"How on earth did you manage –" Snape began, but he was cut off by the sound of a brawl in the hallway.
"I already exp–" the grown-up Harry Potter also found himself interrupted, much to his dismay. He had been waiting for this moment for what had seemed like years, and now the Potions Master was more concerned about catching misbehaving students red-handed? Some things never changed.
"Hold that thought," Severus put up his hand to silence his peer, as he walked over to his classroom door and leaned into it, listening closely.
"Let that be a lesson to you, Harry Hoofter!" a familiar prepubescent voice spat acerbically, followed by the sound of faint crying from another young boy.
With that, Snape swept out of the room, his wrath filling the hallway like a tempest.
"DRACO MALFOY! " Severus bellowed after the blond-haired boy who was quickly making his escape, "IF I EVER -"
Back in the Potions laboratory, Harry pressed his ear to the door, but quickly realized he wanted the whole picture, not just the soundtrack. Failing that, he got down on his stomach and peered out of the sizeable crack that allowed the door to swing easily over the dungeon floor.
"Professor Snape?" a small voice faltered, a voice the adult Harry Potter recognized as his own. The eleven-year old boy was crumpled on the floor, his nose bleeding.
Severus turned to face the young Harry Potter, who to his horror and disbelief had just been gaybashed by Lucius' boy. Not knowing what else to do, he knelt down and immediately conjured a tissue and vial of blood replenishing potion. Directing Harry to pinch his nose with the kleenex to clot the blood, he administered the tonic.
"Is it …. br…broken, sir?" the first-year stammered, still reeling from what had just happened to him.
"No," Snape responded tersely. Noting that the blood had stopped flowing, he took away the handkerchief.
"Good, okay…" Harry noted shyly, "I'll be all right then. Thank you, sir."
Severus stared at him, dumbfounded at the ordinarily foolhardy child's meekness.
"Potter, wait," Snape stopped him, resting his large hand on Harry's shoulder. Reluctantly, the boy turned around to face him, expecting to be reprimanded.
"Did I do something wrong?" Harry asked worriedly, "I swear I didn't start the fight, professor. I'm not even…. I'm not even, you know, I'm not gay, sir."
"Potter, you listen to me," Severus growled, "There is no excuse—"
"But I'm awfully sorry, sir!" Harry protested.
Snape ignored this, and continued in a calmer voice, "As I was saying, there is no excuse for what was done to you this evening and it is incumbent on me to report it, regardless of my personal feelings of resen—"
"No, please," Harry's heartfelt supplication seemed more like a simple request.
"Po— Harry. You might be a thorn in my side, but by all other accounts you are…a good boy," Severus grimaced, "I can't allow you to be bullied in such a manner. It goes against everything –"
"You think I'm…good? Sorry sir, but… don't you hate me? "
"I never said that. There is a very thin line between –" Snape spoke hastily and then caught himself, "It wouldn't matter either way. It wouldn't matter if I thought you were the nastiest little twit on the planet, I've still got your back, Potter."
"You mean even if I were like Malfoy?"
"Yes, but you're not Draco," Severus observed thoughtfully, cupping the raven-haired boy's face, gently, only for a moment, and then letting go.
Harry blushed and looked down at his shoes. This reconciliation with Snape was affecting him to the point that, to his horror, new tears had started to form in his glossy green eyes.
"Sorry," Harry choked, "Normally I'm not such a nancy boy."
Wanting to cuff Potter for referring to himself using such a self-deprecating term, Severus had to forcibly redirect his muscles to wrap his arms around the schoolboy in a tight but transitory hug. The Potions Master softly muttered something to his student, but the adult Harry Potter could not make out what it was.
"Take care, Mr. Potter!" Snape called after him severely as the first-year scampered off, "I expect to see you in Potions tomorrow in one piece, do you hear? No excuses."
Seeing that Severus was making his way back to the Potions classroom, the grown-up Harry quickly got up off the floor. Although he was deeply touched by what he had just witnessed, he was even more confused. He had no memory of this incident. It pained him, but he knew what needed to be done.
After Snape had closed his classroom door behind him, he turned and jumped as if he saw a ghost when he noticed Harry was still standing there, as he would look twenty-odd years later.
"Did I do right by you, Potter?" Severus eyed him guardedly.
"We might have a problem there, professor," Harry admitted carefully, "See…just now… that never happened. Well, I suppose it did, but I don't remember it at all."
"I see," Snape nodded solemnly, "What would you have me do?"
"Obliviate me, I suppose," Harry guessed, "And not mention a word of this to anybody."
"Done and done," Severus assured him, "Did you really think I could let you go on thinking I was your personal saviour? No good could come of that."
"I suppose not," Harry reluctantly agreed, knowing there was no other way.
"Am I to assume that I will have no recollection of this evening either?" Snape wondered aloud, his eyes glinting strangely.
"I'm afraid not," Harry admitted cautiously, "I couldn't let you go on thinking I was a good little boy who comes out of this all in one piece, now could I?"
"That is very true," Snape concurred without contest, "But first, I understand you came back for something, Potter."
"Someone, yes," Harry whispered and his breath hitched.
Severus nodded, and gave Harry one of his rare half-smiles.
"And what would you have me do?"