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Title: The Paperwork Problem
Author: [info]iulia_linnea
Characters: Hogwarts' Heads and Heads of House, original goblins
Rating: PG
Warning (highlight to view): None.
Word Count: 7700
Summary: The Book of Students is never wrong, neither is a Gringotts' Senior Account Manager's sense of duty—but it's Twistgrapple's unseemly interest in the affairs of wizards that leads him to aid the consummate Slytherin in promoting a great deal of honourable "mischief."
Disclaimer: This work of fan fiction is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made from (and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by) the posting of this fan work.
Author's Note: Thank you, [info]arynwy, for beta'ing.



The special session to complete the interrupted 1998 spring term had been held in tents in a field down the lane from the Hog's Head. That session would shortly end, and soon, the class of 1998-1999 would be arriving at the same "school" because Hogwarts was as yet unfit to live and teach in. Rubbing her eyes after a long day of teaching and avoiding Bathsheba Babbling—whose conversation had recently turned from Ancient Runes to the next Sorting—Minerva made her way back to the tent that was her office and set about the task of sending out the last batch of Hogwarts letters.

I'm so glad that you weren't destroyed, she thought, as she placed the large, leather-bound book that contained the students' names by birth year on her desk next to a pile of parchment, a fresh quill, and a newly opened bottle of black ink. She then swished her wand over the book and cast, "Incipio!"

At once, the book opened, and as its pages fluttered, the quill rose up and began writing on one blank sheet of parchment and then another until the pages stopped turning. Minerva then flipped the stack to read the first letter, her eyes skimming over its heading until she found the student's name so that she could check it against the book. She continued to do this for each letter until she reached the last one that had been written; this letter, she took the time to read in its entirety, just to be certain that the template was correct. She did not, however, make it past the letter's heading.

"Merlin!"

Stunned by what she had just read, Minerva dropped the letter and scrubbed at her spectacles with one of her sleeves before Summoning the letter back to her and reading:

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Temporary Hogsmeade Location


Headmaster: Severus Snape
(Distinguished Fellow, Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers; Editor-at-Large, The Practical Potioneer; Order of Merlin, First Class)


18 June 1998

Dear Miss Zellmann,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment. Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall
Deputy Headmistress

The Book of Students was never wrong—at least, it had never yet been wrong—but, as Minerva quickly discovered by examining every letter in the pile, each one named Severus as Hogwarts' Headmaster.

"Well, this has to be a mistake," she said, as her knees gave way and she sank into her chair.

Severus' body had never been recovered. His ghost did not walk the broken corridors of Hogwarts or otherwise haunt its grounds. No portrait of him had appeared in the Head's office. It had been assumed by Minerva and what was left of the Board of Governors—which had been halved by virtue of Death Eater attacks on the body's Muggle-born and half-blood members—that no portrait had appeared either because of the castle's condition, or because the castle had refused to recognise Severus' duty to the school as a result of his having been appointed to the Headship by Voldemort. Neither explanation had satisfied Minerva; however, as there had been no other explanation on which to rely, the only thing she had been able to do was encourage the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to join the search for Severus' body, a search that Harry Potter had begun. The DMLE had ended that search after finding no trace of Severus and declared him, although not without controversy, officially dead. Shortly after that, he'd been awarded the Order of Merlin.

Yes, thought Minerva, as she placed her hand atop the Book of Students, but that honour was awarded posthumously. She clenched her fist. "Oh, dear."

~*~

"—and the last time I generated Hogwarts letters, no mention of Severus' Order of Merlin appeared in the heading," Minerva informed Filius, Horace, and Pomona, not surprised at all to see their mouths drop open and their eyes widen. She'd thought it best to speak to them alone before involving anyone else, but now she wasn't so sure. Perhaps I should have just gone directly to Kingsley, she thought, as no one spoke.

"Well," said Pomona, after a long silence, "I can't think that the book would have made a mistake."

"Nor can I," replied Filius. "The enchantments laid upon the Book of Students by the Founders were incredibly powerful, Minerva. I think . . . I think it must be true that Severus still lives."

"If it is, then why hasn't he told us?" Minerva asked, noticing how Horace was frowning into his teacup. "What are you thinking, Horace?"

"Can none of you think of a reason that Severus might not have wished to be found?" he asked, looking at each of them in turn.

"But his wounds . . . ."

"Oh, yes, his wounds, Pomona. They were dire by all accounts, but a Potions master, and one who was well used to the . . . depravities of the Dark Lord, well, he would have taken precautions."

"Horace, perhaps he could have done to some degree," replied Pomona, "but the blood loss would have been severe. I know of no form of blood-replenishing potion that could have prevented it."

"With respect, dear lady, you are not a Potions master," Horace told her, "and we may safely assume that young Harry was terrified at the time of Severus' 'death'. Perhaps he and his friends did not see as clearly as they might have because of their fear."

Filius cleared his throat. "Regardless of assumptions, the Book of Students is not wrong. It never is. Severus is alive." He held up a hand to prevent any of the others from speaking. "That does not mean, however, that he wishes to be found. Who are we to interfere in his well-earned rest, even if we could find him?"

"You have a point," said Minerva, "but the problem before us must be resolved because when Hogwarts reopens properly, I will not be able to fully command the wards and see to the students' protection if the castle does not recognise me as Headmistress. The only reason I haven't been named as such is because the Board has yet to be . . . ."

"Yes, we know," Pomona said, patting Minerva's hand.

None of them liked to think of the six murdered Governors.

Minerva sniffed. "Perhaps I should inform what's left of the Board that Severus is alive."

"Why?" asked Pomona. "The Board can only recommend the appointment of a new Head with a full complement of Governors, and the Division of Magical Education is in just as much of an uproar as is every other division of the Ministry. They won't be thinking about . . . re-staffing the Board for some time—and as Filius has said, what business is it of ours to inform anyone of Severus' status?"

"I agree with Pomona and Filius, Minerva," said Horace, "and in any case, traditionally, it falls to the Head to name his or her successor. As Acting Headmistress, you must—"

"No, Horace," Minerva interrupted him, "I'm still quite clearly the Deputy Headmistress, and it is Severus to whom the duty of naming a replacement falls. He simply must be found. If he doesn't wish to return, he can name his replacement, and then . . . ."

"Life can get back to normal?" asked Pomona, frowning and wringing her hands.

"But how can it?" asked Filius. "Forget what I said before. Severus is most likely on his own, and we cannot abandon him after everything he's been through. We're his friends."

"Perhaps," Horace said, "he stays away because doesn't feel the same. I know he bears little love for me."

"That's because you treated him abominably when—"

"Filius," Minerva said sharply.

"Well, you weren't there when the poor boy was crushed after not being invited to Horace's 'supper club'—and he was as fine a Potions student as any in his class!"

"I know you and Severus were close, Filius—"

"Ha!" exclaimed Horace, interrupting Minerva. "If that were true, then why hasn't he made himself known to him?"

Filius scowled and looked down into his lap.

"Enough," said Pomona. "Fighting amongst ourselves is not going to do anything to help Severus. He does need to be found, and whether he likes it or not, we do need to ensure that he's safe and well. That's what friends do, and we are all of us Severus' friends."

Silence again fell for a long moment until at last Horace said, "I've a well-placed, former student who works for the Department of Mysteries. Perhaps she might help us locate—"

"No, Horace," said Minerva. "We will not speak of what we know to anyone, not even, now that I think about it, to the Board. This is Hogwarts business, and it is not to pass beyond the four of us."

"And if those Mysteries people had actually tried to look for Severus, they would have already found him!"

"Oh, Pomona," said Filius, looking up. "What if they already have?"

"No, I don't believe it. Kingsley would never allow—"

"But Minerva," Pomona interrupted her, "Kingsley hasn't yet finished sorting out the Ministry."

"And Severus might very well have enemies there," said Horace.

Minerva rose to her feet. "Damn! That would explain—"

"No, Minerva. Don't let's borrow trouble," said Filius. "I shouldn't have suggested such a thing, and right now, all we know is that Severus lives. What next we must decide is how to go about discreetly finding him."

"And how do you propose we do that?" demanded Horace.

"Follow the gold."

"I beg your pardon, Pomona?" asked Minerva.

"Follow the gold—don't you see? Wherever Severus is, if he's indeed on his own, he'll need money, so we do need to speak to someone. We need to speak to the goblins!"

"That lot won't speak to us," asserted Horace, "and in any case, we can't even be certain that Severus is using his account."

"When you were in hiding," Minerva said to him, "did you use yours?"

"Well, yes, but that was before the 'Ministry' took over the managing of Gringotts. Under normal circumstances, the goblins would never betray a patron, and Gringotts is back in goblin hands."

Filius nodded. "So it is, but I don't think I'd put it to the Gringotts fellows that anyone other than they, themselves, had the managing of the bank."

"Be that as it may, circumstances are far from normal," said Pomona. "Everyone believes that Severus is dead, so wouldn't any financial transactions of his be reported?"

"Kingsley did think of that," Minerva said. "Weeks ago, he asked me to find out if Severus had accessed Hogwarts' vault, and he hadn't."

"Which means that Gringotts refused to cooperate with Magical Law Enforcement's inquiries?" asked Horace.

"Kingsley didn't say as much to me directly, but I came away with that impression."

"Well, so much for my idea," Pomona said.

"Not necessarily," replied Filius, "we merely need to tweak it. As there's no way of ascertaining whether or not Severus accessed his vault and we know that he hasn't accessed Hogwarts' vault, what we need to do is request that the good goblins of Gringotts perform a small, Severus-related service to the school as they go about its business."

"Given that Severus has been reported dead, Filius, I don't see how any such service would help us."

"I don't think that wizarding reports of death are enough to convince the goblins, Minerva, and you do have evidence of Severus' continued existence, don't you?" Filius asked, pointing to the Hogwarts' letter that Minerva had shown them. "In any case, I do know that no vault is ever closed without the presence of its owner or its owner's designated heir. One has to personally empty the vault in question before one can give it up, and if Severus hasn't given up his vault, then you can request a transfer be made to it from the school's."

"Severus doesn't have an heir, and I know that he hasn't given it up," Minerva said. "In all the confusion, I never did stop the authorisation of his salary transfers—Albus always left that sort of thing to me, and Severus did the same—and I've a receipt of May payment to his account."

"Yes, but how does his account's still being open help us to track him?" asked Horace.

"In and of itself, it doesn't," Filius replied, "but if Minerva were to authorise a pay rise for Severus, that would require various signatures, would it not?"

"You're proposing that we track him with paperwork?" asked Horace. "Surely the goblins wouldn't accept documents enchanted with unexpected magic."

"Well, no, they wouldn't, but I happen to know a thing or two about how to trick a goblin. It's in my blood."

"Filius, that's brilliant!" exclaimed Pomona. "Blood admixed with ink is not at all uncommon."

Filius grinned. "No, it isn't, which means that I could scry for it once the paperwork in question was processed. Severus will no doubt have placed many enchantments upon his person and dwelling, but none of them, I should think, would prevent me from finding my own blood."

"I agree, Filius," Minerva said. "Prepare your 'ink'."

~*~

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Temporary Hogsmeade Location


Headmaster: Severus Snape
(Distinguished Fellow, Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers; Editor-at-Large, The Practical Potioneer; Order of Merlin, First Class)


19 June 1998

Mr Twistgrapple
Senior Account Manager
Gringotts Wizarding Bank
North Side, Diagon Alley
London, England

Dear Mr Twistgrapple,

Headmaster Severus Snape, currently on holiday in parts unknown and having expressed a very clear desire not to be in contact with any of Hogwarts' staff until his return, has been granted a pay rise, retroactive to 1 September 1997, in consideration of his recent duties to the school. As Deputy Headmistress, it is my wish that the funds related to this pay rise be transferred from Hogwarts' vault into Headmaster Snape's personal one at once. Enclosed, please find the Hogwarts paperwork to that effect.

I have already signed the document-in-triplicate, but for the purposes of efficient record-keeping—and to prevent the pay rise from being potentially revoked during the Board of Governors' next budgetary meeting, which is scheduled to take place before the Headmaster's return—the Headmaster must also sign it. I regret that I was unable to secure his signature before he departed and would consider it a great service on behalf of us both if you could secure the Headmaster's signature within the next seven days. Given your excellent service to the school to date, I am confident that this matter should be a trifling one for someone of your estimable abilities.

Please inform the Headmaster that he is to retain one copy of the document-in-triplicate for his records, retain one copy for your own, and forward the remaining one to me, and thank you for your swift and discreet attention to this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall
Deputy Headmistress

Twistgrapple's expression betrayed no surprise as he read the letter, no matter that he felt a great deal of it. Severus Snape is dead, he thought, as he reread the heading, except that he isn't, it seems.

He removed the document-in-triplicate from the envelope and read it, as well, and as he did, his eyes widened at the generosity of Hogwarts' Board of Governors.

No wizard would refuse to accept such a sum, he thought, replacing the documents and letter back into the envelope before making his way to the Department of Examination, and by all accounts, Headmaster Snape earned this pay rise with his own blood.

Twistgrapple had always been more interested in wizarding affairs than was considered seemly amongst his colleagues, so he rarely betrayed it openly. It was just that the life of a senior account manager, as exciting as it was, wasn't always as exciting as he imagined the life of a wizard was. After all, wizards, being too stupid even to manage their own gold, did seem to get up to a great deal of mischief.

"Ah, Mr Weasley," Twistgrapple said, finding him at his desk, "without reading them, please examine these documents for any signs of harmful or intrusive magic."

Weasley drew his wand and levitated the envelope to hover over his desk. He then murmured a series of spells. The envelope disgorged its contents, which turned yellow and then blue and then red before shimmering with a pinkish opalescent hue.

"There are two spells on these documents. The first is a standard 'eyes-only' one, and the second, an anti-duplication. Otherwise, they're clean."

The envelope opened to receive its contents and sealed itself again before returning to Twistgrapple's hand. "Thank you, Mr Weasley," he replied, leaving the room without further discussion.

William Weasley was, while a good worker, not particularly interesting to him. His paperwork was always in order, and his interest in curses, all too banal.

Having ascertained that the documents were not harmful to Headmaster Snape, Twistgrapple's duty was now clear: he had to find a dead man who was not dead within seven days, and he had no clear idea how to go about doing so. It was a challenge worthy of him, and he was well pleased, indeed.

~*~

The first thing that Twistgrapple did was return to his office and examine the letter from Deputy Headmistress McGonagall. The heading listed three connections to Headmaster Snape: he was a member of the Most Extraordinary Society of Potioneers, he was Editor-at-Large of The Practical Potioneer, and he had been awarded an Order of Merlin.

Merlin, the Butcher of Goblins, Twistgrapple thought, in passing. It was something all goblins were taught about that particular wizard, and most took it on faith. But of course, he ended the wars, didn't he? He didn't fight in them. Shaking his head to clear it of such distracting thoughts, Twistgrapple elected to begin with the Potioneers.

His fire-call to that body yielded nothing other than the knowledge that Headmaster Snape's last contact with them had been in 1996.

"Why do you wish to know about our dealings with that man?" the wizard with whom he was speaking asked.

"Before closing the file of a deceased patron, an account manager must ensure that it is complete."

"Ah, well, that's very thorough of you. As I said, he was a member, and I suppose that he still is, unfortunately."

"'Unfortunately'?" asked Twistgrapple.

"The man was a Death Eater!" the wizard exclaimed, as if that explained everything—which of course, it did not.

It amazed Twistgrapple how ignorant wizards were of their own history, especially when it was so recent.

"Good day to you, sir," he said to the wizard, thinking, you ungrateful arse.

Twistgrapple pulled his head from the fire and considered. He couldn't very well contact anyone on staff of the journal with which Headmaster Snape was affiliated; it wouldn't be discreet, and any stripe of journalist was more curious than a brewer. Questions would be asked that he could not answer without lying, and it was a point of pride with Twistgrapple that he never lied to anyone.

So I shall have to visit the library.

As it was his lunch break, he elected to combine eating with research and Floo'd to Hogsmeade, grabbing a quick bite to eat at Fortescue's before continuing to the Hogsmeade Library. He discovered there that the last article Headmaster Snape had contributed to the Potioneer was one submitted in 1995, so that was of no use to him in finding Snape. That left the business of his Order of Merlin. Twistgrapple moved on to past editions of the Prophet, seeking an article which might detail who had claimed the honour on Snape's behalf.

Badly done, that, he thought, as he realised the "ceremony" had been brief and ill-publicised. It remains in Ministry hands. The information left him feeling disappointed but not defeated. I'll simply have to consult the record of his personal transactions, he told himself, returning to Gringotts.

Of course, that was easier said than done. Twistgrapple was Hogwarts' account manager, not Snape's. That meant he would have to convince Snape's personal account manager to permit him to access the relevant files. Therein lay his problem; one did not become a senior account manager without making enemies, and goblins had long, vindictive memories.

Crackthorne does not forgive me for accepting a position he feels he should have been given, Twistgrapple thought, sighing to consider his old mentor. How can I convince him to allow me access to Snape's files?

As it happened, Twistgrapple could think of several ways that he might achieve the necessary access, both with and without Crackthorne's assistance.

But those methods would require me to lie or otherwise behave treacherously, and that, I shall not do.

He sat and thought for some time, and then he realised that he need not do anything other than his duty, which was two-fold—and one of his tasks was more a favour than a duty. He removed the document-in-triplicate from the envelope he carried and studied it with a solicitor's attention.

"Ah," he said, smiling, "that does make things easier."

Deputy Headmistress McGonagall's paperwork actually only concerned the business of Hogwarts; in effect, she had palmed off her own duty in having Headmaster Snape approve his pay rise to Gringotts.

But her letter to me is authorisation enough to make that transfer, he thought, because for all intents and purposes, she is Acting Headmistress. This means that I can make the transfer, and once that is done, I will have to, as it is my duty, file a record of that transfer in Severus Snape's personal files, which will give me the opportunity to examine them.

Strictly speaking, it wasn't entirely honest because one was not supposed to peruse a customer's files without reason.

But under the circumstances, I have reason enough to do so, and that will allow me to perform a courtesy service to Acting Headmistress McGonagall by having Headmaster Snape sign her document.

The goblins of Gringotts prided themselves on providing excellent customer service, even when some services technically fell beyond their purview.

And I have never been one to allow technicalities to interfere in my good service.

Thus decided upon a course of action, Twistgrapple nevertheless elected to wait until Crackthorne had left for the day before performing his duty. He was pleased to discover that Snape had purchased three properties since having opened his account, and better pleased to discover that there was one property that did not appear on the relevant map.

~*~

The following day found Twistgrapple standing before a thunderous-looking wizard, who demanded, "How the hell did you find me here?"

"Good morning, sir. Do I have the honour of addressing Headmaster Severus Snape?" asked Twistgrapple.

"Spare me your damned pleasantries and answer my question!"

"I am in possession of this address. Thus, I was able to find it."

"You're not Crackthorne."

"True. I am Senior Account Manager Twistgrapple. I oversee the Hogwarts vault and account, and I am come to perform a service for Deputy and Acting Headmistress Minerva McGonagall."

"What duty?" Snape, for it could only be he, spat hoarsely.

Twistgrapple removed the document-in-triplicate, as well as the record of the transfer of funds, from his coat pocket and handed them to Snape, who snatched them from his hand and quickly examined them.

"What in Merlin's name is she thinking?" he asked, although Twistgrapple could tell he was asking himself the question. "That amount of money completely unbalances the staffing budget!"

Snape looked at him; Twistgrapple remained silent.

"Well?" demanded Snape.

"Hogwarts business, with regard to how money is spent, is no business of mine. My business is merely to see that the money is transferred as directed. If you would be good enough to sign the document-in-triplicate, I will be on my way, Headmaster Snape."

"I'm no longer Headmaster of Hogwarts."

"Apparently you are mistaken, sir. It is my understanding that the school's templates are magically generated."

"So?"

"So if you were no longer Headmaster, the heading of this letter," Twistgrapple said, handing the one he'd received from McGonagall to Snape, "would read differently."

Abruptly, Snape sank down on the step. "Fuck."

"Forgive me, Headmaster Snape, but are you well?"

"I'm bloody fantastic," he replied, crumpling the letter and documents in his fist as he placed his head in his hands. "Fuck, fuck, fuck! How could I have forgotten the sodding paperwork?"

"Paperwork is the bane of us all," Twistgrapple replied, "but I did take the liberty of having the documents examined for harmful or intrusive magic." Snape looked at him. "None was found. Rest assured that by approving your pay rise, you merely add to a paper trail that in fact leads nowhere."

"You found me."

"Yes, but then, I have access to your financial transactions. Your colleague does not. If you do not wish to be found, no one else will find you," Twistgrapple said, thinking, because Crackthorne has never been noted for his curiosity.

Snape sighed and stiffly picked himself up. "Nonsense. If I sign this document, it will be evidence of my having been alive enough to have authorised the pay rise, which I see from this transfer of funds record, you've already 'approved', yourself. How were you able to do that?"

Twistgrapple explained his rationale for the transfer.

"Ah," said Snape, "so Minerva effectively already authorised it, and this document is merely paperwork for Hogwarts. Well, as Minerva has taken it upon herself to give me a pay rise, I shall accept it. I shall not, however, authorise it myself. Take these back," he said, handing Twistgrapple the document-in-triplicate and the letter. "I want nothing more to do with Hogwarts."

Now Twistgrapple sighed. He had so hoped to be able to perform the service to Hogwarts that McGonagall had asked of him, but he could see now that said service would violate Snape's privacy in an unprofessional manner.

Tucking the papers away, he said, "Forgive me for intruding upon you in this manner. I shall go and not trouble you again."

To his surprise, Snape said, "Wait."

"Yes?"

"Having come all this way, I suppose I should offer you a cuppa."

"You are under no obligation to offer me anything, and it seems obvious that you have no wish for company."

"Why do you say that? Is it the isolated location? My 'friendly' demeanour?"

Although Snape's words were sarcastic, Twistgrapple could see that his eyes were lined with fatigue and concern, and yes, loneliness, too. He opposed the Dark One, Twistgrapple thought, using the name that the goblins had given Voldemort. If he wishes company, you should not make him beg for it. "I would enjoy a cup of tea, Mr Snape," he said, mentally composing his reply to McGonagall's letter with regard to the transfer of funds and his "inability" to perform the service that she had requested of him.

~*~

"You don't seem concerned that Minerva lied to you," Snape said, as he led Twistgrapple through a series of untidy and stifling rooms.

"Deputy and Acting Headmistress McGonagall may believe she writes the truth. Did you ever resign, sir?"

Snape snorted. "'Dying' rather precludes one from offering a resignation."

"Yes," Twistgrapple replied, "but you are not dead," Twistgrapple said, choosing his words with care, "so perhaps Deputy and Acting Headmistress McGonagall has cause to believe you are on holiday and have no desire to speak with anyone until your return."

"I think we both know," said Snape, putting the kettle on, "that she suspects I live and wants to find me. Have a seat." Snape gestured at the kitchen table.

Twistgrapple took the chair farthest from the cooker, thinking that Snape would choose the closest one. The wizard had developed an odour during his isolation, and Twistgrapple did not care for strong scents.

"Forgive me, sir, but can you not think of a reason to explain the fact that Deputy and Acting Headmistress McGonagall might wish to find you?"

"Oh, I can think of several. None of them matter to me." Snape ran a hand through his hair, cringed, and then wiped his hand on his trousers.

Twistgrapple grimaced; he was not looking forward to his tea. "Again, forgive me, sir, but from your . . . circumstances, something must be troubling you."

Snape scowled at him and opened his mouth as if to speak but said nothing.

Twistgrapple sighed. This is no business of yours. Be silent, he told himself, proceeding to ignore his own counsel. "You will think it impertinent, perhaps, but you are . . . not without responsibilities. Until you surrender them, you will have no peace."

"Do I look like—peace is not something I will ever have." The kettle whistled, and Snape set about preparing the pot.

"My duty is to Hogwarts' account, which means that it is to you, sir, so if there is anything I might do to ease the burden you carry, I am ready to do it."

Thunk!

Twistgrapple watched tea slosh out of the pot as Snape slammed it down on the table. Still, he said nothing.

"I trust that you would not have invited me to stay had you no reason to do so, Headmaster Snape."

Snape sat down heavily and sighed. "I did not plan things as well as I might have done, Mr Twistgrapple."

"'Senior Account Manager Twistgrapple', or simply 'Twist', if you prefer."

Snape barked out a laugh. "You're offering me your friendship?"

Twistgrapple inclined his head. "You seem to have need of someone's friendship, sir."

"Well, Twist, you may be right, but I don't deserve it."

"If that were true, Severus?" Twistgrapple said, tilting his head.

Snape grunted.

"Then Deputy and Acting Headmistress McGonagall would not be looking for you. Do you know that you've been declared dead and awarded an Order of Merlin, First Class?"

"No, but I'm not surprised."

"Well, why would Deputy—"

"Just call her 'Minerva'. She won't mind," Interrupted Severus.

"But I would. I have not been given leave to address her thus. Why should she attempt to find you, knowing as she does that you're 'dead'? That speaks to friendship, does it not?"

"It speaks to stubbornness!"

"Perhaps, or even to a more malignant intention," Twistgrapple replied, suddenly realising that possibility.

Severus laughed bitterly. "She already tried to kill me."

"So I have read. I believe she feels guilty about it now that she knows of your work against the Dark One."

"I couldn't tell her," Severus replied, looking away. "I couldn't tell anyone."

"Ah," said Twistgrapple. "You are ashamed?"

"No."

"What, then?"

"Fine. Ashamed it is. I don't know . . . how to face any of them. I have no wish to explain myself. I just want it to be done."

"Hence your taking obvious pains to escape the Dark One's servant, yes, that is indicative of a wizard who wishes to be 'done'."

"A sarcastic goblin. How novel. Tea not to your liking, is it?"

"Do you prize honesty, Severus?"

Severus raised his eyebrows.

"This is an untidy home. You are not clean, either, and that was not proper tea you placed into the pot."

"You're criticising me for using tea bags?"

"I am merely explaining why I have no desire to drink the tea. You do not look as though you are enjoying your life. Why then, did you save it?"

Severus rose and began to pace. "Are you always so bloody nosy?"

"You did invite me to stay. You did respond to my overture of friendship. I do not believe that these things are in your nature, and yet . . . . Would you have me lie to you? Would you suffer my presence if I merely offered you 'damned pleasantries'?"

Abruptly, Severus stilled. "No, but . . . . No."

"How long have you dwelt alone?" asked Twistgrapple.

Severus did not reply.

"Too long, I should think, if you're forced to entertain a middle-aged goblin to tea in order to relieve the tedium of your own company."

"Why should you care?"

"I have already explained that to you," Twistgrapple replied, frowning.

Sitting down again, Severus said, "Your duty is to Minerva. You made that transfer at her request, not mine."

"Yes, but that was before I realised the extent of the complications. The management of Hogwarts' account will continue no matter who runs the school, but I cannot serve two Heads knowing as I do that there is confusion."

"And that would be a problem—for you!"

"Yes, but more than that," said Twistgrapple, "I owe a duty to you as a goblin because you did fight against the Dark One. My kind no longer seek battle. To do so would violate the treaty our leaders signed with Merlin to end what you would call the 'Goblin Wars'."

"What do goblins call them?"

"You wouldn't appreciate it."

"Tell me," Snape insisted.

"'The Culling'."

"Charming."

"No," replied Twistgrapple, "failure never is, but a treaty is a treaty and goblins prize honour above all things."

Snape cocked his head. "That is unfortunate."

"Why?"

"Because I have a paperwork problem that I cannot solve alone, and going about solving it will most likely require the suspension of honour."

"You have no intention of ever revealing to Deputy and Acting Headmistress McGonagall that you still live?"

"No," Severus replied.

"In that case," Twistgrapple replied, smiling slowly as an idea occurred to him, "I propose that you solve your paperwork problem with the honourable application of yet more paperwork."

~*~

Twistgrapple
Senior Account Manager
Gringotts Wizarding Bank
North Side, Diagon Alley
London, England

20 June 1998

Deputy Headmistress McGonagall
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,
Temporary Hogsmeade Location

Dear Deputy Headmistress McGonagall,

With regret, I must inform you that I cannot secure Headmaster Severus Snape's signature for you because, in the course of my duty, I have obtained his letter of resignation. Please find that letter, as well as the documents with which you provided me, enclosed. It was Headmaster Snape's wish that you present his letter of resignation to the Board of Governors should he be unable to do so himself, a task that I hope will not pain you deeply.

Please accept my condolences on the loss of Headmaster Snape, and rest assured that I shall ever strive to do my duty by Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Sincerely,

Twistgrapple

Frowning, Minerva set aside Twistgrapple's letter and read Severus' resignation.

To whom it may concern,

I have written this letter to be presented by my representative, Twistgrapple of Gringotts, to the relevant party in the event of my incapacitation, disappearance, or death. The purpose of this letter is to sever my professional ties with Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry so that my designated successor can assume the Headship of Hogwarts.

In the event of my incapacitation, disappearance, or death, I hereby designate Minerva McGonagall as my successor to the Headship of Hogwarts. Should Minerva McGonagall be unable or unwilling to accept the position, I hereby designate Filius Flitwick as my successor to the Headship of Hogwarts. Should Filius Flitwick be unable or unwilling to accept the position, I hereby designate Pomona Sprout as my successor to the Headship of Hogwarts. Should Pomona Sprout be unable or unwilling to accept the position, I hereby decree that my successor to the Headship of Hogwarts be chosen by popular vote from among those professors who will have been on staff for at least five years together at the time this letter is received; such professors need not consult the Board of Governors at any point in the election process for the Board's role in such a circumstance is strictly advisory and unbinding.

In the dire event that none of my designated successors is able or willing to accept the Headship and an election cannot be held to select one because there are no professors remaining at Hogwarts who will have been on staff for at least five years together at the time this letter is received, I hereby decree that the Sorting Hat should have the choosing of a new Head of Hogwarts, and that the school suspend operation until a new Head is chosen—and no matter anyone's thoughts as to the manner of my becoming Headmaster of Hogwarts, I remind everyone who reads this letter that the school accepted me; therefore, my wishes are binding.

Ignore them at your peril, for the enchantments wrought upon Hogwarts by the Founders with regard to the Headship are unforgiving. You may consult Hogwarts: A History should you wish to refresh your memory as to that fact.

Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus.

Severus Snape

"Well," Minerva said, setting the letter aside, "that's Severus for you—Slytherin to the last."

Sighing, she Summoned the Book of Students, placed two clean sheets of parchment, a quill, and a bottle of ink next to it, and then swished her wand over the book as she cast, "Incipio!"

The quill did its work, and Minerva read the letter, finding, as she suspected she would, that the template had changed:

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Temporary Hogsmeade Location


Headmistress: Minerva McGonagall
(Founding Member, Order of the Phoenix; Treasurer, Society for Distressed Witches; Fellow, International Association for Transfigurational Ethics; Order of Merlin, First Class)


20 June 1998

Dear Miss Alexander,

We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment. Term begins on 1 September. We await your owl by no later than 31 July.

Yours sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall
Headmistress

"Bugger," she murmured, leaning back into her chair, "that's that, then."

~*~

"But the letter is undated!" Filius protested, after Minerva had explained matters to him and the other Heads of House.

"Yes, but that's of no consequence, obviously."

Pomona turned to Horace. "How can you say that?"

"Because Hogwarts has accepted Minerva as Headmistress," he replied. "We must accept the fact that Severus has no wish to be found and go on with the business of running the school."

Filius shook his head. "I don't think it's right."

"Perhaps it isn't," Minerva told him, "but I can't think how else we might find him, and as we earlier agreed, Severus has a right to his privacy. If he wants to keep to his 'grave', there's nothing we can do about it."

"Or should, I suppose," replied Filius, sighing.

"You're just disappointed that your trick didn't catch him."

"And you," Filius rejoined, "are peeved that Severus made it impossible for you to assume the Headship! He never liked you, and I—"

"Gentlemen," snapped Minerva, "that is quite enough!"

"Yes, it is," Pomona added. "I just hope that Severus really is all right. When you contacted Mr Twistgrapple, did he mention how he came into possession of Severus' letter?"

"No, he would only repeat how pleased he was to 'have been of service' to the school."

Filius snorted. "That's a goblin for you, stubborn to the last."

"But not, I think, as stubborn as Severus," Pomona quietly remarked.

Favouring her with a slight, sad smile, Minerva nodded in agreement.

~*~

Crackthorne's scowl notwithstanding, Twistgrapple was ecstatic—though he did his best not to appear so.

"—and because of this 'personal service', Severus Snape wishes the management of his affairs to be placed in Twistgrapple's hands, effective immediately."

Chief of Senior Account Manager Management Throttler's expression was impassive as he relayed his exciting news, and that was significant. It most likely meant that he had not discovered, or did not wish to discover, the particulars of the service that had led to Severus Snape's request. For Twistgrapple, then, there was no paperwork problem.

He felt relieved on that score, but he couldn't help wondering how Crackthorne would repay him for having "stolen" a client.

Which I did not do. Severus never even told me that he planned to

"—will now return to work, gentlemen," Throttler said, interrupting Twistgrapple's thoughts. "I suggest that you do the same."

Thus dismissed, the two Senior Account Managers left their superior's office. Once they had moved a discreet distance away from Throttler's door, however, Crackthorne spoke.

"A moment, my son."

Twistgrapple swallowed against his nervousness. "Yes, Father?"

"I would have your word that your behaviour in this matter has been honourable."

It was an offensive request; goblins so highly prized honour that for one to question another's was often the last thing that goblin ever did, but Twistgrapple was not prepared to challenge his father on that point. To do so would mean having to answer to his mother should he survive such a challenge, and Bloodknuckle, like most proper female goblins, had hardened herself through decades of toil amidst the heat and harshness of the forges. Momentarily at a loss as to how to respond, he felt the blood drain from his face.

Crackthorne leant towards him and grinned widely, showing all his teeth. "Yes, Bloodknuckle would object to our . . . fighting, wouldn't she? Your word, boy!" he snarled.

"Y—you have it, Senior Account Manager Crackthorne!"

"Go then, and do your duty by your new client, Senior Account Manager Twistgrapple."

~*~

"So your showing up here uninvited and unannounced, again, is because you were obeying your father?" Severus asked.

"You did accept the tea," Twistgrapple replied, nodding at the pot that sat between them, "so I can't believe you truly mind my 'intrusion'."

Severus grunted. "It was the ham rolls that got you through the door, Twist, not the tea."

"Ham rolls go particularly well with this blend," Twistgrapple said, thinking to himself that it was his ability to provide his friend with information about the outside world that had got him through the door.

Severus shook his head, saying, through a bite of ham roll, "I don't . . . understand the . . . goblin conception of honour."

"Shall I explain it to you?"

"Why the hell not? It's not as though I've anything else to do at present."

"No," Twistgrapple agreed. "Your home is tidy, and you are clean. What else might a 'retired' Potions master find to do with his time?"

Severus snorted. "If you bring me a beef roast next time, I'll excuse your sarcasm—and tell you if things go to plan."

There will be a next time! thought Twistgrapple, replying, "I shall be happy to do so, provided you authorise me to draw funds from your account for the purpose."

"Knut-pinching. I should have known."

"I am not—"

Severus waved a hand as if in dismissal of Twistgrapple's concern. "Yes, I'll pay for it. Now, tell me more about Babbling's letter to the editor of the Prophet. Has Minerva responded to . . . ."

~*~

Some months later, after many thrilling accounts about the status of Severus' latest project, Twistgrapple was happy to see that it had come to near-fruition when he picked up the Prophet one morning before work to read, above the fold, "AN OPEN LETTER TO HOGWARTS' HEADMISTRESS FROM HER FUTURE STUDENTS."

"He's done it!"

Twistgrapple avidly read on:

1 January 1999

Professor Minerva McGonagall
Headmistress
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Hogsmeade, Scotland

Dear Professor McGonagall,

We, the undersigned Hogwarts-bound witches and wizards, with our parents' assistance and permission if not their unanimous approbation, request, upon our arrival at the school, not to be Sorted. Rather, we request to be housed in an independent dormitory, divided only by sex, where we may reside, under the direct supervision of Professor Bathsheba Babbling, while pursuing our studies outside of the traditional four-house organisational and competitive scheme until such time as we might elect to join it by participating in a future Sorting Ceremony. We further request that the independent dormitory, or "Hogwarts House," as we propose it be called, remain a fixture of Hogwarts for those students who elect to remain Unsorted.

We make our requests respectfully and without any desire to alter the school's fundamental character and others' experience of it. We merely wish the opportunity to make our own friends and develop our own interests without regard to any premature, arbitrarily assigned house affiliations. We assert that such early house assignments are arbitrary because, however imbued with the Founders' magic and wisdom the Sorting Hat may be, it remains only a semi-sentient magical object, and we feel that, as fully sentient, living beings, we are, with appropriate guidance from our elders, best suited to define ourselves and direct our own destinies for we will come to know ourselves, in time, better than the Sorting Hat ever could. As such, we wish to become acquainted with our year mates as individuals before coming to regard them and ourselves as Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, and Slytherins.

House affiliations divide even as they unite, just as do the many cultural classifications and creeds to which magical Britain is heir, classifications and creeds which are reinforced to great extent by the traditional characteristics attributed to each of Hogwarts' houses and their members. Such divisions feed the war with itself in which Magical Britain has long been engaged, and we propose, in light of recent events, to be students rather than soldiers. As heirs of magic, all of us, we wish to represent our shared school, regardless of any future house affiliations, as Hogwarts students, and upon leaving it, to represent our shared society, conscious of our differences but without being ruled by them, as independent citizens.

We understand that admitting Unsorted students to the school will not be without its challenges for Hogwarts, but we feel that such an august institution, with its long history of championing the education of witches and wizards, will be able to rise to meet them. Should you grant our requests, we pledge to do the same.

With the greatest sincerity . . . .

"Ha! Look at all those names!"

~*~

At the same time that Twistgrapple was cackling over his copy of the Prophet, Minerva was scowling at hers. From Constance Alexander to Abby Zellmann, every student to whom she'd sent a Hogwarts letter—including Brooke Babbling, which was no surprise—had signed the letter.

"Damn you, Bathsheba! This is your doing!"

It never occurred to her, as she and Professor Babbling worked out the particulars of Hogwarts House in the ensuing months, that Severus was the true author of her most pressing school-related problem. After all, he had always been, to her mind, the consummate Slytherin.

Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
margi_lynn
Oct. 19th, 2012 09:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, Severus! That is utterly cunning :D I approve ♥

Thank you for sharing!
iulia_linnea
Oct. 22nd, 2012 12:25 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! Thank you for letting me know you enjoyed it. :D
snegurochka_lee
Oct. 20th, 2012 09:40 am (UTC)
That was marvellous!! I love how you took such a unique approach to an issue fandom has been grappling with since DH came out -- what happened to Snape. The letterhead magic was a great idea, and the entire concept of using paperwork to track him was just so clever. And Twistgrapple was a great character. :)
iulia_linnea
Oct. 22nd, 2012 12:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!

I find the goblins fascinating, and I think they'd have ways of dealing with sneaky magical folk. :D
alisanne
Oct. 21st, 2012 09:23 pm (UTC)
Ahahaha! Delightful. :)
iulia_linnea
Oct. 22nd, 2012 12:27 pm (UTC)
*glee* Thank you!
mcmuffins_js
Oct. 21st, 2012 10:31 pm (UTC)
I love this! Paperwork! Forget porn - this is a truly adult fic :)
iulia_linnea
Oct. 22nd, 2012 12:27 pm (UTC)
Hee! Thank you so much! :D
duniazade
Oct. 21st, 2012 11:55 pm (UTC)
To do so would mean having to answer to his mother should he survive such a challenge, and Bloodknuckle, like most proper female goblins, had hardened herself through decades of toil amidst the heat and harshness of the forges.

Ahahahaaaa! Marvellous Bloodknuckle, marvellous goblin family, clever, clever story. Thank you for a great pleasure!
iulia_linnea
Oct. 22nd, 2012 12:27 pm (UTC)
Goblins rock, especially the female ones! I'm glad you enjoyed this. :D
(Deleted comment)
iulia_linnea
Oct. 22nd, 2012 12:28 pm (UTC)
You're welcome! Thank you for letting me know that you enjoyed it. :D
woldy
Oct. 22nd, 2012 01:04 am (UTC)
Ha! This is great fun - I love the goblings, and the way they deviously handle the paperwork trail. Good to know that the Muggle and magical worlds aren't so different ;-)
iulia_linnea
Oct. 22nd, 2012 12:28 pm (UTC)
Hee! I love the goblins, too, and of course they must have ways of dealing with wizarding trickery. :D I'm glad you enjoyed the fic.
shyfoxling
Oct. 22nd, 2012 10:50 pm (UTC)
Very good! I was grinning all the way through Severus's letter.
iulia_linnea
Oct. 23rd, 2012 02:18 pm (UTC)
Oh, excellent! Thank you. :D
joannindiw
Oct. 28th, 2012 04:37 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful! (I was really reading your journal to find out more about Merva's antics, and sort of fell into this story.. :D :D )
iulia_linnea
Nov. 1st, 2012 07:18 pm (UTC)
I'll try to post more Merva pics soon. :)

Oh, yay! I'm glad to know that you enjoyed this fic. :D
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )