"Give it here!" one of the bigger boys barked at the smallest one and grabbed his trick-or-treat bag out of his hand. The two others snickered and their laughter turned even more derisive as the apparent leader of the group shoved the smaller boy hard enough for him to fall on the ground. The boy didn't make any attempt to get up and the bullies left.
Harry stared at the scene with his eyes wide open. It was so much like Dudley's gang that it was like deja vu. Then he woke out of his stupor, left his stance at the window, grabbed a chocolate bar out of the 'sweets drawer' and ran out of the door, down the narrow path through the front garden and finally through the front gate.
The boy was still sitting there in a heap, tears silently rolling down his pale face. Harry sat next to him and hugged him around his skinny shoulders.
"Fancy a chocolate?" Harry asked and handed him the big bar; in his haste he had grabbed his favourite, he noticed. "It's nougat with almonds. All yours."
The boy stared at him uncertainly. Harry noticed that his eyes were nearly as black as Severus'. He wondered idly if the boy was also as distrustful as Severus. He knew the boy. He had seen him several times already since he and Severus moved into this house in the summer. The boy - seven or eight years old, Harry guessed - was apparently an only child in the shabbiest-looking house in the neighbourhood, and apparently something was wrong with his parents or guardians - as women in the shops talked about them in hushed voices, using that particular scandalised undertone which Harry all too well remembered from his own childhood.
"... no doubt, as his parents are that kind of people..." ... "you never can be sure of what those people are capable of..." and so on. Harry never cared to listen more that he had to. He always just gritted his teeth and left the shop as soon as possible. It was hard for him to refrain from shouting at them for their stupid insinuations and their pitiful wish to feel better than someone else. It was as if he listened to his Little Whinging neighbours again. 'I said to my sons clearly, no talking to that Potter hooligan. Who knows what he's capable of?' Always the same crap.
"Really, take it," Harry insisted, "I have lots of other sweets at home. Sorry it doesn't have a Halloween wrapper, but the treats I gave you lot were the last ones. I'm Harry, by the way."
The boy took the chocolate bar finally. "Thanks," he muttered. "I'm Andy. May I open it now?"
"Sure, go ahead, Andy," Harry said, pleased. He started to hope that this night wouldn't add another scar in Andy's soul. Harry had been so glad when the little group of four rang their bell tonight. It was good to see that the other boys - less prejudiced than their mothers, he had thought naively - took the shabby boy into their Halloween group. Pity that they evidently did it just to steal his sweets later.
The smaller boy started to unwrap his treat, but he suddenly froze. He was looking at something behind Harry's shoulder. Harry turned around quickly. Did the other boys come back?
There was just Severus standing behind him. Apparently, the wizard was concerned by Harry's swift and unexpected departure, and he went to check on him.
"Severus," Harry told his guardian softly, "this is Andy. The other pranksters took his bag of sweets. Andy, this is my guardian, Professor Snape," he told the boy, who greeted Severus timidly and to Harry's consternation, he stretched out his small hand holding the chocolate towards Severus.
"I certainly won't confiscate a chocolate Harry gave you," Severus said in a soft tone that would make half of the Hogwarts student body faint in surprise. "However, in case you didn't eat dinner yet, I suggest you come inside and have a proper meal before eating sweets."
Harry felt like a fool. "Did you have dinner?" he asked and Andy shook his head, his pale cheeks colouring a bit.
"Well, I guess it's easy to forget dinner when one prepares for a night of pranks and candy," Harry said to help the boy out of his embarrassing situation. He got up and held out his hand for Andy. "I make the best omelettes in Britain," he boasted pompously.
Severus rolled his eyes and added, "Which makes us a perfect chef pair, because I make the best vegetable salad."
Harry made a gagging face at the word 'vegetable' and Andy giggled.
About half an hour later, Harry accompanied Andy back to the gate. He lowered to one knee to be at the same height with the boy. "We'll be living here at least until next August. So if you need a dinner or a hug, don't hesitate to come here, all right?"
Andy's overenthusiastic hug nearly showed him on the ground. Harry clasped the skinny boy firmly. He had to blink back tears. He had wished for so many years someone would do this for him, the small lost boy Harry.
When he got back in, Severus raised his elegant eyebrow at him. "Saving people thing, Mr. Potter?"
"You are one to talk, Mr. Snape," Harry answered flippantly and surprised his guardian by giving him a hug. They both knew Harry wouldn't have made it without Severus' help and guidance, not after the final battle, victorious but costing him all his friends. "He was so much like me some ten years back," Harry mumbled into his cloak.
Severus, for once, hugged him back. He also could remember how it felt to be a sad little boy on an All Hallows Eve.