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.
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.
A present was not what Harry wanted to give Snape the following week, when he assigned research on the magical properties of imelda vine berries used in conjunction with the root of the padrigal plant.
True to his word, Snape had devised a course of study for Sera, and she joined them in the basement each day, torn between being happy about being included and being totally pissed off about having to do schoolwork in the middle of the summer. She spent much more time listening in on Harry's lessons, absorbing as much of what he was being taught as she could. Her favorite part was after lunch, when they worked on potions. Her own course work was finished for the day, but she found potions fascinating and longed to get her hands on all of the interesting things that Snape kept here and try her hand at mixing some of them together. She reckoned it was a lot like cooking – measuring and mixing – and she certainly had an affinity for that. But her uncle refused to let her touch anything, tolerating her presence only, so she sat quietly, watching and learning, sympathizing along with Harry when he messed up and celebrating his small and infrequent triumphs.
"I can't find that anywhere in here!" Harry said, frustrated, slamming his book shut. "He's given me an impossible assignment!"
"I've got an idea," Sera said. She got off the couch and went down the hall, beckoning him to follow her.
When she went into her bedroom, he stopped, unsure what she had in mind, and said, "I don't see how that's going to help."
Sera rolled her eyes at him. "Just get in here. We'll look it up on the internet."
Sera stared at him. No. There was just no way that someone his age, in the era that they lived in (even if he did live in England) could not know what the internet was. "Tell me you're joking!"
"Not joking. What are you talking about?"
She stared hard at him, trying to discern a telltale smirk that would give away that he was trying to play a joke on her. He simply stared back at her, confusion in his eyes.
"You're not joking!"
"Nope. I just said that."
"Holy cow! I didn't think this was possible. The internet. Never even heard of it?"
"Well, it does sound vaguely familiar. What is it?"
"Okay, tell me you know what a computer is."
"That I know. Cousin Dudley had one. I sometimes played games on it when he wasn't around."
"Phew!" Sera said, wiping imaginary sweat from her brow. "You're not a total moron. I was worried there for a minute."
"You sounded a bit like your uncle there, for a moment. Are you going to tell me what it is, or leave me in my ignorance?"
"Well, let me show you. It's easier than telling you." She crossed to her desk, where a computer sat. After turning the monitor on and clicking here and there, she turned to him and said, "Sit here," she said, patting her bed.
Harry looked at the bed for a moment, wondering if this was such a good idea, then sat down.
"This," she said, flourishing her hand at the computer's screen, "is the internet. Internet, meet Harry. Harry, internet."
Harry waved at the computer. "Can it see me?"
Sera slapped a hand dramatically to her forehead. "Holy cripes, I've got my work cut out for me! Of course it can't see you! It's the information superhighway. Anything you want to know, you can probably find on here. Let's say you wanted to know the names of the bones in your toes. Watch this." Sera typed into the computer "bones in the toes", then clicked enter. "Now wait. It's a dial-up, and I'm only connected at 24k bps, so you'll have to wait a bit, but we'll get there."
"I have no idea what you just said."
"Doesn't matter," she assured him. "Okay," She said a moment later. "See there are over two hundred thousand places on the internet where you can look for the names of the bones in the toes."
"That seems a bit impractical. That would be like looking at all of the books in the library. That would take forever."
"You don't have to look at them all. Look at this second one. It's an encyclopedia entry. We'll go here." She clicked on the link. "See, there are only three, the first metacarpal, the proximal phalanx, and the middle phalanx. Everything you want to know, right at your fingertips. Or toetips, as the case may be."
"Cool. And you think there might be something in here about imelda vine berries and the padrigal plant?"
"You'd be surprised what's out there, Harry, my boy. Let's see what we can find." She typed the search terms in, hit return, and they waited. "Well, looky here!" She exclaimed minutes later. "Someone's written a paper entitled, "The Effects of Mixing Imelda Vine Berries and Padrigal Plant."
"Let's see it!" Harry said excitedly.
Sera clicked on the link, and they waited while the page loaded. It was a little slow (it was dial-up after all), and while they waited, Harry stood behind Sera and massaged her shoulders and neck.
Finally, Sera looked up to see that the page had completely loaded. "Okay. This is by someone named . . .whoa, that's an odd one, Herm–ee–own," she sounded out. "Herm–ee–own Granger. Let me warn you that you can't always trust what you find here to be accurate."
"That's Hermione!" Harry said excitedly.
"You know him?"
"Her," Harry corrected. "Yes, I know her. She's one of my very best friends at school. And if she wrote it, I know it's right. She's a bloody genius!"
"Well, it's got to be her, don't you think? With a name like that?"
Harry nodded. "Let me see." He read through the paper, recognizing Hermione's distinctive writing style (he'd copied it enough over the years, after all) and learned that when one combined imelda vine berries with padrigal root, one was left with a red sludge-like potion that smelled of peppermint candy and left whoever inhaled it's fumes with no memory of the last two days. If one were mad enough to drink the mixture, potential effects included bowel symptoms that made Harry cringe when he read about them.
"Good old Hermione," Harry beamed when he'd finished reading. She'd once again saved his bacon.
"Would you like to write to her?"
"Could I?" Harry asked, amazed.
"Sure. She's got an e-mail address."
"What's an e-mail address?"
"Oh, God help me! This just gets worse and worse. It's like an owl," she explained. Harry had told her about owls. "Flying over the information superhighway I told you about. You type her a message and send it to her. When she reads it, she'll send one back to you."
"An owl, or an e-mail?" Harry asked, this time being purposely obtuse, a fact given away by the twinkle in his eyes.
"Shut up," Sera said.
"Can we do it now?"
Sera wiggled her eyebrows at him. "I thought you'd never ask, big boy."
"Sera! Show me how to send the mail!"
"All right, all right. Don't get your knickers in a knot. We go here," she said, clicking on Hermione's e-mail link, "Then we type a message to her. What do you want the subject to be?"
"How about, 'Hello, Hermione! It's me, Harry!'"
"Perhaps we should make sure that it's actually your friend before we tell her who you are."
"Won't she just know?"
"No. The e-mail will be from me. She doesn't know me from a hole in the ground."
"All right. Just say that we've read her paper on imelda berries and we wanted to thank her for the information. Then you could ask her . . ." Harry thought while Sera typed. What question would only the real Hermione Granger know the answer to? "I know! Ask her if she knows how many heads Fluffy has?"
"I'll tell you later. Just ask her!"
"All right, all right. I was wondering if you knew how many heads Fluffy has," Sera said as she typed along, her fingers flying over the keyboard. "Anything else?"
"No. Not until we know it's her."
"Okay. Send then," Sera said, clicking the magic button.
"So, is it her?" Harry asked impatiently.
"Let me explain something else to you. The message will arrive at her computer seconds after I send it to her. However, I can't control when she gets onto her computer and checks her e-mail. If she happens to be sitting there, using her computer, wherever she is right now, she may respond immediately. If she's not, well who knows how long it might take to get a response. You're just going to have to be patient."
Harry sighed dejectedly. He'd been so looking forward to talking with Hermione. But at least she'd given him the answer he needed to Snape's homework assignment. At least he had that.
To get Harry's mind off the response he so desperately wanted from Hermione, Sera dragged him down to the lake and forced him to sit quietly next to her on the tree stump.
"What if Hermione – "
"Hush!" she interrupted. "You're disturbing my peace and quiet."
"But what if she –"
Harry huffed in frustration but quieted down. He scooted away from Sera so he could lay back on the stump, his head in her lap. Sera smoothed his hair down away from his forehead, and Harry closed his eyes, listening to the quiet and letting the magical peace of this place fill him.
"Look at the little snake!" Sera suddenly said.
Harry opened his eyes and sat up. Sera pointed to a small brown snake with a light stripe running down its back sunning itself on a nearby rock.
"I can talk to snakes," Harry told her.
"Yeah? So can I. Watch. Hi, Snake. See?" she teased.
Harry grinned at her. "But they actually understand me."
Sera looked at him skeptically, doubt obvious on her face. "Sure they do."
Harry shrugged, turned to the snake, and said something that sounded to Sera like, "Hesh a hassi."
The snake immediately lifted its head and looked at Harry, darting out its tongue as it did so.
Sera stared at Harry now. "What did you say to it?"
"I just said good morning. She said good morning back."
"How do you know it's a girl."
"By the long eyelashes and the painted fingernails," Harry deadpanned.
"Ask her if I can hold her."
Harry turned to the snake and relayed the question in that weird half-whispering, half-slurring language. Again the tongue darted out. "She said she'd rather you didn't, but if you promised to be careful, she'd tolerate it," he translated.
"I promise," Sera whispered.
When Harry relayed this to the snake, it slithered off the rock and over to Sera's feet. Sera extended her hand to the snake, which made its way onto her hand, curling up in her palm. Sera raised the snake so it was level with her face and looked into its eyes. The snake stared brightly back, then made its way up Sera's arm, across her shoulders and down the other arm until it coiled itself again in Sera's left hand.
"What's her name?" Sera asked.
"Anastasia," Harry told her after asking the snake and receiving an answer. "I told her your name and that you live in the house through the woods."
The snake raised her head to Sera and flicked its tongue out.
"What did she say?"
"She said that's enough."
Sera immediately lowered her hand to the ground, and the snake slithered off of it and away through the undergrowth, where she blended in so completely they lost sight of her right away. "Tell her thank you," Sera remembered, and Harry tossed this in the direction the snake had gone.
Sera turned large round eyes on Harry. "You really can talk to snakes!"
"Told ya," he said, grinning.
That night at dinner, Sera said to her uncle, "Did you know Harry could talk to snakes?"
Snape turned his dark eyes on Harry, who squirmed uncomfortably, wishing Sera hadn't said anything. Snape's stare pinned him for a moment before he returned his eyes to his niece. "Yes, I knew Potter possessed this skill."
"Can you?" she asked.
"No. It is a fairly rare gift," Snape understated.
The phone rang then, which was an unusual enough occurrence in this house that they all jumped.
"I'll get it," Sera said, though no one else had made a move to get up. She got up and went into the living room to answer it.
"Must you use every opportunity to show off?" Snape asked, his voice low and dripping with disdain.
Harry shrugged. "I like that when I tell her things like that, she doesn't look at me like I'm possessed by the devil," he admitted. "When I told her about Voldemort, she didn't even flinch at his name. Like you just did!" Harry accused.
"She has her reasons now, doesn't she?" Snape pointed out.
"Of course she does," Harry agreed. "But it's nice to be only magical to someone, not evilly magical," Harry tried again, sure he was explaining himself badly. Plus, he had to admit to himself that he had been showing off, just a bit, for Sera.
Snape huffed in disgust as Sera returned to the table. "My social worker," she explained as she sat down. "Just checking in again. So where were we? Oh, the snake. Anyway, Harry asked the snake if I could hold it, and she said yes!"
"You held the snake?" Snape inquired, alarmed.
"It was just a common garter snake. There are no poisonous snakes here. It gets too cold in the winter. Although they do bite. I used to pick them up all the time. My grandmother was terrified of them. If she saw one, she'd scream and attack it with whatever she happened to be holding. If I could get there in time, I'd pick them up and take them away to safety. One day, I picked one up, and it bit me right here." She indicated the index finger on her left hand. "It left four little fang holes that actually bled! Pissed me off, since I was trying to save the little ingrate's life, so I said 'effing snake' and flung it up into the air. I thought it was going to get caught in the tree branches, but it came back down with a thump! I told it it was on its own then." A shadow of remorse flitted across her face. "I hope that wasn't Anastasia's father or something."
"Anastasia?" Snape inquired.
"The snake Harry introduced me to today," Sera explained.
Snape rolled his eyes, either at Sera's story or at Harry's inability to keep this particular trait to himself, or perhaps both.
It was over twenty-four hours before a response from Hermione arrived. Harry's insistence that Sera check her e-mail every thirty minutes during their waking hours was beginning to get on her nerves.
"Here it is!" she said. "We've got a message from Hermione."
"What did she say?" Harry asked, crowding beside Sera in front of the screen.
They read together. "Hello. Thank you for your kind words about my paper. Fluffy has three heads. Who are you?!"
"It's her! It's her!" Harry shouted.
"Shhhh! Do you want Uncle to hear you? We can write right back to her. Maybe she's still at her computer. What do you want to say?"
"Okay. Say, 'It's me, Harry.'" Sera started to type while he dictated. "'We found your paper on the internet (bloody useful thing, that – did you know about it?), and I couldn't believe it when I saw who had written it. How are you?' That'll do for now, I guess."
Sera sent the message, and they waited. Four minutes later, they had a response. "Harry! Where are you?! You disappeared before the end of term, and no one would tell us where you went. Dumbledore put the story out that you'd gone home early. He told Ron and me that you were gone, but he wouldn't tell us where. Said it was for our own protection as well as yours, but we couldn't help but worry. Are you all right?"
"Say this. 'I probably shouldn't tell you where I am. Dumbledore may be right. But I am safe, and I'm actually having a really wonderful summer.'" He smiled down at Sera. "'Despite who I'm with. You won't believe it – Dumbledore sent me away with Snape! He's been getting me caught up on the school work I missed last term, and he's going to teach me how to disapparate! He's the same old Snape, but he's bearable because we're not alone here. Snape came here to meet his niece (she's typing this, since I can't type a bit), and she's' . . ." Here Harry hesitated, unsure how much to say, what words to use. He smiled at Sera again. "'And she's become a great friend.' Don't want to put anything x-rated on this internet."
Sera sighed. "Harry, my love, you are so naive. Anything else?"
"Yeah, tell her I was surprised that she put her paper out on the internet where anyone could see it. Isn't she afraid that Muggles will read it? Then you can send it."
Sera did, and they waited again.
"Snape, huh? I'm so sorry, Harry. But I'm glad you've made a new friend. (I hope she's not too much like her uncle!) What is her name? Learning to disapparate?! I am so jealous! Although I guess we'll all be learning that soon enough. Most Muggles know about the internet, Harry, but very few people in the wizarding world do. Some of us Muggleborns use it to keep in touch over the holidays and share information. And if a Muggle happened upon my paper, they'd probably read it and think I was a nutter. There are plenty of those on the internet, so no worries. I certainly wouldn't go telling Snape about it. I'm sure none of the professors know, and we should probably keep it that way. I can't believe I'm really talking to you! I thought I wouldn't hear from you until term started up again. I miss you."
"She misses you," Sera pointed out.
"Mmm. That's what she said," Harry agreed.
"She's your friend?"
"One of my best friends. Her and Ron."
"Just a friend?"
"Well, I don't do this with her, if that's what you mean," Harry said, leaning in to thoroughly kiss her.
Sera sighed happily. "In that case, I guess I'll let you talk with her again. 'Hi, Hermione, my name is Serafina, but everyone calls me Sera. And no, I'm not a bit like my uncle, although we have the same color hair and eyes. Just so you know, I'm a Muggle, but I know all about Harry's . . . shall we say abilities. Maybe he'll tell you the story of how I found out some time. He says he misses you, too. I guess I'd better teach him to type so I won't have to be his personal secretary.'"
"Good luck with that," Hermione wrote back. "I have to go. Hugs and kisses to you both. I hope to meet you soon, Sera. And, Harry, take care of yourself. Are you sleeping all right? Getting enough to eat?"
"Sera hopes to meet you some day, too, Hermione. I sleep very well, thanks. The nightmares have decreased significantly. Must be the fresh air. Sera is a really good cook, and I think I've gained a stone! Probably you won't even recognize me when you see me. Can we talk again some time?"
"Of course we can. Talk to you soon!"
"Bye, Hermione," Harry said, a little sadly. Talking with her had made him a little home sick. He shook his head to clear away these thoughts. "I have to go finish my assignment. I bet Snape will be surprised that I found the answer to his question!"