This story was started by Tambrathegreat
and completed by Agnus Castus.
Severus had always been separated from the rest of the world by a thin sheen which other members of the human race were able to perceive. He pretended, when he stood on the edge of the football field watching the boys choose team-mates, that he couldn't be bothered with mere Muggle activities, and that his strangeness to them was acknowledgement of his superiority. After all, he was a wizard. When the boys who would not choose him were slogging through their lives as shift-workers, shagging their way into a loveless marriage with six brats, when they were pub-bound because alcohol was the only thing that made them feel special, Severus would be a wizard with all the incumbent power.
However, all those consoling words never made the dull ache of resentment go away or the loneliness at his position at the bottom of the schoolyard pecking order any easier to take.
He knew he was different, at least here in the Muggle world.
He turned from the pack of boys who kicked around a tattered and ragged ball and observed the fall of the leaves. He scooted along the edge of the fence, wishing he had robes that swished and swooped, just like the ones he had seen when his mum took him to Diagon Alley last Yule. His would be black and full enough to billow so that he could cut a dashing figure like Captain Blood or the Scarlet Pimpernel. Instead, he had his father's old peacoat, and the ill-fitting tunic that was close enough to pass for a uniform once Mother transfigured it with her sewing machine. It probably would have been easier to do with magic, but that would have caused another row, and one row more was too much between his mum and dad.
Tonight was Samhain, the most holy day of their calendar year, at least according to Mother. She said it was the night when the world of the dead and the living were closest. The night when the spirits might speak to him and let him see just a bit of his future.
He knew his future was bright. He was a wizard, after all.
He noticed a girl with flame-red hair sitting apart from the others, watching them with the same hunger that he tried not to exhibit with the boys. She watched for a moment and then drew a book out of her coat pocket just as one of the older students ran by her on their way to something more important. The older student shouted something rude at the girl, and the redhead stood up, fists clenched, her book discarded at her feet. Even from a distance, Severus could feel the crackle of magic around the girl as both her feet lifted from the ground for a split second before the magic dissipated.
Suddenly Severus felt a kinship with the girl that he might not otherwise have, had he not seen her magic; he was amazed and excited that a witch lived alongside him in this Muggle dunghill. He’d never seen her before, and he surmised she came from St Thomas’s school, given her plush duffle coat and bottle-green knee-length socks. He moved to sit on an old park bench near a Rowan tree and watched the redhead lift her hood over her head and settle down with her paperback book, trying hard not to appear upset.
Severus considered walking towards her, sitting down on the sideline of the pitch, and talking to her. But he’d rarely spoken to girls, and he didn’t know what to say. Maybe if he watched her from his vantage point next to the tree, she might notice him and smile hello. Would he look creepy, though, staring at her from across the playing field? He didn’t want to scare her off. Perhaps he could walk past her a couple of times and cast an eye upon what she was reading.
A sudden chilly breeze blew his hair around, and he noticed an apple tree rustling in the wind, revealing ripening fruit on its uppermost boughs. All of the lower-hanging apples had been scrumped by neighbourhood kids, but a veritable bounty lay beyond their reach, swinging in the wind, enticing and unreachable.
If he could procure an apple and offer it to the girl then he wouldn’t have to say anything; even better, she might be impressed by his special abilities.
Severus knew a couple of curses which could cut the stalk of an apple, allowing it to fall to the ground; however, they were useless without a wand. Occasionally, he could make things happen if he really wanted to, or if he were feeling angry or mad. Perhaps if he selected an apple and concentrated hard, he might be able to loosen the fruit using magic.
He focused his attention on a plump red and green apple on the topmost branch, willing it to drop like windfall. He imagined the slightly rough texture of the apple skin, the frailty of the stalk, and the brush of the breeze—
The shout came from the makeshift football pitch, and Severus jumped, his concentration broken, and his heart pumping from the sound of a burly eleven-year old boy pounding his way towards him.
“Get out from underneath that Wiggin tree! We need a new player – Stu’s gone and sprained his ankle. You’re the only one left.”
Severus stood, feeling excited despite himself; he so desperately wanted to play.
The older boy turned to look at the girl Severus had been coveting and noticed she was now on her feet, waving her hand in the air, hoping to be picked.
“We don’t play with girls
,” the team’s captain said loudly. He moved to block Severus’s view of her. “What you waiting for?”
Severus threw down his coat and ran onto the pitch, hoping to make a good impression in front of the flame-haired girl.
From the centre of the field, he glanced in her direction, only to see her duffle coat retreating into the distance.
In her wake, several apples thudded softly upon the ground.
Authors’ Note: The Rowan Tree, or Mountain Ash, is known as the Wiggin tree in some parts of England, and is associated with protection against witchcraft.