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Close Encounter

Close Encounter

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transistor
Title: Close Encounter
Author: janus
Rating: G
Characters: Severus, Tobias, Eileen, cow
Word Count: 830
Warnings: none
Gift: this one is for onlynanda
Prompt/Summary: Wee Severus. With cows. Tobias is a good father.
Author's notes: With SO many thanks to dear Christev, for her excellent beta-work on a busy day with short notice.

The mill town was dirty, it was true, and the mill town was grey, and the river smelled of the mill as well. The people of the mill town were uninspired and uninspiring.  But Severus lived in the last house on the last street, beside the river at the edge of the town.  Just as Severus was bound for better things, so did this garden offer more possibilities than the others.  Just out the back gate, just over the fence, the field was... if not green exactly, then surely yellow-green.
 
He was not allowed to go out there. His mother had forbidden it. But sometimes, fingers curled around the bars of the gate, and his significant nose set between them, he peered out at the large animals that moved slowly about the field. They ignored him, or perhaps they did not even notice the little boy, whose head did reach above the low gate.
 
They did not seem dangerous as they ambled about. Severus was unafraid.  One day he saw something remarkable. One of the mushrooms, the special mushrooms with the red spots that his mother sometimes mixed in her potions, was growing close to the gate.  So close....  He crouched even lower and pressed his little body hard against the bars as he strained and stretched to reach it. Not quite, but so close.  The iron had been cold against his face, and it was cold through his shirt against his chest as well.
 
He was not supposed to go into the field. And yet... He knew his mother would like the mushroom.  Perhaps she could use it. Perhaps she would even smile.  And it was... pretty.  He looked carefully back at the house, turning his head as slightly as possible so his mother wouldn't be suspicious.  No, there was no movement in the windows.
 
He reached up high and opened the latch, then opened the gate just a little. He pulled it tight against himself, even as he squeezed through.  Then it would not look as if the gate were opening.
 
There he was, with the whole wide field before him. It felt strange.  It felt free.  It felt like an entirely new world. He saw there were small flowers in the grass as well.  Violets.  He knew they were violets from his mother's herbalism books. 'Herbalism,' she said to him, but to his father, she said 'Gardening' or 'Botany.'  He knew you could eat them, and tasted several, experimentally. How strange, to eat flowers.  He reached for the mushroom and tucked it into his jacket.
 
Above him there was a snuffling sound. And something tugged at his hair. He froze, seeing the legs beside him. He had been looking down at the small things. He had forgotten the quiet large animal.  Now this one...  Was it trying to eat him?  Its tongue.  Oh, help.  Its tongue brushed his ear.  If he ran, would it startle it?  Would it trample him?  He slowly looked up.  And up.  And up. He was suddenly terrified. It was so big.  Already he could imagine it rearing up, kicking his head in...
 
Next thing he knew, he was against the gate, pulling it, trying to reach the latch. It was on the other side.  He reached between the bars, but his hands were too hurried.  Then his father was there, coming across the yard to him.
 
"Here."  And he was opening the gate, scooping him up in his arms.  He laughed and bounced him, wiping his face with his dirty thumb.  "Afraid of the cow?"
 
"Here, look."  He closed the gate, still holding Severus.  "Look.  See, it is just a cow."  The animal poked its head over the gate.  Its mouth, which had seemed so large and hungry, now seemed more natural, from a small distance, from safety.
 
His father petted the cow's nose.  It did not seem to respond and Severus just looked at it.  It had eyelashes, he noticed.  How odd, that such a big animal would have eyelashes, and yet... Why would it not have?  His heart slowed a little from his initial fear as he looked at it.
 
"Now you pet it."  His father took his hand - there was no arguing - and placed it on the cow's nose, leaning him out though he was still held safely in his arm.
 
It was warm.  It was... It had coarse hair.  It did not hurt.  The cow did not bite or snatch at his hand.  Nevertheless, he tucked his hand back against himself as soon as he could. 
 
His father laughed again.  "We'll go inside now.  We can see if your mother will make us some tea."  Halfway across the yard, he set Severus down.  He leaned down to him and touched his own nose.  "We won't tell her.  All right?"
 
Severus nodded and touched his nose, too.  It would be all right.
  • This uplifting, to see Tobias in a good light for once. And I love little Severus. Thank you!
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