You can own
everything you see
Sell your soul for complete control
Is that really what you need?
-Pink Floyd, "What Do You Want From Me"
"I do it!"
The house-elf stepped back, watching as, after a struggle of only a few seconds, he pulled on his boots. This done, he pushed open the door and clambered down the steps- all by himself, holding on to the banister's carven posts- following Father. A cold wind off the sea froze his ears; Mother would say she told him so, but Severus didn't care. He was a Man, now. He was a Man with Father, who saw him coming, waited, and took him by the hand.
They circled the great pasture, where hobbled Aethonans blotted out the sun, and a few yearlings, all legs and pinfeathers, crunched doggedly at the day's fodder. They were too young to drink whiskey. They were like he'd been a few months ago- too small to put on his own boots. Walking beside Father, Severus felt vaguely sorry for them. His boots were green with silver studs, around which the laces wound like that snake he'd found under the front porch. They hadn't let him keep it; as an only son, he had too many responsibilities. And a new one, now: walking the pastures with Father.
It was his very first time.
The sky was white; the pasture was gray. After a while it seemed to give way to broken land, all brown grass and puddles, which made Severus wonder if it was still theirs. Mud sucked at his boots and sullied the green, but he marched on, biting his lip. Father seemed not to mind, so why should he? And his hand was still enveloped securely in Father's blood-warm leather glove.
Then they came to it: a strange object jutting out of a place where mirror-bright water reflected the sky.
Severus reached out his free hand and touched it, hesitantly. It was wood, but naked, harsh and gray as the pasture they'd left. "That?" he asked, quickly withdrawing his hand.
"It's a Muggle contrivance," Father answered.
A dirty brown rope trailed into the mud; Severus stepped on it, to be sure it wasn't a snake. "Mugga trivans," he repeated with satisfaction.
Father made a noise in his throat, as though he needed to cough, and Severus thought perhaps he should abandon this line of conversation. "Why?" he asked instead- this usually got results. Indeed, Father's expression changed. He smiled, but it was a strange sort of smile, reminding Severus uncomfortably of the time he broke Mother's wards and fell down the cellar stairs.
"Muggles are unable to use magic to cross the water. In fact, they cannot use magic at all. So they use these things- "boats", they call them- to cross the water instead."
"One does wonder," the smile said. "Watch me, now," it said.
And the comforting hand was gone.
Father stepped back a pace. He seemed very tall, that way- taller than the Aethonans, taller than the scrubby trees whose branches clawed the sky. Wand in hand, he said some words, and a light glimmered at his feet. It was yellow, like the light of candles. Severus clapped his hands, and Father looked at him. He thought then that maybe he shouldn't have clapped, but the look had passed; Father had walked past him, out onto the mirror-bright water. The light remained at his feet, as though candles glowed in the water's depths.
Then he did the strangest thing (for Father, anyway). He
knelt down on the water with his arms out, his arms open, and a smile on his
face unlike any other in the world- a smile just for Severus, brighter than the
glimmering candle-lights, brighter than the white sun. "C'mon!" he said, arms
open. "C'mon, Severus! Come to me!"
Severus stood on solid ground. He saw the water; he saw his Father; he remembered a time, not long before, when Mother had smiled that way at him, when he tried his first uncertain, tottering steps, and Father sat in his heirloom chair without a glance in his direction.
Now, that smile seemed to set something alight inside him.
And he ran.
Trying his steps for Father.
It was all right, at first; the ground held him up. Then mud sucked at his boots- sucked them right out from under him- and he fell, fell like a baby. His hands went right through the bright mirror, and mud welled up around them. His face broke the mirror. Mud and water filled his mouth. It tasted so bitter, and the water hurt his eyes.
He heard himself scream. Not like a Man. Like a baby.
"We are Wizards, Severus," his Father said. Blinking his eyes desperately open, but still nearly blind, he reached out to the voice. Yellow candle-lights appeared, grew bright, and passed him by. He heard footsteps- big boots, a Man's boots. Like a baby, he rolled over in the stinging water and saw his Father walking away. Another scream tore out of him, much to his own shame.
And then the heat of magic caught him by the collar, jerking him forward out of the marsh- past the boat- and onto his Father's dry land.
Salt burned his skinned hands. Quickly he swallowed his screams and scrambled upright, the world reeling around him. He ran after his Father.
By the time they reached the house, the wind had dried his tears.