Spring had finally come, and tiny little flower buds were growing on the trees and on the grass and practically everywhere else in the meadow. It was the rainy season now, so the skies seemed to stay permanently grey and the air always smelt damp and refreshing. Each individual blade of grass sparkled with morning dew, but when Severus saw Lily in the meadow again, the skies and everything within a hundred-foot radius seemed to brighten up no matter how vibrant everything already was in her presence.
Lily was wearing a yellow patterned dress that complimented her green eyes – it was the first time Severus had ever seen her in anything else other than trousers and a T-shirt. Severus quite liked it when Lily wore those rough, boyish blue Muggle pants she called 'jeans', but he decided he liked it even more when she wore something like this.
"You look nice today," he said, shyly.
Lily beamed at him. "Thank you, Sev! You don't quite look so bad yourself."
Severus had been wearing a considerably wider variation of colours as of late at Lily's urging, but it only made a slight difference in the way he dressed. He had begun to grow rather fond of the colour blue, so he now wore a mixture of navy and black. He still preferred his usual dark colours, which he knew Lily almost utterly detested. Severus knew it was very likely that Lily was just being polite.
Severus had brought a book along – not to read, he knew that would be antisocial and somewhat rude (he did learn something from his mother, after eleven years of being raised by the woman) - but to show Lily. The last time he and Lily had met up in that same meadow, they had agreed to bring a book from their own worlds to show each other. It had been Lily's idea – she was eager to know more about the wizarding world, and Severus the Muggle world.
"What did you bring?" Lily asked, bending over so she could have a better look at his book. Severus tilted it forward so she could see better; it was a Potions book that he had been completely obsessed over recently. It was rather unlike the other ones he had read – instead of boringly listing out the ingredients and how to mix them together to make potions, every single ingredient had a very interesting description and a whole collection of other amazing facts. Severus was so fascinated, he had memorized practically everything there was to do with every ingredient listed in the book. He was eager to show Lily his book, which he was sure she would find extremely entertaining too.
Lily herself had brought a book with the words Alice in Wonderland written in shiny golden cursive on the front cover. It looked very old – there was a picture of two identical, extremely fat people, with a road sign behind them bearing the words "Tweedledum" and "Tweedledee". Severus raised his eyebrows – the two poor whoever-they-were's who were named such unfortunate names.
They exchanged books, both of them looking interestedly at the covers. "Moste Potente Potions," Lily read out. "Potions? Do you wizards really learn this stuff?"
They walked over to the oak tree, hand in hand, their arms swinging reminiscent of a pendulum all the way. They flopped down onto the grass, Severus curling his legs under his thin frame and Lily lying on her stomach, propping herself up with an elbow.
"It's kind of like Muggle…" Severus tried to voice out a word Lily had taught him recently, "Kem-ish-tree – but much better. You'll see."
"Chemistry, Sev," Lily giggled. "Not Kemishtree." She gestured at the book which was now in Severus' hands. "I brought you my favourite book – it's not that girly, even though the main character's a girl named Alice. But I think you'll like it too."
Severus looked at the cover again, and noticed the author's name written in gold lettering in the corner. "Who's Lewis Carroll?"
Lily had just flipped to the first couple of pages of Moste Potente Potions, and looked over at the cover of Alice in Wonderland. "Oh, some writer. He wrote this book a hundred or so years ago." Lily continued to flick through the pages, at some point landing on one titled 'Asphodel'. Frowning at the title, she said, "Sev, what's asphodel?"
Severus looked over her shoulder and grinned. "What a coincidence. It's a type of lily, Lily."
"Oh!" she exclaimed. "That was a completely random page!"
Severus and Lily poured over their respective books for the next hour, occasionally asking each other things like, "Do rabbits really carry pocket-watches?" and "Is wormwood filled with worms, or is it called that for another reason?"
Severus was naturally a faster reader than Lily was – he had gotten quite a bit of practice at it from reading Potions books – so his eyes skimmed over the pages as quick as lightning. He did stop for a while to admire the pictures in the books, though. It was unusual, to not have the pictures moving, unlike what he was normally used to. He found it a little unnerving that Alice seemed to stare at him through her pale blue eyes in one of the pictures. He wished she would look away, even if it was just for a moment, but she obviously couldn't, it being a Muggle picture and all. However interesting it was that Muggle pictures didn't move, he still preferred the ones from his own world. They were less unsettling. He shook his head, and turned over the page.
Severus hoped that Lily would not find the book he had showed her a bit too hard to decipher – it was covered in spidery, cramped writing in black ink, and the occasional doodle, which was obviously Severus' writing. He had added little notes all over the book, so it was hard to see what was print and what wasn't. On a page on how to make Felix Felicis (which Severus thought Lily would not have bothered to read – it was so extremely long and complicated even he himself didn't understand it at first), Severus had written along the edge of the page 'I could do with some of that…' Severus had scribbled the translation of the potion after a consultation of his father's discarded Latin dictionary, which was made up of Latin words, 'felix - lucky' and 'felicis - happy'. Severus hoped that Lily was able to guess that the potion somehow created luck. Potions is definitely better than chemistry, he thought to himself with a smile. I bet you can't brew liquid luck in the Muggle world.
Severus suddenly panicked. He watched as Lily flipped back to the page about asphodel – Severus expected that Lily would want to read about lilies – oh no, he thought, as his cheeks flushed with embarrassment. In one corner of the page, Severus had pointed a spindly arrow at the title and drawn a stick person next to it. Severus watched as Lily practically had to put her nose to the page in order to see it – Severus' drawing was that small. She squinted harder, and the small doodle finally came into clarity. The stick figure was a girl, since it had long hair – Severus remembered it well when he drew it in – and Severus had coloured it in too – the tiny girl had bright red hair and green eyes. Underneath the girl, there was a small scribble – 'Lily'. Severus expected Lily to look at him, laugh at him, perhaps even mock him – but instead, she smiled and blushed. Severus felt relieved – he had expected some kind of negative reaction from her, but it never came.
"Where do you go to learn this? Does wizard school exist?" she asked, as if nothing had happened.
Severus looked at her and blinked. "There's Hogwarts, of course."
Now it was Lily's turn to blink. "Hogwarts? That's the name of the school?"
"Yes, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," said Severus proudly. "You go there when you're eleven. All magical people go there, it's the best wizarding school ever."
Lily laughed out loud. "Hogwarts? Hog-warts? You can't be serious. That's the oddest name I've ever heard," she continued to giggle, "who would call their school something like Hogwarts?" She laughed for a while more, then stopped, and her eyebrows creased with sudden worry. "It sounds like loads of fun, but – do I get to go there too?"
"Of course you can! If you can do magic, you can go!"
"But my parents aren't magic!" Lily looked like she was going to panic. "How am I supposed to tell them if I want to go to Hogwarts? How am I supposed to explain? They don't know a thing, I don't know a thing. And what will Petunia think?"
"Calm down," Severus wanted to laugh at Lily's worrying over something as inconsequential as that, but he knew it wasn't exactly the right time. "Look, some Ministry people are going to come over and – erm, well, explain – to your parents about magic and Hogwarts and stuff. I suppose it's unavoidable for some Muggles to know about magic when their children can do it, so they have to. You really, really don't have to worry about it, Lily."
Lily looked slightly reassured at his words, and nodded. "Okay. What's the Ministry?"
"The Ministry's kind of like the government in your world, but they're in charge of keeping the wizarding world secret," he explained patiently. "Muggles don't know about magic because the Ministry takes care of stuff like that, so Muggles don't know anything." Seeing Lily's confused expression, and the way her mouth fell open slightly to mean that she was about to butt in, he hastily added, "The Ministry's full name is the Ministry of Magic. Cornelius Fudge just got elected as the new Minister recently, the Daily Prophet said so – that's a wizarding newspaper. The Ministry of Magic takes care of…magical incidents. So if you accidentally do something that Muggles don't normally see every day, the Ministry comes in and makes everything right again."
"I don't know, but I think they modify the memories of the Muggles who saw the incident so they won't remember what happened – "
"But that's awful!" interrupted Lily, who looked very shocked. "Why can't they just let the – " she hesitated for a moment, "er, Muggles –" she said, rather uncomfortable with the new word, "keep their memories?"
"Because it's dangerous, Lily! We can't all live together, we're too different!"
Lily seemed to ponder this for a moment, and Severus knew that she was very confused at that point. He was just about to tell her more about the wizarding world that she had yet to explore, but then she said, "But I don't know where Hogwarts is."
"It's protected by lots of different enchantments so Muggles can't see it, but there's a train you can use to get there," Severus explained. "You'll get an owl."
"An owl?" Lily looked incredulous.
"Yeah, an owl. Owl post?" Severus looked at her, and Lily shook her head blandly. "Wizards use owls to send messages to each other and stuff."
"Oh." Lily blinked. "We use mail, and postmen."
"Yeah, I know, my father's a Muggle."
"Really? So does your father know about Hogwarts and everything?" Lily asked.
"I don't know." Severus bit his lip nervously and ran his hand through his greasy black hair. "He wants me to go to a really boring Muggle school, but I think my mother wants me to go to Hogwarts, all wizarding folk do." He remembered his mother telling him that once. "My dad always thinks I'm not good enough. But I guess he's right."
"Don't say, that, Sev." Lily elbowed him, but playfully. "Everyone's got to have something good in their personality. You're definitely a nice person, and you're funny! That's not so bad, isn't it? It's not your fault if your father doesn't see that."
He doesn't not see it, he just spends all his time hitting me, thought Severus. But he smiled bitterly and said, "I suppose so."
"I can't wait to go to Hogwarts!" said Lily excitedly. "It sounds like such a wonderful place! I can't wait until I'm eleven, that's ages! I want to go now!"
"We'll both get our owls when we're eleven, I'm sure of it, Lily." Severus had to admit he very much wanted to go to Hogwarts – anything to escape from his father's wrath, and his mother's ever-present depression.
"What do you learn at Hogwarts, apart from Potions?" asked Lily.
"Well…" Severus began to count the subjects off his fingers. "There's Charms, there's Transfiguration, and Herbology, plus Defense Against the Dark Arts – DADA for short – and there's also flying, but you only take that in your first year – "
"Flying?" Lily said dubiously. "Flying? Do you actually ride on brooms?"
"Of course, how else are we supposed to fly?" Severus thought that at been obvious, but it had never occurred to him just how much Lily didn't know.
Lily seemed to consider this for a moment, then nodded and said, "Apart from that, I don't understand the rest. What's Charms? What do you transfigure in Transfiguration? Is Herbology only about herbs? And what dark arts are you talking about?"
She was speaking so quickly Severus couldn't even hear the individual words anymore.
"Er, Charms is basically just spells. It's really useful – you can use it every day, for example if you wanted to carry something really heavy, you could make it feather-light, or you could levitate it." He looked at Lily, who was listening to him attentively. "But of course you don't need that."
"Oh, I'd like to learn Charms. It sounds really fun."
"As for Transfiguration, you can change things like a toothpick into a needle, or a mouse into a rock…" He wrinkled his nose. "I've heard it's really hard, though."
"That's fine," Lily said. "As long as it's magic, I'm ready for anything!"
Severus wished for a fleeting moment that he had as much enthusiasm as Lily; all he was worried about was fitting in, which he obviously wasn't going to achieve. He prattled on.
"Herbology's just generally about plants, what you can use them for, how to protect yourself from some of them…" Noticing Lily's eyes who had suddenly become as wide as saucers, he hesitated. "Er, moving on. Dark Arts are dangerous, evil things, or spells, or people." He thought for a moment. "Like Dementors from Azkaban. They're these huge cloaked floating things, and when they're around, apparently everything turns to ice and you forget how to be happy. But if you let them kiss you, they kind of… suck your soul out."
Lily's eyes were getting wider and wider, and her eyebrows looked like they were about to fly off her face completely. Severus started to laugh at her comical expression. "Okay, maybe that was a little bit too much information."
"Could you tell me more about Hogwarts – like, the school?" Lily said a little nervously. "Um, for example… do you have houses?"
"Of course, we have four!" said Severus, slightly amused. "I read it in Hogwarts: A History – it's one of the books I've read that aren't about Potions…" He cleared his throat and continued. "It was pretty interesting, I suppose, but Potions will always fascinate me the most. Anyway, Hogwarts was founded by four people – Rowena Ravenclaw, Salazar Slytherin, Godric Gryffindor and Helga Hufflepuff. Um, the four houses are named after them; they're obviously Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Gryffindor and Hufflepuff."
"So…" Lily's brow furrowed and she paused before continuing. "Do the students get put in randomly?"
"Hell, no!" said Severus. Lily gave him a look, and he hastily apologized. "Sorry. Didn't mean that. Um, basically, the first-years get sorted into their houses, and they pretty much stay in that house for the rest of their lives. They get sorted by a hat called the Sorting Hat."
"How original," Lily mused. Severus laughed.
"The Sorting Hat can kind of… see into your mind, and it picks out your qualities and sorts you into your house. It's for this reason that a lot of people like to ask each other what house they're in to see what kind of personality you have." Severus stopped and thought for a moment, as he tried to recall the different personalities of every house.
"Well, Ravenclaw's for the really smart and wise people; their house colours are blue and bronze, with the eagle as their mascot – "
Lily abruptly cut in. "If their mascot's the eagle, then why aren't they called Eagleclaw?"
"I don't know," said Severus, a little flustered. "I suppose it was because the founder was Rowena Ravenclaw, and ravens are supposed to be bad luck. Anyway, Slytherin's for the ambitious and cunning, and their colours are green and silver, but they have a serpent – "
"And why's that?" asked Lily again. Normally, Severus would have snapped at her for her rudeness, but as he thought about it, he couldn't bring himself to; he liked her too much. "Salazar Slytherin was a Parselmouth – that means he could speak to snakes," he explained patiently after a moment of thought. "He was born with it, I think, Parseltongue's really hard to learn."
Lily nodded, and for once she looked satisfied. Severus took this as to mean that he could continue explaining the rest of the houses. "Okay. Gryffindors are usually really brave, and they wear red and gold – their banner's got a lion on it. Hufflepuffs are… um, nice, I guess, and hardworking… their house colours are yellow and black, and they've got a badger."
"Which house do you want to be in, Sev?"
He didn't even need to think to answer that. "I don't really mind, as long as it isn't Hufflepuff," he said automatically. At Lily's raised eyebrow, he explained, "I don't even know how to play properly! How am I 'nice'? I won't be able to fit in at all!"
"I wouldn't mind any of the houses," Lily said with a smile, casually tossing her hair over her shoulder. "They all sound equally good to me. But if I really had to choose, I'd choose Gryffindor."
Severus decided that he wanted to be in Slytherin, actually, now that he had thought about it a bit more. He normally didn't spend his time worrying about houses – he was too preoccupied with Potions experiments. He had also read in Hogwarts: A History that Slytherins were like brothers – a friend was a friend for life. He wanted friends. He wanted to never be lonely, and always have company – but most important of all, he wanted to be accepted.
He didn't tell Lily this, but he desperately wanted both of them to be in the same house – he couldn't imagine life without her, even though they had known each other for less than a year. She was his only friend – and now he had one, he didn't want to let her go. Lily would be a good Slytherin, he thought. He didn't really care now, as long as he was put in the same house as Lily – he would be a Gryffindor for her, for all he cared. Heck, if they both got sorted into Hufflepuff, as long as she was there, he wasn't going to mind. But of course, he reasoned with himself, Hogwarts was still a long way away.
If you want to know what happens next, read the next part of the story (which can also be read separately), Lily's House, in which Severus and Lily get their Hogwarts letters and have a sleepover (rated PG), as well as prepare for their first year!
Thank you to my wonderful beta your_best_enemy, though it did take a little longer than expected to get the beta'ed file back. As always, I appreciate reviews, but please don't hate. I hope I'll be back soon with more writing for you! Thanks again :)