The wind blew swiftly through the trees, the leaves rustling in its wake. Several of these leaves caught the wind, and they twirled and spun as the wind carried them effortlessly through the summer air. One leaf, brighter than all the rest, a brilliant shade of emerald green, floated downwards soon as the wind dropped, and landed in the reaching palm of a small girl.
The girl was not alone; she lay on the grass in the shade of a tree, next to another girl, older. The two of them were sisters, but they were so different – both in personality and looks – one would never guess that they were indeed of the same blood.
The younger girl who had caught the leaf lifted it up in front of her, and the shape of the leaf reflected in her own equally emerald eyes. She smiled for a moment, her entire face lighting up so bright that it would rival the biggest star when it grew dark, and you would wonder what was it about the leaf that made her smile so.
She tossed the leaf into the air in one quick motion, and it spiraled upwards. She watched it rise, and at the moment where most people would expect it to come back down, it defied gravity and continued to float gently upwards, twirling and spinning as it had when the wind had carried it.
But there was no wind.
Those emerald eyes followed the leaf, and they seemed to sparkle with concentration as the leaf continued to twirl. It would almost seem as if she was controlling the leaf to move without touching it, but that was impossible, wasn't it? But then, what could make the leaf float with not a single string attached?
The older girl, by this time, had also noticed the leaf that appeared to have a life of its own. She watched for a few moments, and there was something reflected in her eyes too – was it wonder? Amazement? The sister's own dull grey eyes flashed, and what was there before dissolved; replaced by unmistakeable jealousy. She narrowed her eyes and turned to the first girl, who was still staring intently at the leaf in the air, and said, "Lily, stop it."
The leaf lingered in the air for moment, stopped its careful ascent up into the heavens for a second – then, whatever force had taken hold of it let go, and the leaf fluttered gracefully to the ground, landing unharmed in the soft green grass.
"How do you do that?" The older girl was staring at her sister with narrowed eyes. "I've tried and tried, and I can't move a single thing without touching it. Teach me." She said the last two words like they were a command, as if she expected to be obeyed. But her sister wasn't looking at her.
"I don't know, Tuney…" The girl named Lily was staring sadly at the fallen leaf on the ground. She wanted to make it fly again, wanted to watch it pirouette in the air as before, but she knew that if she did, her sister wouldn't like it.
And her sister was her best friend.
Not so far from the two girls, a small boy watched them from behind an oak tree. The boy was bone-thin, with the greasiest hair one could ever imagine. His eyes were a deep onyx black – so dark it looked as if it were a dark hole, a tunnel with no end, where one would think they'd never see the light. His clothes were ragged and torn in places, looking in desperate need of a good wash, as they had gone yellow with stains. The boy watched as the bright green leaf floated upwards, and he saw the girl below it, carefully controlling the leaf with nothing but her eyes. Magic.
This was not the first time he had been spying on them. The first time he had noticed them was at a playground, where he was hiding again (but behind a bush), and the two sisters were playing on the swings. He had watched with great amusement as the redhead swung, kicking her legs out with surprising strength, laughing, as if she did not know the dangers of falling off the swing entirely. He continued to watch as she swung, higher and higher, and he could hear her blonde sister yelling, "Don't, Lily, don't go so high! You'll fall!"
Then Lily let out a tinkling laugh, and suddenly threw herself off the swing – the boy closed his eyes, bracing himself for the sickening thump and the scream – but it never came. He opened his eyes and froze in shock, as he saw Lily flying – actually flying – spinning in the air like a trapeze artist, with a grace that he had never seen before, then landing effortlessly on the ground, without a sound, turning to smile at her sister, who stared in awe, speechless. He himself had been lost for words. That was the moment when the boy knew that he wasn't alone.
Since then, he had been watching them, and every time, Lily never failed to surprise him. The boy was astounded at Lily's magical ability; her magic was flawless, and it seemed to come to her with ease – that was another thing he envied about her, the fact that she could do magic at such an early age. The boy was confident that he was a wizard, but until now he still was not able to do any magic – he reassured himself that it would come to him sooner or later. He was pretty sure he wasn't a Squib – or was he?
The boy longed for a friend. He had never met any other children his own age at Spinner's End. So he envied the girls, simply because they were sisters, and siblings always stuck together - they always had company. He wanted to approach them, and ask them if they wanted to be friends… but how would they take to him? They didn't know him, and he didn't know what to say! After all, he had never had a friend before. He had never understood friendship; even the word itself sounded alien to him. He had never had anyone to talk to when he was out of the house. All his neighbors were either old, unmarried spinsters, doomed to a life of solitude or were without the blessing of children. The boy was quite alone – until the Evanses moved in.
The games he had seen Lily and 'Tuney' play were unfamiliar to him – hide-and-seek, ring-around-the-roses, and jump rope, hopscotch- why was it called hopscotch? He could perfectly understand 'hop', but why scotch? Muggles called their games the oddest things, the boy thought.
Not to mention that he also had the sorriest excuse for parents. Eileen Prince, his mother, was constantly depressed and almost never cared for him. And his father… the boy shuddered involuntarily, remembering the last time he had seen his father. It had not gone well.
"I'm back," a drunken voice called from the front door. No one answered, not even the boy, who was staring at the wall in the living room.
"Severus, you worthless, insolent boy! Answer your father!" the man said. His eyes glazed over, and he seemed to teeter on his feet for a moment before regaining his balance. He continued in the same drunk voice, but this one had a slight edge to it, "Severus…"
"You're back," came the sullen reply. "Finally."
"Don't speak to me in that tone, boy. You know your father works very hard every day for his family."
There was a pregnant pause.
"Drinking firewhisky and not coming home until the light of dawn gets your job done? Your fabled, 'well-deserved' money?" said the small boy sarcastically. "I didn't know that."
He was on the floor before he knew what had happened. His cheek stung from the pain of his father's slap, and his father was standing over him, shouting, yelling, kicking him wherever he could. The boy curled up into a ball on the cold stone-tiled floor – trying to numb the pain by thinking about something else, anything else, but failed. He knew crying would be of no use; he had given up crying long ago. As his father continued to hit him, blow after blow, Severus felt himself losing consciousness; drowning in the pain, suffocating…
"Who's that over there, Tuney?"
The boy came to his senses. He turned around and saw the girl called Lily looking in his direction. He quickly flattened himself on the other side of the tree, and closed his eyes in desperation. His thoughts came to him in a rush, tumbling over each other like a waterfall. Please don't let her see me I won't know what to say oh please dear Merlin make me invisible so she won't see me I don't know what to do oh no I think she's coming what am I going to do?!
"What are you doing?"
He opened his eyes and jumped as he saw her right in front of him. He backed away, and ended up hitting his head on the back of the tree. "Ow!" he grunted, rubbing his head from the force of the impact.
"Oh goodness, I'm so sorry! Are you all right?" She stroked the back of his head, and touched his hair, ignoring its greasy look, concern written clear as crystal all over her face. The boy started in surprise. No one had ever shown this level of affection to him before - not his father, and certainly not his mother. His father would never have dared touch his hair, preferring to insult it from a safe distance instead. His mother was never that affectionate anyway- she never seemed to know what to say to her son.
He looked at Lily's hair and noticed it was a very becoming shade of red - long, running down her back in gentle waves. It looked almost like a waterfall… except, much more beautiful. The boy decided he quite liked Lily's hair.
He suddenly realized that Lily was looking at him with a strange expression, as if she expected him to say something. The boy blinked, and said "Hi," in a quiet voice.
Lily's face instantly broke into a wide smile. "Hello, I'm Lily!" Severus wanted to say "I know," but he wasn't sure how Lily was going to react to that.
"Lily…" Her name sounded pretty on his lips, the way he said it made him smile too, just a little bit.
Lily suddenly stuck out her hand. The boy stared, and looked at her again. "Um, what?"
"You're supposed to shake it. Don't be silly, you've done that before, haven't you?" Lily laughed, a tinkling laugh that made him want to hear it again as soon as it ceased.
The boy, however, felt extremely stupid inside. He didn't know what to say next, so he took her hand, and shook it feebly. Lily was smiling at him again. "Good, now we've introduced ourselves... oh, wait, you haven't! What's your name?"
"Severus," he replied.
"Severus? Sev-er-us…where have I heard that name before?" She looked into the distance, and suddenly something seemed to click inside her head, and her eyes lit up again. "Oh, so you're the person next door! I heard someone shouting your name just the other night; it was horribly loud, wasn't it, Petunia? Was that you? I almost fell out of bed!" She mimicked the action and tumbled to the ground, giggling. "It was quite a fright."
"No, that was my father." Severus suddenly felt rather nervous. What if Lily had heard the other things his father had said? Did she hear his father call him 'worthless'? 'Cheap'? 'The good-for-nothing, useless imbecile'? Did she hear his cries for help? His face felt uncomfortably hot all of a sudden.
"What was he shouting about?" Petunia suddenly piped up, from behind Lily. When she had come over from her side of the tree, opposite him, Severus did not know, but he decided he didn't like her company. Not as much as Lily's. Not much at all, in fact. There was certainly something different about her. Maybe it was the way she scrutinized him with those eyes of hers, or the way she just… talked.
Lily's eyes flashed, and she got up to elbow her sister hard in the shoulder. Petunia winced. "Tuney, don't ask things like that! He wouldn't want to tell us about it – it must've been awful!"
Severus was finding it quite hard to take it all in. Petunia gave her sister a glare and began to rub her shoulder ruefully, as Lily continued to rant cheerfully on.
"So we're next-door neighbors, isn't that convenient, Severus? Severus…that's a rather queer name, don't you think? But it is rather special. I'm really glad we've all got unusual names. It's so annoying when someone else has the same name as you do, it gets so confusing sometimes!" She paused for a moment, which Severus was glad about, since she was talking so fast it was hard to process what she was saying. "Severus is a long name, though. Would you mind if I called you Sev instead?"
Severus looked incredulously at her, one eyebrow raised. He had never been called anything other than Severus. His father mostly referred to him as a Squib, worthless boy, or worse- but…Sev?
"What, don't you like it?" said Lily, noticing his expression. "It's got a nice ring to it. Hello, Sev!" She giggled again.
Severus had no idea what to say next. "Um…"
"Lily, for goodness' sake, calm down and let him breathe." The other girl had walked over to him now. "I'm Petunia. Lily's my younger sister." She made no move whatsoever.
Severus took in her pale grey eyes, her equally pale complexion and her dull blonde hair. Petunia didn't seem nearly quite as friendly compared to her brightly colored, much more vibrant, more realistic sister.
"Er… hello, Petunia."
"Oh, don't call her that, it's such a bother, just call her Tuney," said Lily quickly. "I do love nicknames! Tuney and I aren't just sisters, we're best friends!" Lily said, smiled that bright smile that made her eyes glitter like stars.
"So what were you doing alone behind this tree?" said Petunia. She narrowed her eyes again, accusingly. "I've seen you before. You're always behind the same tree, aren't you? Watching."
"I…" Severus was speechless. He cursed himself for not hiding well enough before. But he sometimes just had to get a better look. It was so tempting!
Lily gave her sister a look that seemed to mean something between them. "Don't embarrass him so, Tuney. He wants to play, don't you, Sev?"
"Play?" Severus wasn't sure whether they wanted him to play with them or not. Were they just doing it out of politeness? Then again, it would seem quite rude to decline the offer, he mused. So he looked up at them and said, "All right. But how do you… play?"
Both girls looked at each other for a second, and suddenly began to fall about giggling. Severus was astounded. What was so funny about what he said? Was there something wrong with it?
"You don't know…how to…play?" Petunia was doubled over, her grey eyes glittering with mirth. "There's nothing to it, really! You just play games, and you have fun! That's it, you silly person!"
Severus felt even worse than he had before. Petunia was laughing at him, and Lily was giggling too. But he noticed a difference in the way the two laughed. Lily wasn't laughing at him, she laughed without the patronizing tone Petunia's laugh seemed to have. She laughed with him, not at him.
As he stood there watching the two girls giggling in a heap, Severus decided that he liked Lily a lot more than only moments ago – a feat which he had thought was thoroughly impossible from the moment they had first spoken to each other.
"I don't know. I've never had a friend before." Severus bit his lip nervously.
"Oh, don't be silly, that's quite all right. You're really funny, Sev. Do you want to play hide-and-seek?" Lily said. Petunia was still laughing, but Lily gave her a look and the older sister shut up promptly. Severus was grateful that Petunia had stopped – he was sure he couldn't have felt any worse. But Lily had called him funny…
Severus vaguely understood hide-and-seek, since he had watched Lily and Petunia play it a few times over the past week since their family had moved in a while ago. He was glad he finally had company, even though they were both girls. Although he honestly couldn't care much at this point, he hoped they wouldn't get him to play anything too girly. He once saw Petunia bring a handful of dolls which looked like girls in short pink skirts who had been Petrified and diminished with a Reducio spell. He wrinkled his nose at the memory of Petunia pretending the dolls were going out to have a tea party together. He seriously hoped that playing tea parties with dolls wasn't something all Muggle children did, especially Muggle boys. He hated pink, he detested it, despised it. It was such a… loud color. And he could see absolutely no point in dolls.
Once again, he had let himself daydream for too long. Petunia and Lily were both giving him questioning looks. He flushed, and nodded with a small smile.
For hours after, time seemed to pass quicker than Severus had ever experienced in his life. Lily and Tuney seemed to be two balls of everlasting energy, and never seemed to get tired as they played hide-and-seek again and again. Severus found that he was quite good at hide-and-seek. He managed to hide himself in many different places – behind rocks, in bushes, and even in a patch of grass nearby that grew unnaturally (and conveniently) high. He was currently hiding right up the tree where Petunia had put her forehead against the trunk, counting slowly with her eyes closed.
"Ready or not, here I come!" Severus tried to keep himself as still as possible as Petunia looked around. Please don't look up, he thought, as he perched carefully on his branch.
Suddenly, he realized the peril he was in. He was on a very high tree branch, and as he looked to his left, he noticed that the tree branch wasn't strong enough to hold his weight. The branch looked as if it was about to break, bending lower and lower, the tips of the leaves almost touching the ones below it. Severus began to panic; his heart beat faster and faster. He stared intently at the end of the branch, wishing with all his heart that this was the moment where his magic would finally surface. He had been waiting long enough for his own magic to appear, when it should have showed itself months ago, but as the years passed, he never showed a sign of having any magical powers.
The branch continued to bend. Perhaps he really was a Squib after all. No wonder his father called him worthless.
There was a loud crack, and he was falling through the air before he knew what was going on. It was a long way down, and the branches scratched and tore at his clothes as he plummeted downwards.
Severus forced his eyes open and looked below him. His eyes widened in fear. Petunia was right below him, and she was oblivious to him falling. He was going to crush her if she didn't get out of the way.
Severus screamed. It was a loud, ear-splitting sound, which he didn't recognize. He was petrified, paralyzed, absolutely terrified. He knew he was going to die as soon as he reached the ground. Or even worse, he was going to break something, and then he would have to explain to his father how he got into this state, and he would have to endure his father hitting him over and over again… he might even kill Petunia, and Lily would never forgive him. And he would never forgive himself.
He closed his eyes tightly, and waited for his moment of doom. I wish I wasn't a Squib…
Then he felt a surge of energy coursing through his body, electrifying, exhilarating, and when he opened his eyes, he lay several meters away on the soft grass, away from the tree, away from Petunia. His eyes widened in amazement, and he looked over himself. He was unscathed.
And both Lily and Petunia were staring at him.
Severus felt horribly self-conscious as Petunia stared with her mouth open, her eyes as wide as saucers. Lily also appeared to be shocked, but her reaction differed greatly to her sister's, much to Severus's later mixed gratitude and disappointment. There was something in those expressive emerald eyes of hers, a mix of different emotions… then all those emotions vanished from her eyes, and she whispered in joy and wonder, "You can do it too, Sev! I'm not alone!" She went up to him, and her eyes were shining like Severus had never seen before. "Sev, you're different like me… I thought I was the only one!"
Petunia's mouth was still a perfect O, just like it was since Lily has last moved. She stood speechless, lost for words - something Severus learned later to be a great feat. She stared at Lily, then Severus, and then to Lily again. Quick as light, her eyes flashed - and they seemed to sparkle like Lily's, but it wasn't from happiness. Her eyes filled with tears of contempt and jealousy, and she glared at the two of them and spat:
Her tone was completely different this time when she said it. Her voice had an edge to it, and it was a tone of nothing but disgust, anger… Severus felt slightly intimidated by her voice and of the way she looked at him. Even though she was a Muggle, he decided she came a very close second to his father on the list of most terrifying people alive.
Petunia turned away, just as the first tear spilled over and ran down her bony cheek. Giving Severus and Lily one last glance of unadulterated loathing, Petunia ran as fast as she could, through the long green grass, over the bridge above the river, back to her and Lily's home. Severus and Lily watched in hushed silence as they watched her go.
There was an awkward silence between the two. Both of them said nothing as they looked at each other. Severus tried to keep his face as emotionless as possible, but his mind was brimming with questions. What had just happened? Why was Petunia so angry? Couldn't she do it too? If Lily could levitate a leaf, why couldn't she? Was Petunia a Squib? Was she even magical at all?
"Tuney!" Lily had turned away from Severus, and she shouted in the direction where she had gone. "Tuney! PETUNIA!"
Then Lily ran off in pursuit of her sister, without a backward glance. Severus stood up, and fought to keep a blank expression, as he watched Lily run, her long red hair dancing in the wind like flames in a blazing fire, and its owner yelling, "Petunia! Please! Petunia…"
Soon Lily was too far away for him to hear her any longer, leaving Severus still standing there where she had left him.
First of all, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for reading! I've wanted to write for a while, but I never had the time. However, after my friend your_best_enemy's success at writing fanfiction, I decided to give it a try. Just by the way, thank you to your_best_enemy for beta-ing this story. I thought I was quite happy with my story when I finished, but you perfected it. I know I've told you a million times, your_best_enemy, but I shall have to kill you if you don't become a writer in the future.
I would really appreciate it if you leave a review, no matter what you think about my story.