harry needed to at least try to help him.

You're bloody Harry Potter, he realised as he lied in bed with his clothes on and pulling the curtains around him. Professor McGonagall always makes a big deal about how Weston likes to have connections, how the only reason he's so famous is because he knows so many famous people. Just offer to buy Snape. Say "name your price"; he'll probably sell if it's Harry Potter asking. Not Hogwarts, but Harry Potter.

He rarely liked to make a big deal that he was famous, or that the world owed him everything, but it could occasionally come in handy. He opened the curtains to one side of his bed and picked up his book bag. Pulling out some parchment and his inkwell and quill, he thought a moment before he began writing,

January 4th, 1999
Harry James Potter
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Dear Mr. Weston,

He paused. Flattery was likely the best place to start. Flattery, telling Mr. Weston how strongly he admired his... his... Harry looked over to a picture he had kept in a file Hermione had given him, where he also kept copies of newspaper clippings about Snape, copies of Snape's birth certificate and other legal records... anything and everything that had anything to do with Snape and his enslavement.

How much I admire your moustache? How much I admire you for owning some lame broomstick company?He shook his head.

I've heard a lot about you, sir. Your work at your company is very astounding. I did a report on it during second-year, actually. We had to do reports on very influential companies and such, and I chose yours. It is quite an honour to be writing you.

He smirked. There was no such paper, but also no proof.

I hear that you have purchased a new slave named Severus Tobias Snape. It has caused quite a stir around Hogwarts, actually, sir. Snape used to work here as a Potions master, Defence teacher, and headmaster.

Harry paused. He couldn't make it sound like he wanted Snape too badly. He had to be careful, because he only got one chance to make a first-impression.

He pulled off his glasses and began fiercely rubbing at his green eyes before replacing his glasses. He would get the letter off to Richard Weston that night, even if it took him until three in the morning.

It did.

Severus leaned against the foggy window. The cold transmitted through the glass quickly moved through his body, causing the hairs on his arms to stand on end. The frigid cold was welcome, however, as two very non-frigid people were in the bed behind him.

"Aah." He heard Master moan. Severus did not bother to turn around. "Don't you ever stop, you damn hedonist?"

"Mmmm..." Came the response from the other person in the bed. "I'm a young male. We're famed for it." The younger man who was no older than eighteen-years-old had a thick French accent and unruly blonde hair. Tanned and muscular, he had stopped in hours ago and had immediately joined Master and Severus for a threesome.

Master and the boy were apparently experienced in such matters, and both seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. For Severus, it made the sex just a lot more awkward, leaving him always wonder where to place his leg, his mouth. Then again, Master and the boy consistently paused to take a swig of Firewhiskey, putting them at ease. They had not offered Severus any alcohol, which he could have greatly used.

He leaned as close to the window as he could, taking in every bit of the icy temperature he could in his overheated nude body. He watched people walk down the crowded pavement, avoiding the icy spots. Some people walked dogs on leashes, which made Severus wish Master would take him out. He hadn't left the hotel room once in four days, since they arrived in Paris. He knew it was quite hapless to be jealous of little terriers, but it was the truth.

He watched as a bicyclist wove her way unsteadily down the icy street, as a constable walked up to a loitering man outside the building across the street, likely to warn him to get a move on. He watched as a young man and woman dashed across the streets, holding each other's gloved hands, laughing wildly. Had he ever been that young, that carefree? He didn't think he had. He had always been old, haggard, and responsible for too much.

The sky was black. The bright city lights did not give the stars any room to shine. That was an abrupt change to his life, as he had spent much of his life at Hogwarts, where there were stars. Hundreds of thousands of them, nearly every night. He and Lily...

No. He would not think about Lily ever again, but especially not when he had the semen of two men, one whom he did not even know, covering his sweaty and sticky body.

"Severus, come back to bed." Master beckoned from the bed, where the teenager was grinding himself lazily against Master's leg.

"That window is not leaving the spectateurs much room for imagination." The teenager laughed, planting a soppy and no doubt alcohol-induced kiss. He then said something in French that caused Master to laugh.

Damn the French again! Master and Mistress constantly spoke French to each other when they didn't want him to understand, and the enslavement spell he was under had also been cast in French. He was doomed to forever be taunted by the language.

He turned from the window and headed back to the bed, but was distracted by an owl at the window.

A small light brown owl was pecking on the window.

"Master, an owl." Severus motioned to the window, one knee bent on the bed. If Master was going to tell him to ignore it, he had no choice but to, though he would rather go see what the owl had.

It was four in the morning in Paris, and so he would likely be fumbling in bed with the other two men until six, when Mistress came back from wherever she had gone and the boy had to go to his job or school. It was exhausting to be a slave, as his body was a slave to Master's touch. All the man had to do was touch his genitals and forehead simultaneously, to invoke an erection that would not naturally subside. It made the natural periods of recovery that men experienced non-existent, periods of recovery Master and the young boy were also apparently avoiding through potion-use.

"Get it," Master said distractedly as he crawled onto the young French boy.

Severus turned and opened the window, not caring about the freezing gust of wind that hit his bare body, nor about the sight the people on the streets would see if they looked up to see an unclothed man leaning out a window. In his past life, he would have been very conscious and embarrassed of the latter fact and would have not been caught dead as he was currently.

"Hallo," he said in a soft voice, reaching out with his slender fingers to stroke the owl's soft feathers. "Have you got a letter for Master?"

The owl hopped towards him and bunted it's small cold body under his long hand. Although owls typically hated him, this one was apparently cold.

"Where are you from?" He whispered.

It's a bloody owl. It's not as if he can answer you. Severus did not care, as he needed conversation. He needed two words to exchange with someone. He couldn't explain the urge, but it was an owl, so it wasn't likely out of his place to do so. It was not as if he was disrespecting it, either.

He eyed the note attached to the owl's legs and felt his heart drop into his stomach. He would recognize that handwriting anywhere.

"What the hell are you doing, Severus?" Master shouted from the bed. "Stop trying to heat the whole world!"

"Yes, sir. I apologise, sir." Severus said quickly, picking up the owl and bringing it to his chest in an attempt to warm it before shutting the window.

He turned around, fiddling with the letter attached to the owl's leg. It was addressed to Master... Severus had to give it to him, though he wished he could proof-read it before doing that. What on earth wouldPotter have to say to Master?

"Argh. Don't you ever quit?" Master laughed again, grabbing a bottle of Firewhiskey off the bedside cabinet and downing its contents.

"Winners never quit and quitters never win." The young French replied cheekily.

"Yes, but those who never win or quit are numbskulls." Severus muttered, eyeing the letter while stroking the owl. He hoped to warm it before he had to sit it down, as it had likely had a long flight, and had to be freezing.

Master didn't seem to hear him. "Is it from Tina?" Master asked in between snogging the young boy.

"No, sir. It is from-"

"Then get in bed." Master directed.

"Yes, sir." Severus reluctantly sat the bird down on a dresser across the room.

"Don't watch if you don't want to." He whispered, feeling like a foolish child for talking to an owl. Then again, owls were very smart and magical creatures. "We have an entire suite to ourselves; you can fly out to the sitting room and see if you cannot find any crackers or leftovers from-"


"Sorry, sir." Severus turned his attention from the owl and bounded into the bed. As he immediately became entangled in other limbs and began giving pleasure in the ways that each men preferred, his mind was not on his task. It was on-

"Richard? Are you home? Where's the slave sleeping? Lumos." The room flooded with light as Mistress opened the door and eyed the three tangled men on the bed. She let out an shrill and horrified scream.

Chapter Text

Her shrill screams vibrated the very walls of the suite. The boring pictures, cheap copies of popular paintings, threatened to fall off the walls. The room seemed to freeze in time. Until Mistress' rage led to her starting to throw things, that was.

People with magical blood were capable of throwing hexes left and right. However, often times, in the heat of the moment, wizards and witches often resorted to physical violence. Humans all had a need to burn off their anger, magical or otherwise. The major difference was that Muggles eventually ran out of things to break. With a simple Accio and Reparo, magical people could continue expressing their rage.

The first item thrown, a vase, exploded on the headboard above their heads. A paper weight summoned from the sitting room landed squarely on Severus' knee. He opened his mouth, letting out a silent cry of pain as pain exploded. He did not cry out loud sheerly out of habit. He gasped for breath, half-fumbling and half-falling out of the bed, narrow avoiding getting hit by a wine goblet.

Quickly disentangling his long pale legs from the sheets, he sought refuge beneath the bed. Damn. It was positioned much too low to crawl under.

Another voice added to the noise Mistress was making. A squawk, more accurately. The light brown owl was hovering around the window, making loud noises, obviously as desperate to escape as Severus was.

Severus stood up and made a mad grab for the bird, succeeding despite the bird's wildly flapping wings. He clutched the bird to his chest, escaping to the corner of the room, well-hidden behind an overstuffed armchair.

He watched as Mistress continued ranting and raving, throwing things at Master. The French boy had seemed to think that Severus had had a good idea; he was out of the bed, on the opposite side of the room, pulling gaudy robes over his bare body.

Severus could not help but wistfully wish that he was in the same position as the young wizard. He wished that he could get dressed and dash out of the hotel, never having to face Mistress' wrath. But he would have to, because he had no choice.

Mistress had never gotten that angry before, but he could imagine what was going to happen. Whenever his own father had gotten mad, he had hurt Severus' mother. Whenever he either got tired of punching her, or she raised her wand against him, Tobias tried to hurt Severus, and unlike his mother, Severus had not had the benefit of having a wand to use in his defence. The same thing, more or less, would happen here, twenty-five years later. Mistress would eventually start harming him, and there was nothing he could do about it. He would not even be able to raise his hands to protect himself.

"It will be all right." He whispered almost inaudibly to the owl. He told himself that he was assuring the owl, rather than himself. "You will be safe." As soon as he got the chance, he would remove the letter on the bird and let the owl out the window and let her fly back to her master, who would undoubtedly feed her various treats, pet her, and let her know how much she was appreciated and important she was.

Perhaps someday Master might want Severus in raven form all the time. Then all Severus would have to do is fly. He missed flying. He hadn't transformed into his Animagus form since the first night at Master Mering's, which had been a stupid mistake altogether.

He was not one to babble, nor was he one to offer meaningless words of comfort. However, the owl seemed so incredibly terrified by all of the shouting, screaming, and breaking glass. It also made him feel a little better, himself.

Severus gave a gasp as Mistress' powerful stinging hex aimed for Master missed, hitting Severus.

"You son of a bitch!" Mistress yelled, repairing the vase and mindlessly throwing it at Master once again. "Cheating! On me! With men, no less!" Her eyes were wild with rage, and were quite terrifying. "With a teenager and- and a slave!" she shrieked, pointing at Severus, who blanched without thinking.

"Come, Tina, be reasonable." Master's voice sounded strangely calm for the situation at hand. He took his wand off the bedside table and summoned his clothes to him. Master had spelled away Severus' clothes and taken away his wand shortly after arriving to the suite, claiming that Severus wouldn't be needing them.

"Reasonable? Reasonable?" Mistress' voice got impossibly high-pitched. "You are a disgusting, immoral-"

Severus tuned her out. She did the very same things Master did. She brought men home and betrayed her husband. She used Severus at least three or four times a week alone – and while she really wanted and let Severus do all the work, he was doing it under her orders. She was not kind to him like Master was. Master never yelled at Severus, whilst Mistress yelled a lot, and punished him much more than Master did. Master sometimes gave Severus treats on random occasions, and gave Severus attention. He allowed Severus to speak to him, and laughed at his responses. Master called him "pet" sometimes, and treated him special, like he wasn't just any old slave at all, or a Death Eater, but like he was something truly exceptional. He would not listen to her insult Master like she was. He could not defend Master, especially since Mistress had forbade him to speak of their own "lovemaking", but it did not mean he had to listen to it.

He looked down and began stroking the owl's soft feathers. He Occluded his mind so that he was not really present. He hadn't been doing that as much lately. Master treated him very well, and Mistress almost as well. There was no thoughts to avoid thinking, except for thoughts of his past life, which he still thought about a lot, as much as he hated to.

His mind wandered to how he had been when he first got to Master Mering's. He had been both defiant and proud. He had been a slave then, too, but now something was different. He was giving into the orders now, but he had to. If he didn't, his owners would be very angry and punish him, and he was not one to bite the hand that fed him.

"Tu n'es qu'un chien dégoûtant et inutile!" Mistress was shouting at Master, who now stood very close to her, holding up his hands, trying to calm her down. "Rien d'autre qu'une ordure. Tu n'es rien pour moi, rien! Je savais que ce mariage était une erreur, je le savais!"

Master spoke in a low voice. Severus could tell it was French, but he did not try to make out what Master was saying. He could not understand French at all, and besides that, it was none of his business what Master and Mistress said to each other.

"Get. Out." Mistress' words were like venom. "And take your filthy little... sex slave with you. I never want to set eyes on his ugly face again, understand? Never. Get. Out." Her eyes were hard, her wand aimed threateningly at Master. "I will owl you the divorce papers."

"Tina, darling..." Master whinged. "You don't want to do this. The papers... we will both lose any influence we have in society. We were nothing until we married and now-"

"We'll discuss this later. Not now. Now," Mistress took a deep breath. "Get out before I do something I regret."

"Come, Severus. We're leaving." Master's voice was flat.

Severus, not letting the owl out of his arms, crawled out from his hiding spot and went over to Master, head bowed. Mistress was angry at him; her eyes held nothing but hatred in them as she stared at Severus.

He bit his lip as he passed her and followed Master into the hotel corridor. "Master?" Severus then inquired quietly.

"What?" Master snapped, whirling around to face Severus. He realised the problem right away; he waved his wand, and Severus' clothes, wand in pocket, appeared suddenly back on his' body.

"Thank you, Master." Severus said. He had hated to interrupt Master like that, especially when Severus was supposed to never broach conversation himself, but they were in a public place. Slave or not, it was improper to be unclothed in public.

He followed Master out the hotel foyer, gasping as he stepped out onto the icy pavement. He had not worn shoes in months, but that had been all right at Master and Mistress', for he had left the house few times in those months. However, now it was cold outside, snowing even. His feet would not last long in the snow, even with warming charms he could apply, which he promptly did.

"Grab a hold," Master said.

Severus did not hesitate, but walked the space between them and gripped Master's arm.

Master closed his eyes and Severus felt the melting feeling associated with Apparating. It was not painful at all, like the Cruciatus had been, but it had upset more than one wizard's stomach. Severus had (luckily?) seen and done enough in his life to not sick up at much any longer. Besides, he had not much in his stomach except a few dry crackers, water, and Master and the French boy's seed.

They Apparated outside a lowbrow motel, near the ocean. The motel looked run-down, but Severus had a feeling Master had not Apparated here for the motel. No, he had Apparated there for the Muggle pub which sat next door, that much was obvious from the way Master kept glancing at the pub and back to Severus.

Master fished in the pockets of his trousers and pulled out a small sack of Galleons. "Rent us a room for the night. Get one key, go up to the room and stay there. If you need anything, just ask the staff. Don't refer to me as 'Master' or they'll have to call their Muggle authorities. Apparently slavery is illegal in the Muggle world, for what idiotic reasons, I haven't a clue." He seemed to be speaking more to himself than to Severus.

"Yes, sir," Severus said quietly. He could not help but wish he was a Muggle, as then he would not be a slave. Was he willing to give up his magic for freedom? Perhaps not. He really did not care about freedom, he supposed. He had never had it.

Master had apparently not thought his plan through carefully enough. The motel was indeed a Muggle motel and would not accept Galleons, even though they were gold. Severus managed glamour them to look like Muggle money, but he had no clue if the glamour would hold. He could only hope. Charms had not been his best subject.

It was very late in the morning by the time Master arrived back to the motel. When Master finally stumbled through the door to their small room, he looked around blearily and more or less collapsed on the bed, nearly unconscious.

"Master?" Severus whispered. The man was either out or did not feel like answering him.

Severus bent over the bed and turned the man over. He reeked of alcohol and sex. Master had likely hooked up with a Muggle at the pub, which was perhaps no the best thing to do when your marriage was on the rocks. In any case, Severus was glad to have been spared from involvement.

He bent down and began carefully untying Masters shoes. He could have used magic, but it was not worth it. The enslavement curse might think, if he pointed his wand at his master, that he intended to do damage. He slipped off Master's shoes and socks, put the socks in the shoes, and tucked the shoes beside the bed.

He then turned to the owl, which was standing on the small table, looking ruffled. "I suppose it is time for you to go now." Severus said with a sigh. "I am sorry I took you so far." He was not exactly thrilled that he had to let the owl go. The owl was someone he had been able to talk to and vent to for hours, something he had not had the liberty of doing in... years, really. In the past, the only person who had truly known Severus' struggles was Albus Dumbledore, who had chosen to brush him off more often than not.

Severus untied the letter on the owl's leg and opened the window. "There; have a nice flight," he said flatly.

The owl just looked at Severus, but did not fly away.

"What?" Severus sneered. "Would you like me to feed you? Pay you? Well, I apologise, but I haven't anything. Nothing to feed you and no money to-" he stopped. He did have the Galleons Master gave him to pay for their room. Severus hadn't needed much of the sack's contents at all.

He brought the sack over the the owl. "Here, take this. It's a lot, but this is the only way you're going to be able to-" he said, while attempting to tie the sack to the owl.

However, when he did, the owl just bit him.

Severus sighed. All owls seemed to eventually hate him because of his animagus, and it was tiresome to deal with. "What do you want? I have not any food for Master when he wakes, or for myself. I cannot possibly feed- fine. Stay here. Do not let me stop you."

As he turned around and collapsed on the floor, next to Master's bed, he fervently wished for a Hangover Potion. Master was going to need it when he woke up. Perhaps Master and Mistress would make up soon - Severus had banished several types of bugs, mould, and vermin out of the motel room when he got there, but there was likely still more. Master would not like it if he knew how filthy his motel room was.

The owl hooted, flying on top of Severus and gently nipping his ear.

"What?" He asked, in an exasperated whisper.

The owl flew over to the bedside table, where motel stationary was lying out, back to Severus, and then back to the bedside table.

"You want me to write back to Potter?" Severus asked, realising he had probably been told not to leave until she had a response.

"Master would probably like to be the one to write back." Severus said. "The letter is addressed to Master."

Then again, Master would not have to proofread this letter. He never had to know that the owl had demanded return-service. Severus could respond however he liked to Potter. Master would be angry if he knew. It was wrong to do things like that behind Master's back, and, of course, Severus did not have a reason to write to Potter. He was happy in his situation and did not fancy getting "rescued".


Harry hadn't gotten any sleep that night. Not a wink. He had stayed up too late writing the letter to Weston, re-writing it, sneaking up to the Owlry to send it, chickening out and going back to his dorm to re-write it, and so on. He hadn't sent it until about two. Then he had paced back and forth in the Owlry for hours, hoping that maybe Weston was a night-owl and would respond as soon as possible. He finally gave up and collapsed on the common room sofa, where he had sat, watching the flames dance, for hours.

"Don't lie to me, Harry." Hermione rolled her eyes as they took their seats at breakfast. "You had a rough night. What happened?"

"You probably slept too much." Ron advised, filling his mouth with poached eggs. "Percy used to sleep all the time, and Mum said that sleeping too much is just as bad as not sleeping at all."

Harry shook his head. He poked at his sausage, but did not feel hungry enough to eat it. He didn't really know how to explain to his friends about how what he was thinking. He was worried about Snape; although he barely knew the man, he had come to recognise him as an Order member, as well as a brave person. Perhaps he wasn't a good person, but he had been prepared to give up everything for the good side. Given the memories Harry saw, perhaps he had given up everything. He knew Snape was a huge proponent of the phrase "life isn't fair", but he was pretty sure even the slimy git would agree that he had gotten shafted.

He didn't know how to explain that to his friends, though. They'd think he'd finally went round the twist if he was losing sleep over it. "I just have a lot on my mind."

Hermione smiled sympathetically. "We'll fix it, Harry. We will. I am thinking about changing the name of S.P.E.W, but face it - S.P.E.W is so catchy. We need to replaced the 'E' with another vowel. 'E' could stand for 'enslaved', I suppose." She began neatly cutting up her waffles. "I sent a letter to the Ministry this morning, asking them to revise their laws on slavery to make them more humane. I am going to start asking the other students to send the letters, as well. Do you think a petition would make much of a difference? If we could get all the students and their families to sign it, then perhaps the Ministry will-"

"Given up on freeing the enslaved altogether?" Ron raised a brow, swallowing his fried bread before he continued. "Seriously, 'Mione - I thought the day would never come."

She made a face. "We need to start with slower steps. I kept trying to induce big changes all at one time. That was a mistake on my part, I'll admit it. If we make the changes slowly over the course of several years before outlawing slavery, it will be smoother. We can't expect to change everyone's views on a subject overnight, and besides, Professor Snape cannot be freed. The spell on him is irreversible."

Harry would let her do whatever she wanted to do. He thought slavery was wrong, sure, but it wasn't what his main concern was. His problem was that Snape was not where he was supposed to be. He was supposed to be at the head table, overhearing every word every student said, shooting glares in the back of Harry's head, and then go down to his Potions classroom, taking away more points from Gryffindor in one sitting than most professors took away in six months. He didn't really care what the laws said, as long as the law made Snape the exception or allowed him to live with any Order member.

Well, not just any Order member. McGonagall and Kingsley had proven to be failures in the rescuing-Snape department. Harry had seriously considered affixing a sign that said 'traitor' to the back of Kingsley's shiny head, but had thought better of it when he thought of all the combat training Kingsley had been through.

"Harry, are you listening?" Hermione elbowed him. "What do you think? Should we give Rita Skeeter an exclusive interview, or no? I don't think Xenophilius Lovegood is someone I trust at all any longer, but we could probably get the Prophet to print it word-for-word, if we tried hard enough."

Harry shook his head. He was starting to get a really bad headache, but he wasn't about to go up to the infirmary and ask Madame Pomfrey for a headache draught. Although he had learned how to brew one in fourth-year, he had no clue how to make one. Since he was just a kid, he had botched nearly every potion he touched, except for in sixth-year, when he had had the Prince's book...

He flushed and began stirring his food around on his plate. He had had so much on his mind that sometimes he forgot about the whole Prince thing. As a sixteen-year-old, he had become enamoured with the Prince. He was obviously intelligent, with a wicked sense of humour. There were occasionally sheets of parchment with poems or lyrics to 1970's Muggle and wizarding songs tucked between the pages, or hilarious drawings of some professors. Not knowing who he was had been part of the intrigue. He would never admit it to anyone, but he had wanked more than once to the thought of the Prince. No one could ever know that; he would never be able to live it down. It wasn't as if he had known it was his professor.

"Harry, you've got to use words or I won't know what direction to go in!" Hermione sighed. "Honestly, sometimes I think Ronald is rubbing off on you too much."

"Hey!" Ron protested, eggs flying out of his mouth and landing in Hermione's bushy hair.

As his friends began to squabble, Harry returned to his thoughts. No matter how he had felt about Snape, on purpose or accidentally, the man needed rescued. And it seemed it was going to be a small army, to rescue him.

The Weasleys made nine - no, eight, as Fred was no longer with them. Eight, plus Luna and Neville, plus Harry and Hermione, which made twelve. Twelve. Twelve people to rescue Snape. Twelve people against the Ministry, laws as old as Merlin, and the rest of the world. A measly twelve.

If he had learned one thing whilst fighting the War, it was that numbers were not always the important thing. It was that good always won in the end. Sometimes the end was not in sight, and sometimes you died trying, but in the end, good would always prevail. They would succeed on getting Snape back safely, even if he had to remain a slave. If they tried hard enough, and exhausted every resource, they had to. They were the good guys, after all.

Chapter Text

Misery. Misery was not being owned by another person. Misery was not getting punished. Misery was not being humiliated. Misery was not being hungry. Misery was not being stuck inside day in and day out. Misery was not getting hung upside down by your arch-enemy. Misery was not losing your love to your arch-enemy. Misery was not knowing that you were responsible for the death of the love of your life. Misery was not teaching Hufflepuff Potions. Misery was not a severe bout with the flu, your body resistant to the potions to cure it. Misery was not playing the part of a spy two-ways. Misery was not being alone. Misery was not not having anyone to talk to. Misery was not whatever normal people thought to be misery.

No, misery was being useless. Misery was have nothing to do. Misery was having no way to use your brain. Misery was just sitting, in a corner, for hours at a time, with nothing to do. Misery was knowing that you were the one responsible for not only your misery, but someone else's misery.

Each day the past fortnight was exactly the same for Severus. Master would get up at about three o'clock in the afternoon, very sick after drinking so much. After coaxing various potions down the man's throat, Severus would be left alone, whilst Master went wherever he went. Severus then cleaned up what vomit had escaped from Master's throat while sick, spelled clean all of the bedsheets and the bathroom, made the bed with the blankets folded back and a warming charm at the foot of it, and sent the light brown owl away with an order for more Hangover Potion. Then Severus sat in the left corner of the room, between the bed and the wall, and just waited for Master to come back, which was usually not until very early in the morning.

Plastered, Master would collapse in bed. Severus would take off Master's shoes, change Master's clothes, and cover him up. Master brought in, most of the time, food with him. Severus would use a reheating spell if he were not too tired and eat it. Then he would go back into his corner and go back to sleep, only to repeat the process in a few hours.

The owl stayed. Severus hadn't exchanged any words at all with Master in two weeks, so he hadn't yet asked him about the reply. However, he would the next afternoon after Master woke up. It was not that he did not like having the owl around; he did, as it was not only the only owl to have ever liked him, but he desperately wanted company. However, Master needed to know about the letter. It felt dishonest to not let him pen the response. Severus could be dishonest to anyone and not feel guilty, but this was Master.

Severus could only imagine where Master went in the evenings. Severus knew he always ended up at a pub or club. If not the one next door, one somewhere else. Sometimes he suspected Master went to England or Paris, likely spur the moment. Nearly every night, Severus could tell he had had sex, although he had touched Severus only twice since coming to the hotel. Severus' sense of smell was a very good one, and combined with the facts that he had come very familiar with the scent of sex and that Severus was the one to put Master in his pyjamas every night, he knew. He always knew.

However, he did not say anything.

Severus did not know how he felt about it, though Merlin knew he spent a lot of time dwelling on it. He couldn't say he missed being tied up, blindfolded, gagged, or used by strangers at the secret events Master brought him to. He could not say he hated it, because Master always told Severus that Severus enjoyed it, but Severus thought that maybe he secretly did hate it, deep down inside. He knew he hated bondage. Master always said that Severus liked being touched and used. He never said anything about the get-up, the pain, the plugs, the clamps, or the humiliation.

But Severus did not care about humiliation any longer. He did not even really remember what it was. He could remember that people blushed when they were embarrassed, that sometimes they were self-conscious or felt that they wanted to disappear, but he could not remember what that felt like to experience. He had not been humiliated in a long time. Or had he, and he just did not notice it any longer? He could not remember.

His thoughts were very scattered of late. Sometimes he could not figure out the simplest of human emotion. He tried to put words to what he was feeling, but gave it up as a bad job. It was too hard.

Too hard. He knew that in his past life, he would have never said anything was "too hard". Then again, he thought about his past life less and less. Whoever he had been in his past life was a different person. Whenever he did think of his memories, it was as if viewing them in a Pensieve. He could see himself sweeping in a room, sneering at people, saying highly intelligent things, and people respecting him, but it was all fuzzy in his mind. It just did not make sense. That was him? It did not feel like him. Could he have possibly really said this, thought that, did this or that? He simply did not know what to make of his memories any longer.

So he tried to forget them. The memories before September 2nd, 1998, did not matter any longer.

His stomach rumbled and he thought about going into the bathroom and cupping water with his hands out of the sink to fill his stomach until Master got home. It did not feel worth the effort. Although he had always been thin, he could feel himself shrinking. Even though Severus did not do much each day, he felt so tired, all of the time. He did not know if it was related to how little he ate, but it did not concern him, as not much did.

Master did. Master concerned him greatly. Master was not sleeping enough, and likely not eating enough. Getting drunk every evening was bad for him. Shagging different people every night, without proper protection, was bad for him. Whenever Master had used Severus, he had made him take a potion that Severus had had made every student in fourth-year and above brew and keep in their own private stores. It was a potion to prevent diseases and such from being spread. Magic could do little or nothing to cure sexually transmitted diseases once one had them, but it could prevent them from being transferred either way.

Severus had a feeling Master was not using said potion, because where would Master get it? Severus was the one sending for the Hangover Potions, using the sack of Galleons Master had given him to pay for it. He knew he should probably try to present himself to Master, in order to try to keep him from shagging other people, but the thought made him very sad for reasons he did not know.

That said, who was he to question Master? Master was right. He was always right.

He heard footsteps outside the hall. Severus stumbled to his feet. He usually opened the door for Master, even though Master had his own key. Master was usually too drunk to succeed in opening the Muggle lock himself, and besides, it was Severus' duty to do whatever he could for Master.

But that night, Master opened the door before Severus could get to the door. Severus was puzzled by the perfectly alert look in Master's eyes, but did not question it out loud. He simply got on his knees and bowed.

"Master." He greeted his owner.

"Go stand against the wall." Master directed, putting the take-away food on the table which, by Severus' sense of smell, smelled Indian, fresh, and warm. Master had gotten it and immediately Apparated back. Severus didn't know what that meant. Did it mean anything?

Severus stood against the wall, straight, his back pressed up to the wall. Master had done the same thing to him a week ago, so this time he knew what to expect.

Master walked over to him and waved his wand, easily stripping Severus of his clothes.

Severus did not argue, try to cover himself, or feel any shame. He remembered feeling that way in the past, but could not longer understand why.

"Don't speak. Stand still." Master directed, uttering a spell under his breath, a spell that, once again, Severus had never heard of before the previous week. That was more common than one might think. There were spells all over the world. The spells taught in schools were usually old spells, of Latin origin, used universally. However, some countries had spells in their native languages that were not taught in schools. There were thousands upon thousands spells in the world. One could not possibly learn them all.

Severus could not help but feel nervous as his feet started to glow blue. Master ran his wand up against the length of Severus' bod. The higher the wand went, the more of Severus glowed blue, until it surpassed Severus' head. The glow immediately disappeared.

Severus did not feel any different. The glow hadn't felt like anything. He felt not a burn or a tingle, and felt not cold or hot. He would not have even noticed had he not been looking.

Master seemed to know what he was doing, as he consulted a piece of parchment he was holding.

"Fine. Good." Master muttered. He waved his wand and the clothes spelled back on Severus. "You can... just whatever. You don't need to stand there."

Severus relaxed and took a step away from the wall. "Master? This owl has been here for two weeks. It has a letter for you from Harry Potter; it will not leave until you respond."

"Well, I don't really care." Master said, distractedly, running his hand through his hair.

Severus had no doubt of that. Master was usually so carefully groomed, but his hair was starting to show grey hairs. He had not shaved in two weeks, the curly moustache now gone. Master had likely not even used a cleansing spell on his teeth, much less actually brushed his teeth. That was evident by the odour and colour of the once pure white teeth.

"I thought that you could dictate a letter?" Severus tried, taking a Muggle pen and paper from the bedside table.

"Just tell him that I'm not interested," Master said. "Before you write it, eat this food and shower."

"Yes, sir," Severus said, setting the pen and paper back down and bowing his head. He hesitated before taking a chance. "Master? Are... are you all right?" He cursed himself for asking such a stupid question. Of course Master was not all right. His marriage was in shambles, and his life, as well.

"What? Oh, yes. Fine, just fine. Now, go shower."

"Yes, sir," Severus said, the small nervous feeling in his stomach becoming very large. Something was going to happen, and whatever it was, it likely was not good. It was never good if he was involved.

Dear- he stopped writing. How was he supposed to address the letter? Mr. Potter, as he would have in his past life? Probably. Master would likely say that, and the letter was supposed to be from Master.

He sighed, reaching for the fork in the take-out container. Indian food had a tendency to make his stomach upset, but Master bought it for him. He was to be grateful and eat it. He was not to complain.

However, a knock on the door caused him to stop and get up from his chair.

"I've got it," Master said, coming out of the loo. "You sit down, eat, and compose that fucking letter. The last thing I need is for an owl to be following me around for the rest of my life."

Severus nodded. "Yes, sir." Master almost never swore, except for when he was using Severus. When he used Severus, he used a lot of words that you could not say in polite company. Perhaps Master was getting ready to use Severus? That was likely why he told Severus to shower.

Master opened the door to a burly man at least half a foot taller than Severus, and at least three times his weight. He looked very strong, if not rather fat. He was holding a very large chain in one hand, and a rather thick looking wand in another.

"Are you Mr. Weston?" The man asked. He spoke with an twangy American accent with an unpleasant nasally tone.

Master nodded. "Yes, come in." He stepped aside, letting the man enter.

The man turned his attention to Severus, who quickly looked to his lap. He did not want to get caught staring, but he could not just resume eating and writing. That would not be respectful.

"He's on the scrawny side." The man observed, stroking his bushy beard. "Master won't be pleased."

Severus' ears twitched. Master? That man had a Master? That did not make him feel as imposing. Severus glanced up, and resumed eating his food.

"He's fed well. It's just the way he is, I'm afraid." Master said, shaking his head. "He's really smart, though, and-"

The man scoffed. "Master don't care if he's dumber than a pole stick."

Master just nodded. "Severus, go back to finishing the letter, and for Merlin's sake, eat."

"Yes, sir," Severus said, taking a bite of the food, trying his best to swallow. Why would the other man's master care if Severus was skinny or smart? Why would Severus be any of his concern?

"I'm willing to take no less than 30,000 Galleons, your master understands?" Master asked the man.

"Of course." The man held a rather large sack. "Master is prepared to offer you it for his little whore. Though I don't see what the big deal is. He ain't exactly a model."

"He's very good in bed. Very responsive and sensitive; arousing him is easy, if you care to play it that way." Master said. "He does exactly what you say and has just the right amount of resistance. I do believe I already told your master all of this."

Severus bit his lip. He did not know why it bothered him to have Master speak of him that way. It was true, he supposed, but he could not help most of it. Master was able to touch his forehead and then touch him until he got hard. He could not help that; he hated it. If he was 'good in bed', it was because he was a slave who needed to follow instructions. Master Mering had said no one wanted to fuck a corpse, and so Severus tried. He no longer had to think about these things, but he did not appreciate being called anyone's whore. Especially anyone but Master's and Mistress'.

It hit him. He was being sold. Sold. Master was selling him.

His heart started to beat faster than was healthy. When he had been sold to Master and Mistress, he had assumed that he would never be sold again. Most slaves were not sold more than once in a lifetime. Most people did not buy slaves just to sell them, and if they did, it was years later. Years. Severus had not been Master's for much more than three months.

"He's thirty-nine and in excellent health. I ran another scan on him just moments ago. There isn't a thing wrong with him." Master continued to inform the other man.

Severus was thirty-nine. His birthday, January 9th, had came and went. Severus hadn't even noticed.

"I'm sure Master won't care." The man said with a shrug. "Master'll use anything that breathes - and some that don't. Some of those things don't breathe afterwards. You don't wanna know how many corpses I've had to-"

Master held up his hand. "I'm sure I do not want to know."

"Oh, sorry, sir, I just-"

Master just nodded. "Would you like to make the arrangements elsewhere?"

The man nodded. "It just ain't done to discuss it in front of the slave, I get ya." He smiled. "I'm not just a slave though, mind you, sir. I'm practically a free man. I just run Master's business and do his bidding."

Master nodded, opening the door. "Severus, finish the letter and that food had better be gone by the time I get back. Get your hair brushed out. gather up your good set of clothing and your wand after that."

"Yes, sir." Severus croaked, barely aware of the swelling in his throat.

Master left, leaving Severus to stare at the door in shock.

Master. Was. Selling. Him. To a person who was... not like Master and Mistress, who had sex with him a lot. It was not like being sold to a brothel. It was death. And Master knew and didn't care. Severus knew he was just property, but...

There was no 'buts'. He was property, and Master was simply washing his hands of him. Severus had wrecked Master's marriage, and he probably did not want to see his ugly face or body any more than Mistress wanted to. He was likely selling him to the other man's master as a last resort, next to using the Killing Curse.

Severus was unaware of how hard he was biting his lip until he tasted blood in his mouth. He sucked the lip into his mouth to keep the blood from splattering all over the parchment.

The parchment. Potter. That's it. He still had to finish the letter. He could... did he dare?

He hesitated a moment before nodding to himself, taking a bite of the food, and writing an upper-case 'M', lower-case 'R', followed by a period. Then he wrote a lower-case 'P'...

Master came back forty-five minutes later with the burly man.

Severus had his other pair of clothes folded, his wand in his pocket. The Indian food was eaten and the container disposed of, and the letter was sent with the owl. Severus was sitting on his knees, his head bowed.

"So, I'll just take him now. Stand up, whore." The man grabbed Severus by Severus' shirt and effortlessly lifted Severus to his feet.

Severus took a deep breath and fought back the tears in his eyes. He knew he was not supposed to do this, but couldn't help himself.

"Master, please don't sell me," he pleaded, looking at his Master, who was across the room. "Please. I do not know what I did wrong, but I promise, I will never do it again. You can punish me over and over every day if you want. Use me all the time. I will please you, I will... please." He was vaguely aware that he was begging, but when did he not beg? Begging was a way of life, and the key of his survival.

"I will make you happy. I will make sure you always have good meals to eat, and that your house is always clean. I will make sure you are happy, I promise. I will make myself scarce when you do not want to see me. I will wear a mask, or take a Polyjuice Potion. I will-"

"Shut up," Master said crisply. "Get out of my sight." He nodded to the burly man, who was looking at Master with an eyebrow raised.

The burly man clipped the heavy chain to Severus' collar.

"Master, please!" Severus tried. "I will do anything! Anything! I'm... I'm your pet, remember? Please do not sell me, Master, please! Or sell me, but to anyone else, sir! To another person, to a brothel... anyone! Please, sir!" The burning on Severus' head intensified; he hadn't even realized it was there. It had likely started when he wrote the letter, as the burning in his forehead worked off of his conscience as well as his owner's orders. While at Master Mering's, the slightest twinge of pain had alerted him to his misbehaviour; now, he was so used to it that he barely noticed the pain until it was almost unbearable.

"Shut it. You heard his orders." The big man kneed Severus in the stomach.

Severus grasped his stomach in reflex. He choked back his tears, as he fell to the floor, the wind was taken out of him.

"Please." He rasped, looking up at Master desperately. Master would take care of him. Master always did. Master had hurt Severus in many ways, over and over, but he always made it better. Master was good to him. Severus trusted him.

"Fine, have it your way." The man scoffed, tugging on the chain. "You can crawl, but I don't think the Muggles are gonna understand."

Severus felt wobbly, he was sure that his knees were not going to be able to hold him up, but somehow he managed to be able to stand as the burly man led him out of the room on a leash.

It seemed that he would never receive a response from Weston. Never ever. He had tried to tell himself that 'no news is good news' but quickly realised how ridiculous that statement was. That wasn't true - what if Weston had killed the owl and buried it alongside Snape? But on the contrary, "no news is bad news" was just as ridiculous, because perhaps the owl just got lost.

It would be better to say "no news is no news", but that was just so stupidly obvious that it didn't even need said.

He couldn't tell if the owl had returned to the school. He had sent a light brown owl, but there were a lot of light brown owls in the Owlery. For all he knew, the owl had returned forever ago. He had told the owl to not come back without a reply, but owls weren't slaves; they could break the rules.

Hermione had been working feverishly hard on her efforts with the Society for the Promotion of Enslaved Welfare. She had sent long letters to the Ministry every day, had started a petition which had actually gotten quite a few signatures. Harry didn't think the 200 signatures the petition had received would do much good, but he didn't say anything, because Hermione was trying. He wouldn't do anything to discourage anyone from doing anything that could help.

Hermione wasn't the only person working. Luna used whatever connections she had to try to get writers, publishers, and influential people to help. Unfortunately, those people usually lived in the country of Yakima, which apparently didn't exist. Hermione couldn't prove that it didn't exist, just that it wasn't on the map, so Luna continued to ignored her on the subject.

Neville was still quite scared of Snape, but had begun to toughen up a little now that the man was just a memory. He was apprenticing at a greenhouse in Hogsmeade. He currently had a copy of the petition, and was trying to get customers to sign it. Next, it would go to George, who would do the same thing.

Percy and Mr. Weasley used their connections at the Ministry to try to change things, but it was slow going. They were just brushed off. However, they were Gryffindors, and Gryffindors didn't just give up.

Mrs. Weasley and Fleur spent quite a bit time making warm hats, gloves, scarves, and baked goods. They sent them to households that had slaves living in them i hopes the owners would let the slaves keep them. They did this, even if the slaves were Death Eaters. Mrs. Weasley kept saying that regardless of how they got into the situation, if it were one of her children, she would want someone else to do the same thing. Everyone knew that she was thinking about Percy, who had almost fallen into Voldemort's clutches by being a prick, but no one said it.

Hermione, being the highly political person she was, made plans. Every other evening, she drew up a large plan and assigned people to certain tasks. Usually, the hardest part of the work fell on her, but she didn't mind it. Hermione had to have something to work on or she'd go mad. True, her practical efforts didn't always work and they were making very little, if any, progress, but she was determined.

They all were. They wouldn't give up.

Ron and Ginny were currently acting like cheerleaders, as well as talking to every student they possibly could about changing things. They made conversation every way they could; sometimes they tried to convince them that the slavery law needed abolished or made more human, while other times they spoke about treating their family's slaves better. They had no way of knowing if it worked, but the way Ginny had put it was, 'it is out of our hands at that point. At least we don't have not talking to them weighing on our consciences'.

Harry felt like he was being absolutely useless. He had written a damn letter to Weston, which was not a very big deal. That was it. He had a loads of money, but that was the only thing he could do to change things.

"Hush, Ronald - I'm trying to study." Hermione hissed, looking down at her notebook.

Harry looked at his red-headed friend and shrugged. Hermione was always studying for something, only this wasn't school work. It was for her interview with a small newspaper in Edinburgh, which she was going to that evening. As a friend of Harry Potter's, she sparked interest, and though normally she didn't use her status as his friend for gain, this was an entirely different situation.

"You're better off just ignoring her until right before she leaves." Ginny whispered in Ron's ear. "Then kiss her, or offer to go with her. Tell her you're proud of her. She'll love it."

Ron nodded, stuffing his mouth full of porridge so that he couldn't reply. He had taken to getting romantic advice from Harry and Ginny, which was quite stupid, really. Ginny was a girl and knew Hermione well, but Harry was the last person to ask about romance.

He and Ginny had agreed to separate right before school started. Harry just couldn't hold up an attraction to her any longer. During the War, so many emotions had coursed through him that he hadn't known how to handle it. He had needed someone - anyone - and Ginny had been there. She had been someone to lean on in the tough times, but after the hard times were gone, he couldn't do it anymore. When he kissed her, he felt like he was kissing Hermione. It wasn't supposed to be that way.

Harry was horrible with girls. Absolutely horrible. The first time he had kissed a girl, she had been crying. He had spotted some pretty girls at the Hogs Head, and had even spent the night with three. It had never gone well. He enjoyed sex well enough, he guess, but really needed to work on it. He was just really bad at it, especially if he didn't have his eyes shut.

More often that not, he found blokes catching his eye. At first, he tried to pass it off as admiration for their athletisicm, or defence skills. However, he wasnt envious of them for those reasons. No, the reason he liked watching Trevor Jones in Defence was because he liked looking at his bum. He tried to pretend that attraction wasn't there, however, and kept looking at girls. He didn't want to deal with being different, or anything difficult. He had dealt with too much of that.

For the millionth time, he wished for his dad, Sirius, or even Remus. He wouldn't have been embarrassed to talk to either Sirius or Remus about the subject, and he felt like he could really use a reassuring hug.

"You look like you're in your own little world, Harry." Ginny commented as owls began to fly overhead and drop mail onto the table.

Harry gave a small smile. "I guess I kind of am." he shook his head. "Do you ever feel like-"

Plop! A piece of mail landed in his cold porridge.

"Ugh." Harry groaned, picking up the porridge-soaked paper from his food and trying to wipe off the oats with his finger.

Hermione looked up from her notebook long enough to roll her eyes. "Honestly, Harry. Are you a wizard or are you not? Scourify."

"Thanks, Hermione." He turned it over and looked at the front.

Harry James Potter. The handwriting was shaky, small, and cramped. You had to practically cross your eyes to read it. Harry had hated that handwriting so much in the past. He had finally given up on reading the notes in the margins of his essays. They always said the same thing: he used too many Quidditch analogies and was a foolish Gryffindor. Harry had once been tempted to tell the owner of the cramped handwriting to go get fucked, but had never quite gathered the courage to.

Besides, he had always had much wittier insults when the time came to yell at the man.

The colour left his face, and he knew it. Suddenly, it felt like there were too many people in the Great Hall to read the letter. The letter needed to be read somewhere quiet. Somewhere where he could focus.

He stood up. "I'm going to run to the loo before classes start."

Ron raised a brow. "Interesting, mate. Thanks for sharing."

Ginny was smarter than that, though. "What is it, Harry?"

"Constipation, probably." He dashed out of the Great Hall before anyone could question him any further.

He ran down various corridors. He knew where he was going without thinking too hard about it. He had spent so many hours looking at the map the Marauders had made that he knew the castle probably better than they did. He crouched underneath a large staircase in a secret cupboard. It wasn't like his cupboard under the stairs back at the Durlseys', as it was much bigger, and could be lit up with a Lumos. It was covered with cobwebs when Harry had first found it. He doubted Fred and George had ever ventured there, though it had been on the Marauder's Map.

Hands shaking, he broke the seal on the letter and unfolded it. His heart was beating wildly. He wasn't sure he could look at it. Whatever it said would either make him whoop for joy in the slightly cramped space or throw himself against the wall. Either way, a cracked skull was in order, and he didn't really like pain.

You sent a letter to Weston, didn't you? He checked with himself. You did, didn't you? Of course you did. Then why did Snape reply? He didn't take the time to think about it much longer. He took a deep breath and look down at the short letter, which was also written in Snape's unmistakeable handwriting.

Dear Mr. potter,

WeLl, I havE given your messAge SomE tHinking. My answEr stiLl, however, remains to be comPletely the saME. i Appreciate your interest in My Slave, but I am Obligated to Really ask that you do not peRsist with Your inquiries on the subject

I aPpriciate your overwheLming intErest in my compAnieS. It is quitE an honour to have your support.

Mr. Richard Weston

Chapter Text

Harry was not the studious type. He only studied for exams, and that could better be defined as "cramming". The Gryffindor boys in Harry's year had held cramming parties in the past. They would sneak down to Hogsmeade, get some butterbeer and candy, and eat and drink as they studied. Seamus would play music from the wizarding radio he obtained, and they would cram whatever they could in their heads until the wee hours of the morning. They would then go into their classrooms, exhausted and hungover, while barely managing to get acceptable marks.

Now, he spent his spare time cramming on slavery. He had devoted himself to learning every single thing about the subject, the way he had in third-year to learning about Hippogriff trials. Of course, that hadn't turned out so well, but this would. This had to because there was no execution sentence for Snape.

One thing he had learned was that slaves were valuable, and therefore outrageously expensive. Snape had been sold for 20,000 Galleons at Henderson's, and apparently that was somewhat average for slaves. For something considered scum and worthless, they were pretty fucking expensive.

"All right, Hermione," Harry said, catching up with the bushy-haired girl as she walked down the corridor.

"Harry!" She glared at him. "Where have you been? It's ten o'clock! Classes have been in session for hours! Do you know how much-"

"Yeah, yeah. I've been thinking," he said. He glanced around at the students walking past them in crowds, who thankfully didn't seem to be paying attention to them. "Look, I've got to find a way to skive off for the rest of the day. I'm thinking I just... go? McGonagall will get mad and will probably take away about a million points but-"

"Harry, slow down. No one can understand you when you talk like that." Hermione admonished him.

"I've got to go talk to Weston. I've got to see him face-to-face. I've got to offer to buy Snape. Maybe he won't turn me down in person. Maybe I'll figure out why he won't sell. At least, I'll be able to see Snape and see how he's doing, which isn't good, I don't think. I've got to figure out where he lives, which I have in my file upstairs. London, right? I've got to get the exact address and then, I can just walk outside the perimeter and Apparate and-"

"Quiet down!" Hermione hissed.

Harry realised just then that all the students had gone to their classrooms, leaving Harry and Hermione alone in the hall. Anyone would be able to overhear what they were saying. Filch was probably listening in. Harry half-expected Snape to billow in any moment and take 344,494,209,294,294,000 points away for being tardy.

Hermione sighed. "What are you talking about, Harry? Professor McGonagall has already written Mr. Weston a dozen times. He won't sell him, and Professor Snape said that doesn't want to come here if he's not being permanently sold."

Harry rolled his eyes. "Weston just told him to write that. Come on."

Hermione shook her head. "I don't see how you offering to buy him face-to-face will change anything, Harry. Why can't you just write a letter and-"

"I did." Harry interrupted. "All that bastard Weston did was have Snape write the response for him. How evil is that? I mean, if you really wanted to torture someone, you'd let them know that someone was trying to rescue them and make them turn them down. That's a sign that you are pure fucking evil, you know."

"Harry, really; Ron's language is rubbing off on you. What did Mr. Weston say?" Hermione asked.

Harry fished in his pocket and pulled out the porridge-smelling, crumpled letter.

"See?" He said as she read it. "He's just being an arse. I've got to figure out why he wants to have Snape so badly. I heard the Westons are all about knowing other pretentious people, and climbing the social ladder. I have to play-up this Harry Potter thing. If he knows Harry Potter really is offering to buy his slave, then he'll probably give in, or at least be closer to it. Do you-"

"Did you notice anything strange about this letter?" Hermione pursed her lips, a sign that she was concentrating.

"Yeah, that Snape wrote a letter to me and was actually civil for once. I don't really see what's so unusual about that, given that Weston told him what to write."

Hermione shook her head. "Harry, hand me your quill."

"My... quill?" Harry asked. "Um... it's in my bag." He left his bag under the stairs.

"For goodness sake! Get mine out of my bag, then."

Harry reached into his friend's bag and began digging through it.

"Bend down." Hermione ordered to Harry, taking the inkwell and quill from her.

It was Harry's turn to raise a brow. "Gonna spank me? Was I that bad, Mum?"

"Do it!" She ordered.

Ron and Harry both had the same weakness; eventually, they would always give in to Hermione. Ron would because he was in love with her, and Harry because he was just tired of fighting. He bent over halfway.

"Good." Hermione said, setting the letter on his back, and carefully balancing the inkwell on his shoulder blade. "Hold on. The quill against the parchment could tickle."

It did. "Why are you writing on the letter?" Harry protested. "Use a different piece of parchment."

"Shush!" She admonished him.

He did. She always worked better when people shushed. After eight years, he knew better.

"Harry," she said finally, just as his back began to make him feel as if he were two hundred and thirty. "I think this is a cipher."

A what? "What do you mean?"

"Look at it." She said, pulling her inkwell and the letter off of Harry so that he could stand.

He took the letter from her and wrinkled his forehead in confusion. At the bottom of the letter, Hermione had written the letters PLEASEHELPIAMSORRYPLEASE. He was pretty sure that that meant "please help. I am sorry. Please".

"Don't you get it?" Hermione said, hurriedly. "Professor Snape is a scholarly man, Harry. He doesn't make simple mistakes like a five-year-old might. I don't care how 'damaged' Mr. Weasley thinks Professor Snape is – knowing how to read and write aren't skills that disappear because you don't use them for... what has it been... four months?" she shook her head. "Mr. Weston probably did tell Professor Snape what to write, but Snape put a secret message in. A simple one. Something that even Gryffindors could understand."

Is she insulting Snape or Gryffindors with that comment? He'd probably never know, but instead of questioning it, he snatched the paper from her and quickly began scan it again. "How did you get that?"

She rolled her eyes. "Honestly, Harry! Sometimes, I... look." She stuffed some of her hair behind her ear. "The 'P' in Potter isn't capitalised – proper nouns should always be capitalised. I'm sure Professor Snape knows this."

"I know he does." Harry muttered, thinking of all the poor grades he had gotten because he had forgotten to capitalise one lousy word.

"See, the 'L' in 'well' – there would be no reason to capitalise that. All the wrongly capitalised letters make a message, Harry. He's asking for help. Your help, from the looks of it." She chewed her lip as she looked at him. She always did that when she was thinking. "You've got to go to Mr. Weston's. Now. Ron and I will cover for you. Just," she grabbed his wrist and laughed without mirth, "don't do anything stupid."

Harry shook his head. "No promises."

Harry had more trouble than he should have getting into the building. The building where the Westons had their flat was really fancy from the outside, and was guarded by several uniformed men. They had been slightly hesitant to let Harry pass, but once Harry introduced himself as Harry Potter (yes, the Harry Potter), they let him pass through.

Mr. Weston and his wife lived at the top of the building. Harry did not know what he was going to say to them when he got up there: "hallo, my name is Harry Potter and I'd like to buy your slave"? They obviously did not want to sell Snape, regardless of the price.

He couldn't understand why that was. He had grown up hearing Uncle Vernon always saying "anything can be bought". While Harry knew that that was not literally true, one could make a lot of money by selling a slave, as there were not many. Apparently thousands of years ago, a certain amount of people had been punished with a lifetime of slavery. The curse used during that time acted like the Imperius, and quickly fell by the wayside as slaves were starting to be told things such as "oh, just jump off a cliff". Other variations had picked up for their offspring, who became slaves as children, and so on. Only very rarely had slavery been used for punishment since.

And, of course, somehow, Harry would get caught up in it all.

The curse that the Death Eaters, and most slaves, were under seemed simple. Irreversible, it kept their free wills and minds intact. There was a tattoo on their heads. Some tattoos were almost invisible, others whatever colour their owners desired. The tattoo burned when the slave disobeyed their owner's orders, directly or indirectly. It was also attached to the slave's conscience. If the slave felt bad for doing something that they knew their owner would not like, even if it hadn't been forbidden, the tattoo would burn. It would continue to burn until the curse felt like the slave had been punished enough, or the owner touched the slave's forehead, which was supposed to cease the burning and be somewhat calming.

While there were few slaves for the Westons to choose from, there had to be better slaves out there than Snape. Snape was mean, vindictive, cruel, sarcastic, mean, snarky, slimy, ugly, greasy... and did Harry mention 'mean'? Snape was an outright bastard, and though he had helped defeat Voldemort, he was borderline evil.

Harry felt a twinge of guilt. Why couldn't he have left Snape to die there in the Shrieking Shack? At least then he wouldn't have to be in slavery. He felt sick for having the thought, and wouldn't share it with anyone. He hoped Snape wouldn't be inclined to agree.

What is your plan, exactly? He asked himself again as he climbed the long staircase. If you buy him, will he resent you? Where will he live? He has to live close to you probably, so you can touch his Mark. He will become mean and vindicative again once he starts teaching, so that will probably hurt him. Does that mean you'll have to live in the dungeons after you finish school? You can move together to Grimmauld Place, if they ever stop cleaning the Dark Magic out of it. It's big enough that you'll rarely have to see each other.

Harry stood outside the pale coral-coloured door, trying to gather his thoughts. What should he say? "I was just in the neighbourhood..." The Westons knew Harry wanted to buy Snape. They had to, with the letter Harry had sent.

"Are you going to knock or stand there?" A cranky voice wheezed.

Harry whirled around at the top of the stairs. "Who said that?"

"Me, you silly little boy. Who'd you think it was? Merlin himself? Ha!" The door knocker was gold, and it was... laughing. As Harry leaned closer to examine it, it indeed had small eyeballs, two dents for a nose, and a small mouth.

"You... you can talk!" Harry breathed. In the eight years he had known that he was a wizard, he still could not get used to things like that. He wondered what things he had encountered as an infant. It felt odd that he couldn't actually remember talking door knockers, baby broomsticks, and other things he had previously known.

"Of course I talk! Can't you?" The door knocker sneered.

"I-Is this the home of the Westons?" Harry asked, tentatively.

"Depends who's asking."

"Harry Potter."

"The Harry Potter? The Saviour-Of-The-World? The Boy Who Lived?"

Harry sighed. "Saviour-of-The-World" was a title he hated. It was quite an exaggeration, and as for The Boy Who Lived? Hadn't he outgrown that title over a year ago? He was an adult now, for Christ's sake! He nodded.

"Well, why didn't you say so in the first place? Knock on me!" The door knocker enthused with glee.

Harry lifted his hand and grasped a hold on the door knocker.

"Hehe, it tickles, it tickles!" The door knocker giggled.

The teen took a deep breath before rapping on the door.

He wore his dress robes to the Westons, just in case. They probably dressed in robes that even Harry, with all of his parents' and Sirius' money, would never wear. He, of course, wore one of his Weasley jumpers underneath for good luck. It was the one he got for his fifth year, the navy blue one with a golden 'H' on it. It still fit him, although he was eighteen now. Hermione assured him that Mrs. Weasley had probably placed a spell on it that made it grow with him, but he didn't believe her. He hoped that once he joined the Auror training programme, the rigorous training would help him fill out, because at this rate a strong wind could blow him away.

"Hello." The door opened an an old woman greeted him, cautiously.

She had dark grey hair that was twisted around on the top of her head. He dark eyes appraised him critically. She had a very lined face, and was a bit shorter than Harry, though definitely heavier. Her eyes looked tired.

"Hallo," Harry said awkwardly. "Is Mr. or Mrs. Weston here?"

"They are not available, no," she said shortly. "Would you care to pass a message onto them, or are you a friend of their son's?"

Harry bit his lip. He had banked on Mr. or Mrs. Weston, or Snape, opening the door. He nervously, out of habit, began toying with his fringe. "Er, it's kind of important. It's kind of..."

The woman's eyes widened. "Mr. Potter?"

He dropped his hand from his forehead. "Yes?"

Her face broke out in a smile. "Oh, Mr. Potter! Why didn't you say it was you, child? Come in, come in!" She ushered him in, as if he had been expected.

He was inside what seemed to be a parlour. The wallpaper was white with light pink floral flowers. The floor was carpeted in a pristine white plush carpet, and all the upholstery matched. It seemed impossible to imagine Snape living in a flat that looked like that, and he wondered if he had somehow gotten the wrong address.

"Please, sit down." The grey-haired woman motioned to a armchair, which Harry awkwardly perched on. It was a bit low, even for him, and his legs felt kind of cramped. "Could I get you something to drink?"

"Er, no thanks." Harry said.

"All right, then, child. Master is not home, but Mistress is. I will go and see if she is-"

Master? Mistress? This woman was a slave. "Hold on, wait a second." Harry protested.

She turned and looked at him, expectantly. "Yes?"

"You're a slave," Harry said, feeling his face burn. He didn't know why.

She nodded. "Yes."

Harry fidgeted a bit in the seat. "You know Severus Snape?"

The woman took in a sharp breath. "We're not to speak of him in this house."

Harry's forehead wrinkled. The way she was talking about it made Snape seem like Voldemort, how no one dared speak his name. But Snape was just... Snape, right? Why couldn't you speak of him? "Why not?"

She glanced cautiously around. "Mistress will have my head if I-"

"You had probably better explain why, because the reason I'm here is about him." Harry pointed out, trying to manoeuvre the best he could. "Why can't we talk about him? I swear, I won't tell anyone."

The woman sighed, taking another quick glance around before speaking in a low voice. "The child was in the middle of a misunderstanding. Not his fault, mind you. He tried so hard."

What the hell? Harry shook his head quickly, trying to make sense of it. "Wait, what?"

"I should really not be discussing this," she said. The rose Mark on her forehead became more noticeable as it began to swell. "I have been forbidden to-"

"But there are exceptions to every rule." Harry said quickly, before she could fully change her mind. "Surely your owners would rather you explain the situation than have to do it themselves."

That seemed to work. "Mistress discovered that Master used him inappropriately. When Mistress would leave, Master would do... inappropriate things to Severus, things that a married man is not usually permitted to indulge in."

Harry's eyes nearly popped out of his skull as he felt bile rise to his throat. Snape? Snape? Snape was... Snape?

He didn't know how to react. On one hand, his heart broke for the man he barely knew. Though he knew no details, it was clear that Snape had been harmed in a way that no one should ever be hurt. He felt his chest tighten and almost wanted to cry, even though he didn't fully understand why.

"Why Snape? Couldn't he have paid a prostitute or-" Harry wasn't able to finish his sentence.

The woman shrugged. "I am not going to pretend to be able to read Master's mind, though I am sure he has had a long fixation with bondage that could only be practised on someone forced to submit. Mistress was certainly never willing to lower herself to such..." her voice lowered even more. "I am only telling you this because of who you are, mind, but I am fairly certain that Master's tastes run on the other side."

"He's gay?" Harry asked, his mind furiously trying to work the details out. If Weston was gay, then why was he married to a woman? Gay people couldn't get married in the wizarding world, because people were worried that purebloods would do so, and therefore have no children.

She only shrugged. "As I said, I cannot read his mind, but I do imagine he does not prefer the fairer sex. The marriage between Master and Mistress was arranged when they were young children."

"Oh." Harry said. His mind was racing too much to say much else.

"'Oh', indeed." The woman smoothed out the apron she wore over her dress. It was splattered with what looked to be tomato sauce. "Over the New Year, Mistress walked in upon Master, Severus, and another man. She then forbade them to contact her. Master and Mistress are now on speaking terms - they write letters and meet in public - but Mistress has made it clear, under no uncertain terms, that Severus is to go if Master wants back in the house." She shook her head. "A shame. Severus was such a nice child."

"Wait. Go? What do you mean by 'go'?" He had a horrid image of Snape getting decapitated or something of the sort. Would Mrs. Weston really stoop to wanting him killed? That's what the Blacks had done when they got tired of their House-Elves.

She shrugged. "I assume she means that she wants him sold."

"Oh." Harry said, weakly. At least he wouldn't have to see Snape's head mounted some place. "Well... is he here? Snape, I mean."

"Child, he has not been here since the New Year. He went wherever Master went." she shook her head. "Mistress has told me all of this in the strictest of confidence, mind you. If I hear that you've run to the Prophet with this news, I swear by-"

"I hate the Prophet, and all newspapers of all kinds." Harry interrupted her. "So... Snape. He's still with Mr. Weston?"

"Last I heard, though I would not bank on it. Master posted an ad for Severus in foreign newspapers, because Death Eater slaves are difficult to buy in the United Kingdom. I should doubt he is still with him, as most slaves sell fast."

Harry nodded. He hadn't expected his voice to sound so hoarse. "Who do you think bought him?"

"I have not a clue. I suggest that is something you take up with Master, or the Ministry for Magic. Preferably the latter, as we are forbidden to mention the poor child in this house."

Harry felt like laughing, despite of the grim circumstances. "Snape? A child?"

The woman drew herself up, making her seem much taller than she was. "I am one hundred and nine years old, young man. You are all children to me." Her expression softened. "And he really did seem that way, sometimes. He was so vulnerable and o afraid, and yet he did so much to try not to show it. Very pitiable, actually. He never let me get close to him. I do not know what he was afraid of by me, but I only hope that whoever Master sold him to does not hurt him."

"Well, don't worry about that, because if no one had bought him yet, I will," Harry said, determinedly. "Thanks a lot for your help..."

"Carita." She supplied. "If it helps Severus, then I suppose it is worth it. Please do not let Mistress know I have supplied you with this information. If she finds out, she'll have my head."

Harry nodded. "Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me. How do you suppose I can contact your master?" The word "master" felt weird coming from his mouth.

"He is to be at the engagement party for Kelly Malfoy this evening." Carita supplied. "If you can manage to get an invitation-"

"I'll be there." Harry said. Malfoy... probably a relative of Lucius', but no matter. He was the Boy Who Fucking Lived - they'd let him into the party just for appearance's sake. "Carita... I appreciate it. If there's anything I can do, just-"

"Do not hurt him." Carita's eyes narrowed. "All Severus needs is a slight push before he goes over the edge. If-"

"I'll let you know what happens." Harry promised. "In my care, he'll never come to harm. I promise you."

"Oi! Malfoy!" Harry jogged up behind Malfoy, who was walking alone in a corridor in the dungeons. Goyle no longer attended Hogwarts, and Malfoy, who was also making up for the year he lost, was left alone without his cronies.

"What is it, Potter?" Malfoy sneered without even turning around. His steps did slow though and his posture stiffened, as if he expected Harry to start throwing hexes in the corridor.

"Do you have an relative named Kelly?" Harry came up in front of him and began walking backwards, in order to talk face-to-face with the blonde boy.

"What makes you think I'd tell you, Potter?" Malfoy looked disgusted at having to even talk to Harry. Since the War ended, they had quietly avoided each other, and no wonder. Malfoy bore the Dark Mark, and if that became widely known, he would end up in the same position as Snape.

"I saw a notice in the paper for her engagement." Harry lied.

He relaxed. "Yeah. My father's brother's daughter. Why would you care?" He asked suspiciously.

Harry really didn't have an excuse for that. To be honest, he hadn't really had the time to think of one. He had Apparated outside of the Westons' flat to the Hogwarts gates, raced inside, and sought out Malfoy. It hadn't been an hour ago that he was speaking with Carita.

"It's personal," Harry said. "It's not an evil plot against your family, or anyone else. I swear. I just need to know where her engagement party is being held."

Malfoy stopped dead. "You're daft, Potter. What makes you think that I'd-"

Harry took a step closer to Malfoy, looking up at him with his eyes narrowed. "If you don't tell me, I swear, I'll have an article put in the front page of the Prophet about your Dark Mark. Your father has a lot of power, but I have more. I could sway the entire world, if I wanted to." He paused, letting the truth of his words ring clear before continuing. "So, where's the party, Malfoy?"

"Damn you, Potter." Malfoy leaned against a stone wall, as if suddenly weak. "Haven't you done-"

"Answer," Harry said. "I'm going to be late for Charms, so you'd better-"

"My house," Malfoy said. "I think."

"Thanks, Draco." Harry said, using Malfoy's first name for what may have been the first time. "See you later."

He hated using his fame in the way he had been all day, but it was working. He still hated being famous for doing nothing, because it seemed like all he did was make a few stupid mistakes and wound up having his arse saved at the last moment. However, he could not deny that it was useful how the world pretty much bowed at his feet at the slightest request. He would never use his fame for stupid things, like getting a seat in a full restaurant or a room at a 'No Vacancy' hostel, but this was crucial.

And rather ironic, as he was using what Snape hated about him in order to get Snape out of what seemed like hell.

Chapter Text

He was aware of the feeling of being torn apart limb by limb. He was aware of the darkness. He was aware of the screams. He was aware of the pounding headache that he had, of the bleeding on his wrists and ankles from their restraints. He was aware of the dirt, the blood, the smell of burning flesh... he was aware of the dry thrusts, of the bleeding welts over every inch of his body, created by every tool imaginable. He was aware of the screams being his. He was aware of the gnawing feeling in his stomach. He was aware of it all... until he fell into darkness. Glorious darkness.

The wizarding world post-war was one of high security. Aurors screened you at every official government building, and pamplets were distributed to help you recognise a potential Death Eater, radical, or terrorist. Harry was normally an exception to security checkpoints, but his status would only serve as a disadvantage when he approached the bouncers at Malfoy Manor, without an invitation, no less.

He needed new dress robes, because the ones he wore to Weston's flat weren't going to cut it. He needed to clean the smuges off his glasses, and somehow flatten his hair. He needed to bring a date, so he could look like a regular wedding guest – unimposing, happy for the couple, and invited. He also needed to bring someone who could restrain him from firing hexes at Weston, and who could also cast curses with efficiency if needed.

Hermione wasn't an option. She was too practical, and was far too direct. Luna wasn't an option for the exact opposite reason. Ginny was the only other girl that Harry felt comfortable enough to ask, but that wouldn't be easy. If he asked her to go with him, would it send the wrong message? She hated Lucius Malfoy possibly more than anyone else on the planet; would she be willing to go?

"Ginny, I need to talk to you about something important."

She paused in reaching for the casserole. "If it involves house-elves, bottle caps, knitting needles, and a provocative magazine, I swear on Godric's grave, I didn't do it."

"No, none of that. At least, not the bottle caps. I need a favour."

"What's up?" She scooped a spoonful of casserole onto his plate before dumping one on hers.

"I need you to help me with something."

"So you said."

He took a deep breath, preparing for her to lash out. Then, in a moment of cowardice, he he said. "I need you to come with me tonight."

She took a bite of her food. "I'm listening."

"I'm going to crash a party."

"Sounds fun."

"An engagement party."

Ginny made a face. "Ugh."

"What? The casserole bad?"

"Yeah, but that's not the point; a pureblood engagement party? I'd rather drown in a vat of acid." Ginny took a long sip of pumpkin juice.

Harry had never been to an engagement party, but he couldn't imagine how bad it could be. "What's wrong? They don't do anything stupid, like... I don't know... gross, barbaric rituals?" He had images of cannibals slashing themselves with knives.

Ginny shuddered. "I wish. More like long and boring. Who's getting married and why do we care?"

If she took it badly, the worst thing she could do would involve slipping pranking potions into his juice each morning. She might show her annoyance through avoiding him, or refusing to partner with him in Potions lab. It would not be the end of the world. "I need you to come with me to Malfoy Manor for someone's engagement party. Weston will be there, and it's potentially our last chance to find Snape before he's sold."

She stared at him for a long time. "You're mad. I am the last person you should be asking about this."

Ginny had one of the worst experiences in her life at the age of eleven. Lucius Malfoy was the bane of her existence, and if she ever saw him again, it would be too soon. She was also Harry's ex-girlfriend, which was probably another reason she thought he shouldn't ask her to go alnog.

"Come on," Harry whinged. He paused, and in a daring moment he hadn't planned, dropped a hint. "I don't have another person to ask. People will assume I'm dating whoever I bring, and I can't ask Hermione or Luna. I'd really rather them not assume I'm with your brother."

She shook her head. "You're not going to Malfoy Manor. Not tonight, or ever. It'll be over my dead body."

"If you don't let me go, it could be over Snape's." Harry shuddered as the scene from last May ran through his mind, when Snape was almost bitten by Nagini. He should have just let him die. Why hadn't he just let the poor man die?

Ginny looked past him toward the head table. "I'll tell McGonagall."

No, bad. Very bad. "You can't!" Harry pleaded with her. "All we have to do is find Weston and leave. It's that simple."

She stabbed her fork into her food. It didn't take an Order of Merlin to know that she was thinking of stabbing Harry with the fork, and was instead taking her frustration out on her food. "What do you want to talk to him about?"

"Buying Snape."

"Well, duh."

Harry crossed his arms. "Fine, be that way."

"It's just..." Ginny sighed. "Look, how can you walk back into that house? After what happened last year? I've heard Ron's screams in the middle of the night, from nightmares. Don't pretend that you haven't, either, or that you haven't had nightmares yourself."

Harry didn't because if there was one potion he knew how to brew probably better than Snape, it was Dreamless Sleep. He religiously took it every night. He had heard that it was addicting, but if he never stopped taking it, he figured that he'd never have to suffer the consequences,.

"All you have to do is come with me," Harry said. "I promise we won't even see the Malfoys."

Ginny sighed. "If I go with you, you promise to get Lucius Malfoy in Azkaban."


"You heard me. You're a celebrity. You have connections. You know what he's done. Put him in Azkaban." Ginny lifted her chin. "Put him in Azkaban, or we have no deal."

Harry was at a loss. In the last year, almost all Death Eaters had been enslaved. The only people to escape that were the Malfoys and Goyles, who had somehow convicned the Ministry for Magic that they were innocent. It had likely involved a large amount of bribery, scandel, and corruption within the Minstry. At the time, Harry hadn't cared, as he had just wanted everything to be over with. He had,for the first time in his life, trusted Snape to take care of everything.

Would it be hard to be Lucius into Azkaban? Would that mean Malfoy and Goyle would have to go, as well? Was that wrong, or unfair? As the Boy Who Lived, Harry had a lot of power. His memories in a Pensieve would potentially be enough to sway the Wizengamot, but was that the right decision?

Perhaps it didn't matter. He only needed to make the right decision right now, and that was to do everything he could to save Snape.

"I'll do my best." Harry vowed. "I swear on my Gryffindor honour that I'll try to get Lucius Malfoy in Azkaban."

"All right," she said, getting up from the table and shoving a forkful of green beans into her mouth. "Meet you at the gates in an hour. Wear dress robes – there will be press there, and they'll all want your picture." She stood up and ran her fingers through his sticking up hair. "And don't try to slick your hair back, for Merlin's sake. It makes you look like a poof."

Richard casually took a sip of the champagne, nodding to Kassandra as if he really cared what she was talking about. Everyone knew she was a nutter. The witch was fifty-years-old, and had her hair dyed in grey and blue stripes. She wrote Muggle novels about erotic homosexual love affairs for a living, which was highly looked down upon in the wizarding world. However, as she was rich and famous, they often attended the same parties together. Richard would never admit it to anyone, but he had actually read a few of her novels. Very good, except too much plot, and not enough porn.

He was in Tina's good graces again, thankfully. She had gotten angry and had kicked him out before, but never for so long. Nothing like that had ever previously unbalanced their marriage.

Richard still felt like kicking himself whenever he thought about it; how had he gotten so careless? To just assume Tina would stay gone until dawn? He had been both careless and foolish. He had spent an enormous amount of time and money cultivating Severus into exactly what he needed him to be, and now he had nothing to show for it.

He'd have to buy another slave, and keep it somewhere else without letting Tina know. That meant it couldn't be a Death Eater, as the purchase of a Death Eater required an extensive background check. There was that old closet in his office he could keep a slave in; it was small, but it wasn't like Richard would be fucking in it. He could cast privacy wards in his office for that, maybe install chains underneath his desk...

"Excuse me?" A voice said behind him.

"Excuse me, Kassandra." He apologised. He turned to see a very familiar face.

The face was a familiar face for the entire world. The child had had his photo plastered all over the papers for months after You-Know-Who's vanquishment in 1981, and many times since 1994 or so. He was shockingly small in person; the press photos made him look so much taller. He was pale, and slight. He had a mass of unruly hair that desperately needed to see a hairdresser, and glasses that could only make Richard wonder, "why not charms?". The green eyes behind the glasses had to be a result of a charm or some new cosmetic fad, as eyes were simply not made in such a bright jade colour.

"Mr. Potter." Richard inclined his head.

"Mr. Weston." Harry Potter returned the gesture. He had his arm linked around a petite girl's arm. "This is my friend, Ginevra Weasley."

"It's good to meet you." Young Ginevra extended her hand, which he kissed. She was quite a belle. She had vivid red hair that exploded from her head in a curly halo. She had soft brown eyes, and her pale complexion was littered in freckles. Not your typical pureblood girl, whose parents took care to shield her from the sun and consequently, freckles, but the Weasleys were always a different sort. He hadn't really taken the effort to meet them. He and Tina had always meant to, of course, after You-Know-Who's death, but things had come up involving the King of Yakima, and...

He sent me a letter, Richard realised. He had been well-aware that Harry Potter had written him a letter weeks ago, but he had never taken the time to reply to it. Hell, he hadn't even read it. He had told Severus to read and reply to it... what had Severus said?

"You must forgive me for not replying to your letter sooner." Richard attempted to mask his face, apologetically. "I have been under quite a bit of stress lately, and simply did not have time to get to it until-"

"That's fine." Harry Potter interrupted. Evidentially the child had never learned to never interrupt, especially your elders. However, he was the Saviour-Of-The-World; if he wished to interrupt, no one would stop him. "I realise that it is a business matter that should not be discussed here. However, I am curious; how the slave is doing?"

Selling Severus had been difficult. Few wanted to buy a Death Eater slave, and so Richard had advertised in foreign papers where background checks were less rigorous and the fear of Death Eaters less rampant. While he had known Harry Potter had wanted to buy the slave, he hadn't had time to wait for the security process.

He had considered simply ordering it to drown itself in the bathtub and banishing the body, but Severus had been a good pet and hadn't deserved that. Besides, where would have Richard banished the body to? What would have happened if a Muggle had happened upon it? Too many good wizards went to Azkaban for banishing the bodies in inappropriate manners, and having Muggles happen upon them in the middle of Times Square or the streets of Tokyo.

Richard chose his words carefully. "I do not know myself. He was sold recently to a man in Germany."

Harry Potter's eyes widened, and Miss Weasley took in a sharp breath. "I see." Harry Potter's voice was like ice. "Where in Germany? It is a rather personal matter, you see, and I'd like to be able to see how he is doing."

Richard shook his head. "I cannot even remember the fellow's name right off. I do not give out the name of my clients, at any rate. I do apologise."

The slave who had picked Severus up had implied that Severus faced certain death. Richard hadn't wanted to know the details, and certainly was not interested in supplying that informarition to Harry Potter.

"I'm starved." Young Miss Weasley spoke to Harry Potter. "All they have is watercress sandwiches, and they are cut into tiny triangles, with no crust, even. Let's go back home; we can stop at a restaurant on our way. My treat."

That was extremely rude; it was one of the rudest things Richard had ever heard someone say at a party. Not only insulting the food in front of another guest, but to suggest going out to eat as an alternative? It was revolting, and clearly a sign of the class the young woman was from.

However, as a friend of Harry Potter, Ginevra did have substantial clout. Nathan was about the age... Perhaps they could start inquiring on her matrimonial status, despite of her faux pas. Nathan's betrothal to young Miss Jessen had been broken when she had been tragically killed in that freak accident... perhaps adding a Weasley to the family tree would be a good thing, even if they were classless.

"You look lovely tonight, Miss Weasley." Richard nodded. "Please tell your parents that Tina and I said 'hello'."

It could have been his imagination, but for a moment, he thought he saw her eyes narrow. "Of course," she said, sweetly. "I'm sure they will return your greetings." She tugged on Harry Potter's arm. "Come on."

Harry Potter nodded. "See you later, Mr. Weston."

"And you, Mr. Potter." He turned away and leaned against the wall where Mr. Potter had been previously leaning. Ms. Ginevra Weston. That may work. She would not even have to change her initials.

Bliss could be a strange thing. When most people thought of bliss, images of biscuits, a nice spring day, and a good book crossed their minds. Other people thought of a blue sky, soft clouds... but bliss could be other things. Bliss could be being in a dark corner, hiding. Bliss could be relief that your injuries were healed for now. Bliss could be knowing that even though it hurt to breathe, that it wouldn't hurt for long. That even though you had been living in a dark basement for hours or years, you were going to die eventually. And knowing that, if you were lucky, he'd never be able to touch you again in the afterlife.

Chapter Text

He was working on the sex thing. He was not very good at it, and didn't think he was enjoying it as much as he was supposed to. Clearly, he was doing something wrong.

The first girl he had had sex with was Marie. She was this brown-haired girl who lived in Hogsmeade. She had beautiful doe-like eyes, and an amazing smile. She was really too pretty to have been interested in plain old Harry, which was a key point; she had just wanted to sleep with the Golden Boy, she had pointedly told him the next morning. He hadn't expected a declaration of love, or a relationship, but the memory was still a sour one for that reason.

The second girl had been a Muggle with short golden hair. Meredith had been visiting London with her university for the summer. As she hadn't known Harry was the Boy Who Lived, he had been able to relax, knowing she liked him for him. However, it had been difficult to keep his secret and after two weeks, she went back home with her fellow students.

Since then, he had experimented with a couple more girls, but could never make it work. They weren't enjoying themselves, and he didn't enjoy himself. There was so much anxiety surrounding whether he was doing it right that it just wasn't worth it to keep trying. It was like trying to stuff a deflated football into a keyhole, unless he shut his eyes and forced himself to visualise something a little more stimulating.

He wasn't an idiot. He had considered the idea that, although he could recognise a pretty girl, he was not attracted to them. Perhaps he needed to explore his options with blokes. However, that was easier said than done. Homosexuality was frowned upon in wizarding society, because of the procreation issue. As two men or two women could not have children, it was a problem when it came preserving the pureblood line. Logically, that would begin to change now that the war had ended, but the world wasn't very logical.

With that said, he couldn't really imagine making it happen. He didn't have a solid idea of what happened when men had sex. He had thumbed through PlayWizard a few times, but could only find moving pictures of girls. He had found a few books in the library, but had left in a hurry when Madame Pince had approached him. They were not exactly books he could check out without a healthy amount of shame.

He wasn't even sure it mattered. It didn't feel good to know people were using you for your celebrity status. If his biggest problem was that he was heralded as the world's most eligible bachelor, then he needed to reevaluate. It felt petty to complain that he felt as though he was being used by people, as people had much bigger problems than that.

For example, Snape was actually being used in the most terrible ways possible. Any other Death Eater, Harry wouldn't go to such lengths to rescue, but Snape had put in a solid effort to help kill Voldemort. It seemed he spent the majority of his life in a hellish atmosphere. He had been willing to give up everything in order to accomplish the task before them, and it was thanks to him that things had turned out the way things did. He wasn't a hero in the traditional sense, but Harry was starting to realise how brave the man was.

And so Harry would focus his efforts on helping others, rather than sorting out his sex life. He had lived ten whole years hardly knowing what love was, and had gone nearly eighteen years before ever having sex. He could go longer.

Weston had made their plans to find Snape much more complicated. It was now a transnational plan, which Harry didn't appreciate. It involved cultures he didn't understand, languages he didn't know, and efforts that were far beyond he had ever imagined his goal required.

The Ministry for Magic was supposed to have a file on Snape that detailed his status and sales history. Presumably, that file would say who his current owner was, and would provide them with an address. It was unfortunate that the file was only accessible by Ministry officials and Snape's owners, as that would make it difficult for Harry to see. Not even Snape, whom the file concerned, would be allowed to see it, as he did not have that right.

It was impossible to keep up with all the laws surrounding slavery. It was safe to assume that a slave did not have any rights to do anything - breathe, eat, urinate - without permission from its master, and then work from there. Every day, Harry found out that a slave lacked yet another basic right; it was not surprising to him that a slave's records, such as birth certificates, could be withheld from them.

The plan was to skive off all their classes to go to the Ministry. They would find Kingsley and obtain a pass to visit level four, the Department for the Regulation and Contol of Magical Creatures, the Being Diviision. From there, they would talk to the right people until they got the information they needed.

Hopefully it would only take a few hours. Harry had his bag packed, and was already planning how he would get to Germany by sundown.

McGonagall, however, was not pleased with the plan. "Absolutely not. I will not allow you two to go tramping off to London on a school day."

As "eighth-years", they had far more priviledges than most students. They were able to leave some evenings and all weekends, for example. They could not, however, skip classes without ermission from their Head of House.

The lines in McGonagall's face were tight, and she seemed to be restraining herself from an outburst at the very idea of students asking permission to leave for a day. However, it was not as if Harry was going to make a practise out of it.

Asking, that was.

"Look, Professor, we wouldn't normally ask, except this is very important. We're just going to the Ministry and back; we'll be back before curfew. It's important." He looked at McGonagall pleadingly through his glasses. "It's something I that have to do. It's not as if we'll get lost. Last year, I learned the Ministry's layout inside and out."

McGonagall stared at the two of them for a long time. Harry could just imagine what was running through her head. It likely had something to do with 'the poor boy has been through so much. He is just trying to help poor Severus...' and something that went along the lines of 'Potter has to have an adventure at this time every year, doesn't he?'

"Mr. Weasley, I hardly see why you have to accompany Potter," she said, finally.

"Er, well..." Ron stuttered. "I'm his sidekick, you see? A hero never goes anywhere without his sidekick. It's kind of like... protection. Bodyguard. I'm his body guard." He drew himself up importantly, which was hardly necessary since he was already so much taller and broader than Harry.

McGonagall turned to Harry. "Is this necessary, Potter? I am sure you could just owl Minister Shacklebolt and-"

Harry shook his head. "It's going to involve going through files and asking a bunch of people for different stuff. Hermione has already gotten the plan entirely drawn out. We don't want to distract Kingsley from his job or anything." Actually, it had more to do with the fact that they could get more accomplished without Kingsley in the way than with.

The Headmistress did not seem convinced. "Potter, why are you doing this?"

That was a question he hadn't anticipated. "I don't know what you mean, Professor."

"Why are you so determined to help Severus?" Her eyes narrowed underneath her spectacles. "I was not under the impression that the two of you were very close."

"We're... er... not." Harry admitted. "He sent me a letter asking for my help, you know. I told you about that. I have to help him, Professor. I... I have to."

"Have you ever considered the idea that that letter could be a trap?" She asked pointedly. "I know Severus very well, and have since he was a small child. If he were to code something like that, I am sure it would be in a more sophisticated manner."

"Except..." Harry said slowly, "except that the letter was addressed to me. We all know how Snape thinks of me. He needed to make it simple, so that I'd notice it."

"I suppose I cannot remind you to call him 'Professor Snape' now," she said wearily, sitting down in her chair behind the desk. Her eyes conveyed her age. She looked up at Harry. "Potter, I cannot describe what I saw at that auction, but I promise you that Severus is no longer the man we once knew. He is gone."

"Gone?" Harry repeated, tonelessly. What could the woman possibly mean by gone? They knew he was gone; they'd known that for months! That's what Harry was trying to do; he was trying to find him!

"Potter, he was not there. Physically, yes, he was, but not in here." She tapped her forehead. "He seemed nearly oblivious to his surroundings, as if he barely remembered who I was, as if he were scared of me. I do not know what happened to him, or what curses they've placed on him, but at this point, it would be even more cruel to try to-"

"What about here?" Ron spoke up finally, putting his hand on his chest, over his heart. "Even if he has gone round the twist, Professor, with all due respect, we can't just leave him. He need tender loving care, as Mum likes to call it. Even if he is terrified of us, at least he'll be safe. Leaving him crazy with people who control every move he makes... come on, Professor. What happened to Gryffindor honour? Loyalty? He needs help, and as long as we're able, why not? It can only help."

Harry gaped at Ron, not knowing whether to ask him if he were on Polyjuice or give him a bone-breaking hug. He hadn't expected Ron to ever make such a speech in his life, and especially not in Snape's defence. It was too bad Hermione was off taking her Arithmancy quiz; she would have been so proud.

McGonagall seemed equally as surprised, but she quickly recovered. "You know, Lucius Malfoy stopped by a few weeks ago."

Harry's eyes narrowed. "What'd he want?"

"He seemed to know we were searching for Severus. He came and begged me not to bother, that Severus was like a little brother to him, and that the best thing we could do for him was to let Severus die in peace. He said that he had been through enough pain."

"That sounds like a Slytherin thing to do." Ron muttered, but Harry's elbowed him to get him to shut up. That actually made a lot of sense. If someone was in a huge amount of physical pain, it would be kinder to let them die instead of trying to keep them alive, in some circumstances.

"I have to admit, he has a point." McGonagall shook her head. "Nearly the entire Order has given up, except for your family, Weasley, of course. It seems only right to-"

"To what, Professor?" Harry asked. "To let him suffer? Because I've heard a lot about Snape being in mental and emotional pain, but no one mentioned that he was physically dying here." He did not mention the sexual abuse he knew Snape had suffered. He had kept that to himself. If he couldn't get Snape out, at least people could have their last memory of Snape be someone who defended himself until several Aurors got the best of him.

She looked up at Harry. Harry could see tears threatening to spill over. "We've failed him, Harry." She said, using his given name for one of the first times. "We failed him."

Harry shook his head. "We haven't failed him until we've given up, Professor, and we won't, ever."

Harry felt a shudder run through him as they walked down the long corridor to Kingsley Shacklebolt's office. He couldn't help but think of all these halls had given him in the not-quite eight years that he had known about the wizarding world.

"Hey, mate; it's okay." Ron's deep voice comforted Harry quietly and discreetly as they walked. He placed his hand on Harry's shoulder. "We're just here to see Kingsley. No wild goose chases, no death... just Kingsley."

Harry smiled and nodded. He really was lucky to have such caring friends. "Yeah, I know." He cleared his throat and Ron dropped his hand. "So the plan is to go to Kingsley's office first, and ask him for badges that will let us in most places in the Beings Division."

"Right." Ron returned as they turned a sharp corner. "Then we go to that floor and ask for a name that Kingsley will probably give us. Someone that could help us find what we're looking for." He paused as a gaggle of nuns passed through, who were clearly lost. "All we need to know is the name of Snape's owner, right, Harry?"

Harry nodded, looking down at the piece of parchment with Hermione's simple instructions clearly written on it. She hadn't seen the need for all of them to go to the Ministry, but she made them promise to owl her straight-away should anything unusual happen or worthwhile happen.

"Excuse me." Ron came up behind a man who came up no taller than Ron's hip. "Can you tell me where to find the Minister's office?"

The little man opened his mouth, an astounding deep voice coming out. "You're right in front of it, blockhead."

Ron turned crimson. "Thanks.".

Harry put his arm on Ron's elbow. "Um... okay. So we just... knock?"

They knocked on the large oak door, which swung open. It revealed a simple room with beige walls, simple carpet, with a desk in the middle. It was covered in letters and parchment. A young woman sat at the desk, furiously writing with a quill.

"Excuse me." Harry said. "Er... Is the Minister in?"

"He's busy." She snapped at Harry.

He exchanged glances with Ron, who shrugged. "Well, can you tell him we stopped by then?"

She waved her hand in the air, as if she couldn't care less.

You have to say something! Anything! You need to see Kingsley! "The thing is, you see, is that I'm a friend of his, and-"

"You and everyone else, lummox," she said, easily. "Do you know how many people I get in here, day after day, requesting to see the Minister?"

Ron appeared to not be able to take it anymore. "But he's Harry Potter!"

The secretary scoffed. "As if I haven't heard that one every day of the-" she glanced up, appearing to intend on returning to her work, but the gaze stuck. "Merlin's beard, it is! Oh, Mr. Potter! Forgive me for my behaviour! I thought you were-"

"It's all right, it's all right." Harry assured her. The lean woman stood at at least six feet, which caused her to tower over Harry by a good many inches.

The woman began smoothing her hair back, and batting her eyes. "Mr. Potter, I cannot tell you how much I've wanted to meet you. You're-"

"Have you something in your eye?" Harry asked, cocking his head to see her eyes better.

Ron nudged Harry hard in the ribs, while the woman laughed a fake laugh. "Oh, you are the funny one, Mr. Potter. You can call me Melanie."

Harry nodded awkwardly. "Melanie. Well... is the Minister in?"

Her dazed expression fell, and she nodded. "Through that door." She said quietly, pointing to a door in her office that had not been there moments ago.

"Thanks." Harry smiled hesitantly as he went for the door, Ron at his side.

Melanie breathed a dramatic sigh as they went through the Minister's office.

"Merlin's beard, Harry, you get all the girls!" Ron enthused as they shut the door behind them. "Did you see her? She was practically falling over herself to meet you!"

"Really? I didn't notice." Harry said absently, looking around the empty office for the big black Order member. Where is he? There's his desk, his chair... the plaque on the desk that says Kingsley Shacklebolt – Minister for Magic... where is he?

"And what was that? 'Have you something in your eye'?" Ron laughed in amusement. "Harry, she was batting her eyes at you! She was trying to get you to notice her!"

"Huh?" Harry asked, concluding that perhaps Kingsley was out for an early luncheon.

Ron shook his head. "Harry, if you want to find a proper girlfriend, you're going to have to pay more attention."

"Hmm." Was all Harry felt like saying in reply. He was well-aware of his "girl problems", but he could hardly let himself focus on that right now. He could always set aside some "Harry time" for later. Now was the time to help someone else.

That seemed to happen a lot.

"Hey, you reckon she tricked us?" Ron asked, just now seeming to notice that Kingsley wasn't there. He picked up a paperweight and turned it over in his hands. "Maybe this isn't Kingsley's office. Maybe it's really-"

"No, it's Kingsley's office." Harry said. "It's got to be. Maybe-"

"Well, Harry! Ron! What a surprise." Kingsley's voice bellowed behind them.

The two teens whirled around to see the Minister and Order member standing behind them, in front of the fireplace, dusting ash off his robes. He had come in through the Floo.

"Sorry for barging in uninvited, Kingsley," Harry said somewhat sheepishly. "We were kind of in a hurry to find you."

Kingsley's eyes narrowed. "Really? What's wrong?"

"Nothing!" Harry and Ron said together.

"Then?" Kingsley raised a brow, sitting at his desk.

"Well, nothing that requires duelling and hexing, least ways." Harry relented, taking a seat opposite Kingsley. Ron slid into the other armchair. "See, we got this letter from Snape yesterday."

"Is that so?" Kingsley folded his hands across his desk, his attention on Harry.

Harry nodded. "Well, I did. And it had a weird code on it that Hermione noticed." He decided not to mention that the letter had been "supposedly" penned by Mr. Weston.

"A weird code?" Kingsley repeated.

"Well, yeah." Ron spoke up, pulling a piece of parchment out of his robes and handing it to Kingsley. It was a version of the letter that Hermione had copied onto another piece of parchment, using a simple spell. "See? All the letters that are incorrectly capitalised spell a message."

"'Please help me. I am sorry. Please'?" He looked over at Harry. "And this letter was addressed to you?"

Harry nodded. "See, Snape and I kind of hate each other. Well, we did hate each other; we might still, but I really want to help him anyway. I kind of think that that's why he said 'sorry'. He's desperate, you know, and needs my help."

"Ginny figured that one out." Ron pointed out needlessly.

Kingsley just ignored Ron. "Because Severus would never ask for help otherwise."

"Well... no." Harry said slowly. "I mean, he's not really the type, you know?"

Kingsley sighed. "I don't believe this letter is from him, Harry."

The green eyes nearly popped out of their skull. "What? What do you mean? It's his handwriting! It's got to be from him!"

The Minister nodded. "But you did not see what I saw, Harry. George Weasley let me look at the memories of both the night before the auction and the actual auction. Severus wasn't-"

"I know, I know. He wasn't the same person as before." Harry rolled his eyes.

"Then you see the implausible quality of your argument."

"No, we don't." Ron intervened again. "That was months ago, and we know he took one of those potions that make you sleep like the dead. Maybe now he has come to a point where he is begging for our help."

"Then how do you explain the letter we got a few weeks ago, telling us that he didn't need our help?"

"Er... Weston told him to write that?"

"Severus has a head on his shoulders, Harry. He wouldn't do something someone told him to do if it would ruin his cause. If someone told you to jump off a cliff, would you?"

Harry couldn't help but smirk. "Would I? I'd most likely be the one leading the way."

Ron snorted, but Kingsley didn't seem to see the humour and truth in the remark. "I am not discounting all possibilities of this letter being from Severus, or someone with Severus' well-being in mind, but I am concerned of why it is addressed to you, of all people. Why would Mr. Weston want to harm you, assuming he had the letter penned with this code?"

Harry toyed with the idea of telling Kingsley that Snape no longer belonged to Weston, but decided against it. That would definitely create problems. Kingsley would trust Weston more than he would an unknown figure.

"He wouldn't," Harry said. "I had a long conversation with him just the other day. He knows that Snape wrote the letter, but he doesn't know about the hidden message." Actually, Harry didn't know if that was true, but saying that Mr. Weston had no knowledge of the letter certainly wouldn't go over well.

"Actually, all Harry and I wanted to do was to go to the fourth level and read through Snape's file. We just need your permission so we can see if we notice something that we hadn't noticed before." Ron said.

"I highly doubt there is anything." Kingsley said. "I looked over the files myself. I promise you, if there were any loopholes, any-"

"I'm Harry Potter." Harry reminded Kingsley. "I always find the loopholes."

"This is ridiculous." Ron muttered as the security guards scanned them outside the Beings Division. "If they didn't spot any weapons on us the last time that they scanned us, or the time before, then why-"

"Shut it, Ron." Harry muttered back as the security guards gave them the clear. "We don't want them to suspect anything of us." Harry said, jerking open the door. "You know security is so much higher after the whole Voldemort thing."

Ron just scoffed. "Right. And why couldn't we just take a piece of lint out of our pockets and transfigure it into a knife if we wanted to hurt someone? Or use the Killing Curse?"

Harry shrugged. "Beats me. When has the Ministry ever made sense?"

"Touché." Ron said. The corridor they were walking down, the area of the Ministry of Magic reserved for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, the Being Division, was simple. The floor was tiled brown, and the walls a sick pale green. There were brown doors that likely led to offices, or worse, more corridors.

Magical creatures... Harry shook his head. They define humans as creatures. That is just sickening.

He had been told thousands of times since second-year by Hermione how slaves and house-elves were not seen as humans, and were instead viewed as objects that had emotions, but that hadn't meant anything until the whole Snape thing came along. House-elves were one thing, as they had it in their blood to want to serve their Masters. It was second-nature to them, like breathing and magic was to wizards. That didn't make unfair treatment right, of course.

Slaves were a different matter, entirely. They were seen as both wizards and slaves as a breed, like Harry was seen as both a wizard and a human. They were supposed to obey their masters, but they didn't have an innate desire to. It was not at all, in any sense, okay.

"Why don't we stop and ask someone?" Harry spoke, his voice echoing down the hall as they moseyed down the corridor, not really knowing where to go.

Ron blanched. "You think we should? Ask for directions, I mean."

Harry shrugged. "Why not?"

His friend snorted. "Because they might think we're stupid?" At Harry's puzzled look, Ron elaborated. "Men don't ask for directions, Harry."

"You don't think this woman in here will mind if I ask for directions, then?" Harry raised his hand to knock on the door. "Surely she'll understand my lack of knowledge."

Ron seemed to disappear into the wall. "Oh, Merlin, Harry. Don't let her know I'm here, 'kay? She'll think I'm asking for directions, too."

"Come in." A busy voice called.

Harry popped open the door and stuck his head in. "Hallo, miss. I was just wondering-"

"Hold on. Just a minute." The person sitting at the desk pulled their head up from a stack of files. "Oh, hello, Mr. Potter. How may I help you?"

The woman got up and shook hands with Harry, bowing deeply several times. She remained calm in voice, even though she treated Harry like a saviour. Which Hermione said he technically was, even though he didn't feel like it. How was a saviour supposed to feel?

"I am looking for information on a slave." Harry said seriously. He paused, "A human slave. I'm... I'm not really sure where to look, though."

"Oh, of course!" The woman said. "Are you the owner of this slave?"

Harry shook his head. "I hope to be soon, though. It's kind of complicated." He fiddled with the badge pinned to his chest. "Kings- Minister Shacklebolt gave me free reign of the archives, though."

"Well, in that case, you're going to want to talk to Marcel." She pointed back up the hall, from where they just came. "About six doors down, on the left. Just tell him what you told me. He'll probably want to Floo the Minister or his secretary, just to verify your permissions, and you're free to go." She looked down at her shoes. "Mr. Potter, I want to thank you. My... my husband was killed by You-Know-Who, but our children - our two beautiful children - survived. And it's all because of you!" She grasped his hand in thanks.

Harry nodded, turning slightly red at the praise. Regardless of how many times he had this encounter, it never got any easier. "Thank you, miss, but really, it's not necessary. Thank me by helping me get this slave; he's the one who needs some credit."

"Accio Snape, Severus file." Marcel, the Asian man with greying hair that had his wand pointed lazily at a cabinet. The drawer marked 'S' opened slightly and a file came sliding out, the drawer shutting behind it. The folder landed in Marcel's hand.

Marcel eyed Harry and Ron carefully. "I don't know if I should be letting you look at these."

"The Minister said we could," Ron said, shifting slightly.

"I'm well aware." Marcel said. "But do you know how much time I've spent organising these files?"

Well, using magic... three minutes tops. "No sir, but I bet you do a good job at it." Harry said, pushing his fringe back, trying to appear nonchalant. It didn't work.

"Yes, Mr. Potter, I know who you are." The man snapped. "And quite frankly, I don't care. These aren't your files to look through."

"Er... you see, this is life-debt stuff." Harry said, trying to tap into his Slytherin skills which were deeply submerged in him. Sometimes they were so deeply in him, he could deny they were there, with the exception of his Parseltongue. "I kind of owe someone a debt, and if I don't get the information I need, I can't fulfil that debt, and-"

"Is it an Unbreakable Vow debt?" Marcel snapped.

Harry flinched slightly, startled by the question. "Um... no, I don't-"

"Then you'll survive." Marcel said coolly.

"He might not." Ron spoke up, causing Marcel and Harry to look at him with a surprise.

The Gryffindor boldly continued. "This person and Harry both have really strong magic. I know normal life-debts don't kill, but Harry's and Sn- this other person's... well, let's just say I'm helping Harry because I don't want to be known as the person who got in the way of the life-debt which ultimately killed Harry Potter."

That was a lie if Harry had ever heard one, but surprisingly, it seemed to help.

Marcel's eyes narrowed. "You realise that the information in this file is highly confidential."

Harry nodded. "Look, I don't want to see anything that has to do with anyone's Gringotts accounts or anything. I just want to see a... debriefing sheet on the slave, really."

"Debriefing sheet?"

"Yeah, you know, what county he lives in, who owns him, how many times he has been sold, if he's still alive..." Harry's voice trailed.

Marcel opened the folder and passed a piece of paper to Harry wordlessly. "Don't wrinkle the parchment."

Name: Severus Tobias Snape

Birth date: January 9th, 1960

Date of enslavement: September 2nd, 1998 (Death Eater)

Languages spoken: English, Latin

Current owner: Christoffer König – Burgdorf, Germany (o wned under the name Severus Tobias Snape)

Past owners: Richard Weston, Christina Weston – London, England (owned under the name Severus Tobias Snape)
Nigel Mering – Surrey, England (owned under the name Severus Tobias Mering)

The Ministry for Magic, Britain

ID Number: 73682759378429031960

There was more information on that piece of parchment than Harry expected. Who knew that Snape spoke Latin? Got a 'T' in Divination (though succeeded in every other subject)? Had Italian heritage? That his wand had a core of dragon heartstring, which he bought on July 20th, 1971?

"Look, he is an Animagus. A raven." Harry showed his friend excitedly. He had a fondness for anything and everything to do with Animagi. He hoped to learn how to someday, but had so far never found the time.

"And unregistered, too." Ron pointed to another space on the parchment. "At least until they made him a slave. Reckon he tried to fly away?"

"I don't know." Harry bit his lip. "I wonder how they caught him."

"Slaves are not humans; they can be summoned as easily as a piece of parchment. Namely, the one in your hand." Marcel said impatiently.

"Hold on, we're almost done." Ron scoffed. "His current collar, see there? A Jolt XR 3000? What's that?"

"I don't know if I want to know," Harry said uneasily. "I'm gonna have to get him a collar, right?"

"Unless they sell him with one, yeah. It's the law." Ron said with a shrug. "Reckon we should write some of this down?"

Harry nodded, pulling a spare piece of parchment from his pocket and beginning to write on it. He borrowed a quill from Marcel's desk, which Marcel did not sound like he approved of. What he copied down was simple;

Christoffer König – Burgdorf, Germany.

"Thank you, Mr. Marcel," Harry said, passing the parchment back to the man. "We really appreciate it."

"Is this what you owe a life-debt to?" Marcel asked, looking through the folder in his hands.

Harry nodded, uncomfortably. "Yeah. Why?"

Marcel shrugged. "Ugly thing, isn't he?"

"You've got a picture?" Ron asked, his ginger eyebrows raised.

Harry walked behind Mering and leaned over his shoulder. Sitting in the folder was a snapshot of Snape. He was wearing his customary black robes, kneeling on the floor in a position Harry recognised from one of the many books they had looked through. One of dead submission, with head bowed, knees bent and apart, hands clasped... it made Harry sick to look at.

Marcel picked up the photo and read something on the back of it. "Taken on September 2nd, 1998. The day he became a slave, no?"

Harry nodded. "Yeah, that's the day."

Marcel shrugged. "Well, this is something I can make copies of. Can't hurt. You want it?" He offered the photo to Harry.

The eighteen-year-old backed away, shaking his head. "Er, no thanks. You keep it. Thanks." That said, he bolted out of Marcel's office, feeling as if he were about to hurl.

Harry Potter had seen a lot of things in his lifetime. A lot of blood, a lot of gore, a lot of death. He had known a lot of pain, both physical and emotional, and knew what suffering was. He had dreamed of seeing his Potions professor in many positions, such as six-feet underground or begging Albus Dumbledore for forgiveness for killing him... but never in his life did he dream of seeing Snape so vulnerable.

Seeing such a proud man give up so much... Harry now understood why the Order had made such a fuss about Snape's changed personality at the auction. However, like a true Gryffindor, that only encouraged his efforts to find the man.

Ron caught up with him. "What's wrong, mate? Are you sick?"

He smiled weakly at his concern. "No; I'm just a little unwell, is all."

Time. The continuum of experience in which events pass from the future through the present to the past. A period of time considered as a resource under one's control and sufficient to accomplish something...

Time hardly existed for him. The only time that existed for him was when he was hiding and trying to sleep, or when he was being violated and tortured. There was nothing else. Nothing else existed. Just Pain. Thirst – he had long forgotten about hunger, as his stomach no longer felt like it was going to turn itself out if it did not get food. It felt merely... Empty.

Pain. Thirst. Blood. Darkness. Pain. Fatigue. Fear. Emptiness. Pain. Cold. Sweat. Tears. Pain.

Chapter Text

Frederick glanced up at the sun out the window and wiped the sweat off his forehead. It was only February, and yet, he felt as if he were on the beach, on the hottest day of the year. Then again, after all the lifting, hefting, moving, and barricading he had had to do during the past several hours, just to get into the small house, he should be sweating like a pig.

He glanced around the kitchen, where other officers were dutifully gathering evidence. Finally, after sixty years of investigation, they had the drug bust of the century. Somebody had been marketing some form of underground drugs, for decades, to various parts of Europe. The drug, which did not have a legitimate name, as it had a substance in it that even the most talented researchers could not figure out, was highly dangerous. Taken in very small doses, it would send one into a state of euphoria. However, any more than the tiniest pinch at a time would drive one permanently insane, and could even kill the person who took it.

They had found a drug trafficker in Poland, selling untold quantities of the pink sugar-like substance. The man, who spoke with a thick foreign accent, would not give a word as to what the drug was, where it was made, or any other information. He had sealed his mouth shut, and had not uttered a word since his arrest. However, by putting his picture up on various news stations, they finally got several reports that he had been seen in the Burgdorf area.

Burgdorf, of all places. Such a small, remote town... the perfect place to make and package up drugs. No one would suspect anyone in Burgdorf.

Earlier that morning, they had found fourteen people in the house. Three they managed to arrest, but the others escaped... somehow. They had had the house surrounded.

They attempted to arrest an old man who had to be at least seventy or eighty. He looked it in the face, at least. He had the agility of a sixteen-year-old, though, and had escaped. His identity was still being worked out. Frederick, after years on the job, was confident it would only be a matter of hours or days.

A few satellite images of the place made it to become a much bigger case than just a drug bust, however. In the backyard, there were several pits. Only a few moments of digging and a few German Shepherds later, they had pulled up human bones from the partially filled in pits. Hundreds upon hundreds of human bones. And that was only in the pits; they were scattered around outdoors, as well. The pigsty in the back was just beginning to get checked, but Frederick would not delude himself into thinking that there would be no gore found there.

Just what would an eighty-year-old German, and a fifty-year-old drug dealer, amongst others, want with dead bodies? Both things were criminal, but usually did not go hand in hand in this way. It was a mystery the entire world was waiting to hear about, and the entire case rested on Frederick's shoulders.

The ground floor of the house was normal enough. Yes, there were all sorts of strange pots and fumes in just about every room of the house, but those had been quickly wrapped up and taken in for further examination. The first floor was still being searched, as was the basement. Frederick hoped that all they would find both places would be more drugs; after they found a partially decomposed man stuffed into the washing machine, he did not know how much more he could take before having some sort of panic attack. It was not like there was an absurd amount of people that had suddenly gone missing in Germany, but where did all the bodies come from, then?

"Oh, Christ!" A younger man bolted out of the hallway, his eyes wide. "Bodies! Bodies! Hundreds of bodies! In the cupboard!"

Frederick walked into the hallway, to the cupboard under the stairs, where trained officers had the situation under control. Oddly enough, there was no stench penetrating from anywhere in the house. Not the cupboard, not the garden... nowhere. Even the pigsty, filled with huge pigs and plenty of mud, did not smell at all. It was quite the oddity.

He watched as more photographs were taken, this time of the cupboard under the stairs and its contents. "How many?" He asked.

"It's filled," someone replied. "They look to be about two, three months old. The one closest to the door two weeks old, maybe. We'll need to have an autopsy done, to be sure."

Frederick nodded, not allowing himself feel any emotions towards the humans that had died under mysterious circumstances. If he let himself feel pity, sadness, anger, he would not be able to have the job he did. He had to set himself apart from the victims, from the human's natural need to grieve. Over the years, it had gotten easier. However, this grisly matter was-

"Schmidt? Downstairs. The basement. There's someone alive." His radio cackled urgently.

He pulled the radio off his belt. "A trafficker?"

"Uh, I don't think so. A prisoner, I think, or something. You're going to have to come down here."

Frederick's heart pounded. Someone was alive? Perhaps this person could enlighten them on what exactly the drug was, and where the old man had run off to. Maybe the person could tell them who all the dead people were, or how they died. Or at the very least, maybe they could rescue this person before the person's untimely demise.

The steps down to the basement were filthy, and creaked with each step. They were the type of stairs that you did not trust, that you were fully certain would break out from under you any moment.

He tried not to think about what was under the steps. They had reportedly found several corpses stuffed underneath the basement steps. He was not sure if they had actually begun removing the remains, though. He had seen hundreds of dead bodies in his career, but it never got too much easier.

The basement had the most peculiar smell. It smelled of mould, mildew, the iron smell of blood, and the unmistakable acrid smell that resembled that of burning rubber. Once one smelled the smell of burning flesh, one never forgot the smell.

Fredrick's stomach convulsed, but he continued his way down the steps into the cold basement.

The people in the basement were all clustered to the back left-hand corner of the rather spacious basement. They were all silent, except for the occasional murmur here and there.

"What's going on?" Frederick asked, weaving his way through the cluster of people, who thankfully parted so that he could get through.

His co-worker pointed to the corner. "He seems to be on the wild side. They're too afraid to get near him."

Frederick took the torch from his co-worker and beamed it towards the dark corner, squinting his eyes to see through the dim light in the basement, provided by old-fashioned torches on the wall. He could make out a huddled figure in the shadows, who was convulsively shaking.

"Male or female? Does it speak?" His questions were directed to his co-worker, who was directing things in the basement.

"Haven't gotten close enough to check yet. They are not answering our questions."

Frederick took a cautious step towards the person. "Hello," he said quietly, not taking his eyes off the huddled form. "What is it that you are doing down here?" He tried to keep his tone light. It seemed to be a rather dumb question to ask, though. It was the officers and investigators invading the person's private space. The person huddled in the corner should be asking that question.

As he got closer, he was able to make out long and skeletal legs, leading up to an equally as skeletal body. The person was covered in lacerated cuts, and had many other painful looking marks and bruises covering their nude, dirty, and battered form. The person looked at Frederick with wide black eyes, fear radiating out of them. Their hair was a knotted nest in the back of their head; it looked to be black, but the lighting was so poor and the person so dirty that its true colouring would be impossible to tell.

"Are you all right?" Frederick asked softly, as if he were speaking to his five-year-old daughter's playmates. "Can you understand me?"

He did not dare get any closer. He was about eight feet apart from the person – man – and did not want to push it. He had had enough training to know to expect the unexpected. It would be better to take things slowly, rather than to rush them.

He spoke without turning away from the figure. "Call an ambulance," he said out of the corner of his mouth. Whatever wound up happening, they would need some medical officials there to sedate and examine the person. The person was no doubt suffering from physical trauma, but mental ones as well.

The figure shifted ever so slightly. Frederick could make out what looked to be painful burns on the man's left thigh, wrist, and hand. They looked to be red, blistering, and fresh. That would no doubt explain the smell of the burning flesh, though not the absence of the odour of decomposing bodies.

"It's safe here. You can come over here," Frederick continued to speak to the man. The presence of all the other people was likely making the man nervous, but there was not a lot Frederick could immediately do about that. "It's safe. We're going to take care of you, clean you up, get you some clothes, some food."

The man began to blather incoherently, his wide eyes taking in every motion in the basement. Frederick managed to pick up a few words he recognised as English, but nothing he could translate into anything meaningful.

"Does anyone hear speak English?" He called behind him. That was a mistake; his raised voice seemed to have struck a chord with the man in the corner, which compelled the man to hug his knees even tighter to his chest and press his forehead into his knees. A soft whimper escaped from the man's thin and ghastly pale lips.

Frederick bit his lip as he noticed a collar chaining the man to the wall by the man's neck. He was chained to the wall like a mongrel. Even if the man were capable of understanding the German Frederick spoke, he would not be able to come closer if he wanted to.

"Name?" He tried again, moving the slightest bit closer. "Name? Do you have a name?" He spoke slowly, hoping to draw the man out of his foetal position. He could see hip bones jarring out of the man's body, and each rib defined clearly on the skin that seemed to have seen much abuse and never sunlight.

The man began whimpering unintelligibly. Frederick was starting to doubt that he would be able to understand the man even if Frederick spoke English. Was the man sane, or even aware of his surroundings? What had happened to him to make him like this? Had he always been so broken?

"Does anyone have a biscuit?" He called to the group of people that had not dispersed from behind him. "A biscuit? A wafer? Something to lure him with?" He knew that the man would not be able to come to him, but perhaps he would let Frederick come closer if Frederick had food. It made Frederick's gut twist to think that this was the way he gave his dog his heart-worm medicine each month, by wrapping it in a piece of hamburger.

Someone came over and pressed a cracker into his hand before quickly scurrying off. Frederick held it out as he inched forward, staying in the squatted down position he was in, however uncomfortable. "Would you like a cracker?" He said kindly. "It's good."

The man's senses seemed to come alive when the cracker entered the scene. Frederick did not know how the man knew that he had gotten food, but the man seemed to be able to smell it from feet away. The man looked at the cracker, at Frederick, and then shrank back further into the shadows, if that was possible. He did not take his frightened eyes off of Frederick, though.

Frederick broke the cracker in half and made a big show of putting one half into his mouth. "Mmmm." He said as he chewed, rubbing his stomach, hoping to get the message across to the imprisoned Englishman. He came a little closer, holding out the half a cracker. Perhaps the man would take it. Did the man even know what a cracker was? How long had the man been down there? From the reddened marks around the man's wrists and ankles, he had dealt with a lot of cuffing in the past.

Frederick was beginning to despair. Would they have to resort to sedation and a straitjacket?

The man's nostrils flared as Frederick – and the cracker – came closer. The man began to struggle against his choker and chain, trying desperately to move out of the corner – and away from Frederick.

The crowd of workers gasped and all took a few steps back involuntarily.

"It's all right. We're going to help you." Frederick said softly, ceasing any movement. He kept his eyes focused on the barbaric man, who was like a scared animal, ready to run at any sign of a threat.

Frederick took another step forward. That was the final straw for the man in the corner, apparently. A gust of light blue light erupted from the man's body, pushing Frederick and everyone else in the basement back, causing them to fall down.

What happened next, Frederick would never remember. In fact, he would never remember the murder cases, the drug bust... none of it. No one who had heard about it would. Frederick would have nightmares for the rest of his life about a burst of light blue light, but he would never know where it came from.

Chapter Text

There were two kinds of fears: rational and irrational. In simpler terms, there were fears that made sense and fears that did not. He vaguely knew that, in the back of his mind, but it did not really matter. For him, fear was always useless, because bad things would happen to him whether he was afraid or not. He was unable to control the situations that he was put in, so why did he fear? He did not know... perhaps it was his body's way of coping with uncertainty that made him want to hide in the darkest, most hidden corner he could. Perhaps it was his mind's way of dealing with situations that he could not fix.

If he were able to turn into his Animagus, life would be simpler. As a raven, he felt his emotions, he could think as himself... yet the animal instincts were there as well. Sometimes it was easier to deal with life in the form of an animal, as their emotions and thought processes were naturally different from a person's.

He wrapped his thin arms around himself, trying to keep himself from shaking as he sat in the white room. The room was completely white; the floor, the walls, the ceiling, and even the door was painted white. He felt like he was trapped in a little white box, with little room to move. The room itself was not small, nor was it large. If he chose to, he would be able to walk around it, in circles. It might be good for him, but he did not want to. He couldn't.

He just sat in the corner in the tightest ball that he could, fighting the fatigue in his brain. He had not slept in days... he needed to sleep. That potion that the doctors made him drink was supposed to make him feel tired and sluggish, but he could not afford to feel that way. He needed to be awake, in case someone came in.

He placed his head on his knees and tried to rest while keeping his eyes open. They hurt in the bright light of the room; he needed to shut them, and go to sleep. Do not even think about it, he told himself.

He was cold. He needed a warming charm, or perhaps even a blanket. He dreamily thought about covering up with a nice fleece blanket, and laying his head on perhaps a pillow. He fantasised about being able to sleep, to not have to worry about getting up. About sleeping and sleeping... about being allowed to do that, about not having to worry about someone waking you up, angry and ready to hurt you. Or perhaps just ready to use you. Or-

He shut his eyes hard as the empty white room began spinning. It hurt his head to think about things too much. Perhaps it would be safe to go to sleep... he would be all right. The Monster, as he had nicknamed his new master in his mind, would not come to get him.

Apparently the Monster was a fugitive and on the run. Apparently, the Monster had done something wrong, though what it was, he did not know. The people at the Ministry had not hurt him too badly yet; they had been really nice, actually. They had put cleansing charms on him, and had even given him something to wear, not unlike what house-elves wore. That was wonderful; he should have been happy.

They had also covered his body in potions that had really hurt when spread on his infected skin. Severus recognised a lot of them and their smells. He knew the Ministry people were just trying to fix him, but he could not help but resent them for it. They were attempting to heal him (which they couldn't do, as only his master could heal the injuries that he inflicted), and then what? He would go to another owner, who would hurt him all over again. He tried to assure himself that whatever happened to him, it could not be worse than the Monster. It did not help him too much. Just thinking about the Monster scared him.

He opened his eyes to the bright light and shut them again. He had not seen much light in the years he spent at the Monster's. Just the light that came down the steps or the dim light the torches gave off. He did not know how much time he spent at the Monster's, actually, but he supposed it was a few years. He had been there a long time.

Stay awake, stay awake, he told himself, listening intently for the slightest sound. He could not hear any, but that did not mean he shouldn't be listening. If someone was to come in, he needed to be awake. He needed to know they were coming before they came in. If he did, he would be safer.

Things at the Monster's had been normal until the Muggles came. One time, he woke up from sleeping in his corner and the Monster was not there. That was not unusual, as The Monster spent a lot of time not in the basement, but he heard other sounds. People upstairs. That had scared him, because there was normally not a lot of noise at the Monster's on the floors above him. There was the American slave, who was not really a slave - he was just as mean as The Monster, or worse. The Monster let the American do whatever he wanted to him. Besides him, there were several other people – Severus did not know how many, for that had not mattered. He had stopped trying to tell them apart long ago. For the most part though, they remained upstairs. His main torturer was just the Monster.

Normally things were quiet. However, that day, there was a lot of noise. If anything out of the ordinary happened, that always meant something bad. Always.

Eventually, people had come to the basement. They all spoke a different language, German, he thought. He knew they were Muggles by their clothes, and the way they were using their lights; they did not have wands, but sticks with lights coming out of the end. Torches. Flashlights. He knew because his own father had had many of them, though they rarely worked. Their batteries were always flat.

When they found him, a man tried to come closer to him. He had had food with him and kept holding the cracker out. Severus could not understand what he was saying, or what he wanted. It was very confusing and overwhelming. The Monster did not speak much English himself, but his orders and wants were always clear. He knew when The Monster wanted him to do things, and what to do, though normally it did not require much on Severus' part but to survive, which was awfully hard as things went.

But the Muggle man... had he wanted Severus to eat the cracker? Was the cracker poisoned? What would the poison do? Would it make him really sick? Would it kill him? Did The Monster want him to eat it? Severus had been trying to figure it out, and trying to get away from the Muggle man when he accidentally did magic. He still did not know what he did; he just got so scared and confused.

Soon, the Ministry came. He knew they were from the Ministry by their robes, though they dressed different from the Ministry officials he knew of. The differences of being in a different country, he supposed. He supposed he was in Germany. That was not hard to figure out on its own. Even when the Monster first bought him, Severus figured that out. He did not know German, but he recognised some of the words.

The German officials Obliviated all of the Muggles, and did other complex memory charms. They took Severus out of the basement and to the Ministry, where they did charms and spells to take away the blood and dirt, and tried to put some potions on his scars and scratches to make them not hurt so badly. Then they locked him in the white room. They spoke little to him, and what they did say, Severus did not understand. But their eyes were cold, as were their hands. Their tones were just as cold, with no warmth or softness. That did not necessarily mean he was in trouble, for the only times he was spoke to softly was by Master...

He bit his lip and tasted blood. He would not think about Master. He trusted Master, and Master sold him to the Monster. Did Master know what happened at the Monster's? Did Master care? Where was Master?

He could not help but think of his past Master and Mistress as just that - Master and Mistress. Even though he had called the Monster "Master" to his face once or twice, the man did not speak English well, and he did not seem to care what Severus called him.

Everything felt like it was so abrupt. It felt like fate would not let him settle. Was that it? Did someone place some type of curse on him to make him feel like a fish out of water all the time? Just when he adjusted to being a slave, he was sold from Master Mering to Master and Mistress. Then, just as he was really comfortable with his life there, which admittedly, took less time than one might expect, he was sold again. And now this? He just wished he could be sold to someone, anyone, with the guarantee that he would be there until he died.

Slaves were more of a burden to keep than house-elves, and many people chose House-Elves over slaves because of that. House-elves rarely needed punished by the hand of the owner, and they were very powerful. Slaves were only good for making good impressions, sex, and other similar things. Some people preferred slaves because of how it looked to other people. It was far more impressive to have someone come out, bow to you, and obey your every word over having a house-elf do the same thing. And sex... well, that was obvious. Severus was not even sure if house-elves were capable of doing that... if they were not, he was definitely envious. Perhaps there was a potion he could invent that would give one the body of a house-elf.

He tried not to think about potions any longer. Even though he knew their scents and properties, and had spent years deeply submerged in them, it was pointless. Would he even be able to brew potions any longer? He looked down at his long thin hands and flexed his fingers. Perhaps. The Monster had always put them back on when he was done, and there did not seem to be any permanent damage.

But he would likely never get the chance to, or be allowed to. Therefore, there was no sense on dwelling on it. There was no sense on pining after something you could not have; he had learned that years ago.

Time passed in the white room the way it did in the basement of the Monster's. He had no way of knowing how long he had been there. Two minutes? Two days? Two weeks? Two years? It was impossible to know. The two latter were unlikely, because he had not eaten or drank anything in a long time. The Monster gave him meals sparingly, in bowls he was expected to eat out of like a dog, which he did. But that had been a long time ago... there was no way to measure time for him at the Monster's and in the white room, but it had to have been several days since he last ate, and the water bowl at The Monster's had been empty for awhile... it had not yet been a week, as a wizard could survive up to a week without water, whereas Muggles could only make it a few days. But if two weeks or two years had passed, he would have died.

Are you dead? He looked around the room. Perhaps this is the afterlife. Perhaps for slaves, they are just given a room where they are allowed to sleep for eternity. That would be nice.

However, it was unlikely. He did not know what was in the afterlife, but he would probably go to hell or the equivalent of. He had tortured too many people, done too many things wrong... and what happened to slaves? Did they even go on to the afterlife? Perhaps they just died. That would be nice, too. It would be like sleeping forever; he could just cease to exist.

And if he did go to a good place after he died, he would likely be serving up there, as well. But if it was a good place, there could not be too much pain or suffering, could there? He hoped not. Where did slaves go? Most wizards and witches were uncertain about that topic for themselves, but being a slave opened a brand new set of circumstances. It was something he had never even contemplated in his past life... was it worth contemplating now? Perhaps it was up to his owners to decide. Nevertheless, he could not do anything about it. He had no control over anything.

His ears perked at the sound of the door creaking open and he lifted his head quickly, opening his eyes. He had already situated himself in the far corner, but he pushed himself further in the corner as a Ministry official came in, holding his wand out threateningly.

The man snapped at Severus. Severus could not understand what the man wanted, so he did the safe thing; he knelt on his knees, touching his head to the floor. Knees apart, hands behind his back. That was a bow for the most formal of occasions, or when one was being punished. It was utter surrender. Severus knew this, and hoped it meant the same thing in Germany that it did Britain.

Apparently, whether it did or not, it was not what the man wanted. He grabbed Severus by the tangled mound on the back of his head that made up his hair and pulled him to his feet.

Though it hurt, Severus did not even let the pain show on his face. He was too used to it to complain. Perhaps now his hair was nearly unfixable, now that it had not had a combing charm or seen a shower in a long time. Perhaps he would be allowed to cut it all off. Then no one would be able to grab him by his hair again.

He was pushed against the wall by the Ministry official, who pulled out a wand and began scanning him. This, Severus was used to. That's what people did. They had to figure out if he was deathly ill, if he had any strange markings, how much he weighed, what his measurements were... he knew that. What he was being observed for, he did not know. And to be honest, he did not care.

The man let go over Severus' hair, turned, and walked away. Severus just weakly fell back to the floor, not having the energy to stand up on his own. He just wanted to go to sleep... perhaps he should... even if a Ministry person did come and kick him to wake him up, it was nothing he wasn't used to, anyway.

He did not know how long he slept. But he woke when he heard the door open again.

Wiping the sleep out of his eyes, he sat up and backed up against the wall. He always felt safer in the corner... he did not know why. Perhaps it was because he knew no one would be able to come up behind him if he was pressed against the wall.

The Ministry official held her wand threateningly out. She spoke, her tone of voice harsh and unwavering.

Severus could not understand her, but he nodded just the same.

He eyed the tray in her hands. There was a plate on the tray, with peas and a baked potato on it. A tall glass of water was also on the tray. She means to feed you, he realised. Is the food laced with potion? Poison?

The Monster had punished Severus every time he stood. He was supposed to stay on the floor, or on his hands and knees, at all times. He got to his knees and tried to crawl towards the woman, assuming that was what she wanted.

She shouted at him, sending a stinging hex his way.

He got back to the corner as quickly as he could, his heart beating fast. What is it that she wants me to do? He wondered, biting his lip. He got on his knees and knelt, hoping against hope that she would just punish him and get it over with.

But she didn't. She sat the tray down and backed out of the door, shutting it behind her, leaving Severus alone.

His stomach began growling ravenously at the smell of the food. He was starving; he knew he had to eat something, or he would get very sick. Possibly die. He was never guaranteed his next meal.

Getting up from the kneeling position, he crawled over to the tray. He had done a lot of crawling in the past several years, ever since the Monster owned him. The Monster did not let him stand. He was not allowed. He was to only crawl. Now he was simply too weak to walk, and besides, the Monster still legally owned him, as far as the Mark was concerned. The Monster never soothed the burning on the forehead, so it was crucial that he obeyed what the Monster wanted out of him, even though he did not know where The Monster was.

The potato was cold, he could tell. And so were the peas. They did not have any butter, salt, or any other seasoning on them, but that was nothing new. He was used to food more bland than that. The water... he lifted the glass and sniffed it. It smelled like water. There was no trace of potions, as most potions smelled or looked like something. The water appeared to be just that; water.

Tentatively, he lifted the glass and took a small sip, welcoming the cool water as it slid down his throat. The Monster always insisted he lap it out of a bowl. The Monster would be very angry if he knew Severus was-

He sat down the glass and put his hand to his burning forehead, trying not to wince, but failing. He was disobeying the Monster... he could not do that, as much as he wanted to.

Gritting his teeth, he weighed his options. It would not hurt to eat the food like the Monster insisted, but the water was in a glass; he had to drink it as it was, or perhaps pour it into the tray and lap it out of that. However, that seemed like a rather strange thing to do when he could just drink out of the glass.

He bit his lip before getting to his knees so that he could comfortably bend down and smell the potato. Again, it smelled just as it should. No potions, there did not seem to be any curses on it by the looks of it... he could not tell without using magic, of course, and he did not want to know where his wand was. He loved his wand, but the Monster had done things with it that were cruel, evil, sadistic, or at least unsanitary with it. Severus was not going to delude himself into thinking that he would ever get it back. Perhaps another one, but never the same one.

He bit into the potato, noticing absently that he had not been given any silverware in the first place. Perhaps they thought he would stab himself with his fork or choke himself with his spoon. He knew they thought he was crazy, or at least dangerous. They knew he had the Dark Mark, and probably formed their opinions from that.

Swallowing the bite of potato, he turned his attention back to the water. He needed to eat and drink slowly - his stomach was not accustomed to too much at one time, and he needed to make it last. He could not guarantee when he would be allowed to eat or drink next.

Contentedly, he lay curled up in the corner, lazily walking his fingers across the floor. He did not think about anything; that was the beauty of Occlumency. He was able to do it without his wand, and without doing wandless magic. He could do it as much as he wanted and no one would ever stop him. Unless they told him to, of course, in which case he would have to stop. But as long as he did not tell them that he was doing it, they would likely never know.

His stomach was full and he was wearing clothes. That was much better than he ever got at the Monster's. The Monster did not feed him much at all, and when he did, it was usually cold and mouldy scraps. He had had his clothes taken away as soon as he got to The Monster's. Here, in the white room, they gave him food, water, and clothes. Maybe he would be safe there. Maybe that was going to be the rest of his life. Maybe he would just live in the white room. He could do that. It would get boring, but he could always Occlude and retreat into his mind. He never had to be in the white room in his mind. He could be anywhere he wanted. That thought made him want to laugh with glee. They could never take his mind away from him. No, not ever. Not even if they drove him insane, because his brain would still be there. If they removed his brain, he would be dead, so that did not count.

"Stand up!" A harsh voice barked, causing Severus to nearly jump out of his skin. He had not even heard the door open.

As quickly as he could, he stood up against the wall, in the corner. He bowed his head, but let his eyes dart around the room, picking up what clues he could as to what was going on, as to what was happening. The man who spoke spoke English, though - that was a comfort. Severus was not one of those wizards that could speak twelve different languages - ordering him around in German was just nerve wrecking, knowing he was not pleasing when he should be. English... that was nice.

He saw two pairs of feet in the white room. One was wearing shiny black shoes, the other brown laced-up leather boots. And then there was his own bare feet. They were really rough - he had not worn shoes since the enslavement curse was put on him, however long ago that was.

The two men began to talk. They were conversing in German, and he could not understand them, which was frustrating. But he was used to that. Master and Mistress always spoke in French when they did not want him to understand what they were saying. Not that what they were saying was any of his business and it would not have mattered it could understand them or not. One of these days, he would have to take it upon himself to learn French or German. Better German, because he would likely be in Germany for the rest of his life.

One thing that was sure, The Monster was not one of those men. He knew of the Monster's voice well, and neither one of those voices were him. He didn't know what the good thing to or a bad thing. On one hand, it meant he might not see the Monster for a long time, which was a good thing. And on the other hand, what would happen to him? At least with the Monster, he knew his place and knew his fate. While on the other hand...

It was all becoming confused. His head was really tired. It felt like it was filled with a thick cloud. No doubt a result from one of the many potions given to him. He wished they hadn't done that, but there was nothing he could to stop them.

The men left shutting the door behind them. The white room was quiet again, the only sound, his breathing.

Don't dwell on anything. He told himself fiercely. You can't control anything. Stop pretending you can. Just stop thinking. Stop trying to understand anything. Just forget it. If you are supposed to know, somebody will tell you. Hopefully. Just give up. Like you should have done in the beginning.

He had stopped wondering what happened with the Order. He had stopped wondering about anything that had to do with his past life. However, that it did not stop him from wondering about his future, even though he had no control in that.

Once upon a time, his greatest fear had been losing his mind. No longer. His mind gave him more trouble than it was worth, sometimes.

He let them feed him a potion that smelled of... the smell was familiar, but he was too tired to place it. He let them bind his hands behind his back without resisting, as well as hamper his feet together in such a way that he could walk, but not fast and certainly not run. They secured a chain to his collar and wordlessly tugged on it, indicating that he should follow.

As he walked out of the white room, his eyes on the cold floor, he concentrated on the sound the chains on his ankles made as they clangoured and clinked against the floor. He ignored the looks he was sure to be getting from Ministry officials as he followed the man leading him into a lift.

He wished he had something to cover his arms with – the sheet-like cotton shift he was wearing was like an oversized pillowcase with holes cut for the neck and arms. They offered no sleeves, and the Ministry's cooling spells were too cold.

And it would hide the Mark, he blinked at the dark black Mark of a skull and snake on his left forearm. It really was ugly. And to think he once felt honoured to have it. That felt like several lifetimes ago. That was in his second lifetime – he had his past lives separated into groups- childhood; the years serving the Dark; the years fighting against the Dark… and now. He found himself not thinking much about his past lives at all now, but sometimes thoughts still crept up on him.

The man spoke crossly, pulling hard on the leash, nearly choking Severus.

Severus tried not to trip as he tried to follow the Ministry worker, trying to keep up the pace. If he walked any slower, he would end up on the floor, being dragged. No, thank you - he had had enough of similar things happen to him because of the Monster. However, if he walked any faster, he would trip over the hamper and end up on the floor, just the same.

Severus had always managed to stay relatively physically fit in his past life. He had spent too much time traipsing upstairs and downstairs at Hogwarts, chasing after miscreants, running to do this or that... but that was gone. Now, he just felt weak. He hadn't felt so weak at Master Mering's or at Master's and Mistress'. Maybe it was something the Monster gave me.

Two men, the men from before, began talking back and forth as Severus and the man leading him approached them. Severus did not even bother to listen too carefully to what they were saying. It would just be a waste of effort.

Severus could see his leash change hands. Why do I even need a leash? I cannot run. I will not run. It seems rather pointless. But then again, the Monster always liked to keep Severus on a leash. Maybe it was a new development in his legal status. Perhaps he had to be kept on a leash, now. He did not really care either way, but it was a bit annoying not knowing why.

The person now holding the leash began to tug on it, saying something that Severus could not understand.

Severus lifted his head to see cold grey eyes observing him. He tried not to make eye contact, but it was hard to look elsewhere. If he looked at a space behind the German's head, it would be obvious he was not looking at him. Was he supposed to be looking at him? He supposed he could do that. But eye contact? That was one of the most disrespectful and defiant things Severus could do... but if he were ordered to do it, perhaps he would not be punished for doing it? Perhaps the man did not know that it was disrespectful.

He bit his lip. Everyone above him was always right. Always. He could never let himself forget that. They were always right, no exceptions. Whatever they said was true. There was no sense in questioning or even pondering their words. There could only be acceptance.

Perhaps the man was a trainer. That would make a lot of sense that they would want Severus retrained. He had not meant to do accidental magic on those Muggles. It just... happened. But it was something that a good slave would not have done.

He had said he was sorry and had pleaded for forgiveness and punishment. The Ministry never punished him for it, though. Perhaps the Germans did not understand him, or perhaps they understood it was an accident? He did not know what he had done to earn food, cleansing spells, and clothes, but perhaps the Germans had different customs for their slaves? It was hard to think about - it made the room spin.

The man now holding the leash pulled out a wand. Ash, likely fifteen inches. He was speaking very rapidly.

Severus fell to the floor and cried out quietly as his knees came into harsh blows with the hard tiled floor. That would bruise, if it did not break, his kneecaps. But he was covered in bruises and cuts already, so it was not as if it made a difference. He just wished that whoever had been standing behind him had told him to kneel instead of kicking him in the back of the knees. He would have knelt, just as they told him.

He resumed the familiar bow. Knees to floor, apart, head bowed slightly, hands clasped behind back. He felt the tip of the ash wand touch his forehead, and the familiar burning pain overtake him. It was much more painful than he remembered; it felt like the very core of him was going to explode. Thankfully, he sank into darkness before that could happen.

Chapter Text

Harry took five long strides across the room and pointed to the large blackboard with his wand.

"Okay, Plan K," he said. He forced himself to take a few deep breaths in order to calm his nerves. The S.P.E.W. Meetings were becoming increasingly stressful, as fewer people attended and they ran out of options.

It was now May 3rd, 1999. They had been unable to find an address for König, and all the letters addressed to him had been returned by owls. Burgdorf was a predominantly Muggle community, which meant there weren't wizarding newspapers to place ads in. As Burgdorf was a large place, they had reasoned that it made no sense for Harry to wander around in hopes that he ran into the man.

He was starting to doubt that reasoning. He couldn't explain it, but he felt as though they were running out of time. Hence, his new plan.

He understood that everyone was discouraged. Mr. Weasley was notably less exuberant, and Percy began to bother the Department of Magical Creatures less frequently. Mrs. Weasley and Fleur had slowed down on their baking and sewing sprees, as they were starting to doubt what good they were actually doing by sending the care packages to registered slaves. Neville had continued handing out literature on the treatment of slaves at Goldilocks' Nursery but had stopped after he got hexed on the street one night after locking up for Ms. Goldilocks.

Even Hermione was slowing down. She was offered fewer and fewer interviews on the topic, and, consequently, fewer letters streaming in telling her what an idiot she was for trying to free the slaves. Luna was having trouble with her 'connections' now, due to all the bad reviews that her articles had received. Ron and Ginny were starting to feel useless, and Harry, too.

They couldn't give up. Not now.

"L, Harry." Ginny corrected.

He turned and pushed the glasses up his nose. "What?"

Ginny sighed, motioned to the blackboard, where Harry had written 'Plan K' with the tip of his wand. "It's Plan L, not Plan K."

Oh, right. They had already gone through the alphabet now, and were halfway through it again. He couldn't help it if he occasionally lost track. "Plan L," he began again, as if they hadn't been interrupted.

Ron, Ginny, Hermione, Luna, Neville, and George were settled in the Room of Requirement. It was a Monday night, and they were holding their weekly meeting for S.P.E.W. More often than not, they had two or three meetings a week, when their last plans failed, but always on Mondays, regardless.

"Any suggestions?" Harry asked the group, who were settled on cushions on the floor, looking very comfy. Somehow, he had become the leader of this mission, whilst Hermione headed S.P.E.W as a whole. "Writing letters to Snape or to König obviously didn't work. He's not even getting them. We need a new idea, something fresh."

"You're going to want to cross out sending Snape goods." Ginny pointed out. "If König isn't getting the letters, he probably isn't getting the packages, either."

Harry frowned. It was true, but it was very discouraging. He liked to think that Snape was getting the muffins and woollen socks that they were sending out. Not that Snape would be thankful for them, but it was a nice gesture, at least. "All right, we'll send them less often. Come on, guys, think. We need a new plan. Let's just focus on Snape for now. After we are able to buy him, then we can start putting our energy into slave rights."

Hermione shook her head, standing up. "I disagree, Harry; we should be putting more effort into slave rights and less into helping Professor Snape. That way, no matter who owns Professor Snape, they will be forced to treat him kindly, and other slaves with benefit from it as well."

He didn't like that plan. It took too long and it was flawed. "It might take years to change one law."

"Well, we're not helping Professor Snape with what we're doing, are we?" Hermione exclaimed. "We've tried everything right now. Maybe we just need to give it a rest."

"I agree with Hermione." Ron spoke up. "And not just because she's my girlfriend. Putting all our energy into helping just Snape is not really fair, especially when it's just a waste of effort. If we can make laws so they, I dunno, are treated better, then it doesn't matter who owns him."

Harry couldn't believe it. His best friend wasn't taking his side. He was taking Hermione's side. He looked at the faces in the room; George looked thoughtful, Luna, dreamy, Ginny, resigned, and Neville, hesitant.

"Do you all agree with Hermione?" No answer. "Look, guys, have I ever steered you wrong?"

No one brought up the time they all went to the Ministry for Magic and got Sirius killed, and for that, Harry was grateful. He already knew it was his fault so many people had died. He didn't need them to remind him.

He took a deep breath, squinting his green eyes shut. He would not yell. He would be very grown-up about all of this. "This is important!" He pleaded. "We buy Snape, and he is guaranteed being safe. I think we all owe him that, right?"

"I don't know, Harry." Neville sounded as if he wanted to be anywhere but there. "He almost killed Trevor that time."

"He lied about our grades." Ginny reminded everyone. "He told all of us that we had gotten a 'T' or "D' instead of our real grades, 'O''s and 'E''s and 'A''s."

"He tried to get us all expelled - more than once!" Ron spoke up.

He saved my life. He saved everyone's life. He almost died trying to save everyone.Harry had enough blood on his hands - the blood of Sirius, the blood of Remus, the blood of Tonks, the blood of Mad-Eye, the blood of... well, shit, even his parents, really. If it hadn't been for the stupid prophesy (which Voldemort would have gotten eventually, regardless of who delivered it), his parents wouldn't have died when they did! Letting Snape remain wherever he was, after pleading for help like he did, would only be more blood on his hands. Harry couldn't live with that.

"Fine!" Harry said, turning and waving his wand, banishing the blackboard to Merlin only knew where. "I'll do it myself. I've done a lot by myself before, but usually Snape was somewhere behind the scenes, helping out. It's too bad no one wants to help him now that he needs it!"

"Harry, calm down." Hermione pleaded with him, softly. "We're not giving up. We're-"

He turned on his heel and stomped out. They were as bad as McGonagall and Kingsley. Harry realised that his hero complex went over the top sometimes, but this wasn't a part of that. This was a normal civilised human reaction to another human begging for help.

At least, he hoped so. He hoped a normal human wasn't like the rest of S.P.E.W and gave up whenever things got tough. What happened to his determined friends? His helpful friends, the ones that stuck with each other through thick and thin?

"Potter..." a voice hissed from somewhere nearby. "I'm watching you."

Harry was in a large dark room. Or, he thought it was a large room. As far as he could see was pitch black. He couldn't place the smells, but it reminded him of evil and sent shivers up his spine.

" Who are you?" He demanded, pulling his glasses off and rubbing his eyes. It didn't help; it was still dark.

" Potter..." the voice hissed again. "You know who I am."

He had a sinking feeling of who it was, but he ignored it. Denial was the best way to go, sometimes. "No, I don't. Stop being so presumptuous about things." It killed you last time...

A chuckle filled the room, and seemed to wrap around Harry. He whirled around, trying to see what it was and get ready to fight it off, but he couldn't. It was too dark to do anything.

" You haven't won yet, Potter." It hissed again. "You only think you have."

" You're wrong!" Harry said, viciously. "I've won. We've won. You're dead."

"Ah, but that is where you went wrong, Potter." The voice was soft. Too soft. Almost... kind, but yet not warm. Cold. "I am not the presumptuous one. Do you think a simple Expelliarmus could kill Lord Voldemort? That simply knocking me over would do the job? Is that what you think?"

Oh, shit. It was him. Harry reached in his wand for his pocket as déjà vu came over him. It was as if he'd been there before.

His wand wasn't in his pocket. Somehow, he had suspected it wouldn't be, and yet, that didn't stop the blinding terror from coursing through his body at the verification.

" You did die," Harry said, firmly to convince himself more than the disembodied voice. "You died, and we burned the body. We watched you burn."

The chuckle became a cackle. "Have you learned nothing of cooling spells? Of the Draught of the Living Death? Honestly, Potter; the sheer idiocy of your ideas amuse me to no end."

Draught of the Living Death? That made a person look like they were dead. Not breathing, or eating... just like they were dead. Voldemort had taken the Draught of the Living Death when he 'died'. And somehow used a cooling spell when they put him on fire. He wasn't dead.

" Get away from me!" Harry hissed, the sinking feeling growing worse when he noticed just how much he sounded like Voldemort when he said that. "You have no purpose for being alive; all of your followers are dead or bound to their owners. You've no power here at all, and everyone knows by now that your mission to kill all the Muggles is useless, anyway." He wasn't think about what he was saying; the words just popped out, as if rehearsed. "You're evil, disgusting, and just a pathetic little wizard who could never make any friends, and decided to take it out on everyone else."

"You disgust me. You think you are good, that you are pure? You are a blemish to this world and your mere existence must be rubbed out. Every child, women, and man of your kind shall suffer the same fate." Voldemort said, sharply. "Avada Kedavra!"

"Harry!" Someone shook Harry violently so that he woke. "Harry, wake up! Wake up!"

Harry opened his eyes. He could see a blob in front of him. A bright orange blob. Where did his glasses go?

"Here, mate, put on your glasses." The orange blob said, putting the glasses on Harry's face.

It was Ron, in his Chudley Canon pyjamas. His face was so pale that his freckles stood out. Gathered around him were the Gryffindor seventh-year boys, all pale and trembling, facing Harry with wands out.

"What's the problem?" Harry asked, sitting up. He was aware that he was covered in sweat, and was shaking, a clear sign that his nerves were a wreck. It would pass. It always passed.

"He's fine." Ron turned to the Gryffindor boys. "You heard me; off to bed with you now!" He made a motion with his hands that sent all the boys scurrying for their beds. He then turned back to Harry, awkwardly perching on the foot of the bed. "Are you sure you're all right?"

"What do you mean? Of course I'm fine." Harry asked, starting to feel even more nervous. His eyes narrowed as he remembered that night's meeting. "I'm still really pissed off over you guys giving up on Snape like that, but-"

"Harry." Ron interrupted. He glanced around the dormitory for prying eyes before tucking his feet up in the bed and wrapping the curtains around the bed, so that he and Harry could have some privacy.

Harry squirmed. He was really comfortable with Ron; Ron was like his brother. When they were younger, Ron would crawl into his bed when he had nightmares about spiders. It wasn't at all a big deal.

However, Harry was starting to seriously consider the idea that he was gay. Once he had started visualising men while wanking, it was almost impossible go back. He wasn't, in any way, attracted to Ron, but he felt as though he should give Ron full disclosure before allowing them to be so platonically intimate.

"Harry," Ron said in a low voice again. "Were you having a nightmare?"

Yeah. About Voldemort. I always have nightmares about Voldemort, the same one, but I can't tell anyone or they'll make fun of me or panic.He tried to remember if he had forgotten to take his Dreamless Sleep last night. He did it every night, so even though he couldn't specifically remember taking it didn't mean that he didn't. Every night blurred together, really. It was like putting on his pyjamas; he never really thought about it.

"Yeah, no big deal." Harry said, wrapping his arms around himself.

Ron's eyes were about as big as a Bludger, Harry noticed. "Some nightmare. Harry, you were screaming the Killing Curse in your sleep."

"What?" Harry's eyes widened. The Killing Curse? Why would he be yelling it in his sleep? Voldemort was always the one to cast it in Harry's nightmares.

"Well, you didn't shout 'the Killing Curse', but the incantation, you know?" Ron said, not making eye contact with Harry. "Don't worry, you didn't break or - or kill - anything, but you had the guys pretty scared. Harry, are you- are you feeling all right? You don't need to talk to someone, do you?"

The Muggle world was seeing a large increase in people seeking therapy, as the wizarding world didn't offer very many therapeutic options. Even though said wizards and witches couldn't divulge much of their problems on the counsellors, they swore that just talking about it helped.

"I'm fine, Ron," Harry said, shortly, laying back down and rolling over on his side.

Ron hesitated. "Are you sure?"

"That was your cue to leave," Harry said, rolling his eyes and waving his hand to wandlessly open the curtains. He put his glasses on the bedside table

"Oh, um, right," Ron said, leaping out of the bed. "Well, I, um, won't tell anyone, Harry."

"Good." Harry said, shortly. He didn't know why he was so pissed off, but... he had yelled 'Avada Kedavra' in his sleep? What kind of twisted person did that?

Ron went back to his bed, but before settling in, spoke again. "Percy stopped by after you left." He said.

"Wonderful. I'm sure he is just as eager as the rest of you are to focus on the population at large."

"He's not, really." Ron admitted, sheepishly. "He was late because he was doing some late-night file digging into Snape. Said he found a bunch of new information. Snape was sold, right after we found out that König owned him. König is a fugitive right now; remember that big potions scandal that happened all those months ago? That was König."

Suddenly, Harry was alert again. "What? Why didn't you wake me up? Why didn't you come get me? Why didn't-"

"Percy is going to come by tomorrow night during dinner." Ron said. "You two can make your plans then. As far as Percy knows, Snape's new owner doesn't speak any English, so sending him a letter is pointless. He thinks you should drop by in-person and make your offer."

Harry leapt out of bed. "Why wait? Why not tonight?"

Ron looked confused. "Percy figured it would be best to turn it over in your head for awhile before you make the final step, buying him and all. It's a big deal to do that, you know."

Turn it over in his head? What was there to turn over? He was going to buy Snape. He had to buy Snape. "What time is it?"

"Two o'clock in the morning. Go to sleep, Harry. Tomorrow, you can make plans to go find Snape, and you'll have all our support." Ron yawned. "But for now, just go to sleep because..." he was out before he could finish his sentence.

Harry laid back in bed and tried to sleep. Tried. It wasn't easy. Not when he had a million thoughts buzzing around his head.

He reached into his bedside cabinet and pulled out a vial of Dreamless Sleep. Swallowing a dose quickly, he leaned back in bed and shut his eyes. He wouldn't have another nightmare if he went to sleep now. There would be nothing stopping him from sleeping. The sooner he slept, the sooner morning would come.

Tuesday, May 4th, 1999, 3:31:21 AM

Dear Mr. Potter,

I am sorry to inform you that your godson, Theodore Remus Lupin's legal guardian, Andromeda Black Tonks, has passed away, due to a serious case of the Dragon Pox. Ms. Tonks instructed in her will that you are to take in your godson at the time of her death. To claim custody, and to undergo an examination to ensure you as a fit guardian, please go to the Wizard Family Services office, at 3:05:00 PM on Tuesday, May 4th, 1999. Should you fail to show up, custody will be forfeited and Theodore Lupin will be place in the wizarding foster care system.


Hamilda Hackrenson, Wizard Family Services

Chapter Text

"Accioslave!" Someone shouted with a dry and hoarse voice.

Severus felt himself lift into the air. He felt himself flying backward at a terrifying speed. He didn't know where he was going, or who was summoning him. It was the most terrifying thing he could think of. He had never liked flying for that very reason; he hated being in the air, and going fast, when simply walking, running, Apparating, or using a Portkey would do the job quite nicely. Flying only risked breaking your neck, and yet? Now he flew every day. Not with a broomstick, and not by choice. Slaves were only objects, and could be summoned as easily as a sheet of parchment.

He landed in the dust, on top of a sharp stone. He cried out in pain, but should not have. He was rewarded with a kick in the chest.

" Do not speak in the presence of the Dark Lord!" The kicker demanded. "Scum!"

Was Severus to apologise? That would involve speaking. But to not apologise would be rude. He just got to his knees and bowed his forehead to the dust.

His nose was large enough to touch the dust as well, which posed a problem. If he breathed through his nose, his nose filled with dust. If he breathed through his mouth, his lungs became coated with it. It would be better to get dirt in his nose, he decidedl if he were to pleasure someone orally with dust in his mouth... only a bad slave, with no mind, would do that. That would not be pleasuring at all.

" Apologise, scum!" He was kicked sharply in his rear, and this time, bit his lip to keep himself from crying out. His rectum was still very tender from being used last time. He could not remember who had used him or what it had entailed, but it must have been rough, and lasted for hours... which likely meant multiple people using him in a row. Men, or his rectum would not hurt so. Unless they had been torturing him or fulfilling some sort of fetish, using wands or something similar. If it hadn't been rough or lasted for hours, he wouldn't be hurting so now. He was used to being used. It was rather humiliating to have it hurt at this point.

He held back a cough as he spoke. The dust that had gotten into his lungs was enough, apparently. "I apologise, my Lord." He said. "Please – if you would punish me-"

" My Lord?" The dry and hoarse voice asked, softly. "Did the slave just refer to me as his l ord?"

At that moment, Severus realised that he had done something big, and likely stupid, too. Severus did not know if he was being spoken to or not, so he chose not to reply. He had been told to not speak in the presence of the Dark Lord, with the exception of the apology.

" Answer, scum!" He was kicked again, this time in the hip.

" Yes, my Lord!" Severus cried the words out before he could school them into the emotionless way of speaking he had picked up so long ago. Thankfully so, for that was the best way for a slave to speak.

" Look at me!" The dry voice became shrilly.

The cold feeling that filled Severus' chest and throat was terrifying. The order itself was terrifying. He could not look at the Dark Lord. Not him. Not a mere slave. There was nothing in him that made him worthy of...

He had no choice. Something like the Imperius curse was worthless for him. As a matter of fact, if he had the Imperius curse put on him, ever, the burning in his forehead would likely knock him unconscious. For a slave to be put under the Imperius was the most dishonourable thing that could happen to a slave, next to killing your owner. For a slave didn't need the I mperius; t hey were bound to do what they were told, anyhow.

He looked up at the Dark Lord. The pale faced man had red slits for eyes, eyes that could see into Severus' very soul. And Severus knew that the Dark Lord was, in fact, looking into Severus' soul right now. Severus' mind, Severus' soul... they all belonged to his master, who was standing at his master's left, but at the same time, it all belonged to the Dark Lord, as well. And that meant that Severus could not hide any of his thoughts, his uncertainties, from the Dark Lord; his master had once told him to obey everyone in the world, if their orders did not go against his.

That meant he had to let the Dark Lord see everything.

The red eyes slitted even more, if that were possible. "Crucio!" The Dark Lord's dry voice demanded.

Severus had no way to be completely certain, but he was quite sure that there was no conceivable way to not be in pain after your leg was thrown a metre away. And yet, he was still breathing, and flinching in the dust, crying out as the curse pulsed through his body.

" I am sorry, sir!" Severus hadn't known he was not supposed to call him the Dark Lord any longer. "I apologise! I am sorry!" Of course, those pleas were ridiculous – the apology always went something along the lines of "please punish me as you see fit". The Dark Lord was simply doing that.

" Are we?" The Dark Lord lifted the curse, and even reattached Severus' leg. If Severus were feeling more coherent, he might cringe at all the dirt that had had been in the stump where the leg had been.

However, Severus wasn't thinking about that. He was in a cold sweat. The waste he had passed while under the curse was covering him, as he had continuously rolled in it, unable to control his body. He could barely breathe, and when he opened his eyes, he saw stars. He had screamed too much; now his voice sounded just about as hoarse as the Dark Lord's.

" Y-Y-Yes, s-s-sir." Severus was relatively sure that he could never go wrong with 'sir' – Master Mering had always said that when in doubt, to use ' sir' or 'madame' . There was always the off-chance that you were speaking to someone of a different pronoun, but most of them would be quite understanding about that mistake, he hoped.

" Then if you truly are sorry, you will not mind if we continue with the punishment." The Dark Lord turned to the man on his left. "Nigel, would you care to do the honours?"

Master Mering's eyes widened. "If you are sure, my Lord. I would love to."

The Dark Lord chuckled. A chuckle that Severus himself had once been so pleased to hear, for Severus had been the one to make the Dark Lord do it. "Of course."

And so began the series of spells and punishments. Between licking shoes clean, being used by a cane with spikes on it, hanging on a pole, in mid-air, for hours, and skewered eyeballs, Severus was more relieved than he had ever been in his life when the Dark Lord's final Cruciatus finally caused him to-

Severus whimpered, sitting straight up. His naked body was cold; the handful of dirty straw that he had found just in grasp's reach was now scattered all over the place, and no longer on his feet to keep them warm. He was surprised for a brief moment to be able to see – hadn't the Dark Lord skewered his eyeballs with splintering bamboo? They were gritty with dust, but they were still there.

He blinked and realised that he was being yelled at by his master, who was wearing a threadbare dressing gown. However, Severus wasn't unchained – through the open barn door behind his master, Severus could see that it was too dark for the day to begin.

Master aimed a stinging hex Severus' way, before turning on his knees and marching away.

It was just a nightmare, Severus assured himself, bringing his knees back up to his chest and hugging them closer, trying to converse as much heat as possible. Just another nightmare.

Harry stuffed what he could into the bag. He wasn't really even paying attention to what he was throwing in there. His invisibility cloak, clean underwear, his Gringotts key... he would need food. He would go to the kitchen and stock up on fruit or something. That'd hold him over for a day or two.

He wouldn't be gone long; a week at the most. If he followed Hermione's instructions to the letter, it'd take him a day or even close to two to Düsselheim, where Snape's owner lived.

"Harry!" Ron breathed, trying to catch his breath as he and Hermione ran into the boy's dormitory. "Merlin, we thought you'd- you'd already left." He dropped a basket of food on Harry's bed, filled with sandwiches, biscuits, and tins of pumpkin juice.

"Thanks." Harry said, putting the food into the bag. He turned to Hermione as she stuffed the small stack of books in his bag. "What are those for?"

"For you to study." She said firmly, waving her wand and muttering Latin words before continuing. "I just spelled your bag like I did mine last year. Now you can fit plenty of things in there without-"

"Yeah, look, I'll be fine." Harry reached in the bag to pull out the books. "I mean, I won't be gone long. A week at the most. Assuming McGonagall lets me come back to school-"

"Golden Boy." Ron quipped, using Snape's favourite disparaging name for Harry, as he reminded them of how McGonagall and Dumbledore always let Harry go around the rules if he wished to.

"Then I'll be able to pass my subjects with no problem in time for the NEWTs. They aren't until June." Harry pulled out the books. "What the hell is this? These aren't textbooks! The Road to Recovery?Surviving the Aftermath?" He looked at Hermione quizzically, who huffed.

"You honestly don't think Professor Snape's going to be the same as he's always been, do you?" Hermione rolled her eyes at Harry's dumbfounded look. "You think you're just going to buy him, and he'll be calling you a dunderhead right away, that he'll probably not bother to thank you for your help, that he'll treat you like a mosquito buzzing in his ear?"

"Um..." Harry didn't really have an answer to that. Over Christmas, Mr. Weasley did explain to him what happened at Henderson's, but said that it was primarily potion-induced. Harry imagined that Snape would be mostly the same. While he might have trouble adjusting to being owned by Harry, and getting over the abuse he had suffered, Snape was inherently stubborn and mean. He didn't think that would change too substantially.

His bushy haired friend rolled her brown eyes again and put the books back in his bag. "The Professor Snape we all know wouldn't have written you a help message – you, of all people – unless he was desperate. Desperate and utterly terrified." She sighed. "Harry, this is why the Order wouldn't let you help in the first place. You're not prepared to help someone who is mentally unstable."

Ron scoffed. "Snape's always been mentally unstable! That didn't seem to be a problem when-"

"Professor Snape was not unstable!" Hermione snapped. "Imagine getting up every morning to teach a dangerous subject to children who usually couldn't care less, and going to bed late at night after grading all their papers and making sure they were in their rooms, to be summoned by a dangerous Dark Wizard? He probably functioned on few hours of sleep, and had a stress-level to rival the Prime Minister's! It's a miracle on it's own that he didn't suffer a premature heart attack long before the War actually began!"

Harry and Ron could only stare at her, dumbfounded, mouths wide knew Hermione had views on slavery that many people did not appreciate, views that she was often outspoken about, but the way she was talking now appeared that she actually cared about Snape as a person.

Harry wasn't so sure he agreed with Hermione, though. Snape hadn't had a right to be the way he was. There was really no excuse for threatening to poison a little boy's toad. Though he respected Snape now more than ever, he wouldn't say the man had ever been stable.

Her boyfriend did not do subtle. Ron never did subtle. "You're defending Snape?" He asked, mouth wide open.

"Yes." Hermione snapped again, colouring a bit. "Neither of you seem to realise the gravity of the situation! The Order thinks it's better for Professor Snape to stay as he is than have to go through a highly painful emotional recovery."

"You can't agree with that," Harry said in disbelief. Hermione would never let someone stay in a dangerous situation if she could help it.

She sighed. "Of course not, Harry! But I just want to make sure you know what you're getting into before you do this! It would be cruel to rescue Professor Snape and damage him further. You've got to be careful, Harry, and prepared for all sorts of behaviour. That's what the books are for."

Harry hadn't thought of that. In his mind, things would get back to normal right away. Well, not right away, but in a few weeks, surely. Being owned by a former student would likely force Snape to rebel.

"Read the books in your spare time, Harry," Hermione said softly, reaching out and putting a stray piece of his wild hair behind his ears. "You are doing a really wonderful thing here, but I just want to make sure you know what you're getting into before you do."

Harry nodded as she took a step closer and embraced him, pressing her lips to the top of his black-haired head. "Be safe, Harry."

Ron nodded empathetically. "Yeah, be safe. I tried to talk Hermione into letting me go with you, but she said she'd hex of my balls and serve them to a Basilisk for tea."

Harry snorted whilst Hermione turned a deep shade of red. "Oh, just shut up," she said, hiding a small smile. Her face quickly turned serious again. "Harry, are you sure this is a good idea? With Teddy and everything? You don't know how to be a parent, and you're not a therapist, so-"

Harry tuned her out. He really did not want to think about that.

He had woken up that morning with a letter on his breast. The letter was from the Ministry, and it was about Teddy.

Tonks' mother had died, and Teddy was supposed to live with Harry. Harry had agreed, that if for some reason Andromeda died, Harry'd get Teddy, but he hadn't thought it'd really happen. At least not for a long time, anyway. Tonks had been very young, and consequently, so were her parents. Wizards and witches lived to be two hundred and thirty, on average. She wasn't supposed to die. Not yet.

Things always happened all at the same time. Things could never come by themselves, or slowly. They had to come in groups, and they moved fast. Kind of like girls, sometimes, now that he thought about it.

"He's got enough on his mind." Ron defended Harry. "Go, before McGonagall catches you."

He nodded and gave Hermione and Ron both a hug, much to Ron's disdain. "Remember, you have no idea why I left." Harry smiled weakly, before turning and trotting out the door. He didn't know why he felt like this was such a big deal... he would be gone for a few days. He had gone two months at a time, every year, without Ron and Hermione with him. It didn't call for such emotional behaviour.

He looked around the Hogwarts ground fondly. The bright green grass was blowing in the wind. For May, it was pretty chilly, but Harry never minded – the weather in Scotland was always wonderful, simply because it wasn't Privet Drive.

He looked fondly at the Whomping Willow; that tree held so many memories. Memories of flying cars, Sirius and Remus, of the Last Battle... and then there was the Quidditch Pitch. He had played first, second, third, and sixth year. He had done really well, too; there was something about flying that made him feel so free.

You're looking around here like you'll never see it again. God, Harry – stop being so sentimental. If Ron knew what was going through your head right now, you'd never hear the end of it.

It felt so final. He was leaving now, for the last time. He just knew, despite his poor grades in Divination, that his studies at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that had changed his life so drastically, were now over.

It kind of broke his heart.

12 Grimmauld Place was empty when Harry arrived there. Apparently the Aurors were through cleaning the Dark Magic out of it. There had been a lot, that not even the Order had dared mess with. Tonks, Dumbledore, Snape, and Kingsley had been the most skilled to do that, but had never had the time to deal with the lurks in the cellar or rooms that the Order didn't use.

He sank down on a sofa, trying not to think about where he was. Grimmauld Place held a lot of memories for him that hurt too much to think about. Sirius had sat on this couch, his arms around Harry as Harry drifted off to sleep. Remus had told Harry all sorts of stories about his parents right there in the drawing room. Dumbledore had stood in the kitchen, leading Order meetings. Fred had played so many pranks all over the house that-

Speak of the devil, Harry thought grudgingly as he pulled a Weasley product out from under the sofa cushion. It was an early model, no doubt from 1995. To think that Fred had held this in his hand, proudly showing it off to Remus and Sirius, who immediately began plotting harmless pranks to play on Order members... until Tonks talked them out of it...

He blinked back the tears in his eyes. It wasn't right; he couldn't cry about this now. The War had ended a long time ago. Twelve months ago was a long time ago, in Harry's opinion. It seemed like a lifetime ago. He couldn't cry about things now. The time to grieve was over.

He had decided, the summer after Cedric Diggory died, that he would never cry again. He figured that he'd be seeing a lot of death in his lifetime. He already saw three people die right before his eyes, though he couldn't remember the first two, so he was bound to see more. He had to be a man and suck it up. Breaking down and crying was something that Voldemort would use as a weakness.

He had cried a few times since then, especially the night Sirius died, but he didn't think he got it out of his system, because every time he thought of Sirius, his gut wrenched, the world start to tip, and he just wanted to lay in bed and cry until his stomach stopped hurting, which it'd probably never do. So he couldn't afford to start.

The teen took a deep breath through his nose, propping his feet up on the arm of the ancient couch. He wished he could smell Sirius in the air. Somehow, despite all of the time he had spent in the house, the smell of cinnamon and wet dog hadn't permanented there somehow. Sirius, after getting to Grimmauld Place, always smelled like cinnamon and wet dog.

Harry placed his hands over his eyes and pressed his palms over his eyes until he saw green and pink orbs. He wished he could Apparate over the English Channel now. He realised it was a big deal to Apparate over something like that, that he needed to rest so that his magical core could recharge, but it was hard. He felt like he had to go now.

Why are you so eager to help Snape? A voice bothered him in the back of his head. Yeah, he saved your life. It was because he was bloody in love with your mum. That's it. He hates you, he hates your friends, he hates your family, he hates anyone who has ever been close to being your family... he hates everyone but your mum, apparently.

He loved his parents. He loved his parents so much it hurt. He missed them so much that it hurt to breathe sometimes. And yet, he could never remember even meeting them. They had been so 2-D his entire life, like those Muggle cartoons. But if he could hear about them from someone who truly knew them, it would make them so much more real.

Remus and Sirius had tried, of course, but every time Sirius started telling a story, he'd get a glazed over look in his eyes and start calling Harry "James". Remus told Harry that in Sirius' heart, Sirius knew the difference between Harry and his father, and that Sirius just got confused sometimes. Remus had been wrong about a lot of things before, but Harry didn't think Remus had been too wrong about that. He knew Sirius had loved him.

None of it mattered anymore. They were all in heaven. Harry hoped they had lots of fun up there together. He hoped they could transform into their Animagus forms up there, even though Remus didn't have a form to join into. But he was probably just happy that he had no more transformations. Or at least, his transformations weren't painful. Would he transform in heaven?

He hoped they were proud of him. He hoped that wherever they were, whatever they were doing, that when he died, he could be with them. He wasn't going to kill himself or anything, of course, but dammit, he had been so close to being with them. He wanted to be with them so badly.

Maybe he and Snape would get along. If they did, perhaps he could tell Harry about his mother. He'd really like that.

He thought about the note Snape had sent. 'Please help me. I am sorry. Please'. What was he sorry for? Being mean to Harry over the years? Telling Professor McGonagall that he didn't want rescued, and changing his mind in a month's time? Sorry for asking for help? Harry didn't know, and he didn't care. A call for help was only the usual for him, and he couldn't help but answer. It was like second-nature to him.

His saving-people thing had became very apparent when he was eleven-years-old, if it hadn't been before. He remembered finding a dead squirrel by the side of the road when he was six. It was cold, stiff, and has an eye bulging out. Harry didn't realise it was actually dead, and had spent hours on the front steps of 4 Privet Drive, trying to nurse it back to health. Aunt Petunia had gotten really upset when she found Harry with it. She had spanked him with Uncle Vernon's belt and locked him in the cupboard for two days. He hadn't learned from that, obviously, because here he was ten years later, doing the same thing.

Only if we're lucky, Snape will still be alive, he thought, trying to be positive, before rolling over on his side and shutting his eyes tightly. The alarm on his wand would go off in three hours, and he needed to sleep as much as he could until then. Then, time to Apparate over the English Channel. Rest for an hour or so, Apparate to somewhere else. Then Apparate into Germany, even though Hermione had said to rest overnight.. He'd Apparate to Berlin before Burgdorf. He might as well speak to the German equivalent to the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, Beings Division first, to find out what happened to Snape.

All right, Snape. After this, my debt is definitely paid. Next time, it's your turn to rescue my arse again,was his last thought before drifting into a fitful slumber, where he dreamed about a stag, Grim, and werewolf, playfully tossing around and running on a big white cloud.

Chapter Text

He curled up into himself as much as he could, closing his eyes tightly while trying not to whimper. Whimpering usually only made it hurt worse, for some reason. Not to mention that alerting Master's dog to him was always a bad thing; if Master's dog heard Severus make too much noise, he'd come inside the barn and start barking at him, or attacking and mounting. Severus was too tired to deal with that. At least, Severus had quickly found out that lying down and refusing to make eye contact with the dog lessened the mounting quite considerably.

He was also too sore. He had spent the entire day working in the direct sunlight, from dawn until past dusk. The sun had turned his neck, rear, and the back of his legs sunburnt. He was used to that now, but it never stopped hurting any less.

Master got sunburnt as well, but Master never had the sunburns the next day, so he likely fixed it with a potion. He wished Master would put a potion on him, but he never did. Severus knew that there was no point for his master to put a potion on him. Severus was to just survive. His pain meant nothing to Master, and why should it? It still did not stop him from hoping that, maybe someday, Master would take pity on him and help him.

He reached up to his neck, ignoring the pain that ran through his shoulder blades as he moved. He adjusted his collar as best as he could. His collar was made of a very thick silver. It was a little too tight, and much too heavy. The collar itself must have cost a fortune. Severus' master had very little money, Severus supposed from one look around the farm, but the collar had been a good investment. It would be around longer than Severus would be.

Baldur, Master's dog, wandered inside the barn and began lapping water out of the water bowl that he and Severus shared. Severus could only lay as still as possible and watch him; he really hated that dog. Baldur would likely just go right outside again and settle himself outside the barn, where he was stationed to guard. Hopefully. Baldur was both Master's dog and pet. Baldur was above Severus, and so Severus could not yell at him or hurt him in any way. That said, he preferred just to ignore him and hoped Baldur ignored him back.

Severus let out a breath he didn't know he was holding when Baldur turned around and headed back outside the barn. Baldur even left some water for Severus, which perhaps he would drink later. He had drank his fill an hour before, when Master had led him to the barn and chained him up where he did every night. Master would refill it every morning and evening, like he always did. They might as well drink as much water as they could.

He looked over at Master's horses, who were standing contentedly in their stalls, sleeping. He didn't know if the horses had names. Master never spoke English, but Severus was pretty sure that Master viewed the horses like he viewed Severus - as help, not as a friend, family, or anything of the sort.

Severus didn't get a stall, though. The horses got each their own stall, and Baldur his doghouse outside the barn. Severus was just chained up inside the barn. He didn't need a stall or any sort of shelter, but it would be nice to have one. There was a large bed of ants where he was chained, and a plank missing off the wall allowed a cold drift come through.

Every morning, Master filled the food and water bowls that Baldur and Severus shared with food scraps and some type of animal feed. Severus always tried to get to the food bowl before Baldur did, because the dog rarely left anything for him. Then Master would unchain Severus from the wall and Apparate to some place on the large farm with him. He'd always chain Severus to a pole in the ground, so that Severus could not run away (which Severus found rather pointless - why would he try to get away?). Severus always spent his days doing different things, like planting or weeding or spreading potions on the soil the Muggle way. Master didn't give him a wand. Severus was pretty sure that the Monster still had his wand, or perhaps had broken or lost it.

It was not 'his' wand, anyhow. Nothing was 'his', really.

Master usually brought Severus cool water at noon, which he usually didn't have to share with Baldur. And then more work until it was too dark to see. Master would Apparate him back to the barn, secure the chain to the wall, and leave. A little while later, he'd come and fill the food and water bowl and leave. Until morning, when everything started again.

Could wizards get fleas? Severus' skin was starting to itch terribly, and he didn't know what it was. He hadn't had a cleansing spell since he was sold to his new master, and he hadn't had a shower or bath since he was sold to the Monster. It made sense then, that perhaps his skin would itch, but he wished it wouldn't.

On the positive side, his master never grabbed Severus by his hair. Severus' hair was in a filthy tangled knot behind his head, and he knew it. It had been that way at the Monster's, and no one had fixed it for him. He didn't mind, as he got fewer headaches that way.

Also, the dirtier he stayed, the less chance that his master would ever use him. Severus didn't really think he would, not after all this time. He didn't know how long Master had owned him, but it had to have been several months. If Master was going to use him, he might have done it already.

Severus suspected that Master had a family, but he didn't know who they were. He could hear children outside, sometimes, but only rarely. He never saw them, and he doubted they ever saw him. They were probably just not allowed near the barn, or him. Or maybe they didn't want to be near the barn or him. It did not matter, though. It was hard enough trying to understand what Master wanted, when Master ordered him in a language Severus didn't know. More people would only make everything more complicated.

Severus didn't like complicated.

Normally, he fell asleep rather quickly. However, for some reason, tonight, he couldn't. He was almost too tired to sleep, and his body was so burnt that he was shivering. He didn't know if that made sense. He didn't know if a lot of his thoughts made sense, but he had no way of knowing. He hadn't spoken in... how long? He couldn't remember. He also did not have a quill or parchment to organise his thoughts with. Or a wand, Pensive, or anything of the sort. He just let his thoughts come in and out now, without trying to remember anything or think about anything too hard. It was much easier than way. Really, why hadn't he done any of that before?

Tonight was different. He didn't know what it was, but it was different. It was too quiet. There was something in the air that he didn't like or trust. He didn't know what it was, nor was there anything he could do about it. It was like waiting for doom. He knew something big, and probably bad, was going to happen, but there was nothing he could do about it. Just wait.

Harry had once heard that English was one of the hardest languages in the world to learn, because so many words were borrowed from other languages. It was a "new" language in a world of old languages.

But he had changed his mind after arriving in Germany. German definitely was the hardest language in the world to learn. Harry would lose his mind if he ever tried to learn German. Anyone who tried to learn it would get a "good luck" and a look of pity from him. If they actually succeeded, he would nominate them for an Order of Merlin.

Düsselheim was a small farming community. Mostly Muggles, he figured, from all the machinery that they used. Not all were, however, because he had gotten several bows, handshakes, and garbled conversation that he could only smile and nod at, not understanding one word of German.

He needed to find the Joseph Müller's address, so he could stop by and say 'hello', see how Snape was doing, and hopefully offer to buy him. He had gotten several addresses from well-meaning people in Düsselheim, but none of those seemed to be the right Joesph Müller. The guy had to be a wizard, and would probably recognise the name 'Severus Snape', if not the scar on Harry's head, if it was the right guy. Harry was starting to regret not finding a translator.

He was prepared to pay just about any amount of money. He could say 'name your price'. Uncle Vernon always said that money could buy anything, and over the years, Harry decided that if love couldn't buy you what you absolutely needed, money could probably help a great deal.

He hoped Snape, wherever he was, was being clever and determined. Harry had glanced over the first couple pages of Hermione's recovery books, and really hoped those people were exaggerating. Harry knew from learning about slavery that Snape, at some point, had probably gone through a bit of physical abuse, and probably some verbal abuse as well. He hadn't told Ron and Hermione about Weston raping Snape yet, but it startled him to see that there were chapters in A Road to Recovery about sexual abuse. That book was massive, and was talking about some serious messed up heads – Harry, like Hermione said, wasn't a therapist. He liked to help... but the book made him a little worried that he was in over his head.

But there was no other choice – he had to pull Snape out.

If Snape was being clever and determined, maybe he could solve his problems himself. Harry didn't think Snape would want Harry to help him recover, if he needed it, anyway. Would he hate Harry, for buying him? Even if it saved his life? Yeah, probably, but what else was new? He hated Harry, anyway; he might as well have a good reason for it, this time.

Harry Potter had done a lot in life, thanks to sheer dumb luck. He had survived the Killing Curse at age one, thanks to his mum and dumb luck. He had survived the Dursleys, thanks to blood protection and dumb luck. He had defeated Voldemort by touching Quirrell in first-year, thanks to dumb luck. Pulling Godric's sword out of the Sorting Hat? That was really thanks to Dumbledore, Fawkes and... dumb luck. Not getting bit by Remus in third-year? Thanks to Sirius. Conjuring his Patronus in third-year? Thanks to Remus. Though the end of third-year involved a lot of being at the right place at the right time, which equalled... you guessed it; dumb luck. Fourth-year had been thanks to Barty Crouch Jr's interference, and definitely a lot of nerve and a little luck, and fifth-year? Well, he hadn't been really lucky at all in fifth or sixth-year, but as the Muggles said, 'you can't win them all'.

He really relied on luck more than he actually should, he supposed. But that was okay, because luck, like trouble, had a tendency of finding him. He attributed it to luck that on his first evening in Düsselheim, on May 5th, 1999, he was ambling down a long dirt road in Düsselheim on his broomstick, somewhat idly looking for an address he had be given, that he saw a sign in the front of someone's driveway that read 'Müller Eier. Preiswert. Biologisch. Die besten Eier in ganz Norddeutschland. Kommen Sie her, kaufen Sie ein Dutzend und finden Sie heraus, ob wir die Wahrheit sagen (wir sagen sie)' and underneath the Germans words, in just slightly smaller letters, 'Müller Eggs. Cheap. Organic. The best eggs in all of northern Germany. Drive up, buy a dozen, and find out if we're telling the truth (we are)'.

Chapter Text

All right, Harry, this is either a trap or not the right guy, Harry told himself. Come on, 'drive up'? Why not 'fly in'? Or 'Apparate over'? Or... or anything else? Drive up? Wizards don't drive.

Unless the sign is catering to Muggles, he reasoned.

It is catering to Muggles. Because Muggles put it up!

You don't know that. The person who puts it up obviously knows both German and English. They have to be wizards.

That seemed like a pretty good argument. However, did it really matter if the people owning the house were wizards? All that really mattered was that Harry liked eggs, and needed recommendations or directions to a hotel in Düsselheim or nearby, since he hadn't been able to find one that afternoon.

It would also be nice to talk to someone in English, wizard or Muggle. Harry, unlike most wizards, was very comfortable around Muggles. These days, he was almost more comfortable around Muggles than he was wizards, since they didn't treat him like a god. The only reason he wasn't absolutely more comfortable around them was answering questions about his past. 'Oh, um, I'm just getting out of school. Yeah, I took a gap year last year, before I even left school. No, it's not a university. Yes, I am eighteen. Yeah, I know I'm short for my age. Oh, this scar? Um, car crash. Yeah, I was just a baby. Don't remember it. Where am I from? Er... Surrey, I guess. Went to boarding school in Scotland growing up, though. Did I miss my family while at boarding school? No.'

He dismounted his broomstick and pulled his wand out of his pocket. He shrank his broom, which he then stowed away. He put his wand back in his pocket, taking care to make sure that no one would be able to see it there. What would Muggles think – if Muggles did live there - if somebody wandered up to their house with an odd shape in his pocket? They might think it was some kind of weapon, or that the guy wandering up was just really weird, to be carrying around a stupid stick. While it would actually probably end up in a museum someday, Muggles wouldn't know that, and Harry was in no mood to explain it away.

The house was a simple one, he saw, as he got closer. It was a small, and was painted white with green shutters. There was a kind of shabby looking barn that looked like the ones Harry had seen in picture books. Only it wasn't painted red, like all the ones in picture books. It was just brown. There looked to be a chicken coop attached, with chickens inside, all in their nest boxes.

It was pretty silent. There was the sounds of chickens clucking, but they weren't doing it too loudly. He supposed it was because they were probably asleep. It was only seven o'clock in the evening in Düsselheim, so the quiet was to be expected.

A dog was standing outside the barn. He was big; he probably went up to Harry's waist or higher. The dog was black, and had yellow eyes. Each tooth looked to be about as long as Harry's fingers, and its slobber, dripping from it's jaws down to the ground, could rival Fluffy's. It didn't look to be leashed to the barn, but perhaps there was a ward up, keeping it close to the barn. It would be dangerous to assume that, however, seeing is how its owners were maybe Muggles.

He pulled his wand out of his pocket and aimed it at the dog. He didn't know what spell he could use against it if it decided to attack - Expelliarmus and Expecto Patronum were his favourite spells, but they didn't work against dogs. He could Stupefy him. Yeah. When in doubt, Stupefy. It seemed like a good plan.

"Nice doggy," he said, his voice quavering somewhat as he held his wand out and walked sideways to the house, so he wouldn't have to turn his back to the dog. He couldn't remember if there was some sort of rule to 'never turn your back to a dog', but if there was, he didn't want to risk it. "Nice puppy."

Apparently the dog didn't like to be called 'puppy' - he bounded towards Harry. Harry aimed a Stupefy somewhat in the dog's direction and ran towards the verandah of the house. Maybe the dog's owners would rescue him. Though if the Stupefy worked, he have a lot of explaining to do to the Muggles of what he did to their dog.

He leaped up on the small verandah, just as a man stepped out of the front door, holding a wand threateningly. He was yelling in German at the dog until he saw Harry, then he had his eyes on him.

"Wer sind Sie?" He said, lowering the wand slightly.

Harry held up his hands in surrender. That was the same in every language, right? Well, I guess he's not a Muggle. Jeez, if these people want to sell eggs, they might want to get rid of their dog."I'm sorry." He said slowly, as if the man might understand him better if he spoke slower. "I saw the sign up front and-"

A woman stepped out from the front door. She had brown hair that was swept back in a knot behind her head. Her face was tanned, and careworn. She was wiping her hands on a dishcloth. She began to talk to the man.

Harry watched them speak back and forth. He was confused - the people were supposed to speak English, right? Why would they have put their sign out in English if they couldn't speak it? How had the sign been in English if they couldn't write it? Did they know the sign was out there?

"Harry Potter!" The woman exclaimed.

Harry jumped slightly, not expecting to hear that out of the woman's mouth. He smiled somewhat sheepishly. "Um, yeah."

"You'll have to forgive my husband. We've had young boys sneaking out here, stealing our chickens or tapping on our daughter's window. Baldur," she motioned to the dog, "is trained to attack anyone and anything he doesn't know."

Oh. Right. So you have a man-eating dog at a place where you are supposed to sell eggs. Real bright.

The man began to speak rapidly in German.

"He is wondering what you are doing in Düsselheim." His wife translated, reaching out and lowering her husband's wand with her hand. "It is far away from England."

I was wondering if you had a slave named Snape? Oh, and I need hotel recommendations. "It's a long story, really." He admitted. "See, I'm looking for a..." Not a friend. 'Teacher' would sound dumb... "A person I know." He finished, weakly. "I heard he was in Düsselheim, somewhere, and someone pointed me this direction. I saw your sign about the eggs, and-"

"Come in, come in." The woman ushered him into the house. She than began to talk over her shoulder to her husband. Harry didn't know what she was saying, but from her tone, it was probably orders.

"Anna!" She called, calling through the house in German..

A mousy girl, who looked to be about thirteen or fourteen, peeked out of a door. Her eyes widened as she stared at Harry. She than turned and ran back into the room she came from.

The woman just chuckled. "Anna is shy. She's a big fan." She assured Harry, motioning with her hands when she said 'big'.

He looked around the small house. There was a small sitting room to the right, and the kitchen to the left, which was where Anna was. There was a narrow staircase in the hall, that probably led to bedrooms.

"Have you eaten?" She asked, ushering Harry into the kitchen. "We normally don't eat until dark. Joseph, my husband, works out on the farm until dark. There is no sense in wasting daylight, is there?"

Joseph. Joseph Müller. The muscles in Harry's stomach contracted. He had found the right place.

"No, I guess there's not," he said, nervously. He hadn't really anticipated on being asked in. He had kind of expected them to just offer him a dozen eggs, for him to causally ask for hotel recommendations... and maybe mention he was looking for a person with the name Joseph Müller that owned a slave named Severus Snape. Düsselheim was a very small village – Harry reckoned everyone knew everyone.

"My husband works hard." The woman motioned for Harry to sit down at the table. "He's not time to keep up with who is who these days. He knows of you, mind you. We were all on your side, during the War. You-Know-Who did not make it to Düsselheim, but if he had, we would have fought, Mr. Potter. We would have."

Harry didn't know if it was the determination in her voice, or the look in her eyes, but he believed her. "Thank you," he said, shifting awkwardly in the chair he was sitting in.

"He just hadn't a clue what you looked like." She poured a mug of coffee. "Sugar or cream?"

Harry didn't really like coffee; he'd had a sip of Hermione's once but it had been really bitter and nasty. He hadn't known what she had had in it, though. "Erm, it's fine like it is." he said, uncertainly. He couldn't tell her 'no', as that would be rude.

She continued to buzz around the kitchen. Harry noted that the kitchen wasn't built like the Weasley's kitchen, with magical cupboards and such. It looked just like a Muggle kitchen.

"I cook the Muggle way, too." He offered, lamely. He hadn't actually cooked in awhile, since his last time at the Dursleys, but he didn't know how to cook the wizarding way, so in the future, he'd have to get a Muggle kitchen installed in his house. Getting a house-elf was also an option, but he wanted to stay friends with Hermione.

You could always get Snape to do the cooking...Harry had to snort at the idea. The idea of Snape working in a kitchen, probably wearing a frilly apron, was laughable. The day Snape did something just because Harry told him to would be the day hell froze over. For all Harry knew, Snape had written the letter to Harry while he had been drunk, or having a bad day. Harry couldn't imagine Snape willingly submitting to inane chores Harry could give him. Chores Harry didn't need to give him, as Harry was still living at Hogwarts until the Order could find him a house, which would hopefully within the next couple days.

The woman, who Harry assumed was called Mrs. Müller, called throughout the house in German. Harry couldn't understand a word she said, but watched as the man, Joseph Müller, gruffly came in and sat down at the head of the table. The mousy girl, Anna, followed and sat, wide-eyed, across the table from Harry. She didn't take her eyes off of him until he smiled at her – then she ducked her head in embarrassment.

The conversation at the table was not much - Harry gathered that the man spoke no English, and the daughter very little. Mrs. Müller spoke quite a bit at the table, mostly English, but replies were not much needed, only the occasional nod and "uh-huh".

"Our boys go to school." Mrs. Müller informed Harry, proudly. "Our oldest child, Elsa, she left school last year, and is due to marry a fine young boy she met there, next year."

Harry nodded, acting as if he cared. Hundreds of wizarding families had children that went to school all over the globe. He had assumed that if they had any kids, they'd be at school. Except for the young girl at the table, of course.

"So, you're not eleven yet?" He asked her.

The girls turned scarlet and took a sudden interest to the food on her plate, but her mum laughed heartily. "Anna is our little angel," she said, lovingly. "She is fifteen, but is magically impaired, so she attends school here with the Muggle children." she spoke rapidly in German to Anna.

Magically impaired? What was magically impaired? Harry had never heard of anyone being magically impaired before. Did that mean the girl was like Neville and had trouble doing magic sometimes?

He turned a little red, but not much; he was used to making an idiot out of himself. "I'm sorry, but I kind of grew up Muggle." he explained, "What's 'magically impaired' mean?"

"It means she cannot do magic." Mrs. Müller said to him, gently. "In German, it is a different word, but we don't use that word around our house. It's damaging to one's self-esteem."

Oh. Anna was a squib. Sounded like Mrs. Müller had been reading The Road To Recovery.

"Oh." he said, making sure to smile at the girl again. "There's nothing wrong with that - it's not her fault or anything."

"Of course not!" Mrs. Müller exclaimed with a smile. "Our family is really grateful to you, Mr. Potter. Completely indebted. Were it not for you, our Anna would have been taken by You-Know-Who soon enough." she shuddered.

"You sell eggs." Harry quickly changed the subject. "I noticed that on the sign outside. I really like to eat eggs, you see, and I was wondering if I could-"

"Oh, of course!" Mrs. Müller exclaimed. "Before you leave, I will give you some."

'-wondering if I could buy some from you,' Harry had been going to say. "How much are they?" he asked.

She shook her head. "If you think you're going to buy them from us, you have another thing coming. I told you that we were indebted to you, were you listening?"

"Well, um, er, thanks." he said, weakly. "Say, is there a motel around here, somewhere? I looked earlier, but couldn't find one."

She nodded. "There is a bed and breakfast down town, but we've plenty of room here. If you would like to stay-"

Harry trusted people. It was an automatic reflex. He was a Gryffindor; Gryffindors immediately assumed most people were good until proven innocent. He didn't think that the Müller family were bad people – as far as complete strangers that idolised you and fed you supper went, they were pretty great. But he couldn't keep his mind off why he was there, or what his mission really was.

"Oh, no, that's fine." Harry said, pushing his food around his plate. "I'm here on business, you see."

Mrs. Müller forward in interest. "Oh?"

He hardly knew where to begin. "See, there's this guy I know who I'm trying to find. I'm pretty sure he's in Düsselheim, but I don't know where, really."

Mrs. Müller flipped her hand. "Oh, we know most everyone in Düsselheim. Joseph and I grew up here, you know."

No, Harry didn't know. "Okay, good, then."

It seemed too easy. If they were the owners of Snape, that would mean they were pretty rotten people. But they weren't – they seemed nice. They had said that they were on his side. How could they want to be slave owners – owning Snape of all people – and be so nice?

He squirmed in his seat. "Mr. Müller is named Joseph?" He double-checked. "Um, well, I was kind of looking for someone by that name."

Mrs. Müller began to speak rapidly once again to her husband. Harry didn't understand a word they were saying to one another, but he waited for a pause to interject, "He's not really the guy I'm looking for, but I think he might know him. You see... does your family own any slaves?"

Severus was a dark dungeon. It was almost too dark to see in, but there was a small torch on the wall, illuminating the dungeon just enough to see the iron bars that locked him in. He was shackled to the wall, arms and legs outstretched. There was also a shackle securing his neck to the wall, rendering incapable of movement.

The air around him was cold. There was a draft of cold air blowing against his naked body, but he did not know where it was coming from, nor could he stop it from coming. His entire body trembled, his teeth chattered, but it was painful to move in the slightest – the shackles cut against his wrists, down to the bone. He had been in the shackles for a long time, and they had a tendency to tear up skin when you spent too much time in ones secured too tightly.

His body was not only cold, but aching. He ached all over. It hurt to breathe, to think... he was not conscious of much, except the musty smell of the dungeon, and the smells of blood, sex, sweat, and tears. The smells of pain. The smells of torture.

The screams that had once been prevalent throughout the dark dungeon that he could not see well in were gone – those being tortured had all died, blacked out, or given away the information that they had been tortured for. The puppy chained in the corner was dead, too – it was being eaten by small, yellow maggots.

He heard a creaking sound, and looked over to the door of the bars. Three hooded people were coming in. Their faces were covered in white masks, so Severus did not know who they were, exactly. But it did not matter, for they were all one and the same. One was exactly the same as the other – male or female, black or white, tall or short, they were all the same. It did not matter what language they spoken or what their motives were; their treatment of Severus would always be the same.

One began to laugh. A loud laugh, a high-pitched laugh, that was distinctly female. The sound made Severus cringe, and wish to cover his ears. But he could not, as he could not move.

" Are you that scared?" She taunted. "Poor, poor Severus; the mongrel is so afraid of us he wet himself!"

It was then that Severus began conscious of the stream of urine coming from his body, droplets streaking down his leg. He could not help it, as he had not been allowed to use a loo in the longest time, and did not even think about it any longer. It had nothing to do with fright, but he could not tell her that. To tell her that would only invoke anger.

" Stop it, Bella." A man growled from behind his mask. "We're not here for that today."

Severus closed his eyes tightly, pulling himself up the best he could to take another breath. If they were not there to taunt his position, what were they there for? He did not mind it when they taunted him; he did not even know why they did it. Yes, he was chained to a wall, unable to do anything. He wasn't hungry any longer, for the gnawing pains in his stomach had disappeared after many days of not eating. He occasionally had someone pour dirty sewer water down his throat so fast that he choked, but he did not know what was funny about it. He knew that he was not wearing clothes whilst they were, but that did not bother him at all. He hadn't worn clothes in a long time. He did not know where there was to taunt him over that would bother him.

If there were not there to taunt him, were they there to give him water? Normally, only one or two masked figures came in there to do that. Whenever it was more than that, it was not to give him water, that was certain.

Without warning, the shackles around him opened, causing him to fall hard on the concrete floor. He did not cry out in pain as he felt something crack in both knees, for he was used to that. He would only be able to drag himself around on the floor for now, but soon enough, they would heal on their own.

He brought up his wrists to examine them. He could see the bones, for all the flesh around them had been eaten away. That was fine – so long as the bone was still there, his hands would still be connected. That was fine.

"Crucio!" The woman called out in a shrill voice.

The world around him disappeared at that moment. He did not feel anything, not even the pain coursing through his body. He was past that now; all he felt was numbness, and his blood pounding against his tattered skin. But it did not hurt , like he knew it was supposed to. Even as the woman raised the concentration of the spell, and targeted it to specific locations – the head, the chest, the groin, his left foot - it did not hurt. The nerves were mostly gone, now. The spell left nothing but a dull ache, but he was not even sure if that was the spell, or his body giving out on him.

He heard the spell end, and was aware of something protruding his anus. That did not hurt, either. Even as the object went much further than what others might deem acceptable and tore something within him, he did not cry out. He never cried out, for that was worthless. Once upon a time, he had stopped crying out because he had realised it only encouraged his torturers – now he did not simply because he didn't. He never spoke at all, nor did he yell, or scream. Not a sound ever escaped from his mouth, except for the occasional laboured breath.

He opened the eyes he had shut at some point to realise that he was only being tortured by the woman, who was armed with a wand. An ebony wand, fifteen inches. He knew instinctively that it had a dragon heartstring; he did not know how he knew that. Had it once been his?

The two men had taken off their masks, and were watching him in amusement. One had a face of pale white. The man had no nose, and only slits for eyes. The other man had a pale complexion as well, with sharp facial features. Not a blonde hair fell out of place. He knew who they were, for those men often haunted his nightmares. In his deepest, darkest moments, the faces of those men came to him. As the wand protruded deeper into his body, as the pain began to flood his body in places he knew not possible, he let out a anguished cry.

Harry had to take two steps for every one of Mr. Müller's long strides, out to the barn. They had stopped at the coat rack for Harry to put on his hoodie and Mr. Müller his red and black flannel coat, and then headed outside for the large barn Harry had seen on the way in.

Harry had spent months trying to find Snape. He had spent so much time, money, and effort on the mission. He should have been elated to be so close to finding him, so why was he so nervous? Why was a pit in his stomach, making him sick?

You're just excited, he told himself as the night air blew inside his ears. You're just afraid it's not him. You're afraid that tomorrow, you're going to have to wake up in the morning and go search for him, again. Probably in the Americas, somewhere, at this rate he's being bought and sold.

The big dog burst out of his doghouse and began barking a loud bark at them, which caused Harry to reflexively try to hide behind Mr. Müller. Mr. Müller called the dog off. The dog was apparently pretty well-trained, because he stopped barking. He did follow at Mr. Müller's right side though, trotting beside them as they approached the barn.

The big double-doors to the barn were shut, save the right one, which was cracked open just a few inches. The dog slipped through before Mr. Müller could open the heavy door.

Inside the barn was very dimly lit. There was a single torch lit on the wall, illuminating wood walls, some posts probably supporting the barn, a rusted steel piece of machinery lying against the wall, and a floor made of mostly packed dirt, with some stray pieces of straw here and there. A Lumos from Mr. Müller made the lighting in the barn much better.

There were old pieces of machinery here and there, but none of them looked too able to operate. There were three stalls at the far end of the barn – two had one horse each in it, that were standing up with their eyes closed. They were snorting, and twitching, and stomping in their sleep. There was a loft above their heads. There was a wood ladder leading up to the loft, which was was full of hay, as far as he could tell. He wondered if it would be comfortable to sleep up there – all one would need would be a blanket, and they could just curl up in the straw and go to sleep. They might not even need a blanket; the straw seemed like it would be warm.

About halfway through the barn on the right side of the wall, was a silver coloured chain. It was a pretty short chain that gave the person attached to it little room to move about, which probably explained why the person was curled up in a corner, really close to the wall of the barn. A plank was missing from the barn wall, right next to where the person was curled up.

The smell protruding from the person was horrible. Harry was a good distance away from the person, and still then could barely keep from gagging. The person smelled like Harry when Harry got back from playing a eight hour Quidditch game – no, the person smelled like the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team after an eight hour game.

His heart sank as he took in the form, curled up as to face away from him. As for the head, he could only see a tangled mass of black hair that was tied in little teeny tiny knots and snarls on the back of the person's head. The spine was sticking out of the body so that you could see every vertebrae. There were a whole lot of other bones Harry could see sticking out of the back that Harry didn't know the names to. The hip bones stuck out painfully – Harry was afraid that if the person moved, the bone would tear through the skin. The legs were long, and really skinny.

The person's skin tone was hard to measure – they had "white" skin, Harry gathered that much, but the skin certainly didn't look white from the angle the person was positioned. The skin was bright pink, almost red. It was also covered in all manner of dirt and dust. What was the most frightening was the amount of scars covering the person's body. Pink or white, raised, jagged scars marred not only the person's back, but the shoulders, arms, thighs... and probably more. There were a big dried up cuts that Harry could see, too.

Harry took a tentative step closer. He didn't know why, as he had seen enough to last him a lifetime. Whether this person was his teacher or not, the condition of this person was horrible. Harry had once heard Aunt Petunia describe Harry as "deplorable", and Harry had asked his teacher, Mrs. Fuchs, what "deplorable" meant – she had told him that it meant "bad" or in "poor condition". Harry had been in poor condition because he wasn't fed very much very often, but if that was deplorable, then the person owned by Mr. Müller was really, really, really deplorable. He tried not to grimace at the amount of grime that had obviously accumulated really badly around the person's ankles, lower regions, and neck, but it was hard not to stare. It was like every contour of his body, every cranny, held a massive amount of dirt and debris.

He found himself holding out hope that it wasn't Snape. As much as he had hoped their slave was Snape, now he really wasn't. He didn't think he could deal with it, knowing that was Snape. The hair was sort of greasy looking, but it didn't look that bad, actually. Nothing compared to the greasiness of Snape's – Snape's hair had looked like he had lard poured over it. This man's didn't look quite that bad. Maybe it wasn't him.

Harry squirmed a bit as he continued to study the person. It was kind of uncomfortable; even though the man was chained to the wall, which was not very humane, the guy was a human. Harry had never studied a naked person before, but it felt kind of awkward, wrong, and embarrassing, for both him and the man. It was also kind of embarrassing to note all the piles spread out randomly throughout the area the man could be in, with the chain. Of course the man hadn't access to a loo, chained up as he was. It was barbaric.

The man began to mutter unintelligibly, causing Harry to jump back in alarm. The voice was garbled, and wasn't speaking coherently. The man was muttering very quietly, almost in whispers. His voice was hoarse and deep voice. It wasn't like Harry's own, which was higher like Seamus' or George's. It was deeper, like Ron's, or Neville's, or... or like Snape's.

Mr. Müller began to speak to Harry in a low voice. He was using a lot of hand gestures as he spoke, pointing to Snape and waving his hands around, but Harry couldn't understand him.

"Sorry." Harry apologised.

The man chained to the corner suddenly, without no warning, began to scream in his sleep. Harry jumped to the other side of the barn, shaking because he was startled and filled with fear. He felt fear because the man who just let out the scream had woken himself up with his own scream, and had sat up, turned, and faced Harry and Mr. Müller with wide eyes – and it was, beyond a doubt, the former Professor Severus Snape.

Chapter Text

Severus couldn't breathe. He couldn't think. Just like in the nightmare, only this was real. He thought it was real, at least; he was no longer ever sure of what was real and what was not, or even what ''real' meant. However, he did know what he thought he saw.

He saw Master standing with arms crossed around his chest, looking at Severus with a certain look in his eye. Severus had never seen his master with that look before, but that did not mean anything, for he had not seen many looks on his master's face before. This master had a hard look that he wore whilst he was working, an annoyed one when he was annoyed, a tired look, and a happy look. Severus had never seen this particular master too angry, but he did not think this was an angry look. What type of expression it was, he didn't know. Concerned, perhaps... but concerned over what? Severus knew nothing of his master's personal life, but surely there was nothing to be concerned over in the barn.

Standing a few paces behind Master was what was giving Severus fright. For a few paces behind Master stood a young boy. The boy was not tall, had unruly black hair that stuck in every direction except the direction it was supposed to lay in. The boy was thin, and wore clothes that made him blend in with Muggles, even though he was far from Muggle. He had a wand sticking out of his back pocket, Severus knew without looking. The boy wore glasses on his face, over his vibrant green eyes that were now wide with with an expression Severus knew well; shock.

Severus had known this boy, once upon a time. Truth be told, he had mostly forgotten about him. He had forgotten about most of his past life. Not truly forgotten, for it was not gone forever, but he had pushed it back as to not to think about it. He didn't want to think about it because he didn't like to. He couldn't even remember why that was the case. Seeing the boy flooded back many memories that Severus suppressed without much trouble. However, suppressing the questions and fright that filled him was another thing altogether.

He leaned as far back as he could against the splintering wood, and hugged his knees to himself. What was Pot... Mr. Potter doing there? Mr. Potter lived in England... or was it Scotland? Severus didn't know – too many years had passed - but he knew that Master did not live in an English-speaking country, so that Mr. Potter could not be there by mistake. But why? Why would Mr. Potter be there?

Severus remembered writing Mr. Potter a letter, with a secret message in it, long ago. Years ago, when he had still belonged to... to whom? It must have been his other master, for The Monster... yes, it had been his other master,, because whilst owned by Master Mering or the Monster, Severus had not written any letters. He had been a bad slave, and put a secret message in there. All those years ago, he had been afraid of going to the Monster. How foolish Severus had been; had he not known that he could not control his fate, that he needed to accept whatever happened? Acceptance was not even an issue as there was nothing to accept other than that he lived to do whatever he was told.

Why was Mr. Potter there now? Had he just now gotten the letter? Impossible – Severus had to have sent the letter... how many years ago? Ten, five? Certainly no less than three, but even three seemed too short of a time. He had been at Master's for only a few months, he knew by the snow, but he had been at the Monster's for... Merlin, forever.

"Hello, Professor." Mr. Potter squeaked out, taking a step forward.

Severus backed even further against the wall. Or tried to; he couldn't, and only succeeded in breaking another plank off the old wood barn. He glanced nervously at Master, prepared for a hex or scolding, but Master did not even blink. Master punished Severus through stinging hexes and no food . Occasionally, he scolded, but Severus had never seen him angry. He didn't want to ever anger his master. It was wrong.

Professor. Professor. Professor. Professor. Professor... the words rang in Severus' head. Mr. Potter called him 'professor'. Severus had been a professor in his past life (had that really been him? Impossible. He pushed the memory deep into the recesses of his mind).

That was why Mr. Potter was there. It all made sense. He was angry at Severus for doing all the bad things Severus had done. Severus had done a lot of things to anger Mr. Potter, and of course Mr. Potter was angry about them. Master would let Mr. Potter punish him for all the bad things he had done; of course, that would require a long time of getting punished. Severus wouldn't cry out, unless he thought Mr. Potter or Master wanted him to.

His entire body shook. How would they punish him? Lashes with a whip? A normal, leather whip? A whip with glass or other sharp objects on the end? A whip magically caught on fire? How many lashes? Ten? Fifteen? Forty? Six hundred? He had never been able to count the lashes more than thirty-seven before he either passed out or stopped caring enough to count them, but he did not know if he could survive six hundred. His back had been really hurt by lashes in the past; he didn't know how much more it could handle.

Or would they starve him? He had gone long periods of time without eating. He didn't know how long, really, but it had been a long time. The most nutritive thing the Monster had fed Severus was an unknown substance like canned dog food, and Master gave Severus mostly animal food or grain; the dog ate it most, anyway, so Severus only got some when he didn't lick the bowl clean. Starving him would not make sense for this punishment, however, as it let Mr. Potter see Severus in pain, which was surely what Mr. Potter wanted.

He watched as Mr. Potter and Master began talking to each other. He didn't know what they were saying, and didn't listen closely enough to try to figure it out. There were many curses and hexes to place on a person – all Master would have to do would be to hold his wand to Severus' forehead for really terrible pain. The Cruciatus was another option. Almost anything could be used as torture if one was clever. He had often been used as a form of torture. As of the last time he had been used, it did not hurt much, and he rarely bled at all. They couldn't torture him by using him, could they? He hadn't been used in a long, long time, but he remembered that he liked it. He didn't remembered specifically a time liking it, but every time he thought about being used, he remembered Master Weston told him he liked it, so it must be true.

Tears sprang to his eyes. He sometimes forgot about Master Weston.

Severus' breathing became heavier as Mr. Potter took a few steps over to him. "Hello, Prof- Snape. Do you remember me?" Mr. Potter asked. He had a big smile on his face that showed too many teeth. It was a fake smile. A smile, but that did not matter, because all smiles that people gave Severus were fake. No one ever wanted to smile at him unless they were really smiling at their plan, which usually involved being used or punishment or both.

He ducked his head. He couldn't look at Mr. Potter. Because he was scared, because he didn't know what to say, because he didn't know if he was allowed to talk, because he wasn't supposed to make eye contact with anyone that was not an equal. He hadn't met an equal in a long, lone, long time. Even the Monster's other slaves had been above him because being above people was not a simple matter, nor was it black and white. There was ranks in slavery. Carita at the Master and Mistresses' had called it "the food chain". She was right. Severus missed her.

"Do you understand me?" Mr. Potter knelt down closer to Severus. Severus felt his heart almost stop beating. He didn't want Mr. Potter to be that close. Mr. Potter couldn't touch him from where he was, but he was close enough to do a lot of bad things. Severus wanted to be as far away from him as possible.

"I'm Harry, in case you don't remember." Mr. Potter said, quietly. "From Hogwarts, remember? We fought in the War together?"

The War? Harry Potter?Yes, Severus remembered. He shoved the memories once again into the back of his mind, and vowed to let them never resurface. When Severus made a vow, he kept it.

"I've been looking for you." Mr. Potter continued. "It took me a really long time. I did a bunch of stupid things trying to find you, and that's what took me so long. But I have been looking – long before I got your letter I was looking, but especially hard after that."

So Mr. Potter had gotten the secret message. How foolish of Severus to write it. He buried his face deep behind his knees, covering his head with his hands. He could pretend to hide like that; if it were Master, he would not be permitted to, but for other people, it was all right. It was not particularly rude. He was just too ashamed to look at Mr. Potter.

"That was a real creative way to send a secret message, though." Mr. Potter mused. "I would have never thought of it. I actually didn't realise it was a secret note, I first. I just thought you had forgotten how to spell or something, but Hermione showed me what a dunderhead I was being."

Dunderhead. Dunderhead. Dunderhead. Dunderhead. Dunderhead...Severus had called Mr. Potter a dunderhead lots of times. Oh, Merlin... he wasn't afraid of dying, for no matter what lied in wait for him in death could bed no worse than what he had already lived, but still, something in him didn't want to die. Would Mr. Potter kill him?

You're being ridiculous, he told himself. It's just Harry Potter. If it's the Boy-Who-Lived, he certainly wouldn't kill you for...

He had caused Mr. Potter a lot of pain. Mr. Potter might still think he was a... no, Mr. Potter knew that... Severus couldn't remember what Mr. Potter thought at this point. And it didn't matter, because he wasn't thinking about his past life.

It was odd, though, how he hadn't thought of his past life in years, until Mr. Potter came long. He had thought of it more in mere moments than he had in years.

Had it been years? He peered up to look at Mr. Potter. Mr. Potter looked the same as he always had. He did not look a day older, which was ridiculous, because he was most certainly a day older. In all honesty, he could have been no older than eighteen, or nineteen. Certainly no older than twenty-one.

Mr. Potter smiled at Severus again, which caused Severus' stomach to lurch. He hid behind his knees again. If he didn't look, perhaps Mr. Potter wasn't really there. Perhaps it was just another nightmare. Perhaps Mr. Potter would leave.

"How much do you want for him?" Severus heard Mr. Potter ask. His stomach lurched one again. Mr. Potter wanted to buy him? No, no no, no, no. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. Mr. Potter couldn't buy him. If Mr. Potter bought him, he might hurt Severus really badly. At least as long as he was owned by Master, Master wouldn't kill him. But Mr. Potter... no, Mr. Potter would kill him, without hesitation.

Or perhaps not. Mr. Potter seemed like the type who might, like The Monster, wait until Severus was almost dead and then heal him, just to torture him again. Severus could live out his full two hundred and thirty years, in pain every moment of them. He wouldn't put it past Mr. Potter to do that.

He wished the nightmare he had had just woken from was true, in the regard that the pain didn't hurt any longer. It would be wonderful, for the pain to no longer be there. It would be a dream come true. Severus wished for only half of the pain to disappear, even. That would be just wonderful - but it was just a dream. One thing was certain now, was that he was being sold for the last time. To Mr. Potter. Who would make his life a living hell.

Harry felt like throwing up. Or crying. Or just staring. He didn't know what to do. It was Snape. It really was Snape, sitting there against the wall.

Every time Harry took a step towards him, Snape backed up further against the wall. Snape's black eyes were wide, filled with terror. Harry couldn't figure out if Snape recognised him or not; it was too hard to tell.

"How much do you want for him?" He asked Mr. Müller, not taking his eyes off of Snape. He was worried that if he blinked, that if he turned away, Snape would disappear. Snape had done a lot of disappearing over the past eight months; Harry was not about to let it happen this time when he was so close.

So close. If he took about seven long steps forward and outstretched his arm has far as it would go, he would be able to just barely touch Snape. That was close.

Mr. Müller didn't respond, and no wonder - for all he knew, Harry was talking to Snape, and not to him.

Harry stood up and backed away from Snape. Backed away. He didn't turn around - he didn't take his eyes off of him. "How much?" He asked, slowly. He pulled a small pouch Galleons out of his pocket and dumped them into Mr. Müller's hand. He didn't know how much Mr. Müller had bought Snape for, but Harry could probably reimburse it. He could double it. And he would, without second thought. Hell, he'd triple it.

Mr. Müller began talking, but Harry didn't know what he was saying. Mr. Müller began to tug on Harry's arm, and trying to pull him out of the barn into the house.

"No, I don't want to leave him." Harry protested, looking over at Snape. Snape was chained, like a dog, to the wall. The collar around his neck was silver, and had lots of hooks and markings on it. Harry didn't know if it was real silver or not, but it must be, otherwise, why wouldn't he just be chained with a leather collar or a cloth one? Unless it was something he didn't know about, which wouldn't surprise him any. He didn't know about a lot of things.

"Will you be all right, here?" He asked Snape, softly.

Snape just buried his face further into himself. It was a very pitiful sight to see, really. And to think that just a year ago, how proudly Snape had stood, how...

"Pro- Snape, please answer me." Harry found himself pleading. He had always thought of Snape as just that - Snape. But when it came to talking to him face-to-face, he had always called him 'Professor'. Always. Or 'sir'. But to call him that now seemed... it seemed cruel. It was like a taunt, taunting him that he was no longer a professor. Not even that, it just seemed... no, it was wrong. He had to call him 'Snape'. Or 'Severus', he supposed. But what if Snape got mad that Harry called him by his first name? That was pretty disrespectful... but then again, Snape was cowering in a corner, filthy, smelly, naked, chained to a wall. Harry didn't know if Snape cared much about "respect" any more. He doubted that he did.

Chapter Text

What frightened Harry was not the idea that he was going to become a slave owner. No, he was pretty okay with that, believe it or not. When it came to the wizarding world, he sort of just accepted things as they came. Oh, portraits can move? Okay. Slavery is legal? Meh, I can deal with that. It didn't make him proud, and it certainly wasn't something he would want splattered over the front pages of newspapers (though it definitely would be).

No, what bothered him was how easy it was. Chasing Snape down had not been easy. Haggling with Mr. Müller could have been easier. But when it came to the actual process of buying Snape, that was so simple. The most simple thing he'd ever done... and if you asked the old Snape what the most simple thing Harry had ever done was, the man would have probably snorted and given some scathing comment about how everything Harry did was "simple". It was how Harry operated, and Harry was normally okay with that. However, the ease of the process of buying a living individual – human or former human, regardless of how it was defined – was incredible.

At ten 'clock in the morning, he had left the bed and breakfast to the nearest wizarding bank, which wasn't in Düsselheim. He extracted 80,000 to buy Snape, and set off for the Ministry office where he was going to meet Mr. Müller and Snape.

The office he found himself in was small, and kind of boring. It had grey walls, and simple carpeted floor the colour of dust. There was just enough room in the office for a chair and desk, and two hard-backed chairs that faced them. There was a potted plant crammed in one corner, and a poster on the wall, listing the rights and privileges of the most popular magical creatures, like Hippogriffs, owls, werewolves, vampires, etc. There was also a large window behind the desk, but Harry suspected it was charmed, because it looked out over a lake, a lake he had most certainly not seen when flying in.

The man behind the desk was in Ministry uniform, complete with a hat. The entire uniform was green, meaning he worked in this particular department. He was rather portly, and was balding, but he had a wide smile on his face as he pumped Harry's hand with enthusiasm.

"Mr. Potter!" He said.

"Hello, Mr... Mr... hello." Harry didn't see a name tag on the man's lapel. He supposed the Ministry officials didn't think that the magical creatures would care what the names of the Ministry officials were, but they were wrong. Hedwig would've cared if she were alive, Harry'd wager, and he knew that Remus would have definitely cared. Did Bill count as a magical creature, since he was kind of part werewolf? He'd care to know who he was interacting with.

"You are early." He motioned to one of the chairs across from his desk.

"Uh, is that a problem?" Harry didn't see a clock in the room, and his watch battery had died forever ago. He just hadn't gotten around to replacing it, and the feeling of the watch around his wrist was too familiar to give up. "I can leave, if you want. You know, and come back.."

"It is fine. We schedule appointments with early arrivals in mind." The Ministry official sat down at his desk and clasped his hands together. "You are ready to buy a slave?"

Harry knew that it would be plastered all over every newspaper in the world that he, Harry James Potter, the Boy Who Lived, the Saviour of the World (or the Saviour of Us All in some countries), was now a slave owner. He knew that most wizarding folk wouldn't care, that they'd probably be happy for him, but he still felt embarrassed. He guessed a part of him was ashamed to be buying a slave, but the circumstances were unique and it was too late to back out.

And besides, you're not buying a slave. You're buying Snape. Somehow, that seemed worse.

"Yeah, I guess so." He nodded. "I figured, you know... why not?"

Damn. He needed a cover story. The Ministry wouldn't like it if he intended to buy one of the Death Eater slaves to treat well. Any other slave he could treat however he wanted, but there were certain rules and stipulations to owning a Death Eater slave. Supposedly, for most people, it was a long process to buy one, as they had to have their backgrounds checked to make sure that they were not affiliated with Voldemort, that they really weren't buying one of their fellow Death Eaters to treat like royalty. Harry was kind of glad for that rule; if Lucius Malfoy had been able to buy Snape, then he would have killed Snape for "betraying" Voldemort.

The Ministry official nodded his head. "I looked through the papers - this slave was a follower of You-Know-Who. It takes a very brave man to buy one of those slaves."

"Yeah..." Harry agreed, weakly. "I guess I'm a brave... brave man."

He heard a strangled whine outside the closed door, and it made him jump in his seat, as he looked towards the door. "What was that?"

The knock on the door answered his question. "Come in!" The Ministry official called through the door.

Mr. Müller walked in. He was wearing overalls that were probably his nicest. He was leading Snape on a chain. Snape was crawling on the ground, like a dog. It looked incredibly uncomfortable.

Why is he making Snape do that? Harry felt the bile rise in his throat. He can walk! He looked away, not being able to look any longer at the degrading scene. Instead, he focussed his eyes on the view out the window. An artificial scene, but it was better than the reality he was being faced with.

He looked again when he heard the whining sound. Snape was baulking at coming inside the office. He was not crawling any longer, but sitting on his knees, refusing to go any further inside the office.

What's wrong? You're going to get away from Mr. Müller! You should be happy! Doesn't he realise that he's going to be safe now?Harry could not imagine what was going through Snape's head. He opened his mouth to try to console Snape, but was too late, as Mr. Müller brought him in with a stinging hex and a strong tug to the chain.

Leash. Harry thought, venomously. It's a leash.

Snape looked exactly the same as he did yesterday, except that now, he was wearing something drab that resembled a larger version of Dobby's pillowcase. It was a brown colour, covered in all sorts of stains. It looked scratchy and uncomfortable, but Harry would have bet his Gringott's account that Snape thought it better than nothing. Harry certainly did.

"My, my, my..." The Ministry official chuckled awkwardly, waving his wand to clear out the incredibly foul smell that came in with Snape and Mr. Müller. Harry had been concentrating too hard on other things to realise that Snape had been brought in in all of his unwashed glory.

He discreetly wiped his dripping nose with his sleeve, hoping no one saw him.

"Sit down, Mr... Mr. Müller" The Ministry official motioned to the other seat, the one next to Harry. He spoke rapidly in German before translating in English. "I understand that you are in a rush today, so we will make this as quick as possible. Mr. Potter has already received accelerated clearance from the department to buy the slave, so all we need now is for you and Mr. Potter both to sign the papers."

Mr. Müller sat down on the seat next to Harry. Snape was crouched in a kneeling position, at Mr. Müller's side. That was unfortunate, because it was also at Harry's side. The closer you got to Snape, not only the smellier he got, but also the more pathetic he looked.

Harry didn't know if the lurch in his stomach this time was because of pity, or the smell.

"Thank you, Mr... Mr." Harry accepted the papers that the Ministry official held out to him. He positioned the quill handed to him, prepared to sign on the line at the bottom of the sheet.

The Ministry official cleared his throat. "Mr. Potter? I suggest you read the terms and conditions before you sign your name."

Right. Hermione would have killed him if he signed the parchment without looking at it. He read it over, and even though he was familiar with all he read, it served as a reminder of what he was getting himself into.

All slaves had to be wearing a collar at all times, period. It couldn't be a makeshift collar, but one Ministry approved, which Harry knew you could buy in shops, and also purchase from the Ministry. The collar could be used, not only to tie and chain as Mr. Müller used it for, but also to repress magic in the individual wearing it. Harry hoped Snape's magic wasn't being held back by the collar - that would be a shame. If magic was repressed for too long, it could kill the person, or at the very least, drive them mad.

Maybe that's what's wrong with Snape... Harry mused. Maybe I can have him cast a couple Expelliarmuses or something, and then he'd be back to his old self. It was a long-shot, though. An incredibly long-shot.

The terms and conditions also mentioned the brand that was on Snape's forehead, a brand that was black, and really, quite plain. Harry had seen pictures of the brands, and most looked really kind of elegant. Snape's was, well, just ugly.

It said that he (Harry) had a choice of whether to keep the brand visible or invisible. The advantages of keeping it visible were, obviously, so people would recognise he was a slave in the streets if he ran away, and also if Harry wanted to prohibit him from buying things in stores. If the brand was invisible, no one would know it was there except Harry and Severus - no one would be able to see it unless they looked closely. Therefore, Harry would be able to hypothetically send Severus to, say, the bookstore and Severus could buy something without the clerks looking twice.

Definitely invisible, Harry decided without a doubt in his mind. He decided that he'd better check with Snape, to be sure. While it seemed like an obvious decision, he wanted to make sure Snape knew that he was able to make all the decisions that concerned him.

Harry had the option of changing Snape's name at any given time. Snape's name had already been changed twice, Harry found, when he was bought by Mering to 'Severus Tobias Mering', and then again when he was bought by Mr. Müller, to 'Severus Tobias Müller'. He was tempted to ask Snape if Snape wanted to change it again, or if he wanted to keep Müller... and if he did want it changed, what did he want it changed to, but didn't. He didn't want to overwhelm him and if Harry guessed wrong, it was likely an easy thing to change. Snape would rather die than have his last name be 'Potter', and why wouldn't he want his old name? 'Severus Tobias Snape', it would be.

There was a clause that reminded the signer that Snape was a Death Eater slave, and was a slave as punishment. Harry supposed that was to keep people from suing the Ministry or something if Snape tried the Killing Curse on Harry or something. Harry had enough money; he didn't need to sue.

He was going to pay Mr. Müller 80,000 Galleons for Snape. He had offered 25,000, and Mr. Müller had hesitated, so he jumped it right up to 80,000, which Mr. Müller readily accepted. Snape had likely cost a large amount of money, being as trained as he seemed to be. Harry had to reimburse that amount, and of course Mr. Müller would want to make a small profit. Harry didn't care how much he had wanted, as money was significantly less important to him than buying Snape was.

He signed his name at the bottom of the parchment, Harry James Potter. And prayed that he was making the right decision.

"All right." The Ministry official looked the parchment over before sitting it on his desk, and passing Harry another parchment to sign, a parchment that basically said that he was the owner of Snape, and then said, "You understand that you have the right to change his name?"

"Yes, sir." Harry glanced down at Snape. Snape was practically kissing the carpet, so he couldn't see Snape's expression, but Snape's body didn't tense or anything. For all Harry knew, Snape was asleep, because he had no reaction whatsoever. "And I'd like to."

"To?" The Ministry official began digging through the mountain of papers on his desk. "You can change it to anything you like. Many owners buying a slave his age prefer to change the name, just to let who his owner is sink in. Some only change the last name, some are known to change the entire name all together." He chuckled. "I had a man in here last week, a wealthy landowner, who was buying his forty-seventh slave. All of his slaves, woman, man, child, adult - regardless of race - had the same name, a word from a dead wizarding language that he says means 'slave'. He claims it helps keep them in their place."

Harry thought that that was horrible. He didn't know why the Ministry official thought it was funny. "Um, well, I just want to change his last name, I think? His name is 'Severus Müller', right?"

"'Severus Tobias Müller', yes." The Ministry official nodded, pursing his lips as he scanned a parchment.

"Well, can it be 'Severus Tobias Snape'?" Harry held his breath. "S-N-A-P-E? Long story, you see, but his name used to be-"

"'Severus Tobias Snape', I see." The man showed Harry a parchment that Harry had seen before, a parchment listing more details about Snape than Harry ever had to know. "Just sign... here..." he passed Harry yet another piece of parchment, "and that should be it."

Wow... Harry scrawled his name out, Harry James Potter, yet again. This is too easy. It was frighteningly easy, actually.

"Now, did you purchase a collar before coming, or would you like to buy one of our Ministry issued collars?" The man tucked the parchment back in a folder, after duplicating it once and putting it in a separate folder, for Harry to take home with him. "They are basic, without all of the bells and whistles that some speciality stores offer, but your name and address is engraved on it, and it supports tracking spells, as well as magic restriction spells."

"I'm not going to need that." Harry said abruptly. At the Ministry official's confused face, he glanced down at Snape's unmoving form, then sighed and looked back up. "The magic restriction spells. I... I want him to perform magic,. You know, he doesn't seem too functional like he is - I think if he was free to do magic, it would help."

The Ministry official's face was grave. "Mr. Müller bought him from the Ministry's Berlin branch." He said, seriously. "They found him at his past master's home, unleashing wild magic. I'm sure you already know he is a little touched in the head; I would be afraid to let him have free reign of his magic."

"You're serious?" Harry asked, in shock. Snape? Unleashing wild magic? Yeah, Hermione had recommended "The Road to Recovery" and after seeing Snape, Harry knew why... but "touched in the head"? Snape was more in control of his magic than anyone Harry knew.

The man nodded. "From what I hear, the Ministry sold him for a fair eighty Galleons. They could not get any more for him."

Harry glanced at Mr. Müller, who he wasn't listening as he didn't understand English. However, Harry understood the Ministry official perfectly - 80,000 Galleons was a lot of money and it angered him a little bit to be so ripped off.

"Well, I don't want to restrict his magic." Harry fingered his wand. "I can restrain him, I'm sure." Actually, he wasn't sure at all about that. Snape was a very powerful wizard and Harry, well, Harry was just Harry.

The Ministry official seemed to have no doubt in Harry's words. "Oh, I'm sure you can."

Harry hesitated. Was the guy making fun of him? Was he being sarcastic? Or was he just complimenting Harry for killing Voldemort? He didn't know, but he was pretty sure it was the latter. "So, um, I kind of forgot about the collar. Could I buy one?" He dug into his pockets for money. While he was at it, he pulled out the pouch of 80,00 Galleons and handed it to Mr. Müller.

Mr. Müller performed a spell to check the amount of money in it, and then settled back into his seat, not saying one word to Harry.

The Ministry official opened his desk and pulled out a collar. It was metal, and probably just made of aluminium or something - it definitely wasn't pure silver like the one Snape wore. It formed a small circle that looked like it would suffocate you if you wrapped it around your neck. There was one large hook on it, that you could tie a rope or hook a chain to.

"Two Galleons." The man said. "They are very sturdy, and should last a lifetime. Not that I'm guaranteeing it or anything, but we've rarely had someone who has bought one from us come back for another."

Good. Harry didn't think he'd be too keen on going to buy another. "Um, that's fine." He reached into his pouch and pulled out two Galleons, all the while converting the amount of Muggle money it added up to... ten pounds. He did that all the time. Apparently Hermione and most Muggle-raised kids did, too. Force of habit.

He was handed the collar by the Ministry official, and took a few minutes to examine it. He couldn't see how it could possibly fit over Severus' head - it wouldn't even go over a baby's head. "How do I..."

"Put it around the slave's neck." The Ministry official directed. "Careful to avoid the collar already on his neck, though. Mr. Müller tells me it's a family heirloom. Pure silver. If you scratch or ruin it, I imagine he will give you hell to pay, Mr. Potter."

Harry knelt down on a knee. "Hey, Snape." Harry said, softly. "I'm going to have to put this on you, okay?"

Snape hadn't looked up from his knees the entire time Harry had been there, and didn't move, blink, or give any other sign that he had heard Harry.

Harry tried to tug open the metal collar in his hands, but it wouldn't open. "How am I supposed to-"

"Tell it to 'open'." The Ministry official said, patiently.

Oh. "Open." Harry directed.

The collar snapped open. Placing it around Snape's neck was going to be disgusting, as Snape's neck with dirty, oily, and flaky with a bunch of accumulated skin that hadn't had a chance to wash off. However, Harry had faced plenty of gross things in Snape's Potions class.

He tried not to make a face as his skin came into contact with Snape's, trying not to make the situation worse than it was. But at least he got a reaction from Snape, for once.

Snape tensed as soon as Harry's hands got near to him, but he flinched violently when Harry's hands actually made contact with his skin. "Flinched violently", which when used in this context, meant pulled away so quickly, Snape fell down on his bottom, staring up at both Harry and Mr. Müller in alarm.

Mr. Müller began to snap at Snape in German. Harry didn't think Snape could speak German, judging by the parchment he had read on Snape at the Ministry, but it didn't take a rocket scientist to understand that the man was clearly annoyed with Snape. Snape obviously understood that much, and got back on his knees, facing Mr. Müller, this time with his forehead bowed so low, it touched the floor.

"Sorry." Harry said, awkwardly, glancing over at the Ministry official, who just nodded. "I guess I just... try again?"

"Um, Snape, please?" Harry said. "Um, if you want to put it on yourself, if that'd be easier-"

"You must do it." the Ministry official said. "The collar will now only respond to your commands, and your commands alone. There is no collar on this planet, or any other, for that matter ,that will ever respond to a slave's command."

Harry just nodded, ignoring the sick feeling that was growing in his stomach. Snape really wasn't being treated like a human in the slightest. He was on his hands and knees, with a collar and a... and a leashlike a dog. He hadn't spoken one word - Harry wondered if it was possible for Snape to have forgotten how to talk?

Get him to respond. Do this slowly, and he maybe won't jerk away. "Snape," Harry tried again. "Please look at me."

"He's your master, now." The Ministry official suddenly snapped, a quick transformation from his cool, calm, and collected self just moments ago. "Do as he says."

"It's okay." Harry said quietly, to the Ministry official. "He's fine." But he didn't even needed to say that, for the Ministry official's words seemed to work.

Snape turned his head so that it was now facing Harry, his forehead no longer on the floor, but aside from that, he did not move. His eyes were troubled, and Harry couldn't help but note how Snape wasn'treally looking at Harry. Well, he wasn't looking at his eyes, at least. He was looking at Harry, but not making eye contact or anything like Harry meant when he told him to look at him.

Told him to, his stomach him to. You're supposed to ask. Make suggestions- don't tell him to do anything! Harry hadn't meant it as an order, but he quickly began to realise all the things normal people said to one another that could be taken as an order.

Harry moved closer to Snape, still on his knees. "I'm going to put this around your neck." Harry told Snape, still keeping his voice soft and gentle, like he talked to Teddy, who was just a year-old. He spoke to Snape like he spoke to a baby - who ever thought that would ever happen?

"It doesn't... it's doesn't hurt?" He looked up at the Ministry official.

The Ministry official shook his head. "The collar will not, no."

Which implies something else will. Harry nodded. "Hear that, Snape? It's not going to hurt at all to put on. It's just going to shut around your neck when I tell it to close. It's going to be okay."

He had always hated it, in the past, when people told him that "Things were going to be okay". Yet, that was probably what Snape needed to hear, so he said it. He wasn't even really concious of what he was saying as he brought his hands closer to Snape, Snape watching every movement.

Please don't jump,Harry pleaded silently to Snape as he brought his hands slowly closer to Snape. As his hands once again made contact with Snape, Snape flinched violently again, but not quite so much. Harry was able to place the collar around his neck, and to quietly command it to "close".

Mr. Müller took over then. He snapped at the silver collar around Snape's neck, which opened and slid off at Mr. Müller's none-too-gently tugging.

Harry cringed at the red ring left around Snape's neck, where the sliver collar had been. The skin was red, chaffed, and swollen. There were cuts around the red imprint of where the collar had been so tight, it had cut into Snape's skin.

Harry didn't back away from Snape or stand up. He felt the urge to tell Snape "See, that wasn't so bad", but at the way Snape was shaking, Harry didn't even know if Snape would hear him.

He looked up at the Ministry official. "What's next?"

"Stand and hold your wand to the slave's head as I recite the spell needed." the Ministry official said. "Then you will be free to leave with the slave."

Mr. Müller spoke, collar and leash in hand. "Harry Potter." He said, gruffly, before nodding and walking out of the room.

"Um, bye." Harry called. "Uh, pleasure doing.. business." He felt like an idiot saying that, but what was he supposed to say? He'd never made any sort of business deal before, and didn't know what the proper etiquette was.

He stood up and pulled out his wand. "So I just hold it to his forehead?"

The Ministry official nodded, coming out from behind the desk. He reached out a foot and began prodding Snape with it. "Sit up, slave. Yes, Mr. Potter, when I tell you to, hold it to his head. Would you like the brand visible or invisible?"

Invisible, please."Um, Snape, what do you want?"

"It's not a good thing to get into practise of asking a slave it's opinion." the Ministry official advised. "Besides, their kind are hardly capable of making decisions. They need someone to make the decision for them."

"Not true." Harry argued. He actually didn't know, but since when had that stopped him? It seemed like something Hermione would argue, and besides, it irritated him. When something irritated Harry, he was in the practise of letting it show. "He hasn't always been a slave, you know. Just for a few months... but invisible, the brand, I mean. Just make it invisible."

The Ministry official looked doubtful. "I encourage you to look into the slavery laws and spell incantations." He told Harry. "Your slave is incapable of making important decisions by himself. Now, if you will hold your wand to his forehead..."

Harry looked over at Snape, who was still on his knees, but sitting back on his heels. Snape's head was level, but eyes downcast, so that he was still staring the floor.

Harry extended his wand, but hesitated to put it against Snape's forehead. First of all, he didn't know where exactly he was supposed to put it - right in the middle of his forehead? To Snape's temple? Which temple?

Secondly, this was it. After he did this, there would be no backing out. Well, he could always sell Snape if it became too much, but he didn't think he could do that to Snape. It seemed... wrong. To be betrayal. He could never do that.

After you do this, everything will change. Forever. He told himself. He hadn't felt like a kid in a long time, but this would be giving up the dream of ever getting to act his age. He was now responsible for a human life in a way he never had been before.

The Ministry official seemed to know what Harry was thinking, and eyed him carefully. "Are you sure you want to do this, Mr. Potter?"

Harry took a deep breath and nodded. "Where do I put my wand?"

"Anywhere on his forehead."

He gripped his wand tight, ignoring the horrible sweaty feeling on his hands. He didn't want to jab Snape in the head with the wand, but he didn't want to put it too feebly against Snape's forehead. He needed to do it... firmly.

"Keep the wand to his head, regardless of what happens." The Ministry official said. "Slave, do not move. I understand that you have a record of collapsing, but do not. I do not care if something catches on fire, understand? Do not move - that is an order that you are bound to follow, or there will have serious consequences."

"Wait." Harry stopped, not fully understanding everything the Ministry official said. Snape had collapsed last time? Why? "It'll hurt him?"

"He will survive." The Ministry official said, dryly. "There's no other way, if that's what you're asking.

As the tip of Harry's wand touched Snape's forehead, Snape let out an agonizing cry, but did not move.

It took everything Harry had in him not to pull back the wand, but he didn't. He didn't want to risk any bad side effects. He suddenly just really wanted nothing more than all of this over with.

He didn't know how much time passed... he was only aware when the Ministry official said, "Enough, Mr. Potter! Enough - it's over."

Harry opened his eyes, eyes that he hadn't realised he was closing. He still had his wand to Snape's head. Snape was still sitting on his heels, only breathing very heavily, trembling, rocking back and forth very slightly... and were those tears running down his cheeks?

They were. Snape was crying. Harry had never seen Snape cry before in real life, only in Snape's memories. It was a horrible thing to witness.

"Are we done?" Harry was surprised that he was able to talk. He felt like his voice should be gone. He didn't now why; he was just tired, he guessed.

The Ministry official nodded. "Yes, you're done." He passed Harry a folder of papers. "If you have any questions, do not hesitate to let us know, Mr. Potter."

Harry nodded. "I won't. Um," he looked down at Snape. "If you're ready to go..." he began awkwardly.

Snape didn't respond, nor did he move. He stopped the rocking and heavy breathing, but he was still trembling, and the tears were still streaming.

That probably hurt bad,Harry realised. Like Cruciatus bad. It probably really, really hurts to move.

"Um, my hotel isn't far." Harry continued, trying to make eye contact with Snape, but failing, because Snape wouldn't make eye contact with him. "I figured we'll stay there, for the afternoon. We could start flying or Apparating home tonight or tomorrow morning, you know. Whatever is... easier."

Snape didn't give any hint of having heard him.

"He's touched in the head." The Ministry official repeated.

Harry opened his mouth to argue that, no, Snape was not "touched in the head", but shut it. Because he didn't know that. He would have argued against it, tooth and nail, just twenty-four hours ago. But that had been before he saw Snape as he was now. Now, Harry wasn't so sure.

Chapter Text

"Well, here we are. Home sweet home." Mr. Potter swung open the door of the hotel room.

Severus glanced up, but kept his head bowed. The room was very nice. It was carpeted, and had a big bed in the centre, with large windows on the wall. It smelled clean. Severus had stayed in very few hotel rooms in his life, but this seemed like a nice one.

Mr. Po- Master walked over and sat on the bed, crossing his legs under him. Severus merely sat back on his heels and waited. Waited for an order, for any sort of instruction. Or waited for pain, whichever came first.

Why did Mr. Potter buy you?He wondered. The slavery was supposed to be punishment for all the bad things I have done. Certainly... certainly it is not necessary for more punishment? But Mr. P- Master had always taken things to the extreme - he had never done anything half-heartedly. Except for those that he did, such as his schoolwork, of course.

He bit his lip in nervousness. The worst part about being a slave were the threats. The anticipation. Those were worse than the actual punishments. Not knowing what your fate was, knowing your owner knew, was torture on it's own. Severus could endure pain - Merlin knew, he had been through enough of it in his life - but anticipating the pain was quite another thing. It did not help that many threats could be idle and not real threats; one might think that that would be a good thing, there being no follow-through, but it wasn't. That meant that there was no way to tell a real threat from an idle one, and that made things worse.

Master sighed. "You don't have to sit there, you know. You can sit on the bed."

Severus took in a sharp breath, that he hadn't meant to take in. The bed? Master wanted him to sit on the bed? What was that about? Severus was not allowed to be in or on beds without permission, and whenever he was told to, it was because he was being used. Strictly for being used.

"Or the floor. The floor is fine. Just sit on the floor." Severus watched Master run his hands through his own hair. "So... um, you've been awful quiet since... well, since we've run into each other again."

Had he? Severus hadn't noticed. He did not talk at all anymore, as a rule. The Monster had forbade him to talk, and as a slave, there was little point in it.

"That's okay, you don't have to talk much." Master sighed again. "But you understand everything that is going on, right? That I bought you from Mr. Müller, and... oh, never mind."

Yes, Severus did understand that. He even understood why he had been bought. He did not like it, but there was nothing he could do about it.

"So..." Master ran his fingers through his hair again. "It's eleven o'clock. Do you want to... I don't know. Maybe we should just head back to England. There's nothing to do here, in Germany. Not that there's anything to do in England... but I've got to go pick up Teddy from Mrs. Weasley... So, I guess I have to explain what happened."

What happened? Severus was just bought by Mr. Potter, that was what happened. He didn't quite understand why it needed explaining, but he did not express that to Master. He just kept staring down at the carpet, head bowed, like a good slave.

Master sighed. "There was a whole lot of confusion and misunderstandings, when it came to the whole Death Eater/slave policy. Really, I think it was a dumb idea to have in the first place, because no one is going to want to have a slave that they can't trust, that they know has murdered their friends and family... but Kingsley was outvoted at the Ministry, and well... I'm not really sure how you got involved in all of that. We all know you're innocent, and there had been all this paperwork for that and everything, but it disappeared now. It's for when you willingly got the Mark, but I just kind of assumed they'd let that slide, you know? "

It – meaning the paperwork documenting Severus' good deeds - disappeared. Severus didn't know what happened to it, but he had a feeling of who was behind it. Not that he cared, really. He did not care about much, any longer. Just avoiding pain and pleasing his master, which made him sick as the order should be in reverse. He was a horrible slave.

"And then we just had a hell of a time getting to you." Master shook his head. "You were at Hendersons', and then we were outbid because they were so sure they had enough money, and then Weston refused to sell you, and then when he did, he sold you to König, and König didn't respond to any of my letters - they were in English. Does he speak English? - and then you went to Mr. Müller... are most slaves sold around like that?"

'No, sir,' Severus wanted to say. 'No, most aren't. Only the ones no one wants are sold continuously.'

"Well, anyway..." Master stood up. "Um, I'm going to Owl my friends, and let them know that I've got you." He winced. "You know what I mean. That came out wrong. Um... are you hungry? Thirsty? Tired? Do you need anything?"

Was he hungry? He did not feel hungry any longer, very often. He felt a little nauseas when it had been a long time since he ate, but hungry? No. Was he thirsty? He hadn't had anything to drink since that morning and yet somehow, he didn't think his stomach could handle much water. Was he tired? He was always tired. And did he need anything else?

What sort of question was that? He should be asking Master those questions, serving him, not the other way around!

Master sighed. "Okay, I guess not. Um... right." He went over behind the counter of the kitchenette which was off to the side of the room, and began scribbling on parchment. "Are you feeling okay? I mean, I know this is a big deal, you getting new... well, renowned... but you're not looking very... oh, shit. Never mind."

Severus listened to the sound of the quill scratching against the parchment. It was a nice sound. One of his favourite sounds; he had not heard it in a long time. Not at the entire time he had been at his past master's. Or at The Monster's.

"I'm going to have to run this down to the foyer, to send to Ron and Hermione." Master waved a piece of parchment around. "Why don't you get in the shower while I'm gone?"

That was an order. 'Why don't you' was not a suggestion, but an order in a disguised way. It was a slave's duty to do whatever the owner wanted, whether it was as obvious as 'do this' or a hint.

"If you want me to." Severus bowed his head even more. That was always a safe response, as you never got slapped for bowing your head.

"I think that'd be a good idea."

Ron, Hermione – how is Teddy? Have you found a house, yet? I bought Snape, and am headed home tonight. I'll pick up Teddy at about midnight.


Harry tried not to think too deeply about the way Snape was acting, as he jogged back up the stairs, after asking the hotel to post his letter. After all, Snape had spent the past couple months chained up like a dog. He had the right to act odd for awhile.

Harry had known that human slavery was legal in the wizarding world for less than a year, but upon finding that out, hadn't gone through a shock like Hermione had. He had simply accepted it, and moved on. It all seemed pretty okay- not something he necessarily supported, but if owning slaves was what people wanted to do, then that was up to hem.

But that had been before he saw what had happened to Snape. Harry didn't care if you were a human, wizard, house-elf... to be chained up like Snape was was wrong. And the air was still rather chilly outside, in the evenings. Had Snape had a warming charm put on him? If not, what couldn't Mr. Müller have given him a blanket or some clothes? He knew the Müller family was poor, but for Merlin's sake, they couldn't have been that poor not to afford a single blanket or trousers!

And why was Snape so dirty and smelly? Yes, he slept out in the barn, Harry understood that much. But couldn't they allow him to take a shower every so often? Just like... once a month, even? What about when it rained - couldn't Snape just go out in the rain to wash off, every now and then? It was not like he was poisonous; keeping him in one of their children's bedrooms that went off to school should have been fine, anyway. Well, when Snape opened his mouth, he could be poisonous, but he hadn't even opened his mouth, at this point. He probably had barely spoken to the Müller's at all, only when spoken to, or something. Probably not even that, because Harry spoken to him many times in the hour, and had only gotten about fifteen words out of him.

And the way the Ministry official had treated Snape at the office... he had kind of kicked Snape with his foot. Not hard enough to really hurt, but hard enough to be rude and bothersome. He had just ordered Snape around and spoke of him like... Harry would say an animal, but that was not entirely true, as animals were kept in high regard in the wizarding world. Hippogriffs, lions, owls, snakes, cats, badgers... even toads, while out of style, had some respect. You bowed to a Hippogriff upon greeting it, even.

No, he hadn't treated Snape like an animal. He had treated him like bowl of week-old porridge that you just wanted to throw away, that you didn't really want, that you just wanted off your table and out and out of sight.

Halfway up to his room, Harry couldn't take it any more. He burst into the nearest loo (not caring that it for the girl's loo; there was no one in there, anyhow), into the first toilet stall, and dispelling the contents of his stomach. He collapsed on the floor, grasping on to the bowl for dear life in case he started to throw up again... he sat there, kicking himself for taking his sweet-as-you-please time for finding Snape. For being such a selfish, childish pig.

Severus gasped for breath as he was pulled out of the water violently by his hair. In the back of his mind, he heard a voice reminding him to not thrash around in the water, that it was better to stay still, but he wasn't coherent enough to listen to it. He wasn't in the right mindset to do anything right now, except get out of the tank of water.

He was shook by his hair and yelled at again, in a language he didn't understand. The warm breath on his face was welcome, warming up his face frozen by the icy water, even though the breath smelled of onions and really strong whiskey.

"P-P-Please, sir." Severus had stammered, hot tears streaming down his face. "I don't know what I-"

He was interrupted by the man further yelling, and shaking him by his head, before snapping Severus' head down and holding him in the water once again.

In the water, you couldn't breathe. There was nothing to breathe underneath the water. Not long under there without air, and you would black out. Three minutes, and you would lose all hope of ever recovering full use of your brain, and your heart. And in just a few more minutes, you would die.

Severus was close to the full ten minutes it took to die, he was certain. He had been under there too long.

He brought his arm up, struggling to reach for something - anything - to grab onto, to pull himself up. But that only began to fell a light prickly pain, and he couldn't do anything with it. He was stuck, underwater, struggling for air.

His lungs, which were not filled with one bit of air, as he hadn't had a chance to take a large breath before going under, felt like they were going to burst. He felt as if he were plunged into the iciest ocean on the planet, in its coldest season. He could almost feel bits of ice floating around him.

You could just die like this , the panic started to edge off as he realised that amongst his other incoherent thoughts that he would never be able to recollect later. Just underwater, right now. this would be it. No more pain, or suffering. Just-

The problem was was that he couldn't die. He wasn't allowed to die. Slaves weren't allowed to die unless they were told to. Allowances were made for wizards over the age of two hundred and thirty, but even then, you had to fear what would happen to you on the other side. Slaves were not told if they were punished on the other side, and if so, how severely. What if Severus died right now? Would he spend eternity underneath the water, feeling as if his lungs would explode? If so, he'd rather die another way, or simply serve his masters until they killed him themselves.

He coughed and choked for breath as he was yet again yanked up by his hair. He was standing on his feet in the tank, but felt as if he was going to collapse. He certainly didn't feel like he even owned a pair of feet any longer - those had been burnt so badly in games of torture, abuse, and obedience that the nerves were practically gone. Coupled with the fact that they had been standing in the ice cold water for how long? Severus lost track of time so quickly at The Monster's. It could have been anywhere from one minute to ten years. He was hoping for ten years, because if it had been a mere minute, then he would not be able to withstand much more. He would develop hypothermia, and...

"I'm sorry!" He choked. "I apologise, sir! I did not mean for-"

But underwater he went again, his lungs burning as he swallowed a bit of water. But it would end, eventually. Soon, his torturer would get tired of this activity, and chain him back up, where he would be free to recover from the water-filled event... until the next torturer got in the mood to throw him in a tank again. He did not know why they found it so amusing, but if his behaviour amused him, he had to keep doing it, for two reasons. Because if they wanted him to amuse them, he had to do just that, and because it was better this than getting his eyes gauged out with spoons, replaced, and having the event repeated.

Harry wiped his mouth off as he tried to leave the girl's bathroom as inconspicuously as he could. He had thrown up another time before deeming his stomach absolutely empty, and then he had washed his mouth out very good for extra measure. Not like Snape would care what Harry's breath smelled like.

He glanced around the bedroom, satisfied that Snape was not in there. That obviously meant he was behind the cracked bathroom door. He had to admit, for a little bit, he was half-convinced he'd walk in and find Snape kneeling on the floor, waiting for Harry, shaking because he didn't know how to shower. Which would be ridiculous, of course. Snape had always had super greasy hair, but he'd never smelled too bad, unless he had been brewing a particularly bad Potion that day. So of course Snape would know how to shower. But something had happened to Snape to make him almost unable to talk, it seemed. And barely able to walk, because he got on his knees every chance he got. Harry wouldn't put it past him to be unable to shower.

You've got to get him some clothes,Harry realised as he eyed the thing Snape had been wearing - the dirty, filthy thing - lying over the back of a chair. Maybe he had been hoping that if he left it out, Harry would clean it for him. Harry would clean it for him without a problem, but he was hoping on getting him some actual clothes.

He was about to examine the nasty looking frock when he noticed something, or rather, he noticed a lack of something: there was no water running in the bathroom.. There was no steady stream of water bursting from the shower head onto the shower floor. The water wasn't on.

There's no way he can take a shower that fast, and do it well enough,Harry thought. Maybe you should go check on him... you know, just in case.

Harry timidly walked over to the bathroom door. It would be kind of rude to knock on it. Snape would probably think he was rushing him, which Harry was most definitely not. The longer Snape was occupied, the longer Harry would have to think about what came next.

He knocked on the door. "Snape?" He called through the crack between the door and frame. "How're you doing in there?"

There was no answer, but Harry didn't expect one. Snape, who had once would have never missed a chance to sneer or say something snide to Harry, was now practically mute.

"Snape?" He tried again. "You okay?"

No answer. Big surprise.

Harry put his hand on the doorknob. "You even in there, mate? Look, why don't you answer? N-Not that that's an order or anything..." he still had to explain the rules - that there weren't any - to Snape. "But, yeah. Please answer?"

There was no response, so he opened the door slowly and peered inside. "Snape?"

Snape turned around on his bum, jumping slightly, at the sound of Harry's voice. He was just as filthy as ever, and perfectly dry. He had been kneeling, still, facing the bathtub, just staring at it, until Harry spoke.

Snape got down on his knees in a swift movement and bowed his head to the floor. No words left his lips, but it wasn't really needed to get his point across. Harry hadn't read a lot about manners and customs regarding slaves, but he knew the laws. And the laws said that slaves always had to bow to their masters, every time the masters or the slave came into the room. How the bow was performed was up the the masters - it could be as simple as an incline of the head, or kneeling on the floor as Snape was doing now - but it had to be done.

"Um, you okay?" Harry asked. "I was a bit nervous when I didn't hear the water running and I..." his eyes trailed over the thousands of scars that littered Snape's back, which was on full display to Harry. There were literally thousands - some super tiny, some raised, long, and had evidentially been caused by a deep cut of some kind. Some were white, some were pink, and there were a couple that were evenblack. They were all equally as horrible.

"I got a bit concerned." Harry admitted, trying to divert his eyes away from Snape's body. "Um, you can sit up, now." Harry said. "You don't have to... you know, bow like that the entire time."

Snape immediately lifted his head from the floor and sat upright, remaining on his knees. He simply nodded, his eyes to the floor, still.

What's his problem?"Do you not remember how to start the shower?" Harry asked, kindly, the horrible feeling coming back in his stomach. What had all those men and women that owned Snape doneto him to make him like that? While Harry had been worrying about the NEWTs and his sex life.

Snape's eyes were filled with hesitation, but there was no answer. Not even a nod "yes" or a shaking of the head "no".

"Here," Harry said, walking around Snape to the bathtub, and turn on the the shower head. The hot water began to instantaneously spray out, and Harry knew from his shower the night before that the hot water would never run out.

Snape turned and watched Harry turn on the shower, but made no reaction as if he'd seen it. Except for the slight widening of eyes and slight trembling, that was.

Harry wished Snape would talk. It would be less confusing. He also wished he would at least get off the bloody floor. To have Snape kneeling in a room with Harry in it was just... it was just unnatural. He could never imagine Snape kneeling in front of anyone, except for maybe Voldemort. And in the image in his mind, Snape would be wearing a dark Death Eater cloak, not be naked.

"Do you know how to shower?" Harry asked Snape, trying to keep the pity out of his voice. He couldn't help but feel so sorry for Snape at this point that Harry's chest hurt.

Snape hesitated again before nodding, his eyes back down to the floor. He didn't respond verbally, but Harry had a feeling it was a simple "yes" over "yes, you simpleton. What wizard in any modern country has never had a shower before? 10,000 lines. And detention. and 4958394930 points from Gryffindor".

"Would you prefer a bath, then? Or maybe a cleansing spell or two would do for now." He pulled out his wand, but stopped at the sheer panic on Snape's face.

Snape's eyes were wide with fear, and his bottom lip sucked in his mouth. He was shaking, almost violently so, and he was taking very heavy, deep breaths, much too quickly.

He scared of my wand? Yeah, Harry's wand had done some serious damage in the past, but never to Snape. Just the same, Harry lowered it and stuck it in his back pocket. "Okay, no wand." He held up his hands to show Snape. "See - I promise, no magic at all."

Snape visibly relaxed, but not fully, as his eyes were still wide, the trembling still going on, and his breathing still hitched.

Harry knew what he had to do. He just didn't like it. He had never helped anyone do anything like that before. He had never even bathed a dog, or any other sort of animal before. He had only encountered himself in a bath or shower before, outside the locker room.

"Here." He switched the water so that it came out the tap instead of the shower, filling up the bathtub instead of sliding down the drain. "Let's get you in the bath. It's... easier." Well, it wasn't easier, but you could sit down, and not have to worry about slipping on the floor, which was nice.

He grabbed Snape's arm, gently. Snape didn't have a super hairy arm, like some guys did, but it wasn't completely hairless. It was painfully thin, though - Harry could feel the bones and veins in it just by touching it, and he could wrap his small hands all the way around it.

The arm, like the rest of Snape's body, was covered in dirt, grime, grease, and God-knew-what-else. It was a absolutely disgusting, but that was the point; to clean him off of almost probably a year's worth of disgusting stuff.

"Come on, let's stand up." He urged Snape, gently lifting on his arms so Snape could stand up, but have someone to lean on. He imagined someone Snape's age would have trouble standing up without grabbing a hold of someone, as Snape was thirty-nine now, said so the papers he got on him. As Snape's owner, he had been given tons of papers, filled with everything he could possibly know about Snape, from his exact second of birth, to what dates he lost each tooth, to all the spells Snape had every performed, and what dates and times they were performed at. It was a bucket load of information, information Harry didn't even want to know how the Ministry got. It was information that would take days to sort through, at best, and information that Harry had no intentions of ever sorting through. A., because he didn't really care about when Snape lost his virginity, and B., because things like that were Snape's own business. Harry owned him because he had to own him, not because he wanted to.

Snape stood up, a little wobbly, but he didn't lean on Harry for support at all. Harry reckoned the only reason he was wobbly was because of how shaky he was.

"Now just step in the tub, and sit down in it." Harry instructed.

Snape froze for a minute, like what Muggles called "a deer in headlights", but he did as he was told.

Harry couldn't help but marvel at the fluid movements the man had. Even though Snape was shaking like a leaf, he still managed to get in the water and sit down without so much of making the slightest bit of a splash. The water barely rippled.

Harry reached over and grabbed a bar of soap from the shelf above the toilet and unwrapped it from its wrapper. He sat it on the edge of the tub, along with a hotel issued wash cloth. "See if you can clean yourself up." Harry said. "I'll be back in a minute. I've got to-" the look on Snape's face stopped him though. A paralysed look of fear.

He's not an infant,Harry said to himself. Why can't he do this himself?

He's had a hard time, Harry. Just help him out.

He's doing it just to test you.

Or he genuinely needs help. Quit being so selfish and help him. That's why you bought him, right? Or was there another reason?

No, no other reasons.

Then help him!

Harry sighed, resigned to the task. He grabbed the stool he had conjured last night from in front of the sink and sat down facing the bathtub, facing Snape.

"Turn around." Harry instructed, turning off the water, which now about filled half of the tub.

Dipping the wash cloth into the water, which was already starting to look disgustingly muddy and dirty, from Snape just sitting there, Harry began to scrub Snape's back. Snape flinched away at Harry's touch, and never stopped shaking, not even for a moment.

He carefully tried to avoid the major scars, and the raised ones, to avoid hurting Snape, but never knew if he hurt him or not. Snape flinched every few moments at Harry's touch, not at him touching the scars, Harry didn't think. And even though Snape had nodded when Harry told him to tell him if he hurt Snape, Snape didn't tell Harry anything. Probably because Snape had stopped talking for the most part.

Snape. Harry had to stop calling him that. Snape was like a scared child, or animal (as much as Harry hated to compare him to the latter. On a related now, how was Harry supposed to scrub the skin around the collar Harry himself had put on Snape? It wasn't so tight that Snape could barely breathe, like Mr. Müller's had been, but it was still pretty snug). Harry didn't know if Snape was scared of him, or just everything in general, but calling him "Snape" wouldn't help. "Severus" was much friendlier - were Harry in Snape's position, he would have preferred Snape to call him "Harry" over "Potter".

"Severus?" Harry tried out the name as he reached down towards Snape's lower back.

Snape turned his head to look at Harry, but did not respond. His eyes were still downcast slightly, but Harry knew that Snape could see him.

"I was just thinking that we might want to let the water out." Harry said, looking down at the now dark brown water. The flakes of skin and little pieces of hair floating on the top were disgusting. "It's doing us no good now."

Snape lowered his eyes all the way now, but did not say anything or respond in any other way.

Harry sighed. Had Snape always been this... indecisive, and had Harry just missed it?

"Why don't you stand up and get out for a minute?" Harry suggested, reaching for Snape's hand and pulling him to his feet. Well, he would have pulled Snape to his feet if Snape had leant him any weight. Or maybe he had and Snape was just too light to notice. "I'll ban- let out the water and b- rinse it out, before we start again."

Snape just wrapped his arms around his still filthy, and now wet body, and nodded, eyes to the floor.

Harry sighed again and, grimacing, plunged his hand into the nasty water and pulled out the plug. It was going to be one long bath time.

Severus sat stock still as Master gently, but firmly, ran the rag up and down Severus' arm, which Master out extended with one hand. Severus just sat limp and let Master do whatever Master wanted to do.

Master - Master Weston, that was (how that felt odd to say - Master Weston), had had Severus join him in the shower many times. He would begin to wash Severus, and have Severus wash him - all over. It had been uncomfortable, to say the least. When Master had used Severus anywhere else, it had been different. To be both standing up in a shower, each groping and probing different places, had been distinctly uncomfortable. It had been hard to breathe with the water raining down his head, his mouth wrapped around Master Weston. Back when Severus had been a young adult, still in school, he had heard other boys discussing doing the same thing with both girls and boys, and that it was-

He knew people did things like that, but he could not imagine it being pleasurable. Distinctly awkward, perhaps, but it must be pleasurable, or they would not do it. Severus, he understood that sex itself was pleasurable for many people, though he rarely experienced the same pleasure. But other things, the quite unnecessary things...

He hadn't taken his new master for the type of man to indulge in the same pleasures, but of course, his new master was far younger than any of Severus' owners had been (discounting Master Nathan, and various torturers of all ages at The Monster's). His sexual drive would be much stronger, and therefore, much more demanding. He was clearly homosexual, which would not work in Severus' favor. If he wanted to fondle Severus with his hand, which was most certainly what the bath would eventually lead to, then it was his right to do so. Severus would only 'lie back and think of England' - it was a phrase many used to refer to a woman during sex, but it applied nicely to Severus' situations, as well.

The water he was in was warm. It was not too hot, nor was it too cold. It was not deep at all, but it did not matter - water was water. It was all bad. He did not mind it if it was in a bowl, glass, or pouring down his throat at a rate he could control, but water in itself was an evil to be avoided at all costs.

"Ugh, what'd you get into?" Master asked, placing Severus' arm in Severus' lap. Master did not simply let go of Severus' arm, but placed it down gently. Severus didn't know why he did that; Severus had been holding out his arm rather limply, assuming that Master wanted that, but...

Master wanted to place your hand in your lap,he told himself. That was the easy answer. But why? Did he want Severus to act like an invalid? Was that what Master was wanting? It was so hard to have a master that failed to make his intentions clear!

"I don't think we going to be able to get this off in one session. Lean back against the tub, like this." Master placed his hands, each one on one of Severus' shoulders, and gently pulled him back so that Severus was lying against the tub.

Severus' legs had been crossed, but he took the moment to pull his knees up against his chest the best he could in that position. That was always the most comfortable position - he didn't know why. He just felt safer.

"Legs down, Severus." Master chided gently, tapping one of his hands on Severus' knee. "I need to get to your chest."

Severus' knees jerked at the touch, but did as he was told, however reluctant. He hated it that Master used his name so much; he hadn't been "Severus" since Master and Mistress'. He had been "Snape" or "slave" before that, and Merlin only had a clue what he had been in German. Severus had stopped trying to understand after only a short while at The Monster's.

His whole body tensed as Master began to scrub Severus' chest with the rag. Master scrubbed very gently, but it did not stop the horrible feeling from crossing Severus' body. The feeling came across him when anyone touched him - from any of his past owners, to Baldur, to getting bumped into on the street. He disliked being touched more than anything in the world at this moment, and it did not help him that Master was touching him all over. Or would be, eventually.

He likely knows this. He's trying to torture you. The thought made plenty of sense, except then why wasn't Master scrubbing harder? Severus himself had scrubbed harder - the first several times he had been allowed a shower or bath after being used, whether at Master Mering's or Master and Mistress', he had scrubbed himself so hard and so much that the water had turned pink with blood. But he quickly got over it; he was perpetually dirty now, and that was all right. He was just a slave.

His eyes watered slightly as Master accidentally pulled out a hair near his nipple, a sensitive place to have a hair pulled out of, but especially when by your master. It simply always hurt worse when one's master injured them. Severus was not sure why, but he assumed it had something to do with the power masters and mistresses had over him. It was like being able to manipulate an erection out of him by touching his forehead and rubbing his lower regions at the same time.

"All right, we need to let out the water again." Master sighed.

Severus looked down at his lap, at the water that was once clear. It was now a murky brown. There was many things floating in it, but he did not know what they were, or where they had come from.

He stood up, water dripping from his body. Master grabbed his arm, and Severus pulled back so far that he almost knocked Master into the tub.

You idiot, he ridiculed himself. He's your master. He owns you. He's got every right to touch you whenever, however, and why-ever he wants. You've no right to pull back.

He bowed his head. "I apologise, sir." He said. "Please punish me, sir, in however you see fit."

"Wha- punish you? What for? What'd you do?" Master's face was incredulous when Severus dared peek. "Come on, let's get out of the tub. We'll wash your hair, and call it quits for tonight. We can finish up when we get home."

Chapter Text

Severus tried not to cross his arms as he slowly followed his master in the house. To cross his arms would be to show defiance, and he was most certainly not defiant of his new master. He was merely cold.

Severus was hoping that he was proving to be a good slave to Master. He had had the idea occur to him, 'what if Master decides that I do not need to be punished for all the bad things in my past life?' If Severus continued being the best slave he could possibly be, maybe his master would come to realise it, and spare him the extent of what he had planned.

So far, it had not gotten off to a very good start. He had vomited the macaroni and cheese Master had ordered him at the hotel. He had not even eaten very much at all – only four mouthfuls. Master had not been angry, as far as Severus could tell. He had definitely felt frustration though, which often times led to anger in people.

That was why Severus tried extra hard on the broomstick. Master's broomstick went terribly fast, faster than Severus had ever been on a broomstick. He had learned to fly on the Hogwarts' Shooting Stars and hadn't gotten his own broom until he was seventeen, and found one thrown out. It had been an old Tinderblast, and had worked quite well, for such an old broom. He had used it to get from one destination to another, not to perform trick and to go fast like-

He had been thinking about his past like again. He kept doing that! It was as if had completely lost his mind. Did he not know that thinking about past lives was dangerous? He couldn't remember why – one of his masters might have forbidden it. Nevertheless, it was wrong to think about.

He had flown on the back of Master's broom. He had held on as tightly as he could to the broomstick, and Master did not even throw him off like he had worried about.

He hadn't even reacted when Master pulled out his wand and did a spell on him, before they had gotten on the broomstick. He didn't think he had, anyhow – he had fallen asleep almost as soon as he saw the wand, so it must have been a sleeping spell. The details were a bit fuzzy, to be honest. He had also apparently had a warming spell put on him, because even flying fast in the air, he didn't feel cold at all. Severus noticed things like that.

They had landed on a dirt road, that looked quite isolated. Master had pointed to a tall oak tree, and had instructed Severus to stay there until he came back. 'Don't move until I come back' had been Master's exact words, and since Severus could not figure out how literally the man meant it (Master had only been his master for less than a day – he still struggled not to think of him by the name those better than him called master), he had stood there, not moving, until his master came back. The only movement he had made was his stomach as he breathed, or his eyes as he blinked, but he had done his best to do neither as long as could.

When Master returned, he had had a baby in his arms. The baby had been wide awake, and babbling. He had had light blonde hair, and a flat nose. It did not look much like master, but Severus could only assume that it was his child. Master didn't say, and being a good slave, Severus didn't ask.

The home that they flew to was only twenty minutes by broomstick, give our take. Of course, that meant it was twenty minutes on Master's extremely fast broom. The bubbly baby seemed to enjoy the ride – most definitely Master's child.

The house was a simple two-storey. It looked to be a bit small. The wood was not painted, and the flowers in the pots on the porch could only be artificial or magically-manipulated, because whatever time of year it was, it was too cold to be growing flowers. Severus had magically sprouted flowers, as well as planted seeds the Muggle way, at Master Mering's. He had learned that flowers take a long time to grow the Muggle way, and did not tolerate bad conditions, like too much rain. Too cold was a bad condition. At least there was no snow.

He silently followed Master into the house, which was already lit. He was careful to keep his head bowed as he walked behind master, but his eyes raised so that he could see everything.

The fire crackled as Master sat the blonde boy down on the sofa, who looked around in wonderment.

Master sighed – from a slave's point-of-view, that was never a good thing. "I've gotta admit, Sna-Severus, I have no clue what I'm doing. I'm just moving in tonight, too."

What sort of statement is that? How does he expect me to respond to that?Severus chewed his lip as he kept his head bowed. It was better not to say anything. Sometimes, Master Mering had said various things like than, and Severus had learned the hard way not to respond... though Master Weston had liked responses. He liked Severus to talk to him – he had always chuckled, and petted Severus' head.

Master sighed again. "So, it looks like the kitchen is to the left..." he began moving around the house. The baby, who for some reason seemed to have bright red hair in the lights, stood to his feet and began toddling after Master before falling. Then he just crawled at a speed that Severus envied. He could never crawl that fast – it would have come in useful at his past master's.

Severus was standing for the first time in a long time. He could not remember the last time he stood. Thinking about it, it brought to mind all of the times that The Monster had punished him for standing, and had burnt the bottom of his feet to keep him from standing. Severus had learnt his lesson quite quickly.

He shifted on his feet, uncomfortably. He could still feel the burns there. He could feel the fiery tools The Monster and The People held to his feet as he screamed, he begged (talking got him more punishment, so he did not beg for long before he learned). They never stopped until he started bleeding really badly – or until they got to bone. And they never healed it when they were done, either – until they wanted another go around. That was why, when he stood now, it hurt so badly.

Oh, how he wanted to sit to ease the pain! But he could not until Master gave him permission to.

Finally, Master re-entered by going down the stairs. The baby – whoever it was – was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps Master was married. That would explain the new house, and the child's existence. It also further explained the slave – Master had to put his male-driven sex drive somewhere. The thought made Severus inwardly cringe. A master who liked both sex and punishing was never a good thing.

"I put Teddy to bed." Master came down the last step. "I feel so old. Half an hour with the kid, and I feel like I'm going to drop dead. Luckily, he takes after his dad and loves to sleep once you actually get him there. So-" Master stopped. "What's the matter? Why are you shaking?"

Severus hadn't noticed he was, nor had he fully realised, as he was doing it, why he had backed up as Master got closer. The masters who used him liked to touch him, whereas his past master rarely touched him at all. This master was getting rather close to him...

'You like this,' he heard Master Weston's voice in his head. 'Don't you like it? Tell me how much.'

"I bet you're tired." Master interrupted his thoughts, as he was entitled to do. "How about you try eating or drinking something before bed?"

If he said no, he would likely displease Master, but if he vomited up, he would also displease master. Either way, he could not win.

"Yes sir," he answered. His throat was so dry, he could barely hear himself.

Master nodded,. "Cool. Come on – let's go into the kitchen and... oh, shit. You know what? We probably don't have any groceries. Well, maybe we do. I guess we'll see."

He followed Master into the kitchen, where he was directed to "sit down".

Finally, he thought. Now the burns will stop hurting. Thank you.

"Thank you, Master." He said as he sank to his news. Someday he might muster the courage to sit crossed-legged, but for now he knelt, for you could rarely go wrong as long as you knelt properly.

He was tired, oh, so tired. And hungry, as well as thirsty. He knew he should be feeling more gratitude towards his master, as well as more fright towards his future, but it was hard when you were as tired as he was. He was sure, anyhow, that in the morning, he would be making up for it.

Perhaps even before,he realised as a shiver ran through his body. Perhaps he intended to punish you tonight.

Then why is he feeding you? A logical voice presented itself.If he beats you – or even uses you tonight – you will vomit.

Then he will have me eat it, and start doing it again. It will be an endless cycle. He began to feel sick to his stomach, and it had little to do with the lack of food in his body.

Harry had discovered two things in the past hour or so; One, he was way too bossy (do this, do that, come here, sit down), and two, eventually you got to a point of being so sleep deprived that you had boundless energy.

He pursed his lips as he looked through the cupboard, which someone seemed to have stocked with food. He needed to feed Snape something that he could digest properly, because the macaroni and cheese hadn't gone over so well.

And he'd have to see about putting a 'comfortable temperature' spell on Snape – he was getting a bruise where Snape' unleashing of accidental magic had struck him earlier. Harry had risen his wand, intending to put a warming spell on Snape, but a blast of light blue magic knocked him to the ground before he could. Apparently, Snape really was afraid of magic, but why? On the plus side, though, Harry didn't think that Snape knew what he had done, because Snape had made no mention of it. Not that he made much of a mention about anything... but Harry was just so grateful that Snape had lost consciousness briefly from the strength of the magic unleashed, so Harry had time to recover before Snape noticed.

Finally, Harry settled on a can of pumpkin, and when he knew Snape wasn't looking, wandlessly opened it up. Obviously, Hermione had done the shopping, because he had never seen cans of anything in any kitchens of magical households. There was probably a can opener somewhere, but he couldn't be arsed to look for it.

"Do you like pumpkin?" He asked, keeping his eyes on what he was doing. When he had told Snape to sit, Snape had taken his seat by kneeling on the floor. Every time Snape did something like that, Harry wondered what cruel way Mering had gotten Snape to learn such behaviours.

Snape, in what seemed to be his new-usual fashion, did not reply. It seemed a little odd to Harry, that a slave wouldn't answer his master's question, no matter how trivial. Hermione, Ron and himself had found a book about slave etiquette – a big old book, bigger than those etiquette books Lavender like to read, by some witch named Emma Shovel. They hadn't read it, because that hadn't been their concern at the time. Maybe he should have checked it out... but it was too late now. The Road to Recoverywas a book he figured he'd spent too much time studying to read anything else. And the N.E.W.T.S were in a month and half.

I'm screwed,he realised as he dumped the puréed orange stuff in a bowl, and stuck a spoon in there. He hadn't heated it or added any spices. Maybe the sudden shock of having something warm in his stomach had encouraged Snape's earlier throwing up. He figured taste was secondary at this point, as Snape needed something in his stomach.

Hesitantly, he sat the bowl down on the floor. "You can eat it with the spoon, or... however." Snape had tried to eat the macaroni and cheese bending over, eating it like a dog. Coincidentally, Harry had been reading a part in A Road to Recovery that very moment, about letting the victims adjust slowly, so he let him eat it however he wanted to.

"So, I'm guessing you want your water in a bowl, too?" He asked. He already knew the answer, so he turned to the sink to fill up another bowl.

"You know?" He asked, tense with the sounds of Snape eating behind him. That needed to stay in Snape's stomach, or they'd have to start feeding him through a tube or something. "I'm really sorry about taking forever to find you. You don't have to give me the silent treatment or anything."

When Harry began talking, Snape stopped eating and looked up in Harry's general direction. His face, which was still filthy with all sorts of grime and who knew what else, was also covered with pumpkin. It'd look kind of endearing, if it were Teddy. But not on a grown man. A grown, battered, abused man.

Severus always seemed to get himself in the worst and most complex situations. Why did master keep asking all sorts of questions that s didn't know the answer to? If Master had asked him something else, Severus might be able to answer that. But did he like pumpkin? How did he want his water?

He did not make decisions based on what he wanted – he wanted what his master wanted. Most of those questions, he wondered if he was even supposed to respond to.

And suppose he did what something different than his master did? Would that not count as disagreeing with his owner? Disagreeing was strictly forbidden and disrespectful.

'Never disagree,'Master Mering's voice rang in his head, 'not even if your owner says the sky is purple'. He had always said that the owner was correct, no exceptions. Severus had realised that that was true, months later whilst at Master and Mistress Weston's. He had been painting Mistress' toes very carefully, for the place she normally got them done had burned down in an accident. She had commented, looking out the large window overlooking the city as the sun set, that the sky was looking purple. It indeed had been. It was then that he realised that he would have never noticed that on his own, and as Master Mering's words came back to him, he realised that they were true. Severus did not know more than his owners, and was in no position to make choices on his own. And his owners had always made such excellent choices.

He was brought out of his ramblings as he followed Master into a bedroom. The pumpkin that he had eaten (half of the bowl before Master had taken it away, saying that it was enough for now) convulsed in his stomach as he remembered why he was there. For punishment. Possibly being used.

He brought up the Occlumency shields even higher, so as not to think about it. If he thought about how much pain he would be in, the waiting or the pain itself would be even worse.

Master was watching him, a trouble looked on his face. "You okay?" He asked.

Severus blinked, and bowed his head even lower than it had been. "Yes sir." He said his most used words.

"Okay... here's your room. Ron and Hermione and Mrs. Weasley decorated, I think. It's not much, but they didn't have much time or money. I think it's nice, considering. What do you think?"

There it is! Another question! Severus brought his eyes to scan the room. On one wall, in the centre of the room, there was a bed. It was quite unfortunately placed so that there was no wall or corner to hide in – you would have your back turned if you slept in that bed. There was also a hard backed chair sitting next to the bed, and simple dresser in a corner. The room boasted nothing, save a large window, which likely overlooked the side garden.

"It is nice." Severus repeated back Master's opinion.

That seamed to be what Master want to hear. He beamed, and walked over to the dresser.

Opening the top drawer, he pulled out a dark grey nightshirt. "Mrs. Weasley said that she put some stuff in here for you – nothing special, just a night shirt and a set of robes to hold you over until we can buy you more."

Nothing special... hold you over... buy you more...Severus attempted to analyse the situation. He had not encountered many situations involving clothes and his owners. He was not at all certain how to handle this. Normally, his owners simply magically stripped him, or handed him something to change into. Few words were exchanged.

"Yes, sir." He said finally, going with the safe response.

Master shut the drawer and held out the nightshirt. "Why don't you change into this? I know you still need a lot of baths and stuff to be clean, but we can always wash it."

Severus felt the thin fabric of the shift he wore. He hadn't been clothed in anything at all for years, so now that he was clothed, it felt a bit uncomfortable, to say the least.

But the nightshirt looked quite bit warmer than what he was currently wearing. The Ministry-issued shift did not cover much nor was it very warm. The nightshirt, as opposed to the shift, would go down to his knees, and the long sleeves, though no doubt very restricting-feeling, would be warmer.

It was not as if he had a choice, anyhow.

He lifted the shift over his head, and easily slipped it off. He knew that he was very likely to be wearing it again – like his past master, once this master decided to get rid of him (assuming Severus survived), he'd want Severus clothed in something that he hadn't had to purchase – so, he neatly folded it in half.

"Oh, God, Snape!" Master yelped, shielding his eyes.

Severus stared down at his long toes, wondering what his master meant by that. It was not as if he had not seen the scars on his body before. What if he decides to punish me for them?Severus shivered. Few would want to use a slave so badly scared, he knew that, and felt very shamed to have those scars. Each scar was a result of a punishment of something that he had done wrong. It was a horrible feeling, knowing that his master knew that.

"Here," Master passed Severus the nightshirt. "Sorry... I kind of overreacted. I was just kind of expecting something... different."

Severus knew. He covered his shameful body with the nightshirt, and returned his gaze to his feet. As much as they burned as he stood on them, he was glad that they were there.

Master folded back the dark green blankets on the bed. "It's really comfy. This is the mattress from Fred and George's room. Mrs. Weasley made it. It's stuffed with chicken feathers, I think... or it's spelled to be comfy. Anyway, it is."

Severus hated being used in a bed. That meant that his owner likely intended to fall asleep afterwards. That mean that Severus would lie awake for a long time.

"You don't want to sleep in the bed." Master said this as a statement, not a question.

Severus shifted uneasily. He had not sleptin a bed in years. Slaves were not supposed to, he gathered.

Master sighed. "Well, look. I feel bad with you sleeping on the floor... here."

Severus jumped back as he saw his master brandish his wand. He trembled. I am so sorry, Master, he thought as he closed his eyes and braced himself for the hex.

"No, no... look, no wands, okay? No magic."

Severus opened one eyes, and then the other. Master had tucked his wand back in his pocket, for now. The punishment would come later. He hated waiting for it to come later. He preferred being punished over the constant threat of punishment. The waiting, the terrifying anticipation of a threat was much, much worse.

He watched as Master pulled the blankets off the bed and onto the carpeted floor – the carpeted floor that made the burns feel even worse.

"Where do you want to sleep?" His master asked. "Over here?" He pointed to the corner by the window.

He intends for you to sleep,Severus realised, his stomach once again convulsing. He does not intend to punish you or use you tonight.

How could he ever sleep, without having been punished? How could he sleep with the dread of what was going to happen to him hanging over his head?

Master nodded. "Okay, the floor it is." He began arranging the blankets in the corner of the room.

Help him, you good for nothing scum. What do you think you exist for? For shame! And to think that you wanted to be a good slave.

"Sir?" Severus' voice quavered, though he didn't know why. "May I do that?"

He cringed. He should have phrased that differently. He was supposed to ask if he could be of service. He was out of practice of the only thing he knew how to do, he realised, as he hung his head.

Master blinked. "Um... of course, Sn-Severus." He stood away from the blankets and motioned to them. "Be my guest."

Severus walked around the bed, and to the corner that Master designated. He was not at all sure what his master was doing with the blankets, but it seemed that he was mostly done. Severus merely flattened the blankets that were laying folded in the corner, well aware of Master's eyes over his shoulder.

"Good job!" Master's voice seemed unnaturally loud, causing Severus to startle.

Praise. Praise, Severus had not heard in years. He squirmed – what was he supposed to say? He could never remembered being this confused over speaking to his masters before.

But why praise him? He was just doing what he was supposed to be doing! "Thank you, sir." A slave could never be too grateful.

"Why don't you lie down?" Maser knelt on the floor, next to the bed of blankets, and petted it with his hands.

Lie down, the words translated to. With no further choice, Severus knelt on his knees and curled up in a ball on the blankets. He did not turn his back against his master, but kept it pressed into the corner. He did that because One, it was disrespectful for a slave to turn his back on his master like that, and Two, he liked to be able to see everything that went on in the room. He couldn't stop himself from getting hexed, but if he had a full view of the room, he could brace himself for the blow.

Master coughed. It was a fake cough, one used to break up silence perceived as awkward. But Severus was not to initiate conversation, so he could be assured that it was not his fault. "Do you want to talk about anything?" Master asked, the uncertainty in his voice obvious.

No, he did not. He did not even know what there was to talk about. He could hardly discuss the latest Quidditch scores with his master – the idea was laughable.

"No, sir."

"Really?" Master reached up and began tugging a strand of his hair. "Nothing you want to talk about? Nothing? You don't have any questions?"

Questions? Oh, yes, Severus had plenty of questions. He wanted to know what was expected of him. He wanted to know what he was to expect tomorrow. He wanted to know so many things that they were impossible to list.

He hesitated. "Yes sir. There is something I would like to ask, if I could be permitted to do so." None of his English-speaking masters had gotten angry when he wanted to ask a question of this nature. Master Mering had occasionally kicked him for asking an inappropriate question, but asking questions in general were not normally prohibited.

Master stopped tugging on the hair strand. "Really? Okay, you can ask anything you want. I promise I'll do my best to answer, even though... never mind. Ask away."

Severus held his breath before responding. "What could I do to best please you, sir?"

Snape had a habit of blowing Harry's mind. It blew Harry's mind how Snape could favour Malfoy of all the students. It blew his mind how he could threaten to kill a little boy's toad. It blew his mind how Snape could go back, as a spy, to Voldemort. It blew Harry's mind how Snape, after all that he had been through recently, was still alive.

And it blew his mind when realised that one of the most brilliant men he ever knew could not understand the simple reason for which he had been bought.

"I..." He knew he probably looked like a fish with his mouth hanging open. How was Snape supposed to pleasehim? Please him? Him? If anything, Harry should have been asking that question. It was partially his fault that Snape had been enslaved by so many people for so long.

"By getting better." He found himself saying. "By trying to get better. That's what you're here for."

For a moment, the dark grey eyes that had held little but emotionless resignation widened with fear.

"Do you understand?" Harry tried. "It's so you can get better. I... I thought we might officially kick off trying tomorrow, after the Wizarding Family Services people leave. Does that sound good to you?"

The thoughts and emotions that ran through the man curled up on the floor were unreadable. "Yes, sir." Snape answered so quietly that Harry had to strain to hear, something that he was becoming accustomed to doing.

"Good." Harry nodded. "Is there anything else?" He kind of hoped so – Snape was really confused, he was pretty sure. He couldn't start to get better until he wasn't as confused, right?

Snape shook his head so that the rat's nest of hair on the back of his head shook, too. "No, sir."

They would have to work on that 'sir' thing, too. Harry was reminded of his quip, "there is no need to call me 'sir', professor". It had been such an epic comeback – he would have to use it again. Somehow, he got a feeling that it wouldn't be quite as epic this time.

Harry let out a deep breath he hadn't realised that he was holding once he got downstairs to the sitting room.

Snape had just took off the thing that he was wearing as if he had never heard of modesty before in his life. That shouldn't have surprised Harry too much, as Snape had baulked when it had come to putting back on the clothes at the hotel. He had been the one perfectly comfortable lounging around in nothing at the hotel. And it wasn't like Harry hadn't seen guys in the shower at school or - heck – Snape just hours earlier.

But seeing him do it and thinking, 'this is Snape', was an entirely different story. Snape, who only a year ago had been... well, a year ago was a bad example. Who only two years ago had stood proud, who had been such an overly private person. To see how he now possessed none of that was a bit earth-shattering.

He had realised that this would not be easy. But he hadn't realised how hardit would be. The thought of 'what if McGonagall was wrong? What if it's too cruel to pull him out of slavery now', he banished almost as quickly as it came. He was doing the right thing. He was. He was just beginning to wonder what the words 'better' and 'recover' actually meant.

The clock said that it was one in the morning. Harry hadn't slept in about twenty-four hours. But he couldn't go to sleep now, not when he promised Ron and Hermione that he'd Firecall Hogwarts when he got home safely.

It took him awhile to find the Floo powder, since it wasn't in a pot on the mantel. He eventually found it on the kitchen table., along with Muggle house keys, and a note reminding him to call.

As he only had enough of the expensive Floo powder to make one call, he made a note to buy some more later. He wondered where you could buy it from.

"Harry!" Ginny's head appeared in the fireplace. "Wake up, Ron! Guys, he's here."

"Hey." Harry said, feeling kind of sheepish for not calling earlier. He could have called earlier. He could have called while Snape was eating – he hadn't realised that they wouldn't go to sleep until he called. He should have – he had the best friends in the world.

"Harry! Where have you been!" Hermione's bushy hair filled the fireplace. "What happened?"

He groaned as the exhausting events of the day came over him. He didn't feel like describing everything that had happened. "I have Snape and Teddy – they are both asleep." At least, he hoped Snape was asleep. He had left the hall light on and the door wide open, and told Snape to get some sleep. He hoped he took that order as literally as he did the others.

"How is he? Really?" Hermione pressed. "Your letter didn't say much."

He was definitely too tired to explain that. "He's alive." Harry rubbed his forehead. "Tomorrow, I'll figure everything out... I don't really know how he is. He's alive."

"Bloody hell, mate." Ron's brow was furrowed. "You like like you're going to pass out."

"I feel like it."Harry admitted, feeling selfish for talking about how tired he was instead of about helping Snape. "Ron, Gin? Your mum invited us over for dinner tomorrow night. Are-"

"I'm not going." Ginny said flatly. "I'm not one of those student with special privileges."

Right, Ginny didn't have the unique privileges to leave Hogwarts in the evenings like Ron and Hermione did. "Well, it's never stopped you from sneaking out before." He reasoned.

Ron laughed while his sister sniffed. "Getting anotherwarning from Flitwick about sneaking out at night seemed to."

"You can tell Harry all about it tomorrow, for goodness' sake, Ronald!" Hermione looked thoughtful. "Maybe I should come through and check on him, just in case..."

Harry reached his hand inside the flames and made contact with Hermione's bushy hair. He pushed her back into the common room.

"No." He shook his head. "Not tonight. He's had a rough, long, scary day, and needs rest."

"Scary?" Ron and Ginny inquired together.

"You'll all see tomorrow." He assured them.

"Get some sleep, Harry." Ginny said, gently.

"Yeah, I'll try." He said, before extinguishing the flames.

He finally fell asleep on the floor in front of the warm fire, too exhausted to make it upstairs to his new bedroom.

A bone-chilling scream erupted throughout the house. Harry had never heard anything like it before. Not when he had heard his mother screaming when the dementors were around, not when he had heard Snape scream in the barn... no, never.

He sat up with a shout. His body was insanely sore, but that didn't stop him from brandishing his wand and leaping to his feet just the same.

The baby,he realised. He lit his wand and bounded up the stairs and into Teddy's room, where it was silent. Looking in the crib, the baby was still sleeping. Breathing, alive, sleeping... and silent.

Snape was the one screaming. The Müllers had complained about hearing it all way from the house, sometimes. Of course. He had never known that the Potions Master could scream like that, but apparently he could. Harry didn't want to think about what kind of nightmare that Snape had been having. It had probably been really, really bad.

Harry burst into Snape's room. The makeshift bed in the corner was empty, the blanket Harry had used to tuck Snape in with gone. Snape was nowhere to be seen.

Fear gripped Harry's thoughts. He's not suicidal, is he? He didn't jump out the window?Hermione had protected it against the kind of thing, but it was still possible, maybe, with a really powerful Wizard like Snape.

"Severus?" Harry asked, tentatively. The bed was a normal bed, and not a four-poster. That made it difficult for a fully-grown man like Snape to crawl underneath it, even though Snape was super skinny...

An unintelligible whimper came from the walk-in wardrobe. The door was ajar, and he could see Snape poke his head out, a terrified expression on his face.

Relief flooded through Harry's system. Okay, Snape was alive. That was a good thing.

"What're you doing in there?" Harry asked, kindly, though confusion was running through his head. He had thought Snape might feel safer where it was relatively light... He knew that Snape might feel safer on the floor, after being at the Müllers' so long and sleeping on the ground of the barn there... but the wardrobe? Where it was dark?

"I apologise, sir." Snape's voice sounded pretty raspy. "Please punish me in whatever manner you please. I was- I was sleeping."

Harry had heard the whole apology rant so many times by that point. He just wished Snape didn't have to say it every second. And punish him for what? Sleeping or being in the wardrobe? Or both? "I'm not going to punish you. You didn't do anything wrong." he said. "Do you like it there in the wardrobe?"

Snape's face froze, and slowly, he nodded, his eyes downcast. "Yes, sir."

"All right, you can sleep in there if you want." Harry said, silently cursing himself. That was probably not good for Snape, to be sleeping in a tiny wardrobe, but he just couldn't force Snape to do something he wasn't comfortable with. Not now. Now he just had to realise that Harry wasn't going to kill him for every tiny thing that he did. "Would you like a night light or something, so it won't be too dark?" He hesitated. "I can get you one. I have one in the baby's room, and the loos. I can get you one for the wardrobe, too."

Snape didn't say anything, just kept his eyes to the floor. Harry was coming to expect that, now..

"Well, um... did you have a bad dream?" Harry asked, wincing as he asked the question. He sounded like he was talking to a five-year-old, not his former professor of Potions.

"Yes, sir." Snape said, quietly. "I apologise. You may-"

"Do you need a warm glass of milk?" He had had a bad dream once at Grimmauld Place, and Sirius had made him a glass of warm milk and talked with him until Harry fell asleep. He'd never forget that as long as he lived.

Snape seemed to think he was crazy, or his expression made Harry think that, anyway. "If you want, sir."

Harry was a pretty indecisive person by nature. He did not need to be making the decisions a fully grown man was supposed to be able to make for himself. "Do you want me to turn on the light? It's up to you."

"I will be fine, Master." Snape assured him, his eyes still down, his voice still quiet.

Harry wasn't sure if he believed him or not. "Okay. Well, um, you know, you can wake me up if you have any problems or anything."

"Yes, sir."

Yeah, right. Harry thought about how ignorant he was before he found Snape, as he went to his room to sleep. He'll be 'better' in no time.

Chapter Text

"Okay, Teddy, I mean it this time; if you get dirty one more time, I'm not going to be so nice about it." Master sat the baby in the playpen in the sitting room. He straightened and pointed to Severus, ignoring Severus' bow as most masters tended to do. "And you. You come here." He pointed on the floor in front of him as he sat down on the sofa.

Severus crawled from the corner with the large bookcases, where he had spent much of his morning sitting, watching Master storm around the house. Master had sat Severus down there and told him to stay, so Severus had. He had not even asked Master if he could help him, because Master had told him to stay there; if he were to help Master, it would require moving from the spot. It was smart of him to think that way.

"Turn around." Master instructed, pulling out a large pair of scissors. The blades shone in the sunlight that poured through the windows, and it was not hard to imagine the blade being sharp enough to slice through anything, such as skin.

He does not intend to cut you with it, he told himself. He has been speaking of Wizarding Family Services all morning. He would not like for them to see a dead slave in the middle of the sitting room. They would think that it was a bad thing for the baby to see that, because then the baby would think that he could do that to just anyone.

"It's all right, Severus; I'm just going to cut your hair." Master laid his hand on Severus' shoulder.

Whenever anyone touched him, it was bad. The cold, yet burning feeling of the touch delivered was excruciating. He pulled back as a bit of orange light came out from his body and stung Master's hand.

Master pulled back and yelped, bringing his hand back to his chest as a reaction.

The baby, who Master called Teddy, giggled at their antics from his playpen.

"I ap-apologise, s-sir." Severus sputtered, as his head filled with a burning pain like none other. "Please- please punish me in whatever manner you see fit." He took a deep breath and closed his eyes tightly for a moment. He had endured much worse pain before. This was nothing. He was closing his eyes, because it was very embarrassing to have hurt his master so, especially a master who had not given him leave to do magic.

"It's okay!" Master said reaching his hand out again as if to touch Severus, but quickly thought better of it. "It was just an accident! Accidental magic! I used to do it all the time when I was a kid. Once, I even blew up my aunt."

Severus tried not to stare at his master. Blowing up one's aunt and shocking one's master were two very different things entirely. In some ways, he felt fortunate to have a new master, who did know any better, but he felt guilty thinking about telling his master of what was right, which only made his head burn worse. But that said, he did not know better than his master. His master always knew better than him, period.

"Yes, sir. I apologise again, sir." Severus turned around without another word.

He felt the cold blade of the scissors against his neck and shuddered. He knew that his master only attempted to cut his hair, but there was a lingering fear and distrust. It was wrong to distrust your master, of course, so that likely contributed to the pain on his head. He had always been responsible for his own hair, and was not used to having his master take care of it. It made him feel bad that he was such a burden to his master. Severus wanted so badly to be of service to his master, not a burden.

And perhaps, if he was not such a burden, he would not be punished as much. And after the Wizarding Family Services left, he would be punished, he was sure. He could never become a better slave without punishment. He wondered how his master, of all people, had gotten involved in the training of slaves, although his master called it "getting better".

He heard his master sign. "Severus, this is a mess. When is the last time you combed your hair?"

Severus could not remember. He occasionally had used his wand to quickly trim it to a satisfactory length... the Ministry of Magic in Germany might have shorn it when they rescued him from The Monster and let him wear the shift... but funnily enough, he could not remember.

"I cannot recall, sir." Severus admitted. "It may have been several years."

Severus quickly grew uncomfortable. He could feel his master freeze, and tension filled the room. What was wrong? What had he said? It did not matter; he was very sorry that he had said it.

"I apologise, Master." He wished to turn around and kneel to the man, but could not, as Master hadn't given him leave to get up. "Please forgive me, and punish me in-"

"No, wait." Master said. "Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait – years? How has it been years since your hair was last cut?"

Severus sensed something dreadfully wrong. "I did not have my hair cut at my last master's, Master..."

"Müller." Master interrupted. "His name is Joseph Müller."

"Master Müller did not cut my hair, nor did my master before that." Severus chose his words carefully, as he could not speak the words 'The Monster' aloud. It was wrong to speak ill of any of your masters, even the ones who no longer wanted you.

Master shook his head. "Severus... how long do you think that you've been a slave?"

The memories flashed through Severus brain, the Occlumency shields not enough to hide them. Being pinned down by the Auror when going to Master Mering's. Looking over the crowed of potential buyers at Henderson's. Lying in Master and Mistress Weston's bed, struggling to breath as shallowly as possible, as to not wake Mistress. He felt his breath catch as images of Master Weston selling him to the Monster came. He abruptly shut off that part of his mind. He could not think about that. It hurt him in ways that the burning on his head could never compete with.

"Severus?" Master's voice brought his mind back where it was supposed to be.

"I do not know, sir." Severus admitted, his throat suddenly gone dry, despite all of the water that he drank after vomiting the porridge given to him that morning.

He was not allowed to turn around, so he was unable to see his Master's face behind him. "It's been a little less than a year. It's May of 1999... it's about one year exactly since the end of the War."

1999? 1999? How could it possibly be 1999? The Dark Lord had been defeated in 1998... 1999? But he had been at The Monster's for so long... 2005, he could understand. He would be able to accept 2001... but a mere matter of months?

"Breathe." His Master said. "Come on, take in one breath, and let it out. Come on... breathe."

Severus was following his Master's instructions without much thought to it. He was feeling very much in shock. Could it be so? Had it only been months since he was at Master Mering's? How long had he been at the Monsters? It had been dark all the time there. There had been no concept of time. It had always been dark. They had only been punishment and waiting for it. Seven months could have really gone by... but it had truly felt like years. Maybe his new master was teasing him. Perhaps Severus simply did not get the joke. That had happened a lot in his life.

"Look, I don't know what you've been through the past several months, but I know it wasn't good." Master was no longer angling the scissors by Severus' hair, but was still. The only thing moving was the oblivious, giggling baby in the playpen. "And you don't have to tell me what went on, but you have to believe me when I say that I never wanted this."

Oh, Severus believed him. His master had likely wanted him to break for himself, not to go through the hands of many masters. Though apparently his master did not want him that badly, or he would have bought Severus long ago.

"Yes, sir." Regardless of what he had originally believed, his master ordered him to believe him. It made things so much easier when he was told what to believe – that way, he didn't have to struggle with what he should think.

Master sighed. "This is hopeless. We're going to have to cut it all off. I can have Hermione brew a hair regrowth Potion, or you can brew it if you like..." Master began to cut off hair.

Severus could feel the cold scissors next to his scalp and bit his lip to keep from pulling away. He liked to brew Potions? He remembered that when he let his mind go. Lily had- no. Not her. He had forgotten about her.

How could you forget Lily?A voice taunted. Lily was your life, your only reason for existing.

But he had forgotten about her. Severus had not though of her in years- no, months. He could not imagine how it had only been months, not years, but he could imagine how he had forgotten about Lily. He had a new reason for existing.

Harry cut away a huge clump of Snape's hair away, and watched it fall to the floor. There was another clump of something in there that was going to pass as an unidentifiable object. So far, he had not found any bugs, though. He wasn't afraid of bugs (though after Aragog and Co, he was no longer a fan of spiders), but he didn't particularly like the idea of tiny bugs crawling on Snape's scalp.

He wasn't ever going to be a hairdresser, for sure. The hairs on Snape's head were all staring to look chopped and uneven. But that was all right, because Harry was going to find the time to cut it all off eventually. 'Eventually' was the key word there. He was running short on time right now.

How had Snape thought that he had been a slave for years? Harry imagined time went by really slow for slaves, since they just had to be so miserable... but Snape was smarter than that. If it had been years since his hair was last cut, it would be the length of Luna Lovegood's, who never cut her hair – surely he would have realised that?

He had spent that morning getting ready for the Wizard Family Service's visit. Since they had just moved into the house, it was pretty clean, though it felt like Teddy and Snape were doing their sincere bests to make that not so. Teddy had opened one of the bottom cupboards and gotten himself – and the floor – covered with flour. Then Severus threw up his porridge and just about stopped breathing because he was so terrified, judging by the look on his face. It was like he thought that Harry was going to hit him or something.

Harry had to send Severus to sit quietly in a corner in the living room while he cleaned up his mess with magic, but when he turned back to the kitchen, he realised that the three seconds he had turned his back to show Snape where to sit, Teddy had fancied Snape's mess a wonderful thing to play in. So then, while he was bathing Teddy again, Snape had evidentially backed too hard into the bookshelves and knocked a bunch of Harry's old textbooks down... including "The Monster's Book of Monsters", which Snape seemed to find just terrifying... and a soaking wet Teddy, fresh out of the tub, very amusing.

Harry had clean up the mess, put Teddy back in the tub to wash the smell of the throw-up off... and then he remembered the playpen, thank Merlin.

He felt like there was something he forgot to do, though. Something that he should have taken care of, but at that moment, it way too late anyway, because the doorbell chimed.

They're here,he realised. He was covered in hair, and it was all over the floor. "Severus, why don't you go upstairs to your room until I call you down?"

"Yes, sir." Snape got to his feet and scurried away, just as the doorbell rang again.

Harry banished the hair on his robes and floor, before scooping Teddy up on his hip.

When he had agreed to be Teddy's godfather, it hadn't even crossed his mind that Remus and Tonks would die. When he had agreed to be Teddy's guardian in the event of Teddy's grandmother's death, he hadn't actually thought she would die before Teddy turned seventeen. He knew it seemed that everyone who got close to him died, and that he might as well get used to it, but that was not exactly something he wanted to get used to.

Harry took a deep breath and opened the door to a woman, who had a name tag of the Ministry-affiliated Wizarding Family Services.

"Hi." Harry said, trying to sound as friendly as possible. He hefted the baby on his hip. "You must be from Wizarding Family Services."

"I must be." The lady with blue-grey hair pushed her glasses up her nose. "May I come in, Mr. Potter? I have not all day."

Yeah, real smooth, Potter. He stepped back and held the door wide open. "Oh, yeah, come in, Mrs..." he peered at the name tag, "Mrs. Fields."

"Ms." She corrected.

He felt his face turning red, at about the same time Teddy's turned lime green. "Oh... I'm sorry."

"Yes, me too." She shifted the clipboard in her arms.

Harry closed the door behind them and ushered towards the sitting room. "Why don't you take a seat? Could I get you some tea?" He licked his lips, hoping Ms. Fields wouldn't notice his nervousness. This was his one chance to keep Teddy – where would he go if not to Harry?

"No, thank you – I am fine." she smoothed her light blue robes, which matched both her eyes and hair perfectly, as she sat down on the armchair on the opposite wall of the sofa, next to the fireplace.

Harry hefted a squirming Teddy once again. "Would you mind if I sat him down in his playpen for awhile? He's really rambunctious and gets into everything." Teddy wasn't a huge fan of a the playpen, but he usually lasted ten minutes or so before he pitched a fit.

She nodded. "Of course, Mr. Potter." she said politely.

Harry put him in his playpen and got him interested in a sparking rattle that Fred and George had made for him when he was born, before sitting down on the couch.

"He is a Metamorphmagus." Ms. Fields observed.

Harry nodded. "Tonk- Teddy's mum was one. It's supposed to be pretty rare to be one."

"It is indeed." Ms. Fields looked over at Teddy. "I thought it more likely he would take on after his father."

Harry squirmed. He was hoping she hadn't know about that. "Well, you know, we were all kind of concerned about that – Remus especially- but it's all turned out all right."

She just inclined her head as a response. "Well, how have you and Theodore gotten along as of yet?"

Me and 'Theodore' have gotten along just fine. Could you offer any advice on how to get along with a professor-turned-slave? "It's been good."

"I was looking for a more thorough response, Mr. Potter." She had her quill poised over the clipboard, Harry hated those never-ink quills – they reminded him too much of Blood Quills.

"He's a really sweet kid." He didn't have any answerers prepared because he hadn't really know what to expect. "We haven't had a lot of bonding time since his grandmother died – I've been really busy. But I plan on it now... we're going to dinner at close family friend of ours tonight, and he really likes flying around on my broomstick – with me, of course." He hastily added.

She was writing something down on the clipboard. He could only imagine what she was writing.

"How do you see your life changing with a little one?" Came another question.

Harry's life was constantly changing – what she should have asked was how Teddy fit into the equation. "Well, I obviously have to plan things a little better – I can't just go meet my mates very well at the pub without finding someone to sit Teddy..." he paused. Or he could just be honest. "Ms. Fields? Can I be completely candid with you? I don't know if it's going to change all that much. I mean, I've never been like the other guys my age. I don't smoke, or drink anything stronger than butterbeer. I have virtually no social life, and I'm plenty used to hard work and sleepless nights." Whenever he ran out of Dreamless Sleep , it was guaranteed to become a sleepless night.

"And have you considered how this will effect your schooling?"

"I've left, as you've probably guessed."

"There was an article in the Prophet." She peered at him over her glasses.

Figures. "Well, my friend, Hermione, is going to bring me the work I missed and help me study – Dumbledore always said that she was a very smart witch for her age – and at this point, it's mostly revision. The N.E.W.T.s are in about six weeks. Teddy will probably spend much of his time at my friend's mother's. I've already got it all planned out."

"And what of afterwards?" she asked. "I'm well aware that you are a very wealthy young man, Mr. Potter, but are you considering going into any careers?"

"I plan to be an Auror." he stated.

"Really?" She either looked doubtful or impressed. "That is quite a difficult programme to get into."

He knew that. "I'm only worried about needing an 'O' for Potions; I'm really bad at it." He glanced back over to the playpen to check on Teddy. "Isn't this conversation supposed to be about him?"

"This interview is to determine whether or not you would make a suitable parent." She explained patiently. "Now, I have noted your marital status, and while it is quite normal for someone your age to not be married, are you currently seeing someone?"

'Yes,'he should probably lie. He wondered what from this interview would end up in the Prophet. "Um... no." He admitted. "I've kinda been too busy for that right now."

"Understandable, understandable," she pursed her lips as she looked through her clipboard. "Bearing in mind when I ask you this that each answer you give is strictly confidential, if you wereseeing someone, would that person ideally be a man or a woman?"

What? Was she asking if Harry was.. was... "A man?" He repeated, in shock.

Ms. Fields raised her brow. "All right. And do you-"

No! Harry hadn't meant... no. "No, I mean, a woman." He said, hurriedly. He felt his face turn red at his bumbling thoughts. "I'm not gay. At least, you know... I've never had an interest in that area. I like girls. Women... you know."

Ms. Fields took a deep breath and lowered her quill and clipboard. "You do realise that there are not right or wrong answers in this interview?"

Yes, there was. If he gave all wrong answers, then they wouldn't let him keep Teddy. They'd think he was an unfit guardian. If there were no wrong answers, what was the point of having the interview?

He didn't know the details of how accepting the wizarding world was of homosexuality, but he was taking no chances. The Ministry obviously thought it was an issue, or they wouldn't have asked. He wasn't even sure if he was gay. He always thought that people who were gay knew it at a young age. He had never considered it, however, until once when, after a ride around on his broom, he realised he was weirdly enjoying watching a seventh-year Ravenclaw in the Quidditch locker rooms. After that, he began to notice that he found certain things attractive, and realised he always had. He still sometimes found girls pretty, and wasn't sure if he would like having sex with men... but he certainly hadn't enjoyed having sex with women so far.

He hadn't talked to anyone about it, and had yet to start experimenting. There was nothing to tell Ms. Fields.

"I understand there are no wrong answers." He finally said.

They went all over all sorts of things; Harry's childhood, the War, where Teddy would go to school, future punishments, etc. She was very thorough.

"And suppose young Theodore develops some traits reminiscent of his father's illness?" She said after they went over the Metamorphism thing (keeping him away from Muggles until he could control it, how to deal with bullying over it).

That was all Harry needed right now, a werewolf godson. "It shouldn't be that big of a deal – I've looked into it." Actually, Hermione did. "It's not all that common for half-werewolves to transform or anything. Teddy might like bloodier meat and things like that, but he's essentially harmless."

"You have done your research." Ms. Fields remarked, writing down comments. Harry itched to know what she was writing, hopefully on how impressed she was, or maybe on how Harry had let Teddy out of the playpen, but warded doors and dangerous things to keep Teddy from getting hurt.

"What does-" she leaned forward to say, but was interrupted by a knock on the door.

"I'll get it." Harry leaped up. "Could you please keep an eye on Teddy?"

Who on earth is it? He wondered, going up to the door.I told everyone I was busy with something important today... if it's George, wanting to try to shove some kind of exploding pastie down my throat, I'll kill him.

He opened the door, prepared to tell the red-haired prankster off, but he did not see the face he expected. Instead, he was greeted by cold, calculating grey eyes.

"Lucius Malfoy." Harry was surprised by the venom in his own voice.

This was the man who almost killed Ginny. This was the man who had somehow escaped both Death Eater punishments, of Azkaban and slavery. This was the man that Harry had vowed to put behind bars. This was the man Harry would put behind bars... as soon as he had the time to actively pursue it.

"Mr. Potter." Lucius said evenly, his voice filled with false kindness. "How good to see you again – may I step in?" He made a motion to, but Harry blocked the doorway.

"What are you doing here?" He hissed. How had Lucius Malfoy found out where Harry lived? Why had he come? To torture Snape? Over Harry's dead body.

"Well, I have just dropped in for a visit." Lucius raised his voice so that anyone on the ground floor would be able to hear it. Harry just hoped that no one on the first floor would be able to hear it – Snape, namely. "I have dropped many important things just to be able to come. I had no idea you were... busy." He cocked his head slightly.

"I'm in an interview." Harry said, feeling his heartbeat speed up, realising that he had pulled out his wand at some point and started pointing it at the man. "You're-"

"Oh, we're done with that." Ms. Fields called from the sitting room. "Is that a friend of yours, Mr. Potter? Bring him in – it would be nice to interview a friend of yours, as well."

Harry glared at Lucius. "He's not a-", but Lucius just breezed past him, into the house.

"Giselle," Lucius crooned, taking in Ms. Fields, which to be frank, was a lot to take in. "How wonderfulto see you. I chose to drop by on a perfectday, I supposed."

Harry felt like gagging at the man's fake demeanour and friendliness. He snatched up Teddy just as Ms. Fields tittered at Lucius' words – he didn't want Teddy anywhere near Lucius Malfoy.

"Mr. Potter, I had no idea that you were friendly with Mr. Malfoy." Ms. Fields giggled. "I should have known that such a important figure such as yourself would be friends with him."

Harry opened his mouth to respond to that last sentence, but then he realised that Ms. Fields had been talking to Lucius. Important figure? Bullshit.

"Make a large contribution to underprivileged kids lately, Lucius?" He asked sarcastically, turning so that Teddy wouldn't have to look at Lucius. He didn't need to see the man that, as a Death Eater, was indirectly responsible for the death of Remus and Tonks. There was no such thing as a 'former' Death Eater, with the exception of Snape; you were either in or out, and if you were in, you were in forever.

"It has come to great use." Ms. Fields enthused to Lucius. "I cannot thank you enough."

Harry rolled his eyes. How had he managed to be so right? But at the same time, that sent a shiver up his spine. Because why would Lucius Malfoy be trying to hard to get on Ms. Fields' good side?

Lucius needs to leave, now. But how do you get him out without losing Ms. Fields' good favour? Honestly, what had happened to Harry's backbone? He so desperately needed Ms. Fields' good favour, but at the same time,Lucius was definitely up to something. There was no way that his coming, today – now- was an accident.

"Malfoy, leave." He said, pointing to the door with his free hand. "I don't know what you want but-"

"I was just going to ask Mr. Potter for a tour of his home." Ms. Fields tucked her clipboard underneath her arm. "And I think I would like that cup of tea, now.

If you send him away, he'll just come back or try to sabotage you later on – and he'll be angrier. Best to let him do whatever he plans to do now, in front of you, where you can keep an eye on him. Harry's inner Slytherin had a point, but that would only work if he kept Lucius as far away from both Snape and Teddy as possible.

"Have you interviewed the slave yet?" Lucius asked, sounding overly casual as he strode into the kitchen behind Harry, arm linked with Ms. Fields'.

"The slave?" Ms. Fields inquired, seating herself down at the table.

Shit. Shit. Shit.Harry had hoped that they would be able to avoid that little fact. Snape was nowhere near fit to interview. Harry had expected Ms. Fields to glance at Snape when the house tour came to Snape's room, but that was it. Oh, God. This was bad.

"Lucius." He tried to distract the man as he poured hot water from the top of his wand into mugs. "Tell me more about that donation you made; I might be interested in making one myself."

That seemed to do the trick for Ms. Fields, who started actively talking up all sorts of organisations and ways to donate. It seemed that Ms. Fields could be easily allured, due to her fondness of helping children... Lucius, for whatever reason, seemed to be taking advantage of that. Well, two could play that game.

" Scum! Nothing by worthless scum!"

" Such a good pet."

" You're lucky to be treated this well!"

" He is very amusing – certainly more so than the others we could have bought. Freshly trained."

" You think yourself worthy to eat from my fingers?"

" Such a good pet."

Severus closed his eyes tighter, and pulled his knees closer to his chest. He did not want to think about any of that right now. He concentrated hard until he could not think about any of that. He would have to hope that his new master did not forbid Occlumency; if he didn't, that meant Severus could do it, and do it and everything would be fine.

The walls of the room were painted a light green, and were plain, with nothing on them. It seemed, by judging from the night before, that Master wanted Severus to sleep in there. Why? Why not find a closet to have Severus sleep in, or have him sleep on the kitchen floor, as long as he was up and out of the way by the time Master woke? Wouldn't Master rather save the bedroom for a guest, someone above and worth more than Severus?

He could hear voices in the house but using his Occlumency skills, he drowned out what they were saying. Master had sent Severus to this room likely because he did not want Severus to interact with visitors until he was better. But that was just likely – it could have been anything, Severus refused to eavesdrop on Master, as it was disrespectful.

"And this is the slave's room." Master's voice was right outside the door. "I've sent him up here while you were here. I'd rather him not around many people."

Ha, so Severus was right. Something was wrong with him that had to get better, but it was not his guessing abilities.

"I was unaware that you owned a slave, Mr. Potter." The woman's voiced travelled through the shut door. Even though Severus wasn't supposed to be listening in, it was hard not to with them right outside the door – and his head burned as consequence.

"It's a new thing." Master explained.

Severus glanced around the room, feeling the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. He had a feeling that something was wrong. Whenever something was wrong, he was the one to pay for it.

He began to crawl over to the closet, doing his best to do so despite the black robes that hung around him. They were very uncomfortable, and much too big, but Master said to wear them.

And not a moment too soon. It was just when Severus sat in the back on the closet, enjoying the fact that even though he could see well in the dark closet, no one would see him from the bedroom, Master opened the bedroom door.

"See, this is it. Nothing special." His voice was filled with anxiety.

Severus closed his eyes tightly, the burns in his head driving him to new levels. Everything in him wanted to go out and bow to his Master, but he couldn't – 'I'd rather him not around many people', Master had said. That was quite a clear instruction to remain hidden.

"I am sorry, but I must interview everyone in the household, slaves and house-elves included." The woman stated.

House-elf? Master had house elves? How wonderful! Severus had never lived in a household with house-elves before. Perhaps he would be able to see them soon; he wondered if they would like him.

He listened intently to the long silence, holding his breath with anticipation. He knew that the strange woman he observed in the doorway was from Wizarding Family Services, as Master had said that they were coming.

"Severus?" His master finally broke the silence by calling him.

Master did not seem angry or violent. Wizarding Family Services were there, so Master was obviously trying to impress – perhaps that explained the unusual kindness in Master's voice.

Severus crawled out from the closet. He kept his eyes on the off-white carpet, bowing his head. When he came out far enough, he bowed his head even lower, so that it touched the ground – the burning of his forehead worsened with the carpet's touch.

"Master." He murmured. He also acknowledged the woman as 'miss' as he did not know her name.

"She's here to help Teddy be able to live here." Master motioned to the woman whose skin was so thin, it seemed blue.

Did young Master Teddy not live there? It certainly seemed like he did.

Severus lifted his head off the ground and glanced at the baby Master had sat on the floor. He had crawled under the bed, and had his head sticking out – his hair was a distinct turquoise. Severus was starting to wonder if his eyes were playing tricks on him.

"Yes, sir." Severus responded. It was not his business to know why Wizarding Family Services had come over for Master's own child... but wait. Master had said that it had only been a mere amount ofmonths since he had been at Master Mering's. Master couldn't have had a child in that time. Was he adopting a magic-less child? Or perhaps just one who had no living relatives. That would be nice of his master. It was hard to fathom that his Master was nice, if he was going to be the one to re-train Severus.

He was never a cruel person when you knew him,Severus shoved his thoughts away. Thinking about his past life was wrong – why did he keep doing that? The burning on his head increased, and he bit down on his lip to show no sign of it. It was not right for him to express emotion in front of master, or his guest. That was only for when he was alone, or perhaps when he had the privilege of being around others of his kind.

"Erm, you can sit on the bed." Master said to Ms. Fields. "I've got to go check on... well, you know that I don't-"

"Well, if it isn't Severus Snape, the Dark Lord's pet Death Eater." the cold voice made goosebumps rise up on Severus' body. All the memories of the nightmares, the pain, the anger, the hatred rushed through him at the sound of that voice.

He slowly lifted his eyes to the doorway. He was intending on doing what he always did, raising his eyes just long enough to see the person, and then avert them back to the ground; he did this without thinking, usually. But the image of the person in the doorway cause him to freeze.

"My reward for assisting the capture of one of the Dark Lord's most violent sidekicks is getting to watch you suffer." The long blonde hair, carefully groomed, not a strand out of place.

The masked face pouring the filthy sewer water down his throat. Severus was fairly certain that it had only been in his nightmares that the man in the doorway, with the sharp, pointed features, was there. He had not been there at The Monster's, where that had happened for real.

The man was smiling a smile with too many teeth. It was a false smile, a strained one. The grey eyes held no warmth.

"Severus!" His Master's voice made him stop analysing the man, and bring his head to the floor again.

"Master Malfoy." He murmured in greeting to the man.

Harry could have killed him. He had told Ms. Fields that he wasn't having Lucius around for a reason. That was it – he was throwing Lucius out. Screw having Ms. Fields' good favour.

"Lucius," he tried to keep his voice level for the sake of the rest of the interview, the oblivious baby playing underneath the bed, and for Snape. "I asked you to stay in the sitting room for a reason. If you're not capable of obeying the rules in my house, I'm going to have to ask you to leave. Good day, Mr. Malfoy – you're welcome to use the Floo – I trust you know where it is?"

Except that there's no Floo powder. Idiot .

He turned his attention to Snape who was kneeling on the floor, shaking like a leaf. Instead of being overwhelming with guilt and pity like he normally did at that sight, he was engulfed with anger. An anger directed at those idiots responsible for Snape's pain, and an anger aimed at Lucius, who evidentially had done or said something at some point of Snape's life to make him act like this. At least Harry's remarks had wiped the smirk off of Lucius' face that had appeared when Snape bowed to Lucius.

"I apologise; I thought that you might want to know your owl has arrived, and he's injured." Lucius would have made a great actor, his voice so urgent... except for one thing.

"Hedwig died the night you and the rest of your 'colleagues' chased me over Little Whinging." Harry said, evenly. "Now, I still don't know why you're here, but I'm ordering you to leave!" He fingered the wand in his pocket. If he aimed it at Lucius, Ms. Fields might think that the household was too hostile for a child to live in.

"I'm terribly sorry for the misunderstanding, Mr. Potter." Lucius nodded curtly. "Do not forget to ask the slave how many innocent childrenthe slave has tortured, Ms. Fields – I think that you will find it most conclusive to your interview."

Why wouldn't Lucius shut up? It was now utterly clear to Harry why Lucius had come – to sabotage the interview and make it look like Snape's fault to Harry. "Out!" He shouted angrily, abandoning all composure.

"Good day." Lucius seemed to nod at no one in particular, before turning on his heel and leaving the room – and hopefully the house.

Harry took a deep breath, trying to calm himself before turning back to Snape, who was practically hyperventilating. "He's gone."

He turned to Ms. Fields, who was looking at him with a quizzical look on her face. She might have been a little angry, too.

"I guess... I guess you're done here." He sighed, scooping up Teddy who began to cry. It was his naptime, so he was feeling a bit cranky, it seemed. "I'm sorry, but I don't like Lucius Malfoy around Teddy or Severus. I know he's given a lot of money to your organisations, but he had a bit of a history with me – I won't let him hurt Teddy or Severus. It's not worth the risk."

Now she just looked truly confused. "Done?" she asked. "I would still like to interview your slave if you think that he is able, and perhaps ask you a few more questions."

Harry breathed a sigh of relief when he understood what she meant, and turned back to Snape. "Severus, do you feel like answering a few questions?"

A pause, and then "yes, sir". Snape straightened a bit so that he could answer properly.

"Severus, is it?" Ms. Fields settled on the bed and got her quill ready – the feather of the quill was, of course, blue. "Where is it that you hail from, and how old are you?"

Snape was chewing on his lip, a habit of his Harry hadn't really noticed before. "I am from near Manchester, miss." At least hegot the "Ms." part right.

"I have not lived there in years, however." Snape further explained. Upon closer look, Harry could see tears drying against Snape's filthy skin. "And as for my age, I am not sure. I apologise; I will ask my master to punish me when time permits."

He probably doesn't understand what you told him earlier, about months,Harry realised. "You're thirty-nine." He informed Snape, remembering that when he glanced at some of the very telling files given to him after he bought Snape, thinking "he's just under forty!". In the back of his mind, Harry knew that, of course, but sometimes Snape seemed so much older.

He turned to Ms. Fields to explain. "I just bought him yesterday actually, and he had been treated in a way that's not so good. That's why he's so dirty – one bath was not good enough, and, well, it's a long story."

She was writing on her clipboard. "Interesting... which answers my question of how long you have lived in the Potter household. What do you think of Theodore, Severus?"

Long pause. Just when Harry opened his mouth to prod Snape, Snape answered. "He seems like a well behaved child that Master cares for; I have noticed that his hair changes colour."

Ms. Fields chuckled. "He is a Metamorphmagus." She said slowly, as if she were speaking to someone Teddy's size. "That means that he can change his appearance at will., He cannot control it at his age, but he will be able to soon. It is a very rare ability."

Harry knew that Snape knew that, as Snape was not only very educated but had known Tonks, too. But Snape nodded as if this was all new to him. "Yes, miss." He replied.

"Now, Severus, what do you think of Teddy coming to live here permanently?"

Snape stole a glance at Harry before responding. "I think that-"

He was interrupted by one of Teddy's shrills screams – coming from a square mouth, believe it or not. "I'm, um, going to lay him down. I'll be right back." Harry said, awkwardly.

He hoped things wouldn't go drastically wrong in the moments that he was gone. He hoped Ms. Fields wouldn't interrogate Snape like she had Harry. He hoped Lucius had actually left and hadn't transfigured himself into a lampshade or something, hiding in the living room, waiting to pounce as soon as Ms. Fields left. He hoped that Teddy would go to bed like a good kid, and not cause a lot of trouble.

But as luck would have it, Teddy would not go to bed. Not even when Harry turned on the mobile over his crib (that shot fireworks in a rather calming way) and gave him a child's cup full of water. He just screamed until he was red in the face, and his hair was black to match his mood.

Ms. Fields is going to think that I'm the worst guardian ever, he thought, shutting Teddy's door behind him. There was no time to check on Lucius, as Snape was probably floundering in his room alone with Ms. Fields. Inthe Road to Recovery, Harry had read that victims of sexual abuse were often uncomfortable being around people alone – Harry would have to make a point to remind Snape that Weston was just a bad egg, and that few people would hurt Snape like that.

"Is that what he said, that he would not be so nice about it?" He heard Ms. Fields ask as he rounded the corner into Snape's room.

"Yes, Mistress Fields." Snape's response was quite as always. He had not moved since Harry left, as he was still sitting on his heels, on his knees, head bowed low, though not to the floor. He did bow it to the floor in Harry's direction when Harry re-entered the room, but got back up and continued answering Ms. Fields questions.

"When he said that, what do you think he meant by that?"

Snape sent another nervous look towards Harry, biting down on his lip even harder. "I am not sure."

She sighed, and apparently decided to change tactics. "Were Mr. Malfoy's words true? Were you really a follower if You-Know-Who?"

No. It's not going there.If Snape had to be interviewed for Harry to be given legal custody of Teddy, fine, but that question was a bit too Prophet-y.

"We're not going to ask him questions about that." Harry stood up from the hard-backed chair next to Snape' bed.

Ms. Fields turned to Harry, a pained expression on her face, He didn't know if it was pained because she was annoyed at his interruption, or if it was something else.

"I realise that this is difficult for Severus, but after hearing what Mr. Malfoy said, I am obligated by the law to ask you about it."

What good was that law exactly? Harry's teacher had reported that he was possiblymistreated at least a dozen times in primary school. That worst that had ever happened was a visit from some people, to whom Harry had been instructed to lie by the Dursleys. They never came back like they promised that they would, although, now that he thought about it, he wondered if that was the work of Dumbledore.

"As your work as a Death Eater, did you ever kill or torture a child?" Her voice was no longer soft, as if she was talking to a little kid, but rather angry.

Snape bit his lip even harder, then glanced over at Harry as if he waiting for a clue. He shifted on his knees on the carpet for just a moment before the skin on his lip broke. Blood began to dribble down his chin, but he didn't let up.

"Snape!" Harry leapt out of his chair.

And that was apparently a mistake; Snape's eyes widened in what could only be described as pure terror as he began to kneel and cower on the floor, uttering his apologies, which was starting to get pretty old.

"Severus." Harry said softly, ignoring Ms. Field's contact scribbling. "No one is going to punish you. Just answer the nice lady's questions." Now he was the one who talked like he was talking to a three-year-old.

Snape glanced over to Harry as he straightened. The blood was gushing out his his lip still, and there was a ton of blood now on the carpet.

"Yes, miss." He whispered, or at least it sounded like a whisper, as his voice was hoarse.

Harry felt his heart sink. Snape killed small, innocent children? Little children that probably had families and people who loved then...

Wait. A light turned on in his head. 'And my soul, Dumbledore? Mine?'... Snape was worried before he killed Dumbledore that his soul would be split with the murder – the memories proved it. Snape couldn't have killed anyonebefore that – at least in cold blood - otherwise his soul would have been already split...

Ms. Fields had a regretful look on her face as she stood. "I'm afraid that that wraps up my visit, Mr. Potter."

No."No, wait – sit back down." He pointed backed to where she originally sat.

He neared Snape, and knelt on one knee next to him. He noticed how Snape shied away, but Harry ignored it. "Severus, what do you mean by 'yes'? Did you ever kill any children?"

Snape shook his head. "No, sir."

Relief flooded Harry. He was pretty impressed by his own deduction. Was this how Hermione felt all the time? "And you're telling the truth?"

Snape looked up at Harry for just a moment. Though he didn't make eye contact with Harry, Harry could see the hurt fill Snape's eyes. "I would never lie to my master, sir."

"So you have tortured them, though?" Ms. Fields returned to her seat. "Could you tell us more about that?"

Silence, and then, "Master Dumbledore said to do whatever I had to do to convince the Dark Lord of my loyalties."

Dumbledore had said that? Harry didn't really know what to make of that - Dumbledore had knowingly let children tortured all in the name of the Greater Good? Seemed rather counter-productive, or at least ironic.

"But Dumbledore said to, right?" Harry grasped onto the last shred of hope that he had left. "If Dumbledore said it, that accounts for the years 1995 through 1998." Harry felt like a mathematician. "He's only being punished for the years when he was willingly a Death Eater – did you torture any children then?"

"No, sir."

"Did you kill any children then?"

"No, sir."

"See?" Harry sighed with relief, and stood. "He's been cleared for whatever he did in that period of time that he was a spy – the torturing children part doesn't count."

Ms. Fields nodded, finishing whatever she was writing on her clipboard. "Well, I do think that I am finished here." She stood again, and motioned to the door to indicate that Harry was to go first.

No. Give me another chance. I'll change that comment about sending Teddy to Muggle primary school. I'll find time to teach him at home.He reluctantly walked out of the room, with Ms. Fields on his heels, shutting the door behind them.

"Mr. Potter, I'm not going to pretend to understand the history between you and Mr. Malfoy." she began.

You wouldn't believe it if I told you, he privately thought.

"I find him to be quite the caring and charming man, but after seeing your slave's reaction to his coming in the room, I find your reaction perfectly appropriate." she flipped through the pieces of parchment on the clipboard. "I am a bit weary of your slave's behaviour and background; you do realise that he spent much of his childhood in an orphanage?"

No, Harry wasn't. "Yeah." He lied. After all, he was supposed to have read all those papers on Snape, telling all his private details. "What's that got to do with it?"

She sighed. "He and I glossed over it while you were gone. That particular orphanage he is from mainly houses magically-impaired children – very few wizard children are left without any relatives, or people willing to take them in. The environment is particularly hostile, and most of the children that come out of it are particularly bitter, and tend to make mistakes in their adult lives."

Such as joining the Death Eaters, he knew what she didn't say, but implied. Just the same, he asked her where she was going with this.

"I am simply reminding you that he is highly unstable, and not someone I would trust around a small child." She explained, patiently.

Harry didn't particularly think that he would hurt Teddy, but that was okay, either way. "There's zero interaction between them. And I keep a sharp eye on both of them – really, they are never alone together. I know Severus well enough to trust that he won't hurt Teddy, but I'm careful to keep them separate without my supervision, anyway."

Of course, even though that was true, it wasn't for the reasons Ms. Fields was being led to believe. Harry kept them separated because Teddy wouldn't be able to help Snape in a panic attack, a panic attack that he'd likely cause by screaming too loudly or by toddling up to him and touching him. Snape wouldn't be able to help Teddy, either, like if Teddy began to choke or something... no, the two of them together and alone was a recipe for disaster.

She nodded. "Since you have convinced me that you really do care for Theodore, and because if I didn't approve Harry Potter, my boss would have my head, I am going to approve you."

His sinking heart stopped – stopped sinking, and stopped beating. "Approved?"

"Yes, but not without reminding you that it could take several days for the department to officially approve of it." She reminded him. "Also, Wizarding Family Services could stop by at any time for a surprise visit and inspection. Personally, I would recommend selling the slave and buying another – it doesn't seem that this one will be any use to you, anyhow."

It's not the point for him to be of any use for me. And besides, who'd take him if I don't? They'd probably send him to the equivalent of the glue factory. He didn't know what that was, but it probably existed.

"I understand." He nodded, breathing a sigh of relief. Maybe this was the point of his life where things would start to look up. If he had Teddy now, that was kind of like having a real family. And Severus, he didn't know what to do with yet, he was so confused... but he'd figure something out. He always did.

Chapter Text

Severus bowed his head low as his master looked him over. Severus hoped that Master was finally done grooming him. All the grooming was making him worried; why would Master shave his head, rather than keep the hair to pull, like most of Severus' previous owners had? Why had he put him in yet another bath (assuming it was not to torture him, but to make him clean)? Severus was a man of logic, and so far, he was not pleased with the way things were adding up, because they did not make sense. It was all becoming confused, was what it was.

"Okay, Severus, before we go, let me remind of of a few things," Master picked up young Master Teddy in his arms. "There aren't going to be many people there – just Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Ron, Hermione, and us. They might be really excited to see you, but I'll try to keep them quiet so that they don't scare you."

Why would they scare him? Assuming that they were not in on whatever Master had planned, they would be fine. The only issues he had with seeing them was that seeing their faces would most certainly trigger memories of his past life, though not their fault. No, it was always Severus' fault. Like it had been that afternoon, when he spoke of it to Mistress Fields.

Memories of Master Malfoy ran through his mind, and it took everything in Severus not to cry out just thinking of him. It had gotten to the point of wondering of that man was just a figment of his imagination, until he saw the man from his nightmares standing right in front of him.

"Severus?" Master's voice interrupted. "Is something wrong?"

"No, sir." He replied. Nothing was wrong.

Master nodded. "Well, um, you're going to have to stand up to Floo – I don't think that you can do it on your hands and knees. Well, you could try, but you might end up in the wrong country or something." He laughed a nervous laugh. "I thought we were going to have to fly, but Mr. Weasley sent us a bit of powder to use – I'm going to have to buy some really soon. Like, tomorrow 'soon'."

Severus wearily eyed the fireplace. He remembered the Floo – a Floo was a fireplace that you stepped in, that took you places. Floos did not burn unless you stood in them for too long – this he knew, but that did not keep the thoughts of pain, screams, maniac laughter, and his own burning flesh out of his mind.

"Severus?" Master tried again, his voice soft – Severus wondered what he was trying to manipulate. "Is there something wrong with the Floo?"

Was there? Severus eyed that particular Floo. He had never seen anyone use it before, so how would he know? If there was something wrong with it, though, he could never let Master or young Master Teddy use it. His job as a slave, despite the treatment he got from his owners, was to protect his owners, even at the cost of his life.

"I do not know, sir." He went with the safest answer. Not knowing might get him slapped, but it was better than a wrong answer.

Master was silent for a moment. "Are you afraid of the Floo?"

Severus did not mind being a slave. It was his life, and one that he could no longer imagine not having (not that he dared to try to imagine it). The one thing that he hated about it was always have to tell his master the truth – always, unless given leave not to by his master, he had to tell everyoneabove him the truth. It was respectful.

"Yes, sir." He admitted to his master, not looking forward to the treatment that would certainly follow the revelation.

But Master just nodded. "More afraid than flying?"

Master had not thrown him off before. Severus had no reason to believe that Master would throw him off now. "Yes, sir." He admitted.

Master just nodded, then, "So we'll fly to the Weasleys. Go upstairs to my room and get my scarf and hat out of my drawer – I don't know what drawer – the scarf and hat are yellow and red striped."

"Yes, sir." Severus nodded, getting to his feet and going for the stairs. He wondered what changed his master's mind about Flooing. Certainly it had nothing do with Severus' fear of it. It did not make sense. Why wouldn't his master want Severus to get burned in the Floo? Even if it wasn't about punishment, how would Severus getting burned effect his master? And if it didn't, why would his master care? He was not a good and kind master, like Master Weston.

Perhaps he means for me to travel at the same time as himself,he realised, stepping into his master's room and making his way over to the chest of drawers. If I am here to become better trained, then of course he would not trust me to Floo on my own.

He located the hat and scarf, and hurried back down the stairs, ashamed that he was such a poor slave that his master could not trust him to Floo on his own, but grateful that his master decided to spare him the pain of getting burned.

It was easily a Kodak moment, seeing Severus Snape dressed in Gryffindor gear. All he needed now was Harry's mittens, but they would likely not fit Severus' hands.

In a way, Harry felt bad that Severus put on the hat and scarf without resignation. It was as if he did not even notice the house colours. To many people, wearing other house colours might not seem like such a big deal, but Hogwarts alumni understood. To a Hufflepuff, wearing green and silver was just as bad as a Gryffindor wearing black and yellow. It was simply wrong, and yet, as Severus obeyed Harry when Harry asked him to put on the gear, Severus acted as if he had never heard of the Hogwarts Four in his life.

Flying with Teddy could be fun when you were flying for leisure – Harry had done it all the time before Teddy's grandmother died. But it was not fun when you were actually trying to get somewhere, because you had to be high off the ground, and you were just paranoid that the baby would fall, despite how many protections you put on him. Coupled with a terrified person gripping the back of the broomstick, and it was one long trip to the Weasleys – especially when you earlier thought that you could get there in just a moment's time, and could be enjoying Yorkshire Pudding with gravy by now.

"Harry!" Hermione rushed to the back door to give Harry a hug. "Where have you been! We thought you were going to Floo!"

He dodged her, picking out one of her bushy hairs out of his mouth. "Severus was afraid to Floo, so we decided to fly." He handed his turquoise-haired godson over Mrs. Weasley, who rushed over to coo on the twice-orphaned baby. "Where's Ron?"

"Where's Ron?" Hermione sputtered. "Harry, where is Professor Snape? You were supposed to bring him with you."

"I-I did." He motioned out the back door. "That's why we flew, instead of using the Floo. Hermione, weren't you listening to a word I was-"

She smacked the side of his head, caused his glasses to fall sideways. "Where is he now?"

Oh. He had not explained to her that part, yet. "I left him outside to give him a couple moments to himself. He was scared to come in, so I thought he might want a couple minutes to pull himself together." He forgot to remind him not to wonder too far off – damn.

Hermione nodded, and took his elbow, leading him away from Mrs. Weasley's hearing range in the otherwise empty kitchen. "And since you should know where Ronald is, he is in the sitting room, trying to distract our guests."

"Guests?" He drew a blank on what she meant by that. "What do you mean, 'guests'?" It was just supposed to be Harry, Severus, Teddy, Ron, Hermione, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, wasn't it?

Hermione sighed. "So far, Percy, Professor McGonagall, Neville, and Luna have all shown up. I think George had the sense to stay home, but-"

"Wait." Harry shook his head. "What are theydoing here? I didn't tell them about Severus, or-"

"Harry, the entire worldknows that you have bought Professor Snape. It was printed in at least three papers this morning. Between Ron, you, and myself, I think that Mrs. Weasley Firecalled them." She told Harry in a low voice. "I don't know if she meant to invitethem but-"

"Then send them home!" Harry hissed. "I told Severus exactly who was supposed to be here, and that's exactly who he's expecting!"

"Well, what do you want me to do?" Hermione put her hands on her hips. "I can't ask Mrs. Weasley to send them all home."

"Why can't you?" Harry's mind raced with thoughts on how to deal with the situation. He couldn't keep Severus outside. Severus had thrown up his food for lunch, and had to eat. And he'd get frostbite if he stayed outside for too long – even though it was six degrees outside, Severus was wearing nothing but robes and his scarf and hat. Harry hadn't dared tried to even put him in any shorts, yet... though that was a detail he doubted anyone needed to know.

No, Severus had to come in and the company out.

"She's Ron's mother!" Hermione said, as if that explained everything.

"So? I know that?"

"For goodness' sake, Harry. I cannot just ask her to kick them out. I am dating her son!"

"Well, I'm not." He pushed past Hermione, intending to tell Mrs. Weasley exactly what he thought of everyone being there.

"Harry," Hermione grabbed his wrist, "don't be rude. I know it's probably not good for him to see all of us at once, but... maybe he'll surprise us. You can always leave if it becomes too much. Everyone will understand." she paused. "You know how Mrs. Weasley has been since after the War."

Harry hesitated, before glancing at Mrs. Weasley, who was waving her wand with one hand and balancing Teddy in her hip with the other. Hermione did have a point – ever since the end of the War (or the death of Fred), Mrs. Weasley had been a little bit more... intense when it came to having company. She welcomed it, enjoyed it... entertaining became just about her favourite thing. While it seemed kind of selfish to have company over when someone who was so... disturbed was coming, Mrs. Weasley surely hadn't done it intentionally. She just wanted to celebrate because he came home.

He sighed. "Okay, but you make sure everyone in there knows that they don't know the man I'm bringing in there."

Hermione didn't blink an eyes at his admission of how changed Severus was. She just nodded. "I will."

Severus stared down at the dirt on the ground. It was rather muddy, as if it had had the misfortune of being rained on recently. Even though it was cold, the mud felt good between his bare toes.

"Severus." He heard a voice behind him.

He spun around and took a leap back, a cold dread filling his core. By the time he realised that it was his master who had startled him, it was too late to take back his actions.

He knelt on the ground. "Hello, Master." he tried to speak clearly, but the words were coming out rather jittery. "Please forgive me for my initial reaction. You may punish me in whatever way you deem fit."

Severus had always found those words rather foolish - of course his master was free to punish him how he saw fit! His master was free to do anything to Severus that he pleased. But it was someone higher than Severus that set the rule of what he should say, so who was he to judge?

The cool mud had the advantage of soothing the pain on his forehead, if only slightly. Only his master could truly rid him of any of the pain, but Severus was in no position to ask. The only person he had ever trusted that situation with was Master Weston.

His master sighed, impatiently. "Severus, get up."

Severus scrambled to his feet, doing his best not to trip over the voluminous black robes that draped his frame.

"Sir?" Severus asked after he rose, keeping his eyes low. He was a great deal taller than his master, and had to take the precautions not to look him in the eye.

"I think it'd be a good idea if you came in the house now." Master spoke slowly and carefully, enunciating each syllable, almost as if he was not sure of himself. But Severus knew better; his master was more sure of himself than many people were of themselves. He would have to delve into his past life to support that, but kept himself from doing so.

"Shit! Look at your toes - they're turning blue! Shit - I forgot that you didn't have any shoes!"

Severus looked down at his toes, just like his master ordered. They were covered in mud, mostly, but he could see that parts of his feet were an icy blue. They did that a lot. He did not see what his master was so worked up over. He could always fix them if needed. That was what his past master had done.

"Come inside!" Master motioned to him, thankfully not touching him to pull him inside.

"Yes, sir." Severus quietly uttered, following his master through the back door of the Weasley home.

The warm air in the house warmed them as they walked in. Severus could smell the roast lamb and also the smell of some type of bread baking. The floors had been freshly scrubbed, it seemed.

He squirmed, his stomach doing nervous flips in his chest when he realised that the mud off of his feet would be ruining the floor. He was most certainly going to get a painful verbal, if not physical, beating for that.

The kitchen was empty of people, however. Severus could hear the voices of many people in the other room, and felt momentarily guilty for being the reason Master was in the kitchen, and not in there with his friends. No doubt his master would be bitter about that, and take it out on Severus.

"Severus," Master turned Severus' attention to him. "There was a bit of a misunderstanding between me and Mrs. Weasley. See, when she heard you were coming to visit, she just got so excited that she told all of our friends, so now... there are more people here than I told you that there was going to be."

The revelation made the put in Severus' stomach worse – he had been nervous about being in the presence of Masters and Mistress Weasley, and Mistress Granger, but now there were others? Strangers that he did not know? He closed his eyes as the room began to spin.

"Severus, it's okay; they're not going to hurt you." Master said. "You know these people – it's just Professor McGonagall, Percy Weasley, Neville – Neville works at Goldilocks Nursery in Diagon Ally now, and Luna – Professor McGonagall probably gave gave her permission to come with since she's... well, you know." Master took a deep breath. "But yeah, that's not a lotof people, is it?"

It was not Severus' concern that those people would hurt him – that was something that happened quite frequently, that he was used to. It was his concern that he didn't know at all what to expect, what there were planning to do to him. Why were they excitedto see him? It did not make sense – and that was one of the things that Severus hated most.

He took a deep breath and opened his eyes. "What will you have me do, sir?" He had obviously been taken there for a reason – perhaps for his retraining to begin. Or his master simply did not trust Severus to stay at his home alone.

Master also took a deep breath. "You're just going to stay and stay out of the main hype, you know? You're just going to stay away from everyone, for the most part." Master paused. "Okay, well, that's not exactly what I meant – it's just that everyone is probably all going to want to talk to you at once, and I don't think that you're ready for that."

Severus had been trying his best to be a good slave, but he was used to being told that he was not good enough. It still surprised him that his master was the one retraining him – his master didn't seem like the slave-training type. Master Mering had hurt Severus many times by this point, and the worst this Master had done was... it simply did not make sense, and it hurt Severus' head. It scared him.

"Yes, sir." He went with the safe answer.

His master exhaled deeply before nodding. "Just do whatever you can, okay? If you get too uncomfortable, tell me and we'll leave."

"Yes, sir." Of course, Severus would never do that. His master was to enjoy spending time with his friends, and it would not be right for Severus to take him away from that. Severus was a good slave.

Hermione was always there for Harry. She always had been, ever since Harry saved her from the troll in first-year. She was the brains of the group, while Ron had the loyalty and Harry the courage. He probably counted on her a little too much, sometimes. This time, though, he could not have done it without her.

When she opened the door to the sitting room, it immediately grew hushed and quiet. People were not milling about the room as Harry had imagined, but were seated on the various seats around the room (except for Teddy, who was sitting in the centre of the room playing with a tin train). Everything was calm and orderly - no Weasley could have accomplished that. It had to be the work of Hermione, he had no doubt.

"Hey everyone," he said as brightly as he could. He could feel the tension, and wasn't sure if it was coming from the people in front of him, or Severus standing behind him.

"Professor Snape!" Hermione stood up from the sofa, where she was seated between Ron and Percy, and smoothed her skirt.

Harry realised with a fair amount of unease that everyone in the room was not staring at him, but the man behind him. He was also pretty sure that Severus had his eyes to the floor, and was shaking as if though he thought someone was about to throw him from an aeroplane without a parachute.

He turned to face Severus - how did he know? He wanted to grab Severus' sleeve to lead Severus over to the sofa, but had learned his lesson about touching him. So instead, he simply said, "so, where can I sit?" and was found a place between the arm of the sofa, and Ron.

"Here, you can sit here, Severus." Mr. Weasley got up and pulled out his wand to lengthen the sofa, the way he often did when the Weasleys had company.

Severus did not respond from the place he had knelt inside the doorway. He did, however, look up to see Mr. Weasley withdraw his wand, and quickly closed his eyes, burying his face into his knees.

Harry sighed, almost wishing Hermione wasn't so good at what she did; everyone in the room had gone completely silent, and were all staring at Severus. Harry knew that it had little with the mud all over his forehead.

"It's okay, Mr. Weasley - thanks, but no thanks. Severus won't be wanting to sit on the sofa." Severus either stood or sat on the floor - there were no in-betweens. "Come on, Severus - come sit over here." He felt like he was calling a dog, and as Severus complied, felt many eyes on the two of them.

Severus crawled over and settled at his feet, curled up in a kneeling position.

Harry tried to break up the awkward situation by coughing, and apparently, Luna took that as her cue to speak.

"I like frogs." Luna said in her ever dreamy tone of voice. "I like to sing to them as I walk by."

Harry and Ron exchanged looks. "That was random." Ron so keenly observed.

Luna smiled sweetly. "Yes, well, I didn't have anything to say about the situation at hand, so I just found my own way."

Luna's comment on frogs caused Hermione to ask whatever happeed to Trevor, Neville's toad, which reminded Mr. Weasley of the pet toad that he had had as a child. Eventually, the awkwardness and some of the staring eased up, and everyone in the room was laughing and telling stories, save Severus, until dinner.

"Here, Severus." Mrs. Weasley motioned to a seat at the foot of the table.

Severus had already sank to his knees at the right side of Harry's chair, which was at the end of one side of the table. He looked up at Harry, as if looking for instructions on what to do.

Come on, Severus - you can make your own decisions!Harry hated being the one that had to make decisions for everyone. Teddy was making more decisions on his own than Severus was - a little too many, in fact, as he felt it was perfectly reasonable to scream as he was put in the Weasley high chair by Ron.

Harry just shrugged his shoulders at both Mr. Weasley and Severus. Mrs. Weasley had the sense to just leave the situation, and Severus took that as his cue to continue kneeling at Harry's feet... like he had at every meal they'd shared together so far.

"Um, Mrs. Weasley?" Harry began hesitantly as she began to levitate over platters and bowls of food. "Would it be okay if I made Severus some porridge real quick?" All conversation at the table stopped. "He's kind of had trouble holding down much of anything."

"Do you, Professor?" Hermione leaned across the table.

There was a very long pause, before words finally escaped the slight curled frame. "Yes. Mistress Granger."

Harry watched at everyone at the table looked shocked at the first words that they had heard come out of Severus' mouth. And even though his expectations of Severus had been similar to theirs only a few days before, he couldn't help but wonder what they thought his response was going to be. Severus didn't hang around Harry's feet because he liked the smell.

Hermione was the first one to recover, easily because she had likely expected as much. "Oh, you don't have to call me that - 'Hermione' will work just fine." she stood and began to head for behind the kitchen counter. "I'll make your porridge. Would you like a glass of water while you wait?"

No answer.

"Thanks, 'Mione." Harry didn't think that those words were good enough for how grateful he felt to her. "And if you could put some water in a bowl for him, it'd be great."

Hermione just nodded as she walked by, she whispered in his ear, "I'm going to see if I can't mix it with some nutritive Potion from the Potions cupboard."

A nutritive Potion? Now that she said that, Harry was reminded of many a lecture given in Potions, in Snape's boring monotone lecture voice.

'Nutritive Potions are complex Potions brewed to do precisely what their name implies,' he could hear Snape drone. 'They are most commonly used by healers, but can also be used by incompetent individuals as yourselves. It is virtually impossible to overdose on a nutritive Potion and have it be lethal, however, there could be some unpleasant side effects, including, but not limited to, nausea, constipation – five points, Mr. Finnegan!'

Harry shook his head, clearing the memory from it. He couldn't really remember much else about the Potion, but if it could be used by the most incompetent, that meant that out of all the members of SPEW at the table, one of them definitely had it on hand.

The atmosphere at the table did not grow tense again until Hermione brought back the bowl of water twenty whole seconds later.

"So, Professor McGonagall." Harry hoped to divert the stares on poor Severus' lapping like a dog, but drawing the table occupants into conversation. "I guess you heard that I won't be coming back to school."

McGonagall turned to Harry, a troubled expression on her face that no doubt stemmed from Severus' state., "Oh yes, I heard, Potter. I must remind you thought that most students formally withdraw – they just don't leavein the middle of the school year."

Ron scoffed. "'Most' students, Professor. I think that we've already established that he's not like most."

Harry didn't like the conversation being completely on him. He realised that, of course, the reason everyone was there was either because of him and/or Severus, but he was getting a strange feeling that some were there mainly to seeSeverus, not to be with him. There was a difference.

"You still intend to apply for the Auror Programme, then?" She placed a forkful of the roast lamb into her mouth.

"Thanks, 'Mione." Harry said again as she came into the room, putting a hot bowl of porridge in front of Severus, who jumped back as if terrified when she bent down near him.

He cleared his throat. "I really want to. I mean, the only thing I've ever wanted to do is go into the Auror programme, Well, I mean, I thought about Professional Quidditch, but they'd probably just let me and Ron in because we are who we are, and that wouldn't be fun."

"And we couldn't play Professional Quidditch when we get old." Ron shoved a large bit of Yorkshire Pudding, drenched with gravy, in his mouth. "I mean, most Keepers go out when they're about seventy, and Seekers... what, 120? 130? Not old."

Harry glanced down at Severus, who was silently eating his porridge, before turning his attention to what Percy was saying.

"...salary would sustain you through the rest of your life." Percy explained. "If budgeted wisely, one could live on a five-year Professional Quidditch salary for the rest of their life." He took a very neat bite of his vegetable. "And then, you would have to look into the odds of actually getting in, Ron. I have no doubt that Harry could get in based on his name and talent, but you on the other hand..."

"Shut it, Pinhead." Ron muttered.

Severus was probably not making his eating any easier by eating like a dog. Maybe the next step would be trying to get him to eat like a human. That was more important than getting him to sleep in bed, and sit in chairs, and getting him to stop wetting the bed, as he had discovered Severus had done in his sleep the night before, and in his nap.

"What?" He jerked his head and looked around the room, trying to figure out who spoke to him.

"I asked how the meeting with W.F.S went this morning." Mrs. Weasley placed some more potatoes on Teddy's tray.

"Uh... was that this morning?" It seemed like a week ago. Since Wizarding Family Services left, he had been left helpless in five of Severus' debilitating panic attacks, took three things out of Teddy's mouth that weren't supposed to be in there, changed countless amounts of Teddy's nappies – and had to clean them, along with Severus' frock, which he was going to keep just in case, until he got Severus more clothes... in fact, the only peaceful moment he had gotten was when Severus took a nap, the same time Teddy did, right after Wizarding Family Services left.

"It went good." Harry recovered from his initial response quickly. "Except..." He didn't want to say the name when Severus was doing so well. "Except a big ferret interrupted the whole thing."

Ron's jaw dropped open. "Lucius Malfoy come by?"

Harry knew, despite popular belief, that Ron was an intelligent bloke, but even then, sometimes Harry wondered about him.

Harry glanced down at Severus, who was noticeably shakier than he had been only moments earlier, no doubt at hearing the name 'Lucius Malfoy'.

Mr. Weasley leaned forward. "What did he want?" He asked, his face lined with concern.

"I'm not sure. He didn't say." Harry tried to explain, all while keeping an eye on Severus. "I'm pretty sure he was trying to sabotage the interview."

"But how would he know about that?" Harry could practically see the gears turning in Hermione's head. "The Prophet doesn't publish potential adoptions, only ones that have been approved."

Mr. Weasley shook his head. "Lucius Malfoy has always had a way of manoeuvring – I remember when he first came to Hogwarts even, he smelled of trouble."

"Severus." Percy glanced down at Severus. "How would a former Death Eater gain access to Ministry records?"

It started out as a cough. "Severus, keep your head forward!" Harry cried out as Severus got up to sit on his knees, as the cough became more intense.

But it was too late – Severus threw up porridge all over his robes, and on the floor. The remains of the grey food dribbled down his chin, and down the front of his robes.

"I-I'm sorry, M-Master." Severus knelt down, his now face covered in mud and porridge. "Please forgive me, and punish me however you see fit."

The silence in the room was deafening. Harry knew everyone in the room was staring at them, without even looking at them.

And then Teddy began pitching another fit, deciding that it was the ideal time to scream his head off, since apparently the silence was too much for him.

"I think we'd better go." Harry said, weakly, standing to his feet, doing his best to step over a shaking Severus, who was still bowing, waiting for a response.

"Oh, you don't have to, dear." Mrs. Weasley said. "Severus can clean himself up, and I'll calm the baby."

The woman really did have no idea. "Severus can't clean himself up." Harry said, tiredly. "Thanks, Mrs. Weasley, everybody, but it's Teddy's bedtime – Severus' too, and he needs a bath. We'll try it again some other time. It's just too much too soon right now." Too soon for all of those people to be around Severus. Things would have been so much calmer had it just been the people Harry had originally specified. Severus might have opened up a bit in conversation with those he didn't see as his master. But tenpeople all at once was a little much. Six - the original four planned, plus Harry and Teddy - would have probably been too much.

"Here, put the hat and scarf back on, and meet me outside." Harry passed the items to Severus, who looked at them hesitantly. "You're not in trouble, don't worry. It's just long flight home, and I've got to clean Teddy up a bit."

"It's not your fault." Harry assured an apologizing Ron as he toted a screaming Teddy to the sofa in the sitting room. "Go on and finish eating – you and Hermione can stop by in an hour or so, after I put them to bed." He realised that Severus was a grown adult who shouldn't need a bedtime, but he was just too exhausted to deal with him any more that day.

"It was the Pinhead's fault." Ron muttered. "If he had just ignored Snape and acted almost as if he wasn't there like Hermione said to, then..."

"I'm not mad, Ron. Really." He pulled Teddy's trousers back over his bum, and lifted the screaming baby back up. "Just tired. Your mum won't mind that we're skipping out on the rest of dinner?"

Ron shook his head. "Hermione and I won't stop by tonight... unless you need help. You need to sleep. You look terrible."

Harry felt terrible, and that was only on the outside. The guilt mounting up on top of him, about what he let happen to Severus, was worse than terrible.

"Write me this week." He hefted the nappy bag over his shoulder. "Tell me if Ravenclaw beats Slytherin."

Ron snorted. "They won't. You know they won't."

He wasn't sure. He was getting to a part in his life where he was wondering if anything was impossible.

Chapter Text

Severus vomited again as the broom descended from the air. But as none of it landed on Master, or Master Teddy, it was the least of his worries.

Master was going to be an Auror. That was why he had purchased Severus, to train as an Auror's slave. And then, once Master officially become an Auror, things would begin to get worse. The Aurors were the ones to take Severus to Master Mering's. Severus had heard stories told by the slaves at Henderson's – those owned by the richest and most influential were treated the worst. Severus had gotten lucky, to be treated so well by Master and Mistress Weston, as they had been rich and influential.

But Master... Master likely harboured much hatred and bitterness towards Severus. And he was not only rich and influential, but about to become more so. He was going to work for the magical law enforcement.

Severus had never been so terrified when owned by any of his masters before, or at least could not recall it. The shame he had felt being sold by Master Weston had outdone any other emotion at the time. He could not remember how he felt being sold to his past master, Master Müller, but the situation he was in now was the worst; it could only be described as terror.

Master went into the house, with Severus walking several paces behind him.

He is going to nearly kill me, Severus tried not to shake, but it was hard, because he was very cold from the flight, and afraid. If you were to apologise now, he will only get angrier.

You can do it, he told himself. You survived The Monster – he will not hurt you worse than The Monster did. Or as badly, perhaps. The thought comforted Severus – The Monster had had help from The People to punish Severus, and Master did not. Unless he enlisted the help of his friends... the thought chilled Severus to the core. They all had been staring at him...

"Neville!" Master nearly dropped the baby in surprise.

Severus got to his knees and bowed. He did not have the time to verbally greet Master Longbottom, who had been standing in the living room when they arrived, because Master spoke again.

"Severus, go to bed." He ordered, sharply.

An order. Severus could cope with orders better than anything.

"Yes, Master." He stood to his feet and bowed his head to both Master and Master Longbottom, before gratefully hurrying up the stairs and out of the room. Given their history, Master Longbottom likely was even more angry towards him than Master was.

Harry was plagued with guilt for speaking so sharply to Severus, and ordering him around, but it didn't last long.

"What are you doing here?" He placed Teddy in the playpen, refilling his cup with his wand. "Who let you in?"

"Let me... well, I used the Floo." Neville said, uncertainly.

"Oh, of course – why do we ever use doors around here?" Harry dimmed the lights and led Neville into the kitchen. Teddy could spend the first half of the night in his playpen. Pyjamas and his cot could wait until he woke up in a couple hours.

Neville awkwardly paused. "Harry... is everything okay?"

No,Harry wanted to say. I just made a huge mistake, and the funny thing is, I can't even tell you what that mistake is. It wasn't take in Teddy, or buying Severus... I should have let you buy Severus – you're the one who almost ended up in Hufflepuff. You're the epitome of patience and hard work. But he didn't say anything.

Neville sighed, as he motioned to a basket on the table that he had apparently set there earlier. "It's leftovers – Ron's mum seems to be under the impression that you can't cook, so she sent some stuff over with me. Oh! And Hermione said that she would be sending nutritive potions over, so you don't have to worry about that..." He scratched his nose. "I feel like you're mad."

Mad? No, Harry wasn't mad. At least not in the angry sense. He was starting to think that he was as little crazy mad for taking on both Severus and Teddy (yet what else could he do? He had to do what he did for both of them)... but was he angry? Only at Percy for asking such a dumb question, setting Severus off like that.

"I'm not mad." Harry suddenly realised how tired he was. "I've just... I don't know, Neville."

Neville took a seat, and motioned for Harry to take one, which occurred to him was a really good idea.

"Professor Snape has changed a lot." Neville quietly observed.

"Yeah." Harry agreed, putting his head in his hands. He had changed – a lot. He had changed to the point of Harry thinking of him as 'Severus' instead of 'Snape' – 'Snape' was now used for the pre-slave, mean, professor man only.

Neville was quiet for a moment. "I knew he'd changed, but I thought he might be meaner, or maybe a little quieter. Not this."

Harry laughed bitterly. "Oh, he's quieter all right. I'm pretty sure the only vocabulary he has now is 'yes,' sir', and 'master'." He said the last word with every bit of hatred in him. Voldemort had been called 'Master' – did that make Harry any better than him? Regardless of their reasoning, they both ended up being called the same thing, by the same man, even. Only it was more terrible in Harry's case, because the 'master' he got from Severus was completely genuine, whilst the 'master' Voldemort had gotten was likely only an act.

Neville was quiet for a long time, but Harry had not shared a room with him for six years to think that that meant that Neville didn't know what to say - he was just worried about how to plunge into what he knew he needed to say.

"Go on, tell me. Tell me I should have left Severus where I found him. God knows you won't be alone in thinking that."

"I wasn't thinking that." Neville said, quietly. "I was just thinking that you're always trying so hard to be the hero. And not in a bad way," Neville hurried to add. "You don't like being the centre of attention, I don't think. I think you just feel a need to help people, you know?"

"You been talking to Hermione?" Harry said, crossly.

Neville jumped at the sharpness of Harry's tone. "N-No. I mean, yes, I have, but not about you. Well, I mean, not about that. Why?"

Harry sighed. "She has said to me, several times, I might add, that I have a 'saving people' thing." And he didn't, really. He just did what he had to do. Ginny was down in the Chamber of Secrets, and no one else was going to help her in time, so he did what he had to do. No one else could kill Voldemort, so he did what he had to do. No one else was going to devote the time and interest – or had the money – that went into helping Severus onto the road to recovery, so Harry had to do it. Teddy... he wanted Teddy to be with him, so that was different.

"Oh." Was all Neville needed to say. "Taking care of Professor Snape is going to be a lot of hard work, isn't it?"

It already was. Even if Harry didn't have Teddy around, Harry would be up in the night due to screams. He'd still be cleaning up big messes in the kitchen. He'd still have to give baths – he'd still be just as tired.

Shit, Harry realised.I sent Severus upstairs without a bath. The whole room will be covered in mud and throw up and... he'd take care of it in the morning, as he'd already sent Severus up to bed. Waking Severus up now would be mean – and trivial – since he would probably have to take a bath the next day, anyway, if he wet the bed again. Or the floor, to be more accurate.

"Well, remember when the War first ended?" Neville continued. "Everyone was so messed up – lots of people started going to therapy to get everything sorted out."

Harry knew all about that. He hadn't gone for any therapy – wizarding therapists usually recommended Obliviation from certain events, or potions to numb the pain and sadness– Harry wanted none of that. It would make him feel as if Sirius, Remus, Tonks, Dumbledore, his parents, all died in vain.

"I don't need a therapist." He said, flatly.

Neville rolled his eyes. "Not you, but Hermione and I were talking after you left and realised something – Professor Snape sees himself as owned by you. He's going to take everything you do or say with a block of salt."

Sometimes, Neville said odd things. "The phrase is 'a grain of salt', Neville."

"I know." Neville said, seriously. "And he's going to be taking it with a whole block of salt."

In Harry's exhausted mind, that actually made a little sense. If Severus was brainwashed into thinking he was a slave, he'd probably be weary of anything Harry had to say to him, whether it was 'good night' or 'you're not in trouble'.

"So there are some people out there who can, I dunno, work between the two of you. Obviously, it'd have to be someone who saw slaves, which I reckon is pretty rare. But there's gotta be someone out there – I hear Marietta Edgecombe is really nice."

No way was Harry taking Severus to Marietta Edgecombe. He didn't care if she was the best therapist in the world; he just didn't like her. "No ex-students." He said, firmly.

Neville took in a sharp breath. "Do you know how hard that's going to be? Snape has been a teacher since the beginning of time!"

"Actually, since 1981." Harry remembered glancing at one of Severus' many papers.

Neville exhaled, blowing his fringe up. "You can't take him to a Muggle therapist, or you'd have to skip over all the important details when talking to them, and that'd just be wasting your time."

The situation was very frustrating. "Severus wouldn't talk to a therapist, anyway. You should have seen him earlier, around the lady from Wizarding Family Services and Lucius Malfoy."

He spent the next few minutes explaining to Neville everything that had happened that afternoon. "And on top of everything that's going on, I promised Ginny forever ago that I'd get Lucius Malfoy in Azkaban one of these day. Bur I'm sure as hell not going to be able to get it done right now."

"Ginny will understand." Neville knew Ginny well as they were both in Gryffindor, with mutual friends – not to mention SPEW and the DA. "She's got a lot on her mind right now, anyway, what with-" He shut his mouth abruptly, clapping his hand over his mouth.

"What with what?" Harry asked, curiously.

"Nothing." Neville said, quickly. "Just, you know – the N.E.W.T.s and stuff."

Oh, of course. The N.E.W.T.s lived up to their name – they were nasty.

"I'm going to go visit mum and dad tomorrow." Neville stood from the table. "I will ask around, and see if anyone knows of a therapist Snape could see."

"Tell them 'hi' for me."

"I will." Neville promised. Harry had gone with Neville several times to see his parents. It had been very sad and depressing, and made Harry grateful that his own parents were dead.

"Oh!" Harry suddenly realised as Neville turned to the kitchen fireplace. "There's no powder – you're going to have to Disapparate."

Neville nodded, his face already tuning slightly green at the thought. He was not good at Apparating, it was common knowledge. Neville avoided it whenever possible.

"You have wards set up?" Neville shuffled to the front door – quietly as to not disturb Teddy.

"Yeah, but only incoming. You can Disapparate from wherever you'd like. I probably should ward the Floo, too." Not that Apparating wards did much good – bastards like Lucius Malfoy would just walk in.

Neville chuckled. "Good night, Harry."

"Good night." He shut the door behind Neville and sighed deeply. The house was quiet, and the room dark. It seemed like the only time he had to actually think, so regardless of how tired he was, that was what he chose to do. And besides, it was his only chance to shower – both Severus and Teddy would be awake at the crack of dawn, ready to start the day over again. And neither one of them could be unsupervised for a minute.

A therapist, he mused as he went upstairs to the to the Master bedroom. If Hermione thinks it's a good idea... the Road to Recovery said that it was, and it was written by a doctor.

But he didn't know if Severus was even ready for that, yet. He didn't know anything at all

Chapter Text

The sun had risen hours ago, and yet, Severus was still tired. He was not sure what made it so, as he did not do anything to exert himself.

Every morning was essentially the same. Severus would wake, and wait to leave the room he slept in until Master came to get him, just as Master had instructed. Then he knelt beside his master's chair whilst Master ate his cereal – Muggle cold cereal – as Severus drank the water and potion mixed in a bowl for him. It was a nutritive potion, he knew. He still wondered why his master fed him that potion, rather than give him food – it was much more expensive than food was. Perhaps it was a punishment, to keep him on the potion that supplied necessary nutrients, for the rest of his life, to make a food a luxury he was rarely given. The ramifications were not something he would understand without asking questions, and questions were something he was not to ask, save on rare occasions

Then, the mornings had young Master Teddy playing on the floor, usually with Master. Then lunch, where Severus was usually rewarded with a few bites of porridge, for sitting quietly, Severus assumed. Then the baby was in his playpen, whilst Master talked to Severus – or just talked. Severus occasionally responded with 'yes, sir', hoping that he did not say it too often to irritate his master. Master usually got bored of that, anyhow, and began to read, or write letters – he wrote a lot of letters.

But that morning, things had gone a little differently, which messed up the system for the rest of the day. Breakfast had been normal, except that Master had not eaten – he had instead rushed around with young Master Teddy's nappy bag, muttering to himself. Soon, a cooing Mistress Weasley had come through the Floo, and after spending much time bothering Severus so, left, with the nappy bag and Master Teddy in her arms.

It was just Master and Severus left, alone in Master's home. Who knew when – or if – Master Teddy was coming back? It was a bad sign.

He tried to contend himself with the knowledge that whatever happened would happen, and that it was utterly out of his control. That always worked, and this time was no exception... except the anxiety that filled him refused to be stopped. He would not be so worried, so afraid, if his master just told him what to do, what to think, what would happen... but no. It was all left on Severus' shoulders, to guess and to suppose.

'Don't worry,'Master's words, repeated numerous times, came flooding back to him. 'Don't worry.' 'There's nothing to worry over.' 'Don't worry.' 'There's no need to be afraid.'

If Master said not to worry, he was not to worry. If Master said there was nothing to be worried over, there was nothing to be worried over. Severus wished he could accept these things as truth, and let them calm him, as they were obviously meant to do... but he couldn't, try as he might. It pained him that he could not – in the literal sense, as his forehead was in constant pain. But trusting someone you had little reason to trust was a hard thing. Even though your life was in that person's hands, and could be ended with a mere 'cut your throat open', it did not mean you trusted them automatically. Obedience and trust were two separate things, as were a desire to be a most helpful servant, and trust. Slaves were not required, as a rule, to trust their master, though – just to respect and obey. He could do that. He only risked getting himself into trouble when he did not obey the order to trust. It was all so very confusing, that he did his best not to think of it.

That explained, to a degree, how he found himself kneeling on the floor next to the sofa, staring at his knees, listening to his master's words quite eagerly, hoping – praying – that nothing too terrible would take place.

Though there is always the Occlumency, he remembered, taking care to keep his shields up high. He had been doing a much better job of never letting his shields down, though it did wear him out.

"So – apparently – that's normal." Master said, letting out a huge breath as he did so. "I think you'd be pretty rare, to go straight back to the way you were before you were a slave."

Severus openly winced at those words. He supposed Master was glad that Severus had been hurt so, so that Severus did not act the way he did before he was a slave. Truth be told though, Severus was still appalled at his behaviour, and was still waiting for his master to punish him for it. He was so terribly ashamed of it all. It made him even moreso to know that his master remembered it – and referenced it! Merlin, he had been hoping he wouldn't have.

"I apologise for that, sir." He bowed his head to the ground, his nose smashing against the carpet that smelled a tad musty. "Please punish me in whatever way you see fit."

"For... for being different now?" His master said, confusion evident in his voice. "Sit up, Severus – it's okay. Like I said, it's perfectly normal. I'd be really worried if you weren't changed by it all – what you've been through is pretty unique, I'd say, and most people who go through smaller things come out barely functioning as a human. You... well, you're..."

Master did not finish the sentence, Severus noted as he raised his head back from the ground. He parted his legs more, so that his weight did not rest on his knees and calves so much – and the plus side of that would be that it was a much more submissive pose, which he could rarely go wrong doing.

Master squirmed noticeably. "So, yeah, don't apologise for that."

That was not what Severus was apologising for. "My behaviour, prior to my enslavement, sir, was unacceptable. I see that now, and am deeply ashamed. Please, will you-"

"Severus?" Master's voice had gone suddenly quiet, despite his voice echoing off the walls of the sitting room.

Severus looked up towards his master's face, careful to avoid direct eye contact. His master's eyes were serious behind his lenses. "Yes, master?" He replied, dutifully.

Master extended his arms, almost as if to reach for Severus. Severus shut his eyes tightly, preparing for the touch, but it never came – when he opened his eyes, Master had his hands back in his own lap.

"Severus, don't ever ask to be punished for that, okay? You're ashamed of it, and you know what? I think in a lot of ways it's something to be ashamed of. You did a lot of nasty things to innocent children when I was at school, but you apologised for it. Knowing you, that had to take a lot of courage, and a lot of humility – it really means a lot that you apolgogised, and I accept it. There's no need for punishment."

Severus blinked. There was no need to be punished for it? When a slave did something wrong, they needed to be punished for it! Otherwise... otherwise...

Otherwise what?He asked himself. This situation is unlike others – you will never behave in the manner towards anyone again. Being a slave changes that.

"Yes, sir." Severus said, looking down at his lap. "I apologise for asking." He hesitated, before continuing. "Please punish me in-"

He was interrupted by master's chuckles. "Forget about it. Anyway," his voice grew serious, "the reason Mrs. Weasley came and got Teddy today is because of the things your mind has done. See, we're going to work on you getting better and-"

Master may have continued beyond those words, but Severus did not hear them. He could not hear anything past the words 'getting better'. He knew those words. Master had said them before, and they had haunted Severus every moment since then.

Getting better? He had thought that that meant in his training, to improve as a slave. Merlin knew he needed it – he was consistently pulling back when touched, and getting his in master's way... but that was not what his master meant? Getting better meant... it meant what?

"Severus?" His name, coming from his master's lips, made him realise he was still being spoken to.

He felt himself flush, and he once again bowed at his master's feet. "Forgive me, sir. I was listening for a time, but I-"

"It's fine. Is there something you don't understand?" Master checked his wristwatch. "We're kind of running low on time."

Low on time? Whatever did that mean? Was there a spell to be performed at a certain time, or a spell that would wear off at a certain time? Did that spell act as a catalyst to Severus' getting better... whatever that meant?

"Yes, sir." Severus admitted. "There is something I do not-"

He was interrupted by a loud knock on the door, which startled him into falling on his rear in quite an ungraceful heap, something which would not impress his master.

His master, however, did not seem to take notice, and stood. "Shit. Look, I'm going to get the door, okay? It's just a... just a friend. A good person, that's not going to hurt you, okay?"

A friend of master's was to be treated with more respect than the average wizard. Severus nodded. "Yes, sir."

Severus listened keenly as Master walked over to the hall and opened the door. He could not see what went on from where he sat in the sitting room, but he could hear. Sometimes, that was all one needed.

"Hi." He heard his master say in a friendly voice.

"You must be Harry." Severus heard a woman's voice. It was a woman. Master was bringing in a woman.

That could mean many things. She was not a girlfriend, for reasons obvious. She could be someone there for purposes ill... but Master had said that the person would not hurt him.

How does he define 'hurt'?Severus wondered. That could be crucial to her purposes here.

"Come in." Severus heard the front door shut, and their footsteps coming towards him. He could make out the woman's heels tapping against the floor in the hall.

He did not get a chance to look at her, though. Like a good slave, as he was attempting to be, he knelt his head to the ground before they came into the room. He heard the footsteps transfer to the carpet, which caused their noise to cease.

"Severus," Master said, causing Severus to look up. "This is Dr. Brown. She's going to help us help you. Dr. Brown, this is Severus, my, um..."

Master did not finish the introduction. Severus wondered why.

The woman appeared to be quite normal. Her brown hair was neatly pulled back, and her make-up was natural and even – that was nearly always a good sign, for Severus had not had very many bad experiences as a slave with women such as that. Also, her clothes were neat and put-together, not clothes one would wear to train and punish. That made her a very rare woman to be in Severus' presence, indeed.

He lowered his head, though not to the floor this time. "Mistress Brown." A good slave always forwent any titles such as 'doctor' or 'professor' and just went for the typical 'master' or 'mistress'. It was relieving, actually, to not have to worry about that sort of thing.

"Hello, Severus." The woman smiled. Her teeth were white, but slightly crooked – Severus wondered if that was any sort of attribute to her personality. He looked very hard for these sorts of things. Any hints at all were better than none.

"You can sit down." Master motioned to the sofa. "On the sofa, and there's this armchair over here... I could conjure something else, if you'd like. Would you like some tea?"

"This will be fine." Mistress Brown sat on the armchair offered. "And some tea would be wonderful, thanks."

Severus watched his master go to the kitchen, before turning his attention back to his knees. The silence was deafening, and knowing that the woman was looking at him only made it awkward.

"So, how are you?" Mistress Brown asked, pleasantly.

How was he? He did not understand that question. Why should it matter how hewas? "I am well, miss." He said, quietly, not daring to look up at her.

"That's good." she said. "Do you mind if I call you 'Severus'? I find that being on first-name basis with a person is really the best way to go in terms of-"

Master chose then to walk into the room with a tray, with two cups of tea on it and a small bowl, presumably filled with water for Severus. He handed Mistress Brown the teacup, and sat the bowl on the floor near Severus, before sitting the tray down on the coffee table. "It's charmed." He said, quietly. "So that it tastes like whatever the amount of sugar you want in it is in there. There's not really any sugar – it's what a lot of wizards and witches do when they're dieting. Not that you need to diet. I just thought it'd be easier than trying to figure out exactly how much sugar you like, and-"

"That is quite all right." She said. "As I was saying... Severus?"

On what she called him? He didn't know what she could call him, aside from 'Severus' or just 'slave'. Some called him 'Snape' – it had been a great while since he had been called that regularly, though sometimes Master did call him that. But he'd no preference, and even if he did, why should it matter?

"No, miss." He said, quietly. "'You may call me whatever my master wants."

"Good." She took a sip of her tea before passing over a folder to Master. "Harry, I'm going to need you to fill this out. If you can't figure something out, that's fine. You're not going to be able to fill it all out, I imagine."

Severus glanced over at the bowl of water. His throat was suddenly very parched, but it would be rude to partake of the water in front of Master's guest. Slaves were to indulge themselves in private, and in private only.

"Calling me 'Dr. Brown', or even 'Mistress Brown' is fine if that's what you're most comfortable with, but my name is Christine, if you prefer that."

Christine. A chill ran up Severus' spine. He knew that name. Mistress' name was Christina. Mistress Weston, that was. Christina was essentially the same name as Christine, was it not?

He glanced over at his master, who was not filling out the crisp white pieces of Muggle paper, but watching him carefully. He felt as if he were on display, on auction, once again.

"Yes, Mistress Brown." He kept his eyes to the ground. Surely she realised how inappropriate her behaviour was? A slave could never call anyone above him by her first name.

She cleared her throat. "I went to university at UCL. I am thirty-five, and unmarried. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking and playing with my dog." She looked intently at Severus. "I normally start off first time meetings with introductions – it helps everyone feel more comfortable if they know each other."

Severus simply ignored her comments and stares, and looked intently at his knees. Surely that comment was meant for master and not him. He was not to speak unless spoken to, and when he was not sure, he chose not to speak – it was the safest.

"Oh, um, my name is Harry." Master fidgeted in his chair – Severus could hear him shifting around behind him. "I'm, um, eighteen, and I'm um, not married, either. I kind of quit school a little bit ago, but I'm still going to take my N.E.W.T.s. When I'm not, um, busy, you know, I like to play Quidditch."

"Do you play on any sort of team?" Mistress Brown asked pleasantly.

Severus did not understand why Master was talking to the woman about Quidditch – he squirmed before he could stop himself, trying to figure out what exactly was going on. It was one of his bad habits that he could not quell, try as he might; he always wanted to know everything.

Master had spoken of getting better. He had not had the chance to explain at all what he meant by that, but Severus was now sure that Master was not referencing Severus' behaviour as a slave. That was relieving to him, in a way – to know that he was still a good slave took a lot of pressure off. He knew he still had to work harder to get back at the point he once was; when had he let himself slide? But it was nice to know that he was not as far off as he had thought.

His mind was not right, Master had explained. It was normal for a slave, but not for a free person. Severus did not know his mind worked any differently than a free person's, but surely that was a good thing. Unless Severus' mind worked in a way that a slave's didn't quite, and Master was trying to fix that... it was very confusing, and as much as Severus tried to sort out the man's intentions, he could not.

But as Master Mering had said, the owners were always right, and this master was no exception. There really was no need to sort out his intentions.

"So, what about you, Severus?" Mistress Brown broke Severus' train of thought once she said his name.

Oh, Merlin. What an embarrassment he was to his master.

He knelt his head to the ground. He could feel his heart pounding as his muscles instinctive tightened, bracing himself for a harsh blow. "Please forgive me, Mistress Brown; I did not hear your question. I will ask my master to punish me when time allows."

He held his breath in the long silence that followed. Severus could hear the birds loudly chirping outside, hear the clock ticking on the wall. But the silence was the loudest, and most frightening sound of all.

"Oh, it is all right, Severus.," Mistress Brown broke the silence. "Sometimes, people get distracted, and don't hear what others are saying. It's perfectly acceptable."

How was that possible? To get distracted and not listen to one's words was disrespectful, and a slave was not supposed to be anything but respectful. Those above him were always right, he knew, and it was a pity that he was not wise enough to understand their logic.

"Yes, Mistress Brown." He said, with every intent of asking for punishment when Mistress Brown left. Not that Master had ever punished him before, but surely he would, eventually. Severus had to ask, regardless of what his master chose to do.

"I asked you if you would take a turn telling Harry and myself about yourself."

Severus was one who did not easily express emotion on the outside, something that came in handy being a slave. It was likely the one think keeping him from dropping his mouth open with surprise.

"Me, Mistress?" He felt ashamed for asking, the pain on his forehead a result from questioning what was quite clearly an order. That established, he did not wait for her response before plunging into a dialogue about himself.

"I am owned by Harry Potter." He said, carefully, racking his mind for what might be considered relevant information. "I..." What was there to say? There was nothing else. No, there had to be... but what?

"Do you have a favourite colour?" Mistress Brown prodded.

He could not remember. That was not something he could ever remember considering. If he took down his Occlumency shields, he might, but he was not going to do that. "No, Mistress." He admitted, uneasily. Perhaps that was not what she wanted to hear, but what else could he have said? He could not lie.

"I see." Her pen was still against the clipboard – his head and eyes were at the perfect height to see this. "Do you do that often?"

Do what often? How he wished that she would explain better! "I am afraid that I do not know of which you speak."

She clamped her hands together tightly in front of her. "This thing." she said.

Severus pulled his hands apart, that he hadn't even realised he had put together. There were dents in his skin from his fingernails, and even a bit of blood drawn. He had never noticed that he did that up until now.

"I do not know." His nervousness grew in his stomach, as he was well aware that his Master was looking down over his shoulder, likely angry at the damage Severus had done to himself.

"Would you like a plaster?" She offered.

Severus looked up at his master, who shook his head. "Bad idea. He'll be fine." Master said.

Severus sensed some unspoken communications between the two, but it was not his business to know what they were saying. Instead, he chose to apologise to his master, who told him not to worry about it, which was an order Severus would do his best to follow.

"Here, why don't you try to figure this out? Harry said that you liked puzzles." Mistress Brown held up a small plastic cube of little multi-coloured cubes, seemingly connected, which she got out of her bag. She put it on the floor ad lightly kicked it with her foot, so that it went over to Severus without too much trouble.

"It's a Rubik's Cube." she explained. "The goal is to move the cubes around until each side is solid. It'll keep your hands busy. I hear that you're very intelligent; maybe you'll be able to figure it out. Merlin knows I never could."

Severus concentrated on the shape in front of him. Was this really about his hands, or something else? Perhaps it was to test his intelligence. Perhaps, for whatever reason, he needed to have a favourite colour, and the cube was supposed to help him decide (odder things had happened); Perhaps she simply wanted someone to solve it for her.

Regardless of her intent, 'why don't you' was never a suggestion – it was an order. And Severus would comply with the best of his abilities, such as they were.

Harry couldn't believe it – all the time spent trying to find a professional therapist, all the effort that went into Owling her, not to mention the cost of the hour they were spending, and she handed Severus a Rubik's Cube. Harry could have done that.

He shifted in his seat, watching Severus twist and turn the cube. "I haven't seen one of those in forever." Dudley had gotten one for one of his birthdays, and promptly threw it out an upstairs window.

"You said in one of your letters that he was a thinker. He needs something to keep his hands busy. It might help him not hurt himself on accident, right?" She looked towards Severus, but he was completely lost in his own world at that point.

Harry sighed. "He does that. All of a sudden, he'll be listening, and then he'll stop."

She just nodded. "Now, Harry, as you know, I am magically impaired – a squib, if you will. I don't know anything about slavery law. I was adopted as a toddler by the parents of a Muggle-Born, so it wasn't as if they had any slaves."

Harry nodded, noticing how Severus didn't seem to slow down in trying to figure out the puzzle. "Well, I don't know all the laws myself, but there are no rights, you know? When people say I own him, they're serious." His gut twisted as he explained. "The thing is is that he really takes it to heart – I mean, I could tell him to smother himself into unconsciousness in the carpet, and he wouldn't think twice. Not that I would ever do that." He felt disgust at the reality of that, but surprisingly, Dr. Brown didn't seem to bat an eye. He was just lucky Severus remained in that little world he got in, when he wouldn't hear a word anyone was saying, or Harry might discover one morning that Severus smothered himself in the carpet.

"And that behaviour is typical of one in his situation?" He noticed that it seemed like she carefully avoided using the word 'slave'. He wondered why, and if he should do it, too.

"Well, um, I've only met one, besides him." He confessed, beginning to fidget. "She was, I dunno... at peace with the situation, I guess." But the woman at the Weston's had been different. She hadn't been quaking in fear, even when she had done something that she knew was wrong. She didn't produce wild magic. She seemed almost pretty normal.

"And you do not believe that he is?"

That was not the trouble; Severus was perfectly at peace with the situation, it seemed. He seemed to be very settled into the fact that he was a slave. "Well, he is, too." He admitted.

"Then I do not see the problem." Dr. Brown looked over at Severus. "Obviously, he has some things to work through, but if you say that it doesn't directly correlate to being a slave-"

"It does!" Harry said, a little too loudly, causing Severus to jump, a flash of light protruding from his body. "You don't know what he was like before – he was proud, and brave, and wouldn't take orders – not even from Dumbledore and McGonagall, who were his bosses." He couldn't believe that he was thinking of Snape with nostalgia. "He was a very superior and snide, sarcastic, sneaky, snippy, Slytherin... Snape." He finished, lamely.

"You need to watch that alliteration." she wryly commented.

"Yeah." He looked down at his hands before looking up at her. "So, what's the plan."

"It depends." she responded. "What are you trying to achieve by putting him into therapy? Normally, I ask the patient himself that question, but as you've explained, this is an entirely different situation."

What was he trying to achieve? Wasn't that obvious? "Him getting back to normal." He responded.

Harry didn't like the look in her eyes as she responded. "Back to normal." she repeated. "You're referring to his pre-War self, I presume?"

At his nod, she sighed. "Have you realised that, whether we like it or not, he is a slave now, and that will never change? It is a bit unfair to ask some things of him, and to expect some things of him."

Harry had chosen her because he thought she'd be different, and not have all these prejudices. "He's smarter than most normal people." He lashed out.

She nodded. "I never said he was not. But expecting him to become, for example, superior, like you said, is unfair, when it goes against what he is, and what he'll always be."

"I hope you realise that him being back to what he was may never be possible. Experiences change people, and after one has underwent terrible trauma, it is difficult for them to recover. And even if he does, he might be a person you do not recognise. To expect him to revert back to the person you describe may be unrealistic. Even if we can get him there, it will take years, It's something we must work for as a team."

His mind raced. Was she saying that Severus would be the way he currently was forever? How could they function like that for... for forever? Until... forever? Teddy would grow and mature, and that would lighten Harry's load some... but would he be feeding Severus like a dog, and be getting requests for punishment for the rest of his life?

"Team?" he asked, instead of the millions on questions on his mind. As absorbed as Severus seemed to be in the Rubik's Cube, he didn't want to ask some of the questions in front of him.

She nodded. "From here on out, Severus, myself, and you form a team. Even if we cannot restore what once was we can hopefully get him on his way of functioning like a normal human being."

Her words gave Harry a little hope, and as they talked on he increasingly became convinced of one thing – even if therapy didn't help, it couldn't hurt. Not much could hurt, actually.

Dr. Brown made no effort to draw Severus in on the conversation, which Harry guessed was on purpose. Right now, everything that they were discussing were some little things that on what Harry could do to make Severus' adjusting easier. She did, however, speak to him when the hour was up.

"It looks like you're making progress there, Severus.'' she got up from her chair and knelt on the floor in front of him, though still a good three feet away. "Do you enjoy trying to solve the puzzle?"

Harry was stretching his back when he heard her ask this, and turned to see Severus' response.

Severus held the Rubik's cube in his hand, and was staring down at it almost guiltily."Yes, Mistress."

"Well, why don't you hand it here, and I'll put it somewhere safe where no one can mess with it. You can continue to solve it during my next visit – your master and I are going to adjust our schedules so that maybe I can come twice a week." She did not bother to mention to him like she did Harry how she thought she should come nearly if not every day, and it was only how unrealistic that was for their situations stopping that from happening.

Harry appreciated how she didn't speak to him in an unnaturally high voice, or really slowly. She spoke to him like an equal – then again, that was probably easier to do when you weren't the one bathing, feeding, and cleaning messes up after him.

Severus did not hesitate to hand her the cube that he had laboured over for an hour, "Thank you, mistress." He said, his eyes still downcast.

Dr. Brown rose, and nodded to Harry. "I'll see you next week. My 5:30 on Tuesdays is moving to Dover in several weeks, so I will be able to come early then."

Harry nodded. He didn't know when they would be able to visit her office in London – knowing Severus, he would do all his bowing and kneeling in the Muggle waiting room. He would be noticeable enough in robes, bare feet, and a head that showed off the lack of Harry's shaving skills.

"Severus." Harry said, once he let Dr. Brown out the door and went back into the sitting room. "What's wrong?"

Severus was kneeling on the carpet, and shaking a bit. "I apologise for not listening as carefully as I should have when Mistress Brown addressed me. Please punish me in whatever way you see fit.

Harry stared. Once again, Harry realised the long haul that they were in for – as a team.

Chapter Text

Severus dipped the rag into the soapy water and twisted it to wring out the excess water. The stairway was made of wood, unlike most of the floors in Master's house that were made of carpet. Earlier that morning, Master had made a comment on how dirty it was coming to be, and had sent Severus to clean it straight after breakfast.

It was the first chore Master had given to Severus. Yes, Master had ordered him about as masters did for quite some time, but he had not instructed Severus to actually work for him. It was quite relieving to have that job to do; perhaps he was getting further in his training than he had earlier realised.

One thing that was certain; this owner was different than all the others Severus had had in the past. This master did not punish him at all, lest you count the burning on Severus's forehead. Every time Severus did something wrong, which was, admittedly, quite frequently, all Master had to say was "don't worry about it". That, of course, was not only an order that took the burden off Severus, but it also made him wonder… how was Severus supposed to be trained if not through punishment? The burning on his head was only supposed to serve as a warning, a reminder of his transgressions, not the punishment alone.

He does not yell and punish like- Another thing having this master required was use of Occlumency shields one hundred percent of the time. Even at Master Mering's, Severus had not had to avoid thinking of his past life almost altogether. He kept the Occlumency shields up only to avoids listening to conversations he knew he shouldn't be hearing, not to pass out when he most desperately needed to stay conscious, and to avoid thinking of his past life only when the situation presented itself.

However, at his new master's, the opportunities to think about his past life presented themselves wherever he went. When he saw the light of the Floo glow green, the words 'Avada Kedavra', spoken in many overlapping voices (his own included) overwhelmed him. Master's bookshelf, which seemed cursed to fall over at just the slightest provocation, often spilled a book that seemed determined to bite Severus's ankle off, but Severus did not feel the pain. His mind was too preoccupied with images of a burly man who would not doubt strangle Severus if he got that chance… or images of a monster that Severus could remember chasing him down halls constantly for an entire school year. Whenever Master stepped into the room and Severus dared look at his face, he become overwhelmed with so many memories that he could scarcely breathe.

"Severus?" Master walked into the sitting room. "You all right?"

Severus did not dare look at his master's face. Instead he knelt his head to the floor. "Yes, Master." He had to be all right. Were he less than all right, Master might find that as a reason to punish or sell him.

He let out a breath he hadn't realised he was holding once Master returned to the kitchen to resume whatever it was he was doing.

That was why it was so important to keep the shields up. Not only was it wrong to think about his past life, but the numbness he had grown to associate with it had disappeared, replaced with a torrent of emotions Severus knew himself not capable of dealing with.

There was little shame in saying how exhausted Harry was. There was also little point, as the only person that'd hear him would be Severus, who would beg for punishment in a horribly twisted way, as if he were responsible. And he was, indirectly, but Severus didn't have to know that.

He was still reading The Road To Recovery, and found that contrary to what he had been thinking when Hermione first gave it to him, it wasn't boring at all. In fact, a lot of the time, Harry wondered if the writer had skills in Divination, and had looked directly at Severus when writing. It was impossible, since the writer was a Muggle, but the author really did know his stuff.

Right now, he was learning all about triggers. They were things that made Severus have panic attacks. Triggers were things seemed out of the blue, but scared Severus to death.

Like water. Harry had only managed to get Severus bathed a few times since finding him because whenever Severus confronted even the tiniest bit of water – sometimes, even the water in his bowl – he started shaking and almost stopped breathing. While Severus had always been noticeably pale to Harry, how he paled when confronted with water was terrifying.

The Road to Recovery used chocolate cake as an example. "A victim of abuse could start to panic at the mere mention of chocolate cake; simply because that was what they had for dessert once, the same day they were abused". So in other words, Severus had probably taken a shower or something right before he gained some of the numerous scars marring his body, so he associated water with that, subconsciously. It was something to talk to Dr. Brown about, to be sure.

Or maybe he's always been this way. It'd explain the greasy hair. Harry had no way of knowing – the first time he'd had that idea, he'd Owled McGonagall with it, asking her if Severus had been scared of water before all of this happened. She responded with a simple she "did not know", that she "couldn't remember him exhibiting that sort of behaviour before".

As far as the triggers went, one could only help them through the attacks and help them see that, say, chocolate cake was just a tasty confection that never hurt anyone, or just try to keep the triggering object away. Harry couldn't keep water away, as Severus had to occasionally bathe, and he needed to confront it in larger quantities than a dish bowl. Quite oddly, though, Severus never seemed to have trouble looking out the window when it rained.

Dumbledore would have known if Severus was afraid of water. As much as Harry felt manipulated by the man, he would have been lying if he said that he didn't love him. Harry had been told that his paternal grandparents were dead, and Harry knew his mum's parents had died before he was born. Dumbledore had been very much like a grandparent to him. It was hard not to miss a grandparent… especially a very helpful one.

But would anyone else alive know of Severus' issues with water? Anyone? McGonagall had been his teacher and his colleague for lots of years. And Binns. And Madame Pomphrey. What about Slughorn, who had been the head of Slytherin House when Severus was a kid? Did anyone alive know anything about Severus? Anything?

The thought made him a bit ill, actually. What if something happened to, say, Dean Thomas? Harry would be able to verify that, yes, Dean did have a habit of picking his nose when he thought no one was looking. Hermione would know about his study habits, and Seamus would know everything else about him. If Dean, for example, were in Severus' position, he'd have a lot of well-meaning people who knew about his habits and experiences, willing to help. Most people did.

It didn't look like Severus did, and that pissed Harry off. It didn't matter that Snape had never been the easiest guy to befriend; someone – an adult- should have noticed something.

Mrs. Weasley was pretty good at noticing things. She noticed things about people when she wasn't even around them. She was the one who Firecalled last night and asked if she could babysit Teddy for the following day – something stupid about missing him, and being a lonely, old empty-nester, but even Harry knew the truth; she had noticed how utterly exhausted Harry had become, and tried to help out with the load in any way that she could.

Mr. Weasley in the same way, had stopped by two nights before just after Severus and Teddy were tucked in (in their wardrobe and cot, respectfully) to drop off groceries Harry knew he could scarcely afford, and to go outside to perform maintenance work, like magically trimming the grass, which Harry had never understood, nor had he time to understand now.

His friends at school, plus Neville, did not ever come over, but Hermione sent over a week's worth of nutritive potions twice a week "just in case". Neville sent over bouquets of flowers just to liven the place up, and Luna packed up, it seemed, the most random objects she could find, to send over to entertain the baby. Ginny was responsible for the miscellany, such as cases of Butterbeer, no fewer than three Playwizard magazines for Harry to 'relax' with in his spare time (he threw them out), and a motivational poster that he hung in the sitting room; "it could be worse; you could have a caterpillar up your nose".

He loved that his friends took notice and tried to help in their own unique ways, but at the same time, it made him feel a bit depressed. Not in the fourth-year female Hufflepuff sense, but he just missed their company. They were all trying to avoid dropping in around Severus, so that there would not be no panic attacks, and he was grateful, but that didn't keep him from missing human interaction.

Harry groaned and pushed the complaints out of his mind. If he read one more page out of a textbook, or one more sentence from "the Road to Recovery", his eyes would permanently cross, and then his glasses wouldn't be doing much good anymore. He needed to get some sleep, but that meant sleeping in the sitting room where he could keep an ear out for Severus. Thatmeant acting perfectly calm and happy, so Severus wouldn't be frightened.

They had paid another visit to Severus's therapist the previous day. Severus had sat on the floor, like last time, and played with the Rubik's cube. He had done very little speaking, so most of the time it seemed like Dr. Brown was talking to either Harry or a wall, but Dr. Brown assured Harry that it was fine, and that it would just take time. She had made it very clear that Harry was to let Severus get comfortable and know that he was safe – if that meant throwing a couple harmless orders at him, and trying your absolute best to keep from yelling or getting angry around him, then so be it.

That explained why Severus was on his hands and knees, scrubbing the floor that could have been cleaned in moments through magic. The way Harry tried to think about it, it was like Filch working at Hogwarts – yeah, they could clean it with magic, or they could let someone who needed the work do it by hand.

He knew that Dr. Brown knew what she was talking about, as Severus looked more at peace scrubbing floors than he did asleep. Maybe that was because Severus didn't have terrible nightmares while scrubbing floors.

He plopped himself down on the soda, ignoring the bow Severus made

"Severus?" He tried once again to pry conversation out of Severus, which was like pulling a stuck leech off of you in potions class. "Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk on the ceiling?"

A long pause, which Harry was getting used to. "No, sir."

'Liar', Harry wanted to say. Who hadn't imagined themselves picking their way around light fixtures and climbing over doorways? But then again, Severus had claimed to never lie to owners, and as Slytherin as Harry knew Severus was, he doubted that Severus was lying about that.

"Really?" Harry yawned, stretching his back until he heard a satisfying pop. "That's cool… look, I'm going to take a nap; if you need anything, just wake me up, okay? Oh, and don't leave the house. You can go anywhere in the house, except outside… And speaking of going, you remember where the toilet is, right?" Severus had had a few problems in relation to the toilet, but normally Harry just took him there to a regular basis to avoid most of them.

"Yes, sir." Came Severus's response, just as Harry expected. Severus was rather predictable these days.

"And if anyone Floos or Firecalls or flies in… wake me up." He said as he began to doze.

"Yes, Master. Is there anything you would like me to do?"

He was barely awake as he answered. "Just... be... be good."

" Potter... I'm watching you."

"Who are you?" He looked around the surrounding darkness, trying his best to see something. Anything.

"Potter... You know who I am."

Yes, he did. He knew, and it did not scare him. It worried him, troubled him, confused him, and just about everything but scared him.

"You haven't won yet, Potter. You only think you have."

"You're wrong!" Harry said to Voldemort, wherever he was. '"I killed you a year ago. I watched you die. I watched them burn your body – if that's what you want to call it."

Contrary to being angry, Voldemort's voice softened. "Did you think that a simple Expelliarmus could kill Lord Voldemort? That simply knocking me over would do the job? Is that what you think?"

Harry reached in his pocket for his wand, and was overwhelmed with a blinding panic and hatred. How could he forget his wand? He needed his wand! And he hated himself for forgetting it.

"That's what I know, actually."

" Tell me, what makes you so convinced that there were not cooling spells involved? Other pieces of... what do you like to call it – Dark magic?" A cackle. "Or even Light magic!"

"Stop it!" Harry's words almost sounded like Parseltongue... except that they were in English. He just hissed them out. "You're dead, and your mission is completely useless, anyway. Dumbledore said-"

" Dumbledore said, Dumbledore said..." Voldemort taunted. "Tell me, what else did Dumbledore say? Dear, sweet Dumbledore..."

" Shut up!" Harry screamed.

" You're absolutely right; it is time for you to be silenced. Avada Kedavra! "

He sat upright, gulping in air. He was... he was... not in Gryffindor Tower. On a sofa. In his home. That he bought. And warded himself. Right. He was safe.

He blinked and looked around the room. It was very dimly lit only by the magical fireplace, that cracked as it burned. It was casting very creepy moving shadows on the walls of the sitting room. But it was not pitch dark, which meant that it only had been a bad dream. Just a bad dream. Because he had been stupid enough to think that a simple nap wouldn't require a dose of Dreamless Sleep.

Severus was curled up on the carpet, in front of the window. His eyes were half-lidded as he stared into nothingness, though as soon as he noticed Harry looking at him, he scrambled into his standard bow.

He's got to be freezing, Harry realised. Even though it was not winter any longer, the nights could be chilly. Severus was actually just skin and bones, with the only thing keeping him from starving to death the nutritive potion he took three times a day. His robes hung on him, and did not seem like they provided much warmth. Sleeping or even sitting underneath the window at night could make him sick.

Harry crooked his finger toward Severus. "Come here." He sat up, ignoring the head rush, and scooted forward.

Severus' eyes widened, but he did just as Harry asked, like he always did.

Harry hadn't intended on anything else happening. He had just wanted to get Severus away from the cold. If he told him to go sit in front of the fireplace, Severus might do something stupid like throw himself in. Not that he was suicidal, of course. No, of course not – he'd just misinterpret, in some insane way, what Harry was trying to tell him to do. He always did that.

And this time was no exception. "What? Snape... what're you do- No!" Harry smacked Severus' hand before pulling himself back up on the sofa, feet and all. He re-zipped his trousers back up, which Severus had somehow deemed perfectly acceptable to unzip. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

Calm down, Harry – he didn't mean it, he tried to tell himself as Severus cringed in terror. But it was hard to stop his racing heart. What had Severus been doing? What was... Harry's mind raced as he sorted through the possibilities. What in 'come here' meant 'unzip my trousers'? What was Severus trying to do?

"I-I-I apologise, master." Severus' voice shook as he bowed his head to the ground. "Please punish me in whatever manner you see-"

Enough with the punishing. Harry didn't know how Severus expected to be punished, but he wasn't going to. "No, no punishments. Look, you're not in trouble. Just... what were you trying to do?' he squirmed, bringing his hands to clasp on his knees protectively, so to be able to move them quickly to his zip if needed. "I was just trying to get you away from the window, so you could be warmer, is all."

"I apologise, sir." Severus said after some hesitation.

"Yeah, you've said that." Harry frowned at the growth of beard Severus was accumulating. It did not look right on him as all; it had to itch. He sure as hell didn't trust Severus with a blade, and magically taking it off, even while Severus was asleep, was no way to earn his trust. "Can you tell me what you trying to do?"

"It was your demeanour I misunderstood, sir. When my past masters acted as such, they were expecting me to pleasure them.' Severus' eyes flitted up briefly, before coming back down. "I could do that, for you, sir, if you would like."

"No!" Harry winced as he saw Severus jump at his suddenly raised voice. "No, look, Severus – just... I don't... I don't... ah... thanks for the offer, but no, okay? It's, um, nothing personal, but I, um..."

'I'm trying to help you get better, and that is not something you need to be doing if you're going to be getting better.'

That sounded insulting. While he could think of little worse than getting a blow-job or hand-job by Snape – especially Snape with a beard – he didn't need to insult him. '

'I will never ask you to do that - I've had a few issues, in this past year, involving, well, um, girls and sex and stuff, so I'm kind of off that right now.'

He would never confess something that personal to the man.

He looked away from Severus, trying to gain his composure, before turning back to face the emotionless shell. "It's not that I don't think that you're really great, and nice, and wonderful-" he felt like biting his own tongue off, "-but we're not going to do that, okay? It's nothing personal. You're never going to be asked to do sexual stuff by me, and you don't have to as long as you're owned by me. It's not me, not you – understand?"

Severus did not take long to respond, though he did hesitate as always. Harry wondered why he did that – was it to give Harry a chance to continue, to sort through his thoughts, or something else?

"Yes, Master."

"You understand?" Harry asked, hopefully.

"Yes, Master. I understand."

"Good." Harry said, relief flooding through him. "Um, look, I don't know what time it is, but I'm pretty sure I am late to pick up Teddy."

"It is eight o'clock, and Mistress Weasley said that you may wait to pick up young Master Teddy until morning, if that is what you wish to do." Severus spoke clearly, his tone as if he were reciting a message nearly word for word.

Harry's jaw dropped open. "How'd you know that?"

"Mistress Weasley fire-called several hours ago, Master, when you were due to pick up Master Teddy." Severus explained. "I tried to awaken you, sir, but you would not."

"And the time?"

"The clock is behind you, sir." Severus squirmed, a very not-like-Snape move, but that was why Harry mostly thought of him as 'Severus' now – because he was nothing like Snape.

"Right." Severus could still tell time, that was good. Harry didn't didn't think he'd forget, per se, but he had seemed to lose a lot of other basic skills. It wouldn't have surprised Harry. "Well, um, I'm going to go pick him up. If you want to go ahead and run your bath water, then-"

Severus blanched, causing Harry to rethink what he was saying.

"-or not. Look, it's almost your bedtime, anyway – why don't you go change into your nightshirt? I'll be upstairs in a few, I promise."

"Yes, sir."

Some days later. Severus winced and pulled away as young Master Teddy walked over to him. Master obviously did not want Master Teddy touching Severus, and normally made an effort to keep him from doing so. But right now, Master was so absorbed in his textbook that he did not notice.

"I do not think Master wants you this close, Master Teddy." Severus said, easing himself further away from the determined child. He was grateful for Master's position in this matter; even though he knew that Master Teddy would not hurt him like those older than him would, he still not not want to get touched. It burned, and reminded him of things... he did not like it at all.

"Teddy!" Master jerked up, paying attention. "Don't touch Severus."

The baby either ignored Master, did not understand his words, or did not hear him, for he took another wobbly two steps forward and tangled his hands in what was left of Severus' hair.

Severus' flinched back before he could stop himself, and as a result, the baby fell, and apparently hurt himself, as he began to cry.

And Severus' forehead burned.

"Okay, time for bed." Master spoke the words Severus dreaded. Even though it was only seven o'clock, and not the normal eight-thirty, Severus knew better than to protest, or remind his Master about that. The idea of doing so was rather laughable.

Master came over and picked up Master Teddy, his hand briefly making contact with Severus's knee, which Severus hated, but again, made no comment of as it was not his place.

"I am going to go lay him down." Master told Severus. "Why don't you get ready for your bath? I'll be down in a minute."

Master had started to make Severus get a bath every night. It was easily the worst thing Severus had encountered at this master's. So far, the most frightening still was what he had not experienced.

It occurred to Severus that Master was still waiting for an answer. This master did that a lot, whereas the other owners Severus had had just assumed Severus would comply, and rightfully so. It made Severus burn with shame to realise how much this master did not trust him.

"Yes, sir." Severus responded, feeling very small on the floor as opposed to his master's standing up height.

"Cool - and could you fill up one of Teddy's cups with water?" Master began up the stairs. "Use the kitchen sink tap - the sippy cups are well, you know where they are."

No, Severus did not. He hadn't a clue where young Master's sippy cups were kept. Whenever Severus came downstairs in the morning, Master Teddy was already in his high chair, preparing to throw his food at Severus. He kept the same cup most of the day, Severus was fairly sure.

"No, Master." He admitted.

"What?" Master turned around on the stairs, nearly falling down them as he did. "Huh? What'd you say?" He pushed his glasses up against his wide eyes.

"No, sir; I do not know where they are kept." No doubt Master thought that Severus refused him, but that was something only a bad slave would do. Severus had refused his owners once upon a time.

"Oh." Master's shoulders drooped, as if disappointed – was he eager to punish Severus? "They're, um, in one of the upper cupboards. The same one where I keep your potions."

Severus knew where that was. "Yes, Master." He watched his master disappear up the stairs, before getting to his feet and hurrying to the kitchen. His master had entrusted him with another small duty, and Severus refused to let him down.

What happens if this is your training of sorts? Severus wondered, preparing the water for Master Teddy. Even though his master said that he was there to get retrained, the training he had anticipated hadn't happened yet. Has the training already started? When would he sell you? To whom?

It was a particular worry Severus knew would never go away, regardless of how many times he was sold. For the past several months (the thought made Severus feel faint – he had only been at the Monster's for months? How was that possible?), he had depended on the grace of his owners. He had experienced everything, from the kind grace of Master Weston to the Monster's treatment. Where would he be sold? To whom, and for how much? He knew better than to hope for a terribly high amount, and yet, a part of him did.

You do not hope for anything, he scolded himself as he walked up the stairs to Master Teddy's room. You are to never wish for anything.

That was your past life – as long as it is permitted, there is no harm in wishing for what you want.

He went into Master Teddy's room, and immediately knelt, head to floor, in silence, waiting for his master to acknowledge him, as a good slave never spoke first.

"Oh, hey, thanks." He heard his master stride over, and felt him take the cup from his hand. Knowing that his wand was in such close proximity caused Severus to tense, almost painfully so.

Severus brought his head up, but waited on his knees for his master's dismissal.

Master handed the cup to the turquoise-haired child with... was that a dog or a duck snout? "Um, hey, Severus... you know, I was reading all about laws and stuff, and I'm under the impression that we can change how you bow, right?"

"You are in control of me, master." Severus spoke, making sure he kept his eyes to the ground, to show his submission.

"Wow, um, okay. So I'm thinking that since you're kind of... not so young anymore, you're probably not too comfortable on your knees all the time."

Severus was perfectly comfortable, but he knew not to argue, but to let Master continue.

"So, I don't know how'd you feel more comfortable bowing, but I thought we should at least think about it, how you'd want to change it. You could bow your head or something... we'll think on it."

Did Severus not always bow his head? Shame on him – he would have to make more of an effort to do so.

"Yes, sir."

"So, I'm gonna get him settled down. Go get ready for your bath; I'll be downstairs soon."

"Yes, sir." Severus got to his feet and hurried to obey his master, as much as he was hating what he had to do.

Getting ready for his bath was not all that complicated – it involved leaving the robes he wore in the sitting room, so that Master could clean them (they were always so scratchy after he did so), and bringing the nightshirt he wore into the sitting room as well, for him to change into after the bath (there was no room in the small downstairs bathroom for him, Master, and something they did not want to risk getting wet).

He brought the nightshirt down with him and placed it neatly over the coffee table. He then pulled off the uncomfortable woollen robes, welcoming the freedom it allowed his body. He then stood and waited on his master to descend the stairs, so they could begin on the activity Severus least enjoyed.

If there were a fellow slave or house-elf Severus could confide in, he would tell them all about why he hated baths. He would explain how he saw and felt everything that had happened to him at The Monster's whenever he was in the bath. He would explain how he had this constant worry that his Master would submerge him under the water, and the spidery burning feeling that went over his skin as Master touched him. He would be fully free to vent about how he was to breathe in such close proximity to his master, and of how terrified he got when his master touched areas that were only noticed by owners for few purposes – it was easily the one part of his body he had the least control over, and he hated it for that. He would talk about how even if his master left him to take a bath himself, he'd hate it – because there was water involved. There was also the fact that since he had not died through curses, it would be through water, of course – and that was something else he was afraid of.

But there was no one to talk to. No house-elves, no other slaves. Severus was all alone, in the world he had. Completely alone.

Master jogged down the stairs and went into the bathroom, not taking note of Severus' presence.

Severus rose from his bowing position and followed, his body cold. He could feel himself shaking in dread of the task he had to complete.

He watched as Master placed the plug in the drain, and adjusted the temperature on the water. The roaring sound the water made as it came out of the tap and hit the bottom of the tub filled his ears, and made the anxiety of waiting all the worse.

"It's not too hot, don't worry." Master assured Severus, or at least, attempted to. Truth be told, Severus would much prefer the water to be boiling, over it being cold. The People at the Monster's had always used cold water, water that nearly froze his lungs.

A burning filled his forehead. He was worrying, which his master had strictly told him not to do just moments ago. It made a sense of hopelessness fill him, down to his very core; would he ever learn?

"Severus?" Master's voice distracted him out of his thoughts. "The water really is fine, I promise. I'd never lie to you."

Unless that is a lie on it's own, he permitted himself to think before bringing up the Occlumency shields even higher, with a determination to keep them that high at all times. He had gotten to be a good slave by employing the use of that skill – it was obviously the only way he could improve. He just needed to keep raising them as needed.

"Severus?" His master tried, over the water's roar. "What are you doing?"

Severus' breath hitched, and he was unable to breathe. Of all the times for his master to ask such a question! None of his masters had ever asked him that before, so he had never had the worry that... oh Merlin.

"Raising my Occlumency shields, master." Severus answered quietly, wishing his master would stop speaking for a short while so Severus could raise the shield's strength enough to keep that part off his mind that worried closed off. As worry was something that he literally was doing all the time, it took much effort.

"Oh..." Master's voice faltered. "Um, Occlumency?"

Weak. Arrogant. Your father was a swine. You are the most incompetent human I have ever had the misfortune of meeting. Lazy. Legillimens!

"Yes, sir." Severus fought again his mind, willing his mind to turn away the torrent of words that built up in his mind.

"Oh." Was his master's only words of response. No questions of why, no forbidding it. It seemed that he just accepted it. It was a pleasant surprise, actually. Did that mean that Severus would be allowed to Occlude his mind? He could not recall ever being this relieved. Still though, he had to check, just to make sure he would being obedient as possible.

Because he was trying to become a good slave again.

"Master?" He asked, hesitantly. His master did not seem to have a problem with him speaking when spoken to, though it was still a great risk speaking when not first spoken to. It was disrespectful. Bad manners meant that you did not respect your master, which meant that you were as terrible as a slave as you could get.

"Mmm?" Master sat on the shut lid of the toilet, watching the tub full with water, a sight Severus took pains to avoid.

Severus shifted his feet on the tiled floor – they thankfully did not hurt as much on the chilled tile as they did on other floors. "May I Occlude?" He made certain not to add 'my mind' – it was not really his mind, of course. Many owners were lenient about their slaves saying 'my this', and 'my that', but it was wrong, so Severus chose not to say it.

How he wished he had been able to ignore his conscience, and not ask his master, not risking the ability he so desperately clung to!

"What? You said that you were already doing it, right?" It seemed Master was being interrupted from deep thought. "Go ahead – I don't have a problem with- damn, the water's probably cold." He reached out and turned the tap off. "Why don't you get in? And yeah, no problem with the, um, Occlumency."

Severus' relief was great, and he spent a few moments, after thanking his master, trying to keep his thoughts, emotions and worry down. It was a slave's job to obey on an instant, and to show little emotion, and no resistance doing so. That Severus had to spend several moments kicking his well-practised Occlumency skills up a little higher to do those things was hopefully no problem to his master – he was getting retrained, after all.

"Severus," Master prodded after several moments. "The bath."

Yes... the bath. Severus lifted as shaky foot off the floor and placed it in the tub, and then the next. He gripped a bar on one side of the tub, preparing to lower himself down.

He nearly slipped when he felt his master's hands fall firmly on his hips. He cried out in panic at the touch, and hated the feeling the touch caused. But he squashed the panic, as well as the accompanying thoughts, almost as quickly as they came. The level of Occlumency he was using was mainly for blocking incoming thoughts, not for blocking out your own mind. But it would never get out of control, Severus would see to that.

Because it was not really his mind, was it? It belonged to Master, and Severus had to do everything he could to to make sure it respected Master's wishes.

Occlumency. Why the hell would Severus be using Occlumency?

Harry knew that Severus knew Occlumency - there was no way Severus would have been able to spy on Voldemort so successfully without being good at Occlumency. Voldy had obviously expected Severus to be good at Occlumency too, because he thought that Severus was spying on Dumbledore, one of the greatest Legillimens in the world... what a crazy life the man in front of him had lived.

Well, maybe he's hiding his thoughts from you. He noticed Severus was having his routine trouble getting into the tub. He had done better than usual, only needing brought out of his panic once.

He reached out. "I'm going to touch you." He warned.

He wasn't able to see the man's face, but touching Severus was not a big deal most of the time now - for Harry, at least. Severus was clean, and unable to help himself due to paralysing fear, so Harry had taken to doing things he had never imagined doing. Really, it wasn't that much different from bathing Teddy, except that Teddy moved too much, and Severus not enough.

I'm not a Legillimans, Harry grabbed the plastic cup he used to wash Severus' hair with, and filled it up with water from the tap after supporting Severus as he lowered into the tub. What good is keeping your thoughts secret from someone who already knows them, anyway?

The stunned Nagini had still managed to bite Severus, one stunning spell not enough to stop the large snake. But the bite had not been deep enough to have Severus lose too much blood, nor had the dazed snake released enough venom to kill. The memories Severus had given to Harry in a panic were, in a way, now Harry's memories as well.

And I just asked him what he was doing and he told me, he realised as he poured the water around Severus; shoulders that frighteningly showed bones through his skin that Harry didn't even know where there. At any given time, he'd tell you whatever you want to know... so why Occlude?

Unless it was purely out of habit, it didn't make sense. He couldn't be hiding them from Harry or Teddy - it was a ridiculous notion - and there was no one else around... it didn't make sense, and yet, Harry didn't want it to. If he asked, chances were that Severus would indeed tell him, and Severus deserved to have some things to himself. That was why Harry hadn't read the mile long file about how many fevers Severus had ever had - Severus had no dignity, it seemed, and if he thought Harry knew everything about him, he doubted Severus would get any of it back.

"We haven't washed your hair in awhile." He put his hands on Severus' shoulder, ignoring the flinching, trying to get him to lean back against the tub. "Do you think that we ought to do it tonight?"

He knew that Severus would tell Harry that it was up to Harry, but little did Severus know that if Severus said he didn't want to have his hair washed, it wouldn't be washed, no questions asked. Not that there was a ton of hair to wash, as Harry had chopped it about an inch from Severus' skull, and it looked terrible. Hermione had been worried about the nutritive potion and the hair regrowth potion mixing, so it would just have to grow out the natural way... lucky for Severus, the nutritive potion helped it grow faster than average.

"If that is what you wish to do, sir." Being called 'sir' by Severus was just a cruel fate with a twist, as Harry had been calling Severus that just a year ago. It would be unlikely that Harry would ever have a chance to do that again, as it was hard to call someone 'sir' when you were the one to scrub away the dead skin from below the waist.

He picked up the baby Muggle shampoo he used for both Teddy and Severus - using his wand for suds would scare Severus, and Teddy's eyes were too sensitive - and placed it on the edge closest to him. But he wouldn't begin washing the hair, not yet - it seemed to be Severus' least favourite part, so they would save it for last. Otherwise, Severus would freeze up too much to finish the bath.

"So," he tried to make conversation as he lathered a flannel. "In a few days, we're going to Dr. Brown's again - remember what we talked about? No bowing towards anyone. You can bow to her once we get into the actual office, if you want, but not in public. We don't want anyone to get too disturbed... they're Muggles, and don't understand about slavery."

"Yes, sir." Severus belatedly responded, as if he hadn't heard Harry until a few moments too late.

Harry sighed as he used the cup to rinse off Severus' neck. Making conversation with him seemed impossible, but since Dr. Brown encouraged it... even though she wasn't too encouraging, herself. So far, all of their sessions had been spent with Harry and Dr. Brown going over what they knew about Severus' past and future, and trying to make a plan - Severus tried to solve the Rubik's cube, and paid little attention to them. It was almost like-

The cup slipped from his hand, and landed on Severus' lap. Severus jumped, almost standing up as he squealed in surprise. He quickly recovered though - and looking down at Severus' lap, Harry frowned.

"Severus, does that hurt?" He reached down slowly to pick up the cup, which had moved outside Severus' lap, thankfully. Just the same, having Harry's hand nearby caused Severus to flinch.

"I do not understand what you mean, sir." Severus admitted. "And I am sorry for my reaction. I was startled, though I realise that is not an acceptable excuse. Please punish me however you see fit."

Harry ignored the apologies. "Your foreskin looks kinda gross; we haven't been taking care of that really, have we? When's the last time you washed underneath it?"

Silence. Harry suddenly felt like a parent having to explain to a young boy about penile hygiene. The problem was that in this case, Severus and Harry both should have known better.

"I've not a fair concept of time any longer, Master." Severus confessed. "Please punish me however-"

"Roll it back." Harry sighed. Yet another thing to put on the list of the Care and Keeping of Severus list. It was a job that never ended.

How had Severus not addressed that problem before? It was almost like Severus was able to not pay attention at all. As if he was able to block his mind entirely from reality, which could help a lot in some situations. If Harry didn't have to think all the time, his life would be a lot easier. He couldn't block out his own thoughts... but Severus probably could. Harry knew he could. He was now.

Occlumency shields.

Suddenly, a lot of things began to make a lot of sense, and Harry began to, not for the first time, feel way out of his league.

Chapter Text

"I just don't know how to convey to him that there are things he doesn't have to do, and there are things he does." Harry glanced over at Severus, whose dark eyes were focused on the Rubik's Cube. "And he doesn't even seem to be listening again!" He let out a sigh of frustration.

Dr. Brown pushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear. "What I would focus on is the care and safety. Constantly let him know that your home is his home, and that he will not come to harm there. You cannot say it because I am sure he is used to meaningless words."

"But how can I show it when he thinks I'm constantly ordering him around?" Harry complained. "Every three minutes, it's 'Severus, do this' or 'I think it'd be a good idea if you would...'."

"By speaking softly and calmly, by never yelling at him or giving him harsh punishment. By praising him and not confusing him by complaining about the workload when he is in earshot."

"He's in earshot now." Harry pointed out.

Dr. Brown nodded. "Yet, I do not think he is listening in the slightest. You say he used to be a Potions teacher?"

The title was actually 'Potions Master', which was just another old-school name for 'teacher'. Potions Master- how unfunnily ironic. "Yeah."

"Potions require intense concentration to make, I hear."

They did. That's why Harry sucked at making them.

"Perhaps it's years of practice that is keeping him from hearing us. And helping him solve that Rubik's Cube."

Years of practice and a brilliant mind. An extremely brilliant mind. Harry had lain awake for nights, trying to figure out exactly how Severus was using Occlumency. It caused him not to hear some things, Harry was pretty sure, or maybe just tune them out. Was it how Severus kept from lashing out at him, by maybe surrounding himself with fake thoughts so that it did not seem like he was really there? If he took all the Occlumency shields down, would he be Snape again?

That was another thing that worried Harry. Yes, he would rather Severus be Snape than Severus the slave, but he also didn't want to go through all this blood, sweat, tears, and hard work to end up with Snape. He wanted to end up with a happy and healthy Severus, but was that really possible? What if Snape had not just been conditioned to be mean - what if he was really just mean? The idea crushed Harry. After all of this, he wanted Severus to stick around, not leave him.

That worried Harry even more. He had come to accept that he cared about Severus, but that would imply that he really did, that he cared for him as a friend, or something. After all, Harry cared about the squirrels running up and down the trees outside, but he did not care for them as he did Teddy, or Ron, or Hermione... or Severus.

He explained to Dr. Brown everything he knew about Occlumency, which was, admittedly, not much. He had learned very little under Snape's tuition, something that was both of their faults.

"So, I don't know if it's helping him solve that Rubik's Cube or not, but I'm pretty sure it's what is making him completely ignore us now." Harry said. "And what makes it so damn hard to get his attention on occasion. It all makes sense."

Dr. Brown nodded. "Do you have any books on the subject of Occlumency? It sounds like a very interesting subject, and something that if we were to tackle, we would want to know plenty about." She bit her lower lip. "I would be hesitant to say anything to him about it, or encourage him to take down his Occlumency shields at this point. That could end in a potential disaster."

Harry's thoughts exactly. "So, what's next? I mean, as far as his head goes. I think I've figured out everything else out to this point. I'm adding rice baby food and maybe super mushy porridge to his nutritive Potion starting soon, just in the morning or at noon or something, to kind of wean him off justthe nutritive Potion. And I'm going to start paying extra attention to his, um, health." He coloured slightly as the events of several nights ago came back to him. After cleaning Severus' foreskin with his bare hands of all things, he had Firecalled Hermione for suggestions, who told him what sort of potion to use. It took forever to brew, so instead of brewing it, she sent Ron to Madame Pomfrey to ask for some... who did not believe that it was for Severus until afteran examination. Ron was going to kill Harry... but it wasn't Harry's fault that apothecaries were not open overnight.

Anyhow, between the daily cleaning and applying cream, Severus and Harry were officially much closer than Harry would have liked - thank God Severus could now apply to cream on his own. But if he did not get over his fear of water, the other job was Harry's for life.

"I think," she said through pursed lips as she thought, "I think that we should try solo."

Solo? "Huh?"

"I think that we should try our next session with just Severus and I." she paused to take a sip of her water. "See if that helps him open up. He is not going to start recovery until we know how to help him, and we will not know that until we know what he has been through."

Those words struck a chord with Harry. Harry knew that Severus had been through a lot - the scars on his body, some which had to have been required while a slave, were proof of that. Something had to have happened to Severus to make him think that being chained up on the floor was okay. And Harry had already told Dr. Brown that he was fairly sure that if Weston hadn'traped Severus, he had done other inappropriate things... but what happened that Harry didn't know about? How could he try to understand and help, if he didn't know?

"Good idea." Harry nodded. "So when he tells you stuff, that means he gave it up voluntarily and didn't feel forced by me being here. Then, you can tell me what he said and-" he stopped as she began to shake her head. "What?"

"He needs someone to confide in." She explained. "He is afraid to confide in you, and no wonder - you are entirely able to squash him like a bug."

"But I won't." He protested.

"He does not know that." she reminded Harry gently. "I can tell you how to change things at home to better things, and I can recommend to him that he tell you something. I can ask if I can tell you something, even. Patient/Doctor confidentiality is in the job description, Harry. That goes for men, women, children... and slaves." she paused. "Think about it; he is a grown man, and has virtually no privacy at home. The sense that he's entitled to some - that you respect the need for it - will go a long way."

She had a point, as usual. "But how can I give him more privacy at home?"

"Don't." Was her stern answer. "Like we have discussed, he is mentally unstable. I know you say he's harmless, but we have no idea his background, the extent of the abuse... the Dark Mark alone gives us reason not to trust him further than we can throw him." She cleared her throat, flushing slightly. "A figure of speech, of course. And there is his health to keep in mind - after explaining to me what happened last week, it makes me wonder if you have gotten him in for a physical?"

No. It had flitted across his mind, before realising how few medi-wizards probably saw slaves. It would have to be a Squib. He explained this all to Dr. Brown.

"Just be prepared to pay for it." she warned. "I highly doubt the Ministry will pay for a slave's healthcare."

Harry's dad and Sirius were probably spinning in their graves at how Harry was spinning their money, but like Harry had pointed out before, Sirius did not have a grave, so they were in the clear there. "So next week, just you and him?" Harry asked, already planning on how he could take Teddy with them and keep him entertained in the waiting room. "I'll just..."

"I will need you to wait in the waiting room." she said. "Normally, you might be able to spend the hour out and about, but I need you nearby, in case he unleashes magic or something else occurs."

Wonderful. Unleashing magic. Was that what she expected him to do? Boy oh boy. He stood up and shook her hand. "Thank you."

She simply inclined her head before speaking. "Harry, how are you holding up?"

How was Harry holding up? He was tired, needed a good hot shower, was worried about Severus's mental health and what weird thing he would do next, about Teddy and his future, and was sick and tired of porridge for breakfast, but didn't know how to cook anything else. But he was also fine. Just fine.

"Um, okay, I guess?" Harry said. This was a really personal question she was asking him, and he wasn't inclined to give personal answers to anyone. Even talking to Ron and Hermione about super personal stuff wasn't something he did - most guys probably didn't.

"I was just asking because, you're looking very tired, and I cannot help but comment on something I have noticed, if you do not mind." She said, crossing her legs.

Oh shit. She's going to ridicule me. Tell me I'm taking on too big of a load, that I'm biting off more than I can chew, that-

"I have noticed that you have changed very much in the few short weeks you've had Severus."

Short weeks? What planet was she living on? Mars? Pluto? It had been some of the longest weeks of Harry's life. The days went by lightening fast sometimes, but the weeks themselves went by like years.

"You have seemed to become a bit more sensible, and more practical, in the past couple of weeks." She said. "That is a good thing. I just thought you would have wanted to know."

In other words, Harry, you are less of an idiot. Congratulations. Snape always wanted you to grow up, and now, thanks to Severus, you finally have started. "Um, thanks, Doctor?"

"Severus? Severus, are you still with us?" She strode over to Severus and knelt before him, though several feet away.

That caught his attention, though. He immediately knelt his head to the ground, sitting down the Rubik's Cube on the floor.

She shook her head. "You have bowed once already, which was very nice of you, by the way. I'm flattered. But you can sit up, now."

Severus did, and looked nervously over at Harry.

Harry forced a smile and nodded, hoping Severus would see that as consent to do whatever. Apparently, judging from Severus's reaction - widening of the eyes, tensed body - it was the wrong gesture.

"Have you been listening to a word your master and I have been saying?" Her smile never wavered as she shifted on her feet, no doubt tired as she squat.

Severus hesitated, his dark eyes filled with uncertainty. "No, mistress." He finally said. "I-I did not realise that I was supposed to - I thought that I was to not listen." He bowed again. "Please forgive me. I will ask my master to punish me at a later time."

Why would I bother to bring you here if you weren't supposed to listen to the conversation?It was actually good, because Harry didn't think they had really wanted Severus to hear some of that conversation.

"It's all right." Dr. Brown shook her head. "You have been very busy trying to solve that Rubik's Cube - are you making any progress?"

Harry glanced over at the multi-coloured cube - one side was completely solid, but the rest was still all messed up.

"I am trying to, mistress." Severus winced. "I am very sorry. Please-"

Harry couldn't take another apology in this quarter of the hour. It was as Severus was on a loop tape, constantly. "No one is forcing you to solve it; she thought that you might enjoy it."

Severus bit his lip, a lip that was already fairly bruised and cut, torn from the same behaviour.

"May I see the Rubik's Cube, Severus?" Dr. Brown didn't wait for the skin on Severus' lip to burst as he agonised over things. "This session's over - I thought I might put it on the shelf until next time." She glanced over at Harry. "Your master will talk to you about that."

Severus slowly handed over his project - Harry noted how Severus shook as he got close to Dr. Brown, then dropped it in her hand before wincing, shrinking away. It was a bit stupid - it wasn't like she was going to hit him or anything. He knew that.

Harry lead Severus out of the office, out of the waiting room. Severus did not bow to anyone in the waiting room, though they still stared. Probably not only because of his behaviour, but because of the robes he wore.

"Severus, remember how we're going to the Weasley's tonight?" Harry gripped Severus' wrist so to not lose him as they stepped out onto the busy London streets.

Severus jerked back at the touch before a glazed look came over his eyes and then disappeared as quickly as it came. Harry had never noticed Severus do that before. "Yes, Master." Severus spoke almost too quietly to hear.

"Well, we need to go pick up a few things to take to the Burrow with us." Harry explained. "I thought we could find you something else to wear, too - if you want, of course." It occurred to Harry that Severus might be more comfortable in simple trousers, rather than robes, what with all of the crawling around on the floor that he did. "Ready to go?"

It took him a moment to realised that Severus' way of answering was to close his eyes tightly, to prepare for the apparition.

Harry had a good feeling about that solo thing. After all, it couldn't get much worse. It seemed he was thinking that a lot lately.

Severus followed Master down the cobblestoned street, He had to be careful not to stub his bare toe on any of the stones, and to avoid getting his toes stepped on by those passing by.

In the wizarding world, everyone knew who his master was. They knew he was a great man who had done great things. That made shopping taxing on his master, quite evidentially. Every few minutes, someone would co