A Box of Every Flavor Beans
by Dream Painter
Summary: The first time Harry Potter ever got to go Trick-or-Treating, he had a chance meeting with an intimidating man that ended up changing his life - and perhaps that of the man himself.
Story Notes: For the 2010 Halloween Fic Fest and in answer to the Halloween for Young Harry Challenge by Romanticide on Potions and Snitches
Harry slouched in the overstuffed chair in the strange living room. His aunt and uncle had taken his cousin Dudley to stay with Aunt Marge (though, she wasn't Harry's aunt) for the weekend. Harry wasn't welcome at Aunt Marge's, not that he'd want to go to her house, anyway. Her favorite dog, Ripper, hated Harry, and Harry wasn't very fond of the dog – or Aunt Marge – either.
Since Mrs. Figg, the cat lady who often babysat Harry, couldn't take him for such a long period of time and the Dursleys didn't trust Harry to be alone in their house, they had left Harry with the Masons. The Masons lived in an industrial town hours away from the Dursleys' house in Little Whinging. Harry wasn't sure how his relatives knew them, but he assumed Mr. Mason was a work associate of Uncle Vernon's.
"Harry, aren'chu gonna change into your costume?" The question was shot at him with the speed of a machine gun by the Mason's daughter, Sally. She had the tendency to speak very quickly, with an odd inflection that made her difficult to understand. Since her parents were largely comprehensible, Harry could only assume she had picked it up elsewhere. He didn't know whether her twin brother Sam had the same manner of speaking or not, as he had yet to hear the other boy utter a single word.
"I don't have a costume," Harry told her.
"Don't have a costume?" Sally sounded absolutely scandalized. Apparently, being costume-less on Halloween was a matter of grave concern. "MUMMY!" she bellowed, doing an excellent impression of a spoiled princess (which was how she was presently attired) as she flounced back out of the room. "DADDY! This Harry boy doesn't have a costume!"
Harry grimaced. Much to his chagrin, the girl had taken to calling him 'this Harry boy' shortly after his arrival. Unless she was speaking to him, that is, which wasn't often as she seemed to have come to the conclusion that he made for a rather dull playmate. He supposed it was better than 'freak' or some of the other names his relatives used.
Sam entered the room shortly after his sister had exited. His face was painted white and he seemed to be wearing a sheet over his regular clothes. A white cap, pulled down over his unruly curls completed the outfit; he was a ghost. He carried what appeared to be a black pillowcase in one hand.
For a moment, the two boys studied one another quietly, then Sam broke the silence. "My sis is real loud, yeah?"
"Yeah," Harry agreed. The Mason boy simply nodded before leaving again and Harry went back to studying the room around him. It sure was different from the house on Privet Drive.
Harry reached up to balance his hat, again. It didn't want to stay atop his head very well. Apparently, both hat and the purplish black cloak he was wearing over his clothes had been part of Sally's costume the previous year. Harry wasn't about to complain, though. He'd never been allowed to go Trick-or-Treating before. It had taken several houses before he timidly joined the Mason twins in their chorus of "Trick-or-Treat!" With each new treat that was placed into his green pillowcase, he couldn't help but hope that the Dursleys would let him keep at least some of it.
The trio passed several other groups as they traveled along the street. Sally kept up a steady stream of inane chatter between houses, making it unnecessary for the boys to say anything. They'd reached the end of the first street they were allowed to go down before turning back towards the Mason's home when Harry noticed that his shoelace had come undone. Sally chose at that moment to initiate a race to the next house.
After finally getting his shoe laced up again, Harry checked to make sure no cars were coming before dashing across the street. The house before him appeared gloomy and dark, and despite its lack of ornamentation, something about it made it feel like the creepiest house, yet. A light in one of the front windows was the only illumination.
Had the Dursleys ever allowed him to go Trick-or-Treating before, Harry might have known the rule against going to houses where the porch-light wasn't on. As it was, the Dursleys hadn't let him go out on Halloween before, so he had never heard of such a rule.
It wasn't until he was halfway up the uneven walk that it occurred to the nine-year-old that the twins must have been further up street. He decided that he would quickly visit the house and then run up the road until he found them. The Masons had told them to stick together, but surely he'd be okay by himself for a few minutes.
Timidly, he reached out a fist to knock on the door.
Severus Snape looked up sharply from his potions journal as there was a knock on his door. A muscle along the edge of his jaw twitched. He had asked for the night off to avoid disruption, going so far as to leave the castle entirely. That it happened to be an evening during which the headmaster insisted upon providing the student body with excessive amounts of sugar was more than mere coincidence. As far as the Potions Master was concerned, someone else could deal with the resulting hyperactivity for a change.
Setting the journal aside, he rose from his chair in front of the fireplace and moved briskly towards the entryway. No doubt, it was Albus or someone of the like, come to pester him on what was to be his one night of peace. Swinging open the door, his glare momentarily wavered at the sight of a child standing on his front porch.
"T-trick or treat, sir."
The boy had to be a wizard – his house had long been hidden from the view of muggles by various charms. Probably muggleborn, he thought, as he had certainly never heard of any wizarding families moving to the area. His unexpected visitor craned his head back to look at him, startlingly familiar green eyes widening at his menacing appearance.
That was when he saw it, just as the pointed hat the boy wore slipped backwards off his head: a lightening bolt scar, right above the child's right eyebrow.
Harry gazed up in astonishment at the intimidating figure that answered the door. He'd seen his aunt and uncle dress up in previous years when they took Dudley out Trick-or-Treating, but none of their costumes had been half as impressive. Even the man's expression was rather scary.
His borrowed hat fell off and he had to turn around to pick it up. When he turned back, he found that the man was still silently staring at him. "Um..." he murmured uncertainly, squirming under the man's scrutiny.
"And just where is your chaperone, young man?" the stranger brusquely inquired.
"Chaperone?" Harry echoed. He knew what a chaperone was, but the man seemed angry and it made Harry nervous.
"The person who is to be looking after you. Surely, you aren't out here wandering around by yourself?" The man raised an eyebrow questioningly.
"N-no, sir. The twins... Sally and Sam, I mean, must've got ahead while I was tying my shoe."
"I take that to mean you don't have an adult with you?" Snape demanded. The boy shook his head in response. Great. Just bloody brilliant. Albus puts the boy in the care of his muggle relatives and the idiots let him wander about where anyone could just abduct him. He suppressed a sigh.
"And just what are you supposed to be?" he asked, eying the boy's attire, though, he was pretty sure he already knew the answer.
"A sorcerer's apprentice, sir," Harry answered, repeating what Mr. Mason had said.
A less serious man might have laughed at the irony of the hero of the wizarding world dressing up as a wizard for Halloween. Instead, Snape eyed the boy's attire critically. "I see," he said evenly. "Do you suppose all... sorcerer's apprentices dress so shabbily?"
"No, sir," Harry replied. "This was originally a witch's costume, but I'm not a girl, so I had to just wear my own clothes underneath."
His own clothes? Surely not – those... rags... are much too large for him. "And why are you wearing a witch's costume?"
Harry felt his face flush at this. "I don't have a costume, so the Masons let me borrow one."
"Why would you have to borrow a costume? Wouldn't your relatives have gotten one for you?" With the stipend he knew was provided for the boy's care, they certainly could have afforded it.
"Oh, no. They've never let me Trick-or-Treat before," the boy answered candidly. "I don't think they'll be very happy once they find out, but the Masons said I could go with their kids."
Snape knew that 'the Masons' lived at the corner up the street, but only because their name was in big letters upon the mailbox. He found himself in a slight quandary. He didn't like the idea of Lily's child wandering around alone on Halloween of all nights, but he couldn't just invite the boy inside, either. Even if the brat (an assumption which the boy's words had put to doubt) were trusting enough to set foot in a stranger's house, it was not a habit he wished to foster in the boy.
"Wait here a moment," he commanded. Leaving the door open, he moved back through his house to the kitchen, casting his gaze about for anything he might be able to give the boy. He didn't really eat a lot of sweets, and he didn't spend enough time in his home to keep much food of any kind in stock. Finally, he spied a box a Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans that Albus had insisted on giving him before he left Hogwarts. Albus knew that Snape hated the things, but still he got them for him, year after year after year.
Returning to the door, he held out the small package until the boy opened his pillowcase so he could drop it in.
"Thank you, sir," Harry said, flashing the stern, intimidating man a smile.
"You're welcome," Snape returned. He watched a moment as the boy moved back towards the sidewalk before casting a disillusionment spell on himself and following him.
"Harry, there you are!" a girl's voice fairly shrieked the moment the boy stepped past the large bush at the edge of the property. She was accompanied by another boy and both children were visibly relieved to see him. "Our mum and dad woulda 'ad our hides for losing ya, y'know," she berated.
"Sorry," Harry said. "Guess I fell behind."
"Never mind, then," she said bossily, grabbing Harry by the wrist and pulling him along behind her. "Come on – we've got a whole street and a half before we hafta go home!"
The two boys trailed after her, even as she proceeded to speak in a rapid-fire manner that was all but impossible to follow. Between each house, Harry glanced back over his shoulder, but no one was there.
Smart boy, thought his unseen guardian grudgingly. Already, his resolve to hate James Potter's son had begun to unravel. But how could he possibly hold onto it when the borrowed costume and cast-off clothes reminded him so much of himself as a child? No, the boy's situation definitely bore some looking into...
"Potter, Harry!" Professor McGonagall called out.
A black-haired boy stepped forward to be sorted, his face flushing as whispers broke out across the hall.
"Did she say Harry Potter?"
"Y'mean that messy-haired boy?"
"I can't see!"
Severus Snape, Potions Master and Professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, watched as the boy sat on the stool and his colleague placed the Sorting Hat on his head. The boy was no longer the scrawny waif in oversized clothing who had appeared on his doorstep two years before. Instead, he had filled out a bit, and though he was perhaps a bit shorter than some of his year-mates, he had a healthy glow about him.
"GRYFFINDOR!" the Hat shouted after a moment. The Gryffindor table erupted into cheers as Minerva removed the Hat and Harry jumped up from the stool. The boy glanced back at the staff table. Madame Rolanda Hooch gave him a small smile and a nod. She was just returning to her post of Quidditch coach and flying instructor after nearly two years now that her ward was old enough to attend.
Potter made his way to his new Housemates, who greeted him with great enthusiasm. Once he was settled, he looked back towards the front of the hall, his gaze falling on a certain black-robed professor.
Snape watched as the boy's emerald eyes widened upon seeing him, and then a brilliant smile quickly overtook his features. The man inclined his head in acknowledgment. Two years before, he would have never expected to receive an expression of joyful recognition from James Potter's son. Then, again, he hadn't expected he'd end up saving the boy from an unhappy childhood, either.
Perhaps, as he began to realize that Halloween night, he would find that Harry Potter was not his father, after all. At the least, he had made it possible for Lily's child to have a happier childhood than his own, even if there were a few unhappy years proceeding it. Maybe, in that way, he had begun to honor the sacrifice given by a woman he'd once loved and atone for his past mistakes.
Severus Snape couldn't help but smirk quietly to himself. Who would have thought that his redemption would start with a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans on a Halloween night?