Summer of Enchantment
Summary: Harry is not dealing well with Sirius' death. Professor McGonagall is concerned enough about his mental health to approach the Headmaster. A surprising solution is proposed.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or the basic premise of this story. I am making no money from this endeavor.
Author's Notes: This is the first Harry Potter fanfic I ever wrote, though certainly not the first I've posted. I wrote it before I discovered the Wonderful World of Snarry, which opened my eyes to an entirely different dynamic between these two characters. When I started it, I thought it was going to be a Snape-turns-into-Harry's-mentor story, but Snape just couldn't let go of his grudges long enough to see beyond the end of his nose, so this is what resulted. It is not Snarry and will not devolve into Snarry.
Please be aware that there is an OC in this story who features prominently. If you dislike stories with OC's in them, please hit the Back button.
Warnings: This story contains detailed heterosexual liaisons. One of the characters is just under 16 in the beginning. If that disturbs you, please stop reading now.
Chapter 1 Retreat
"Go ahead, Minerva," Albus Dumbledore indicated with a polite nod of his head in her direction. He sat behind his desk, his eyes on the woman in front of him. "You asked for this meeting."
"I'm worried about Harry, Albus," Professor McGonagall began. She'd been sitting as well, but now she got to her feet, her hands clasped in front of her.
"As are we all," Dumbledore interjected.
"The boy has had tragedy heaped on top of tragedy all his life. He hasn't had time to recover from one before the next is upon him. This last year has been especially difficult, as you know. I don't think he had time to properly grieve over poor Cedric Diggory when he was thrust into a situation where the Ministry of Magic and seemingly the entire world conspired against him to belittle and humiliate him. And then the battle at the Ministry! You were there, Albus. You know what happened. Despite sometimes overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he is still just a boy!" Her eyes were large and beseeching.
"What do you suggest we do, Minerva?" Dumbledore asked quietly.
"I don't know!" she confessed, wringing her hands. "Perhaps if we were to get him away from here, at least for a time . . . give him time to process what has happened to him over the last few months . . . I know that summer break is fast approaching, but Privet Drive is not the place for him, goodness knows. They'll only make matters worse, the worthless Muggles!" She put her hands on his desk and leaned toward him, willing him with her earnestness to understand just how serious this was.
"Again, I ask, what do you suggest?"
"I suggest that we find some place where no one's ever heard of Harry Potter and where You-Know-Who wouldn't think to look for him. Let him recover and get his wits about him before returning to school next term. Let him heal, physically and spiritually. Goodness knows his troubles haven't come to an end – they'll be waiting for him when he returns. But at least he'd be in a better frame of mind to deal with them!" They were talking about the boy's mental health. Surely, he could see what was at stake.
"And did you have such a place in mind?" inquired Dumbledore.
"Well, no," Professor McGonagall was forced to admit. "But if we put our heads together, I'm sure we can come up with something. He can't go alone, obviously. For his own protection, he'd need to be with someone capable of defending him should the need arise."
"And you're sure taking the boy away from what is familiar is the right thing for him now?" Dumbledore asked. Harry's recent outburst in this very office was fresh in his mind. It was obvious Harry needed something – what that something was was difficult to discern.
Professor McGonagall sighed, and her shoulders slumped just a little. "I'm not sure of anything," she said. "Except that he looks as though he's in constant torment. And Mr. Weasley has confided in me that there are nightmares, nearly every night. Being here obviously isn't helping. Perhaps being somewhere else is just what he needs."
Dumbledore sighed, considering what she'd said. He, too, had been worried about Harry's state of mind, despite the boy's protestations that he was fine. He'd come to expect nothing less from Harry. How many times had he given the boy an opportunity to confess what he was feeling and experiencing, only to be assured that everything was "fine"?
"I believe the idea has some merit, Minerva," he admitted. "But the question remains – where is Harry safe? Where can we send him that no one would think to look? Everyone connected with him will remain a target until Voldemort gets his hands on Harry, so sending him to the Burrow, which would be a great comfort to him, is out of the question, as is Grimmauld Place, though I'm sure the memories associated with that house would be counter-productive. He's safe here, at least, but he can't remain here long, not with the term coming to a close." He sighed again. "I'll have to give this some thought."
For the first time, Severus Snape, who had been sitting quietly, listening but seemingly disinterested as always when the topic was Harry Potter, spoke up. "I believe . . . I may have a solution to this particular problem."
She'd forgotten he was even there, and when he spoke, Professor McGonagall jumped just a little. When he didn't continue, she snapped, "Well? Go on, Severus!"
Snape looked at her appraisingly, then turned to Dumbledore. "May we speak privately, Headmaster?"
Surprised, Dumbledore nevertheless turned to Minerva. "Would you excuse us for a moment, please, Minerva?"
Professor McGonagall looked from one to the other in disbelief. Were they really dismissing her from a discussion that she had started? It appeared that they were. "Very well," she said stiffly, indignant, and turned to go.
"Thank you, Minerva," Dumbledore said sincerely to her retreating back. "I know you have Harry's best interests at heart."
"Yes, well, someone should," she sniffed as she left the room.
"What is it, Severus?" Dumbledore asked, turning to Snape after the door had closed.
"I have received correspondence from a Muggle attorney overseas. I have some . . . personal business that I need to attend to there. It may take a number of weeks. I was going to wait until the end of term, but I could go now and . . ." Snape appeared to be struggling internally with the offer he was about to make. Finally, he said, "I could take Potter with me. No one would think to look for him there. With me."
"Personal business, Severus?" Dumbledore repeated, his blue eyes piercing into Snape's black orbs.
Snape sighed and looked away. He'd never understand how Dumbledore could still make him feel like a small child caught misbehaving. He had hoped not to have to get into this – it was why he'd put off telling the Headmaster – but he should have known better. "My sister's child."
"I wasn't aware that you had a sister," Dumbledore said with an inquiring lift of an eyebrow.
"I don't. That is to say, I don't any longer. She has been dead for years. The girl . . . my niece . . . has been residing with a paternal grandparent who has recently herself passed away. Apparently, I am the only remaining relative."
"I am sorry, Severus. About your sister, I mean. Why have you never told me?"
Snape paused for a good long time before responding. "I was six years old when Sacilia was born. My father . . . left us shortly after her birth. I helped care for the child as much as I could, while Mother worked, until I went off to school. Eventually, it became apparent that Sacilia was a Squib. Mother was . . . well, Mother was ashamed. She was pureblood herself, and while it apparently was acceptable for her to take up with a Muggle and bear his children, it was not acceptable that one of those children had no magical ability. When it became obvious what she was, Mother thought it best to keep Sacilia . . . hidden."
"What happened to her?" Dumbledore prodded.
"She was ten when our mother died. I was still here at school, as you know. Sacilia went to live with our grandmother, who harbored the same prejudices my mother did, as well as a hatred for my Muggle father who had tainted her pureblood daughter. When Sacilia was sixteen, she ran away with a Muggle boy from the States. I should have taken her in when I left school, but I was . . . my lifestyle was not conducive to raising a teenager. I never heard from her again. Apparently she . . . acquired a drug habit, which claimed her life seven years ago. Somewhere along the way, there was a child."
"And how old is this child?"
"Sixteen," Snape informed him. Everything he knew about the girl he'd been told by the social services people who had contacted him two weeks ago. He'd never spoken to the child himself. He'd been contacted by the same agency seven years ago, shortly after his sister's death, but when he'd learned the paternal grandmother was willing to take the child, he'd been relieved and had hardly thought of her since.
"And what are your plans for this child?" Dumbledore continued his interrogation.
"I have no idea," Snape admitted. "But I feel as though I ought to . . . that I should . . . make sure that she is tended to properly."
"You make it sound as though she were a plant, Severus. But you surprise me, in a pleasant sort of way. Whatever else happens, you certainly should go to her. She needs you. Are you sure you want to bring Harry along? Might make an already difficult situation even more so."
"I don't see how that could be," Snape confessed. He was completely at a loss as to what to do about the teenaged American girl who had suddenly become his problem. No one was going to bail him out this time, apparently. "Do I want to spend weeks confined with . . . that boy? Certainly not. But it seems this may be an appropriate way to fulfill a promise I made to you many years ago. In any event, I can see to it that his school work is brought up to the level where it ought to be. If that is indeed even possible."
"Are you sure about this, Severus?"
Snape was silent for a moment, then nodded.
"And I've just had an inspirational idea!" Dumbledore stated with a broad smile. "I've been meaning to ask you, Professor, to review the potions textbook. It's getting a little outdated." That was an understatement. The current Potions textbook was at least two hundred fifty years old. "You can bring your things along, work at the job while you're away. Might keep you busy and out of trouble. Interested?"
"Yes, sir," Snape said quickly. For the chance to get his name on a newly-published potions textbook? Most certainly.
"I think you're just the man for the job."
"And I'll have a convenient subject for testing purposes," Snape said with a gleam in his eye. He had to stop himself from rubbing his hands together in gleeful anticipation.
Dumbledore eyed him sternly. "Severus, I'd like you to bring him back in one piece, hmm?"
Snape had the grace to look abashed at his eagerness. "Yes, sir. Of course."
"I'll speak with Harry right away. I don't see how we can force him to go, if he's not inclined to do so. But thank you, Severus. This is a most generous offer."
Snape bowed his head in acknowledgment, rather doubting his own sanity for making the offer in the first place, then rose to go.
"You wanted to see me, Professor?" Harry asked after he stopped in front of the Headmaster's desk. He'd been summoned here from class, so whatever this was, it must be fairly important.
"Harry! Yes, sit, please."
After Harry had seated himself, Dumbledore asked, "How are you, Harry?"
Harry fidgeted uncomfortably in his seat. "I'm fine, sir."
Exactly what Dumbledore had expected to hear, unfortunately. The dark circles under Harry's eyes told the Headmaster a different story. "Everything going all right, then?" he pressed.
"Yes, sir. Everything's fine."
Dumbledore sighed. He'd been holding out a small hope that Harry might confess that he was having difficulty dealing with everything, in which case they might have been able to provide him with help right here. But if Harry wouldn't admit there was a problem, no amount of forced assistance would do him any good. "School going well?"
"About as well as it usually does." Since it was nearly over, what was with the third degree?
Harry had been able to meet Dumbledore's penetrating stare up until this point. Now he looked up at the ceiling, then at Fawkes, and then at the floor before letting his eyes settle back on Dumbledore's, bright blue and all-knowing. He'd lie if he wasn't sure that Dumbledore would see right through it. "I've been having some nightmares," he admitted grudgingly.
"Visions?" Dumbledore asked with some concern. "Or simply nightmares?"
"Not visions, no. They're . . . different." No, these were routine, garden-variety nightmares involving dementors, Cedric's death in the graveyard, Voldemort's rebirth, Sirius' death at the hands of the evil Bellatrix Lestrange, Voldemort's attempted possession of him in the Ministry of Magic, even that toad Umbridge.
"Good. Good. Well, not good that you're having nightmares, Harry," Dumbledore said quickly, correcting the impression that he may have left that having nightmares was an enjoyable experience. "But certainly perfectly understandable after all you've been through, don't you think? Anything you wish to talk about? I'm a good listener," he offered, shining with sincerity.
Harry most certainly did not want to talk about them, not with Dumbledore, not with anyone. "No, sir. I'm fine, really."
Dumbledore sighed once again. He'd hoped Harry wouldn't force him into what he knew would be a difficult conversation. "Harry, some of us are concerned about you," he began.
"Professor, I . . ."
"Now, Harry, hear me out, please." When Harry acceded, somewhat begrudgingly he could tell, to this request, Dumbledore continued. "Some of us are concerned that you've had rather too much piled upon your very young head, and we fear that perhaps you've reached your breaking point."
"But . . ."
Dumbledore raised a hand to stave off Harry's protests. "You've been handling yourself very well, Harry. Much more so than any of us would have a right to expect. But you've had a significant amount of upheaval in your life over the last year, even for you, and some of us are concerned that you are ignoring the lingering effects of that upheaval."
Harry wouldn't be silenced this time. "You keep saying 'some of us', sir. Who, exactly, are 'some of us'?"
"Does that really matter?"
"It does to me," Harry said stubbornly, sitting up straight, his arms crossed in front of his chest, the very picture of defiance.
Dumbledore sighed inwardly this time. This was going just about as well as he'd expected it to. "Professor McGonagall came to me. She's worried about you. And I have to say, based on what I see before me now, that I agree with her. I know you're mature beyond your years, Harry. Your life has left you with little choice. But even an adult would be reeling from the experiences you've survived over the last few months. If you don't let yourself work through the grief and the guilt and the anger you feel, it will eat you alive. And you'll be of no use to anyone."
"So you're worried that I won't be at my best the next time I face Voldemort? Is that what this is about?" Harry asked petulantly. So much for mature.
"No, dear boy, that's not it at all. That was a poor choice of words, and I apologize. Do I worry about Voldemort getting close to you? Oh, yes. Do I worry about Voldemort attempting once again to kill you? Every day. And I do worry that, in the end, Voldemort might prove to be too much for both of us. But that's not what this is about. I care for you, Harry. We all do. I don't want to see you suffer any more than you already have. That's what this is about. Difficult times lie ahead, and we all need to be at our best to face them."
Harry sat back, his eyes filling with tears at Dumbledore's kind words of concern. He'd found himself near tears a lot lately. Between the always-lurking tears and the anger still seething just below the surface, there was little room left for any other emotion. His friends had noticed his mood, and they were trying to help, but he found he didn't want to confide in them either. How could they understand what he was feeling? Had any of them been responsible for the deaths of anyone, let alone two innocent people whose only crime had been standing between someone and the man who wanted him dead? How could anyone understand the guilt that lived in his gut and ate at his heart? How could they be expected to understand any of this?
Harry closed his eyes and leaned back in the chair, trying to will the tears away. "What do you want me to do?" he asked resignedly.
Dumbledore allowed himself a small smile – he was getting through. "We think it would be best if you went away for a while."
Harry's eyes popped open, and he sat forward again. "Away? Where?"
"Where is not really important. We'd like to take you somewhere safe, somewhere no one would think to look for you, somewhere you can find the peace you need to work things out in here," Dumbledore said, touching his own forehead, "and in here." He pressed a palm against his heart.
"You're sending me away," Harry said bitterly, disbelief evident in his voice. This was going to be just like last summer. No news. No word from his friends. Closed off from everything and everyone he cared about.
"I'll not make you do anything you don't want to do. If it is your wish, you can return to Privet Drive at the end of term, and things can continue there as they always have. But I'd like you to at least consider that this may be the best thing for you. Wouldn't it be a wonderful feeling, Harry, just to be a boy? A boy who doesn't have to worry that there's someone who wants to destroy him lurking around every corner?"
Harry felt the tears threatening again, and he couldn't stop one from slipping down his cheek, though he ignored it and hoped that Dumbledore would, too. "Is there some place like that, then?" he whispered.
The hope in his eyes, the lone tear, and Harry's forlorn voice were almost all the answer that Dumbledore needed. He nodded. "I believe there is. Do you trust me, Harry?"
Without hesitation, Harry said, "With my life, sir."
"Excellent." Before Harry could ask any more questions, or come up with more reasons why he shouldn't deal with what was so obviously tearing him up inside, Dumbledore said, "Nocturna!" and Harry immediately fell into a deep, sleep-like state. He slumped backward into the chair, snoring slightly, his mouth ajar.
Dumbledore smiled at him affectionately. "I hope you don't resent me for this, Harry. Severus!" he called. "You may come in now."
Snape entered the office and looked down his nose at Harry, the usual sneer on his face. He'd been lurking just outside the door and had heard every word of the conversation that had just taken place. "You didn't tell Potter he would be accompanied by me," he pointed out.
"I may be old, Severus, but I am not stupid. Now, we have much to do." He rose from behind his desk and approached Snape. Harry grunted in his sleep and curled up in the chair. "I will pack Harry's things to send along with you. How soon can you be ready to go?"
"I'll need a couple of hours to pack myself. The supplies I'll need will take much longer."
"Get me a list, and I'll send them along after you, along with lesson plans from Harry's other teachers."
Snape nodded agreement. "How long will he sleep?" he asked, looking down at Harry.
"Until you lift the enchantment," Dumbledore said. "We should get him away as quickly as possible. The fewer who know that Harry has left here the better. Have you provided our mutual acquaintance with an explanation for your absence?"
Snape nodded. "I have told him only that I'm going on holiday. I do not want him to know about . . . my niece . . . in the event . . ."
Dumbledore understood and nodded once. "Holiday, Severus? You?"
"That is exactly what the Dark Lord said," Snape noted. "In exactly that same tone. But then he told me that I deserved a holiday and told me to . . . enjoy myself. I suspect I will make the journey home several times over the course of the summer, for him and for you. I will not be completely out of touch."
"I know of no one who deserves a real holiday more than you do, Severus," said Dumbledore. "I only wish it were a real holiday." Dumbledore clapped his hands. "Let us proceed and get Harry safely away before anyone has time to notice he has gone."