It was Monday morning and it looked like they were going to have another one of their silent breakfasts.
Busy cooking (if using one's wand to brown a slice of toast could be called that), Harry didn't talk. Severus didn't ask any questions: there seemed to be no point. What he needed to know, Harry wouldn't tell him.
But the thought of all that silence during breakfast was sickening. As soon as the plate with toast was placed in front of him, Severus grabbed the two slices of bread plus the entire jar of the chocolate spread and galloped upstairs back to his room. Harry didn't try to stop him.
Belatedly, Severus realized that in thus retreating, he made a serious tactical error: he hadn't brought a spoon or a knife with him. He didn't want to go back downstairs, so he simply tossed the bread on the floor and proceeded to dip his index finger into the jar and lick the chocolate spread off.
His mum would have never let him get away with something like that, not in a million years. She would be yelling at him by now and dragging him back into the kitchen "to eat like you're supposed to." And to his own surprise, he found his eyes stinging: he had a feeling that nobody would ever yell at him again.
At least Harry wouldn't. Harry was quiet. He was quiet in a way that made Severus believe more than ever he'd done something really bad, so bad that nothing really mattered anymore. And he didn't even know what that was!
Severus threw the jar of chocolate spread at the window. The glass of the window gave a tiny hairline crack, but didn't shatter. The jar fell onto the floor and rolled under the bed.
Severus tensed when he heard Harry's footsteps, approaching the bedroom door. For a quick second he dared to hope, that maybe Harry would finally yell at him and... and everything would be normal. But Harry simply stood behind the closed door for a little while and then asked, "Severus? Are you all right?"
"I'm fine!" Severus screamed on top of his lungs. "Leave me alone!"
"Okay." He heard the sound of retreating footsteps. Severus clenched his fists in helpless rage, wanting to scream again, or break something.
He likely would have done something like that, but the sound of the knock on the door to Harry's flat made him stop. There were muffled voices downstairs, and then Severus heard his name. He wiped his chocolate covered fingers on the duvet and sped downstairs as fast as he could.
There was a stranger in their sitting room. The strange man was very old and very tiny, even shorter than Severus.
"Hello, Severus," the old man said, a sunny smile appearing on his wrinkly face. "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Filius Flitwick."
Severus gave him a small nod and didn't say anything. It seemed like this Filius Flitwick knew him too. It was maddening, Severus couldn't understand why everyone around him seemed to know him.
"You're eleven, aren't you?" Flitwick asked softly.
"Yes. So what?" Severus suspected he was being rude, but he didn't really care much.
Flitwick didn't seem bothered by his rudeness. He smiled even more and pulled out some sort of letter from the folds of his robe.
"I teach at a very fine school for wizards and witches," Flitwick said peacefully. "Hogwarts it's called; perhaps you've heard of it?"
Severus nodded furiously, feeling a spark of excitement, the first time this morning. His mum went to Hogwarts and she told him all about it.
"We usually send out invitations to prospective students with owls," Flitwick said. "But in this case, I thought I would stop by and deliver it personally." The envelope with a large brown wax seal was placed in Severus' hands. Harry did nothing to stop it. "Would you like to attend?"
Severus nodded again, happily this time. This was the first good news since he woke up in the future. He wouldn't have to stay in Harry's flat for years and years. Come next fall, he'd go away and make new friends, and Harry... Harry could be all quiet on his own without him, Severus thought maliciously. The thought made him smile and then he cast a cautious look in Harry's direction. "You'll let me go, won't you?"
"Of course," Harry said.
Severus breathed a sigh of relief and ripped the letter open. It was just like mum had told him: the list of books and equipment he'd need. He scowled, trying to imagine how much it would cost. He knew that wands were expensive, cauldrons, too.
Seeing him frown, Harry rested his hand on Severus' shoulder. "We'll buy everything you need. Don't worry."
Severus shrugged his hand off. Harry's words should have made him relieved, but for some reason he felt embarrassed more than anything, as if there was something wrong with Harry buying him stuff.
Severus took a deep breath, knowing that now of all times wasn't a time to throw a tantrum. His freedom from Harry was within his reach now. Severus gave Flitwick a cautious look. "You said you teach at Hogwarts. What do you teach?"
"I teach Charms," Flitwick responded.
"What house are you with?"
Flitwick's eyebrow lifted in surprise, as if he didn't expect Severus to know about the different houses yet. "Ravenclaw," he said. "The house of the clever and the studious – a very good one, if I say so myself."
"Do you have any books about Hogwarts with you?" Severus asked.
Flitwick was well-prepared for his visit. He pulled out an old dusty book from the folds of his robe. He wiped some of the dust off with his hand, then marched to the dining table, pulled up a chair and jumped to sit on it. Flitwick's chin barely reached the table surface. Severus stood next to him and they looked through the books together.
"Gryffindor is the house of the brave and the loyal," Flitwick spoke. "Ravenclaw – well, I just told you about it, I like it very much. Hufflepuff welcomes the hardworking and diligent. And then – there's Slytherin, a home of the cunning and the resourceful."
"Is it true that you can't pick your own house?" Severus asked, staring at the pictures of the different banners and mascots. "Mum said they just put you wherever they feel like. I don't think I like that. I want to choose."
Flitwick seemed to be taken aback by his question, but only briefly.
"The Sorting Hat helps you choose your house," he said, "but I have it on good authority that the Hat can be reasoned with. It doesn't force – it only suggests."
Severus nodded, a bit relieved. "Well, good, because I don't think I like Slytherin." He didn't like the colours of the banner, the green was too much like that shirt he was wearing when he first woke up in Harry's home. And the snake... even looking at the picture of the snake felt horrible and scary for some reason. Besides, he didn't need a house to teach him to be cunning and resourceful, he reckoned he was doing fine on his own.
He saw that Flitwick and Harry exchanged a very long glance but didn't say anything.
"And what House do you think you'd like?" Flitwick asked.
Severus looked at all the different pictures. Eventually he poked the one with the lion on it. "Gryffindor," he said. "I want to be brave. I never want to be afraid of anything."
Flitwick nodded slowly, as if Severus' answer took him far, far away and he was in a world of its own now. Severus could swear he saw a small tear glisten in the corner of Flitwick's eye - probably from all the dust the book.
"I think you will do very well there," Flitwick said.
Encouraged by that, Severus glanced at Flitwick again. "Are you going to be teaching me Charms when I get to Hogwarts?"
Flitwick shook his head. "I'm afraid not, Severus. This is my last year at Hogwarts. I am resigning at the end of it – and someone else will take my place. I... just wanted to visit with you and deliver the letter, and see you before my teaching career concludes."
Severus bowed his head. He supposed it was understandable that Flitwick would be resigning – that's what old people did. But there was a note of sadness in Flitwick's voice and it made Severus hurt for him in a really strange way.
"It's too bad you won't be teaching me," he said and then glanced at Flitwick quizzically. "But you can teach me something right now, can't you? Can you teach me some spells?"
Flitwick's grin couldn't have been bigger. "I don't see why not."
He let Severus borrow his wand and told him a number of different spells – Wingardium Leviosa, Accio, Evanesco and Scourgify. Jumping off the chair, Flitwick demonstrated a proper posture for duels, planting his legs wide on the floor and showing how to keep one's balance.
"You're doing very well," Flitwick said again and again. "Finally, a young man holding the wand like a wizard, and not a baboon, brandishing a stick!"
Severus couldn't help but snicker at that. When the time came for him to return Flitwick's wand, it was hard to part with it. Still, he handed it over and then, glanced at Harry who was watching the two of them without saying a word.
"I want a wand of my own," Severus blurted out.
Harry nodded. "I'll get you one when you go to Hogwarts."
"I want one now!" Severus pleaded, dismayed by the prospect of waiting for six months. "Please, I want a wand right now!"
"Uh – you realize, you can't do magic outside of home," Harry pointed out.
"I won't, I swear it!" Severus cried out, his desperation building. "Please, get me a wand, and I will be so good! I'll never do anything bad, I promise!"
Harry gave him a long, uncertain look, clearly thinking it over. Severus froze, holding his breath.
It definitely wasn't a good idea to get Severus a wand of his own – Harry knew that. But – it was the first time that Severus had breached that long, horrible silence they've been living in since their conversation about Lily. And... it was the first time that Severus asked him for anything at all – and Harry knew that, if he said no, he might never get a chance like that again.
Severus stared at him pleadingly.
"Fine," Harry heard himself say, even as his common sense screamed in protest. "Tomorrow?"
Severus shook his head violently. "Today, please! Now!"
Harry let out a resigned sigh.
"Fine. Let's go," Harry said. Before I have a chance to think about it and change my mind, he added mentally.
They walked through Diagon Alley together – the three of them. Flitwick led the way, marching confidently and quickly. Somehow, even with his tiny height he had a presence about him that made people duck out of his way. Harry and Severus trailed behind.
People in Diagon Alley were giving them curious looks. A lot of people smiled at Harry with fake smiles that Harry didn't return. Nobody smiled at Severus, but a few people stared at him knowingly and looked away. Severus had the distinct impression that everyone knew his story and how he ended up in the future, but nobody would tell him.
He breathed a sigh of relief when they finally found himself in Ollivander's, and the old man, even older than Flitwick himself, greeted them with a kindly smile.
"A wand for you, Severus?" he asked.
Severus almost cursed under his breath – so he was known here, too. He pushed the uncomfortable feeling aside and focused on his goal.
"Yes, please," he said in his best 'good boy' voice. "I'd like a wand."
It didn't take him long to choose one. It was as if Ollivander just magically knew what type of wand would favour Severus – handing him a really nice one, of ebony and dragon heartstring. Severus liked it instantly.
He spent the evening practicing the spells Flitwick had taught him. By the time Harry called him to dinner, Severus managed to use magic to clean up all the mess he'd made in the bedroom that morning. The Scourgify left a small hole in the duvet and some of the feathers came out, but he pushed them back in and flipped the duvet over, so that the hole wouldn't be noticed.
Over dinner, he and Harry finally talked. Severus asked questions about magic and different spells, and Harry answered in great detail, smiling from ear to ear. He even gave Severus a small book of different spells and he carried it off upstairs. Before the night rolled in, he could summon, levitate, and vanish things – as he discovered, after accidentally vanishing one of the pillows. Severus shrugged, unconcerned – there were two more left. He even managed to repair the crack in the window.
Feeling incredibly accomplished, Severus fell asleep with his new wand under his pillow.
To Be Continued ...