The story was written for the SS/HG exchange, winter round 2008/2009.
Thank you to my beta reader Melusin. This story is as much a gift for her as it is for the recipient.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Original Prompt: – Hermione and Snape down Polyjuice Potion of each other so they switch bodies. Accidental or on purpose is up to you. Let the games begin.
Severus Snape: Sinner or Saint?
Rita Skeeter, bestselling author of 'The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore' strikes again. Special correspondent Lavender Brown, who writes for the Prophet's society section, was invited to Ms Skeeter's home and granted an interview with the charismatic author.
"I had humble beginnings," Rita tells me while showing me around her eleven-bedroom mansion. "But hard work and dedication to the quality of my work have brought me to where I am now."
Proudly, the stylish, trim, blonde lady opens the doors to her library for me, pointing out the marble floors, oriental carpets and antique furniture.
"There were a good many grand houses for sale after the war," she says, explaining her good fortune. "And with the income from my latest book, I'm finally able to live in style."
Rita's house-elf serves tea, and then we finally settle down to chat about her new book.
"Why Severus Snape?" I ask. "What is so fascinating about a man most of us only remember as an unpleasant teacher, murderer of Albus Dumbledore and cruel headmaster under Voldemort's reign?"
Rita laughs. "Oh, yes, Severus Snape is well known for his less than stable temper. I've experienced it first hand, too. But that is part of what makes the man so fascinating, don't you think?"
She winks at me and continues, "He combines both the ability to frighten and anger the unsuspecting and innocent and, at the same time, the willingness to protect them with all he has—with his life if need be. Or does he?" Rita's eyes sparkle mischievously. "After all, dangerous Death Eaters trembled in fear at the mere sight of him, and he didn't hesitate one second when the opportunity to murder Dumbledore arose. But some say that this was pre-arranged with Dumbledore himself and that Snape, at great risk to his own soul, provided an easy death for the already doomed Dumbledore at a strategically opportune time."
I am full of questions and must look it because she continues, "After my last book about the puppet-master Dumbledore, exploring the character of Severus Snape was the logical conclusion. We have a man here who experienced the full range of Albus Dumbledore's questionable talents at manipulation. It begs the question: why did Dumbledore speak up for and protect Severus Snape for so long? Did he cultivate a spy, using a disgruntled ex-Death Eater to gather information on the enemy, or was there more between them? Why did Severus Snape turn spy, and what did he think about the unhealthy fixation of Dumbledore on Harry Potter?"
"Do you think Snape was Dumbledore's lover?" I ask, dumbfounded.
"Read the book and make your own conclusions." Rita smiles enigmatically. "You see, there are so many questions, and with my usual thorough research, I managed to answer many of those questions. I persuaded a few people who've been very close to the man for almost all his life to spill the beans, but I had to wait until they were released from Azkaban. Interviewing the right people helped me shed light on the ambiguous character of Severus Snape, who's been called a vile bastard by some and the bravest man they ever knew by others."
"So what is he, sinner or saint?" I ask, not able to turn my eyes away from Rita. That's how intrigued I am.
"Read the book and you'll know," Rita laughs.
And that's exactly what I did. And it kept me spellbound. I don't need to avail myself of my talents as a seer to know that this book will be the talk of many a salon this season. But for the benefit of those readers who need a bit more of an incentive to read a book as voluminous as her latest oeuvre, Rita Skeeter has agreed to discuss short passages from the book with us: passages that give us a glimpse into the dangerous world of crime, terror and espionage. The Prophet feels privileged to be allowed to print these passages as a preview for our valued readers.
We shall start with the last chapter: Chapter Thirteen: Privilege or Punishment?
When Severus Snape surprised everyone by surviving the attack of Voldemort's pet snake, many people were convinced that he would be given a fair trial and sent to Azkaban, together with his other Death Eater mates. Who would have suspected that the Boy-Who-Lived would stand up for his old enemy––everyone knows how much Severus Snape has always loathed Harry Potter––and bear witness in his favour?
Harry Potter's testimony kept Severus Snape out of Azkaban and almost free from all repercussions. The only restriction that was laid on Snape was to report to the Ministry and not leave Britain. He was not permitted to work in certain professions, but he was generously offered employment in the Auror section of the Ministry under the direct authority of––you've guessed it––Harry Potter. Severus Snape should be thanking Harry Potter on bended knee for that preferential treatment. Or should he?
… … …
"Bloody hell, Severus. You look like shit!"
"And a good evening to you, too, Miss Granger."
"It's Hermione. How often do I have to tell you? But seriously, you look done in. Had a tough day?"
"You could call it that."
"Fancy a beer at the Leaky Cauldron?"
"Are you paying?"
"The first round. The second's on you. I could do with a pint or two as well."
Severus Snape nodded and held the door to the lift open. Hermione Granger, second assistant in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, smiled and walked past him into the atrium of the Ministry of Magic. They were both heading straight towards the long row of fireplaces on the right-hand side that were used by the Ministry employees to Floo home from work. Hermione and Severus each faced a fireplace and took a pinch of Floo powder from the jar on the respective mantelpieces. In a much-practised routine, they threw the powder into the flames, cried 'Leaky Cauldron' almost simultaneously and spiralled away in a green flash.
"So you think my job in the Auror section is a piece of cake?" Severus asked after having taken a long gulp of Dodderidge's Finest Traditional Mild and wiping his mouth with his sleeve.
"I didn't say that," Hermione replied, having emptied her tankard already and was now diligently ripping a packet of crisps open for them to share. "But I doubt that you have to deal with as many idiots as I do, day in, day out."
"You really have no idea, have you?" Severus grimaced as if in pain but raised a hand, signalling Tom to bring them two more pints.
"How bad can it be, being an advisor for Aurors-in-training and brewing first-aid potions?" she mumbled through the crisps in her mouth.
"How bad can it be bickering about house-elf liberties with old-established administrators who haven't seen change in procedure during their own lifetime and that of their predecessors?" Severus mimicked her with a sneer.
"You have no idea." Hermione grimaced and waved to Tom to bring them a third round.
"Sir, could I have your autograph?" A hopeful looking young witch was approaching their table, holding a book clasped to her chest—a book that had Severus' face glaring from the title page.
The original's glare caused the witch to take a step backwards. " S… Sorry…" she stammered and carefully retreated.
Hermione covered her eyes with her hands and murmured, "I should have stomped on Skeeter while I had the opportunity…" She peeked through her fingers at Severus, whose angry frown seemed etched onto his face. "Relax," Hermione whispered. "It could have been a lot worse…"
Severus answered with a snarl and ordered yet another round.
"I wish… " he whispered after they'd drunk their fourth tankard each. "I just wish I had an easy job like you. Just for one day."
Hermione studied his face and posture closely. He really did look done in. His shoulders were slumped, and his face was pale. His raven-black hair still wasn't showing any traces of grey, but it was as greasy as it had ever been. His long, crooked nose jutted out of his thin face, a face that showed more lines than it had at Hogwarts, but not all of them came from frowning and scowling. These days, Severus Snape actually laughed on occasion. It was a scary thought, and most people trod very carefully around him when he laughed or smiled.
"You want to swap jobs?" Hermione asked and grinned. "Why, that's easy enough. If you're so convinced that my job is relaxing, you're welcome to it, for half a day or so. Then, if you still think that my life is so carefree, I'll buy you a whole barrel of Dodderidge's Finest."
"Deal." Severus smirked. He had her right where he wanted her. Former Gryffindors were so easily manipulated.
"Not so fasht." Hermione grinned happily after downing another pint but found her tongue to be annoyingly heavy all of a sudden. "Sh… sh… should be some proof that you mean it. Shhh… some magical contract." She sat up straight with some effort and looked at him earnestly. As earnestly as a thoroughly plastered twenty-five-year-old woman could manage, at least.
"Give it here. I'll sign it. Anything you want, Miss Granger. Anything…"
"It's Hermione. How often do I have to...? And you're not ssssss… signing without… You're drunk. Is that how you got your Dark Mark?"
"That remark was in extremely bad taste." Severus straightened his shoulders and glowered, looking as seriously offended as a thoroughly plastered forty-four-year-old man could manage.
"Yes, it was, and I apologize," Hermione replied, sobering up a bit. She certainly didn't want to offend the wizard sitting opposite her. Severus Snape was too good a companion for getting plastered with; she didn't want to piss him off. Besides, she had a reason for wanting to change identities with him. But she didn't want him to know that. Former Slytherins had to be manipulated with subtlety.
As unlikely as it seemed, Severus and Hermione had both found themselves with a job in the Ministry after the war. Hermione had briefly considered training as an Auror, along with Harry, but she lacked the enthusiasm for fighting. She found that she'd had enough of Dark wizard catching during the war and in the final battle, thank you very much. She'd eventually changed her attitude towards the law and decided that she'd be in the best position to elicit change if she worked right at the heart of things. She'd work her way up through the departments, and, always being the overachiever, she'd quickly get into a position where she could instigate real change. Change towards a wizarding world as she thought it ought to be.
That had all worked out nicely––only, Hermione had neglected to consider one all-decisive fact: administrators hate change. Her rapid understanding of procedure and her eagerness to complete her tasks quickly didn't make her any friends among the other staff. She was soon considered to be a know-it-all, an upstart, a brown-noser who disturbed her colleagues' trusted routine. This could not be permitted, and thus Hermione soon found herself as ostracized as she had been when she'd started her first year at Hogwarts. Only this time, there were no Harry and Ron to befriend and change the world with; those two were now following their own agendas, and when all three of them got together on the odd weekend, they were reluctant to discuss work and the Ministry.
Things had brightened up for Hermione when Ron had proposed two years after the war. She'd thought that, with an old wizarding family like the Weasleys to back her up, she'd be more accepted and taken seriously in society. Instead, the Weasleys did everything they could think of to discourage Hermione's ambitions and keep her from 'presenting such outlandish ideas', as Molly Weasley had called them. None of the younger Weasleys had been inclined to take Hermione's side on most of the things that mattered to her, not even Ron. To say that Hermione had been disappointed would be an understatement. Naturally, that development didn't exactly promote her relationship with Ron, and after several heated fights about his uncritical submission to his mother's worldview, Hermione had called their engagement off. She hadn't regretted that decision for a moment; the spark between them had been withering away, anyway. She and Ron were still friends, but there was nothing that was going to hold her back from going her own way, now: up, up, the career ladder and towards making some genuine and much-needed changes.
Over the previous seven years, her determination had got her the position of second assistant to the Department Head. She now had some real power to get things into motion, but she was more isolated than ever.
She would have felt even more miserable if it wasn't for Severus Snape.
They had both worked in the Ministry for years without seeing much of each other, but one evening, about a year ago, Hermione had found Severus in the lift, unconscious. He'd had no clear recollection of how he got there but claimed that it might have been a disgruntled ex-student who had hexed him. When Hermione had reacted with indignation, he had played it down, professing that a healthy herd of enemies kept a wizard's reflexes sharp. That had made her laugh, and they had ended up drinking in the Leaky Cauldron together.
From that day on, she had kept her eyes open and had seen him more than once with a black eye or a limp. They made a habit of meeting at least once a week, and Hermione now looked forward to those evenings spent drinking with Severus Snape. He was good company in misery. Neither told the other in detail what was bugging them, but they listened patiently to each other's more general complaints and drowned them together. Just as they were doing now.
"So, what exactly am I supposed to sign?" Severus' words slurred.
"We'll both sign," Hermione mumbled, mouth full of crisps again. "We'll spend an afternoon at work in the other's shoes and later tell each other what happened, and if we'd prefer it to our own job. To that effect, we'll take Polyjuice Potion."
His eyes glittered. "Do you know what you're getting yourself into?"
"Of course," she huffed. "Do you?"
"Naturally. Polyjuice Potion it is, then. Do you have any?"
"I happen to have a flask with several doses in my flat," Hermione told him, ignoring his curious stare. She wasn't going to tell him why she had several doses of Polyjuice Potion in her possession; that was nobody's business.
"Since we're both rather incapacitated," Severus drawled, "we should wait until tomorrow, or whenever you want to go through with this little charade, and sign the contract when we're sober. Or drop out, whatever may be the more sensible action."
"Agreed. Lunch in my flat, then?"
Good as his word, Severus showed up at Hermione's flat the next day: a bag with sandwiches in one hand, a packet of biscuits in the other. He was just about to knock on the door with his left foot when it opened.
Balancing precariously on one leg, Severus tried to regain his dignity, straightened, raised his shoulders and looked down his nose at Hermione. "Miss Granger."
"Her–my–oh–knee," Hermione said patiently in lieu of a greeting while waving him inside. "Come on, say it. It's not that difficult. Someone who can say, 'insufferable know-it-all' without stuttering should be able to manage a simple name."
"Perhaps," Severus muttered non-committally and went straight to the kitchen. He'd been there before, having helped her get home safely more than once after their 'sessions' in the Leaky Cauldron.
"You're a perfect gentleman," Hermione would tell him on such occasions. "The perfect dark knight." And as sure as the sun would rise in the east, she would dissolve into giggles at that point. Severus didn't mind. She was one sympathetic soul in a sea of sharks. He'd cultivate her company and enjoy it while it lasted. He had grown rather fond of her during the past months, in a somewhat detached way.
"I've just made a fresh pot of tea," Hermione declared, setting out cups and plates and pouring a cup for Severus.
"Good," he replied. "Then we can get straight to business. What do you remember of last night's conversation?"
Hermione sat down, after having poured herself a cup, too, and took one of the sandwiches. She bit into it, chewed thoroughly and thoughtfully and then swallowed, giving the sandwiches an appreciative nod.
"Good," she praised. "Go on, eat something. I remember everything, of course. What did you think?" She grinned before taking another bite.
He smirked. "I brought the contracts. We'll pass the afternoon disguised as each other, each equipped with a phial of three more doses of Polyjuice. That should get us through the rest of the workday. Then, we'll meet in your office and tell each other what happened. We shall evaluate the situation frankly and honestly. And then you'll buy me that barrel of Dodderidge's Finest."
Hermione laughed. "There's a part missing. If one of the parties lies, they have to buy the beer in the Leaky for the next three months."
"Agreed," Severus said and signed the contract, quickly followed by Hermione.
They stared at each other in silence while they ate the rest of the sandwiches. When they started on the biscuits, Hermione blurted out, "I trust that you've done this before?"
"Of course I have. What do you think? Are you afraid I'll be seeing or feeling something that excites me so much that I won't be able to perform the tasks you usually do?"
"Not really," Hermione admitted, washing the last of the biscuits down with her tea. "But, you know, I wasn't certain if you'd… in your time at school…"
"Good heavens," Severus exclaimed. "Miss, er, Hermione, I can assure you that every little harmless or not-so-harmless Polyjuice experiment that was done in your dorm during your time at school had already been invented by Slytherins in the seventies."
Hermione snorted. "I don't know what you think we did. It wasn't all that naughty. There was a bit of playing around, nothing serious. Nothing more or less than what goes on in any dorm third year and up, I suppose."
Severus raised an eyebrow. "Playing around. I see. Dare I ask…?"
"There were a couple of boys who caught my fancy––surely you can guess as much––and when I could get a hair off one of them… It helped me to find out what they liked, and what it's like as a man… You might remember that I always tried to learn as much as I could."
"A boy? Now that does surprise me. In your second year, when all the other silly girls fancied Gilderoy Lockhart, you surprised everyone with your stunt as a cat." Severus snorted into his tea. "A clear improvement over that old phony, I admit."
"Very funny." Hermione glared at him. "I'm not asking you what you did with the Polyjuice, but I just trust that you'll know what to do with my bits if nature calls?"
"I'll manage, as will you, I'm sure. But be that as it may, we should get back to the point. What are your current projects?"
"There's nothing urgent going on at the moment, just a bit of filing. You merely need to pretend to sort through the files. There's nothing confidential out in the open. If someone asks you a specific question, claim that you have a terrible headache and that you'll get back to them tomorrow. They know better than to pester me when I have a migraine. You'll be able to observe them without having to do much work. Just watch their interactions and the way they 'work', and you'll know why I need to drown my sorrows." She continued telling him about her job and then went on to ask questions about his own tasks.
After they had briefed each other the best they could in the remaining time, they returned to the Ministry and went straight to Hermione's office.
"Cheers," she said and raised her first dose of the potion in salute. Severus threw one of his hairs in and, screwing her eyes shut, Hermione took a good swig from the poisonous-smelling, frothing, and silvery gloop.
Severus watched intrigued as the rather pretty face of Miss Granger twisted and warped, erupted into boils and bumps and finally transformed into his own ugly face with its ridiculous, large nose. Merlin, for running around with that nose alone, she deserved to be treated to the best the Leaky, or any other wizarding establishment, could offer, not just the weak beer they usually shared.
His body wasn't much better. At least there was certain strength there, a subdued power to his pathetic frame, but as usual, he looked too pale, too thin. It was good to see himself from this perspective, he thought bitterly. That'd cure him of any ideas about appearing attractive to any witch, young or old, present or absent. He could be glad that Granger was willing to drink with him on occasion; that way, he at least had a minimum of human contact, just enough to keep him functioning.
Hermione took a few steps, pulled her Transfigured robes around herself and turned with a flourish. Posing importantly was so much easier if you had the height and frame for it. She strode proudly from one end of the room to the other and turned once again with robes billowing.
"Well?" she asked expectantly, a small smile on her face.
"Not bad, but don't smile. It's not improving my appearance and will only puzzle your opponents." He paused and stared at her––himself––thoughtfully. "On the other hand, it might be advantageous. You'll scare your opponent, and a scared foe is a beaten foe."
Hermione raised an eyebrow. That felt natural. She experimentally tried to smirk and got an appreciative look from the original.
"Your turn now," she said and took the curly hair she had pulled from her own head earlier.
Severus held out his phial, and they watched together as the potion frothed and bubbled and emitted an evil, cabbage smell. Then it changed its colour to a rather delicious looking chocolate brown, emitting a slight cinnamon fragrance.
"Fascinating," Severus muttered and pinched his nose while swallowing down a portion of the phial's contents. He gagged a few times and then held on to the nearest chair, a pained expression on his pale face.
Hermione watched with interest how his harsh features softened and changed. The bubbles and bumps changed colour, and instead of the sallow-faced man, a slightly tanned woman stood before her. Her own nose seemed ridiculously small compared to the glorious conk normally resident on Severus' face, which was now jutting out from her own borrowed face. The soft, lank, black hair had transformed into a rat's nest of an undefined brown colour.
Damn, Hermione thought. I really should get my hair dyed or at least learn the charm to do it myself. A few highlights, or maybe a hint of red…
Her only redeeming features were her trim figure and nice, pert breasts. She looked at them fondly, not wanting to know what Severus was going to do with them while in possession of her body. As she waved her wand over Severus' large robes to Transfigure them into her own, she smirked at the scowl he gave her.
"Don't scowl," she admonished. "It's not ladylike. Glare, if you must. My glare is well-known around here. And don't shout, screech."
"Very well," Severus said, clearing his throat after having uttered his first slightly squeaky words as Hermione Granger. Damnation, he had never noticed that her voice was so much higher than his own.
"That's my line," Hermione said. "You say, 'all right'. Or 'Blimey.' Or 'Bloody Hell'."
"All right," he said and tried a timid smile. "Let's get to work, then. And don't forget to watch your back when you go down there."
"Don't worry. I know how to fight," Hermione replied, slightly miffed. "As you may remember, I had plenty of practice."
"Just saying," Severus drawled.
"Don't drawl," she reprimanded him. "Oh, and if Cormac McLaggen happens to come by the office, do not, and I repeat, DO NOT agree with anything he suggests and ward off any effort at inviting me out or such. That man is as persistent as a cockroach. Sadly, I can't just stomp on him."
"I shall remember it, if and when he shows up," Severus said while she made her way to the door. "Good luck."
"Same to you. We'll talk later."
Frowning, he stared at the door that had closed behind her, wondering what the afternoon would bring and where his silly idea would lead them. At least it was a diversion from his own depressing, daily routine.
Hermione enjoyed striding down the corridor and taking full advantage of Severus' long legs and lean frame. Who'd have known that his body was so graceful and well-balanced? She wondered what dancing would feel like in his body. Dancing or any other form of co-ordinated movement. Or… No, she would not get into THAT. Severus was a friend; she could not use his body to satisfy her curiosity; that would be a breach of trust. She did know what it felt like to be a man, after all. It had been a while, though. Her first tentative experiments had been in her fifth year, and the last time she had taken Polyjuice Potion to pose as a man had been in the summer after their sixth year when several of Harry's friends had posed as the seven Potters to get him out of Privet Drive safely. Looking back, she still couldn't believe how foolish they'd been. It had been Albus Dumbledore's plan, relayed to them by Severus through Mundungus, and like all of Dumbledore's plans, this one had been more than questionable and sufficiently idiotic. There would have been much safer ways to get Harry away from his aunt's house, and then maybe Mad Eye would still be alive. And Harry's owl, Hedwig. Maybe…
Shaking herself slightly, Hermione walked past the lift, barely avoiding a collision with the swarm of paper-aeroplane memos that buzzed in and out of the lift at every floor. Being as tall as Severus didn't only have advantages, apparently. She took the stairs down to the second level where Severus worked.
"Hey, Snape. Watch it!" A voice woke her from her reverie, and a younger Auror, who was walking past her in the corridor, slammed into her with his shoulder, shoving Hermione roughly against the wall.
"Sorry," Hermione murmured, but the Auror had walked away already, laughing unpleasantly.
Interesting. Frowning, Hermione proceeded to Severus' office at the end of the corridor, right behind the Auror section, and opened the door. She stopped dead in her tracks.
A dead, half-rotten fish was lying across Severus' desk, and the paperwork was strewn all over the place. Cupboards, drawers and filing cabinets had been opened, upturned and emptied. She was looking around, speechless, outrage bubbling up from her stomach and causing a bitter taste in her mouth. With trembling hands, she took her wand out of Severus' robes––her aspen and dragon heartstring wand looked sufficiently similar to Severus' rowan and unicorn hair wand to fool the casual observer––and cast a Vanishing Spell on the fish, sent the drawers back into their chests and had just started to sort the paperwork and office equipment back into their proper places when the door opened with a bang.
"Snape, I need that Cruciatus report on my desk by five o' clock today." Harry Potter, now head of the Auror office, had stormed in. "And clean out that mess, man. Don't let your temper get the better of you all the time," he snarled, looking around disdainfully before leaving just as fast as he had come.
"H…, ah, Potter!" Hermione bellowed but to no avail. What the hell was going on here? She doubted that this was the first time this kind of prank had been played on Severus, but why had he never told her about it? And what was with Harry? She'd have to find out…
A few more flicks and muttered spells and the office was cleaned up. With a sigh, she slumped down on Severus' chair, wondering what else she'd experience before the day was over.
"Hermione, do you have a minute?" Percy Weasley, Minister of Magic, stood in the doorway, smiling down at Severus benevolently.
"M… Minister? What is it?" Severus sighed in resignation. Typical of Granger to have omitted the little fact that the minister might want to talk to her.
"That last report of yours. You know, the one proposing to convince centaurs to join the Wizengamot? We need to discuss this."
"What's there to discuss? All I have to say is in there."
"That may be, but the form, Hermione, the form. Will you ever learn to use the right application form for a proposal like this?" Percy shook his head and sighed. Then he patted Severus' hand. Severus had to grind his teeth; he was so close to hexing Weasley's bollocks off…
"But that's only a minor point, isn't it? The main thing is what you wrote here. You can't possibly want the centaurs on the Wizengamot."
"Why ever not?"
"They don't even have magical being status. They'd have to apply for that first, and you know how they feel about doing that. It's a process that can take years."
"And why, pray, would they have to do that?" Severus felt an intellectual challenge, something he seldom experienced in his own profession. "It's not as if wizards ever applied for magical being status, is it?"
"Er, ah… er… of course not," Percy stuttered. "What an idea! We're people. That's different."
"In what way?" Severus challenged. "Do you mean to imply that their brains are less capable of thinking than ours? I know for a fact that intelligence is not a criterion for being chosen to serve on the Wizengamot, nor is magical ability. Do the centaurs lack connections? Surely a few of them would agree to mingle in society? Firenze would be quite an attraction at parties; the ladies were always rather partial to him."
Percy sputtered. "That's not… not possible. That's simply not possible, Hermione."
"You don't want to do anything for them, do you?"
"It's my last word. Change this report and leave the proposal out. If they wish to apply for magical being status, very well, but not that… and that's my last word on this," he spat and stormed out of the door, muttering, "What's next? Ghosts on the Wizengamot?"
That went rather well, Severus thought. Dealing with an idiot like Weasley on a day-to-day basis wasn't what he'd call fun, though. It was quite entertaining to rile the man up, but if you were high enough on the career ladder to almost have him as your immediate superior… He'd better watch he didn't ruin Hermione's chances of promotion and the like.
"Miss Granger, your mail." Hermione's secretary marched into the room, timidly holding a large box in front of her as if it contained explosives. With a haughty sneer, she shoved the box into Severus' hands, gave him an icy glare, spun on her heels and strode out of the room as importantly as she had come in.
"Thank you, ah, Mrs. Puckle," Severus said, staring from the closed door to the box in his hands and back to the door. Puffed-up cow, he thought.
The box was filled with letters and small parcels. He took out the topmost letter and cautiously waved his wand over it, just in case. It didn't seem to contain anything malicious, and so he opened it.
'Ms Hermione Granger,
How dare you?
My family can trace its line back to the Goblin wars, and we have always been extraordinarily proud of the heroes in our family. There is no way that we will we agree with a decree by the Ministry that gives the Goblin permission to use a wand. The Goblin is not to be trusted; he is ugly, greedy and true wizards should be watchful to keep the Goblin in his place.
You, Madam, are the best example that wizardkind should be exceedingly careful about whom we embrace in our fold. Muggleborns should never have been allowed into positions of influence; all these outlandish new ideas can only lead to trouble. In fact, Muggleborns should have stayed where they belong: in the Muggle world.
You, however, should have been drowned at birth.
Lovely, Severus thought. It looked like Hermione hadn't made only friends in her career. He was vaguely reminded of something she had done at Hogwarts; it was the beginning of the house-elf campaign, if he recalled correctly. Back then, it had had disastrous results, but after things had been set in motion a second time, it was starting to look promising.
He wondered if he'd find some files about her Goblin project. Permitting Goblins to use wands—now that would be something revolutionary. He marvelled at Hermione's naiveté. Everyone who could look beyond the surface of things and put two and two together would know that natural Goblin magic was strong and unpredictable. Much stronger, in fact, than the human type of magic was. There was no knowing what Goblins would do with so much power if they could use wands to focus and enhance their magic. They'd soon be the ones who called the shots, and it would be wizards and witches who'd have to apply for everything that went beyond the established routine if they weren't careful.
Shaking his head, he took out the next envelope. A quick wave of his wand, and he put it down again quickly. There was something unfriendly in there. Casting a Bubblehead Charm around it, he carefully opened the envelope with a precisely aimed slicing hex and nudged the contents out with a Levitation Charm.
It was a Howler. Severus added a second bubble and leaned back, arms crossed.
The Howler bumped against its prison several times, fluttered wildly inside its confinement and then focussed on the side where Severus was sitting. It tried repeatedly to break the bubble but didn't succeed. Shaking itself, it started to scream––at least it tried to. With a smirk, Severus leaned forward; he wanted to hear what the Howler had to say. The Bubblehead Charm didn't only keep the Howler inside; it also muffled the voice down to a whisper.
"You Hussy," the Howler whispered.
"Wizards are wizards, and creatures are creatures. Didn't they teach you anything at Hogwarts, you stupid cow? That's what comes from allowing Muggleborns to impersonate true magical people. Giants, centaurs, Muggleborns… It's all Dumbledore's fault. And Arthur Weasley's. And yours. At least no decent wizard wants anything to do with you. You'll die an old maid, and that's exactly what you deserve. Just you wait.
The Howler blew a raspberry and burst into flames.
Well, Severus thought. Who'd have known that the protection strategies he'd developed as a teacher would come in useful here and now? At Hogwarts, he had been sent Howlers on a regular basis— each time the little darlings had complained about his treatment of them at home, some outraged mother or father had thought fit to try and intimidate him with a Howler. They had amused him and on rare occasions had provided him with an interesting new turn of phrase for an insult.
Shrugging, he picked up the next envelope. He'd sort through this mess and deactivate the malicious ones. That was something useful he could do for Hermione; she'd be spared the trouble for that day, at least. He resolved to talk to her about the letters and about ways she could protect herself. Maybe, he could give her a hint or two…
A/N: Everyone is invited to participate at the celebrations of Severus Snape's 50th birthday. Come, join the Severus Big Bang Birthday Bash at the .com/severusbigbang/ community on LiveJournal or at the .com/severusbigbang/ asylum on InsaneJournal.
Sign ups are open for writers, artists/crafters and betas/cheerleaders.
We want for our birthday boy to have a resounding bang of your creativity as a gift, no matter which genre or ship you prefer. Sign ups are open until June 30, 2009. Posting starts January 9, 2010.