|The Last Word
Author: Kalina Lea PM
Hermione is tasked with bringing Muggle computers to the Ministry, and an e-mail glitch leads to a mysterious correspondence. Who will have the last word? *COMPLETE*Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Humor - Hermione G. & Severus S. - Chapters: 6 - Words: 18,445 - Reviews: 400 - Favs: 549 - Follows: 38 - Updated: 10-03-02 - Published: 09-28-02 - Status: Complete - id: 988687
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: This is a response to the "You've Got Mail" challenge at WIKTT. As such, it owes a great deal to the movie, and, of course, to J.K. Rowling, who owns pretty much everybody and everything here.
The happiest day of my life was the day I got my letter from Hogwarts and found out that I was a witch. I'd always been bookish, but I'd never found a subject that interested me as much as magic, and from the day I got my letter, I read every book about magic that I could lay my hands on. The first time I saw the castle…well, I'm sure most of the other first years felt the same, but Hogwarts really is the most amazing place, and seeing it at night all lit up just took my breath away. It was even more amazing inside. I'd read about the charmed ceiling in the Great Hall, of course, but reading about it and seeing it are two completely different experiences. And the ghosts and the owls and the moving pictures and staircases - well, it was just one astonishing thing after another. I pretended not to be impressed. I acted as though my reading of Hogwarts: A History had prepared me for every possible surprise, but it took a lot of effort to keep from walking around with my mouth hanging open.
That feeling never completely wore off - it really didn't. I still get gooseflesh when I see the Hogwarts Castle loom into view. I still tear up when I remember leaving it at the end of my seventh year, saying goodbye to all my professors there and boarding the Hogwarts Express with Harry and Ron for the last time. I still think that magic is the most interesting thing in the world, and there's a part of me that still can't believe I got that letter, still can't believe I'm a bona fide witch. I can actually raise my wand and summon the power to make things happen. I still have to pinch myself sometimes.
But nothing is perfect, and it was some time in my third or fourth year at Hogwarts that I finally realized that not everything in the magical world was superior to the world I was ever-so-gradually leaving behind. I couldn't convince Ron of that, of course. Having been raised in a wizarding family, it was all just too normal for him. I think Harry understood better though. He certainly didn't prefer the Muggle world - how could he, given what he'd experienced with his aunt and uncle? But he did seem to agree with me that quills, while romantic in a way, are terribly inferior to even an inexpensive fountain pen. And parchment…well, it has this annoying tendency to roll up at the worst possible moment, making you lose your train of thought completely, and then the ink from the dratted quill gets all smudged, and before you know it, you're re-writing a three-foot essay on the mating habits of hags. I could go on for days about how annoying it is to try to study by candlelight, especially when you tend to have fly-away hair. Have you ever tried to study with the smell of singed hair filling the room? And the clocks! Yes, it's nice to know that it's "time for dinner" but sometimes, it's also nice to know the actual, honest-to-goodness time. Every year, I wore a new watch to Hogwarts, hoping that it would last, but all those wards of Professor Dumbledore's did something to the battery, and I never had a single watch survive the Sorting.
Please don't get me wrong. I still would rather be a witch who has to put up with a few anachronistic inconveniences that an ordinary Muggle any day, but those inconveniences gave me some things to look forward to during my summers at home. Electricity meant that I could glance at my digital clock in the middle of the night and know whether it would be time to get up soon. It meant that I could stay up late reading without worrying about setting myself on fire. It meant that I could write my summer papers on my parents' computer. Of course, later I had to transfer them to parchment, but at least I found a pen with ink that looked a lot like a quill's, and no one was ever the wiser.
I went through a rather sanctimonious period where I thought I should convert my wizarding friends from quills to ink pens and from parchment to paper. It was rather like trying to convince a House Elf to take a pay check. They simply weren't interested and were, at times, quite offended by the effort. Witches and wizards like their anachronisms, thank you very much. Finally (I admit, I'm slow to give in in these matters) I realized that parchment and quills and all the rest of it was a part of their history, and that it wasn't my business to change that. I had been invited into their world, but that didn't give me the right to alter it to suit my whims.
It was only a small step from there to the realization that some of the Muggle "conveniences" were downright dangerous in the hands of wizards. Not fountain pens, of course, but a lot of electronic devices just don't belong around lots of magic. At first I thought that they just wouldn't work around magic, but the truth is that some of them work, just in ways they were never intended to work. The first year I was a prefect, one of the young Muggle-born Gryffindors smuggled in a small radio. It woke the entire tower in the middle of the night playing obscene rap music at top volume. Nothing I did could make it either stop or quiet down. Finally, after about an hour, the radio just burst into flames, but not before the little first-years learned a lot of new words.
All of this is why I was less than enthusiastic when Minister Weasley arrived in my office one day followed by three house elves carrying a Muggle computer.
"Ta da!" he said, beaming as the elves put the tower, monitor, and keyboard down on my desk and then melted away as only elves can do.
I peered at him from over the top of the monitor. "Well hello to you, too, Arthur."
"I've brought you a computer."
"I can see that." I smiled at him. It's difficult not to smile at Arthur Weasley's enthusiasm when he's in the presence of a Muggle electronic device, but if I'd known what he had in store for me, I probably would have suppressed the impulse.
"It's a beauty, isn't it?" He ran a hand over the tower, and the rapturous look on his face made the gesture seem almost obscene.
"It certainly is," I agreed. "May I ask what I'm supposed to do with it? The wards…"
"I know, I know," he said, now stroking the monitor, giving it equal time. "No ekletricity and all that. That's why I brought it to you. I want you and the rest of the Magical Innovations staff to start working on a way to make computers run on magic. I want one on every Ministry employee's desk by Christmastime."
"Every employee," I repeated weakly. I adore Arthur; I always have. But his affinity for Muggle devices has never matched his knowledge of them, and the results have, on occasion, been a spectacular mess. But how to argue with him without hurting his feelings? "Arthur, I don't think the Ministry employees want computers."
"Of course they don't now," he said, waving a hand dismissively. "But just wait until they have them. They'll be…what do the Muggles call it? Caught in the web?"
"Surfing the web," I muttered.
"That can't be right," he frowned. "Surfing is to do with water, isn't it?"
I felt a headache starting. A headache that was to last for months. Best to bring the conversation back on track.
"Arthur, even if I can get the computers to work in here, I really don't think it would be wise to have them connected to the world wide web. The security risks would be enormous."
"Hmm." He looked disappointed, but even Arthur wasn't willing to risk the security of the Ministry. "Well, could you fix it so that they could communicate with one another? That would be a big help. I get so tired of sticking my head in the fire twenty times a day, and you should hear Molly go on and on about the state of my collars. All that soot, you know."
"I have heard her," I reminded him. And I had to admit that he had a point - the idea of being able to communicate without using the Floo network was appealing. I still do have fly-away hair, and the less time my head spends in the fireplace, the happier I am. "We might be able to set up an intranet for the Ministry," I told him, a little grudgingly, "but I don't know much about things like that, and I doubt anyone on my staff does either. They were all raised in wizarding families you know."
"I'll find someone," he promised. "Whatever you need. If you and your staff can get it to run, I'll find someone to do the…what is it they need to do?"
"Got it." He pulled out his wand and pulled a silvery thought from his temple and then tucked it into his breast pocket. "Must remember to put that in the proper place when I get back to my office. Drives Molly crazy to find my thoughts in the laundry."
My sympathies were entirely with Molly in that regard, but I let it pass. "OK, Arthur, we'll get started on this tomorrow. I'll meet with my staff then and we'll plan our approach, and I'll memo you with a timeline so that you'll have some idea of when we'll need a networking person on board."
"Wonderful!" he exclaimed, giving the tower a final loving caress. I could tell that he really hated to leave the equipment in my custody.
I glanced at it all again and noticed something missing. "Just one more thing," I said. "Did it come with a mouse?"
"Er, no. I guess not. This is everything that was in the boxes," he said, looking concerned. "Oh, well, here." He drew his wand then and conjured a small field mouse, offering it to me by the tail. "Will this do?"
"It's perfect," I assured him, taking custody of the small creature. "Thank you."
"Anything you need, Hermione. Just let me know." He returned to his office then, leaving me alone with one new computer and one bewildered mouse. I can still picture that shiny new computer sitting on my desk, waiting for me to bring it to life.
I had no idea that it would bring me to life as well.