A Friend Indeed
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there was a boy named Severus whose mummy and daddy fought all the time in their manor near the forest. The sound of their harsh words hurt Severus inside. Every day, summer or winter, he would go out in the fields or into the woods to get away from them. If only he had someone to talk to! He'd always wished he could have a pet, but his parents wouldn't allow it, and the birds of the field and the animals of the forest ignored him. Even the fluffy bunnies ran away when he tried to make friends with them.
One warm summer day he was in the field, plucking bursts of bright blue and yellow from their stalks as the bees droned around him. He loved the flowers, and would bring them back to be a spot of color in his lonely room. Brushing aside a clump of grass, reaching for the stalk of a pert golden-eyed daisy, he chanced upon a caterpillar. It was very big, much bigger than normal caterpillars, and very green, with strange, wispy dark fur on the top of its head. He watched it a long time, completely fascinated by all its little feet and the way the sunlight lit up its fur. He looked up, surprised, when the shadow of a crow flowed over the lumpy green body.
Severus sighed. "It's not a safe world for caterpillars, little one." Oh! An idea blossomed. "I can bring you home! You'll be my pet, and I'll take care of you. Mummy and daddy will never know, because you're small and very quiet."
The caterpillar gazed at him blankly.
"My name is Severus, and you are my friend. You'll keep me company while I study, and you'll sleep in my bed. I will call you Hairy."
So he took the caterpillar home, along with bunches of leaves for it to eat, and hid it behind stacks of books in a terrarium in the sun. The house elves would keep his secret for him. In the night, Severus took Hairy out of the terrarium and put him on the pillow next to his own. With Hairy around, he could ignore the arguments, and there was always someone to talk to. For a time, Severus was very happy.
His joy didn't last long. The caterpillar wouldn't eat the weeds and grass of the field that he had brought for it. He watched sadly as it became thin and pale, but did not know what to do. He brought in oak leaves, yew leaves, and brackets from the chestnut trees. The caterpillar turned away. He brought daisies, forget-me-nots, and chamomile, but Hairy would have none. Severus was very worried, and feared he would have to release his pet or watch him die. It was possible that the caterpillar would die anyway, it looked so sickly. Either way, Severus would be so very lonely again. It would be just him and the people downstairs fighting the day long. Tears filled Severus' eyes. He wiped them away, trying to be brave, though it would be hard to lose his only friend.
Taking the caterpillar in his hands, he brought it outside. The delicate summer air was turning crisp with autumn, and very likely winter would kill his pet if nothing else did. Severus found a hidden spot in his mother's garden, a small copse surrounded by late-blooming roses. If Hairy didn't survive, at least it would be a pretty place for his last rest. He carefully placed the oversized caterpillar on one of the beautiful cabbage roses and wished it farewell. He walked slowly away, his heart heavy with sadness, but could not look back.
The next day, curiosity overcame him. He needed to know if his friend was still alive.
To his amazement, all the roses were gone. All the leaves were gone. Under the straggly branches of a nearby bush lay an enormous caterpillar.
The fur on top of Hairy's head waved a bit in the breeze, as if his friend nodded at him. He was so happy! Now that Severus knew what Hairy needed to eat, he could take him back inside where he would be warm and safe for the winter. He took the caterpillar in his arms -- the skin wasn't slimy, but instead vaguely velvetlike -- and brought him back up to his room, then collected branch after bough of roses from other bushes in the garden.
With plenty of good food, Hairy became bigger and bigger. Soon the sun shifted down toward the change of season, and it wasn't too long before Hairy began to spin himself a chrysalis. Severus watched, enraptured. Even though the caterpillar and its cocoon took up half the bed, Severus kept Hairy by his side. He did not want to miss anything, and besides, Hairy was such a good listener. Eventually, the long cold days of winter bled into warm spring mornings.
One momentous morning, Severus startled awake to a scratching noise. It was coming from the cocoon!
"Oh, Hairy! I can't wait to see you!" He knew that any butterfly coming from this giant cocoon would have to be spectacular, amazing. A creaking and cracking began to split the side of the enormous case. It rolled off the bed and thudded to the floor. He hoped the creature inside wasn't hurt. Severus could hardly bear his own impatience, but he knew the butterfly would be stronger if it struggled against its prison before it emerged. He lay across his bed and stared, unblinking, at the giant green thing.
He watched and waited and watched some more, until finally a wet tendril of . . . something . . . showed itself in the widening crack. Wait, it wasn't a tendril -- it was a finger. Another finger, then two more appeared. There were bending knuckles, and -- and fingernails. The thing in the cocoon had a hand!
Unafraid, he grabbed at the fibrous edge of the barrier between them and pulled. Between the two of them, they cracked the oblong coccoon wide open. Out crawled a shaky, wet boy with a shock of black hair dripping into his face and two soggy wings plastered to his back. Severus could hardly breathe. The boy was faintly green. His wings were mottled with brilliant yellows and blues. The boy tried to stand, and Severus reached out a hand to steady him. He was indeed amazing. His skin was soft and strangely velvety as it had been before, although there wasn't anything furry about it.
This was his pet, his caterpillar, whom Severus had nearly killed by accident. He hoped this strange and beautiful boy would not remember that. He hoped . . .
The wet boy fell to his knees, panting and exhausted. Severus tore off his shirt and used it to dry the boy, helping him warm up and stretch his fragile wings, then tucked the covers around him so he could rest. For the first time, he saw the boy's brilliant green eyes open wide. His soft pink lips moved, but no sound came out.
"Don't try to talk!" urged Severus, afraid that the effort might break something. He had no idea whether such a being was even supposed to speak. But then, slowly, haltingly, words formed on the boy's tender new mouth.
"I am . . . Hair-eee," said the butterfly boy. "You are S-severus, and you are my friend."
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