There was a boy who only showed up on Sundays.
He liked Exploding Snaps and Chocolate Frogs and smearing wet grass on his face. It looked ridiculous, but sometimes, the boy would pluck more grass than mud and the "war paint" would match the colour of his eyes.
The boy reminded him of a heptagon. Hyper energy pulled in too many directions. He wasn't bad looking, if he'd bother to tame his hair. But try as he may, Severus simply couldn't picture the boy dressed in proper Wizarding attire, in full robes and with hair smoothed down. In his mental picture, a button would always pop loose, or a strand of hair break free and rise on its own volition. No, Muggle clothing and white trainers matched his unruly demeanor better. This boy was never meant to be proper, he was sure.
Severus felt warm whenever Heptagon Boy (as he'd begun thinking of him) was near. He daren't come too close, of course. Scaring the children was never his intention. He knew they'd be able to see him, the lot of them, and had once wondered if they were all Mud-- Muggleborns. But as surely as he knew his name was Severus, he knew Heptagon Boy wouldn't fear him. Their eyes connected once—only once—and Severus had found himself on the receiving end of a bright smile.
Every once in a while, Heptagon Boy liked to steal away from his friends. Usually right after a big game of field Quidditch, when everyone was too tired to do anything else. If anyone noticed his departure, it was a boy about his age but bigger in size. Severus didn't particularly like this boy. This one spent too much time watching a red-haired girl on the other side of the park. His eyes would narrow periodically, showing childish disapproval as if he were the girl's rightful keeper.
Today, Heptagon Boy's escape from the group was so inconspicuous that even Severus hadn't noticed he was near until he spoke.
"You can join us, you know."
Bright grin and rosy cheeks even grass stains couldn't cover. Precocious little brat.
"Big people are welcome too. Even you, even a –"
Don't say the word. Saying it would make it real.
Heptagon Boy eyed him with a curious expression.
"I'm sorry," he eventually said. "I didn't mean to offend you."
Severus hadn't realised the air around him had gone cold, until warmth spread like firewood lit with Incendio, when at the tiniest easing of his frown, the boy beamed.
"I'll see you next Sunday!" Heptagon Boy said, awkward moment forgotten and friendship offered.
Time passed in a different tempo when one was not at the mercy of two ruthless Masters. While the bigger boy that came and went with Heptagon Boy grew in height and girth, Heptagon Boy remained small. A year's time, and all that was added to him were an inch of height (if even that) and a pair of glasses.
He still liked Exploding Snaps, Chocolate Frogs, and to smear grass on his face. His eyes were still a piercing green. The lenses only magnified the grass-green shade.
Heptagon Boy's guardian fetched him early one Sunday.
"Time to go! Your aunt's wait–"
Unruly hair. Green eyes. A familiar face.
He should have known.
"Is that his name?" Heptagon Boy asked, looking up at his father. There was an easy air in the way they interacted, very different from what Severus had remembered of his own childhood, with his own Da.
"Yup. And I guess that's the ghost you've been telling me about." Potter looked up, smiling. If Severus was surprised Potter would even look at him with anything other than hatred, he was more surprised that the smile lacked the expected sneer. "Good to see you again, sir."
Severus almost smiled back.
A crashing sound broke the moment. "James Sirius Potter, get off that thing, now!" Potter yelled at the bigger boy. Ah, such an uninteresting name. Perhaps he had overestimated Potter's intellect even more than he'd thought.
"And you too, Lily!" Now, that was a much worthier name, for certain. "Come here, both of you. Aunt Hermione is expecting us in twenty minutes!"
Feeling a warmth sensation in his hand, Severus looked down. The blasted Potter whelp was swiping a hand through his own!
Heptagon Boy giggled. "And my name is Al. Albus Severus Potter. Howdy."
Severus glared, slightly appeased that Potter at least had the gall to appear sheepish.
"We wanted his name to carry on the legacy–"
"Idiot," Severus spat, the word lacking its intended venom. Merlin, he was getting soft.
He looked down at Al.
Pot- no, Harry—there were too many Potters now—found him at the park, after the stars had lit the sky and the moonlight bathed the playground."I found the Evans's house," he said. "Wasn't too hard after I learned from Professor McGonagall where Spinner's End was. Mum's place is very close to your old house."
It was familiar, him standing and Harry rocking back and forth on the swing. Once upon a time, a beautiful girl with long, red hair had occupied the same swing.
"There was a destitute couple living there. I told them I'd take the place. Good deal, they just grabbed the money and left. Worked out perfectly, actually. Ginny's got Godric's Hollow, and I can't stand Grimmauld's Place. I don't really need a big place, not when I only get the kids on Sundays."
Harry swung back and forth with his feet planted on the ground. He had finally managed to grow tall. Or perhaps Severus had gotten too used to seeing a miniature version of him in Al.
"Didn't expect you'd choose to haunt this place." Harry chuckled, then added quickly, "Not that it's bad, the kids love you. You know what? They've been calling you 'Ghost' before they found out your name. Makes sense, really, this place, with what you've shown me in your memories..."
Harry looked up.
"Do not mention that again."
A barely audible sigh. "Yes, sir."
Harry toed the sand in front of him, a wistful half-smile on his face. Severus wondered if Al, the carefree boy that he was, would one day sport such a burdensome expression as well.
"I'm not living with anyone," Harry said. Severus raised an eyebrow, and Harry promptly blushed. Even in the moonlight, Severus could see from whom Al had inherited those rosy cheeks. "Er, I mean... if you're tired of being stuck to one place, you can always, well, come visit or something. But you don't have to if you don't want to, I just thought it might be nice–"
They had identical eyes too, if the moonlight was illuminating accurately the shade of green in those widening eyes.
"Your house was Lily's house too. I had left some very fond memories there, not just in this playground."
This time, Harry's smile reached his eyes.
As Severus floated alongside Harry, he felt very warm. A burning heat that was Harry.
He drew closer.