Severus Snape moaned quietly, when a brutal man opened the barred door a bit and jerked him to his feet with a sudden move. Barely able to move his stiff legs, the former Death Eater followed the guard. The stay in the cell only underlined the pallor of his face and the slimness of his build.
The man stopped before the door, but only with difficulty. The wizard that led him – nearly like a dog on a leash – pointed his wand at him. The noticeable traces of imprisonment disappeared. The guard opened the door and led him into the other room.
The clanking of the manacles brought Severus back to reality. He stood on a small dais and several other men awaiting the same fate were standing beside him. He could recognize some of the faces. For a moment he wondered why Lucius is not among them.
The second door opened. The man he has never seen before during his stay here led in several people. In contrast to himself, they were healthy, rich… and free. If he wanted, Severus would be able to hear their conversations. He didn't do it. The habits of the years of spying were strong, but the fear was even stronger.
One of "them" stopped in front of Severus. He could feel his gaze upon himself and realized again what he must look like. At least he was clean. But his entire clothing was composed of a rag wrapped around his hips. The man coughed.
'What is his name?'
'Severus Tobias Snape. A Death Eater-'
'How much?' the man standing in front of him cut in.
The man unknown to Severus had to be the seller. A shiver ran down Severus's back. It was one thing, to be taught the role of a slave by the way of beatings and torture, a completely another – to be a slave. The man standing in front of him was getting impatient – Snape could see him tapping his foot. An idiotic reflex, he thought, but quickly pushed that thought down.
'Two thousand Galleons' the seller said at last.
Snape heard the clanking of the coins – the man standing in front of him did not hesitate at all. The man that had just sold him pushed a parchment scroll into the hand of the buyer. Severus noticed a brand-new wedding ring on the owner's hand. His owner's.
'Name?' the seller asked.
The buyer made a bizarre sound, something like a cross between a laugh and a sigh.
'Harry James Potter'
Severus was so shocked that he was close to jerking his head up and staring into Potter's face. He stopped himself using his willpower. Since the new law was in motion, Severus had no rights. He was a traitor. A murderer. A slave.
The quill scratched when the seller filled out line after line. Owning a slave was allowed to select few. The few that were rich and well seen by the new Ministry of Magic, or rather, by the blue-collar workers. Severus doubted that it was Kingsley Shacklebolt who thought of slavery.
'Severus Tobias Snape, born on… Hey you! When were you born?'
Snape recited every fact demanded of him in a neutral voice, and then stood and watched as Potter signed the magically binding contract. He closed his eyes. To be Potter's slave! The Boy-Who-Lived passed the document back to the seller. The chains holding Severus disappeared.
'I can do what I want with him?' Potter asked.
'Yes, yes, of course, sir' the seller was rubbing his hands with glee. Severus did not have to see his face to know he'd see a cruel glint in the man's eyes.
Potter reached with his hand and clamped it on Severus's thin wrist. Didn't he know the magic made his escape impossible? Severus bent his head and concentrated on counting his footsteps to stop further thoughts in this vein.
Snape felt a familiar sensation of apparating. His owner was holding his wrist the entire time. A thought flashed through his head, what would Potter do? When he regained his sight, he saw a calm rural landscape instead of the dark walls of a cell. He stood on a narrow road leading to a house that seemed familiar… Severus forcibly stopped this feeling. Nothing good came out of delving in the past.
'That's my home' Potter said.
'Yes, master' he muttered, like he was taught to.
Severus noticed the Boy-Who-Lived took a step back.
'What?!' his voice was filled with shock and outrage. 'I am not a master. Not even to Kreacher.'
'You are my owner, master' he replied in a neutral tone.
Potter hissed, frustrated. Severus guessed he is furious.
'Call me Harry' Severus shook his head. 'It can be even Potter, like at school' another shake of the head 'Well, let it be'
Potter walked briskly toward the house. Before he reached for the door-handle, the door opened and the red-haired woman ran outside. Severus, walking towards them, forced himself not to think of Lily. Otherwise he'd go mad. The force of the hug he was welcomed with turned Potter around. Is she Potter's woman? – Severus wondered for a moment, while walking inside behind his owner.
'Can you contact Hermione? You remember that law most of the Ministry were so stubborn about?'
'Of course I do. Slavery, what an idea! One guy tried to persuade Mum to buy a slave. She declined, of course.'
'Look who I found among those poor souls'
Snape saw eyes widening in shock before he directed his own gaze at the floor.
'Headmaster Snape?! How?! Where?!' it seemed the woman had lost her ability to converse. There was something familiar about her. 'Harry James Potter, what is that supposed to mean?!'
'I found him. At an auction in the Ministry. I'm sure it's him. I couldn't have left him. He doesn't deserve that.'
'Then why did you buy him?!'
'To free him, of course'
'Harry…' the woman softened immediately 'you're an Auror, but that doesn't mean you have to save everyone!'
'Snape has done so much for us all… We'll just give his freedom back and it's all. He doesn't deserve that.'
Severus swallowed. Were he a different man, his eyes would fill with tears.
'Master Potter, I'm afraid it is not possible.'
'What?!' a few years back, Severus would have thought Potter's and the woman's reactions laughable.
'The law does not allow freeing a slave, master Potter' Severus said neutrally.
'Even if the owner wishes so?!' the woman shouted, gesturing wildly with her hands – Severus noticed a wedding ring.
'There are no exceptions to the law, mistress Potter…'
'Call me Ginny'
Severus blinked his eyes. He knew this name from somewhere. He did not reply.
'He doesn't seem to recognize you. Did you have classes with him?'
'I did. You don't remember Miss Weasley? Ginny Weasley?'
Oh… Severus looked away. Of course he remembered. It seemed she was Mrs. Potter now. A happy wife of the Boy-Who-Lived. From rags to riches and so on. A romantic fairytale for the next generations.
'I remember, mistress Potter.'
'There is nothing to be done for sure?' Potter asked.
Severus shook his head, not daring to look in his face. The Boy-Who-Lived made a choked sound and raced out of the room, his wife following. Severus went in their footsteps… only to find Potter, who was white as a wall, in the bathroom. His skin contrasted with his black, messy hair.
Before Severus understood what he is to do, Potter vomited. Ginny was at his side in the next moment, massaging his back and giving him a glass of cold water that didn't help noticeably. Potter was muttering in a disjoined way between the attacks – Snape caught his own name.
'Shack… Snape… Nagini… memories… look… Lily…'
The boy vomited again, and Severus realized at last that Potter must be seeing Nagini bite him. It couldn't be a pleasant sight. Snape lifted his hand without conscious action to his neck, to the scars the snake's attack left upon him. He barely survived. He came round in the cell…
'Please leave' Ginevra Potter said quietly, and he automatically did as he was ordered to, closing the door behind him.
Severus Snape woke up, covered in cold sweat and with the sound of his own heart hammering in his ears. He blinked his eyes, looking around, expecting to see the walls of the cell. After a moment he realized he was out of this hell on earth, that he was no longer the plaything of the guards. They had been worse than the Death Eaters – maybe their methods had been slightly less drastic, but they had known what they had wanted.
In the moment the thought passed through his head, a shrill cry drilled itself into his ears. Severus closed his eyes, sure that the whip would fall upon his back in a second. When nothing happened, he opened the eyelids he had screwed tightly shut. He slowly came back to himself.
He was in Potter's house. Most probably he had fallen asleep in the corridor after last evening, when the Boy-Who-Lived decided to vomit upon hearing he cannot help him. Snape allowed himself to snort. Like anyone cared about the fate of the former Potions Master…
The door slammed. Potter, in his pyjamas and his glasses crooked on his nose, ran close by. Severus followed. The sounds did not grow quieter, quite the opposite – he had to be closer to their source. He had realized nobody is being tormented here – it was a child crying. But what was a child doing here?
The wedding rings of Potter and his wife – Miss Ginny Weasley – were brand-new. And Ginny was surely not pregnant when she had led the self-called supporters of Potter – so-called Dumbledore's Army. Curious what they think now that it is clear that Albus was not such an angel, he thought.
Severus walked to the open door. A central place in a newly painted room was occupied by a child's crib. A boy with light brown locks was standing in it and reaching his tiny hands towards the wall, upon which a picture was hanging. Snape came closer, intrigued by the child's behavior.
'Quiet, quiet, Teddy. Ssh… ssh… everything's all right…' Potter took the child out of the crib in a practiced way and hugged him.
The boy did not want to stop wriggling though. He was bigger than Severus thought at first. Not having much experience with children, he would think him around a year old. Maybe older. The hair color did not match Potter's brat either… as if more Potters were needed…
'Mummy…' the boy started shrieking louder, waving his fist in the direction of the wall 'Want mummyyy…'
Potter said nothing, just hugged the child closer to him, staring over his head at the picture. Severus took a deep breath and stood on the other side of the crib, out of the line of sight of the mystery child. The photo showed a man and a woman. Their faces seemed familiar to Severus, but he could not remember any details in his current state. He coughed to divert his owner's attention to himself.
'You know it's impossible, Ted… Well, enough, ssh…' Potter stopped and turned his head the other way 'Yes, professor?'
'You don't have to call me that, master Potter' the elder wizard shifted his weight from one foot to the other.
The question 'so what?' was only too clearly visible in the eyes of the Boy-Who-Lived, but Severus was quiet.
'Can I call you Severus?' Potter asked after a long while.
Snape was silent. It was his owner's decision, not his. The owner can do anything. He thought he ought to be happy that Potter is not calling him "you, slave".
'What did you want to ask, Severus?' Potter repeated between the child's slowly quieting cries.
'I suppose… I am not sure, master… that I had known the people from the photo, master Potter'
Severus saw his owner's eyes darken. He looked at the photo, blinking to hide the tears. Then Potter bent over the child.
'Who's that, Teddy?' he asked, pointing at the man in the picture.
The boy presented a wide smile filled with small white teeth, clapped his hands like it was a good game, and replied 'Daddy!' The Boy-Who-Lived ruffled the child's hair, but the smile did not appear on his face.
'Where is mummy, Ted?' the child waved his hand in the direction of the photo 'And what is Daddy's name?'
'Remy!' the child squealed and then started waving a stuffed wolf plushie that was laying in the crib a moment ago.
Potter shifted the child's weight to his hip and turned to Severus, apparently waiting for a reaction. The man himself furrowed his brow. So the child isn't Potter's? He was enlightened in the next moment. The man from the picture had light brown hair and noticeable scars. He knew that face! He had a word that was not a name on the tip of his tongue… His owner threw him a warning look, as if he could read his thoughts.
'Remus Lupin' Snape said at last and then it hit him. Lupin's brat! The woman from the picture had to be the wolf's wife. He was sure he had taught her once, he had her name on the tip of his tongue… 'Miss Tonks…'
The boy started to cry again, as if he recognized the name. His hair changed color to black – exactly like Potter's – when he burrowed his head into his caregiver's arm. It explained why the brat had a bracelet on his wrist. A metamorphomagus. Severus did not envy the Potters having to care for a brat that could change his looks.
The Boy-Who-Lived sighed heavily, looking at the photo, and then slowly walked down the stairs. Ginny had just set the last platter on the table. Severus was surprised at seeing a muggle high chair. Potter placed the child in it swiftly, and pushed aside his wife's chair for her. It could be noticed he was gloomy though. Feeding the boy was not the easiest of tasks, as soon became apparent.
'Teddy Remus Lupin, if you do not stop throwing food, there will be no play!' Potter said at last, irritated.
Severus lifted his head from his portion. He ate kneeling on the floor – Potter's wife threw him a look full of shock and indignation, but did not speak, only pursed her lips in a displeased manner. He didn't mind, he had eaten the same way in the cell. In no way could he sit with his owner at the same table! Not mentioning the fact that this way Lupin's brat was not throwing food at him…
The threat was successful. The child ate the rest of his breakfast quite calmly and then started to demand play. His hair was still black, and his eyes became brown. Snape could have taken him for the Potters' child.
'Who that?' the child squealed staring at him with wide open eyes.
Severus was so surprised that he overturned his platter. Luckily it was empty. He looked at his owner nervously. What would Potter say? The Boy-Who-Lived crouched down, to be level with the child.
'Ted, this is Severus. He will be helping us. Just like we are helping your Nana'
The child was not yet at the stage of unending questions. He simply nodded his head and started to chase his plushie wolf, directed by a Ginny Potter smiling a doting smile, animatedly around the room.
Her husband's gaze softened for a moment. One movement of the wand sent the dirty dishes to the kitchen. Severus made a step in that direction, but a gesture of his owner stopped him. Potter opened the door leading to what was obviously his own room. The Firebolt stood in a corner, a poster of some quidditch team hung on the wall – Severus was never interested in this plebeian sport – and the desk was cluttered by pieces of parchment.
'Paperwork' Potter sighed, moving a stack aside.
He gestured for Severus to sit down on the other chair. He didn't move. The Boy-Who-Lived didn't allow himself a comment – instead he pulled an old issue of the Prophet out of the drawer. Was he collecting rubbish? – Severus thought sarcastically.
'You're probably wondering why I did not drag you out of that…' the Gryffindor had to be lost for words, since he just extended the hand with the paper toward him.
Snape looked suspiciously at it, but after a short hesitation he took it. Potter had saved only a few pages. On the first one the headline announced 'THE DEATH TOLL EXCEEDS 80'. The article was adorned by a picture of Hogwarts in a state much worse than he remembered it in. He glanced at the date.
3rd May 1998… only a day after he had almost lost his life. A day after Potter had defeated Voldemort. Now he could see the logic in the actions of the Boy-Who-Lived – he was supplying him information he had had no access to during the year spent in the cell.
The article was composed of an alphabetical listing of everyone that died in the battle. Nothing more, no dates nor affiliation. Severus recognized only some of the items. On the top of the list, one after another. 'Crabbe Vincent.' 'Creevey Colin.' Creevey? Wasn't it this annoying kid with the camera? – he thought and looked at the next item on the list.
Some ten-or-more names down the list. 'Lestrange Bellatrix, nee Black.' 'Lupin Nymphadora nee Tonks.' 'Lupin Remus.' What an irony of the fate for their names to appear one after another… Further down – 'Riddle Tom.' Some more names that meant nothing to him.
'Weasley Fred.' He glanced at the list again, to make sure he did not make a mistake. Just one. He would have never thought anything would be able to separate those hellish twins. For a fleeting moment he could see George Weasley's face in front of his eyes.
He read the list anew from the top, to make sure he missed nothing. Then he saw it. More or less in the middle of the list. His own name. 'Snape Severus' He swallowed, the paper falling out of his hand.
'We were sure you were dead' Potter said quietly, picking up the newspaper. His gaze stopped on those same names. To think he and Potter recognized the same people on the list of the fallen. 'We should have checked…'
His owner fell silent, staring off into space. When Severus came back to reality, a thought crossed his head, that little Lupin is now an orphan, just like the Boy-Who-Lived. Potter lifted his head.
'Severus… do not mention Bellatrix. In no circumstances with Teddy nearby. He is too little to understand.' He paused 'Have you seen Dolohov… there?'
Snape shook his head. Potter cursed.
'Andromeda expected it. Damn! I'll have to strengthen the wards. If that bandit learns about Teddy…'
'Andromeda? You mean Andromeda Tonks nee Black, master Potter?'
When the younger wizard looked at him, he thought irrationally that he had just dug a grave for himself.
'Do not remind me that Andromeda and Bellatrix were sisters!' his owner exploded. He took a deep breath. 'And never tell Teddy that. Never.'
'The boy is Andromeda's grandson' Severus realized. Only after a moment did he realized he had said it aloud.
'Exactly. And I do not want him to know that his mother was killed by his grandmother's birth sister. Damned Bellatrix!…' Potter exclaimed.
Snape swallowed. He wanted to echo that.
Severus was sitting on a sofa, tossing a plushie snitch in the direction of young Lupin, when he heard the door opening. He stiffened – the child looked at him weirdly – but relaxed a bit, when Ginny Weasley's… pardon, Potter's… voice drifted to him. I have to get used at last, passed through his head.
Potter's wife walked into the room half a step behind a young woman in a white dress. The stranger had dark curly hair made into beautiful locks. A white shawl was immediately noticeable, intricately wrapped and hiding her neck at the same time.
'What do you think about this one?' the woman asked, turning around.
'Pretty' Ginny assured her, smiling as though at a memory. 'But, for Merlin's sake, take off that shawl!'
The woman shook her head forcibly, sitting at the table. Little Lupin had to know her, for he made a beeline for her, squealing. He tried to climb onto her knees, which the stranger reacted to with happy laughter. Potter peeked into the room.
'Hi, Hermione' he said laughingly at the sight of the woman 'The wedding isn't off?'
'No' the woman fixed her shawl 'As long as the best man and the bridesmaid are going to show up…'
The Boy-Who-Lived laughed again, and his wife echoed his sentiment.
'I wouldn't miss your wedding for all the riches of the world! How is Ron?'
'Good. Mrs. Weasley… Molly… is not letting him be.'
Severus threw a ball in Teddy's direction automatically. The child jumped off Hermione Granger's knees – the man still couldn't believe she has grown up into such a lovely woman – and caught the snitch quickly.
'I'll bet' Potter said in the meantime 'Do you remember Bill's wedding? Or ours? Mum always has a preparation fever… especially now that they cannot be left to the bethrothed…'
'They can' Granger sounded affronted.
'I'm not talking about you. I mean Ron. You can't trick me, I'll bet you're choosing his ties for him. I know his style, or rather the lack of one… I've shared a dormitory with him for all those years.'
'How little faith you have in Ronald…'
Both Potter burst out laughing. The younger wizard reached for the shawl.
'Take this shawl off, Hermione, you look better without it…'
'No' Granger seemed to be stubborn.
'Calm down. We've all seen it. You don't have anything to be ashamed of, really. It can barely be seen…'
'Can be!' the woman caught the other end of the shawl, but Potter was faster and took it off.
'Eh, no, it can't be seen' Mrs. Potter concluded, looking carefully at Hermione's neck. 'Severus?'
Snape lifted his head, ignoring a quiet cry from Miss Granger – even though it seemed she was not to be one for long, he thought. He walked a bit closer and cringed upon realization of what the problem was.
There was an ugly scar on the neck of his old student – a vertical red line, running only a few centimeters from her jugular. He lifted his own hand absentmindedly and traced his own artery. Granger caught the shawl and was going to wrap her neck again, when she recognized him.
'Harry, what is Professor Snape doing here?' she asked in shock.
The shawl fell forgotten onto the floor. Potter lifted it and then coughed several times, seemingly not knowing where to begin.
'Umm… You remember how I asked you a few days ago about those new regulations' the grimace on his face left no doubts about what Potter thinks of them.
'You mean slavery? That's barbarous! I'd gladly talk to the Minister and say what I think about it, but I don't have time right now… I'm curious to what heartless bastard thought of that! It's…'
Potter lifted his hand, interrupting her tirade. Severus was not really surprised with Granger's negative attitude to the new law.
'See, I agree with you about it, but I've got a problem. Umm… I bought a certain slave to free him, and later was told that it's not possible…'
Snape jerked and averted his eyes when he felt Granger's gaze upon himself. Her eyes widened again.
'Don't be joking, Harry… but he was dead… and by the way, how could they make him a slave…' she was lost for words 'he didn't deserve it!'
Potter's lips twitched.
'I said the same thing when Severus told me what the current law is like. And judging by the way he treats us, the Ministry has to be good in brainwashing them…'
Granger furrowed her brows and then started to mutter uncomplimentary things under her breath. Probably if not for the presence of the child, she'd curse. Severus could see she was furious. He pretended the conversation is not about him and played with little Lupin all the time.
'I can try to talk to Kingsley… Harry, why don't you ask your boss?'
'I trust you more' Potter commented sharply.
'Gawain Robards has led the Aurors for years. You have to trust your superior, Harry!'
'It's not about that. I don't want the Ministry to butt in. Severus is my matter… my responsibility. I've failed enough people…' Potter bowed his head, and his wife was immediately closer, with a hand on his shoulder.
'You didn't fail anyone. You saved us all…'
'At what price?!' the Boy-Who-Lived shouted shrilly.
He tore out of Ginny's arms and fled to his room.
A few days later Severus woke in the morning in an awful mood. The entire night he was haunted in his dream by a ghost of a red haired woman with master Potter's green eyes. He remembered her name was Lily, but he didn't know what he had to do with her. What was worse, he woke up really aroused…
When he lay and tried to calm down, he heard voices. He nearly jumped out of his skin before he remembered his room was next to the masters' bedroom, which was adjacent to little master Teddy's bedroom… or so he thought.
'I talked to Robards…' Snape recognized master Potter's voice. Was Robards the auror Miss Granger mentioned? He quickly dropped the thought. He didn't like to think about the aurors or the past.
'What did your boss say?' mistress Potter said quietly.
It crossed Snape's mind that his room was so close he'd have been able to hear them making love - if not for the Silencing Charms placed in order not to wake little Lupin.
'He tried to knock some sense into my head, called me an idiot, and then he remembered I am the Boy-Who-Lived' his owner laughed bitterly 'and started apologizing'
The bed creaked – Potter turned from one side to another – and Severus tried to imagine mistress Potter's facial expression. He nearly managed, but for the fact he could see Molly Weasley in front of his eyes… It took him a moment to make the connection that Molly Weasley was Mrs. Potter's mother.
'Did you learn anything?' the woman he had once known as Ginny Weasley asked.
'Robards said I can't free him' Snape could hear muffled frustration and anger in his owner's voice 'Not because not, 'cause the law says so. Stupid law' the sound of a kick.
'Did… did your boss say anything about Malfoy?'
'Draco lives with his mother in the Manor… that's the only thing left of their entire fortune, the rest went to war repairs. Lucius is in Azkaban – by the way, those damned dementors are still there.'
'Still there?!' mistress Potter raised her voice.
'Yes. I talked to Kingsley… phoo, the Minister… He said he wants to get rid of them and the aurors had agreed. Ah, and they say Narcissa Malfoy has petitioned for visiting… I persuaded him to agree.'
'You didn't have to'
'But I wanted to. Do you remember Sirius? Nobody ought to go through it alone, maybe except Bellatrix and Dolohov.'
Severus felt frustration at the name Sirius, but despite his best wishes he couldn't remember why didn't he like it so much. He remembered what happened recently clearly, he recalled the happenings of the last year, but the ones farther fled his grasp. The farther back, the less sure he was of his memories.
'Noble as always' mistress Potter whispered. Severus heard her kiss her husband.
'Kingsley said… phoo, the Minister… that I indeed cannot free him. Such is the law and it's the end, period, and he won't change it even for me, even though he doesn't like it either.' A quiet curse 'He said I will be forced to endure Snape's presence till the end of my life, unless I send him somewhere away'
'Brilliant' he could hear sarcasm in mistress Potter's voice.
'Snape is not so bad' his owner said in a tired tone. 'It's not the man we knew… Kingsley said, phoo – '
'Let it be, most of the Order calls him by his name still'
'He said I can at least treat him like a human. I can help him. I quote "maybe in a few years he'll be like he was"'
Severus heard a muffled curse word from Ginny Potter.
'Hermione was mad when I told her. Do you remember SPEW? Her reaction was ten times worse than SPEW' Snape thought Potter had taken leave of the rest of his senses, what was the connection between SPEW and Miss Granger? 'She promised to learn how the Ministry brainwashes them. As soon as the ruckus with the wedding ends, she'll try to push a law ending the slavery…'
'Good luck to her' mistress Potter said gloomily.
Snape turned to face the wall. He could not understand the outrage of his owner and Miss Granger. It was the fate of the losers. From the depth of his memory a Latin sentence came to him – Vae victis, woe to the vanquished. He wondered for a moment from whence he knew it – because surely not from Hogwarts…?
He couldn't understand either how his master could even consider treating him like a human. He wasn't a human – he was a slave. What did Granger mean, speaking about brainwashing? He was just taught how to be a good slave.
His head hurt from all the thinking so he forced himself to fall asleep.
When Snape woke for the second time, he got up and walked to the kitchen to carry the dishes prepared by the masters' onto the dining table. He froze in place when he saw four chairs at the table instead of three. One for master Potter, one for mistress Potter and one – a high chair – for little master Teddy. Who was the fourth one for…?
He took his platter and knelt on the floor, as he was taught to. He was just beginning to eat when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned his head and dropped his gaze almost immediately – it was his owner. Did he want to forbid him from eating? He had the right to…
'Severus… this is your chair. You will eat with us at the table from now on.'
Severus froze. To eat at the table with the owner and his family? It was not to be thought by the slave.
'You are my owner, master Potter' he said finally.
'I know. And I want you to eat with us at the table, like a human.'
Snape swallowed and looked from his platter to the chair that was to be his according to Potter, and back.
'I'm not talking just for fun' his owner said, stressing the words, and Snape wondered if he would be punished in a moment. 'It was an order' Potter added, seeing his hesitation.
Severus slowly made his way towards the chair, looking the entire time at his owner's figure, like he wanted to make sure it was not a cruel prank. Just like his father – he thought. Potter watched his every move until he took the place.
When Miss Weasley… Mrs. Potter… and Lupin's son sat at the table, Snape got up to feed the boy. The woman gestured for him to sit down, and then took care of the child's breakfast by herself.
Severus ate slowly, as if expecting his owners to change opinion any moment. When he finished, Potter's wife gave him a small smile, just as she gave little Lupin one, and suggested she would take part in their game.
Potter watched his godson chasing the snitch to the last moment. He donned auror's robes – a shiver ran through Snape – he kissed his wife and the boy goodbye, and he Disapparated.
Severus was left for the first time alone with mistress Potter and little master Lupin… He was very nervous – he remembered her reaction to the fact her husband had bought a slave. Will she want to get rid of him now? She could do anything with him.
'P - S… Severus…' Potter's wife didn't seem to know how to address him. 'Is there anything else you could be doing?'
'My duty is to carry out my owner's orders.'
'I know!' the woman shook her head, frustrated 'But what could you be doing?'
'Whatever you order me to, mistress Potter'
The woman sighed heavily, and then… she sat next to Severus while he was busy throwing the ball to the child. When he realized he was sitting close to his owner, he started to change his position. He had to kneel – he wasn't her equal!
Ginny Potter reached her hand to stop him, but too late – Snape was already kneeling on the floor, avoiding her gaze. She sighed again.
'Let's look at that from this angle… you are taking care of Teddy, you play with him. We've got more time for ourselves, but… shouldn't you be doing something else, Professor? You don't have children… and from what I know, you have never taken care of them.'
'I am not your teacher, mistress Potter. I am taking care of little master Lupin because master Potter wished so. I have never taken care of children earlier, but now it is my duty.'
'And what else? Teddy does not require care twenty-four hours a day'
'My duty is to serve masters'…'
Severus curled into himself, as he could see the woman was furious.
'Do you have no other qualifications? Things you have more experience in doing than you do in taking care of the children?'
At least she stopped calling me Professor, crossed Snape's mind. He considered it for a long while.
'I can brew potions, mistress Potter' he said at last.
Severus was slowly getting used to being the Potters' slave. They treated him better than he could have expected – since two weeks they wanted him to eat with them. He had expected that master Potter would want to have his revenge on him – he certainly did remember that he was not his favorite teacher.
That did not happen, and his duties were not many – mostly taking care of little master Teddy. Cleaning, table service, washing-up and so on were done by an old house elf by the name of Kreacher – and the slave would not dare to want anything from a creature of a higher station than himself.
Now Kreacher was doing the laundry, and Snape was minding little master Teddy. Master Potter was in the kitchen, preparing something that was to be a surprise for his wife. Snape wondered briefly, why a man is lowering himself to take care of the kitchen – he was taught that it is a woman's role – but he didn't dare say anything.
His owner walked out of the kitchen, carrying steaming dishes.
'Don't worry, it's edible' he said, misinterpreting his shocked gaze.
Severus bit his tongue because he suddenly had an urge to ask how much better are Potter's dishes than his Potions were.
'I can cook. I learned long ago' for a moment a shadow Severus could not interpret came to his eyes 'and Ginny did not inherit her mother's simply magical skills in the kitchen'
Barely did the surprise snack appear on the table when the flames in the fireplace were tinged green. Snape showed no surprise – he was told that it is the date of Miss Granger's wedding, and the Potters are the best man and the bridesmaid. Instead of showing shock, he continued setting the cutlery on the table.
'By Merlin!' a voice that seemed very familiar to him, yet did not belong to the bride, exclaimed.
The slave controlled the desire to turn around and finished his task instead, standing still and staring at the floor at his owner's feet.
'Professor McGonagall… we did not expect you to manage to come' Potter said in the meantime.
'Since I became Headmistress, my lessons are not as taxing as they once were' the familiar voice replied 'You should get going if you have such important functions…'
'Is is ten already?' mistress Potter peeked out from behind the closest door 'Harry, Professor is right… What is wrong with your tie?'
'I didn't manage to tie it the right way…' Severus heard traces of held back laughter in his owner's voice.
'Eh. I'll bet those Muggles did not teach you anything…' Ginny Potter waved her wand and her husband's tie knotted itself anew. 'Is Severus coming with us?'
Potter shrugged his shoulders and turned to him with a questioning look. Snape took a deep breath but said nothing. How could he have an opinion about anything? It was his owner's decision.
'Severus Snape?' Minerva McGonagall recovered her voice 'What are you doing here?'
'I am doing whatever my owner wishes me to' he replied in an even tone, glad that he does not have to answer mistress Potter's query.
The Headmistress hissed like a furious cat.
'A slave?! I thought Severus dead! But this… this is unimaginable! If your mother could see this, Mr Potter…'
'My mother is dead. Were she alive, she would have done the same. I wanted to free him, but… the law…' Potter scowled.
Minerva hissed again. Severus did not dare to look into his former colleague's face. An uneasy silence followed, broken by mistress Potter thanking her husband for the unexpected snacks, and then Disapparating with Minerva. Potter extended his hand to him.
'What a pity you don't have a wand….' He sighed.
Snape was glad for the Disapparition coming immediately afterwards, because he was sure his face betrayed his thoughts about this sentence. His own wand was destroyed… Nobody else would have even thought about giving a wand to a slave… not just a slave, but a murderer…
Severus took the place his owner pointed to him and watched the proceedings absent-mindedly. Master Potter wore emerald green dress robes and a matching tie – the slave could guess that it was mistress Potter's idea. Mistress Potter herself wore a golden dress that did not look new at all.
Everyone was outshined by the bride's entrance, though. Snape tried to focus his gaze on the silhouette of Miss Granger – anything just not to watch the man who was becoming her husband. He was not sure how master Ronald Weasley would react to his being here…
Suddenly instead of the wedding of Granger and Weasley he saw another one in front of his eyes. The bridegroom had messy black hair – the bride, red. Severus knew it was not his owners' wedding – he was not present then. Whose then was it? Then the bride turned around and he saw green eyes – the eyes of the woman who haunted his dreams.
He shook his head, trying to get rid of the stubborn memory. He did not want to think about it, he didn't. He did not want to remember the woman whose name was Lily… He felt someone's hand on his shoulder.
'Are you well?' his owner asked.
His owner. Potter. Lily's son. Snape felt like he was about to be sick. He dug his fingers into his hair, as if he was trying to pull out the stubborn memories. He wanted to forget, forget…! "Sev…" he heard her voice in his mind. No… he was Sev no more. He was a slave!
Severus did not even notice when the wedding ended. He tried to calm down; breathing slowly didn't help; so he started to list the ingredients for the Potions in his mind, yet each and every one only served to remind him how he had worked with Lily in Slughorn's classes…
When he was a little more aware, he heard a female voice.
'Severus, what happened? You look like you've seen a ghost'
Another face appeared in his field of vision. A familiar face, yet Snape saw only green eyes in this moment. Lily's eyes. Lily. Lily is here – he thought and before he could wonder about that, he started to speak in a frenzied, emotion-filled voice.
'Lily, you cannot marry him… you can't… he'll lead you to your death… Lil, you've got to run away… do not trust the Marauders… Black and Pettigrew are not trustworthy… you can't, Lily… take the boy and run… V-Voldemort is looking for him…'
Severus heard a loud intake of breath.
'I am not Lily.' the voice said 'I am not Lily Evans'
Snape felt blackness encompass him. He heard like from behind a wall:
'It could be expected… I could have expected it… Severus!'
Severus woke up the next morning in a bad mood. He hoped the happenings of the day before had been only a bad dream. It wasn't so, unfortunately – he was tormented by memories all night long. He took several deep breaths, determined to calm himself down.
He got up and was walking towards the door to check if little master Teddy is still asleep, when he heard it. Soft crying, nearly soundless. For a moment he thought it's Lupin's brat, but no – the sound was coming from the masters' bedroom. He put his ear to the door. Had master Potter been wounded?
'Harry, please, wake up, it's only a bad dream…'
Snape recognized Ginny Potter's voice. A bad dream? Potter was crying like a baby because of a bad dream? Laughable – he thought. He shook his head to chase away such thoughts. It seemed yesterday had shaken him more than he thought. He knew that his identity will be trying to return with his memories… the identity of a Death Eater. A murderer.
'No! Don't do that! Mum, no! Move aside! Mum!'
Severus froze. He rubbed at his eyes. It was not possible in any way for Potter to remember this. He was only one. Well, one and a few months – just like little master Teddy, it crossed his thoughts – but there was no option for him to remember it. He was too little.
His owner was just awakened – roughly. Tears were sliding down his cheeks, yet he did not make a sound. Ginny hugged her husband, and then rocked him like she would a small child. After a moment she reached towards the night table and took a vial out of the drawer. Snape could recognize Dreamless Sleep even from this distance. Potter shook his head.
'Harry, please… I don't want you to relive it again…'
'Don't you understand?!' the younger wizard snarled after a moment of heavy silence 'That's the only memory I have of them! The only one!'
A few teardrops made their way down mistress Potter's cheek. She ran her fingers through her husband's hair, as if trying to console him.
'R-Remus and Sirius must have told you something…'
'Not much' mister Potter said in a thick voice 'Mostly about James. How handsome and bright he was… He was not such at all! They lied to me! I've seen how they treated Snape!'
Potter's eyes were blazing, his cheeks reddened in anger. Severus could not believe it – Potter was defending him.
'Most of the teachers had known your mother…' mistress Potter tried to change the topic.
'She was good in Charms and Potions. She had red hair and green eyes' Potter recited in a voice of someone who had learned those simple facts by rote.
Ginny touched his arm. The Boy-Who-Lived shook her hand off abruptly.
'That's everything I know about her! Everything! I know more about Remus and Tonks than about my own mother!'
Something shattered from the force of Potter's uncontrolled magic, but neither Severus nor mistress Potter took notice. The woman was pale and her hands were shaking. The slave realized he must look similar.
He bit his lip. For Lily's son to know so little? Scandal! Lily had been… He shook his head to dispel such thoughts. He knew more about Lily Evans than anyone else among the living. He knew more than her own son did!
To busy his hands and mind with something, he walked downstairs to the kitchen. He told Kreacher that master Potter wishes for him to carry the breakfast upstairs. The house elf finished cooking, grumbling, and Severus felt a pang of a conscience. The slave was forbidden to lie. He told himself it was for Lily's son, and it calmed his fraught nerves a bit.
He stood by the door to his masters' bedroom and hesitated for a long while before he knocked. The door was opened a crack and mistress Potter's pale face peeked out. Seeing a platter with the breakfast in his hands, she smiled weakly and took it from him.
'Thank you, S – Severus' she said quietly 'Could you check if Teddy is still asleep?'
Severus watched Ginny Potter turn her back on him and set the platter on the night table. He did know that she'd given him an order, so he closed the door and walked to little master Teddy's bedroom.
When he carefully opened the door – he preferred not to think about what his owner would have done if he woke the child – the boy was still asleep. He had his father's brown hair and he was hugging his wolf plushie to himself.
No sooner had Snape taken a few steps than the boy woke up. He turned onto his side and stared at the man for a while. His hair changed color to red, and his eyes became green like Potter's. The man felt his throat constrict. In this moment the boy resembled Lily a great deal…
'Sev!' the child called, staggering to his feet while clutching the rails of the crib.
The boy was standing for a while, but then he reached for his stuffed wolf – called Remy – and lost his balance. He fell onto his rump and started to cry. Severus broke into motion finally and picked the child out of the crib, checking the state of his clothing and nappy while he was at it.
He was surprised himself at his proficiency in taking care of little master Teddy and started wondering whether he had changed some child's nappies in the past. He could not remember anything concrete, but after thinking for some time he arrived at the conclusion that it must have been either little Draco – Lucius's son, or Lily's little son…
He sighed and walked downstairs, carrying little Lupin in his arms. The boy was already walking, but master Potter surely was capable of thinking up something unpleasant for him if his godson fell down the stairs. Upon reaching the dining room, he set the child onto his feet – having checked already that there is nothing that could hurt him within his arms' reach.
The Potters walked downstairs after a long time. The Boy-Who-Lived summoned a smile to his own face, more for the child than for himself or his wife. Severus could see a deep sadness in his eyes. He wondered why he had never before seen it, and then he thought about little master Teddy. Will he see the same thing in young Lupin's face in some ten or twenty years?
Breakfast, at least for master Potter, was quiet and solemn. Teddy, almost as if he could feel his caregiver's mood, was not making any problems for Snape. Harry Potter, instead of reaching for his auror's robes, threw a traveling cloak onto his own back and walked to the door, glancing at the calendar on the way. His wife followed him with a worried gaze. The slave stole a look at the date, wondering what was happening…
31 October. Halloween. Severus sat heavily on the floor, staring at the calendar like it had betrayed him. Another anniversary. How many years? How many years have passed, since Lily… He could not even finish this thought. He felt Ginny Potter's hand on his arm and he heard her calling her husband. The woman threw something onto his back – was he cold?
'Harry, maybe you'll take Severus with you? It could help him…'
The words were echoing in the emptiness that had filled Snape's thoughts. They meant nothing. He pressed his hands to his temples as though trying to find a solid point of purchase. He closed his eyes. He felt Potter take his hand.
'Severus… open your eyes, please…' he heard his owner's voice.
Despite the word 'please' Snape treated master Potter's words like he was taught to – like an order. He opened his eyes. He was no longer in the Potters' home. He was sitting on a bench, and Lily's son was crouching in front of him, holding a bouquet of white lilies in his hand. The younger man was still holding his hand, and then he took a deep breath and moved aside.
Snape's gaze fell onto the grave he was sitting in front of. Upon which Harry Potter had just placed the flowers. Even before he read the names on the gravestone, he had known whose resting place it was. But nothing could have prepared him for reading:
Lily Evans Potter James Potter
He felt something wet on his cheeks and only after his owner lifted a handkerchief to his face did he realize that he was crying.
Severus spent the first days of November like in a dream. He was taking care of little Lupin, that he did, but his thoughts were wandering somewhere far away. Sometimes he believed the year to be 1980, sometimes he thought he is back in the cell, and at yet other times he believed himself still a child.
It was from such a state that a quiet crying, nearly impossible to hear, coming from the other bedroom awakened him. In the first moment he suspected little master Teddy, but he quickly recognized his owner's voice.
'No! I'll be a good boy! Uncle! No! I promise!' terryfiyingly childish cries of master Potter quickly morphed into tears 'But I did everything! I was good! I didn't tell her anything!'
Snape heard mistress Potter trying to calm her husband down.
'It's not your problem! No one ever cared! I managed by myself!' Potter reacted aggresively.
'It should have never happened' Ginny Potter's voice was thick with fury 'Never!' master Potter was silent 'Why did you never tell Dumbledore or McGonagall?'
'There was nothing to tell'
'If you think so, then you're touched in the head! Just look at your back!'
'My back?' Severus noticed through the half-open door that master Potter stiffened.
'You've got scars on your back. Old scars. I've got no idea how come no one noticed...'
The slave almost suffocated. Who had dared to hit Potter? Lily's son? The younger wizard turned to face the wall.
'Dumbledore placed me there! I tried to tell him, but he said I have to stay there because of my mother's sacrifice!' silence reigned for a while 'At least my uncle didn't hit me anymore' he said bitterly.
Snape choked on air. He remembered several Slytherins whose behavior revealed domestic abuse. Master Potter behaved now in the same way. Why did he never see it at school? Was the boy so good at hiding the truth? He remembered he could notice the signs of abuse as a teacher, but he did not know why he was so good at finding them. He had a feeling he shouldn't look for the cause overmuch...
'What did you do for the cursed muggle to beat you?'
Potter laughed bitterly. Severus saw him show his wife one of the scars, then a second.... and a third. His voice was neutral.
'I was three... and I've shown for the first time what a crazy freak I was. Accidental magic...' a moment of pause 'I was seven... one of the teachers saw how Dudley hit me and called me names and how I wore his hand-me-downs, how skinny I was. I told her the truth. She went to the Dursleys... they told her, obviously, what a filthy little liar I was... and then uncle Vernon beat me...'
'Oh, Harry...' mistress Potter's voice quivered.
'You know what was the worst? I never saw Miss Lily again. They sacked her the next day - for being naive and believing impossible stories of a child with a hyperactive imagination.' Potter barely held back a sob 'Well, the Dursleys had many contacts...'
'How often...?' Ginny Potter did not manage to finish the sentence.
'Only then. Only those two times. Uncle Vernon had to be really furious to hit me'
Snape pressed his lips together - he had an irrational urge to find this Vernon and his family and punish them for his daring to hit master Potter. Maybe only twice... but two times too many.
'Do Ron and Hermione know?' Potter shook his head. 'Well, you never liked to talk about your childhood. Now I know why....' mistress Potter summed it up bitterly.
'Don't worry, it wasn't so bad' Severus heard his owner's voice.
'"It wasn't so bad"? That's what you call being treated like a house elf, being starved, living in a damned cupboard for ten years, growing up not knowing your parents' names or what they looked like?!' mistress Potter raised her voice, she was practically shouting.
'Uh... Ginny... it wasn't so bad, I'm here right now...'
'That woman was your mother's sister! You are her own nephew! How could she treat you so?!'
Lily's sister? Lily had a sister? They probably weren't much alike, if master Potter had not known what his mother looked like.... Snape tried in vain to remember something more than a feeling that he did not like Lily's sister... and neither did she.
'Aunt Petunia never talked about Li- mum....'
'That's why you always call them by their names? Because you didn't even know this for so many years?' mistress Potter whispered as though to herself.
Petunia Evans... the name was familiar to Severus. He heard his owner's quiet crying - it crossed his mind that he must have had a horrid childhood if he had learned to cry nearly soundlessly, against nature... Despite his best efforts, the slave could not recall anything more. Was it possible that his memory was somehow connected to the other miss Evans... master Potter's mother?
Snape sighed and walked downstairs to fetch breakfast. That time no one answered his knocking. He used the half-open door and walked into the master bedroom - just in time to see mistress Potter rummaging through the drawers in search of a Draught of Peace.
'That's the last one' she said with a sigh, passing the vial to her husband.
She turned around and she saw Severus, who was staring at the scars on his owner's back with his face pinched.
'Master Potter needs dittany... or a balm...' he said thoughtfully.
'Nothing will help with these scars. They're too old' Ginny Potter said, and her husband stiffened.
'A balm from St. Mungo can make them smaller, mistress Potter'
'How do you know it?' master Potter asked in a hoarse voice.
Severus thought for a long while... he could not answer such a question though. Ginny saved him from having to answer.
'P - Severus is a Potions Master, Harry, and they have to know at least the basics of Healing.'
'Another thing that's obvious for you, but not for me' Potter said, getting slowly out of bed.
Several days more passed and in the afternoon the flames in the Potters' fireplace colored green, announcing the imminent arrival of the guests. Severus lifted himself off the floor and caught little master Lupin – who seemed to be in the stage of being fascinated with fire – so that he would not hurt himself nor fall under the guests' feet.
Snape was shocked when Hermione Granger – Weasley now - turned out to be the visitor. She brushed the ash off and moved aside – which meant someone else would be coming in a moment. So when master Ronald Weasley tumbled out of the fireplace, the slave was not surprised anymore and walked forth to serve the guests.
Master Potter's brother-in-law first choked on the air and then pointed the wand at him, prompting his wife to lift her eyebrow. Mistress Weasley gave her cloak to Severus – which immediately found itself in its correct place – and her husband was watching with disbelief written all over his face. Severus bowed and froze in a position he learned, waiting for him to give the cloak to him.
'Ron' Miss Granger… no longer Granger… nudged him 'give him your cloak'
Master Weasley complied absentmindedly, and then exploded upon seeing his travel garb in Snape's hands.
'What game is it? Who in the bloody hell are you and why are you imitating Snape? You'll probably bloody want to take points away too, won't you?'
The slave lifted his eyebrow.
'You are no longer at Hogwarts, master Weasley'
'Moment… Hermione, you said that the greasy git is dead! What is he doing in my sister's house and why is he talking like that guy that they tried to make Mum purchase?'
'Harry will answer your question the best' the brand-new mistress Weasley said, tearing herself away from welcoming the child.
'Harry? Why Harry and not Snape himself? What did you do, git, that you managed to survive?'
The raised voices brought the attention of the Potters, who just entered the drawing room. Severus retreated a bit. He had done what was requested of him, they couldn't find fault with him.
'Ron! Hermione! It's good to see you again!'
Ron snorted. Hermione hid a smile. The man welcomed his sister first and master Potter second by the way of a demonstration. Snape noticed that master Weasley seemed to have matured a bit – he waited with the questions until they left the room and were out of the slave's eyesight.
'Harry, who is that guy and what is he doing here?'
'That's our slave. I had bought him before I learned that I cannot free him' master Potter's voice floated from the other room.
'A slave? But the slaves are the former Death Eaters – do you want him to kill you in your sleep?'
'He won't do that. He was brainwashed. His only goal is to please his owner.'
'"Brainwashed"? You can wash your brain? I'd like it sometimes…'
'It doesn't work this way' Miss Granger… mistress Weasley… interjected with a laugh. 'This means he was taught to think in a completely different way… to believe in something completely different than he used to'
'Well, it's a pity they didn't do it to Malfoy, then'
"Malfoy"? What did Lucius do to these people to make them hate him so? Or maybe master Weasley meant the Malfoy heir, Dracon? The Slytherins dislike Gryffindors and vice versa, the slave remembered.
The voices of master Weasley and his sister, mistress Potter, moved away. Only master Potter and Miss Granger remained in the other room. Severus heard the click of the door closing – possibly so that little master Teddy did not interrupt their conversation.
Therefore he was tossing the snitch to the child or was directing the movements of Remy the plushie wolf, but he was not able not to hear the conversation, no matter how much he wished it otherwise. They seemed to have forgotten about him.
'Hermione… Did you learn something?'
'Something. If you remember, I was on my honeymoon until recently…'
'Uhm… err…' it seemed his owner was embarrassed 'I know. So what did you learn?'
'Won't you ask about the honeymoon?' the new mistress Weasley joked 'Well. I'll tell you just this – I feel sorry for Professor Snape'
'That bad?' Potter asked in a worried voice.
'The Ministry used anything that was not Unforgivable. Along the lines of "the aim sanctifies the methods". I won't describe it to you, it was simply torture… Diffindo, the whips, the knives…' mistress Weasley paused and Snape guessed the memory of Bellatrix Lestrange came back 'They even managed to master Sectumsempra…'
'S-Sectumsempra?' master Potter repeated in a shocked voice.
'And the healing spells. They didn't want to kill anyone, of course' Miss Granger jeered 'From what I managed to dig into, it seems they used mostly his own inventions on the P… Professor. I do not know how many times they'd cast Sectumsempra on him… how many times they'd beaten him like his father Tobias used to…'
'Oh…' master Potter said quietly.
Severus dropped the ball. He heard a male voice shouting Sectumsempra, and then felt like a thousand knives were piercing his body. He was aware of the fact that he was laying in a pool of his own blood.
They never let him lose consciousness… his wounds were always healed… just for the spell to be cast again. The spell he created himself. Or his father appeared… He shivered.
He was aware that someone else was in the room too. He curled into a ball, like he was expecting to be hit. Tobias was always beating him… where's Eileen? Mother? Where's Lily? When she is around he does not dare hit him…
A crack. Blood. So much blood. Stench. His own scream. The smell of alcohol. Pain. Mum… Lily…
'Severus!' female voice, full of worry.
'Mum? Lily?' he whispered or at least believed he did.
He did not think himself able to emit a sound. He heard fast footsteps and curse words through the veil of pain… He tried to make himself smaller, to disappear. No! He will not endure anything more!
'What's happening to him?…'
'… call for help…'
'… St. Mungo's hospital…'
Had he fallen down so deeply? Had he shared the fate of Bellatrix's victims? The Longbottoms? – such was his last sane thought before the pain, blood and scream engulfed him.
When Severus opened his eyes the first thing he saw was white. He no longer felt that awful pain. He could not move, but it was probably normal. He seemed to have died… as well he should. Nobody will be able to torment him more. He thought he would see Lily.
He felt someone touching his hand. He tried to turn around. He managed to move his eyes, but not his head. Green eyes. Lily's eyes.
'Lily? Is that heaven, Lil?' – he did not hear his own voice, but maybe in heaven it is normal… or maybe he is in hell and the devil is tormenting him with a vision of Lily? He was not a good man… he was not a religious man…
'Severus' a male voice said 'You're alive, you're in St. Mungo's… Do not move – the Healers think you could have damaged your spine – and do not talk, your throat is raw.'
It's not Lily, Snape thought disappointedly. He is in hospital? Did they want to heal him again and whip him more again? Or try his own spell on him – Sectumsempra? But this man seemed genuinely worried…
The man's entire face was now in his field of vision. Lily's son. Harry Potter. Did he come here to torment him, to aid in breaking him? No sooner had that thought formed in his mind than he realized that Potter is his owner. He remembered hearing his owner's conversation with Miss Granger…
'You- did – not – have – to – Master - Potter' he said with difficulty.
The Boy-Who-Lived lifted his eyebrows.
'It is not my habit to leave a suffering man to the whims of fate, Severus'
'No…' a sudden coughing attack shook Severus. 'I… am… a slave…'
'Never mind that. My m- Lily would not have done that. I wouldn't either. I am her son.' Potter glanced in the direction of the doorway. 'Ginny and Teddy are waiting outside. Should I let them in?'
'Y… Your decision… Master' Severus tried to look anywhere, just not at his owner's face.
'Nonsense' the younger wizard said in a decisive voice. 'Tell me whether I should let them in'
The slave felt trapped. He could not have an opinion or make decisions – but his owner expected him to. And if he wished, master Potter could do worse things… for example reveal the truth about himself and Lily… He shivered. He shook his head.
'No?' Potter repeated and vacated the chair, presumably to relay the information.
'Master Potter!…' Snape fell victim to the coughing fit again. 'M-M…'
His frustration must have been clear on his face, because his owner simply asked 'Yes or no?' At his nod, Potter opened the door. The moment they were opening, little master Teddy ran into the room as fast as he could, shouting.
'Unca Harry! Sev OK?'
Potter lifted the boy that had gotten hold of the columns of the bed and was angling his head upwards. Snape noticed that this time the boy had straight black shoulder-length hair and black eyes. It reminded him of someone… His gaze fell onto the mirror beside the bed and then he understood – little master Teddy was imitating his appearance!
'Wh- why does the little master…' he forced out, surprised.
'Teddy usually takes the appearance of the people he likes' Ginny Potter explained as she came closer. 'You wouldn't believe Harry, how many times he had asked about Severus during our short stay at Andromeda's…'
'Nana! Sev!' little Lupin interjected, and the Potters laughed.
Severus was trying very hard to understand… little master Teddy liked him? How could the master like the slave? Take the slave's appearance? Is this a plot of some sort? Did the Potters manipulate the child so that it was seen what a poor slave he is? One that does not know his place?
That thought nearly made him stop breathing. He tried to move… that bed wasn't for him, there must have been a mistake… He managed to swing his legs over the edge…
'Severus!' Ginny called, coming closer. 'Do not move!'
The slave felt his fear increase when mistress Potter placed his legs back on the bed and covered them with a quilt. Did they wish for him to be shut away here? For him to spend the rest of his life in St. Mungo's like… like Bellatrix's victims?
He could not oppose his mistress's order – it was unthinkable – but his fingers clenched on the quilt. Every moment he could throw it aside and end this farce. Little master smiled at him, safe in his godfather's arms.
'Sev OK?' the child repeated.
Potter looked from little Lupin to him and back. He seemed not to know what to say. Severus remembered master Potter has had little contact with small children. It had to be hard for him. He tried to smile when he felt his owner's gaze on himself.
'The Healers say you will be cleared to go home in a few days… Hear that, Teddy? Sev will soon be with us again!'
Little master Teddy clapped his hands and smiled at mistress Potter. Snape wondered for a moment whether Lupin had chosen her to be the child's godmother, or if she became one through marriage… Master Potter grabbed the quilt when he tried to get up again.
'Were you always such a hard patient?' his eyes were laughing 'Maybe you'd prefer us to stay here?'
The slave shook his head fiercely. His masters would be forced to stay in St. Mungo's for a few days only because of him? He tried to get up again. His owner smiled.
'Should I look for a toy like I did for Teddy? Or should I put you to sleep? Maybe not, it'd be kinda hard… Do you happen to know what I would have to use?'
Snape gave him a slightly hurt look, as if to say 'Who do you think I am? I was your Potions Master for five years!' and then he suddenly remembered who he is talking to. The entire blood left his face.
'You can be honest with me. I'd bet you wanted to say a moment ago that I had not learned anything in your lessons…' master Potter said, imitating his own voice perfectly.
'I… would… use… different… words, master Potter' Severus said.
Potter's lips twitched.
'I think so too. So will I learn what I… you… would need, or should I ask Hermione?'
He replied before he realized he was doing it. A moment later he was having a discussion with Potter – who seemed to have taken an interest in Potions in his line of work. A very polite one, at least on his part, but still – he was conversing with his owner almost like they were equal. When it crossed his mind that he should not behave like that, he heard a child's laughter.
'Good Sev!' little master Lupin said, pointing his finger at him.
'Teddy sweetie, we do not point fingers' mistress Potter admonished him softly.
'I can see Teddy has had enough. We'll say goodbye for now and we'll visit you tomorrow' Potter bent over Severus.
Master Potter kept true to his word, Severus thought - sitting on his bed and playing with little Lupin. Mistress Potter had gone out for the next training, and her husband was sorting out his papers before a mission – from what the slave knew, his first.
'Severus!' his master peeked into the drawing room. 'Teddy should rest now, and I've got a request…'
A request? How can his owner request anything from him? The owner's duty is to give orders, and the slave is to perform them. Simple. Why cannot Potter understand it? Snape carried the boy to his room and read fairy tales 'till the brat fell asleep. Then he went out to search for master Potter.
His owner was sitting at his desk and was finishing putting the papers into the correct files. Upon seeing Severus, he hastily stashed the files into the desk.
'Sorry, "classified". Thank you for coming… won't you sit down?'
The slave hesitated for a moment and then carried out the order – automatically.
'What do you wish, master Potter?'
The young Auror shifted nervously on the chair. He twined his fingers together, then disentangled them, ran a hand through his hair. Snape remembered his owner used to do this when nervous. Thus he kept silent and waited for the man to speak.
'You'd- you'd known my mother…' Potter coughed and ran a hand over his face. 'Maybe you could tell me something about her?'
'I do not remember much, master Potter… I do not know what is that you expect.'
'Doesn't matter. Anything' his owner spoke in a rushed, strained voice. 'Anything.'
The slave remembered the conversation he'd overheard by accident some time ago. Master Potter knew nothing about his mother… about Lily. He closed his eyes and tried to remember something more than her voice and face. He wouldn't be able to describe her voice – no one would.
'She liked flowers. Lilies, like her name. Books. She read all – Muggle and Wizarding ones, all the same. She adored her parents and argued with her sister. Petunia was awful. I disliked her. Lily did, too.'
He stopped and rubbed his temples. His owner was staring at him fixatedly, like he was drinking in every single word. Maybe he was. A black-haired woman with a strained and pale face flickered in the back of his mind. Mother… How would it feel, not to have known her at all? If she'd died earlier…
'Tell me something more' master Potter asked, and Severus had an idiotic thought of little Lupin asking for another story. Even the tone of voice was similar…
'Lily knew a lot. Not about magic – she hadn't known anything before I told her. At Hogwarts…' he had to stop, because he couldn't breath 'at Hogwarts she knew everything again. Lily was a genius. Her parents were so proud of her. Only…'
'Her sister… I don't remember. They argued. Have I said it? I didn't like her sister. Awful, she was. Nasty'
Severus fell silent and reached for the waiting glass of water. His head hurt. Too many memories… he saw his owner's eyes glimmer and in his mind's eye he saw Lily again… laughing, beautiful, happy. Lily… why did her son not know her? Why did she die?
'I cannot answer this question, Severus' master Potter said quietly and only then did he realize he'd voiced the question aloud.
Severus spent the next few days, telling his master these precious little things he remembered about Lily. He mentioned her wedding too – after all, he'd relived it not so long ago – but kept his dreams to himself. He did not think Potter would have wanted to hear about dreams – especially not of this kind.
'Could you come here for a moment, Severus?' his master asked one evening, and the slave was not surprised.
Snape sat down in the chair pointed out to him and coughed, trying to find in his memory a story he had not told yet. No sooner did he start speaking than his owner lifted his own hand and smiled slightly.
'I thought you deserve a prize, Severus. You are fulfilling your duties very well. We're all much pleased…' the young wizard stood up and waved at him to follow.
The owner led Severus to an unused portion of the house. The slave's foot had never strayed here, and judging from the way Potter walked, he was not there often either. Finally master Potter opened the solid wooden door.
Snape was struck speechless. Inside there were cauldrons, fires and shelves – the latter filled with ingredients he'd once had in his laboratory at Hogwarts. The room was even arranged in a similar way.
'I didn't suppose you liked the style, master Potter' he said finally.
Master Potter laughed out loud.
'I don't. Besides, I'm not brewing Potions home. I wouldn't want to explode the house. It is too dear to me.'
Severus looked at his owner, trying to determine if he was joking. It was a honest opinion of the man's own skills and it matched what he'd remembered from having taught him.
'No, Severus. It's not my lab, it's yours'
'Mine?' the slave repeated, as if he didn't understand.
He really didn't. He was not allowed to possess anything.
'Yours. You can now go back to what you really can do and what you like. As a respite from taking care of Teddy, of course. I wouldn't dare to rob him of your care. He likes you very much.'
'Master Potter…' Severus did not know what to say.
'You told my wife you can brew Potions. Now you've got a chance to do that'
Severus was watching master Potter play with little master Teddy while he finished placing Potions on the shelves – high enough so that the child would not be able to reach them. Sometimes the slave thought his master enjoyed playing even more than the child did. He remembered what he’d heard once about Potter’s childhood.
Teddy was chasing a snitch that his godfather commandeered… so Potter used the moment to come closer and examine the Potions vials on the shelves – Dreamless Sleep, Blood Replenisher, dittany… more bottles that the young Auror could not exactly identify, but knew were used in healing.
‘You want to start an apothecary, Severus? I’d thought you wanted to brew for our use…’
‘Those Potions are for your use, master Potter, and for your wife’s. The career of an Auror or a Quidditch player is dangerous…’
The younger wizard looked from the shelves stashed full of Potions to Severus. The Potions Master saw gratitude in his eyes, and then Potter took his glasses off to wipe nervously at his eyes. Severus wanted to berate him like he would little master Teddy.
He walked away, remembering he has other duties… besides, he did not wish to listen to master Potter’s expressions of gratitude. While he was cleaning the drawing room, he watched mistress Potter flying in the garden. He wondered how she can enjoy so much that what is now her job.
Suddenly the doorbell rang. Severus saw Ginny Potter land in order to welcome the guest. He quickly stashed the rags and the mop away. He tried to blend in with the shadows – after all, the guest came to see the Potters.
Mistress Potter led a middle-aged brown-haired woman into the room. If not for the color, Snape would have mistaken the guest for Bellatrix Lestrange – she had the very same face. Her mouth was shaped like Narcissa Malfoy’s. The slave knew whom he saw even before little master Teddy ran into the room.
‘Nana!’ Teddy Lupin cried.
Master Potter followed a few steps behind the boy. His face lit up when he saw Andromeda Tonks.
‘It’s good to see you again, Dromeda’ he said ‘I was afraid you got sick again…’
‘I feel alright. I just needed some rest’ Severus saw a shadow in Andromeda’s eyes. The Potters seemed to notice it too, for they exchanged looks.
‘Teddy has got a lot of energy, sometimes a little too much’
‘Dora was the same’ mistress Tonks sighed.
Snape remembered that Andromeda Tonks had lost her husband, daughter and son-in-law in the war. Her only family was the little boy running excitedly at her feet. Severus thought of the three Black sisters. He’d known the eldest, Bellatrix, quite well. The middle one, Andromeda, he knew a bit less. The youngest, Narcissa, had just started when he finished school. Now only Narcissa and Andromeda were alive… Andromeda, who was wiped out from the family tree because she’d married a Muggle-born.
He looked up to find master Potter staring straight at him. The young Auror got up from the table and approached him. ‘Severus… do you know Andromeda?’
The slave nodded. He opened his mouth to ask, but he changed his mind and closed it.
‘What did you want to ask?’
‘Do Narcissa and Andromeda…’ he hesitated, searching for a correct word ‘maintain a form of contact?’
‘Ask her yourself’ Potter pushed him towards Andromeda like he would little master Teddy.
Andromeda Tonks turned to face him when she heard footsteps. Upon seeing him, she sank heavily into the chair, her face bloodless. Ginny Potter placed a hand on her arm.
‘Severus! I’d heard that you were dead… that Voldemort…’
‘The news are not always true, mistress Tonks. You should know this fact well.’
The woman sighed.
‘Was it worth it? The Dark Mark? I was in my fourth year when you graduated… when you joined him…’
‘What do you mean?’ Snape furrowed his brow.
‘They said you did it to have your revenge on James Potter, the Gryffindor. Or on Lily Evans…’
‘Indeed. Don’t think the other Slytherins did not notice how abruptly your friendship with her ended. We were not stupid. Many a person wondered what did you see in that Gryffindor, for you to defend her so determinedly…’
Severus looked away. How well he remembered the day when he’d called her that awful word. It was all James Potter’s fault. He wanted to have his revenge on the man… and he’d never achieved it.
‘No. The Dark Mark did not give me what I’d wished for’
‘Instead, it killed her. Lily Evans… and so many more… my Ted and Dora- Tell me, what did you feel when you heard you dear friend was dead? What did you feel then?!… Maybe you’ll understand what I felt when Bella killed my daughter!’
Severus barely heard the final sentence of Andromeda’s. There was a buzzing in his ears. He heard Albus’s voice again, as though from far away, telling him that Lily was dead. The knowledge that he’d brought it on himself was suffocating.
If he’d never taken the Dark Mark… if he’d never wanted to curry favor with the leader… if he’d never heard Trelawney’s prophecy… if he’d never passed it on to Voldemort…
Lily would still be alive.