|SIYE Time:4:20 on 17th January 2018|
Forensic Accounting--A Love Story
By Spenser Hemmingway
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Category: Alternate Universe, The Cost of Everything Challenge (2015-3)
Story is Complete
Summary: *** Winner of Best Overall in The Cost of Everything Challenge ***
Harry and Ginny encounter the world of double-entry bookkeeping. Harry and Ginny next plan to learn Greek. To the pair there is no difference, Oh, except that Harry may not be being cheated by anyone from Athens. Weird expenditures at Hogwarts may be another matter. Who are you going to call?
Hitcount: Story Total: 4432
Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.
Forensic Accounting–A Love Story
By Spenser Hemmingway
“The company accountant is shy and retiring. He's shy a quarter of a million dollars. That's why he's retiring.”–Milton Berle
“Spenser do you have the five Sickles you owe me?”
“Sure Colin,” I tell him. “Do you have change for a Galleon?”
“I think so, but that’s all I have left for this month. Let’s see…five, six, seven. There you go.”
“And here you go, five Sickles. Don’t spend it all in one place buddy.”
“Great. Thanks. Whoa, whoa, wait a second Spence. Where’s my Galleon?”
“Holy Ebenezer! You don’t think I’d forget? Here. Five, six, seven. Feel free to count it.” I can’t believe he doesn’t trust me. American writers are always trustworthy.
“I’m sorry Spenser, but you’re short of a Galleon.”
“Are you counting the five Sickles I gave you?”
“Huh? What? Oh, I’m sorry. Thanks.”
I just stand there in our Gryffindor Common Room watching my happy friend dash back up the boys’ stairwell. I’ve been joking with him. I can just stare after him, shake my head, and note Harry and Ginny at the table clearing their throats repeatedly.
“I’ll talk to him and square things Harry,” I say. “I can’t believe he just left that way.”
“Apparently, Wizards do not make the best accountants, “Ginny says.
I turn to look at the two. Harry tries to smile at me. Something is bothering them. They both know that I won’t cheat Colin. I was just pulling an old Abbot and Costello bit on him. Once I properly explain baseball, the comic duo’s famous Who’s on First is always a great hit.
Parchments litter the table where my friends are sitting there. I suspect that they have nothing to do with our recent schoolwork. Stepping over, I see two odd, well-worn books as well. They’re accounting ledgers. Now I know what has prompted Ginny’s comment. I’m at sea about what is affecting their mood.
Harry runs a palm down over his face as he returns his attention to the paperwork. He then takes hold of his unkempt hair and gently tugs at it. Something in this mess of financial mumbo jumbo is bothering him. That, in turn, is bothering Ginny. She places her hand on his free one there.
Startled, a second later, she glances about the room to ensure we’re alone. In this, our reality, Harry, Hermione, and Ron come back for their seventh year. Hogwarts and Wizardry are a bit different…safer than in his Muggle biography. Regardless, it’s still dangerous enough with Voldy-pants and his Magical Mime Orchestra running around to where they need to keep their relationship a secret. Harry smiles at her now. A moment later, he’s again returned to the paperwork.
“You haven’t had your entire fortune embezzled away have you Harry?” Neither react, but I still regret my joke as soon as I say it.
“Just part of it…maybe.” Harry doesn’t look at me as he speaks. “Spense, did you have to spend seven Galleons on a student handbook when you came here?”
“Uhm, I might have. That is, my Uncle Theodosius might have. His bean counters do all our financial stuff. My mom and dad couldn’t balance a checking account to save their paper mache alligator collection. I’m much better at it, thanks to Uncle Theo drilling it into me. I’m also broke most of the time, so it’s a moot point. Anyway, if we did pay for a handbook, I didn’t receive one. You would think that an American exchange student would especially need a thing like that here.”
“That’s my point as well,” Harry says. He catches himself, and then lowers his voice. “I paid for one; I received a really flimsy one. All the purebloods I’ve spoken with here have. Hermione didn’t. Her parents are Muggles. Seamus is half-blood, and he didn’t either. Some families paid for it. Actually, according to the Goblins, I’ve paid for a number of things that I have yet to see after six years.”
“Goblins?” I ask.
“Gringotts Bank is operated by Goblins,” Ginny quickly explains. “My brother Bill works for them. They’re nasty, but exceptionally efficient.”
“Ah, I see. American Wizard banks are operated by weasels. Harry, Hogwarts isn’t your Ministry. This place strikes me as being fairly honest. Have you talked to anyone about what’s going on?”
“Time and again for almost a year,” Ginny answers for him. “Even if they are honest, the staff here is exceptionally close lipped about certain subjects.”
“Oh boy…and uhm, oh girl.” I move to sit down between the two (something I would rarely do with our favorite couple) so we can all see the parchment. “As I said, my uncle has drilled me on basic bookkeeping. My head still hurts. Maybe I can see something here that you two… Oh, wow. Wow!”
“Two wows Spenser?” Harry’s eyes have gone wide. “What did we miss?”
“Three Galleons for Muggle artifact disposal fees? You’re not even taking Muggle Affairs. Excuse me. It’s called Muggle Studies over here. Annual fees for wand assessment and a house-elf tax? You told me you only inherited Kreacher after your godfather’s death. Hey, here’s a good one. Two Galleons a year to play Quidditch? They’re making you pay to play.”
“Let me see that.” Harry takes the parchment and begins to sturdy it. Ginny stands and moves behind him to see better. “I was first assessed this before Professor McGonagall recruited me. See the date Ginny. I hadn’t left Privot Drive yet when this was charged to me. What’s going on?”
“Lets go back to your talk with your Goblin account manager Harry,” I tell him. “Start at the beginning.”
It was last day of our Christmas holiday last year. Ron, Hermione, and I were paying a visit to Diagon Alley with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley for some replacement school supplies. I wasn’t sure how a stop at the joke shop fit into this, but both Ron and his parents wanted a quick visit with the twins. Another stop for a couple new books and a cauldron patching kit we promised Seamus, and then to the bank.
No, Ginny wasn’t with us. One of her many, many admirers, Dean, had unexpectedly stopped by the Burrow with a bouquet of orange carnations and a box of bonbons. Don’t give me that look Gin. It was before we were dating, but not before I needed to get far away from there. It was a great excuse to reply finally to the Gringotts letter I had received.
When we arrived the bank, everyone else sought out Bill for a quick visit. The company escort insisted that my business was exceptionally confidential. In hindsight, I wish I had insisted on at least Mr. Weasley accompanying me to translate the business jargon. I was led into a small side office and given an uncomfortable chair across the desk from a terminally ugly Goblin. Five minutes passed before he looked up and spoke.
“Mr. Harry Potter, we expected a visit from you several weeks ago when our letter was sent.”
“School responsibilities and restrictions placed on us because of the war prevented it before now,” I explained.
“I see,” was his only reply.
The Goblin returned to his paperwork. More minutes passed and so did my patience.
“Excuse me, are you aware of the extent of my family’s holdings on account here at your bank?” I asked finally.
“They are…enormous,” he admitted, finally setting his quill down.
“Then please remember that. I expect you to adjust your professionalism and your manners when dealing with me.”
The account manager nodded. “I…do apologize.” His expression and clenched teeth told me he really wasn’t doing it willingly. “The point of the matter is Gringotts now feels that it is time for us to review certain abuses and questionable charges we have been contractually forced to pay.”
“Pay? Pay to who?” My curiosity was replacing my irritation. “Am I being cheated?”
“You very well may be.” The Goblin sighed then. For just a brief moment, there was almost a look of sympathy on his face. “In fact, a great many Hogwarts students may be being taken advantage of. Yours is one of the larger fortunes stored here. Our bank has chosen to call this to your attention first. Did you ever imagine that you are paying almost twice what most of your classmates are?”
“Are you receiving special coursework? Tutoring perhaps?”
I didn’t understand what he meant. I didn’t want to tell him about my Occulency lessons with Snape. I doubted that Dumbledore would have charged me for those under the circumstances.
“Is your food any different than that of most students? Do you have a private suite? Are your instructors so extraordinary that they warrant such salaries? Can you tell me anything?”
It was my turn to go quiet and to ignore him. What was he telling me? I stood then and stepped to the door. I had to get out of there. I had to speak with Dumbledore, not this foul pencil pusher. I needed to learn the truth.”
“I’m returning to school early tomorrow morning.” I refused to look back at the Goblin. I could hear his barely audible snort. “I expect you to send me whatever you have here that will answer my questions.”
I stomped out of the office to rejoin the rest of our people. I’m afraid that I barely acknowledged Bill with a hello before we left Gringotts. Ron and Hermione could see that something was wrong, but my explanations waited until we returned to the Burrow and the privacy of Ron’s room. I don’t remember much of the trip from bank to bedroom, except that I did notice Ginny’s absence at the house and how there were flowers and an unopened bonbon box in the waste bin. It was selfish and it was mean, but I did feel much better for maybe a minute.
Spenser, you’ve already been in on more than a few of our discussions this year. This was typical of all of them, except Hermione wasn’t berating you. I still don’t know why she hates you so much, or maybe it’s a dislike of all crazy American writers. Anyway, I gave them all the information I had, which wasn’t much. Hermione issued her normal cautions and worst-case scenarios. Ron’s thoughts were outside the box. I’m never surprised at how useful they are most of the time. I went off topic a few times, wondering aloud what had happened there during Dean’s surprise visit that morning. That drew snorts from Ron. Eventually, the three of us ended up admitting that we had to wait for more information before we approached Dumbledore.
During the train ride back here the next morning, Neville and Luna joined us in our compartment. We kept talk to what everyone had done during the holiday. I was tempted to question them both about their own school expenses, but without the context the documents would provide, it would have been impolite snooping.
As for those documents, there was a box the size of a large steamer trunk waiting for me when we arrived here. Gringotts had outdone themselves for once.
I look down at the Common Room table. There has to be much more material than this if Harry’s explanation is correct. I have a thousand questions for him and a few for Uncle Theo as well. Was I being gouged too? I also have a suggestion. I don’t speak Greek. Many of these documents were just that to me.
“When did you bring Ginny into the loop?” I ask.
“The afternoon of the famous Quidditch win kiss,” he says. Ginny giggles quietly. “We’ve been trying to translate it ever since.”
“I have some thoughts on that and a really good idea. What? I get one occasionally…once a month or so…once a year. If you two don’t mind, I’m going to call in someone without a hat in the ring to help you out. No biases or conflicts of interest.”
“Who?” they say together.
“A forensic accountant from the American Bureau of Magic. It’s really nice when your uncle is your Minister’s counterpart. I think I’m especially liking my diplomatic immunity. Don’t give me that look you two. Your faces will stick like that. Save it for what I’m about to ask you to do.”
“What?” they again ask in tandem. They’ve been taking lessons from George and Fred.
“You need to cover for me while I crack a safe. Hey, remember what I said about the faces. I've got to do the job for you. You also remember the diplomatic immunity thing I mentioned? What’s the worst that can happen, apart from my messing up the story I’ll write and a few I told you sos from Hermione?”
“Spenser is being expelled and deported?” Ron manages to get out. His voice is an octave higher than normal. “Stealing the Hogwarts’ faculty handbook and those employee records? The crazy git!”
“I told you…”
“Excuse me, I’m looking for Harry Potter,” a very young voice announces.
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny turn to see a boy, no older than a first-year, dressed as a Gryffindor. None of the three recognizes him. For some reason they catch the smell of cheap cigars and stale whiskey off him. The group has gathered just outside the doors to the great hall. The midday meal is about to start.
“We’re waiting on him ourselves,” Ginny tells the boy. “Who are you?”
“I will also need to speak to the Oregon exchange student, Spenser Hemmingway.” The student looks like an eleven-year-old. He doesn’t talk in the manner of one. “Miss Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, his sister…oh my. You must be Miss Ginny Weasley.”
“Yes, I am. You must be Mr. Bear’s forensic accountant. Polyjuice Potion?”
“No, that’s for impersonating. A Chameleon Spell is better for a simple disguise. I will tell you, I’m normally six foot four. This is extremely uncomfortable. Miss, I wouldn’t endure this for anyone other than Theodosius. Spenser?”
“In the dungeon in heavy chains. Our caretaker Filch is having the time of his life with him. Uhm, best not to address the girls as Miss since you’re supposed to be much younger,” Harry suggests as he walks up beside us. “I understand the need for quiet discretion during your investigation, but isn’t his extreme? Out of curiosity…?”
“I’m fifty-six and a grandfather. My name is Morgan Countcruncher. What happened?”
“Spenser was caught breaking into the school vault to copy documents you might need,” Harry adds. “Before he was caught, he passed them to his girlfriend Luna. What? The whole school knows they’re together. That is, except for Spenser himself.”
“When can you get started sir,” Ron asks. “Crum, no sirs. I’m doing it now. Still, no one in the Tower is going to know you. That’s an even bigger giveaway. We need to find a place to work.”
“The ghosts’ billiard room will do,” Hermione says. The others nod.
“I’m right on it as soon as you move the files there and find me something to eat. I like to work through lunch. Any hamburgers here?”
Ginny kisses Harry, but just on the cheek. It’s for good luck. Harry has faced Dementors, over-friendly dragons, and Mountain Trolls, among other things. Public speaking still bothers him. Harry turns to face the girl. He takes her hands and delivers a more appropriate kiss. They’re about to reenter the Gryffindor Common Room. Everyone inside is almost the equivalent of family. The two strongly suspect that their little secret isn’t much of one to their house. No one there is going to place a wand to Ginny’s throat to force Harry’s surrender and death.
Harry and Ginny step through the portal. The room is as crowded as either can remember it being. The crowd goes quiet as Harry moves to the fireplace. Standing on the elevated hearth there will be useful for everyone to see him. Ginny moves away. They at least need to make an effort to keep things quiet.
“Everyone, thank you for coming. I’ve been trying to share some information that has been brought to my attention over the last year. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with Voldemort.” Harry hears the expected gasp. It’s quick. “I’ve spoken to some of you about this already. Now we feel a need to be more widespread with our information. We’ve discovered that the administration here at Hogwarts is…”
The portal reopening interrupts Harry. Through the doorway steps Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, the new Defense instructor Clayton Spinner, as well as Hagrid, and, especially surprising, Remus Lupin. All of them smiling puts Harry off guard and at ease at the same time.
“I am so sorry to disturb your little…meeting. Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron and Ginny Weasley, if you would be so kind as to follow me please.” The headmistress’ words are kind, but clearly not to be ignored.
Once out of the Gryffindor Tower, Harry steps up to Professor McGonagall. He’s again confused. With this whole matter, he is tiring of that. He’s also close to losing his temper with her despite her efforts at levity. Off to the side, he notes Luna joining the group. It’s difficult to discern if her bubbly mood is related to what is happening, or if the girl reverting to her natural state. Harry can’t remember her smiling since Spenser’s arrest.
“Professor McGonagall, what’s happening here?” Harry demands, or rather just asks. He can’t bring himself to raise his voice with the woman. “You won’t answer my questions. I feel that it’s time that the entire school asks them. So many students have stayed away from school this year because of the war. How many more will leave because of a financial scandal?”
The headmistress begins to laugh. It throws Harry off. Ginny moves to his left and takes his hand. The girl is as confused as he is. She is also defiant, not caring who there knows that the two are together again.
“Harry, my old classroom…Professor Spinner’s Defense classroom now, is closer than the headmistress’ office,” Remus says. “Why don’t we drift over there to chat?”
“About what?” Harry asks.
“About how we are about to reveal one of Hogwarts’ oldest secrets,” McGonagall says. “It’s one your parents and godfather agreed to keep as well.”
Okay, I’m sore. Two days in chains and a number of sessions on the rack have left me in pain and an inch taller. Fortunately, while Argus Filch has too often threatened the student body with the torture machines, he has no idea how to operate them. He’s proficient with maintaining them. I’ve come away from an over-zealous football (American football) game in worse shape.
I’ve been waiting in the classroom for maybe a half an hour now. I’m pleased that they’ve allowed me a long shower and fresh clothes before being brought here. The hot water felt great. The classroom door opens, and the first through is Luna. Her hug is both painful and wonderful.
The normal greetings go around, and even Hermione is a tad bit civil. I must look worse than I feel if she’s showing me sympathy. Everyone’s attention then goes over to our forensic accountant. He’s off to one side of the room organizing his paperwork. He has a reputation for being the absolute best in the American Wizarding government. From just the tiny bit he’s told me so far, I believe it.
I really owe Uncle Theo. Besides the accounting detective, he had arranged my release and reinstatement with maybe twenty minutes of effort. It did take two days for him to learn what had happened. A call to the Minister of Magic then from our ambassador pointed to a lack of evidence for my crimes. A call from Buckingham Palace reminded the Minister that my uncle was a Court favorite.
Okay, I am guilty. Loony and I have a week of detention. I had tried to keep her out of it all, but the girl is as stubborn as Ginny. I spot her with Harry. Wait one; is that a public display of affection between them? One more wow. Granted, those here now, apart from the forensic accountant, are probably well aware of their secret.
“Professor, enough!” Harry yells. I get the feeling that some things are building up to an explosion. “What secret? What is going on? Why won’t you tell us anything? Is Hogwarts stealing from us?”
The woman continues to smile, but only until she notes how really upset Harry is. Ginny is as well, but a tad bit more in control of herself.
“Harry, no one is stealing. We are here now to tell you everything. Your parents and godfather anticipated this happening one day.” McGonagall pulls two letters from her robe pocket. She hands them to Harry. “I expect that you will share these with Miss Weasley here, her brother, and Miss Granger. I ask that you refrain from going beyond these people for the time being. Everyone else here has been informed of the letters’ contents, more or less. Please, take a moment to read them.”
The professor is wrong about one thing. I’m here, and I have no idea about what the letters say. Roughly speaking, I’ve been notified by the accountant about how everything was innocent and proper. This gathering of good people know me well enough that, writer or not, privacy and secrets are sacred to me. It’s just that no one has bothered to bring me into the loop yet. I can see Remus Lupin and Professor Spinner in the corner now explaining things to Hermione and Ron. Strong emotions in the latter two suddenly.
I watch Harry as he reads. Any Death Eater within sight would know in a nanosecond that Harry and Ginny were together by the tight squeezes they give each other as they read first one letter then the other. The second one gets the bigger reaction. Finally, they finish. The rest of the gathering moves toward the door. Harry motions for Luna and me to stay. Instead, my favorite blonde Witch shakes her head and runs after the others. Grief! I have to figure out who her mysterious new boyfriend is.
“Spenser, we really appreciate your help with this. We mean yours, the forensic accountant’s, and of course your uncle’s. Theodosius really plays cribbage with Her Majesty? Anyway, we’re sorry about your arrest and all,” Harry says. “We want you to read this one.”
“It was brilliant how Luna smuggled the file to us in her…”
“Ahem Ginny, this is a family story,” I tell her. Ginny blushes. “May I please see the letters?”
“The one from Sirius,” Harry says. “The one from my parents is a bit more private and personal.” He hands it to me.
My Dear Harry,
If you are reading this, then I have passed on before I have had the opportunity to explain what I have arranged and to what we have contributed. The day will come soon when you will be invited to do so as well. I do not need to be standing there with you to recognize a bit of confusion on your part.
Not all of Wizardry is as fortunate as your family or mine. Simply put Harry, we are wealthy. Most Magics are not. It is so important that Hogwarts remain a resource for all Witches and Wizards. To that end, I have arranged for a good portion of my resources, which will include your eventual inheritance from me, to go to our school to assist the students with small bank accounts.
I will ask you not to allow the Weasley family to learn how this includes them. I also see that your strong feelings for one certain Weasley redhead will prompt you to share this letter with her. I am so happy for you. Potters tend to fall in love with red haired beauties. I know this first-hand. Please continue to keep the secret from her family. They are a good and proud people.
Finally, I want you to consider carrying on this tradition yourself. You will learn about all of this arrangement amongst alumni at your graduation. A few Galleons for prime beef diverted to schoolbook discounts? A few more from a gourmet toilet paper allowance going to other’s savings at Ollivander’s. Maybe those bloody Goblins will figure it out for you someday. I want you to know how many, many people are in on this secret.
I want you to know how proud I am of you Harry. You will be brave, discreet, and generous. Especially, you will be blessed if the girl ignores the flowers and bonbons for what is real in you.
I read it a second time. I shake my head just a bit to allow it to sink in. I really, really appreciate how Sirius capitalizes Witch and Wizard the way I do, treating them as proper nouns. We have been so out of line with our suspicions. This is a good thing. It’s a love story between total strangers as much as it is between friends and family. I’m writing a letter to Uncle Theo before I sleep, suggesting something similar for my old Canemah Academy–all the American schools for that matter. Hey, what good is having an uncle as Head of Magic State? Oh, there is that getting me out of jail thing isn’t there?
Somewhere an accountant’s clicking calculator tape finally reaches the floor. Somewhere a night janitor gathers the day’s beans, properly counted, to be cooked for a meal. Somewhere a banker plods home after a long, long day, wondering where his conscience had disappeared so many years before. Somewhere at Hogwarts, hidden from public view, a Witch and Wizard snuggle for a few minutes together.
“Harry, you know I don’t love you for your money.”
“Ginny, I don’t believe it.”
She pulls away from him. There’s hurt in her eyes, but just for a heartbeat. The two know each other much better than that. Ginny is a bit embarrassed that she has fallen for his ridiculous comment. She knows what Harry is about to say now.
“I don’t believe it. I do not believe that you’ve gone all afternoon without telling me you loved me. What time is it? After three? Argh! By the way…”
“Don’t you dare say it to me without flowers, bonbons, and a full scholarship here at Hogwarts good sir. Oh, oh well. I guess that I will settle for a decent kiss.”
“Uhm…uhm…” Harry pretends to stammer.
“Don’t just stand there; kiss me you idiot. Our motto?”
Being fiscally responsible, Harry and Ginny make it an especially long one.
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