There was brightness to his step -- almost a skip and a dance -- as he headed home, the little boy with long black hair, too-short jeans, long shabby coat and odd, smock-like shirt.
At least that's what her sister had said; she'd mocked his smock and implied that it was odd. He never had thought it so, when it came to it he had never really given his clothes any thought...that seemed to be a Muggle preoccupation, if the acerbic comments by the sister and sarcastic sniggers of his Muggle schoolmates were any measure.
But she never made fun of his clothes...Lily didn't seem to care what he wore which, to his mind, was just one more proof that she belonged in his world, the wizarding world.
And today, it had been worth getting up early, getting up and getting out before the day's shouting began or, what sometimes seemed worse, the stone-cold silence of bitterness and disappointment that, like a Dementor's kiss, sucked all hope and possibility of happiness.
He hadn't wanted to spoil the morning with those memories, so he got up as the sun was rising, quietly dressed, and silently slipped out of the house before either of them awoke.
It wouldn't have been too bad if his mother awoke, she would have understood why he wanted to leave undetected...but she would have insisted he have some breakfast, some milk and toast at least. But that would have risked is father waking and getting up and trouble starting again...
The boy wasn't that hungry anyways...being with Lily filled him like no ordinary food could.
He hurried the miles to the playground in her neighborhood, even though he knew he'd be hours early. She'd told him that she normally slept until at least 7 on Saturdays, and then her Mum made them all a big breakfast.
But he didn't mind the solitude...he was used to it. And he could slowly sway on one of the swings undisturbed, basking in the warmth of the rising sun and memories of their meetings over the past month, and anticipation for the time they'd spend together that morning...
It was a week-long holiday where she attended school. Her family was leaving that afternoon to visit a relative somewhere, he didn't know or care where, all he cared was that he wouldn't see Lily for one whole week.
So she had promised to meet him at the playground that morning before they left, and that is why he made sure that he was going to be there early and that he was not tainted by any bad stuff from his own home.
A snippet of a silly song kept going through his mind...he didn't know the name, but it had played a lot at one time on those things his Muggle schoolmates owned that they referred to as "transistor radios"...
Slow down, don't move too fast,
You've got to make the morning last...
Dadada la la, lala la...
He couldn't remember all of the words -- it hadn't been important to him to pay that close attention at the time, but today the phrase "You've got to make the morning last" reflected his mood, and although he wasn't sure what "groovy" meant, in the context of the song he was sure he was feeling it.
And suddenly, as he neared the playground, he remembered another bit of the song:
I've come to watch your flowers growing...
do-in-in doo doo
And there, growing under the streetlight as he turned the corner into the playground, was an exuberant bouquet of spring flowers proudly exerting themselves above the sand, gravel and weeds.
And he knew that they were there for a reason -- they were waiting for him. They hadn't been there the other day, he was sure of it. He knew that they had bloomed there just that morning, just for him to be able to pick for her...for Lily, who could make flowers open and close at her will.
He gently picked each one -- it would be an insult to them to leave even one behind, since they had gone out of their way to bloom just for him today.
It was going to be a perfect morning, he just knew it, a perfect morning to make up for all of the awkward statements and mistakes he'd made over the past few weeks.
And so it was with almost a swagger that he carried the bouquet into the playground, and made his way to the swings and sat and waited.
He didn't have any way to tell what time it was, but he guessed that it must now be about 7...she'd just be waking up about now. Then there would be breakfast, and then brushing her teeth and washing her face and getting dressed and combing her hair...
She'd probably get to the playground around 8 or so, and then they would have the whole morning together, the whole groovy morning, before she'd have to leave on her trip.
He didn't quite swing on his seat as much as he dangled awkwardly, occasionally twisting around and letting it spin back. He stared at the flowers he'd picked, thinking about how naturally and easily Lily was able to make the petals open and close like an oyster.
He wondered how she was able to do it, and spent the next hour trying to get the bouquet to open and close for him.
Some young boys came riding bikes into the playground, but they only gave him a glance. They rode around for some time before deciding it was boring and leaving for some more interesting location.
Still he concentrated on the flowers...were those some petals moving, or just the trembling of his hand?
The sun grew higher in the sky, and the day grew warmer. Two young mothers pushing prams and with three toddlers in tow came into the playground and eyed the swing set.
They didn't say anything, but he knew they would prefer that he wasn't there, so he got off the swing seat and went over to where some tall bushes were growing which provided some shade.
He took off his coat and spread it on the grass and lay on it, making sure that he was in clear view of the playground entrance. He held the bouquet in front of his face and continued to concentrate on making the flowers open and close...
He lost all track of time. The two young mothers and their brood eventually left, some older kids came and left, using the playground as a short cut to some other destination.
This neighborhood, so unlike his own, was comfortably upper-middleclass. These families had nice houses with nice yards, and most didn't scrimp on toys and playthings which were available just outside their own back doors...so there was relatively little activity at the public playground, even on such a nice day.
And then it happened. He'd decided to concentrate on just one flower instead of the whole bouquet, and eventually he saw its petals open and close -- feebly, to be sure. Not the strong, even movement that Lily was capable of, but it was doing it all the same.
A big grin cracked his usually sullen face, he just had to show her!
He looked around and realized that he had lost all track of time...the sun was now high in the sky, most of the morning had to have gone, it had to be close to lunch time...
His smile faded...wasn't she coming? Bitter disappointment grabbed his heart...he wasn't going to cry, he just wasn't! But despite his resolve, he could feel his eyes getting wet...
But before an actual tear could betray him, he heard footsteps running up the street, and then there she was, pausing at the entrance to catch her breath, slightly disheveled, looking around the playground. She spotted him, and the look of relief on her face was quickly replaced by a broad smile as she ran over to him.
"Oh, Sev! I am soooo sorry for being so late! Mum made an especially big breakfast..here! I brought you some waffles..."
And she reached into her pocket and pulled out two waffles wrapped in wax paper and handed it to him.
"And then Mum insisted we check what we'd packed," she continued, "and then repack and then Petunia, well, was being Petunia...!"
She stopped to catch her breath and peer intently into his face and then asked, "You aren't upset, are you?"
"I thought maybe you'd forgotten..."
"Oh Sev, of course I wouldn't forget! I'd promised I'd be here and finally I just said to Mum and Tuney 'Listen, there's something I really need to do!', and I left and I figured Tuney could finish packing, she was the one that unpacked three times anyways!"
She stopped to yet again catch her breath and he smiled a sort of half-smile. Seeing that she asked, "So you aren't mad at me?"
He peered into her deep green eyes and stated, "Never..."
Then he held out the bouquet and said, "Hey! Look what I can do!", and he made the one flower in the middle slowly open and close. Lily took the bouquet, giggling.
"It's not as good as you can do...", he sighed.
"Oh, Sev!", she interrupted, "I think it's beautiful!"
"I wanted to make them all do it, though!", he protested.
"Like this?", she asked, and as she gazed intently at the bouquet, all the flowers started to open and close, some slowly, some fluttering like butterflies' wings.
"Yeah," he stated wistfully, "that's what I tried to do, but I could only get the one in the middle to move..."
Lily pulled that one flower out, its petals now steadily and strongly opening and closing as if keeping time with the rhythm of his heart...
She broke off part of the stem and leaned over, placing the flower in his hair, the stem resting upon his left ear. The petals continued to open and close.
"Sorry," she said, "but I really have to go...I'll be back next Sunday, we can meet in the afternoon...?"
And with that she leaned over again, kissed his forehead, and taking the bouquet rose up and ran out of the playground.
He sat there, stunned. She was already gone before he even thought to raise his hand to his forehead...yes, there was still a trace of moisture there. Yes, she had really kissed him!
And so he was almost skipping and dancing all the miles back home, the little boy with too-short jeans, long shabby coat, odd, smock-like shirt...and a flower in his long greasy hair that kept the beat of his heart. Or perhaps it was her heart...maybe their two hearts beat as one...
...let the morning time drop
All its petals on me.
Life, I love you,
All is groovy...
Yes, whatever "groovy" was, he knew what he was feeling must be it. It was as if her kiss had placed a bit of the warm spring sun into his heart.
The windows were open at his house, and as he entered the front yard his spirit drooped a little as he heard the radio inside tuned to a rugby match.
He'd been hoping that his father would be off at the pub. The best he could now hope for would be that his father would be too engrossed in the game to notice him entering.
He slipped around back and came in through the back door. His mother was in the kitchen doing something at the sink. She didn't say anything, but gave him a cryptic look that suggested that all was not well.
He paused and waited until he heard his father yelling at the radio over something with the game being broadcast, and decided that then would be as good a time as any to slip by him unseen to the stairs.
But he had just made it to the foot of the stairs when he heard shouted at him, "Oy! Where th'hell ya been, asshole?!"
"Around," the boy answered.
The man found this answer highly unsatisfactory.
"Around!? AROUND!? What th'hell j'mean, 'around' asshole!? Why weren'tcher here helpin' yer Mum!?"
The boy was tempted to ask the same question of the man, but knew better not to.
"And what th'hell is that thing in yer hair!? Whatcher think, yer one of those g'damned HIPPIES 'r sumthin'!?"
The boy didn't know what the word "hippies" meant -- but his father spat the word out the same way he did "witches" and "wizards" and "magic", and so the boy thought that yes, maybe he was one, or at least would like to be.
"Yeah, so what if I am?", he retorted, but knew immediately it had been a mistake to do so.
His father jumped out of his chair shouting, "Whatcher say t'me, asshole!?", and the boy just narrowly missed being cuffed behind his ear.
His mother stepped in from the kitchen, and placing herself between the man and the boy said to her son, "Severus, please sweep the back hall...".
And at that moment a crowd's roar arose from the radio, something important had happened in the game that distracted the man, and the boy slipped back into the kitchen as his mother handed her husband a bottle of beer.
The boy grabbed the common kitchen broom that stood by the back door, carefully removing Lily's flower from his hair and putting it into the breast pocket of his coat for safekeeping.
He swept the hall, and for good measure (and because he preferred to be outside of his house) swept the back stoop too. The sky had started to cloud over, and a wind had picked up that blew the dirt he had swept into tiny dust devils.
He could feel the flower on his breast, and it was as if Lily's heart was next to his.
He wondered if the flower would last forever, and all the happiness and joy he'd felt earlier returned.
The wind was refreshing, he held out his arms and twirled in the breeze, feeling Lily's heartflower still beating on his breast. He never remembered ever feeling this happy in his life, and he thought how much he'd like to be with her right at that moment, wherever she was.
He twirled faster so that his own house and neighborhood became a blur and it was easier to picture Lily and her family traveling in their car, and the heartflower kept beating, if anything stronger now...
And then it happened.
The broom in his hand flew straight up in the air, over his house, over the neighbors' houses. For some reason, he had no idea how, he was able to hang on, dangling by one hand beneath the broom.
This, he knew, could not be good.
It was just a common, everyday Muggle broom, after all! It wasn't a magickal flying broom -- at least, it wasn't supposed to be...
When his initial surprise wore off, he managed to pull the broom down enough so that he could swing his leg over it and ride it.
But that was all he could do...it was singularly unresponsive when he tried to steer it.
He gripped the handle with both hands and with all the strength he could muster tried to turn the broom -- but that only succeeded in the broom flipping completely over.
He then tried to will the broom to turn, and eventually got it to veer a few degrees off of the course it had been on, but not enough to turn it around and take him home.
If truth be told, he'd actually be enjoying the experience if the wind hadn't been picking up. A storm was moving in that buffeted him one way and then another. He thought that he might be moving in a generally southerly direction, but couldn't be sure.
He passed over houses and shopping centers, highways and factories. Towns gave way to farms which in turn gave way to cities, before again repeating the whole process.
He couldn't be sure how long he'd been up there, nor how far he had traveled. But the wind still buffeted him, and now a cold drizzle stung his face and the sky kept getting darker.
At first he thought it was due to the thickening clouds, but it kept getting darker and he saw lights turning on below, so he knew that night was approaching and fear slowly replaced the anxious excitement he'd been feeling.
The rain and the wind were making it more difficult to hold onto the broom, and now he started to wonder how he could make the thing land.
The thought itself seemed to be the thing, because the broom instantly plummeted, so steeply and quickly he was afraid it would crash, so he immediately thought "Up!", and the broom rose.
For some reason it responded well to up and down movement, if not to side-by-side steering. As he pondered this fact and how he might utilize it without killing himself, he saw something which turned his heart as cold as the icy rain lashing him.
Immediately below him he saw flat stretches of marshland, and then what looked to be outcroppings of rock bordered by a thin pale line. And then everything below him was dark flat gray interspersed with dots of white for as far as he could see. The stinging rain in his face was now joined with a salty spray...he was now out over the ocean.
This, he definitely knew, was NOT groovy...
Slow down, you move too fast Hello Lamppost, whatcha knowing? Got no deeds to do,
You've got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy!
I've come to watch your flowers growing.
Ain't cha got no rhyme for me?
Doot-in, doo, doo,
No promises to keep...
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me.
Life, I love you!
All is groovy."
Hello Lamppost, whatcha knowing?
Got no deeds to do,
59th STREET BRIDGE SONG
Simon and Garfunkel