AN: True story: I just got Word 2007. I've been using the word processing program from Vista all this time. So, in an effort to take my hobby more serious, I got a real Word program. Anyhoo, I took a few days to polish this story, and swapped each chapter to the new format and deleted the old format without saving the edits. Um. Yeah. Well, I managed to lose three rewritten chapters. o.0
So... This will not be as polished as I hoped, I've run out of time to rewrite them all over again. It's been alpha'd by Hebe GB, Dressagegrrrl and astopperindeath, but it has not been beta'd, and won't be as polished as intended...
Not Mine, No Money.
Hermione Granger was bored. This wasn't unusual, considering her job, but today it all seemed just a tad more banal than usual. Her first week on the job, she'd organized her desk behind the counter. She'd only needed to shift the paperclips from the left to the right, for maximum efficiency, since. She'd spent the second week in a whirlwind of cleaning spells, Tergeoing, Scourgifying and Evanescoing everything in the place—the previous clerk had obviously not been even remotely diligent. She'd spent the third week changing the colors of the carpeting and the walls from the usual industrial gray and mildew, to a warmer, more pleasant palette of ambers and taupes. She'd even changed the steel gray enamel on the desks to a faux-wood grain to make it seem less soulless. The fourth week, she'd pulled apart the only filing cabinet, alphabetizing twenty years' worth of records, and filing them by year for good measure. That had killed a few hours. On the fifth week she had started in on the plants. Variegated ivy and Fiddler Ficus stood, leaned and draped all over the office, the latter making a relaxing, soothing sound to cover up for the lack of white noise that would have told her there was even one other soul in the building. Of course, there were hundreds of people in the building, but the layers of Protective, Silencing, Imperturbable, and every other Charm that was used in the Ministry, made her tiny office absolutely sound-proof when her door was closed. And regulations required her door be closed at all times.
She was now into her twelfth week on the job, and had already finished the Muggle Romance Novel she had bought off a used rack at the Tube station that morning.
It wasn't that she did nothing at all. Occasionally, someone did walk through her door. It was just that, well, in three months, only five people had walked through that door and three had never come back.
Her horrifically ugly cuckoo clock, bought at a junk shop in a fit of madness, told her it was time for lunch. She picked up her shawl, draped it about her shoulders, grabbed up the recycled ice cream tub with her lunch in it, and headed off to the Ministry Cafeteria. She'd be damned if she'd eat at her desk.
That afternoon brought the most excitement she'd had yet on the job—outside of one unfortunate incident involving her ham sandwich and an excess of mayonnaise that had left her with a regrettable resemblance to a porn star in the cafeteria. That afternoon, she had two people enter her office.
The door was swept open dramatically at exactly two-fifteen, and a tall, gangly-looking man swept in with a billow of robes.
"Mr. Edgerton! How lovely to see you again! Have you a new potion to patent? Or have you made revisions to your last one?" She eagerly grabbed up two clipboards with the relevant parchment forms—self inking quills already in place.
The man sneered. "Alas, the fools in charge utterly rejected my last patent application. A fact that I despaired over, knowing that my formula could have saved countless people from agony. However, a good theorist never wastes time; one must constantly set one's mind to new tasks. Therefore, I have a new formula to submit."
Hermione lifted the one clipboard and set the other back into its place in the cubby under the counter.
"Here you go, sir. Just fill it out at the desk over there, and you will be advised by owl when to bring in your sample for testing."
"I already have the pertinent information written down on this parchment," he said brandishing a scroll. "It occurred to me that since you were new, it was most likely your fault that something went amiss last time. Be a good little witch and just send this on its way."
Hermione managed to keep her Pleasant Clerk expression from faltering. "I am so sorry, Mr. Edgerton, but a prolific potions theorist such as yourself, must know that nothing can be processed without the proper Ministry form. Now, why don't you take this over to that desk by the wall and you can transfer the information with a modified Gemino."
The supercilious wizard snatched the clipboard out of her hand and turned away from the counter. She stuck her tongue out at him as soon as his back was turned. He had just sat down when the door opened again and Severus Snape appeared in the doorway.
"Prof– Er, Mis– Ah… Sir!" she said in happy surprise. "You look well! I've been wondering if I would ever see you here."
He stopped and blinked, still half in, half out of the office. He looked around the room in confusion, seeing all the changes she had made, and then looked at her.
"Miss Granger? Is this still the Office of Potion Patent Applications?"
"Yes, sir," she said brightly.
"Then what the devil are you doing here?" he finally said, stepping into the room and letting the door close behind him.
"I work here," she responded.
He looked around the room again, and then over to the single filing cabinet.
"Why?" he asked, his voice expressing irritated confusion.
She gave him a cheeky smile. "Nepotism, sir. You see, with my family connections, it was a breeze for me to enter employment in the Ministry and begin my march up the ladder of influence so I can make my mark on the world. And here I am." She waved a hand around the tiny office. "Queen of All I Survey."
He frowned at her, but then his lips quirked. "Very droll," he responded. "But seriously, Miss Granger, is this the best they offered you?"
"Yep," she said, popping the 'p' with finality.
He sort of smiled, and a gloating smirk crossed his face. "I suppose it's too much to expect that Mr. Potter is off in charge of Parchment Requisitions and Mr. Weasley is filing job orders to have Kingsley's office swept and mopped everyday at three pm, sharp?"
Hermione laughed. "I'm sure that would make your day much brighter indeed, if I were to say that was the case. No, Harry and Ron are off chasing their dream of playing for the Chudley Cannons. You don't need N.E.W.T. scores to play Quidditch. In fact, I'm not sure you even need a brain."
His sneer was replaced by yet another look of confusion. "What do you mean, about the N.E.W.T. scores?"
"We never took our N.E.W.T.s," she explained.
His eyebrows rose to unprecedented heights. "And this is why you are here? Why on earth didn't you take your N.E.W.T.s, Miss Granger?"
He looked at her as if she was a particularly dim candle and she found herself amused, rather than defensive. There was something normalizing about having Professor Snape look at her as if she were an idiot.
"I was a bit busy at the time, chasing after Horcruxes and being tortured by Lestranges. By the time it occurred to me that the war was over and I could go back to school, life had moved on and school was over."
She lifted up a clipboard. "Now, are you filling out a first-time patent application? Or is this an improvement on one already submitted?"
"First-time," he replied curtly. He snatched the clipboard out of her hand, before settling another disapproving look on her. "Miss Granger, are you telling me that no one offered to allow you to sit your N.E.W.T.s after the war?"
Hermione's smile flattened slightly. "Sir, please. I'm sure you find it highly amusing that the insufferable Know-it-all finally got her comeuppance, but I must ask you not to rub too much salt in the wound. I might regret having sent all those Get Well cards." She gave him a small pat on the hand still clutching the clipboard, letting him know she understood his amusement, but it was getting a bit stale. "Take your small vindication, and go fill out your form."
He scowled at her and swept away from the counter to sit at the desk farthest away from Mr. Edgerton.
Hermione tapped her wand on the kettle hiding under her counter, and gathered up fresh forms and got them ready to place onto the clipboards, once they were free again.
Mr. Edgerton stood and came back up to the counter. "Here you are. A tedious waste of my time, if you ask me. You could have simply attached my prepared information to the form and sent it off."
"I'm sure that your potion is important enough that it would be a terrible loss if it were to vanish due to a clerical error, sir. I am very appreciative of the time it took you to fill out the proper form."
Mr. Edgerton's chest puffed out. "Actually, it is a rather advanced potion and a necessary one at that. I have developed a solution that will dissolve Muggle Chewing gum from hair."
She stared at him, and then shifted her eyes to Snape, whose head had snapped up and who was now staring at Mr. Edgerton like he had just sprouted horns. They shared a brief flicker of incredulity before she turned back to the wizard at the counter.
"You've made peanut butter?" she asked.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Peanut butter. It takes chewing gum out of hair."
"What the devil is peanut butter?"
"You know what? That's not important right now, what's important is getting this paperwork filed, yes? Let me just get right on that. I'm sure you will be hearing from the Patent Application Board in a few weeks. I will send you a letter informing you when they want a sample of your potion."
Mr. Edgerton looked at her with suspicion but then stepped back from the counter.
"Yes, well, splendid. See that you do, girl." He turned and walked out.
She looked back at Snape and they both smirked at each other before he bent back to his parchment.
"Would you like some tea?" she offered. "I have some biscuits as well."
His head came up again and he looked at her with suspicion.
"Do you normally offer tea to applicants?" he asked.
"Usually, I do, in fact. Mr. Edgerton lost his offer for being an insulting and very condescending arse."
Again, Snape gave a slight quirk of the lips. "I have been informed on many an occasion that I am also an insulting and condescending arse, therefore, your criteria is flawed."
"True. But you are much better at it than he is, and then there is the fact that I like you. I don't think I like him at all."
He sat back and crossed his arms. "Miss Granger, what is the point of this false flattery? I know for a fact that you never liked me."
"I'm not flattering you. I save that for idiots like Edgerton. And I do like you. I always did, actually. Well, I did hate you a good bit after you insulted my teeth. And after that night on the tower, I would have been pretty hard put to find a charitable word to say about you, but that was part of your plan all along, wasn't it? We weren't supposed to like you. Once the truth was out, I was right back to finding you rather admirable. In an intimidating and insultingly condescending way, mind. Thus, all the get well cards but lack of personal visits while you were on the mend. Tea?" she asked again, holding up the pot.
He blinked several times and then nodded his head slowly.
"How do you take it?"
"Milk and two sugars, thank you," he said.
She poured him a cup and fixed it up and then, after lifting the hinged section of counter and stepping down, she brought him his tea, and a plate of biscuits.
"Thank you, Miss Granger," he murmured.
"Not at all," she replied. "Let me know if I can be of any assistance."
He nodded and went back to his form.
She returned to her post, behind the counter and fixed up her own tea. She took Mr. Edgerton's form, created a duplicate, rolled the original into a tube and placed it into the messenger cylinder. Originals were far too precious to be mangled into paper airplanes. She carefully labeled the cylinder and then walked over to the small chute at the opposite end of the counter and sent it on its way with a tap of her wand. Then she filed the duplicate in the filing cabinet and was done. She had fulfilled the sum total of her responsibilities.
She sipped her tea. It had barely cooled.
She nibbled a biscuit.
Then, since there was a distinct lack of alternatives, she stared at Snape.
His hair was slightly longer than she was used to in the past, but just as lank and greasy-looking as always. It hung in his face, obscuring nearly everything but his sharp, hooked nose. He wore his usual black robes that seemed to both make him look more intimidating, and less. When he stood, they added an air of unmistakable gravitas. When he sat, they seemed to be trying to swallow him alive. He sat hunched over, face rather close to the parchment, in a manner resembling that of a student that is tired of being copied off of.
She wondered if he needed glasses.
Standing at the counter staring down on him, it occurred to her that there was something vastly amusing about the situation. She continued to stare until she finally got the reaction she was looking for. Nearly invisible behind his shield of black hair, his eyes started to dart up at her and his quill stopped moving. Finally, he sighed and lifted his head.
"Miss Granger, is there a purpose to your staring?"
"Why? Does it bother you to have someone standing up here staring down at you while you sit at a desk and try to concentrate? Someone in a position of authority? Granted, it is a paltry amount of authority, but even if my authority barely covers twelve feet by twelve feet, I am Queen of All I Survey, after all."
He tilted his head to the side and raised an eyebrow. "I don't think I ever realized how perverse you were, Granger. Odd? Yes. Twisted? I had no idea."
She giggled. "I never realized how normal, you were, Snape. It's been an enlightening day all around, I'd say."
He gave her that quirked lip again. "Haven't you anything else to do?"
"A book to read?"
"Then make yourself useful and put on another pot of tea," he said, returning to his form.
She laughed and tapped the kettle again and Evanescoed the teapot.
She stepped down from her throne and went to retrieve his cup. "Please tell me you've invented something more interesting than peanut butter," she said, as she took the cup.
He snorted and they shared a look of superiority over Mr. Edgerton.
"I've decided to submit the potions I developed during my recovery for testing and possible use at St. Mungo's."
"That's marvelous! So there are more patent applications on the way?"
"Yes. I have several. But I won't be able to get around to the others if you don't stop prattling at me and let me get on with my paperwork."
She turned away and made a face and he muttered, "I saw that."
She giggled and poured him another cup of tea, adding a few more biscuits to the plate. He thanked her when she brought it to him, and she decided to leave him alone.
She went back behind her counter and got down to the serious business of making paperclip sculptures.
Eventually the time came when he rose from his desk and came over to her, bringing his forms, and his cleaned dishes.
He leaned over the counter and looked down, and when he saw her minimalist interpretation of a horse, he snorted and shook his head.
"Will that be all?" she asked, taking the clipboard from him and making a duplicate copy of his application.
"Yes. That will be all for today."
"I will take care of this right away, you should hear back from the Ministry within a couple of weeks. Do let me know if you have any issues or need any questions asked. I really look forward to seeing you again, sir. I've enjoyed your visit."
He looked at her oddly and then nodded his head to her, like a gentleman. "Thank you for the tea, Miss Granger. It has been an… enlightening experience." He smirked at her and quietly left.
She sighed when he was gone and looked at his original form. The familiar, spidery script brought back memories of happier times, when they were always terrified and fearing for their life. She rolled it up and shoved it in the cylinder and sent it on its way. Then she took the duplicate and opened the file cabinet. Pulling open the file marked 'S' she went to shove it in. At the last minute, she pulled the whole file out and began to sift through it. Finally, about halfway back towards the end of the file, she found them. Snape's last patent applications, with ribbons of Approval affixed with wax. She looked through them in fascination.
Severus Snape held almost thirty patents. The last application had been processed during her first year at Hogwarts. There had been nothing since, until today. She looked at the office coding and saw that nearly all of them were assigned as public domain for use at St. Mungo's. Not only was Snape a genius, but he was a selfless genius to boot. He made enough to keep him fed, and let the rest of the world have the rest.
She placed the new patent application in the front of the folder and shoved it back in the file.
She turned and looked around, but there was nothing left to show for her busiest day at work, ever. She looked at the clock and saw it was only three-thirty.
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