Severus Snape had told six people six different stories for why he wasn't at Hogwarts today.
None of them were true, of course.
Albus' and Minerva's were close enough that they wouldn't notice the difference, anyhow.
Snape strode with his usual ground-eating stride across Diagon Alley, becloaked and beglamoured. His teeth were yellowed more than usual, he'd put a giant wart on his nose - and most importantly, he'd made his hands pale and skeletal thin. He looked more like a ghast than a human, and everyone would comment on that, and not any supposed resemblance to Severus Snape. They couldn't see most of the glamour under the cloak, anyway. His face more resembled a skull than anything natural.
Gringotts stood as it always did, at the end of Diagon Alley. Snape did not spare it a glance, there were far too many people he was tracking. Too many pickpockets, too many thieves. Not that Snape's own pockets were rife with loot - woe and rue would be the only things a cotton-headed thief would find in his pockets.*
Snape strode up the steps towards Gringotts, only to find the door guards crossing their spears. I suppose my disguise worked, marginally well.
"Passing strange, this meatbag is." One said to the other.
Perhaps recollecting that they were supposed to be determining whether to chuck him down the stairs, the other goblin said, "Be you wizard?"
Snape responded with words that felt more apiece of himself than any he used at Hogwarts, "Aye, that I be."
The first goblin said, "Proof before pudding."
Snape, drawing his wand, conjured up the image of a pudding, "Puddings don't need proofing, any baker knows that."
They were drawing a bit of a crowd, as patrons wished to exit Gringotts, but were met by goblin spears. So much the better, his disguise.
The second goblin asked, "State your business." This was said in the blandest of tones, any Slytherin would approve. Really, he could have said, The sky is green, in that tone of voice, and the meaning would be the same: Welcome, patron. Be quick about your business.
"Pri-vacy," Snape said, and by the rapid blinking of goblin eyes (it was their innate way of showing surprise), he realized that there were apparently quite few people who went to Gringotts and requested such. Perhaps only one.
"Second door on the left." the first goblin said, because apparently they were round-robin-ing him, as they both pulled back the spears.
Snape was wise to the ways of crowds, and stepped into the lee of one of the goblins (the spear, if not the goblin's height, would keep most of the rush out of the way).
Wizards and witches stormed by, all in-a-hurry to get to their business.
When the coast was clear, Snape strolled across the floor of Gringotts, with not so much as a glance from Gringotts' illustrious clientele. He opened the second door on the left, and stepped inside.
Severus Snape was met by a pointy-teethed grin, and responded in kind. Goblins never meant smiles as anything friendly, anyhow.
"Drop the glamour, now, meatbag." the goblin said, leaning back, "You're in Gringotts now, and whoever you are we'll keep your troth."
Snape made a simple gesture, shrugging out of the glamour.
"Severus Snape, I might have known." The goblin grinned. "And still a fool of a Took, if that disguise is anything to go by."
Snape glowered at him, one fuse short of a glare.
"The usual, I take it?" The goblin said, pulling out a cloth-wrapped packet.
Snape nodded, picking up the packet and withdrawing the Public invisibility cloak. "Thank you," Snape said. It was wise to mind ones manners when one's counterparty had such sharp teeth.
The goblin led him along the uppermost 'floor' of Gringotts (it was really the first basement), before stopping a respectful distance away from Snape's vault, "Vault 411."
Snape put his key into the lock, and stepped inside, closing the door behind himself. It was as cramped as a standing coffin. Which, truthfully, was just as he liked it. It was cheap, and he hadn't many possessions anyway.
Snape rested his forehead against one of the tall shelves, remembering the first time he'd come here for privacy. Gringotts' was famed for its security - what happened here stayed within the goblins' scaly hides. It was the one safe place in the wizarding world, for a young Slytherin to cry, to break down, to pound his fists until they bled.
By the tenth time he'd been there, and not deposited anything, even the goblins had started thinking him strange.
"What do you suppose he does in there, for so long?" one goblin had asked another.
"All I ask for, is a bit of privacy," Snape had snarled at them both. They'd even backed up a step, as if sensing how close he was to murdering both of them.
Thus fortified, Snape stood tall, looking, as he often had, through his meagre possessions. Those letters need updating, Snape thought softly, never enough time in a day. He stood on tiptoe to find a long, mother-of-pearl hairbrush, stretching to full extension to pull it out.
It still looked as it had the day of his mother's death, complete with strand after strand of steely-grey hair (his mother's hair had never turned white).
Snape took it up, cradling it to his chest, as he gently whispered, "Your boys are alright, ma." It was the same greeting he'd given his mother for years, ever since she'd sent him to the local with a bucket to get beer - and he'd found his father there, drinking money they couldn't afford to spend. He'd taken his father's hand and gently led him home, where the drinking was cheaper - and strictly monitored by his mother's sharp tongue.
Life had gone from bad to worse, as the mill had shut down, and his father hadn't been able to find any work. At some point, he'd even stopped trying - selling mother's fripperies instead.
Your one last gift to me, mother, may I use it well. Snape said, as he pocketed the hairbrush in an interior pocket, and strolled out of his vault.
*He doesn't mean the herbs. I'd guess poison.
[a/n: Someone else was of cheap mind, too, apparently. Snape's been given the vault under pain of "it reverts to Gringotts' when you die".
Leave a review? Do you have ideas where I'm going with this? ]