A head whipped around at the same moment a wand was drawn. The tense stance relaxed and the wand disappeared when he realized what had intruded upon his foray for a suitable volume of verse. The warped vision obtained through the 'peep hole' revealed a strange looking Muggle with what appeared to be an enormous suitcase of some kind.
Opening the door was the first mistake.
"Good afternoon. How are you today?"
"Since we have no prior acquaintance, I fail to understand your interest in my well being."
"Ah, my name is Edgar Higgins and I've come by to show you our remarkable new line of children's books. Is the little woman at home?"
"There is no little woman present, nor is there likely to be."
Edgar had been in the business too long to let the door closing in his face slow him down.
"Remove your foot."
"Sir, please. I can't let you throw this opportunity away," Mr. Higgins said, while squeezing his arm and narrow shoulder through the opening.
"Desist at once!"
"All I'm asking for is ten minutes of your time. Ten minutes and I'll never bother you again."
No magic allowed - dire circumstances only. Albus and his bloody Muggle safe houses.
"Very well. Your ten minutes begins now." The door was opened and Mr. Higgins was allowed to enter.
This was the second mistake.
"Could we sit down? I'm really quite tired and this case is so heavy."
"Your request for ten minutes is rapidly passing."
"If you let me show you our line of wonderful books, I have a free gift for you."
"Indeed, and what would that be?"
"I'm not allowed to tell you ahead of time. Let me put my case down over here and we can begin."
Mr. Higgins seated himself on the edge of the sofa facing the fireplace, opened his case and rapidly extracted a growing pile of books. "This is a really nice home you have here. I can see from the surrounding bookcases that you appreciate the written word. Not many people do nowadays and that's such a shame. I don't find many people anymore that prefer a good book over the television or the internet. I must say you are a man of discriminating tastes, Mr. - ."
"Mr. Epans, as I was saying, a connoisseur like yourself would appreciate the beautiful books we have managed to put together. What greater privilege is there in life than passing on the joy of reading to our young ones, eh?" he asked, pulling out a sheaf of papers and placing them on the coffee table.
"Since I have no children, I wouldn't know."
"Please, sit down over here so I can allow you to inspect these wonderful examples of expert craftsmanship," Mr. Higgins said, patting the seat beside him.
Sitting down was the third and final mistake.
"You won't be sorry," Mr. Higgins advised with a large smile on his face. "They are bound in the finest imitation leather available today. It stands up so well to those little hands that manage to get so grimy. All it takes is a damp cloth and they clean right up. Now, this is the first volume of a series and you don't have to buy them all at once, not at all. They come in the mail about twice a month."
"Your allotted time has expired, Mr. Higgins."
"Oh, but you haven't had a chance to see these marvelous volumes. I sold ten sets to the headmaster of the primary school down the road. I was able to give him a fantastic discount for ordering that many."
An eyebrow was raised and the fatal question was asked. "You give discounts to schools?"
"Oh, my yes. Ten percent. Unfortunately they seem to be our biggest customers, these days. Not many private sales at all anymore. Here, let me show you the financing available."
Two months later, Severus was sitting quietly in his office attempting to relax after a hectic day in the classroom. The fireplace flared and Albus' head appeared.
"I need to speak with you for a few minutes, Severus. May I come through?"
"It is after all, your school, Headmaster."
Another flare, a brief brushing of the unending beard and he was sitting down in the chair reserved for the errant student.
"This is a decidedly uncomfortable chair."
"It wasn't designed for long conversations, merely the unrepentant trouble makers."
"Apparently the library received a rather unusual - delivery this afternoon."
"Unless they are the new potions texts for the third years, why should this be brought to my attention?"
"It appears the order was placed by a Mr. Epans. Its original destination was the safe house assigned to you a few months ago. It was forwarded here by some rather exhausted owls."
"Interesting, but unavoidable."
"In what way was it unavoidable?"
"It was the only way to rid myself of Mr. Higgins."
"Who is Mr. Higgins?"
"The sales representative who rang the doorbell."
"I fail to understand why purchasing books from Mr. Higgins was the only way you were able to persuade him to leave."
"Magic was forbidden as you informed me yourself, Headmaster. Mr. Higgins was a rather persistent individual and I found myself unable to come up with a better solution."
"But, Severus. One hundred sets of thirty volumes?"
"The discount was larger. In addition, I got a free gift of a 'grapefruit separator', whatever that is."
Severus smirked as the headmaster shook his head and returned to the floo. I'll wager that's the last time I get sent to a Muggle safe house.