Written for the SSHG Promptfest 2013. This story is complete in three chapters, so dive right in and begin, o ye faithful. The original prompt is given at the very end. I'd like to thank teddyradiator and nagandsev, who stepped up and became my lovely alpha and beta team. Ladies, you're the best.

Hermione Granger sat at her plain student desk, a cooling cup of tea near at hand, and read three letters that had turned her world upside-down in as many days.

The letter that had arrived first had been expected—indeed, highly anticipated.

Der Zauberberg Institut

Zurich,

Switzerland

November 20, 2000

Dear Miss Granger,

Thank you for the submission of your manuscript. Your name is, of course, by no means unfamilar to us here at Sebastian & Sebalius Publishing! It is an honor to have someone of your stature choose our publishing house for her first book.

The next step in the process is a final review by the publisher. Please be assured, I will personally oversee your manuscript through the review process. If you have any questions at all, feel free to send an owl to my attention.

All the best!

Amelia Arbuckle, Associate Editor

Sebastian & Sebalius Publishing

52 Hyperb Alley

London

Hermione smiled. She had looked forward to receiving an acknowledgement for submission of her first manuscript, but the friendly and encouraging tone was more than she had dared to hope for.

During the war, necessity had been the mother of invention, and Hermione's inventiveness had truly been put to the test. Being a bookworm and the brightest witch of her age, she had time and time again concocted new spells to suit their needs during her months-long trek across Great Britain with Harry and Ron in search of horcruxes. She pioneered a method of applying Charms that she had never read about before, a way to lay incantations atop one another, yielding results which were greater than the sum of their parts.

After the war ended and life settled down for better or worse, she decided to pursue an advanced education in Charms at the Zauberberg Institut in Switzerland. It was here she was able to understand the work she had accomplished in her teenage years through a brand-new, theoretical knowledge of Charms.

And being Hermione Granger, she had soon written a book that melded her graduate studies with her war experience.

Her professors were gratifyingly enthusiastic, encouraging her to seek publication and add her knowledge to the body of work in Charms theory. They had recommended European publishers, but Hermione had seen an advertisement for a new publishing house in Britain, and on impulse, decided to submit her manuscript for consideration.

It had been over a month since she had written to Sebastian & Sebalius. The decision to publish someone took time, naturally, and Hermione had tried to stay patient by throwing herself into her studies. But finally, patience had been rewarded with good news.

Ruefully, she wondered if the enthusiastic tone of the response had less to do with the subject of Charms theory, and more to do with her fame back home. Studying abroad for the last three years, she had almost managed to forget the way people back home reacted to Hermione Granger, friend to Harry Potter and war heroine.

The next day, the owl appeared at her dormitory window. It seemed that her book's subject matter—or her residual celebrity—truly had earned her a fast track.

Dear Miss Granger,

Thank you for your submission. Upon review, we have decided to accept your book, /iMultilayer Charms in Theory and Practicei, for publication.

Enclosed is a standard, self-replicating contract. Please review it thoroughly, and if you agree to the terms, sign and return the original by owl.

On behalf of Sebastian Publishing, I would like to welcome you. We look forward to a long and successful relationship.

Sincerely,

S.T. Sebastian

Publisher

Sebastian & Sebalius Publishing

52 Hyperb Alley

London

Hermione had spent an hour or so reading the fine print before she showed the contract to her academic advisor. "It's a generous arrangement, Fräulein Granger," she said admiringly. "They must want to publish you very badly."

Under the terms of the contract, if Sebastian & Sebalius broke the contract, it would be obliged to pay her a hefty sum in compensation. However, she was allowed to break the contract with impunity any time between now and the actual date of production.

Satisfied, Hermione signed on the dotted line and asked her professor to witness. Together they watched as the parchment pinched itself in the middle and split into two. iNice charms work,/i she thought, before rolling and tying the contract and sending the publisher's owl on its way.

She spent the next day basking in her good fortune … until the owl arrived a third time, bearing what looked for all the world like a form letter. Not only that, it appeared to be from the very same person who had awarded her a contract the day before.

Dear Hermione J. Granger:

The manuscript which you submitted has been carefully considered. It is with deepest regret that we must inform you it has been found unavailable for publication.

We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

S.T. Sebastian

Publisher

Sebastian & Sebalius Publishing

52 Hyperb Alley

London

Absentmindedly, she reached for her stone-cold tea while she compared the three letters again, wondering what on earth was going on at Wizarding Britain's newest publishing house.

-o0o-

"Mrs. Arbuckle!"

With a sigh, Amelia heaved herself out of her chair and stuck her head in the door of the publisher's office. Severus Snape sat behind a large oak desk piled high with paper—bills, mostly, Amelia knew.

"Yes, Mr. Snape?" she asked.

He picked up one roll of parchment and threw it to her. Unrolling it, she saw it was a contract—the very first contract issued by their firm, surely—signed and dated by Hermione Granger.

"Oh, how nice," she remarked, surprised. "But I thought you told me you—or rather, 'Mr. Sebastian'—had decided to pass on her manuscript."

"I did pass on it," he growled. "It was an autobiography of dubious distinction, pretending to be a serious academic tome, not suitable for publication."

"Then why—"

"Look at the initials at the top of the contract."

She looked. "Oh, dear."

Severus took back the parchment and re-rolled it tightly. "Please ask 'Mr. Sebalius' to join me at his earliest convenience."

-o0o-

By the time Lucius Malfoy made his way from the Manor, through the Floo in the dusty mail room and down the hall to the office, Hermione Granger's contract had begun to look quite badly rumpled in Severus's hand.

"Is this your idea of being a silent partner?" demanded Severus when Lucius walked in.

"Now, Severus—"

"When I took you on, it was with the understanding that I alone would be selecting the manuscripts for publishing."

"That's absurd," said Lucius. "I would never have agreed to such a thing. What would that leave me to do, exactly? Write checks? Where is the joy in that?"

"Joy? Forgive me, aren't you getting enough joy these days? I would think, being on probation, you would be joyful enough being able to live your life outside of prison."

"Don't be tedious," replied Lucius. "Besides, you didn't take me on; I took you on. I need to keep busy or I'll run mad. Politics is out, the Board of Governors is out, so I invest in companies such as yours. I like to see them succeed; it makes us all so frightfully rich," he added with a smirk. "But if you ever inferred that I would stay out of the day-to-day operation, you were woefully mistaken. May I?" He took a seat across from the desk, crossing his legs and brushing an imaginary speck off the knee of his immaculate woolen trousers before continuing.

"Severus, I'll get right to the point so as not to take up your valuable time. I have looked at your balance sheet and noticed you are no closer to solvency than you were six months ago."

Severus scowled. "It takes time to start a publishing company. You need the right manuscripts."

"Indeed. That is exactly why I took matters into my own hands and offered Granger a contract for her book."

Severus shook his head. "Did you even bother to open it and read it?"

"I didn't have to. It's a book by Hermione Granger, British war heroine. People will flock to buy it. That's all I needed to know."

"It's an irresponsible piece of student work. I believe she has all sorts of wild theories about Charms and the things one can accomplish with them."

"You believe?" drawled Lucius. "Have you bothered to read it?"

Severus felt the conversation was getting away from him. "Well, not yet…"

"Charms theory sounds innovative to me. And even if it's not, it will still make this publishing house start to earn revenue at last."

"She'll set a tone of mediocrity," Severus protested. "People won't take our future publications seriously."

Lucius flicked a lazy hand. "Tosh. You worry too much."

"I don't suppose you are willing to work with her and bring her book up to standard."

"Heavens, no. Surely I've done my part. You know I have no head for academics."

Severus raised a hand wearily. "Stop. No more of this farce. You've left me no choice."

"I knew you'd see it my way." Lucius smirked as he rose to go.

But later that night, after indulging in a few too many glasses of port rather than read his new firm's first manuscript, Severus Snape saw a way out.

The cheapest way to get out of his contractual obligation without having to pay a hefty penalty to his client was to induce her to break the contract herself.

He pulled out a parchment and blearily began hunting for a fresh quill.

-o0o-

Dear Miss Granger,

The staff at Sebastian & Sebalius Publishing offers our most sincere apologies for the unfortunate clerical error of the other day. As our newest client, we welcome you aboard.

As you may already know, the Children's Literature genre is a growing field, and that is why S&S is excited to begin the process of publishing the memoir of your adolescent years.

It pleases me to inform you we have already been in contact with that well-known children's periodical, /iGranny Boo's Young Reader are quite interested in publishing a few excerpts in an upcoming issue. We all believe reprinting a chapter or two from your imaginative little book will thrill young readers.

Congratulations again on this prestigious achievement.

Sincerely,

S.T. Sebastian

Publisher

Sebastian Publishing

52 Hyperb Alley

London

-o0o-

Dear Mr. Sebastian,

Thank you for straightening out the matter of the clerical error. Your latest letter, while relieving my mind on one count, has alarmed me to no end on another.

Are you quite certain you are referring to /imyi book? I must remind you that my book is not a memoir; it is a book on Charms theory. Specifically, it fully describes the improvement, privacy and protection charms I learned to modify when I was a student at Hogwarts.

The principal thrust of the book is academic, though I do necessarily discuss the history and circumstances of my travels and adventures during the war. They led me to look for and find innovative solutions to desperate problems, and are integral to understanding the state of mind most conducive to casting charms. It is my hope the book will provide new material in the field of Charms theory.

I hope this clarifies the matter. Thank you for your especial attention.

Sincerely,

H.G.

-o0o-

Dear Miss Granger,

Thank you for your reply. There has been no mistake. In point of fact, it is our professional opinion that your book should be edited with an eye toward presenting it as more of a memoir suitable for our younger readership, preferably ages 8 to 11.

It is commendable that you wish to add your young voice to the astonishingly prolific collection of war memoirs available today. Please be assured, your children's book will be published by professionals who know how best to market your work with an eye for what the public would like to read from you./i

Severus tried to stop the smirk from spreading on his face, before remembering he was alone. He smirked with impunity as he considered his last lines. He felt sure she would immediately tear up her contract when she read them. But just in case his patronizing demeanor did not do the trick, he inked his quill and prepared to deliver the final blow.

iYou will be pleased to learn that several chapters of your manuscript may be turned into a wireless play, starring none other than Nell Honeygold. The working title, as I understand, is "Hermione Granger and the Camping Trip of Doom." S&S will be more than happy to help in any way we can to advise you concerning the terms of this separate contract, as you are a student and may feel hampered by a lack of expertise in the matter of subcontracts.

Anxiously awaiting your reply,

S.T.S.

-o0o-

It took a day for Hermione's hands to stop shaking long enough to set quill to parchment. There was nothing to be said but that the man was being deliberately obtuse for some reason, and she stopped holding back with him.

Mr. Sebastian,

With all due respect, sir, does your lack of consideration reflect the integrity of your own business or the deplorable state of publishing in general? Or are you coming down with some regrettable malady that has addled your brain?

For the last time, my book is /inoti a memoir. It is an academic treatise on the properties of particular charms when cast in multiples. I hope for it to eventually take its place among the annals of Charms theory, not bedtime stories.

I'll thank you to quit telling me how /ihappyi I should be that my work will be featured in popular magazines and silly, sensationalist wireless programs!

In the future, I hereby request that your Associate Editor, Amelia Arbuckle, be prevailed upon to work with me.

Wishing you a speedy recovery,

H.G.

-o0o-

Dear Miss Granger,

Sebastian & Sebalius Publishing is as yet a small enterprise, and we pride ourselves on offering excellent service when escorting our authors through the publication process.

We are therefore quite distressed you have been so dissatisfied with our service to date. By no means did we wish to cause you to feel maligned. Your Charms theory book will be given every consideration.

The enclosed sample is ready for your perusal. We believe it will make a handsome book cover. Please review and feel free to offer suggestions.

Best—

S.T.S.

P.S. If you prefer, we can also go with magenta.

Hermione put down the letter in her hand before tipping the bulky envelope and pulling out a stiff cardboard book cover done in eye-watering, poison green. It featured three children skulking through a forest of tall trees. Each child's wand glowed with pretty colors.

Swearing, she whipped out her wand and set the cover on fire, then burned the letter and the envelope for good measure. The owl took off out the window with a screech, as if worried it would be next.